The Catholic Hierarchy: Firing Gays Should Not Be Illegal

In the past, the US Catholic bishops have remained neutral on the question of whether there should be discrimination protections for gays and lesbians in the workplace. I always found this bizarre. I can see how super-libertarians might oppose employment non-discrimination laws for gays (along with everyone else), BENEDICTHANDSJoeKlamar:AFP:Getty but I naively imagined that the church would actually support a bar on firing people solely because of an innate sexual orientation (and, yes, the church itself understands homosexuality to be, for many, "innate"). The church has no problem with anti-discrimination laws when it comes to, say, race or immigration status. It has no objection in principle; au contraire. It declares itself a champion of the weak and marginalized and vulnerable.

But Benedict's church is different - when it comes to gays. The latest statement from the Bishops reads as if it were drafted by Robbie George, and reflects a total capitulation to theo-conservatism in the American hierarchy. Legally protecting gays from employment discrimination is now, apparently, illegitimate for Catholics. Why? Because non-procreative sexual acts violate church doctrine, and protecting employees who might engage in such acts in private therefore violates church doctrine. How does anyone know that the gay person in the office or factory is engaged in non-procreative acts? You don't. You assume it. But the assumption is enough. And so firing gay people cannot be made illegal - or it would be a restriction on "religious liberty."

Notice that there is no attempt here to argue that straight people who violate church doctrine - anyone who masturbates or uses contraception, is divorced or re-married - should not be protected from discrimination. It is always just the gays who are the target, because their identity inherently proves their iniquity, while most straight people can hide theirs. Notice also that the focus here is entirely on the victims of discrimination, not the perpetrators.

So the church that emerged from a man who preached the story of the good Samaritan, is now in the business of identifying Samaritans and ensuring they remain the targets of discrimination in the workplace. It does not matter whether they are good at their job; their orientation, even if no one even knows it results in sodomy, is sufficient to allow them to be fired and no law be broken.

The Bishops also argue against non-discrimination laws for gays because the laws imply that gay people are equal citizens and if they are equal citizens, the right to civil marriage will not be far behind.

And so we have a prudential political argument in defense of an obvious evil - persecuting people for something that they cannot change. The bishops say they'd like to protect gay people, but only if they can be seen as in no way endorsing sexual acts. But you can't do that. You can't enact a law protecting some gays from discrimination while omitting others, the distinction being whether they are engaged in non-procreative acts. It would be unenforceable, as the Bishops seem to imply.

And so they have a choice: favoring a civil society to protect individuals from unjust discrimination or not. When it comes to gays - and only gays - the Bishops have taken a stand. It is a de facto endorsement of obvious injustice. It is a profound betrayal of the core message of Jesus: that the already despised should be embraced not stigmatized, that the victims of discrimination be protected not marginalized.