Thank God last week is through.
And, as far as invoking religion, that’s about as far as we’ll go in this editorial.
Last week was the time allotted by the Wyoming Legislature for “social bills” ranging from hot-button topics such as abortion and gun control. Emotions ran high, rhetoric ran hot.
That’s as it should be. Again, legislative leadership should be complimented for quarantining the social issues bill en bloc so that discussion and debate wouldn’t derail what is proving to be an otherwise productive session.
We’ve opined about the domestic partnership/gay marriage debate. And, as much as we believe the Equality State has fallen short of its motto, the legislative and democratic process worked: We chose our legislative representatives, they’ve decided the issue for now.
While we continue to believe domestic partnership recognition or gay marriage is a civil matter and can be regulated by the state without harm to religious institutions, we also recognize the right of others to take the opposite position with equal conviction.
In as much as we hold our position, we also recognize that some might oppose gay marriage or domestic partnerships on religious grounds. While we believe the state is not the proper interpreter of religious doctrine, a lawmaker or citizen that decides the issue based on a religious commandment prohibiting homosexuality is a position that has integrity. A person can read the Bible or go to church and come to the logical conclusion that homosexuality is wrong.
However, what cannot be accepted so easily are comments made by a couple of legislators.
We believe these statements must be challenged. To let them pass by without question or challenge would be to run the risk of giving them credence and even worse, acceptability. That is, some statements are so factually reckless or ethically suspect that they must be challenged.
As one of the institutions in the state charged with public discourse and dialogue, we believe it is our role to question the substance of these thoughts.
As she voted against the domestic partnership bill, state Rep. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, continued her one woman fight to make sure gay rights were not associated with the civil rights movement.
As reported in the Star-Tribune, Hutchings said she is a member of four protected classes because of her sex, her race, her religion and being a disabled veteran.
“I’ve personally been spit on, beaten, kicked and called the n-word every day in elementary school, and I survived. It was part of our lives, and we just dealt with it. As I said, these classes were there for a reason, not just because a few people had a hard time in school,” Hutchings said. “You can look at some kids who were picked on for having red hair, having freckles, being poor, being short, being tall. Are we going to add them to our protected classes also?”
To equate gay rights issues as on par with freckles shows not only a lack of understanding but also little compassion. This isn’t just about the normal teasing that nearly every child endures at some time or another; this is about a constant barrage of being humiliated and in some cases, assaulted because of sexual orientation.
We hold Hutchings doubly accountable. First, for understanding that injustice doesn’t take the same form in every circumstance. More importantly, though, we would hope a woman who has been spit on and verbally assaulted with a word as ugly as “nigger” would be more sympathetic. We would hope those horrible experiences would arouse in her a compassion and a conviction to never let another group suffer the same kind of humiliation, insult and injury she unfairly received because of genetics she couldn’t control.
Then, there were statements by Rep. Mark Baker, R-Rock Springs, who cited unnamed sources that said few gay and lesbian people live into their senior years. The implication is that their sexuality is so harmful that in some form — presumably disease, violence or drug abuse — gay people don’t survive to see Social Security benefits.
Baker may not have named his sources, but we will.
His source appears to be a study from the early 1990s by the Family Research Institute, conducted by Paul Cameron.
Cameron presented several reports that contained such misinterpretation and incorrect “facts” that the American Psychological Association as well as the American Sociological Association discredited them and kicked Cameron out.
These so called facts and reports were nothing more than propaganda meant to inflict harm, not provide information.
For Baker to pass them off as fact is a disservice to his constituents and the people of Wyoming because it leads residents to believe something about an entire group of people that simply isn’t true.
We are obligated to challenge both Hutchings and Baker because residents in Wyoming — like any other place — must set the expectations and standards for our leaders. We should be able to tolerate a difference of opinion, but there shouldn’t be a difference of facts.