Tag Archives: gay rights

Fear Factor

Like a lot of folk I’ve been interested in the goings on in Indiana. As you know, the state legislature passed and the Governor signed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Depending on who you talk to, the law is no different from the federal version of the law passed in 1993 or will allow religious owners of businesses to refuse service to gays. I’m frankly a bit confused as to what the bill will actually do. Proponents see it as a bulwark against a radically changing culture. Opponents see it as the second coming of Jim Crow.

As I was discussing this with a Methodist minister, he used a word that seemed to describe the whole situation: fear. It’s not a surprise that I tend to think the proponents of the law are fearful of a changing culture, one where homosexuality is becoming accepted and where their views, which once ruled the culture are no longer in vogue. But I also think my side of the debate is also operating on fear and distrust. Like a lot of oppressed groups, it is hard to have any concern for your former oppressors. As I’ve read responses, the attitude seems to be “let the bigots hang.”

What is interesting about all of this is how much this seems to have become a zero-sum game. Religious conservatives seem intent on gumming up the works of progress on same-sex marriage. Gays and liberals seem to not want to give religious conservatives any inch on religious practice. Both sides seem to think that to win, one side must lose.

David Brooks wrote a couple of weeks ago that we live in a more uncertain age and that has changed the tone of politics. Gone are win-win situations where compromise was possible, and coming in its place is the quest for power. Here’s what Brooks says:

National elections take place within a specific global moment. In the 1990s, there was a presumption that we were living in an age of rapid progress. Democracy was spreading. Tyranny was receding. Asia was booming. The European Union was building. Conflict in the Middle East was lessening. The world was cumulatively heading toward greater pluralism, individualism, prosperity and freedom.

Today it’s harder to have faith in rapid progress. Democracy is receding. Autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia are marching. The European project is decaying. Economies are struggling. Reactionary forces like the Islamic State and Iran are winning. The Middle East is deteriorating.

In this climate, the tone and focus of politics change. Politics is less about win-win situations and more about zero-sum situations. It is less about reforms that will improve all lives and more about unadorned struggles for power. Who will control the ground in places like Ukraine and Syria? Will Iran get the bomb? Will the White House or Congress grab power over treaties and immigration policy?

It’s hard not to see the fight that is taking place in Indiana and many other places as tribal battles. Religious conservatives feel under fire as liberals go after bakers and wedding photographers.

This clash of rights, between the right to marry and the right to religious freedom has always been difficult for me. I have fought for the right to be able to marry my husband Daniel and to have that recognized by the state, which is what happened when we had our legal marriage in 2013. But as a Christian, I also think people should be able to follow the dictates of their faith without interference from the state. So on some level, I’ve never been as bothered by bakers not wanting to bake my wedding cake. I just thought I’d go to another baker. The baker had the right to refuse service, and I had the right to not go to that baker and tell others not to go either.

I know that it bothers some of my compatriots that I might sympathize with folks who don’t think I should get married to my partner. But two things have guided me on this issue: my belief in Jesus dictum to love our enemies and my libertarian belief in liberty; that I can do what I want and you can do what you want so long as my rights aren’t curtailed.

Loving my enemy means that I have to look at that person as human being. I have to at least try to understand their viewpoint and give them the space to do what they see as right, so long as I am not profoundly impacted.

Of course, my enemy should be able to look at me as a human being, a child of God and give me the space to do what I think is right. (Translation: If religious conservatives want to be treated with respect, treat those you disagree with the same respect.)

As the various RFRA laws come up in various states, both religious conservatives and LGBT communities have to find a way to make room for each other. Not because they like each other. Not because they agree. But because for a democratic society to flourish, we have to find ways to accomodate the Other. Because we must heed the call to love and respect our enemies.

Before all of the focus was on Indiana, some media attention was given to what was happening in Utah. Dubbed the “Utah Compromise,” gay rights groups and the Mormon Church came together to support legislation the protected LGBT persons and also offered exemptions on religious grounds. It is far from a perfect law (but what compromise is perfect). But this seemed to be a place where the culture wars made a truce. A Wall Street Journal column explains how the Mormon Church, who not that long ago was bankrolling the effort to ban same-sex marriage in California, reached out the LGBT community:

The Mormon leadership reached out to the LGBT community, which was willing to reciprocate despite initial doubts. Although there were roadblocks early on, trust gradually developed. Neither side allowed the best to become the enemy of the good. Both came to see that protections for LGBT individuals and for religious conscience needed to be enacted simultaneously, as a package.

