More Discrimination We Forgot Existed

Don’t worry, LGBTQ readers, I haven’t forgotten about you.

And fortunately, neither has Steve Rothman, a congressman from New Jersey who has finally found ANOTHER  instance of LGBTQ equality that we can all get on board with fighting.

Before I get into the particular issue that Rothman has decided to tackle, let me just take a second to remind our readers that there is STILL no federal legislation protecting against employment discrimination OR housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  None.  And not all states have laws protecting against employment discrimination on that basis either.  So it goes without saying that Rothman’s issue is not by any means the only battle to be fought.

But he did manage to find a problem that most of us, myself included, forgot existed, and that is the subject of discrimination in jury selection processes.

Rothman has introduced the Jury Non-Discrimination Act of 2012, which would correct one of the many ongoing problems facing the LGBQ (sorry, this doesn’t actually cover transgender folks yet) community today.  According to an article I found covering the bill, until the 20th century, women were barred from serving on juries (unsurprising, since we weren’t allowed to VOTE until then either), and until the 1980s, there were no laws preventing African-Americans from serving on juries as well.  I know that people generally do not LIKE jury duty, but the fact is that jury duty is a right/responsibility of American citizens (seriously, it is one of the correct answers on the US Citizenship test).

A while back, I published a post about sexual citizenship.  This is just another way that the LGBQ community in the United States can be and often is denied full access to their citizenship based on their sexual orientation.  Being LGBQ may or may not make a difference in how someone will perceive a trial…but it should not matter.  It really, really should not.  Because the truth is that even if it DOES make a difference, having a diversity of perspectives is a GOOD thing in a jury trial.  And if it doesn’t make a difference then why are we even here arguing about this?

On top of that, you as an American have a right to be tried by a jury of your peers.  And your peers include PEOPLE LIKE YOU.  That is what a peer is, for crying out loud.  So if you are an LGBQ American, and you are on trial, you have a right not to be tried by a group of homophobic bigots.  And if you are an LGBTQ American, you deserve to know that there is a reasonable chance that someone on that jury has some idea where you are coming from, ESPECIALLY since I as a straight American know that no one on that jury is discriminating against me because I’m heterosexual.

According to the article I already mentioned, when a San Diego judge learned that a juror had been dismissed because she was gay, the judge in question removed the entire jury panel on the basis that the defendant was “denied a fair jury”.  All I have to say to that is HECK YEAH.  There was a lot more to that case, of course-~-the prosecutors claim that the potential juror in question protested in support of gay rights and this could indicate a bias.  Here’s the problem with their argument: 1) Unless the prosecutors ALSO asked EVERY SINGLE JUROR if they are against gay rights, this constitutes legitimate discrimination and 2) Although jurors ARE supposed to remain impartial, EVERY JUROR goes into a trial with some sort of bias coloring their worldview because EVERYONE has inherent biases in some way or another (and anyone who tells you they are utterly neutral about everything is lying).    I am not saying everyone is homophobic or everyone is racist but I AM saying that you have something you are bringing to the table.  You may not even be aware of it, but it’s there.  (Hence the concept of privilege, people)

What I am saying here is this: you would not ban someone from a jury based on race.  Or sex.  Or ethnicity.  Or religion.  (Can you imagine if someone were banned because they were Catholic or something?  Imagine the outrage).  So why would we let this country deny this aspect of someone’s citizenship based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

This has nothing to do with your religion, if that’s why you’re against gay marriage.  It has nothing to do with our made-up family values.  This is straight-up rights/responsibilities as a US citizen.

So, readers, you know what to do: start emailing your congresspeople and telling them to support this bill.  Because NO ONE should be denied the right to a fair trial, and NO ONE should be denied access to their citizenship.

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~ by Randi Saunders on May 23, 2012.

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