Tag Archives: homophobia

The Fight Is Never Over

When I first began this blog, one of the issues I frequently addressed was gay rights. LGBTQ folks still faced formidable barriers to equality; same-sex marriage was a pipe dream, with DOMA at the federal level and so-called “mini-DOMAs” in many states.  Activists were fighting “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” and working to include protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state civil rights statutes.

In Indiana, civil rights organizations and major businesses managed to defeat an effort to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution, but we still lack those “four little words”–sexual identity and gender identity–in our civil rights law.  Unless you live in an Indiana city with an inclusive human rights ordinance, it is still perfectly legal here to fire someone for being gay. We also remain one of only five states without an inclusive hate crimes law.

Even in states like Indiana, though, LGBTQ folks have benefitted from the truly dramatic shift in public opinion that has occurred over the past couple of decades. As homophobia ebbed–it certainly hasn’t disappeared, but it has greatly diminished–this blog focused on other issues.

Attacks on LGBTQ citizens may have diminished, but as young folks like to say, “haters gotta hate.” As an article in the Guardian recently illustrated, there is plenty of room for homophobia among the numerous bigotries exhibited by our accidental President and those who support him.

The Trump administration has attacked LGBT rights in healthcare, employment, housing, education, commerce, the military, prisons and sports.

These efforts, it turns out, were just the beginning.

The president’s anti-LGBT agenda could soon gain significant momentum at the US Supreme Court, where Trump’s Department of Justice (DoJ) is pushing to make it legal to fire people for being gay or transgender. The move would fundamentally reverse civil rights for millions of people, LGBT leaders say, and raises fears that LGBT people may lose the minimal protections and resources they have won in past years.

“This is a critical point in history,” said Alesdair Ittelson, the law and policy director at interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth. “The outcome of this case is going to have a tremendous impact on everyone.”

During the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community won significant victories:  repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” new protections under the Affordable Care Act, an anti-discrimination executive order and expanded recognition of trans rights, among other things. Those victories are now under attack.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has sought to reverse healthcare protections for trans people, moved to ban trans people from serving in the military, eliminated rules protecting trans students and pushed to allow businesses to turn away gay and trans customers if they seek a religious exemption.

Last month, the Trump justice department made its most aggressive anti-gay legal argument to date, urging the supreme court to rule that gay employees are not protected under a longstanding act that prohibits “sex discrimination”. The DoJ filed briefs related to three supreme court cases to be heard together on 8 October – two involving gay men fired from their jobs, and a third involving a woman terminated by her employer after she came out as trans.

The courts have repeatedly held that gay people are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Before Trump, the federal government agreed. But William Barr’s Department of Justice is now arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity are excluded under Title VII because “sex” means only whether people are “biologically male or female.”

Before Trump, the Justice Department pursued justice. Before Trump, judicial nominees elevated to the federal bench were vetted for legal competence, not for fidelity to radical “conservative” (actually fundamentalist Christian) ideology.

Before Trump, even our worst Presidents weren’t rabid White Nationalists, Islamophobes, homophobes, anti-Semites and proud and loud racists.

But that was then, and now is now.

It Isn’t Hypocrisy–It’s Worse. Much Worse.

In a comment a few days ago, Gerald posted a link to Raw Story, headlined “Why Evangelicals Won’t Care about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s apparent sex scandal.”

Presumably, they also won’t care about the self-dealing, corruption and similar behaviors that were the focus of a preceding expose in Politico. 

What I found fascinating about the Raw Story version wasn’t the detailed enumeration of Falwell’s multiple unChristian behaviors. His full-throated support for Trump had already provided ample evidence that the publicly-espoused values of his brand of Christianity were bogus. What I found interesting–and hopeful–was the publication’s willingness to identify the actual values of that brand.

The article began with evidence of Falwell’s sexual kinkiness and financial improprieties–and a prediction that none of it would matter to his followers.

The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.

Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.

The article went on to debunk the evident belief of the whistleblowers who shared the information with Politico that Falwell Senior had been a better, more authentic Christian.

The elder Jerry Falwell was a bigot through and through, and his version of Christianity was primarily, if not solely, about rationalizing a white supremacist, misogynistic and homophobic worldview.

Falwell first rose to fame as a Baptist minister due to his stalwart opposition to civil rights, which he called“a terrible violation of human and private property rights.” He declared that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights.” He also once declared, in response to the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, that if the Supreme Court “had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made.”

Falwell Senior made little effort to hide his racism. He criticized Martin Luther King, Jr. for political activism, despite his own equally political activities. The article also reports what scholars have recognized for some time: the attacks on LGBTQ citizens and women’s reproductive rights were intended to divert attention from the racism that was less politically palatable.

