Deerfield Township Trustee Chris Romano fails to mention in his neatly bullet-pointed “Government Leadership Philosophy” his enthusiastic support for discrimination and exclusion. He does boast his approach to problem-solving: Make quick decisions with the information that’s available, then implement and move on.
For Warren County’s Mr. Romano, if the information available is that a lesbian couple would like to employ your business venue to host their commitment ceremony, the quick decision you make is to deny them, and then move on by blustering self-righteously over your belief in the supernatural.
Some background from our friends at WCPO.com (with the name of Mr. Romano’s dubious enterprise duly redacted in keeping with his philosophy of exclusion):
“Ashley Gaffney and Liz Wolfe say they selected an intimate location in Camden, Ohio, for their special day after being rejected from a ‘couple’ other locations because they are lesbians, they said…
Chris Romano, sent them an email saying:
‘While it’s a difficult choice to purposely disappoint someone who wants to do business with us, we will not host your event.’
The email continues:
‘In line with our Christian heritage, we are doing all we can to preserve the true definition of marriage as a holy covenant between one man and one woman.'”
This is a point Mr. Romano is interested in reiterating. Under a picture on his website of Romano and wife, Jenny, labeled “One man, one woman,” he writes, “I stand, with other Christians, against the secular redefining of marriage and in support of religious freedom for all Americans.”
Romano has not only bought wholly into this vile bit of right-wing casuistry, but just about every other sold today in the conservative marketplace of bunkum ideas, as proudly displayed via his Twitter feed.
There are two issues at hand here, neither of which Mr. Romano seems to have had any interest in exploring intellectually in this lifetime.
The first is that if you are hanging your pro-discrimination hat on the hall tree of religious freedom, you are inviting every cruel form of human oppression, bigotry, intolerance and prejudice to do the same. The appeal to the supernatural as justification for discrimination is time-honored in human history and leads without fail to despicable results.
The situation may seem innocent enough in modern America when we are talking about wedding cakes and flower arrangements, but the dire consequences of the unthinking “religious freedom” bromide become clear when a doctor in Michigan refuses to medically treat the infant child of a lesbian couple, or when male Muslim medical students refuse to touch female patients or learn their anatomy.
Of course there are many more examples: religious schools firing women for becoming pregnant, business owners refusing to provide insurance that covers contraception, pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions, and children being denied safe-sex education. These are situations where individuals suffer tangible grievous harm at the hands of others imposing their celestial superstition.
The abominable Roberts Court decision in Hobby-Lobby notwithstanding—which anthropomorphized corporations and put a businesses’ “religious freedom” above the freedom of the real human beings who work there—most court decisions have upheld the fundamental understanding that a supernatural right-to-discriminate does not trump secular law.
So in states that have laws protecting not only the LGBT community but also women, the elderly, the disabled, and indeed, the faithful, from discrimination, those laws have consistently been upheld against the ostensible rights of others to discriminate against them.
Unfortunately, with regard to sexual orientation, Ohio is not one of those states. And that is the second issue.
In Ohio you can be fired for your very nature. In Ohio you can be denied legal recognition of your love of another on the arbitrary basis of gender. In Ohio you can be refused service, and summarily ostracized from any private enterprise, anywhere at any time, simply because of who you are and who you love.
And this is how Mr. Romano likes it, as he feigns sanctity while spewing intolerance. Perhaps we should take his pious dedication to Leviticus earnestly and conclude that he might also oppose crop rotation, believe that anybody who wears a cotton-polyester blend should be stoned to death, and condone slavery—including the selling of family members into it. Or perhaps, like so many others, he’s choosing his mandate to discriminate à la carte.
But Mr. Romano’s callous, superstitious ignorance is no matter to us. To employ his own preferred military argot, our mission is greater. Our mission must be to protect every Ohioan from the ugly hand of exclusion and discrimination, regardless of who they are and who they love.
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.