The traditional battlegrounds for gay rights issues call up familiar images: coastal cities, urban streets filled with demonstrators, metropolitan courthouses.
But as the November elections near, some of the deepest trenches on gay rights issues—particularly anti-discrimination laws—are actually being dug into the docile streets of many Midwestern cities. In towns spanning Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, wranglings over gay-inclusive measures have gone back and forth for months—and some will come to a head at election time.
Often, the maneuvering has started over municipalities enacting anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT residents in employment, housing and public services. The pro-tolerance enactments have prompted gay-rights opponents, often rallying under the banner of religious conviction, to organize campaigns to roll back the protections, the AP reports.
But will those intolerance activists’ maneuvers create a blacklash among the gay community and push LGBT youth to move out, creating, in effect, gay ghost towns?
That seems to be the case in the town of Salina, Kansas, where voters will cast ballots on whether or not to repeal a city measure for LGBT anti-discrimination.
“If the community doesn’t want us here, then we don’t want to be here,” a gay high school student told the news site PoliticalFiber.com.
The anti-gay rights argument goes that it’s a breach of religious freedom to force a devout employer to give equal consideration to a gay person who applies for a job at the local Dairy Queen or Supercuts.
“The ordinance would codify a type of behavior and give them special rights that will influence businesses, landowners and our churches,” the leader of a church group in Kansas fighting an anti-discrimination bill said in OpposingViews.com. “That infringes on our freedom of religion to express ourselves.”
Yeah. Something tells the logical mind that the argument would fold quickly if a popular religion had a “white people aren’t as good as other people” clause, though. Like, ‘Hey, my religion says I can only hire non-Christians, that’s cool with you, right?’ STOP STEPPING ON MY FREEDOM!’ ”
But will all this textbook homophobia result in a giant gay people desert in the center of the country? Well, the research says…maybe?
For instance, this map from The New York Times shows relatively few red dots indicating hotspots for gay couples in that big, gray part in the USA middle.
But the research underlying the maps contained some gems—that traditional gay enclaves like San Francisco and West Hollywood aren’t the gay powerhouse locations they used to be, and cities like Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, and New Hope, Pennsylvania, are on the rise.
There are just under a million gay couples in the U.S., the numbers show, and they’re popping up in places you might not expect. Florida (and not just South Beach)? Huh.
But the backlash against the efforts to vote down gay anti-discrimination ordinances could still be real, an outcome groups like the Midwest Alternative Family Alliance are working to avoid.
Not to get too mind-bending about it, but news like this tends to reinforce stereotypes against the perceived offenders in the scenario—specifically white, working-class people who appear to be clinging to religion at the expense of reason and compassion.
But a recent poll of Christian Americans shows that many liberally held assumptions about them are wrong.
In particular: They are more likely to receive state or federal assistance, aren’t particularly religious or culture-warlike and support taxes on the rich.
Seriously—check it out at the Atlantic. This great cultural divide may be far more pronounced in the national news media than it is among the people who actually live in the red and blue states.
If you are red or blue state, where do you find common ground with people who have a color-contrasted state of mind? Leave some unity in COMMENTS.
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Ben Murray has been a frontline correspondent for Stars and Stripes and a producer on The Deadliest Catch. A normally calm person, Ben gets all kinds of fired up by abuse of power and ignorance in high places. To keep from igniting, he writes about these topics and more and does his best to keep the profanity out of it. But every once in a while... earmuffs, kids.