Category Archives: Gay Rights

I Don’t Think You Understand How This Works….

Okay…I wasn’t going to weigh in on the ridiculous clerk who has been refusing to comply with the law and numerous court decisions requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but these paragraphs in a recent story got me:

Davis, an elected official and Democrat, has argued that she should be exempt from following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges because she objects to same-sex marriage for religious beliefs.

She had asked the judge to delay his ruling until the Kentucky state legislature, which won’t be in session again until January, can pass legislation that would exempt her and other clerks who don’t wish to follow the law.

Does this woman really believe that the state legislature can pass a bill that–in effect–overrules the U.S. Constitution?

It’s depressing enough when ordinary citizens don’t understand the most basic structure of American government, but how in the world does someone who has spent decades working in a government office remain so appallingly ignorant of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, and the operation of the First Amendment?

It’s hard to escape the suspicion that this is intentional ignorance, grandstanding–that no one is really that stupid.

It’s bad enough that she seems embarrassingly ignorant of the nature of religious liberty. As many observers have pointed out, she is entitled to believe anything she wants, but she is not entitled to a government job or paycheck. If her beliefs prevent her from doing what the job requires, she needs to quit.

If I told the University that my religious beliefs “exempted” me from having to teach certain students, believe me, I wouldn’t be on the faculty very long!

A Facebook friend put it this way: if a Quaker public official refused to issue a gun permit, citing “sincerely held” pacifist religious beliefs, would Davis’ “religious liberty” defenders insist that those sincerely held religious beliefs should be accommodated? Or are her defenders more likely to be a bit selective about their demands for accommodation?

It is difficult to identify the most offensive element of this sordid effort to blame discrimination against LGBT folks on God, but I think the winner may be a statement issued yesterday by Davis’ attorney, Matt Staver of the Liberty Counsel. Stare had the chutzpah (google it) to compare Davis to the Jews under the Nazis.

According to Staver, sanctioning a government employee for refusal do the job she is being paid to do is just like sending millions of people to the gas chambers.

I want to pity these people. I really do. But they seem so unworthy of human compassion.



Mike, Mike, Mike…

I am all for transparency in government–but that’s not the same thing as transparent bull—-.

In yesterday morning’s Star, we learned that the state had “abruptly” terminated its costly contract with a national PR firm–a contract necessitated by the disastrous publicity generated by Indiana’s passage of RFRA.

Thursday afternoon, Chris Cotterill, executive vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., cited strong employment numbers, national recognition for the state’s business-friendly climate and cost management efforts in the decision to cancel the contract with Porter Novelli.

Gov. Mike Pence said through a spokeswoman he supports the decision.

“Given the record-setting pace of job creation by businesses across Indiana, Governor Pence supports the decision by the IEDC to conclude the contract with Porter Novelli and continue current efforts to promote the advantages of doing business and creating jobs in our state,” said press secretary Kara Brooks.

And I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

That “national recognition” of Indiana’s “business friendly” climate evidently is a citation to one of those notoriously unreliable magazine lists (the ten best places to retire! the 25 best cities for people with allergies!). And Indiana’s method of calculating its job-creation numbers has been the subject of criticism for years.

It’s fairly obvious why the Governor terminated the contract: he’s running for re-election, and the fact of that contract, its cost, and the administrative decisions that necessitated it have been subject to significant ongoing criticism. So…Voila! Suddenly, Indiana’s RFRA troubles are all behind us.

But they aren’t.

In San Francisco last week, tourist areas were dotted with Air BnB advertising signs saying “Dear Guests from Indiana, Just know you are always welcome here. (We’ll even share our pizza).” Teeshirts at New York pride celebrations proclaimed “Too gay for Indiana.” And sober Hoosier business executives share the conviction that the damage done by RFRA remains deep–that (as Arizona learned a few years ago) the attendant publicity conveyed an unfortunate message about the state’s civic climate that remains a substantial drag on tourism, business relocation decisions and convention business–a message that will not soon be eradicated.

If the Governor really wanted to improve the state’s image without spending money on a PR campaign, it would be simple enough to do: he could take a high-profile position in favor of amending Indiana’s civil rights laws to include protection from discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

If anyone thinks our culture-warrior Governor is likely to do that, I still have that swampland in Florida….

An Unexpected Reaction

I had very little doubt that the Court would rule in favor of marriage equality; I was more nervous about the politics of the Obamacare ruling. (I say the politics, because the legal case was so flimsy a non-political court would never have accepted the case).

Every constitutional scholar who had weighed in on the marriage case anticipated yesterday’s result. It wasn’t just compelled by (recent) precedents, but by those “facts on the ground” that even isolated Justices cannot avoid taking into account–with 70% of Americans living in states with marriage equality, a contrary ruling would have invited chaos.

And yet I really wasn’t prepared for the emotions I felt as I read Facebook posts and emails from so many friends and relatives, listened to the powerful speech by President Obama, saw major companies add rainbows to their ads …and just let it sink in. Like many others, I teared up a lot.

I probably can’t fully understand the emotions of my LGBT friends and family members, although I share their elation. But what I really don’t understand are the mean-spirited, vicious homophobes who went crazy (okay, crazier) when the decision was handed down.

