Tag Archives: homophobia

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.

Giving Christians a Bad Name…Again

I was going to blog about the controversy in Sullivan, Indiana (somewhere south of Terre Haute, as best I can locate that metropolis), where a few teachers,  students and parents at Sullivan High School are upset that gay students are actually allowed to attend the prom. They are so upset that they are planning to hold a separate, “traditional” prom. But this article from The Stranger, an alternative paper in Seattle, says it all so much better than I could.

The good news is that the school’s administration and most of the teachers reject this hurtful bigotry, leaving the “good Christian” parents with no way to make the official Prom off-limits to children who had the nerve to be born differently, so they are scrambling to raise money for their own event. We can only hope they fail, and that their own children are the ones deprived of a treasured high-school ritual they are unwilling to share with gay classmates.

I know I ask this question a lot, but what is wrong with these people?

The End of the Culture War

Granted, reports like this one suggest that gays and lesbians still face formidable amounts of bigotry. But a recent Political Insiders poll conducted by the National Journal suggests that even those who exploited the bigots for political advantage know the culture war against gay folks is pretty much over. And while that North Carolina restaurant owner may not realize it, the good guys have won.

The poll asked operatives of both political parties–political insiders–the following question:

Which statement comes closest to your political views on gay marriage?

My party should support it

My party should oppose it

My party should avoid the issue

Other

The Democrats, predictably, were overwhelmingly in favor of having their party support same-sex marriage. After all, they just won a national election in which the party and its President strongly supported marriage equality. Ninety-seven percent chose the first option, and zero percent chose the second. Two percent said “avoid the issue.”

The response of the Republican insiders was more surprising. Twenty-seven percent said that the GOP should support marriage equality. Only eleven percent said oppose. A whopping forty-eight percent recommended avoiding the issue entirely.

As one of the “avoiders” put it, “The lines have been drawn on this. Such a polarizing topic, and given other pressing issues, this is a red herring with dynamite taped to its back. No good can come from messing with it.”

Translation: the days when we can win elections by bashing the gays and warning of “the homosexual agenda” are over.

Good riddance.

Defining “Religious Liberty”

Tomorrow, the South Bend City Council will consider amending its Human Rights Ordinance to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

HR Ordinances–while relatively toothless in Indiana–express a municipality’s intent to discourage some people from picking on other people based solely upon their religion, race, gender and other markers that are irrelevant to the question whether those people can pay the rent or perform the duties required for the job.

I’ve agreed to serve as a sort of “expert witness” at the Council hearing, and as a result, over the last week or so I’ve been copied with the various arguments being made in opposition to the proposal. As often happens when I find myself immersed in indignant justifications of homophobia, I’m increasingly feeling like an inhabitant of the Twilight Zone.

One example is the “legal memo” submitted by the Alliance Defense Fund. I’ve seen most of its arguments before–it’s pretty much a retread of similar arguments made when other Indiana cities passed similar measures. The ADF insists that Indiana municipalities lack the authority to pass such ordinances–despite the fact that over the past decade or so several have done so, and none have been challenged. The memorandum mis-characterizes court cases, and engages in the other tactics lawyers resort to when they find themselves on the losing side of a legal argument.

I understand those tactics; at one point or another, we all find ourselves desperately trying to find a legal basis for what are really policy arguments.

The jaw-dropping argument, however, and the most ridiculous claim in the entire 30+ page “brief,” is a claim that the religious exemption is inadequate because it does not protect “religiously motivated” discrimination.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

The proposal before the South Bend Council contains an exemption for religious organizations. This exemption, in my opinion, is entirely appropriate–if your religion disapproves of gay people, or unwed mothers, or atheists, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment forbids government from forcing your church or other religious organization to employ such people. The law requires that we accommodate even beliefs that are at odds with basic American values.

Apparently, however, protecting the right of religious organizations to follow the dictates of their faith–even when those dictates are inconsistent with civil rights laws–isn’t sufficient. According to the ADF argument, if I truly believe gay people are sinners, that belief alone should allow me to discriminate with impunity–If I can’t fire employees I discover are gay, if I can’t refuse to rent to GLBT folks, the government is denying me religious liberty.

This is similar to the argument that anti-bullying legislation infringes the “free speech rights” of the bullies. The argument is apparently that I should be able to pick on gay people—or black people, or women, or Muslims–if I say my motivation is religious.

There’s a yiddish word for that argument: Chutzpah.

Obviously, an exemption for “religious motivation” would eviscerate the law. But this is part and parcel of the worldview of those who oppose equal civil rights for GLBT folks. Stripped of the “legalese” and rhetorical devices, that argument is simple: legislation that is inconsistent with my particular religious beliefs is a denial of my religious liberty.

The religion clauses of the First Amendment require government to be neutral between religions, and between religion and non-religion. To use a sports analogy, government is supposed to be an umpire, not a player. But there are citizens who simply cannot abide the notion of a neutral government–who experience “live and let live” and civic equality as affronts to the primacy to which they feel entitled. In that peculiar worldview, a government that insists on fair play for gay people is a government that’s denying them religious liberty.

I can hear the theme from “Twilight Zone” as I type…..

And the Beat-em-up Goes On….

What is it with the homophobia?

It’s one thing to believe–based upon a (highly selective) version of the bible–that gay people are immoral. You want to think that, fine. It’s a free country. As I used to say, if you don’t like gay folks, don’t invite any of them to dinner.  Your loss.

Of course, most of these religious warriors aren’t “live and let live” people. So we have weird efforts to hurt the GLBT community by passing legislation that would deny them an equal opportunity to participate in the state specialty license plate program. We are treated to the seriously hateful spectacle of legislators refusing to pass an anti-bullying bill because it might protect gay children.

And now, there seems to be a movement to roll back human rights ordinances around the country.

I find it impossible to understand the animus felt by these people. I do understand not liking someone. I understand disapproving of the policies or tactics of a group of people. I even understand that people who are uncertain of their own sexuality, or unable to deal with social changes, may feel threatened by the emergence of gays from the closet. But for the life of me, I don’t understand people who seem motivated solely by the desire to make the lives of others miserable.

On the other hand, considering just how much time and effort these “Christians” are spending on their campaign to marginalize and demean gay people, maybe they don’t have lives of their own.