Category Archives: Gay Rights

The Age of Inhumanity

Historians will eventually affix a label to the time period we are living through (assuming, of course, that we do live through it); my predictive powers are considerably less than optimal, but I vote for “The Age of Inhumanity”–or maybe, “The Age of Assholery.”

My exhibits, from just the past couple of days:

Jimmy Kimmel recently delivered an emotional monologue about his newborn son, who’d been born with a heart condition. Ultimately, the story had a happy ending; surgery corrected the defect and they were able to take the baby home. Kimmel’s monologue included a “political” observation:

Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.

If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”

Well, no. Evidently not.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)–now a radio call-in show host– tweeted his reaction, writing: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”

I will note here that we shouldn’t be surprised by Walsh’s disinclination to pay insurance premiums that might benefit other people’s children, since he’d previously been sued by his ex-wife for failing to pay child support for his own. A real prince of a guy….

And then there was the funeral home in Mississippi that refused to honor its contractual obligation to provide services when they discovered that the deceased man had a husband.

For most of the 52 years he was in a relationship with Robert Huskey, Jack Zawadski doesn’t remember much in the way of anti-gay discrimination.

Not while they were trying to grow apples on a farm in Wisconsin. Not during the decades they spent as special education teachers. Not even when they moved to Mississippi 20 years ago to retire someplace warmer and more lush, or after they married in 2015, when the Supreme Court declared that gay couples have as much of a right as heterosexuals to marry.

Last month, at age 86, Huskey died after a long illness.

Zawadski, 82, said the funeral home that had been prearranged to pick up and cremate Huskey’s body refused at the last minute, telling the nursing home that they don’t “deal with their kind.”…

The couple’s nephew, John Gaspari, made the arrangements ahead of time with Picayune Funeral Home, the only funeral home in the county with an on-site crematory, according to the complaint. Zawadski had hoped to hold the funeral there so the couple’s local friends could pay their respects. On May 11, 2016, Gaspari contacted the funeral home to let them know Huskey had died.

But after filing the paperwork, including a document naming Zawadski as next of kin, Gaspari got a call from the nursing home. “The Nursing Home relayed to John that once it received the paperwork indicating that Bob’s spouse was male, PFH refused service because it did not ‘deal with their kind,’ ” the lawsuit stated.

Zawadski’s complaint says that the turmoil involved in finding alternative arrangements “permanently marred the memory of Bob’s otherwise peaceful passing,”

I wish I could say that these are isolated examples, but anyone who follows the news knows that they’re not.

What the hell is wrong with these people? What makes them so small and mean-spirited?

Whatever historians ultimately call it, we  live in an ugly time.

“Moral” Lawbreaking

Remember the lyrics of that old cowboy song, “Don’t Fence Me In”?

Oh give me land lots of land under starry skies above
don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide
open spaces that I love
don’t fence me in.

I found those “wide open spaces”–they’re between Wyoming legislators’ ears.

A bill has been introduced into the Wyoming state legislature aimed at legalizing discrimination against the gay community–but only if the discriminatory behavior is motivated by religion. House Bill 135, also called the Government Nondiscrimination Act, would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, so long as the discrimination is done for religious or “moral” reasons.

According to Second Nexus (a publication with which I am unfamiliar),

Specifically, the bill would forbid the government from taking action against any “person,” including public and private corporations and entities, if that person acts on a “religious belief or moral conviction” that marriage is the union of one man and woman, or that “‘man’ and ‘woman’ mean an individual’s biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy genetics at the time of birth.”

The bill is remarkable for the breadth of organizations it allows to discriminate on the basis of religious freedom. “If passed, HB 135 would allow government employees, licensed professionals (like teachers or counselors) and private businesses to discriminate,” said Sabrina King, Policy Director at the ACLU of Wyoming. Under the bill, even hospitals and doctors would be allowed to deny routine health care services. (The bill does not exempt the provision of “emergency medical treatment necessary for treatment of an illness or injury.”)

The bill does not define “moral conviction” or “religious belief,” nor does it specify what would constitute evidence of the genuine existence of such a belief.

