When it comes to discussing the place of religion and the expansion of basic civil rights to the LGBT community, legend Julian Bond delivers a passionate, common-sense view often missing from the debate.

This civil rights hero and ally — the chairman emeritus of the NAACP — so effortlessly states the obvious:  discrimination is wrong. As we await the rulings on the same-sex marriage cases before SCOTUS —  Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage known as Prop 8, and United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Julian Bond’s op-ed is a reminder of how absurd, hypocritical and weak the anti-equality side is. It clings to a particular religious point of view to justify institutionalized discrimination. We’ve been there before, and they have short memories. (via The Politico):

“[A]s LGBT people have gained greater equality under the law, we are hearing similar objections to the ones I heard in response to the civil rights gains of African-Americans in the 1960s. We hear people asking for exemptions from laws — laws that prohibit discrimination — on the ground that complying would violate their religious beliefs.

I heard this argument in Maryland last year when working to secure the freedom to marry for committed and loving same-sex couples. And now we are hearing it in Congress with respect to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, critical federal legislation introduced in Congress in April that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most American workplaces.

ENDA follows in the mold of life-changing civil rights laws that, for decades, have prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age and disability. However, there are some who feel that ENDA must allow religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond churches, synagogues and mosques — to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people.

We haven’t accepted this in the past, and we must not today. In response to the historic gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, opponents argued that their religious beliefs prohibited integration. To be true to their religious beliefs, they argued, they couldn’t serve African-Americans in their restaurants or accept interracial marriages.”

And to recognize these civil rights is no threat to anyone’s beliefs or ability to worship.

Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values.

It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.

NOTE: there will not be a decision on the marriage cases today; the next opportunity for a ruling is Monday morning, June 17.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding