I wrote a rejected piece about marriage equality a couple of years ago where I suggested that folks watch the episode of Queer as Folk where Michael and Ben try to come back into the US from Canada after they marry. At the time, I felt sure that there wouldn't be a time when we had to worry about customs officials negating marital status. If the leaked version of the Religious Freedom Executive Order comes to pass or if FADA does, people will be able to refuse to acknowledge legal marriages because they don't "believe" them to be real.
When the Melissa's Sweet Cakes controversy broke, I was a bit dumbfounded. I wouldn't give my money to someone who decided they didn't want to sell me a cake. But today, those cases are clearly the same kind of "oh, look over here, see how ridiculous this is--just go to another bakery" set up that we're seeing with everything else in this administration. I have no doubt that once the executive order signing photo session happens that Trump will applaud Kim Davis, Melissa's Sweet Cakes, and other people who have had their "religious freedoms" compromised on the job, even though it wasn't in a church office and the workplace was a secular one.
I was in a taxi in New Orleans once and somehow found out the driver was a Hare Krishna. I asked him if it was difficult to eat in a city that puts onions and garlic in everything. HK's don't eat allium family plants--think things with bulbs--because they are thought to stir base passions. You can't offer food with these ingredients to Krishna and if you can't offer it to Krishna, you can't eat it either.
He acknowledged that it was tricky and that he didn't eat out often and only at places that he knew were in accordance with his religion's rules.
Imagine if he were a restaurant employee and he was the only one serving in your section. You come in and order a steak smothered in onions and garlic. "I'm sorry, but I can't serve that meal. I know it's on the menu, but my religion forbids me to eat meat and onions and garlic. Therefore, I can't add to your misery by serving it to you."
"OK, so, let me talk to your manager."
Manager comes over. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, the waiter can't serve me my desired order because it conflicts with his beliefs."
"Oh, I would move you, but all of the other sections are full and we don't allow wait-staff to cover each others' sections. That would not be fair. Let me check on something."
Returns: "Sorry, but we have all tables in other sections completely reserved until the kitchen closes. I'm sure you can just eat a nice onion-less salad with some garlic-free dressing. No? Not your liking? There's a restaurant on the other side of town that serves the same steak dish. You are welcome to try your luck over there tonight. They are likely to be as booked as we are, though."
This is a silly example--I know. But, it's what this "religious freedom" order would make possible. Trump, in September of 2015 in an interview with Brietbart commented on the Kim Davis situation, indicating to the reporter that gay people have "alternatives." They can go to another office to get a license, for instance.
Marriage is on the menu? Oh, but I don't believe you should get married because you're (1) divorced, which I don't believe in. or (2) you're the same sex. Or, (3) the bride applicant is wearing pants and women shouldn't wear pants under my belief system, so no marriage license for you.
Fun fact: Read Meaker's book Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950's to learn about how there were restaurants that refused to serve the couple if they both wore pants to dinner. Lillian Faderman's Naked in the Promised Land also clearly talks about clothing rules in pre-Stonewall New York where police could strip search people and jail them if they didn't have on a minimum number of items that were "gender appropriate."
The executive order that leaked, which is consistent with what Trump just mentioned at the Prayer Breakfast, will likely lead to months and years of cases where Kim Davis and her many fans discriminate against people because they can. What does this do? It leads to people going back in the closet. It leads to people playing the pronoun game again. And while it may not seem like a big deal to folks to not correct people who misgender the person you're married to, it is. It's a slow chipping away at a person's morale and sense of self when they are constantly put in the position to have to decide "do I tell them? What will happen if I do?"
It also leads to people going to great lengths just to protect their jobs and livelihood. Last night, after I read the leaked order, I couldn't get Zeke Tayler and Dick TItus' StoryCorps interview out of my head. If you've never had to play the pronoun game and don't get what a big deal that is consider having to have a "work house" where you can bring work buddies so they won't know you're gay.
I encourage everyone to watch the mini-series I put at the start of this post later this month. I read Cleve Jones' book recently, and I'm excited to see how it is given a film treatment--from the trailer, it looks like the film version captures the spirit of the time and the movement Jones wrote about. I think it's important that people who have little awareness or maybe forgot how legal discrimination based on personal beliefs worked before watch it, but I also think that those of us who are very aware of it need to watch it, too.
Here's the deal. I am not scared for myself. If that was the issue, I wouldn't be writing this entry. Instead, I'm afraid for all of us--as in America. If the executive order is the version leaked online, this means that we could see cases where trans people are denied treatment--hormones, for instance, could be hard to get. Single mothers could be evicted from apartments, for instance. A social services person could look at a woman who is unmarried with children and deny her application for assistance because she shouldn't be pregnant.
Make no mistake that these orders are written in ways that will be incredibly hard to unravel them without years of court cases and struggle.
What it also will likely do is legitimize violence against people (either physical or psychological violence) who have "lifestyle" choices (I use this because a cousin of mine keeps referring to how he has no problem with what I choose to do in my own home and that he doesn't care about my "lifestyle") that differ from their religious beliefs. It will also lead to a segregation of people like me, those of us who are fortunate enough to have the means to move to other places, from their communities. For those who don't have the means, it's likely to lead to a return to a closeted public life. And that leads to Congressmen like Craig in bathrooms having extra wide stances. And that sort of behavior, the result of driving people into the shadows, will then get used--as it was before--as justification for denouncing people who are not like you.