BLOGWhat Are Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Ordinances?

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | May 11, 2017

North Carolina was in the spotlight last year when its legislature adopted HB2, a commonsense measure that required individuals to use public locker rooms, showers, and restrooms that correspond with their biological sex.

Why did they feel this was necessary? Because Charlotte had adopted a city ordinance that did just the opposite, making private, sex-specific facilities into genderless ones.

Laws like Charlotte’s are called sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) nondiscrimination ordinances.  And Charlotte is not alone in its adoption of them. SOGI ordinances have been enacted in large and small cities across the United States, including Houston, Texas, and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

The advocates of these ordinances argue that applying gender identity to regulate access to privacy facilities is essential to affirm their subjective perception of what sex they are. But in reality, they eliminate distinctions between men and women where they are most important: locker rooms, shower facilities and restrooms. These facilities should protect everyone’s privacy interests. Still, because SOGI ordinances typically apply to the vast majority of businesses, facilities, and accommodations that are open to the public, once enacted, they immediately transform most public restrooms in a community into genderless facilities.

In addition, SOGI ordinances also open the door for the government to treat a certain group of citizens as second class – those whose beliefs prevent them from accepting, endorsing, and promoting messages, ideas, and events that violate their deepest convictions. They do so by criminalizing or providing civil penalties when expressive business owners decline to create speech that violates their religious beliefs.

ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb breaks this down in the following video.

To date, these ordinances have been used to try to force Christian cake artistsphotographers, and floral artists to create expression celebrating same-sex weddings, and a Christian-owned print shop to print shirts for a gay pride festival, even when doing so went against their deeply held beliefs.  They have even been used to threaten ordained ministers with jail time if they were unwilling to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Alliance Defending Freedom is challenging these type of ordinances in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on behalf of Christian creative professionals who want to run their family businesses consistently with their religious beliefs without fear of government punishment.

The threats these ordinances pose will not forever remain in the for-profit sector, however. In fact, these ordinances are already spilling over into the non-profit sector.

Government officials have already tried to apply these ordinances to churches in Iowa and Massachusetts. Thankfully, the state officials reversed course in both instances after ADF filed lawsuits on the behalf of these churches. They acknowledged that churches have the freedom to operate consistently with their beliefs. Still, any ministry or religious institution that remains true to Scripture’s teaching on marriage and sexuality may find itself threatened, or even punished, by these ordinances – including churches, Christian schools, and other Christian ministries.

Here’s the bottom line: the government has no business punishing its citizens for living consistently with their religious beliefs, but it does have the responsibility to provide for the privacy and safety of its citizens—SOGI ordinances don’t allow for either.

Alliance Defending Freedom has developed free resources for people and organizations of faith that face government punishment under these ordinances. Download a free legal guide for churches, religious schools, and other religious ministries that offers model policies, sample statements, and much more to protect your church’s or ministries’ ability to operate consistent with your faith. And for Christian creative professionals who wish to run their business consistently with their faith, visit CreateFreely.org for more information.


And to stay up to date on cases and issues that affect your religious freedom, sign up for our newsletter.

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Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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