Category Archives: Gay Rights

I See Ignorant (Elected) People

Fair-minded Americans have welcomed the recent wave of court decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage. The LGBT community and its allies have been positively euphoric.

Of course, the homophobes and those who pander to them have had a somewhat different reaction.

Here’s the thing: people who don’t approve of gay people, or whose religious beliefs somehow require them to see gays as sinners and same-sex marriage as an abomination, are entitled to those beliefs. It’s a free country. And elected officials are entitled to disapprove of judicial decisions, although they are not free to disregard them. All of these debates over what is best for the country, what constitutes fair play, what discrimination looks like…all of the cacophony that surrounds social change is both predictable and within the bounds of democratic deliberation.

Abject ignorance is not.

Which brings me to Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, and her rant in the wake of court rulings that invalidated her state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than two hundred years.

 Simply put, courts should not be in the business of making and changing laws based on their personal agendas. It is not the role of the judiciary to determine that same-sex marriages should be allowed.”

Sorry, Governor Brewer, but your civic ignorance is showing. Courts are absolutely “in the business” of “supplanting the will of the people” when that will violates the Constitution. As I pointed out on this blog yesterday, the Founders of this country created an independent federal judiciary (one that was not elected) and provided those judges with lifetime tenure, because judges were supposed to be responsive to the Constitution and the rule of law—not to the electorate.

Congress and the Executive branch were supposed to respond to majority preferences; the judiciary, however, was supposed to safeguard individual and minority rights and to ensure that the other branches did not violate the Constitution in their eagerness to pander to popular passions.

I have repeated this basic premise of American constitutional law over and over—in my columns, my blogs and my classrooms. Let me do so again.

The Bill of Rights answers an important procedural question: who decides? Who decides what prayer you say, what book you read, how many children you have? In our system, government doesn’t get to decide these and other very personal matters—we individuals decide these things for ourselves. The Bill of Rights doesn’t tell us what we should value or how we should live our lives; it protects our right to make those decisions for ourselves, free of interference by government scolds.

The Bill of Rights also limits what popular majorities can vote to have government do. In fact, the Bill of Rights is sometimes called a “libertarian brake” on the power of the majority. A majority of your countrymen cannot vote to make you a Baptist or an Episcopalian; they don’t get to vote on your reading materials or your political opinions or your choice of a life partner.

People who don’t understand the most basic operation of our system—like Arizona’s Governor Brewer, or Indiana’s Mike Pence—misunderstand and misrepresent court decisions that uphold the right of individuals to live their lives as they see fit without sacrificing their right to equal treatment under the law.

The fact that we keep electing people like this is what I find “deeply troubling.”

Same-sex marriage doesn’t threaten the republic. What threatens the republic is the election of people who are totally ignorant of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

And Then There’s the Blowback….

So a few days ago, I posted about a new Evangelical organization supportive of same-sex marriage. Lest readers get too excited, there’s plenty of evidence that the more conservative churches won’t go down that road without a very substantial fight. According to Baptist Press, 

 FRESNO, Calif. (BP) — The California Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted Thursday (Sept. 11) to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor says he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful.

In a unanimous vote of the 35 members present (six were absent), the board voted to withdraw fellowship from New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., for holding beliefs contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. Article XVIII of the BF&M defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” Article XV states, “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”

If the Southern Baptists want to dictate proper sexual behavior to their members, they are of course entitled to do so.

I just wish they–and similar churches–would spend half as much time and energy preaching against predatory behaviors, exploitation of the poor and powerless, and moral smugness (what their bibles call, if I recall, “stiff-neckness”). Or–let me go out on a real limb here–how about “forms of immorality” like wife-beating and child abuse?

