While the specifics of this case are very disturbing, the precedent it could potentially set is more frightening.

If the Court decides that religious liberty interests prohibit the State from protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination by religious agencies, then vast swathes of American life become questionable or even off limits for members of gender and sexual minorities.

As a society, we decided this issue a long time ago when we decided that religious liberty interests are not sufficient to justify racial discrimination. Bob Jones University lost its tax exempt status because it refused to treat Black people equally on campus. The high court ruled in 1983 that the university’s religious liberty claims did not exempt them from routine anti-racist regulations and laws.

Now we’re back to the same essential questions, only with LGBTQ people instead of Black people.

If Philadelphia loses the CSS case, LGBTQ equality could be set back by decades. We LGBTQ people could once again face a balkanization of freedom, a situation in which certain parts of the country, certain cities, extend liberty and welcome, while others refuse us basic civil rights.

To cite just one very negative possible outcome, let’s look at healthcare. One out of six Americans who receives services in a hospital receives those services in a hospital owned by the Roman Catholic Church, mostly contracted by the State to perform services.

If church-owned hospitals are allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people in a manner similar to what CSS in Philadelphia is asking for, then genuine access to equal medical care will not be a reality for many LGBTQ Americans.

Worse, our rights will become subordinate to the dogma of just about any religiously run public service agency in the United States, even if those agencies are mostly or wholly taxpayer-funded.

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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