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June 1, 2017 3:19 PM EDT
Sean Howell is the president of Hornet, the gay social network

Conservatives have begun tearing away at our nation’s fabric by introducing over 85 bills in 28 states that legalize discrimination against fellow citizens. The president’s recent executive order may not have explicitly allowed for discrimination against LGBTQ people, but under the guise of “religious freedoms,” these state-led bills allow private businesses and taxpayer-funded social organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people. And while these bills target LGBTQ people, they also affect children awaiting adoption, businesses seeking highly qualified job candidates, unmarried couples seeking reproductive healthcare and average taxpayers who will bear the costs when state governments inevitably have their laws’ constitutionality challenged in court.

These bills do not protect religious beliefs — they merely sow hatred and division in our communities by undermining America’s most cherished civil liberties, namely that all people are created equal and that all Americans deserve equal rights and protections under the law, promises made by both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Thus, faith leaders and fellow Americans have come together by the millions to reject these bills and the prejudice that spawned them, stating in unison: “Hate is not an American value.”

Our founders knew that hatred can hide behind religion. George Washington himself said, “No one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

The founders understood that hate is not an American value, and in accordance, Americans throughout history have opposed intolerance and oppression wherever it occurs, whether within our borders or in foreign lands. Whether it was abolishing slavery, defying fascism, or fighting for civil rights, Americans have fought on the front lines against discrimination in our states, cities and hometowns because hate is not an American value.

When bigotry has threatened our communities, we have formed powerful networks of community support — neighbors, strangers and loved ones uniting together to defend one another and challenge injustice. In the face of hatred, we bring compassion, conversation and care; when bigotry darkens our neighbors’ hearts and minds, we bring light, love and laughter. Together we have tried to build a world worth fighting for, one where everyone can live authentically and unafraid because hate is not an American value.

Hate doesn’t unite, it divides; it doesn’t foster understanding, it silences free expression; it isn’t open-minded, it has pre-chosen winners and losers. Hate has no respect for individuality, liberty or justice. It isn’t inclusive, isn’t creative, and isn’t brave. It cuts us off from our neighbors, our values and our own hearts. It’s the very opposite of fairness, equality and brotherhood — opposed to the very principles on which this country was founded, which is why we so strongly oppose it: Hate is not an American value.

Thus, we stand united against hate, persecution and inequality so that each citizen, regardless of their differences, has the chance to live, learn, experiment, express and grow and to help others do the same, because hate is not an American value.

Hate does not have a home here. It is not welcome in our communities. It will not live on our streets, prey upon our neighbors or poison minds in our schools or workplaces. It will find no sanctuary in our houses of worship, no privileged places in our public squares, nor friends in our halls of government. We do not tolerate hate in this town, not in this nation, nor in this country because hate is not an American value.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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