Opinion Forum

Marisa Flores: Discrimination is not a conservative value

For the first time in eight years, Georgia's unemployment rate fell last month to pre-recession levels. Things were looking up for the state, finally. And then the Georgia General Assembly convened.

Rather than busy itself with a growth-oriented agenda that might capitalize on the shifting economic tide, lawmakers instead proposed a smattering of bills that would facilitate discrimination by government and business against law-abiding Georgians.

Just what we need: something to chase away business and jobs.

Couched in the broad notion of religious liberty, these bills -- there were fully eight of them offered this session, each more distressing than the last -- create a frightening solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Now, don't mistake me for a moderate. I served as the Hispanic outreach liaison for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign for president here in Georgia.

The senator's view on the application of faith in life and public policy was the cornerstone of his bid for the White House. Indeed, it was one of the reasons why I was so attracted to him.

But as a conservative who believes that the best government is that which we feel least, it terrifies me that government would grow to a size to empower itself and others to openly discriminate.

Faith genuinely informs my politics, just as it does for Sen. Santorum. I place my faith in God, not government -- and I don't need government to tell me how to exercise my faith.

The expression of my faith free of government intrusion is not in jeopardy, I am certain. But the safety and wellness of some among us are.

Let's consider the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which passed the state Senate last week. As one legal scholar put it, the proposal "would eviscerate every local nondiscrimination protection in public accommodations, housing, and employment that protects individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and, perhaps, even with respect to sex and familial status."

The American conservative view of governance is singularly undergirded by the principle of federalism, this radical notion that power should be situated closest to those it governs. So why is it now that some Republicans in Atlan

ta think that big-footing local power is in any way conservative? It's not: they're either lying to themselves, or to you.

But it gets worse. According to the same analysis of the bill, "[a] single mother could be fired from her job with impunity. A gay person could face eviction from their home with no relief."

Perhaps you'd be among the lucky, those who in some way would not feel the sting of these proposals. But then maybe you wouldn't: single mothers, gays and lesbians, or even those having sex outside of marriage. A great many of us fall into one of those categories, but self-interest isn't why I'm opposed to these terrible bills.

Opponents to these measures have been assailed as "RINOs", a crude epithet in conservative circles: Republicans in name only. But from my perspective, the only Republicans in name only here are those in favor of creating a larger, more intrusive government that will stifle the free market.

There's nothing conservative in bloating government, in kicking the legs out from under our still-hobbling economy, or in discriminating. And there's nothing certainly Christian about it.

Maria Flores, originally from Texas, served as Hispanic outreach director for Sen. Rick Santorum and in the campaign of President George W. Bush; she lives in Cherokee County.