The Idaho House this week approved introducing a piece of legislation to add the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the Human Rights Codes. This means we will, after 9 years, finally get a hearing. This will allow people to share stories with legislators about the vital need to include these protections in the Idaho Civil Rights Codes.
Recently, I had the privilege to meet with Representative Brent Crane from Nampa. He's the Assistant Majority leader in the House and was the one "no" vote to print the legislation and send it to committee. It was a good meeting. He gave us well over an hour of his time, and I really appreciated hearing his viewpoint. I also felt listened to.
He has said (and reiterated in our meeting) that he will not vote to Add the Words. Partly because he told his voters he wouldn't support it and for him integrity means not changing his mind. Partly because he supports "traditional marriage" and partly because, as a business owner, he doesn't want to be sued for not wanting to employ someone who doesn't line up with his values. (He said it nicer than that. Sort of).
I've been thinking of our conversation. And I recognized how sincere his "deeply held religious beliefs" were. But it left me wondering how a large section of American Christianity has put people like Rep. Crane in the untenable situation of being unable to vote for justice and equality for all Idahoans just because of their sexual orientation.
I recognize he and the conservative, evangelical, and fundamental branches of Christianity see same gender relationships as "sinful". (I don't agree with them, but that's a post for a different day.)
How did we get to a place where it is THE sin? Why are they behaving as if it is the only 'sinful' behavior against which we need to stand?
They think a business owner should be free not to serve LGBTQ people if it is opposed to their "deeply held religious belief". Wouldn't a business owner with such strong convictions also refuse to serve people who have been divorced (Matt 19:1-12)?
Wouldn't a "bible-believing" business owner also refuse to serve adulterers (Exodus 20:14)?
Wouldn't a Christian business owner also refuse to serve people who have murdered, lied, cheated, stolen, given false testimony, withheld aid from the poor, and not honored the Sabbath?
Here's the Biblical reason to Add the Words:
Jesus never excluded anyone from social interaction because they were gay or trans. Nor did he tell his followers to do so. He ate with tax collectors (Mark 2, Matthew 9). He touched the unclean (Matt 8, Mark 1, Luke 8). He welcomed sinners. He spoke to women, he even requested water from a woman who had had 5 husbands (John 4).
If people want to continue to believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are sinful, then it seems perfectly reasonable (if damaging to their LGBTQ loved ones) to continue to not take part in those behaviors they feel are sinful.
But there is no biblical mandate to deny LGBTQ Idahoans equality under the law. Adding the Words will not require religious organizations to change their theology or practice. It will prevent people from denying housing, employment, or services to people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Jesus also never "ranked" sins. He also never tolerated the religious leaders who tried to do so. The biblical witness is clear that God wants us to feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans love one another, and welcome people in his name.
It is time to Add the Words and to stop using the Bible as the excuse for why we can't.