There is a lesson here for both sides. For religious conservatives, it is to at least acknowledge LGBT persons. You don’t have to approve of what we do. But you do have to at least see us as persons created by God and deserving of respect.

For the LGBT community and our allies, it means respecting the faith of religious conservatives. Within reason, no one should have to compromise their faith to live in the wider society. We need to honor their consciences even if we think that their beliefs are wrong.

In late 2010, libertarian writer Jonathan Rauch wrote about how the tide was turning in the favor of those of us who support gay rights. Because we were no longer on the defensive, our tactics must change. He wrote:

…we—gay Americans and our straight allies—have won the central argument for gay rights. As a result, we must change. Much of what the gay rights movement has taken for granted until now, and much that has worked for us in the past, is now wrong and will hurt us. The turn we now need to execute will be the hardest maneuver the movement has ever had to make, because it will require us to deliberately leave room for homophobia in American society. We need to allow some discrimination and relinquish the “zero tolerance” mind-set. Paradoxical but true: We need to give our opponents the time and space they need to let us win.

Not giving them that room to deal with the changed landscape has its consequences:

…gay rights opponents have been quick, in fact quicker than our side, to understand that the dynamic is changing. They can see the moral foundations of their aversion to homosexuality crumbling beneath them. Their only hope is to turn the tables by claiming they, not gays, are the real victims of oppression. Seeing that we have moved the “moral deviant” shoe onto their foot, they are going to move the “civil rights violator” shoe onto ours.

So they have developed a narrative that goes like this:

Gay rights advocates don’t just want legal equality. They want to brand anyone who disagrees with them, on marriage or anything else, as the equivalent of a modern-day segregationist. If you think homosexuality is immoral or changeable, they want to send you to be reeducated, take away your license to practice counseling, or kick your evangelical student group off campus. If you object to facilitating same-sex weddings or placing adoptees with same-sex couples, they’ll slap you with a fine for discrimination, take away your nonprofit status, or force you to choose between your job and your conscience. If you so much as disagree with them, they call you a bigot and a hater.

They won’t stop until they stigmatize your core religious teachings as bigoted, ban your religious practices as discriminatory, and drive millions of religious Americans right out of the public square. But their target is broader than just religion. Their policy is one of zero tolerance for those who disagree with them, and they will use the law to enforce it.

At bottom, they are not interested in sharing the country. They want to wipe us out.

Of course, this is exactly what religious conservatives are doing now. So maybe the best way to defeat this kind of thinking is by not trying to shut them up, but by acting differently. Maybe if we show that we will give them the respect they never gave us, maybe things could change for the better.

I don’t know what will happen in Indiana. I do know I can do something to hopefully lessen the fear and increase the peace.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

More: Journalist Issac Bailey has some questions about the Indiana law. Libertarian writer Jonathan Rauch explains the grand compromise on gay and religious rights in Utah. Finally, Stephen Miller of the Independent Gay Forum has this to say about the change in consensus in the LGBT communnity concerning religious liberties: “In the decades before 2013, exempting religious organizations from LGBT anti-discrimination statutes was a consensus position. Now, on the federal level, it’s anathema for many national LGBT rights advocates. ”

Is it?

The Curious Logic on Civil Unions

civil-unions-old-700

Here in Minnesota, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage was introduced earlier this year.  This comes on the heels of the defeat of an amendment to ban same sex marriage in November.  The bill has cleared both committees and will head to the House and Senate floors.

This week a Republican House member introduced a bill allowing civil unions instead of marriage.  The main sponsor is state Representative Tim Kelly, who happened to be one of four Republicans that opposed allowing the marriage amendment from going to the voters when it came to the House in the spring of 2011.

Kelly’s proposal was denounced by several of the states gay groups as well as the sponsors of the same-sex marriage bill.  The common complaint is that civil unions are nothing more than “separate but equal,” creating a second-class system for gay couples.

The reference of separate but equal is on purpose, to liken civil unions to the way African Americans were treated during the Jim Crow era in the south.

I’ve become more wary of trying to tie the movement for same sex marriage on equal terms with the Civil Rights movement.  It’s not that the drive for same-sex marriage isn’t a civil rights issue, it is, but it isn’t on the same footing of how African Americans were treated.

In listening to the stories my Dad and other relatives on his side of the family, I’ve learned how bad segregation was.  Most of my relatives come from central Louisiana and life in the early to mid 2oth century was not good for African Americans.  Separate but equal meant not having a place to eat or lay your head after a long drive.  It meant poor schools and crappy hospitals.  Segregation wasn’t just an inconvenience, it was something that altered lives.

