“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

One would never expect to be neglected of basic necessities, such as health care, due to their sexual orientation, and for it to be perfectly legal. However, this is exactly what happened to Krista and Jami Contrearas, whose six-day-old infant was turned away by Doctor Roi for this reason. With the mothers citing that they are “completely prepared for this to happen other places,” this highlights many problematic trends in the United States.[1] Clearly a proponent of a heteronormative society, Doctor Roi’s prejudicial actions are protected under the American Medical Association (AMA). However, the protections of many minority rights are not yet established. The United States has yet to legalize gay marriage nationally, and many citizens are suffering as a result. Meanwhile, subsequent laws are being passed to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and to safeguard religious rights, leading one to wonder whether or not the law exists for their protection or penalization.

The clashing of minority rights has not gone unnoticed, as many citizens notice that religion is being used as a mechanism to discriminate against the LGBT community. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is determined to fight for the community’s rights, and is aware of the use of religion as a tool of discrimination. “We continue to seek anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, businesses, and public places. We advocated for state and federal non-discrimination laws, and litigate to ensure that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify acts of bias.”[2] The ACLU dedicates an entire section of their website to outline instances where religion is utilized to discriminate against women and the LGBT community, such as employment, medical care and other services.[3] While the ACLU feels the law can be exercised for the good, not all Americans are so optimistic, realizing that tangible change will take a lot more than passing a bill, or striking down an existing law.

A map of states which have legalized same-sex marriage. Blue = Legalized, Grey = Illegal, Purple = Not legalized, but accepts same-sex marriages from other states. https://www.aclu.org/maps/same-sex-relationship-recognition

Despite the AMA’s protection of a doctor’s “personal views,” as was the case with Dr. Roi, there are conflicting clauses in their Code of Ethics. For example, “the relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and gives rise to physicians’ ethical obligations to place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest[.]”[4] Additionally, in their Declaration of Professional Responsibility, physicians possess “the duty to treat the sick and injured with competence and compassion and with prejudice, prohibit[ing] racial, ethnic, and other forms of bias.”[5] The contradictory nature of the AMA’s rules and regulations illustrate how governmental establishment of rules can also be disregarded successfully, or utilized to further prejudicial means.

Although religion is used as a discriminatory law-making tool, some argue that the alleged homophobic passages in the Bible do not truly exist. Mark Achtemeier, a former “anti-gay evangelical” minister, elaborates; upon searching for the meaning of the alleged scripture, “the best you wind up with is a statement that says, ‘Well, these passages don’t mean what you think they mean.’ It was essentially and argument from silence[.]”[6] When one considers that the religious rationale for homophobia is based on intangible biblical texts, it causes one to wonder how their views have been granted such legitimacy.

In June 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on the grounds that “violated the constitutional right to liberty,” however judges did not consider the creation of state legislation to counteract DOMA’s dismantling.[7] State-placed bans on gay marriage were instituted, and while many states have rid of such bans, others have upheld them. In September, a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, citing homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice,” stating “neither the Supreme Court nor the Fifth Circuit has ever before defied sexual orientation as a protected class[.]”[8] Additionally, in the fight for same-sex marriage in Michigan, where the Contrearas family resides, a dominant amount of testimony provided was about “whether or not gay parents were suitable to raise children,” a consideration that no one possesses when discussing heterosexual marriage. [9] Posing any obstacles possible to circumvent striking down the ban, one journalist comments that one needs to “understand that that battle for civil rights does not end with the law.[10]

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Politics/164683607_6_16x9_992.jpg

A homonormative standard also creates tensions for the LGBT community, as members of the community present their own problematic views, bringing each other down. Fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana, who identify as gay, recently criticized same sex families, suggesting that “the only family is the traditional one” and that they are “opposed to the idea of growing up with two gay parents.”[11] Referring to invitro fertilization (IVF) as producing “synthetic children,” these two white, upper class men manage to degrade a diversity of family types, and in turn provide support for those who are homophobic and do not feel anyone identifying as LGBT to be a fit parent, an incredibly problematic message to deliver.[12] While IVF remains a form of pregnancy that is only attainable to those who can afford it, an even stronger hierarchical system is established by suggesting these families are inferior.

