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by Mary Griggs

lunch counter takai

First, Kansas. Then Arizona. Now Mississippi, Missouri and Georgia are trying to enshrine LGBTQ discrimination in state laws.

Have we forgotten our history? Is there anyone who thinks reviving Jim Crow laws are a good idea?

Jim Crow was a an exaggerated, highly stereotypical black character created by a white actor in blackface in the late 1820’s. The success he had with his song and dance routine ensured the name entering into the lexicon as a collective racial epithet for blacks.

Moving from the minstrel circuit to the public square, Jim Crow laws helped enforce a racial caste system in the Southern states that lasted until the 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement. These laws enforced segregration and kept people from consorting with other races in everything from barbers to movie theaters, from toilets and drinking fountains to buses and taxis. Worse, they included hospitals, schools, restaurants, apartments and hotels.

They also criminalized those who went so far as to co-habitate or marry someone of another race. A sample of the laws on intermarriage are below:

  • Arizona: The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void.
  • Florida: All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited.
  • Georgia: It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void.
  • Mississippi: The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void.
  • Maryland: All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race; or between the negro a nd a member of the Malay race; or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void.
  • Missouri: All marriages between…white persons and negroes or white persons and Mongolians…are prohibited and declared absolutely void…No person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood shall be permitted to marry any white person, nor shall any white person be permitted to marry any negro or person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood.

Horrible, weren’t they?

Pulled from the trash can of history, the new anti-LGBTQ Jim Crow laws will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Private employers can fire transgender employees on account of their gender identity or expression. Stores may deny lesbian couples goods and services. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away same-sex couples at the door.

These bills are written in such a way that could allow many forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people – and in some cases anyone – as long as an individual feels that they are following the tenets of their religion.

Who will be targeted next? Unwed mothers? Interracial couples? Jewish couples?

Government-sanctioned discrimination, regardless of why, is a step in the wrong direction.

As Rabbi Stephen Kahn, of Scottsdale’s Congregation Beth Israel wrote:

As an American, I will always fully support the constitutionally protected rights of every citizen; the right of free expression of their own religious beliefs and convictions whether or not I personally/theologically agree with their beliefs or practices. However, as an American, a Jew and a Rabbi, I know that religious freedom does not permit me the right to oppress or discriminate against others because I think their theology or way of life is wrong. This is the antithesis of constitutional freedoms and the foundation of our country. The potential – both implicitly and explicitly – of legalizing a person or person’s right to persecute and discriminate against others under the guise of religious freedom is both intellectually objectionable and theologically corrupt of any scriptural justification I know of, especially in a free society.

Are we going to allow such corruption to become law?

I say no. We must defeat them. And we must not only fight these bad bills but we must unite at the ballot box to defeat any politicians who would pervert the constitution to justify their bigotry.

It is time to show them they’re on the wrong side of history. Again.