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Voices / Viewpoint

Supreme Court decision is a ray of sunshine

The ruling affirming employment rights for gender identity and sexual orientation was the right and practical outcome — and those who disagree on ‘biblical’ premises are misguided

Rev. Dr. Scott Couper is pastor of Centre Congregational Church (United Church of Christ).

Brattleboro

In our church entryway, a certificate hanging on the wall is a source of enormous pride to us. The document proclaims that Centre Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) is an Open and Affirming Congregation.

The text reads that in 2013 our church “entered into a covenant welcoming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions into Christian fellowship.”

In the midst of so much disheartening national news in our country, it gives us great cause for celebration when we see a ray of sun shining through the darkness.

This past week, in a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTIQ workers are protected from job discrimination. In some sense, the darkness may well have been that such a case had to be legally contested at all.

But the ruling is, most certainly, a ray of sunshine.

* * *

It grieves me that that anyone would desire to fire competent and well-performing employees from their positions because of their self-proclaimed identities along the sexuality spectrum. Their being male or female, straight or gay, trans, or otherwise in no way affects their job performance and thus should never have determined whether they could be hired or fired.

I don’t need to be a lawyer to say that for three conservative justices to find, even in part, that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect the LBGTIQ community is a sad commentary on judicial integrity.

Whether a law was originally intended to cover x, y, or z in the future is not determinative. For example, the Constitution’s preamble indicates its purpose is to establish a “more perfect union.” The fact that the Constitution did not originally intend to fully include people of color and women in that perfection does not mean that progressive legislation is incompatible with the original law. (Any ambiguity on that subject was nullified by the 14th and 19th amendments).

It is probably safe to assume that many who oppose the Supreme Court ruling believe that employing a homosexual or transgender person undermines and violates the employer’s “freedom of religion.”

In fact, while individuals are free to embrace and comply with religious convictions, this freedom does not extend to the imposition of these beliefs on others.

Seeking to export one’s religious convictions onto others or injuring others for not subscribing to these convictions is clearly a violation of their rights.

* * *

As a Christian minister addressing this issue, my feet may be even firmer on theological grounds than they are on legal ones. No one can be declared outside of what Christians refer to as the kingdom of God (or the queendom of God — or, let us just say, the realm of God).

This realm of God simply does not discriminate based on sex or sexuality or anything else. Mixing hymnody with scripture, Christians affirm that “In Christ, there is no east nor west ... no male nor female ...” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Those who argue on “biblical” premises against affording equal rights to gays, lesbians, and trans people are accordingly misguided.

The Bible is, in fact, a long narrative of expanding inclusivity in the covenant with God. First, only those within the Abrahamic covenant were included. Then, with the prophets (Jonah), the circle expanded to include the Assyrian Ninevites. Then, with Jesus, the circle was enlarged again to include women, tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, and — well, all who could be labeled as “sinners” (meaning all of us).

Paul and Peter, during Pentecost, blew away any remaining doubt about the boundaries of inclusivity by explicitly including “gentiles.”

And, even after the canon was closed, I believe the Holy Spirit is still at work making perfectly clear that any who may have been previously excluded from the covenant (gays, lesbians, and trans) are most certainly included. God is still speaking.

So, to the LGBTIQ community (and to your avid supporters of all persuasions), well done! Congratulations. In this country, an important barrier to your equality has been erased.

And in our sanctuary, as in so many others, you continue to be welcomed and affirmed. As a nation, and also as people of faith, we deeply regret that this has not always been so. We ask for your forgiveness.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #567 (Wednesday, June 24, 2020). This story appeared on page B1.

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