Proposed Discrimination Ban Is About Families
By Tonyaa Weathersbee
May 31, 2012
Those who are against expanding the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance so that it protects the rights of gay people aren’t only bucking the tide of history and common sense. They’re also bucking the needs of families.
According to census data analyzed by Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute who specializes in trends impacting gay people, gay parents are increasingly picking Jacksonville as the place to live. He told The New York Times that about 32 percent of gay couples in Jacksonville are raising children.
Not only that, 2010 census data reveals that gay couples who are rearing children are more likely to be black or Latino. Also, Gates said, they’re likely to be struggling economically.
It’s a struggle that will only worsen in Jacksonville if those couples can be refused jobs or fired, or are denied promotions or a place to live, or are forced to stifle their ambitions in fear of that happening.
And that’s not right.
Over the past few weeks, a number of no-brainer pleas have been made to urge the City Council and Mayor Alvin Brown to bring the city into the 21st century by updating its laws to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.
Business leaders such as Steve Halverson, president and chief executive officer of Haskell, told the Times-Union’s editorial board that, among other things, the outmoded ordinance hinders them in hiring and recruiting talent.
I can believe that. What talented gay person would take an executive job here, knowing that he could be refused a place to live based on who he’s living with or who he loves?
University of North Florida President John Delaney told the board that at times it makes it tough for him to recruit talented professors. Yet the argument for expanding the law to protect gay people goes beyond making it easier to attract talented business people and educators.
It goes to protecting gay couples who head families just as their straight counterparts do. If being homosexual can cause them to lose a job or to not be hired for a job or to have to struggle to find a place to live, then that will invariably hurt their children.
Many gay people are keenly aware of that.
A woman who only used her first name, Cynthia, told The New York Times that she never tells people at her daughter’s school that she’s gay because her partner teaches there. I don’t blame her when in Jacksonville, her partner can be fired for being her partner.
The issue of gay rights is one that has been fraught with paranoia and unreasonableness, namely from people addled by the segregation-era mentality that rights for people who aren’t like them will destroy life for everyone else. Many who argue against rights for gay people, in fact, tend to claim they’re protecting families.
But the demographics — and Cynthia’s story — say that they aren’t. Because those who don’t back this change in the law are essentially saying that they’re OK with discrimination.
They’re saying, in essence, that they’d rather leave gay people and their children vulnerable to homophobes rather than make a simple move to protect them, that they’d rather bow to intolerance than be on the right side of history by making the city a better place for everyone.
They should be ashamed — and they should never claim to be champions of children and families. At least not with a straight face.