Civil Unions might be a poor alternative to marriage, but it is not the same as living under Jim Crow.  Not by a longshot.

The other thing that bothers me about the “separate by equal” charge is how inconsistent it is.  A few weeks ago, we heard about civil unions become law in Colorado.  There was a lot of positive talk about how far the state had come from the days of the early 90s when the state passed a law that allowed for discrimination of gays and lesbians.  No one was condemning the state for opting for an alternative to marriage; instead we had pictures of same sex couples kissing each other.

This is all good, but if separate but equal is bad in Minnesota, why is it good in Colorado?  Segregation wasn’t bad in Mississippi, but okay in Georgia.  It was bad all over.  If you are going to use the rhetoric of a system that not only separated African Americans from whites, but also kept them down economically, then use it consistently.  If it’s wrong it’s wrong; it isn’t wrong in this situation but right or feasible in this one.

We can argue if full-out marriage or civil unions are the right tactic.  Maybe now is the time for equal marriage, maybe not.  But these are discussions about tactics and politics, not morality.  If it was about morality, there would be no talk of civil unions as an option anywhere at anytime.

Let’s talk about Kelly’s bill.  Let’s talk about whether this is right bill for the times.  But please don’t employ rhetoric to hide your political concerns.  It insults the horrors that African Americans endured and it doesn’t help the cause of gay marriage either.

Republicans Key to Same Sex Marriage Victories

The state I live in, Minnesota, was one of four states that voted on same sex marriage.  In Maine, Maryland and Washington, the vote was to allow same sex marriage.  In Minnesota it was to prevent a ban on same-sex marriage from being on the Minnesota constitution.  Walter Olson notes that in all four states, Republicans were key in voting for same sex marriage.  Here’s what he said about the Minnesota results:

In Minnesota, where voters were asked to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment, precinct returns show that suburban Republicans broke from their party in droves to defeat the ban. According to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, 47 towns around the Twin Cities area voted for Romney while opposing the measure, known as Amendment One. Exurban Scott County, the state’s fastest growing, narrowly turned down Amendment One, even as it gave Romney a comfortable 56.5 percent of its vote.

To be sure, rural parts of Minnesota saw ticket-splitting the other way, with some Democratic-leaning areas backing the marriage ban. But within commuting distance of the Twin Cities, the defections from the Republican line were deep and unmistakable. Romney won easily in such lakeside Hennepin County towns as Orono, Deephaven and Shorewood. Conventional wisdom would have them voting for the marriage ban as well — but they rejected Amendment One by 60 percent or more, an outcome that suggests a significant change in demographics and attitudes from even a decade ago.

 

The Gay Rights Hero?

Comedian S.E. Cupp doesn’t think so:

Wouldn’t it have been more courageous if Obama had evolved a bit before the North Carolina vote, not after? And wouldn’t it have been more sincere and meaningful if his revelation weren’t so obviously connected to his reelection and fund-raising efforts?

Or if it weren’t prompted by a gaffe from the gaffe-prone Vice President Biden, who had declared on “Meet the Press” that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage, thus forcing the President’s hand.

Considering the timing and the political implications, it’s clear that Obama’s message to gay America wasn’t so much “I love you” as it was “I’m okay with you and want your vote.” It was the equivalent of hitting the “like” button on a Facebook page.

 

The Long, Slow March

The news this week of President Obama finally “coming out of the closet” on same sex marriage seemed to frame the issue in very stark, partisan terms: Democrats good, Republicans bad.  It didn’t help that GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney fired back with his opposition to gay marriage.

The GOP is not where the Dems are on this issue.  You can’t try to dress up that pig.  But it’s also important to remember that there is a slow, but building movement of folks in the GOP who support gay marriage.  And it’s also important to remember that one GOP Senator was instrumental in allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

Change can come slowly, but change does happen.  It may seem pointless at times, but I think one day in the very near future, there will be a GOP candidate for president who will voice support for same sex marriage and no one will bat an eye.

Is that a silly thing to believe?  Stranger things have happened- like a President actually coming out in favor of same sex marriage.

The Beginning of the End on the Gay Marriage Wars

It seems the GOP is waking up to the reality that same-sex marriage is becoming more commonplace and that it’s not the winning wedge issue it once was:

It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that change, especially in the Republican party is slow, but it is also most certainly steady.

One Small Gay Step for Republicankind

While some might think the GOP is hopelessly homophobic, there have been green shoots of greater acceptance of gays and lesbians.  Today, we see that Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director, R. Clarke Cooper was tapped by the Republican National Committee to serve on its Finance Committee.

