As ripples of hate in pockets of the country swell into waves of statewide bigotry, it’s clear the LGBTQI community again has to prepare for another battle with the evil empire rallying under the guise of religion. As mind-boggling as it is, some self-identified “Christians” are still raising their offspring to be intolerant, racist bigots created in their own image and are leading another crusade to eradicate anyone who makes them feel icky.
Which begs the question: Why do people say they belong to a loving, all-encompassing sect of acceptance when they continue to pass down their personal disgusts (and disgusting) behaviors? That may be a philosopher’s question for the ages.
As politicians in Georgia, North Carolina and other states, counties and cities exert enormous efforts to de-citizen all of the harmless LGBTQI people who are simply looking to be treated with the same respect and dignity as everyone else, one might feel that things will never change. Indeed, one can go back through decades of press and politics and find that the same hatred of the 1900s has flowed almost uninterrupted into the 21st century. The only difference now is that we’ve had a few splashes of judicial clarity.
We live in a state that is just as backwards as the worst offenders. Many of us are fortunate, however, to live in Philadelphia, the top-ranked LGBT-friendly city in the United States by the Human Rights Campaign. We take it for granted that we can organize softball, flag football, kickball or darts leagues and can be treated just as fairly as any other group who might do the same. We can get married and adopt children and take them to Little League with two moms or two dads.
We have the luxury of having had gay softball and bowling leagues in our city going on 30 years, with wrestling, swimming and running groups soon after. Now we have almost 20 different competitive and recreational teams and leagues that run the gamut from those pioneers to dodgeball, volleyball, soccer and rugby.
But if you don’t live in one of the 33 cities, counties or communities in this state that have passed equal-rights legislation — something else that boggles the mind; that it is even necessary to have such laws so that every Pennsylvanian is treated equally — then you risk being evicted or fired or even beaten to within a breath of death with little to no recourse.
The saddest part of all is that, at this time in history, there are legislators who are actively working to remove rights and protections from cities by passing counter laws at the state level. In North Carolina now, it doesn’t matter what legal protections, rights and equality measures your local municipality has passed: The state says if you’re LGBTQI, you’re an unwanted second-class pseudo-citizen and they would rather you just left the state.
Fortunately, even though the pols in office there were able to knuckle-drag their way into the capitol for this historically infamous vote, much of the rest of the country has already declared war on our behalf. At this writing, more than a dozen major companies, including American Airlines, which has a hub in Charlotte; Dow Chemical, Apple and IBM had declared their opposition. The mayor of San Francisco has terminated all employee travel to the state.
On the sports front, both the National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association have vigorously opposed the new legislation and are declaring that this battleground for equal treatment is not welcoming to all-star or playoff games for either group. That’s serious economic business to a state that holds basketball (and football) as part of its holy grail. What comes of these announcements is still to be seen. It’s one thing to pronounce disdain for actions, another to follow through. But there is no reason not to believe that either group will back down to any cozying up the state may try to do.
Don’t be fooled. North Carolina may be the most visible antagonist today, but it wouldn’t take much for the Pennsylvania Republicans to try to follow suit. Our only saving grace in our commonwealth right now is having an intelligent, fair, citizen-loving governor who would never let that happen. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the North Carolina law, there will still be some stigma left just from the tsunami of public outcry. Blatant hatred like this is remembered long, long after the wrong is righted.
But imagine if something similar to North Carolina’s self-inflicted foot wound happened here. Suddenly Philadelphia would be taken off the table for NCAA March Madness games and Major League Baseball would give us a blank stare if we pitched having the All-Star Game here again. Add to that, scores of businesses and entertainers would make us the latest pariah and suddenly we’re not such a hot destination for tourism.
This should give us all pause to reflect on how we live in this precarious pocket of sanity in our City of Brotherly Love. We play on the backs of those who dug in their heels years ago and who created this safe playing atmosphere by working with our community, our city council and our parks department. Election cycles give us a chance to improve, correct, direct and strengthen our communities but they also give other people a chance to break, bend, coerce and destroy them. If we want to be both out and safe, statewide acceptance, rights and protections are imperative.
How much is our right to play in Philadelphia worth? Even more importantly, what are we willing to do to enable the rest of the communities in our state to have the same rights, privileges and opportunities that we enjoy here? Not everyone in Pennsylvania has the right to just get out and play without the dark cloud of prejudice and bigotry potentially threatening their lives just for being on a gay sports team.
And that’s a mark in the loss column for all of us.
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