Think of all the other possible applications of this approach: all those libertarians who have a “moral conviction” that taxes are theft could assert that conviction as a defense to nonpayment. Mormon men who still believe in plural marriage could cite their religious beliefs when marrying several underage girls. I understand that the Santeria religion requires ritual, public animal sacrifices…Evidently, however, the only religious and moral beliefs that deserve legal protection in Wyoming are those that require marginalizing and diminishing LGBTQ people.

Even Justice Scalia, a notoriously anti-gay, pro-religion jurist, understood that allowing religious exemptions from laws of general application would constitute a direct assault on the rule of law.

I actually have a strong moral objection to seeing my tax dollars used to pay lawmakers who introduce measures that are patently unconstitutional–not to mention hateful and counterproductive–whether those public officials are in Wyoming, Indiana or the White House.

 

 

 

If You Can’t Laugh…

Credit where credit is due: Trump and his sorry crew have been an absolute boon to satirists and other creative folks. (If you haven’t seen Melissa McCarthy channeling Sean Spicer on SNL, it’s worth a few minutes of your time. But it isn’t just SNL, Colbert, The Daily Show, et al–Andy Borowitz and other print comics have also been on a roll.)

Even Facebook friends have shared great one-liners. My current favorite is a comment about Trump’s cabinet picks: “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.”

Fundraisers and protests have also become more creative. There were the ubiquitous “pussy hats” of the women’s march, of course, but the snark extends to a recent fundraiser invitation I received.

The fundraiser will benefit the Tri-State Alliance, an LGBTQ/AIDs organization in southern Indiana. (I’ve known the Executive Director for many years, and I can attest that it is a wonderful organization.) The organization’s webpage describes its mission.

The Tri-State Alliance (TSA) is the primary social service and educational organization that serves the diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of Southwestern Indiana, Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois. TSA works to educate our own community through a monthly newsletter and guest speakers, engages the media on relevant LGBT issues, and trains other public/social service organizations through a speakers bureau and diversity education.

TSA coordinates the regional LGBT Youth Group, HIV prevention targeting the gay community, and Lesbian Health Project services. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight-supporting allies who volunteer for TSA continue to serve the region’s LGBT community and its changing needs.

The fundraising “hook” for this event is its invitation to “Buy Todd Young’s Vote”–a play on the obvious quid pro quo of Young’s expected vote for confirmation that Betsy DeVos’ “bought” with her donations to Young. As the very clever invitation puts it,

Betsy DeVos and her family have donated $72,900 to the campaign of United States Senator Todd Young.

Incidentally, despite all evidence to the contrary, Senator Young thinks that Betsy DeVos would be a great choice to lead the Department of Education.

Betsy DeVos has never set foot in a classroom, did not send her children to public school, cannot distinguish between proficiency and growth, and thinks that guns should be allowed in schools in the event of grizzly attacks. That fictitious grizzly is about as qualified as Ms. DeVos to run the Department of Education.

If Betsy DeVos can buy Senator Young’s vote, we should be allowed to do the same.

If, of course, Senator Young does not wish to accept any funds raised*, all money will be donated to the Tri-State Alliance Youth Group, an LGBTQ Youth Group based in Evansville Indiana.

*or if this tongue-in-cheek fundraising page somehow constitutes a bribe, despite being eerily identical to the actions of Ms. DeVos.

Of course, if Senator Young had any sense of propriety–or shame–he would recuse himself from a vote on DeVos, whose display of profound ignorance during her Senate hearing was both revealing and embarrassing.

Since a sudden eruption of  integrity from Senator Young seems unlikely, I think it would be fitting if the Tri-State Alliance raised an equal or greater amount for young LGBTQ Hoosiers.

You can send contributions here.

 

If Only Idiocy Was Confined to Texas

One of my favorite blogs, as I’ve noted here before, is “Juanita Jean’s, the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.” In a recent post, Juanita Jean takes Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to task for being, as she delicately puts it, “a damn fool.”

Juanita is too restrained.

We have a few minor problems in Texas.  We are next to last in education. We are first in uninsured children. Our maternal death rate has doubled, making it twice what it is in Turkey and Chile. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. A quarter of Texas children live in poverty.

And what is Dan Patrick concerned about?

Keeping men out of ladies’ rooms.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-9-39-33-amThere ya go.  This man is burning rocket fuel to Crazyville.