Falwell became even more politically involved  when the federal government under Jimmy Carter stripped tax-exempt status from all-white private schools, which Liberty University was at the time. To punish Carter, Falwell helped form the Moral Majority in 1980 to support Republicans and defeat Democrats. He and other organizers shrewdly pivoted away from open support for segregation and opposition to civil rights toward the more politically palatable politics (at the time) of opposition to feminism and LGBT rights. Falwell would try to distance himself from his past by claiming later to oppose segregation, but he kept finding himself on the wrong side of history, such as when he supported South Africa’s apartheid government.

So Jerry Falwell Jr. isn’t straying from his father’s legacy, but expanding it. From the beginning, it’s always been about white supremacy and patriarchal control. The sanctimony was just plastered over these ugly intentions to give all that hate a holy makeover.

So why isn’t this behavior properly called hypocrisy?

Despite the repeated, strenuous efforts of liberals to point out the hypocrisy, Trump’s support on the Christian right never seems to weaken. That’s because it was never, ever — not for one moment, even at the height of the George W. Bush era of big-time Bible-thumping — about sincere religious conviction. It was always about white supremacy and patriarchy. To call this “hypocrisy” misses the point, in a sense, because to be hypocrites Christian conservatives would have had to believe in something larger than their own bigotries to begin with.

Bingo.

“A Signature Act that Unifies the GOP”

I hadn’t heard of the “First Amendment Defense Act” until I read about it at RightWing Watch.

Since statutes cannot trump (excuse the phrase)constitutional provisions, you may wonder–as I did–which of our First Amendment liberties requires this ineffectual statutory “assistance.”

The Act

would prohibit the federal government from “taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

I wouldn’t bother commenting on this grandstanding bit of Congressional snit (which, to the extent it conflicts with constitutional law, will have no legal effect), except that six GOP presidential candidates recently endorsed it, much to the delight of those staunch proponents of unrestricted religious liberty (but only for Christians who agree with them): the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, and the Family Research Council.

The candidates pledging to protect religion-based homophobia against the “agenda” of  LGBT folks who think they are actually entitled to equal civil rights are Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Fiorina, Santorum and Huckabee.

According to Maggie Gallagher of the mis-named American Principles Project, non-signers Bush, Graham, Paul and Trump have verbally expressed support for the measure, demonstrating that the Act “is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP.”

 

I know that opposition to same-sex marriage has been a “signature issue” for Gallagher, but I think her enthusiasm for keeping LGBT folks second-class citizens has distorted her already questionable analytic abilities. It isn’t just anti-gay bigotry that has come to characterize what’s left of the GOP.

The party’s “signature issue” has become nativism, and a bigotry capacious enough to encompass not just gays, but immigrants and refugees, African-Americans, Muslims…really, anyone who isn’t a white Christian American.

It’s a “signature issue” that will destroy what was once a Grand Old Party.

Unfortunately, It Isn’t Only Texas

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert recently responded to criticism of Republican proposals that would savagely cut food stamps by explaining that “some poor people are obese, and this will help them.”

Okay–I guess I can understand really dumb people who also lack compassion or the intelligence to refrain from embarrassing themselves. I don’t understand the voters who elect them.

Pathetic, for sure. But for pure evil, Louie (once called “the dumbest mammal to enter a legislative chamber since Caligula’s horse”) has been eclipsed by the current Texas Attorney General, who has initiated a lawsuit against the federal government over the definition of the word ‘spouse’ as it’s defined post-Windsor by the Department of Labor. The suit alleges that allowing the federal government to define same-sex partners as spouses threatens “imminent” harm to the Great State of Texas.

Specifically, the DOL change relates to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA legally protects employees’ jobs when they must take time off work to care for a spouse or immediate family member.
According to Paxton, LGBT couples should not have the legal right to take time off work to care for a seriously ill or injured spouse.
“This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government,” Paxton argued in a statement to press. “The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and U.S. Constitution,”
As the courts will undoubtedly explain to Mr. Paxton–who somehow managed to graduate from law school with absolutely no understanding of the way American federalism works–there’s this pesky thing called the Supremacy Clause that limits Texas’ “sovereignty.” But whether he is ignorant of the law–or just pandering to Texans who are ignorant of the law–the astonishing part of this story is the determined viciousness with which he attacks LGBT citizens.
This lawsuit follows another similar suit (also filed by Paxton’s office) to overturn a decision that recognized one lesbian couple’s marriage. The Texas couple were granted marriage rights by the courts due in large part to one of the two suffering from severe ovarian cancer.

