When two fundamental freedoms come into conflict, it is difficult to choose which one is more important. There is no right answer, nor is there a wrong answer. With that being said justice in fundamental freedom disputes can never be served. American philosopher, Cornell West once said, “Justice is what love looks like,” but when the right to equality in regards to sexual orientation comes into conflict with other freedoms, equality rights are often suppressed. As a result, there is a lack of acceptance and compassion towards one’s sexual orientation. Therefore, in accordance with Wests’s view on justice, justice is not present when two fundamental rights challenge one another.
During the month of February in Detroit, Krista and Jami Contreras welcomed their newborn baby, Bay, into the world with the expectation that they would be able to provide enough care to raise a healthy baby. However, six days after the birth of their child, Dr. Vesna Roi, Bay’s pediatrician, refused to give the child any treatments (MyFoxDetroit.com Staff). Dr. Roi felt that aiding a child raised by two lesbian mothers would go against her religion. (MyFoxDetroit.com Staff). Even though this is discriminatory towards Krista and Jami, Roi’s actions are protected under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. (MyFoxDetroit.com Staff). Roi avoided face-to-face confrontation with Krista and Jami but she explained the reasoning for her actions in a letter addressed to them (MyFoxDetroit.com Staff). Through this occurrence, one can see that the conflict between sexual orientation and religion is never easy.
This is not the first time that religion and sexual orientation have contradicted one another. In 2009, William Whatcott protested that homosexuality was a sin that should not be tolerated in society (Cohen). The Saskatchewan Human Right’s Commission fined Whatcott for his protests, as his speech was discriminatory towards homosexuals (Cohen). However, Whatcott appealed his fine and won due to his right of freedom of expression (Cohen). This shows that there is a constant pattern in society that religion is superior to sexual orientation.
These scenarios exemplify that oppression does not stem from just one factor. Oppression must be seen through an intersectional lens. In context to Krista and Jami’s situation, they are being discriminated against due to the intersection of sexual orientation and religion. Being homosexual in itself makes a person a part of a minority, however the religious teaching of homosexuality being sinful creates more disparity. Therefore, one must look at more than one factor to see and understand the full extent of oppression. By doing so, problem areas can be separated and focused on with more depth to help decrease oppression in society.
The result of Krista and Jami’s inequality shows that culture hegemony is present in today’s society. Cultural hegemony can be described as people in power influencing the culture of a society (Tolmie). In relation to sexual orientation and religion, cultural hegemony occurs due to the fact that people with power are implementing laws and rulings that align more so with religion. As an implication, this is elevating a homophobic culture.
It is important to note that not everyone who follows a religion is homophobic. There are many people who disagree with the teaching of homosexuality as sinful and demonic. Nevertheless, this is not the case for Krista and Jami.
It is unclear what religion Dr. Roi follows, but one of her beliefs contradicts her actions. In her letter to Krista and Jami, Dr. Roi said, “Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice” (MyFoxDetroit.com Staff). Even though Dr. Roi says that she would never judge anyone based on the choices they make, she still judges Krista and Jami’s homosexuality by denying care to their child. If Dr. Roi provided medical care for Bay, then that would show that Dr. Roi is not judgmental to one’s actions. However, Dr. Roi’s beliefs and actions conflict with one another.
In conclusion, it is evident that there is a constant battle between sexual orientation and religion. It is a very difficult conflict to address because in the end, there is always a fundamental freedom being suppressed. Everyone is entitled to the freedom of religion as well as sexual rights to choose one’s own partner. However, patterns have shown that sexual rights are not seen as important as religious rights in the eyes of the law. In order for discrimination towards homosexuals to decrease, a balance must be found between the freedom of religion and sexual rights. Without taking action, this trend of discrimination towards homosexuals will only continue to grow and justice will never be served.
Cohen, Tobi. “Case Pitting Gay Rights Against Religious Freedom Reaches Supreme Court.” National Post. 11 Oct. 2011. Web 9 Mar. 2015
MyFoxDetroit,com Staff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby.” MyFoxDetroit. 18 Feb. 2015 Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Tolmie, Jane. “Week 2 Lecture.” Kingston ON. 12 Jan. 2015.