You can write this on the barn with waterproof paint:  Dan Patrick thinks about sex waaaaay too much.

If this idiocy was confined to Texas (a state which sometimes seems to have invented embarrassingly bad public policy), that would be one thing, but this fixation on who uses what bathroom is hardly unique to Texas.

Given the real issues America faces, it seems incomprehensible. But I do have a theory. (Yes, I always have a theory…cockamamie as some of them may be.)

We have a cohort of Americans–mostly older Americans, and mostly but not exclusively men–who wake up every morning to a world they no longer understand. Technology is complicated. Their position in society is no longer secure. Minorities are asserting legal rights. Change is constant. Media outlets looking for “clicks” and eyeballs tell them that terrorists and criminals are everywhere, just waiting to pounce.

They are convinced that they are losing America–and it’s true that they are losing the America they imagine they used to occupy. So they support Patrick and Trump and others like them. They desperately want to put black people back on the other side of the tracks and gay people back in the closet. Those efforts aren’t going so well–so they’ve shifted the focus to transgender folks. After all, transgender equality is a “Johnny-come-lately” civil rights movement–and fewer people actually know transgender people.

They may not understand climate change or economic policy or what’s happening in Aleppo or what the hell Snapchat is, but they do know what restrooms are.

On the other hand, most of them definitely do not know what irony is.

As a number of people have pointed out in the wake of the “grab her by the p—y” tape, the same men who have been absolutely horrified at the thought of a transgender person urinating in the same restroom with their wives and daughters–the same men who are hellbent to protect the “sanctity of the stall”– are the ones dismissing Trump’s braggadocio about his sexual assaults as “locker room talk.”

This isn’t about transgender folks. This is about the loss of male privilege. If anyone is going to assault their women, it had better be (their version of) a real man!

States’ Rights and Wrongs

Indiana’s embarrassing Governor recently appealed a federal court ruling that he lacked authority to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. From all reports, the appeal’s oral argument did not go well for the state.

A major reason for Pence’s loss in the District Court–and his probable loss at the appellate level–is that immigration is a federal issue over which states lack authority.

The notion that federal law should govern areas of national concern seems to rankle Donald Trump’s chosen running mate, and his annoyance isn’t limited to matters of immigration. In comments defending North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom law, Pence recently insisted that the states “and the people” should be able to decide who gets rights.

The reason the 14th Amendment applied the Bill of Rights to the states was to ensure that a majority of people in a state could not use their local government to deprive their fellow citizens of the fundamental rights all Americans should enjoy.

There are areas in which the debate over local versus federal control are legitimate, but In the context of civil rights and civil liberties, “state’s rights” was and is a dog whistle meaning: we should get to pick on disfavored people if we want to, and the federal government shouldn’t be able to interfere.”State’s rights” was the (flimsy) cover used by defenders of segregation and Jim Crow.

What if we were to take that states’ rights “logic” to its ultimate conclusion?

What if the federal government couldn’t make states treat women or African-Americans equally? If I’m a woman living in, say, New York, and New York does choose to protect me, do I take a risk driving through, say, Alabama or Indiana, states that don’t protect women’s equality? If I am an African-American supplier doing business with national companies, do I hire a lawyer to tell me which states I can enter to visit with my customers, confident that I can find a hotel room or a restaurant that will serve me?

Shouldn’t Americans expect their fundamental rights to be respected in all of the states of the union?

There are certainly areas of the law that are local in nature. It would be nonsense to have a national zoning law. Certain criminal statutes are better enforced at the state or local level.  There are others. But in a country where people move freely and frequently, where commerce and transportation and communication are national, the notion that states should be able to legislate different levels of basic citizen rights is not just impractical and unworkable, not just unfair and inequitable–it’s profoundly  stupid.

Of course, for people who want to normalize discriminatory behaviors–what Hillary Clinton quite accurately called deplorable behaviors–the notion that the Supremacy Clause and/or the Bill of Rights might legally prevent them from doing so evidently pisses them off.

Pence refused to call even David Duke “deplorable.” I for one am pretty happy that my right to equal treatment under the law isn’t his or the Indiana General Assembly’s to decide.