This degree of hate is hard to understand. But scholars have tried.

In the wake of President Truman’s 1948 order integrating the armed forces, pioneering social psychologist Gordon Allport wrote a book titled The Nature of Prejudice. Allport distinguished between two kinds of bigotry– negative social attitudes that can be changed by education and increased contact with members of the disfavored group, and the desperate, twisted hatred that Paxton’s actions exhibit, and that erupted after Obama’s election.

People in the latter group have a deep-seated psychological need to hate, and their stereotypes about the objects of that hatred are impervious to evidence. They are deeply damaged beings.

I might be able to muster up some measure of sympathy for these disordered folks, if we’d stop electing them.

 

 

 

Poor Marginalized Micah….

In his most recent newsletter –shared with me yesterday by a friend who follows pronouncements from the fringes– Micah Clark of the American Family Institute  professes amazement at the notion that there is anything newsworthy about the recent “coming out” of NBA player Jason Collins.

“When asked about this previously unknown mid-level player, I said “with 12 million Americans out of work, 48 million Americans on food stamps, and 32 million US adults functionally illiterate, an athlete announcing that he wants to have sex with other men isn’t really that newsworthy. It is all media hype.”

Collins was certainly “previously unknown” to me–I don’t follow sports. But I gather he was a bit more prominent among those who know, for example, the difference between the NBA and the NFL. Leaving aside that snide reference, however, it’s telling that Clark is suddenly so concerned with poverty and unemployment; the newsletters I’ve seen previously have given me the impression that he feels there is nothing more important than regulating the sex lives and reproductive choices of other Americans.

The rest of the diatribe, however, is typical Clark, to wit:

I also pointed out that, as a parent, I don’t appreciate hearing about the sexual behavior of athletes over the airwaves.  I didn’t like hearing constant coverage of Wilt Chamberlain’s claim to having slept with 1,000 women, and I don’t like hearing about this Collins matter at every top of the hour news break. What we should care about is how they play basketball.  I also said that we should never base our standard of what is right and wrong upon the behavior of athletes.

Hate to tell you this, Micah, but we aren’t hearing about “the sexual behavior of athletes.” We have learned something about the identity of an athlete. Most of us are able to distinguish between who someone is and what they may or may not do. (I think your obsession is showing.)

         There are some things that can be learned from Jason Collin’s stunt.  For example, Mr. Collins’ announcement was a surprise to his former fiancé, Carolyn Moos, who played in the Women’s NBA.  It was also a surprise to Jason’s twin brother, Jarron. The media may mention Ms. Moos, but they may not want to mention Jason’s identical twin too often.  Doing so may remind people that, unlike race, there is no genetic cause or “gay gene” driving homosexual behavior.  If there were, Jason’s happily married, father of three, twin brother would also be involved in homosexuality, and he’s not.

I’m not sure what the existence of an ex-fiancee is supposed to prove; we all know gays and lesbians who’ve married and raised families. Sometimes, those marriages were attempts to suppress or deny an orientation that society despised, sometimes they were “arrangements.” But the insistence that having a heterosexual twin is “proof” that there is no “gay gene” simply betrays a lack of understanding of basic genetics. Most studies of twins and homosexuality have found that if one twin is gay, the other has a 50% chance of also being gay. Fifty percent is far higher than chance, and underscores a heritable component in sexual identity. The reason incidence isn’t 100% is because there isn’t a single gene that determines sexual orientation; current science suggests that there is a complex interaction between several genetic markers and environmental factors that produces sexual orientation. Whatever the biological mechanisms, they are beyond the power of individuals to change–although there is a spectrum along which sexual orientation lies, any given individual’s sexual identity is what lawyers call an “immutable” characteristic. In plain language, it isn’t chosen.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Micah Clarks of the world as the culture shifts around them. The newsletter from which I’ve quoted has a forlorn tone; suddenly, those Micah has relentlessly marginalized are being welcomed into the human family, and he isn’t taking it very well. I have always assumed that the loudest homophobes are men who feel threatened or inadequate; looking down on gays allows them to feel “better than,” much as the “bubbas” who still populate the south desperately need to believe that their skin color makes them superior to at least some others. (Those guys aren’t taking the election of an African-American President very well, by the way.)

Another item in the newsletter references the upcoming National Day of Prayer, and Clark says that now more than ever, America needs those prayers. I wonder what he thinks about the Mayor of Charlotte (recently nominated to be Transportation Secretary), who has just jettisoned that tradition in favor of a  Day of Reason.

Man, these days, the theocrats just can’t catch a break.