Remember when we were up in arms about deep-pocketed outside lobbyists coming into our town telling us whether or not we could frack?! Or when the Wilks brothers brought in their well-funded Empower Texas PAC and tried to sway our local politics from some smoke-filled backroom in Abilene?! The nerve!
What if I told you that another group of very powerful Washington lobbyists were pressuring the City of Denton to bend to the whims of their wealthy constituents who make up some 3-4% of the national population? Would you be similarly outraged? Don’t answer yet…
You might change your mind if this inside-the-beltway legislative influencer had the innocuous name: the Human Rights Campaign.
Part of this LGBTQ lobbyist’s success is due to the amazing marketing strategy of the name. If you aren’t a fan of the organization or its goals, the follow-up question is always: “What do you have against human rights?” Their yellow equal sign bumper sticker is ubiquitous. But their most recent agenda-driven marketing coup is the MEI – the Municipal Equality Index.
Here, they have brilliantly created a one-size-fits-all (they claim otherwise) matrix by which they judge a city’s municipal laws, policies, and services related specifically to LGBTQ people who live and work there [Source: HRC.org]. When a city, like Denton, scores with a failing grade of 44 out of a possible 100, the shame is palpable! How could Denton be so backwards – such a failure – so “on the wrong side of history?!” What do we have against human rights?
In our scoring, Denton lost big points in 2017 related to non-discrimination laws – despite the fact that discrimination is outlawed federally, state-wide, and in our own local laws. But we don’t list LGBTQ as a special group. We lost points because our anti-bullying ordinance bans bullying against everyone…but LGBTQ students aren’t listed specifically. Denton has programs to help the homeless, but not specifically LGBTQ homeless. We lost points there. The list goes on and on.
The City as an employer lost points because, though healthcare benefits of city employees are extended to legal marriage unions as the law requires, the city only covers transgender hormone therapy and not surgery (you read that right, your taxes pay for transgender hormone therapy).
I attended the city council working group as Sarah Keuchler, Director of Public Affairs, went through the “report card” (see DRC “City mulls change to policies affecting LGBTQ community,” Aug. 15, 2018). Her tone seemed somewhat apologetic as she outlined how the city is working to raise next year’s score. There was silence among council members… which is strange for such a group of very opinionated people. I heard more discord and debate from them about the proposed dog park than the MEI report.
It was almost as if the council were ruled by fear. Intimidated. What do they have against human rights?
The notable exception was newly elected Council member Deb Armitor. Dr. Armitor was very vocal. Not only did she call for a resounding “Yea” on every HRC agenda item, she suggested we start changing bathroom signs posthaste. She joked that the most difficult part would be “agreeing on a font for the new bathroom signs.”
She wants the city to extend health care to “domestic partners” and those in other “chosen living arrangements.” When the limits of her power were pointed out and she was reminded of things like state and federal law, she suggested that Denton push the envelope.
So what do I have against human rights, anyway?
Thanks for asking. Nothing…as long as we’re talking about human rights and not special rights. Take Denton’s anti-bullying ordinance. No one should be bullied…ever. That’s what Denton believes, has codified in her laws, and I think does well in enforcing. But that’s not good enough for the HRC lobbyists. They demand special recognition.
And since we’re talking about bullies, bullies aren’t always mean kids in the schoolyard. Sometimes they sit behind computers in D.C. using other means of intimidation. I will love and accept LGBTQ people in my life because Jesus wants me to…not because some outside group forces me.
Imagine we’re citizens of Troy. We hear a knock at the gate and see that someone has left us a gift: a huge, beautiful, wonderful, wooden horse. The only member of the City Council wise enough to hesitate and suggest thoughtful reflection on bringing the Trojan Horse into town was Don Duff. But even he felt pressure to equivocate a bit and let everyone know he’s not against human rights!
By the way, hidden inside this Trojan Horse for the upcoming 2018 report are several new criteria. One is religious exemption: “The 2018 MEI will deduct points for nondiscrimination ordinances that allow discrimination through religious exemptions that single out sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” [Source: HRC.org] At the moment, a business (within strict federal guidelines) can still run according to its own religious/moral compass (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). Likewise, churches can still make hiring and wedding-ceremony decisions based on biblical beliefs…but not if the HRC gets its way.
We’re told that if we want to change our shameful, backward ways to gain more MEI points in ’18, we better convert our bathrooms, have city policies that protect children from “conversion therapy,” and start extending health care to domestic partners.
These folks in Washington may not have the power to change the Constitution or override the Supreme Court, but they have found a way around them. Their grassroots end-run is to shame a loving, welcoming community like Denton, Texas into ignoring the First Amendment. They may not be able outlaw people of faith or parents in general, but they have found a way to make wonderful people feel bad about themselves. And the only way to stop the bad feeling is to give in to their intimidation and create the nanny-state of their design. Then they’ll give Denton, Texas a good score!
Citizens of Troy, don’t open the gate! Keep the bullies out!