The Republican Party’s war against the rights of women and LGBT Americans has reached a new height- this time, coming not from the Bible Belt but from Capitol Hill itself. The House of Representatives just voted to revoke the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which would mean that women living in the District of Columbia can be fired from their jobs for using birth control, having an abortion, becoming pregnant by in-vitro fertilization, or simply becoming pregnant out of wedlock if it offends the religious sensibilities of their employers.
At the same time, the Republican-controlled House is repealing the Human Rights Amendment Act, which would allow religious schools to discriminate against their LGBT students. Motions to repeal similar bills in the Senate are currently underway, efforts led by Senator Ted Cruz’s ham-fisted attempts to pander to the evangelical right.
It’s the next battle in the efforts by Republican Christian evangelical extremists to forcibly impose their beliefs on the rest of America, with very alarming theocratic implications. They know that the majority of Americans don’t believe in their archaic and repressive 18th-century vision of twisted morality and mandatory piety, but are unable to recognize that America has moved on, into a new age where human potential and expression are not restricted by extremist’s overbearing efforts at social control. The result is desperate fanaticism among the right’s political voices. Rep. Steve Russel (R-OK) said that “we all should be willing to die for religious freedom”, which is something you would expect to hear from an Al-Qaeda member, rather an an elected member of the US Congress.
Democrats have united in fury against the measures. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said “Those are activities that are none of an employer’s business. They are activities that obviously happen off the job and decisions that have no bearing whatsoever on a woman’s ability to do her job.” The efforts by House Republicans bring up the same issues that inflamed the firestorm of criticism around the Indiana
“religious freedom” anti-gay discrimination bill– a debate on the true meaning of freedom in America.
Freedom is one’s right to live their lives as they see fit, to make the choices that they choose to make, free from the judgement of others. Freedom does not give you the selfish right to force people around you to change their lives just to suit your own particular vision of the world, especially when their actions do not affect you in any way. The Republican Party’s insistence on denying the freedom to choose is so much more frustrating when you consider that women’s reproductive rights have a very real impact on the lives of the people involved, on society, on the economy. The Republican evangelical right gains nothing but a greater obnoxious sense of delusional self-righteous moral superiority, languishing in their ignorance while the practical effects of their policies tear society down around them. This is not the America that our Founding Fathers believed in. These are not the policies of an America ready to embrace a new era and a changing world.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.