BLOGWhat Are Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Ordinances?

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | February 06, 2015

In some US cities, prohibiting a biological male from going into the women’s restroom or locker room is now considered “discrimination,” simply if that man identifies as a woman.

Why is this happening?  Because these cities have adopted sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) nondiscrimination ordinances.  SOGI ordinances have been enacted in large and small cities across the United States, including Houston, Texas, and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

The advocates of these ordinances argue that they ensure everyone is treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But in practice, they eliminate gender distinctions where they are most important:  like restrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities where the privacy interests and vulnerability of those using such facilities are at their peak.   And because SOGI ordinances typically apply to the vast majority of businesses, facilities, and accommodations that are open to the public, once enacted they immediately transform most public restrooms in a community into genderless facilities.

In addition, SOGI ordinances also open the door for the government to treat a certain group of citizens as second class – those whose beliefs prevent them from accepting, endorsing, and promoting messages, ideas, and events that violate their deepest convictions. They do so by criminalizing or providing civil penalties when a business owner declines to create expression that violates their religious beliefs.

ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb breaks this down in the following video.

To date, these ordinances have been relied on to try to force Christian bakersphotographers, and florists to create expression celebrating same-sex weddings, and a Christian-owned print shop to print shirts for a gay pride festival, even when doing so went against their deeply held beliefs.  They have even been used to threaten ordained ministers with jail time if they were unwilling to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The threats these ordinances pose will not forever remain in the for-profit sector, however. In fact, these ordinances are already spilling over into the non-profit sector.

The Hawaii Catholic Schools, for example, came under fire for implementing a new teacher contract that identifies homosexual conduct or a same-sex union as a fireable offense. Even though the schools are simply remaining true to Catholic teachings (and asking that their employees do the same), activists are calling for the schools to be punished under the state’s sexual orientation nondiscrimination law.

Any ministry or religious institution that remains true to Scripture’s teaching on marriage and sexuality may find itself threatened, or even punished, by these ordinances – including churches, Christian schools, and other Christian ministries.

Here’s the bottom line: the government has no business punishing its citizens for living consistently with their religious beliefs, but it does have the responsibility of providing for the privacy and safety of its citizens—SOGI ordinances don’t allow for either.

Take Action

Alliance Defending Freedom has developed a free legal guide for churches, religious schools, and other religious ministries that may soon be affected by these ordinances. This guide offers model policies, sample statements, and much more to protect your church or ministries’ ability to stay consistent with your faith.

  • Download a free copy today, and share it with your pastor or Christian school administrator.
  • Is your city planning to add a SOGI ordinance? Start a petition to allow the people to vote on it.

And if you are, or you know, a business owner who is being threatened for operating your business according to your religious beliefs, or you have questions about your right to do so, ADF can help.  Contact us and we will evaluate your situation.

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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