Interviewed on MSNBC by guest host Luke Russert on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Tony Perkins, president of the so-called Family Research Council, stated that he does not support the granting of "special business rights" to "homosexuals" in national or state legislation, and especially with regard to ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that has come up for passage over the past decade.
I am frequently asked to explain why lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people "deserve special privileges" by specifically having sexual identity and gender identity and expression included as protected categories in state and local hate crimes, bullying prevention, educational and business nondiscrimination policies, and other legislation.
To begin, in all but a very few states in the United States and countries throughout the world, we are not accorded the rights of legal civil marriage, with all the benefits given to different-sex couples, and in this case, we are being treated specially.
In most states, we have no protections of being fired from a job, being denied housing, public accommodations, and insurance based solely on our sexual identities and gender identities and expression, and here we are being treated specially.
In the United States, under the former "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, we could not serve openly in the military, and again we were being treated specially.
In some states we are legally forbidden to adopt or serve as foster parents, and here, we are being treated specially.
We see hate-motivated violence against LGBT people and other targeted social groups on the rise. Pick up any of our publications, and each week you will see stories of brutal and senseless attacks against anyone who seems "different." And yet again, we are being treated specially.
For as we know, this "special treatment" comes in a great many other forms, as well:
Whenever hate mongers like Fred Phelps and his followers picket and protest the funerals of LGBT people and people who have died of HIV infection, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever the political and theocratic right produce newspaper and television ads that promise "conversion" and "escape" from the so-called "homosexual lifestyle," in the guise of Christian love and understanding, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever politicians like former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott proclaim in the media that homosexuality is a disease in the categories of kleptomania and alcoholism, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever the U.S. Senate and other legislative bodies refuse to confirm a nominee for public service, like James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, simply on account of their sexual or gender identities alone and not on their actual qualifications, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever so-called religious leaders like Pat Robertson blame natural disasters on city governments that have enacted laws protecting the rights of LGBT people, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever mainstream religious denominations condemn homosexuality with one breath and actively obstruct frank and honest sexuality and HIV/AIDS education programs in our schools with another, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever young people are tossed out on the street when family members become aware of their sexual or gender identity, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever professors in our universities and teachers in our schools exclude the stories of our lives, our experiences, and our accomplishments in the classroom, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever any person is ridiculed, isolated, confronted, attacked, bullied, and cyberbullied for not conforming to rigid constructions of gender expression, that's us being treated specially.
Whenever hate crimes and bullying prevention legislation is drafted without including the documentation of violence directed against LGBT people, branding this as nothing more than the granting of "special rights," that itself is us being treated specially.
Whenever any one of us is taught to hate ourselves, each one of us is demeaned, and that certainly is us being treated specially, and we have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity, and with all the love of which we are capable.
Unfortunately, today we still live in a society that proclaims in some quarters that we don't have a right to exist with our full integrity intact, but exist we do, everywhere, in all walks of life.
As we all know, we are the students, professors, teachers, guidance counselors, day care workers, parents -- and still some people and groups attempt to prevent us from having contact with the young people of our nation. And because of their insensitivity and fear, the "special treatment" continues.
We are the social workers, psychiatrists, workers at homeless shelters and rape crisis centers -- and still some people and groups blame us for the breakup of what they call the "traditional U.S.-American family." And the "special treatment" continues.
The reality is that we are holding up this culture. If all the lesbians, bisexuals, gay males, and transgender people suddenly left our jobs, this country would literally crumble!
And the good news is that no amount of intimidation will ever lock us away again. LGBT people and our loving and supportive heterosexual allies are coming out in greater numbers than ever before. As marginalized people, we are pushing the boundaries, unwilling any longer to accept the repressive status quo. In coalition with other disenfranchised groups and allies, we are refusing to buckle under and assimilate into a corrupt and corrupting system that forces people to relinquish their integrity and their humanity.
One year before his brutal murder, gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk recorded a will that was to be played in the event of his assassination. In it he stated that he never considered himself simply as a candidate for public office; rather, he always considered himself as part of a movement: a liberation movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people -- and a liberation movement for all people.
Each time Harvey spoke in front of a crowd, he urged people to come out everywhere and often: "Tell your immediate family," he would say. "Tell friends, neighbors, people in the stores you shop in, cab drivers, everyone." And he urged heterosexual people to be our allies, to interrupt derogatory remarks and jokes, to support us and offer aid when needed. If we all did this, he said, we could change the world.
Today, however, quite frankly, I am tired of being "treated specially," and I will no longer answer the question why I deserve "special rights." I will state, however, very simply, that I believe we need this legislation so that we are treated with equity and equality, noting more, nothing less.
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