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LGBT Rights Aren't Up for Debate: An Open Letter to Kansas and Arizona

02/24/2014 11:04 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Dear Representative Hutton,

I'm writing this letter because of your "yes" vote on Kansas' House Bill 2543, "The Religious Freedom Act." I'm addressing you specifically instead of the Kansas House of Representatives at large because we know each other. We were once regular presences in each other's lives. Your son was my best friend in high school when friends for me were few and far between.

I'm taking the time to write to you because I think you might listen to me even though I'm a liberal LGBT rights activist. I've chosen a public forum because I hope other politicians and people who share your beliefs might also read this. Now that the Kansas bill is dead, similar bills have cropped up in other states. In some states, like Arizona, they were passed and may become law.

I didn't want to blindside you with a letter on Huffington Post, so I emailed you. You sent me a warm reply enquiring about my family and saying you appreciated my opinion on the issue and were eager to read this piece. It was polite and friendly, which caught me completely off guard. Not at all the response I was expecting from someone who had just voted for a piece of legislation that elicited an uproar from the country.

From your response, it seems that this was just another vote for you -- another issue that's up for debate. I presume you believe something like, "I believe homosexuality is a choice. The Bible says it's a sin and I am afraid the government is going to require religious organizations to recognize gay 'marriage' and that's a violation of my first amendment rights to freedom of religion."

I can't coolly debate this with you because this bill would have changed my life. If passed the following scenario would be completely legal: My family could walk into a restaurant in Wichita, spot your family, smile, wave and then be refused service because I'm with a boyfriend/partner/husband and the owner could refuse service because we appeared to be having "the celebration of any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement." After leaving the restaurant my boyfriend/partner/husband and I could be hit by a car and the EMT could deny us service for the same reason.

Once people found this out, they were appalled and disgusted. That's what you don't seem to understand and why you'll lose this battle. To people who don't share your beliefs, your argument isn't rational or consistent. More importantly, it's cruel. Science reports same-sex attraction isn't a choice* and there are loads of sins in the Bible around which you could be creating legislation, but aren't (I'm looking your way tattoos, wearing multiple fibers simultaneously, and growing multiple crops in the same field). You've decided those ideas are wrong and outdated, but the stuff about man lying with another man is still relevant. You can't provide an actual reason for this distinction, but are willing to ruin lives over it.

Don't misunderstand me, you have every right to believe that gay sex (and by extension the people who engage in gay sex) are an abomination. That said, you don't have the right to expect that belief to go unchallenged and you can't turn it into legislation.

Many conservative Christians have countered, "What about infringing on my right to practice my religious beliefs?" To answer this simply, the Constitution's protection of religious beliefs never gave anyone the right to discriminate against anyone else. To argue that it did is insulting to our country.

I'm writing to you, Mark, hoping you think about the things I've written here and take them into consideration when the next bill regarding homosexuality crosses your path.

Best,
Phillip Miner

*Even if homosexuality were a choice, there's nothing wrong with it, so I'd still disagree with you.

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UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Arizona's legislature has passed a bill similar to Kansas' House Bill 2543. It awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature or veto.