Maybe the Southern Baptist Convention has issued an official statement on the recent NFL scandals, but my quick google didn’t find one. The Convention did find Michael Sams’ on-camera kiss worthy of an official condemnation, however:

Be it resolved that we believe that it is inappropriate for children to be subjected to having to watch same-sex couples engage in public displays of affection while watching a sports-related event on allegedly family-friendly channels. We discourage any further televising of such events. While there is a missing airplane somewhere in the Far East, over 200 kidnapped girls from Nigeria, and high unemployment in America, we respectfully request the President of the United States to refrain from congratulating and extending well wishes to any future homosexual professional sports players, unless simultaneously he is going to make celebratory and well wishes calls to the likes of Tim Tebow, Prince Amukamara—the “Black Tim Tebow,” and AC Green, professional athletes committed to sexual purity.

Interesting moral priorities….

 

Scary, Aren’t They?

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Yesterday, our Attorney General/religious warrior Greg Zoeller appealed the unanimous Seventh Circuit opinion striking down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages.

With zealots like Zoeller fighting to deny LGBT folks equal rights, with all the vitriol aimed at them, with the thousands of dollars of tax money being spent in the courts to prevent them from marrying the people they love, with the overheated rhetoric about The End of Western Civilization as We Have Known It–this is what all the fuss is about.

This is what poses a “threat to traditional marriage.”

Newlyweds-in-Their-90_Nati

The whole horrifying, Satanic story is here.

 

If Those Are Christian Values….

Speaking of religion and football, as I did yesterday….the Dallas Cowboys have evidently signed Michael Sams after he was cut from the St. Louis Rams. For people who follow football as much as I do (i.e. not at all), I should explain that Sams is the first openly-gay player to be drafted into the NFL.

This, of course, has driven the homophobes crazy. (Okay–crazier.) According to Raw Story,

“We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled,” said Jack Burkman, the GOP lobbyist working to keep Sam out of the NFL. “We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country.”…

Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values,” Burkman said. “The people of Dallas – and Christians all across this land – are about to make him pay a huge financial price. The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.”

Speaking of driving people crazy–people like Jack Burkman are driving good Christians crazy. Not to mention giving nonbelievers yet another reason to equate religious piety with small-mindedness and bigotry.

I am so tired of people like Jack Burkman (and Mike Pence and Greg Zoeller), people who use religion to justify picking on people who are different.

Football is a game. It’s competitive. The only question an owner should ask when adding someone to a team is: is he a good player who can help us win?

Can you play professional football, Jack? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

“Totally Implausible”

After last week’s oral arguments in the Seventh Circuit, yesterday’s unanimous opinion striking down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was hardly unexpected. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sweet.

Some of my favorite language from the opinion, written by (conservative) Judge Posner:

Our pair of cases is rich in detail but ultimately straightforward to decide. The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction–that same sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended–is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.
…..

The state elaborates its argument from the wonders of tradition by asserting, again in its opening brief, that “thousands of years of collective experience has [sic] established traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, as optimal for the family, society, and civilization.” No evidence in support of the claim of optimality is offered, and there is no acknowledgment that a number of countries permit polygamy—Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Algeria—and that it flourishes in many African countries that do not actually authorize it, as well as in parts of Utah. (Indeed it’s been said that “polygyny, where-by a man can have multiple wives, is the marriage form found in more places and at more times than any other.” Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage 10 (2006).) But suppose the assertion is correct. How does that bear on same-sex marriage? Does Wisconsin want to push homosexuals to marry persons of the opposite sex because opposite-sex marriage is “optimal”? Does it think that allowing same-sex marriage will cause heterosexuals to convert to homosexuality? Efforts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality have been a bust; is the opposite conversion more feasible?

….

To return to where we started in this opinion, more than unsupported conjecture that same-sex marriage will harm heterosexual marriage or children or any other valid and important interest of a state is necessary to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As we have been at pains to explain, the grounds advanced by Indiana and Wisconsin for their discriminatory policies are not only conjectural; they are totally implausible.

Indeed.

This isn’t the end of the road, but Indiana is closer to joining the 21st Century–and closer to becoming a state able to attract people of good will, gay or straight.