Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

It appears the Midway City Council will soon hear the first reading of an ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as protected behavior into its laws. Specifically, the proposal will elevate SOGI to the same status as race and ethnicity regarding housing, employment and public accommodations. It’s dubbed a Fairness Ordinance, but upon closer scrutiny, the law is anything but fair to those who refuse to believe homosexuality and transgenderism is a civil right.

Equally troubling is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a conversation or hold an opposing view without being labeled some kind of unflattering pejorative.  Earlier this month, a group of pastors organized and promoted a town meeting called a Conversation on Religious Freedom. Over 200 residents attended the meeting that I keynoted and took several questions from the audience. Unfortunately, it took three tries to find a venue willing to host it since the first two hosts cancelled presumably under pressure because the issue was too controversial.  If simply talking about a tough issue is too controversial what do you think enacting a law that could punish people who hold the wrong moral view according to the government would do to a small community?

The proposed SOGI ordinance raises more questions than anything. Why is the ordinance necessary? How many documented cases of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination are there in Midway?  (The answer according to an open records request is zero). Could it potentially punish business owners who refuse to materially participate through their products or services in gay weddings should they become legal?  Does this ordinance protect homosexual activity in the workplace?  Does it protect crossdressing in the workplace? 

Troubling questions? Yes. Rather talk about something else? Me too. But the issue has been forced upon Woodford County residents by aggressive sexual-orientation-is-a-civil-right advocates who want to use the law to force residents to live according to a new moral code on human sexuality.  And there is little room for disagreement. 

Harken back to a day when we were told that somebody’s private sexual life is nobody’s business. Oh, the good old days. Should this ordinance pass, it drags private sexual behavior into the workplace. How you ask? If employers shouldn’t ask about somebody’s private sex life during an interview and the prospective employee doesn’t bring this up, then how can an employer be held accountable for failing to hire somebody based on their sexual orientation? If an openly homosexual employee is fired for poor job performance, they could claim “sexual orientation discrimination” and tie their employer up in court. The last thing businesses need in this tough economic climate is a subjective law that would be easy to abuse and put them at risk of liability. 

Truth is, most business owners are having trouble finding hard working and qualified employees. They are most concerned about finding reliable workers who contribute to their team. Few if any employers are going out of their way to look for a reason not to hire an otherwise well-qualified employee. Nor would they fire an otherwise great employee since doing so would only help their competition.

What about employers publicly known for high moral standards in their workplace? Should companies like Chik fil-A or Hobby Lobby be forced to hire crossdressers? Under the proposed ordinance in Woodford County they wouldn’t have a choice. What about churches? There is no exemption in the ordinance for churches. Why not? Without an exemption, churches could be forced to hire support staff who openly identify with a lifestyle contrary to the religious beliefs of that church. How is this respectful of their religious teachings?

Midway is at a crossroads in the conflict between religious freedom and intolerance. City council is being lobbied to codify certain behaviors into law over the religious and moral objections of others who disagree with those behaviors. Its a proposed law searching for a problem. If enacted, it will only achieve a deep division. If Midway City Council wants to avoid tearing the community apart they should reject the proposal and embrace true tolerance for all Woodford County residents.

Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center. He spoke at a town meeting at Woodford County Middle School on May 4.