Up in West Virginia, hate is on the agenda in the House of Delegates.
There are literally dozens of anti-LGBT bills working their way through the statehouse, most trying to make discriminating against LGBT people — especially same-sex couples — legal, by letting anyone or any company, corporation, or organization claim to have a "sincerely held religious or moral belief" against same-sex marriage or just The Gays in general.
But in West Virginia this week the House was debating HB 4012, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA], a bill that even one of its supporters acknowledges "doesn’t restore anything." Still, it makes hating gay people legal so let’s get on with it!
“That really caused me to pause. We really live in a country of hyper-sensitivity. We have really become so paranoid." — John Shott
Now, I don’t know if Shott’s “friend” was talking about putting up a Nativity scene at the statehouse, where he should not be allowed to do so, or at his private home, where he should absolutely be entitled to do so; Shott doesn’t say because perhaps the real reason might not fit in with his agenda.
But one man, Mike Pushkin, stood up against this new Hate Law because he’s an anomaly in West Virginia — at least in the statehouse — being that he’s a Democrat and Jewish. Pushkin took to the floor and explained why he was “offended” by the bill:
"I believe I am the only member of a religious minority elected to this body currently. I’m Jewish. Religious freedom is very important to me. If it wasn't for religious freedom I wouldn't be here. In my lifetime I cannot tell you what religious persecution is, because I'm an American, and we do not persecute people in America for religious beliefs, because we have the First Amendment to the Constitution, that's very well written."
Pushkin believes, as do I, that the real reason behind these RFRAs being debated in statehouses around the country is because same-sex marriage is now legal. He calls West Virginia’s RFRA "pushback" from people who are "not persecuted, but possibly inconvenienced" by marriage equality and offered an example of his own experience with religious inconvenience when he had to attend a meeting as a state lawmaker on Rosh Hashanah:
"I did my job. That was an inconvenience. I didn't stand on the courthouse steps and cry about it, I didn't really say much. Mike Huckabee didn't fly into West Virginia and hold my hand on the courthouse steps [as he did with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis]. It was a scheduling problem that interfered with my religious beliefs."
"Having to bake a cake when you are a professional baker, and having somebody pay you to bake a cake is not discrimination. It could, possibly, be seen as an inconvenience, but you're a baker. … It's somebody choosing to do their job. I guess what I'm trying to say is, baking a cake is not persecution. Getting baked in an oven is persecution,"
Pushkin’s family fled "real religious persecution" in Eastern Europe.
Hate is one step closer to being legal in West Virginia but maybe, just maybe, Mike Pushkin’s words were actually heard by someone and things will change before it’s too late.