Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015

I know we just talked about the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts a couple months ago, Poppets, but there’s still more to say. So let’s say it, okay? Okay! Because back in the mid-90s, the federal RFRA was passed and it was great. I know; that’s the last thing you expected to hear, isn’t it? But the federal law really is great.

The federal law prevents women from being forced to take off their hijabs for their driver’s license picture. It allows Native Americans to use otherwise illegal drugs in religious ceremonies. And it allows Jewish teenagers to keep their heads covered during holy season in high schools where other boys aren’t allowed to wear hats. This is all good stuff.

Then just this year, Indiana passed its RFRA, and the country exploded. Because Indiana’s RFRA isn’t the same as the federal one. And while the “fix” the governor signed within a few days helps – it’s certainly not the widesweeping “Jim Crow laws of homosexuality” Fox news was talking about when we last visited the topic – the RFRA in place is still dangerous. 

See, while a business or landlord* can no longer use the RFRA as a defense against discrimination, a pharmacist can still refuse a transitioning person hormones, or to fill someone’s AIDS medication prescription. Also? Good Christians can still bully children and teenagers for being LGBTQ. Or for having LGBTQ parents. Or, you know, looking like they might. Because why let facts get in the way of religion.

Here’s the thing, though – Indiana was the first state to create a nationwide uproar, but several other states have RFRA on their books. And still others have what are known as “conscience clauses.” And those can be as scary as any warped RFRA.

Conscience clauses allow healthcare providers, hospitals, and even pharmacists to refuse to provide services or fill prescriptions based on moral, ethical, or religious grounds. Generally, this is becoming an issue around birth control and emergency contraception, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Transitional hormones. AIDS medications. IVF procedures for lesbian couples. All of those can be denied because the doctor or pharmacist doesn’t think we should have them because he or she doesn’t believe we’re real human beings and equal to them. For “moral, ethical, or religious reasons” of course.

6 states** – Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, and New Jersey – all have sweeping conscious clauses on their books. (Note, 6 others have conscious clauses that only deal with contraceptives.) And while, technically, Indiana doesn’t have a conscience clause on its books, thanks to the RFRA and the holey “fix”, it does for all intents and purposes.

And this is why I came back here this month. Because while it’s not all about marriage equality, Poppets, it’s also not all about Indiana. Or RFRA. It’s so much bigger than any one of those things.

We must stay aware. We must keep fighting. Not for wedding registries and tiered cakes, but for basic human rights and protections. I don’t need anyone to change their religion for us. I just need them to not hurt us while they practice it, or make us practice it, too. 

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.

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