By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Today, a state Supreme Court trial where I am currently living is progressing between the city’s retirement system and a friend of mine with whom I worked. She is a police officer, and her wife was as well, of high rank, before passing away due to cancer. The question in hand is if my friend is eligible for retirement benefits. Unfortunately, they had not been married because at the time, same sex marriage was not recognized by the state constitution. At that time, it was legal in other states, but these two incredible people decided not to get married in another state out of concern that to do so might cause problems for the department.
Here we have two beautiful people, worried about the reputation of their department and putting the needs of others over their own, and now the surviving spouse is in a court case that has reached the state’s highest court. Even the article had biased terminology. In it, there is a statement that the two could have been married because “the department was tolerant of their relationship.” I worked with the surviving spouse, and I can tell you that the department was, indeed, tolerant, but they were not (in my opinion) supportive. There is a distinct difference between these two. The bias the couple faced was relatively subtle, but it was also palpable. In another line, the article read that “SD law no longer allows for discrimination” of same-sex relationships. Stating it in this manner demonstrates that there is still tolerance of the discrimination that existed before it was no longer “legal”.
This underlying discrimination is what I wish to discuss. The discrimination, in my opinion, takes place in a couple of different manners. For example, one form of discrimination is the “Ick” factor. I find this the most ridiculous form of discrimination. What I mean by this are those who are opposed to same sex relationships because they think of the physical act of sex and basically are repulsed by it. The irony, of course, is that many of the people who discriminate for this reason are often only repulsed by the thought of two people of their gender being intimate, and will fantasize about two people of the opposite gender together. This is not only discriminatory, but hypocritical as well.
In the midst of a dinner date at a very popular chain restaurant, it was clear that the waiter, a male, was quite taken with me. He made his interest clear, even to the point that my date, a woman, suggested that I give him my number. As I am not myself homosexual, I was not interested, but I was never offended. In fact, I found it to be a compliment that he found me attractive. I handled it quite simply: I told him I was not interested, and he, frankly, respected that. Pretty simple, and all it took was mutual respect.
Another form of discrimination is based on religion. This is a little troublesome if it is legitimate. What I mean by that is that far too many people tend to hide their discriminatory beliefs behind a veil of religion. There are, however, some people who are genuinely concerned with saving the soul of others. If this is the case, where there is at least some concern for the others (which I personally believe to be rare), the efforts can still go too far. Remember that it is up to the individuals to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to take advice. I have friends who believe, to their core, about so-called “organic” food. I know there is something to their concerns, which is why, for example, I wash apples with soap and water before I eat them to remove the wax coating that is sprayed on the apple and can hold pesticides. But I still eat the regular apples, and that is my choice. The soul is the same. It is my decision, and the decision of others, whether or not we believe the same thing as others, and how we choose to respond even if we do. To offer to share that concern is one thing, but there is no justification for discrimination based on beliefs. After all, the Bible clearly reserves judgment for God, not people, and commands to love the sinner.
The summary is simple. There is no legitimate argument for prejudice, of any kind against any individual.