Gay Pastor Shoots Straight on Senate Bill 2

By Reverend Wes Mullins of Portland, Oregon. Reverend Mullins received his Master of Divinity degree from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. Now the assistant pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Portland, Rev. Mullins works with people of all ages, and especially young adults, to identify how Biblical truths call us to seek justice and equality for all people.

Senate Bill 2, The Oregon Equality Act, has recently passed the Oregon Senate, and it is now headed to the House. The bill is designed to end discrimination based on a person's real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, housing and public accommodation. It provides no "special rights" but rather ensures basic rights--and that fairness and equality are values that are maintained in our state.

The Oregon Equality Act is right, good, and moral. Assertions, like those recently made by the Oregon Family Council, that religious institutions will not be properly protected is simply a smoke-screen designed to obscure what is truly motivating opponents' actions -- fear of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) persons. Think just how irrational the argument is: they actually fear that they will be forced to hire and/or serve GLBT people. What homosexual have you ever known that had any interest in participating in anti-gay religion? As a gay religious leader, I know I have no interest offering my good work and effort to their causes. They are simply deluded in their thinking that some large group of GLBT persons are seeking (or will seek) admittance into their organizations. It is as ridiculous as suggesting that these conservative religious leaders are going to start apply for jobs with GLBT activist groups'this is simply irrational.

Let it be made perfectly clear, the actions of the Oregon Family Council are not actions done on behalf of all religious institutions. They are actions done by a particular group of people who are more caught up in irrational fear than religious fervor. There are a host of churches and thousands of people of faith in this state who support this bill and who do so out of their strong belief that God is a God of equality, fairness, and justice.

This is not, as the Oregon Family Council has suggested, about GLBT people being tolerant or intolerant of conservative religious groups. This is about ending discrimination. In order for discrimination to end those who are oppressors must recognize that fact and change. This bill does not make religious organizations change; they will do that very slowly over a long period of time as they have with every civil rights issue throughout history. This bill is about the Oregon Legislature leading this state in the Godly, moral direction that many conservative churches are unwilling to lead - the way of equality.

The Oregon Family Council argues that the religious exemption provided in Senate Bill 2 is inadequate and would force them to "hire homosexuals and men dressed as women". That is false.

No religious exemption at all is needed in Oregon statutory law because the religious freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Oregon Bill of Rights supersede Oregon law.

The exemption has been written very broadly to protect religious institutions and it goes further than is required by federal or state constitutional law with regard to religious employers and sexual orientation -- and goes even further than 2005's SB 1000, a combined anti-discrimination and civil unions bill that was killed in the Oregon House by former Speaker Minnis.

The outer limits of the religious exemption in SB 2 are reasonable. If a religious institution enters into the stream of daily commerce, it is required to operate by the same rules as everyone else. Churches and other religious institutions are already familiar with limitations on unrelated business income under federal tax laws. SB 2 will not impose a burden on churches or other religious institutions.

Today I stand with the legislators who are leading so bravely and say to all who live in this great state -- everyone here is entitled to fair and equal treatment. This is not a threat. This is not something to fear. This is good news. This is the hope that Christianity, Judaism, and a host of other religions should be bringing to the world. It is the hope that we could all live in peace and unity. May this bill be one more proud Oregon step in that direction.

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