Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gender Identity: A New Legally-Protected Class

There are numerous state and Federal laws on the books that protect employees from employer discrimination for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information,  age, and more recently, sexual orientation. Today, however, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a new transgender anti-discrimination bill, which makes “gender identity” a new protected class under Massachusetts' non-discrimination statutes. The language of the statute defines gender identity as:
. . . a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, as part of a person's core identity; provided however, gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.
Notice the statutory language says that that people, so long as they hold a "gender-related identity...sincerely," must be recognized as a member of that class of gender regardless of their "physiology or assigned sex at birth." Is sex "assigned at birth" as the statute presupposes? Can a person change his or her "gender" by having an operation or simply willing it to be so? Clearly, the Massachusetts legislature and the Governor believe this is the case.

This is a striking example of what happens when there is no authoritative standard above a human committee for what it means to be a male or female. Legislatures can wander into what has traditionally been the bailiwick of theologians and philosophers and authoritatively legislate a metaphysical viewpoint. How foolish. How sad.

What should our response be to news like this? Let me suggest two appropriate responses.

First, we should pray for our culture because they are lost and suffering the consequences of that lostness. They claim to be wise, but they have become fools (Rom. 1:22). As they run from the God they know, God gives them over with increasing measure to the horrible consequences of rebellion against Him (Rom. 1:24ff). Sexual confusion is precisely the example Paul uses in Romans 1 as the devastating result of rejecting God's standards. This is a curse we should not wish upon anyone.

Second, we should boldly proclaim God's truth in the face of this morass of confusion. God has made human beings in his image, male and female (Gen. 1:27). "Sex" and "gender" are not like a piece of clothing you can put on and take off at will. As Christians, we have a standard that is clear. We have a God who has revealed to us what it means to be a man and a woman. We are not groping in the dark for an answer. We have something solid to grasp and a message to proclaim to the world.
May we love the people around us enough to pray for them and share with them the truth that can set them free.

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