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March 1, 2013 Print

When Did Government Turn Into Dr. Phil?

by Bruce Hausknecht

Is the government the arbiter of people’s emotions?

Is it the duty of government to decide which feelings of its citizens to validate, and which to condemn?

Well that’s exactly what is happening in Colorado and elsewhere as legislative debates over same-sex civil unions (and same-sex marriage), public accommodations and non-discrimination laws increasingly devolve into debates over religious conscience rights. I testified at a legislative committee hearing recently on the issue of a civil unions bill that appears poised to pass after the November election changed the composition of the Legislature.

This year’s bill pointedly removed any protections for faith-based adoption agencies like Catholic Charities, which may get out of the adoption business rather than violate Catholic doctrine by placing children with same-sex couples. Why? Because the sponsors knew that they had the votes to pass the bill, and don’t care if Catholic Charities is forced out of the adoption business.

Testimony about a Colorado bakery shop owner who politely refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (for an out of state ceremony) and was brought up on discrimination charges before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, also fell on deaf ears.

No religious accommodation for anyone. Why is that? Well, it’s “discrimination,” is what we’re told.

But so is punishing Catholic Charities and the baker for their deeply held religious views.

In another current situation, an elementary school here in Colorado is faced with a charge of discrimination under the state’s public accommodations law for refusing to let a six year-old boy, who believes he should be a girl, use the girls’ restroom. The school is concerned for the feelings of the little girls who would also be using the restroom (and their parents), and quite reasonably offered to let the boy use a stand-alone restroom. But the boy’s parents turned down the offer and filed the discrimination claim. The applicable law, passed in 2008, does not tolerate any reasonable compromises such as what the school offered. Why is that?

After listening to a lot of testimony over the last several years on these bills, the underlying reason for the complete abandonment of reason on the part of legislators is simple. The homosexual and transgender community won’t tolerate it. They say repeatedly (through dozens of witnesses at the committee hearings on these bills) that they will be deeply offended at being referred to another adoption agency, or baker, or wedding photographer or what have you. And state lawmakers here and elsewhere have decided that those hurt feelings must be prevented at any cost. And those deeply held religious beliefs in the one case, and the basic fears and concerns of little girls and their parents in the other, must be denied, subordinated, penalized and criticized.

Why is government picking winners and losers in the “feelings” department, anyway? Has the era of nanny-state big government, complete with soft drink size restrictions and light bulb and Happy Meal bans, finally turned to the field of psychology?

Even Dr. Phil often turns to his guest and advises, “You need to get over it.”