Let me repeat that.  Openly gay man, who heads an organization of openly gay Republicans,  is asked to serve on the fundraising committee of the Republican Party.

Kinda amazing, don’t you think?

This didn’t please the folks at the Family Research Council.  The Advocate reports how they responded:

In a blog post this afternoon, the Christian conservative lobbying group denounced Cooper’s appointment — as well as his organization’s “homosexual-centered” aims — which include bringing a lawsuit against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (a federal judge ruled DADT unconstitutional last September).

In a subsequent fund-raising plea, the post’s author, FRC vice president for government affairs Tom McClusky, urged readers to donate to his organization’s own political action committee — or to the Senate Conservatives Fund, chaired by South Carolina senator Jim DeMint.

The blog post is accompanied by an image of the Disney character Dumbo, with an alt tag that reads “elephant gay.”

 

Stay classy, FRC. Below is a pic that Log Cabin was able to capture from the FRC website.

Log Cabin fired back with a fundraising email of its own:

Dear Family Research Council,

Log Cabin Republicans don’t mind that you called us“Dumbo,” because on Election Day, we want to see elephants fly – to the White House, Congress, and in statehouses nationwide.

 

Now, that’s class.

I think this is an important step for the GOP.  It wasn’t too long ago that we had the chair of the RNC who was in the closet and having to support an anti-gay agenda.  To have someone out and proud serving at such a high level in the GOP is nothing but good.

Republicans Stand Against Homophobia; Nobody Cares

Log Cabin Republicans reports the following:

Here at Log Cabin HQ, we’ve noticed a trend. Following the 2010 election, it seemed that every possible threat to marriage equality was front page news and fodder for endless fundraising blasts. The narrative was clear: with Republicans in charge, gay rights were in the crosshairs.  Yet when a threat is beaten back, particularly when Republicans are part of the defense, coverage by national gay media is remarkably thin. Take, for example, Wyoming, which just voted down a measure that would deny recognition to same-sex couples married in other states. Republican leadership was vital to this victory, and deserves to be recognized.

Freedom to Marry shares what went on in Wyoming and how Republicans stood up to bigotry:

The issue came up because last year, a state judge refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who had gotten married in Canada. That case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. The two Republican Senators who doomed the bill by voting against it said they could not support the bill if it did not guarantee court access for married gay couples.

The bill did pass the House, but not before a passionate debate that included some Republicans in opposition. “This bill does nothing more than to strip away liberties that have been granted by other states,” said Rep. Ruth Petroff (R). “We go from being ‘The Equality State’ to ‘The Strip-Away-Liberty State.'”

Rep. Pat Childers (R), who has a lesbian daughter, said the bill violated both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.

“This isn’t right,” he said. He also rejected claims that gay people are somehow not as good at raising children, saying “Both of my sons would be more than happy to let any one of my grandchildren go to my daughter to be raised.”

 The Laramie Boomerang has some more great coverage of Republicans who said yes to equality.

Since Log Cabin linked to several articles from the Advocate anti-gay Republicans, I decided to check and see if they even mentioned the defeat of this measure.  As of this afternoon, what I found on their News page was talk about former GOP Representative Chris Lee being asked to do a nude shoot for Playgirl, an article about Mike Huckabee’s swipe at Natlie Portman, and Newt Gringrich courting the Religious Right.  You’d think the leading LGBT magazine in the nation would bother to cover this issue, especially when their were some Republicans who dared to speak up. 

It’s frustrating to be hectored in your own party for being gay or supporting gay rights, but it is downright insulting when Democrats and media don’t bother to salute or notice when a Republican tries to do right on LGBT issues.

Hillary, Condi and the Gays

Richard Grinnell takes the Advocate to task for a glowing portrait of Hillary Clinton, while ignoring conservatives that support gay rights:

The Advocate’s February cover story by Kerry Eleveld on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is riddled with inaccuracies, hype and spin. Eleveld’s piece and The Advocate’s continuous partisan political coverage contributes to the erroneous and dangerous assumption that all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad on LGBT issues. Eleveld failed to quote one single dissenting opinion from the spin Clinton staffers spun her. While there is no question that Clinton has built on the changes made by Secretary Condi Rice for LGBT staffers at State (and should be applauded for that progress), the premise that the Bush State Department team was hostile and the Clinton team has done all it can do is flat wrong. A more nuanced and balanced approach would have given the piece greater credibility.

Read the whole thing.