Ohio: Gay Rights Trump Religious Freedom

Words I thought might never cross my lips … Hurrah for Ohio!

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that public employees can be disciplined for discrimination even if they are following religious beliefs.  This is a big victory for gay rights advocates because it gives teeth to workplace non-discrimination policies.

The case involves a Baptist prison chaplain, William Akridge, who refused to allow homosexual prisoners serve as leaders at his non-denominational events. 

Akridge, however, interpreted scriptures to say he would be punished if he complied. “The leaders that the chaplain selects implicitly implies an endorsement and approval of the lifestyle of the selected leaders,” Akridge explained. He added that a gay choir director “would violate my conscience and make me guilty in the sight of God.”

Akridge was disciplined for discriminating and sued, claiming his right to discriminate was constitutionally protected because it was Christian-based. 

The court thought otherwise, noting:

Although it may be that Akridge could have disbanded the choir and/or praise band entirely, the facts appear to be that he did not do so; rather he openly and intentionally excluded an inmate from such groups,” the appeals court said.

“Even if the ODRC [Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] had no interest in the existence of the band, this would not vitiate its interest in preventing discrimination and its consequences.”

Hurrah for Ohio!

Speaking as an openly gay woman, I can testify that it is very troubling at work when I encounter the attitude that gay-hate must be tolerated as an outgrowth of Christian beliefs.  And I encounter that attitude much more frequently than I ever imagined. 

Thus, I am heartened to learn that the courts are upholding non-discrimination protections in the workplace.  Especially in lands of anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments. 

Hurrah for Ohio!

(cross-posted on Big Gay Picture)

(hat tip to GayNews@yahoogroups.com)



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