Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people in the United States have been struggling for civil rights and equal protections for a long time. It has been only recently that some headway was finally made. One of the most notable examples was the Supreme Court decision that finally made marriage equality a reality in the country. That was followed by proposed legislation in many states attempting to grant LGBT citizens equal protections against discrimination under the law. That battle is still being fought. Progress is being made although it is slow and constantly hindered by well-funded opposition groups.
Some of the main opponents of LGBT rights and equality are Christians. Most are actually Christian Conservatives identifying with the far right end of the political spectrum. These people are an incredibly vocal minority in the country. The problem is that gerrymandering has given the groups power driving elected officials to adopt anti-LGBT policies that would take the country back decades or more. The objection to LGBT individuals is mostly rooted in the Christian Bible. There are clear verses stating that God himself and other figures supposedly abhor anyone who identifies as LGBT. It specifically states that death is the punishment for people who are gay. This has been extended recently in the rhetoric to include transgender people.
The opposition to LGBT protections has largely been successful thanks to sympathetic and sometimes outright bigoted elected officials. Some states have managed to pass laws that actually strip away civil rights protections for LGBT citizens when it comes to almost everything from housing and employment to being served at a public accommodation. These laws received widespread condemnation. Large businesses have even started to distance themselves from states or cities that pass such anti-LGBT legislation. This has really just helped to entrench some of the people who would like to see LGBT Americans put in jail, stoned or ostracized from society.
It plays into the American Christian persecution myth. This is the idea that Christians need to hide in the United States because evil secularists and atheists are running around attempting to harm them in some way. This is the myth that spawned the meme about no one in the country being able to say “Merry Christmas” or erect a Christmas tree. The idea of persecution is being confused with the protections provided by the Constitution. Things started coming to a head recently when the national retailer Target announced that stores would allow transgender employees and customers to use bathrooms that match their gender identities.
The response online was swift and unsurprising. Christian and Conservative groups condemned the store and vowed boycotts. Target was repeatedly insulted by Conservative radio and television commentators despite previous rhetoric that private businesses should always be allowed to make these kinds of decisions. A man who could be best described as a Christian extremist decided to take the matter into his own hands in Portland, Oregon. The man marched into a Target store and started screaming about how transgender individuals are abominations, need to repent and will be punished by God.
Some customers were visibly upset in the video released later. Others seemed to realize he was a bigot and just started sayings things like “You are not a real Christian.” Target employees eventually managed to get the man to leave the store after calling the police. Unfortunately, this was not the only incident. Something similar happened at a Target in Illinois. More protests and disruptions are expected in the coming weeks or months. Target shows no signs of backing down and the apparent boycott of the stores seems to be having little effect at the moment.