I understand principled disagreement. I understand (okay, maybe not) adherence to rigid religious beliefs that label other people (it’s always other people) sinners. But the venom, the threats of civil disobedience, the seething hatred….the Bobby Jindals, the Mike Huckabees, the “Christian” pastors refusing to obey the rule of law, all spewing raw animus–that, I find incomprehensible.

There are lots of ways to “slice and dice” humanity. I would suggest that the last couple of weeks have shown us two very basic kinds of people: those who hate and those who don’t. Those who gun down innocent people in a church because their skin is a different color (and those who support them by setting fire to other black churches, by donating via kickstarter to their legal defense, or defiantly waving their own Confederate flags)–and decent human beings who are able to see themselves as part of a wider community that includes the “other.”

I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say that America is engaged right now in an existential conflict between those decent human beings and the small-minded, self-serving and morally deformed forces waging an increasingly frantic war on the poor, on women, on African-Americans, on gays…on all of us who refuse to recognize their right to continued privilege.

Yesterday was a glorious repudiation of those people. But we still have a lot of work to do.



Even in Indiana?

Things are getting really interesting in Indiana.

A recent (Republican) poll confirms that Mike Pence continues to lose support, largely because of RFRA (although his vendetta against public schools generally and Glenda Ritz specifically have certainly played a part). The poll also found that a majority of Hoosiers support amending the state’s civil rights law to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation–an amendment our fundamentalist Governor adamantly opposes.

Then, to make things even more interesting, a couple of days ago South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeig announced that he is gay.

Buttigeig is a businessman, Afghanistan veteran, runner, musician and at 33, America’s youngest mayor of a city with over 100,000 residents. He’s also a Rhodes scholar who studied at Oxford University, a valedictorian who was class president at his South Bend high school, a Harvard University graduate, and a lieutenant in U.S. Navy Reserve.

To top it off, Buttigeig is a nice guy who has by all accounts also done an excellent job as Mayor. (I think he’s what they call an overachiever.)

It will be interesting to see the reaction to Buttigeig’s eloquent announcement. Indiana is (accurately) seen as socially conservative but, as the recent polling attests, homophobia in the state is waning, and for some time now, Hoosiers in more urban areas of the state have proved to be far more accepting of diversity than our reputation would suggest. (Indianapolis’ Pride Festival drew over 100,000 attendees last week.) Even in much smaller South Bend– home to Catholic Notre Dame– the reaction to the Mayor’s revelation has thus far been largely positive.

Buttigieg has been widely viewed as a political “comer,” a star with a bright electoral future.  I predict that he will win re-election in November by a comfortable margin, despite this announcement. The more intriguing question is: will coming out affect his prospects for higher office down the road?

I know the timing is all wrong, but replacing Mike Pence with a gay Democrat would repair the damage to Indiana’s reputation in one fell swoop…


Better Gay Than Grumpy

This slogan from a Pride event sign reminded me of an old Andy Rooney commentary in which he really summed up the problem with the country’s culture warriors.  “I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong,”Rooney said, “but I do know who I’d rather invite over to dinner.”

I thought about Rooney’s observation yesterday, when I attended Indianapolis’ Gay Rights Parade. It was a huge affair–a far cry from the very first one, which I also attended, and which consisted of perhaps six floats and an audience of a few hundred. Over the years, the parade and audience have grown dramatically, and yesterday there were thousands of people cheering what seemed like hundreds of floats.

What struck me about the crowd–both those marching, and those crowded onto the sidewalks lining the route–was its diversity and good humor. There were young people and old, black and white, gay and straight. There were parents pushing strollers and people sporting tattoos, buttoned-down preppies and female impersonators. I saw colleagues from the University and waiters from local watering holes. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

In a pleasant departure from previous years, the grumpy culture warriors didn’t send representatives with signs warning of eternal damnation (at least I didn’t see any), but they had issued their usual dark warnings about moral depravity and the End of Western Civilization as We Know It, accompanied by sour descriptions of the “debauchery” sure to be on display in what they characterized as a celebration of “deviance” and sin.

As usual, they were wrong. What was actually being celebrated was love, inclusion and human equality.

From the elderly Veterans for Equal Rights, to the numerous churches participating (this year, I think the United Methodists and the Episcopalians outnumbered the Unitarians, and there were at least two United Church of Christ congregations represented), to the banks and businesses and neighborhood associations, the message was clear: we value all our fellow citizens.

All three political parties were represented. Indianapolis Mayor Ballard, a Republican, was Grand Marshall. Joe Hogsett, the Democratic candidate for Mayor, walked with a large group of supporters, and Chuck Brewer, his Republican opponent, had a contingent. Bill Levin, who recently established the “Church of Cannabis,” rode atop the Libertarian Party’s large float, and a number of other politicians–from City-County Council candidates to Congressman Andre Carson–were prominent.

The impressive list of parade participants aside, it was a grand party. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, hugging, cheering…just having a great time on a sunny day with lots of other people who had come to support their neighbors and friends and to promote lovingkindness and civil equality.

Given a choice between the judgmental scolds thundering about (their constipated version of ) Godliness and Righteousness, and the people at the parade, I think I know who most of us would prefer to invite to dinner.