While the fight for legal equality continues, one must consider the often-contradictory nature of the law. Louisiana’s federal judge who claimed homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice” also feels African Americans to be protected under the fourteenth amendment, yet racial tensions continue to characterize American society.[13] Additionally, while rules exist to ensure that patients receive necessary healthcare, doctors are also legally allowed to refuse patients based on personal beliefs. The fight for legal change must also be met with corresponding social changes, otherwise the law’s efficacy could be questionable. What is perfectly legal is not right – at least not yet.

Bibliography

American Civil Liberties Union. “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties” https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/lgbt-basic-rights-and-liberties. Accessed March 13, 2015

American Medical Association. “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.” http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion10015.page? Accessed March 16, 2015

American Medical Association. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page? Accessed March 16, 2015

Baer, Mark. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-baer/the-same-sex-marriage-debate_b_5800482.html

Chellew-Hodge, Candace. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015 http://religiondispatches.org/marriage-is-for-everybody-says-former-anti-gay-evangelical/

Fox News. “Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2015. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

Stone, Brian. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-stone/gay-right-legal-equality_b_4932478.html

Ward, Victoria. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015. Accessed March 16, 2015. http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/16/how-dare-you-refer-to-my-beautiful-children-as-synthetic-elton-john-livid-at-dolce-gabbana-anti-ivf-rant/

[1] Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015.

[2] “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties” https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/lgbt-basic-rights-and-liberties

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.” http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion10015.page?

[5]. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page?

[6] Candace Chellew-Hodge. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014.

[7] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 227.

[8] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

[9] Brian Stone. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Victoria Ward. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

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“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

7 thoughts on ““It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

  1. pennatucky says:

    Religious ideology has for a very long time, been used as a platform to discriminate, oppress and repress people. The United States of America seems to have an array of maniacal fundamentalist churches that are out to manipulate people and policy. I feel that the Christian right wing are able to use fear tactics and the idea of morality to control and dominate people who do not fit into their idea of the perfect , white, heteronormative patriarchal family structure. It could be seen to be inherently anti sexuality, anti-gay and anti-women as well, when one looks at the sexual health education, IVF and adoption practices and even further with the constant battle of trying to make abortion a criminal offense, it is clear that the Christian right have an alternative agenda that involves taking away (certain) peoples individual rights and liberty. We see these issues repeated over and over again throughout history, when people do not fit into said ‘norm’ are outcast and abused by the system, there must be a better alternative than the one we have now.

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    1. redjr21 says:

      You raise many important and excellent points. In studying American history, one can notice a disturbing trend: the white, Christian body either tries to restrict minority rights, or force others to conform to their ways. Women were guilty of this themselves, as illustrated by the history of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), a white, upper class group who advocated for universal prohibition, yet would not allow women of lower classes or other races to join; if so, they would be treated as second class citizens, so to speak.

      Additionally, your brief mention of sexual health education is important – the lack of sex education, simply emphasizing abstinence and concocting lies about sex, sexual orientation and gender identities is rather horrifying. In addition, many states do not teach evolution to their students, suggesting that evolution is “subjective” and that natural selection/creationism is empirical – and this is totally acceptable under state laws. Until we see stronger, more diverse and better representation in the House of Representatives, I fear the Christian rhetoric will continue to dominate American legislation.

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  2. I like your opening sentence as it brought the reader in and questioning everyone’s basic necessitates such as health care, one sexual orientation and the legal system. Your blog post hits some very interesting points and you use wonderful sources to back up each and every one of your points.

    I found your points on religious beliefs to be the most interesting and I liked that you brought in both the American Civil Rights Liberties Union and Mark Achtemeier’s view on the Bible. How far do you think one can fight for their own opinions based on religious beliefs? What is your opinion on this issue? This is clearly a very interesting, yet controversial issue.

