Letter: Baton Rouge better than misusing ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate

Ashley and Greg got married last November, but in January, Greg, a Marine, deployed to Afghanistan. So, Ashley moved home from Minnesota to Baton Rouge to be closer to family. After finding an apartment and getting a job, Ashley hunkered down and waited for Greg to come home. You can imagine how hard it was to be apart after just being married for a couple of months, but somehow they did it. Finally, last month, Greg came home and they were together again. Everyone who knew them celebrated.

But when Ashley told their landlord, the landlord told them they’d have to move by the end of the month. He was kicking them out. And when Ashley’s boss was told about them getting kicked out, he fired Ashley.

“We don’t support that lifestyle.”

You see, Ashley is a man. This story illustrates the scenario that plays out time and again in our city of Baton Rouge, where people simply trying to live their lives are fired from their jobs or kicked out into the streets because of someone else’s claim to “religious freedom.”

But that’s not how religious freedom works.

A Jewish landlord cannot kick you out of your apartment for having a ham sandwich because eating pork is against his religion. That’s not how religious freedom works.

A Baptist boss cannot fire you if she sees you having a glass of wine with dinner because drinking alcohol is against her religion. That’s not how religious freedom works.

And a Catholic restaurateur cannot ban divorced people from having dinner at his restaurant because divorce is against his religion. That’s not how religious freedom works.

We are a country that declares that we are “all created equal.” We are a state with a pledge which hopes “justice shall prevail for all those abiding here.” And we are a city given a choice to live up to these two universal ideals.

It is not right to fire people because of their sexual orientation. It is not right to kick people out of their homes because of their gender identity. And it is not right to refuse to serve people at a restaurant because you don’t like their “kind.” We learned that lesson long ago and we do not need to learn it again.

So please, call your Metro councilperson and ask him or her to support the ordinance to ban discrimination against the people of our city. Because as long as one of us is unequal, all of us are unequal.

And Baton Rouge is better than that.

Michael Norris

LSU student

Baton Rouge