    You also did a good job incorporating homonormativity and the affects this can have on society. You mention Dolce and Gabbana and explain their opinions on same-sex parents. However, you did mention that they were gay themselves. Do you think that their opinions are motivated in helping to further their business and gain support from more heterosexual individuals? If they were pro same-sex, pro same-sex parents, etc., do you think they would have fewer customers buying their products, yet hold lots of societal influence?

    Overall, your blog incorporated really interesting sources and I found it interesting how you linked it all together. Good job!

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    1. redjr21 says:

      You raise a lot of good questions, many of which I can only answer from my personal viewpoint, rather than a societal one.

      I struggle with the ability that religion has to dictate the American body politic – I feel that the Christian religion seems to be granted universal legitimacy by certain politicians and political parties, and that Christian rhetoric is utilized in establishing bills and rejecting others in American politics. With that being said, I think that using religion to further one’s own views is only something that can be done by Christians, as Christianity is an inherent part of the patriarchy. For instance, I believe that if a Muslim or Jew attempted to further their religious beliefs in a political setting, this would end in disaster. Sadly Islamophobia and anti-Semitism continue to characterize an abundance of European nations, as well as the United States, as illustrated by the Chapel Hill shooting.

      In regard to you question concerning Dolce and Gabbana’s derogatory comments about “non-traditional” families, I do not feel that their comments were made to acquire more business, or to acquire business from straight consumers exclusively. A very select portion of the population is able to even consider purchasing their product, let alone afford it, and I do not think that they feel the need to do any sort of marketing themselves. Many straight celebrities, such as Madonna, have come out against the designers, vouching to boycott the brand and to get rid of any items they have purchased from them in the past. I think that their brand is not targeted towards those who identify as either straight or gay, but towards a certain class in society. Despite their popularity, I believe that a very select portion of the population buys their products, with celebrities being a likely consumer. As Dolce and Gabbana belong to an upper class elite themselves, I sense that they are more concerned with the class of their consumers, rather than their sexual orientation. With that being said, I do not see them as a friend to their LGBT peers; by delegitimizing fertility methods such as IVF and surrogacy, they produce harm across sexual orientations and gender identities, as any single human could struggle with fertility.

      I hope this helps to answer your questions!

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  3. piper125 says:

    I’m glad that you took the focus of religion and its role in perpetuating outdated, arbitrary standards of heteronormativity and conventional family structures. Without good reason, religion has quickly become a defence mechanism for those wishing to prescribe to conservative ideals on sexuality and gender identities.

    It is absurd that the law protects an individual who subscribes to such a notion that leaves an infant lacking healthcare and leaves two caregivers with a little less dignity. The United States of America romanticizes the notion of a “law-abiding citizen”, but meanwhile proves time and time again that the law is outdated, arbitrary, and at the discretion of a conservative power structure that continues to perpetrate systemic marginalization of minorities.

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    1. redjr21 says:

      That is so true! For a nation that prides itself on conservative, often libertarian ideals, it seems rather concerned with what goes on behind the closed doors of its citizens. What is most astonishing is the amount of current legislation that is being produced to discriminate and limit the ability of minorities to live their lives freely. The “loose” language of earlier legislation, such as the First Amendment in the Constitution (granting equality to all citizens/men) could be interpreted in an equitable, positive way, but is twisted by politicians to further oppress its citizens.

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  4. This is a very interesting blog post; it is a good example that reflects that law does not equal to morality. Doctors’ one and only job is to safe lives, and it shouldn’t matter whose life it is. This is not to say that one’s believes should be ignored, but this absurdity of using religious reasons to avoid treating a patient that belongs to a minority group within the society is just beyond words. On top of which, as mentioned in the news article, the baby doesn’t yet have a sexual orientation, I think it could be argued that the doctor has no right to escape the responsibility from treating the patient. And I absolutely agree with you and I think you made a very valid point on the Christian religion being granted the so called “universal legitimacy” in American politics. And it is a major reason why discrimination against the LGBTQ community still exist. All in all, I enjoyed reading your post, it was thought provoking, leaving me to ponder over the extent of law in protecting human’s right.

    Like

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