Category Archives: Gay Rights

Greg Zoeller, Mike Pence, Micah Clark and the Dustbin of History

Well–yesterday certainly was a DAY in Indiana!

Federal Judge Richard Young–no wild-eyed ‘librul’– issued a beautifully-crafted, soundly-sourced opinion invalidating Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages. As a (recovering) lawyer, I read the entire decision with appreciation for its logic and application of precedent; it was extremely well-written, without more than occasional resort to the “legalese” that jurists so often employ.

As quotable as much of the 36-page opinion is, however, my favorite paragraph is this:

“In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions–laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. It is clear the the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as marriage–not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.

At virtually the same time as Judge Young handed down his ruling, the 10th district Court of Appeals was upholding lower court decisions invalidating Oklahoma and Utah bans.

It’s over. I know that is a bitter pill for our elected homophobes to swallow, let alone the folks whose fundraising depends upon demonizing gay folks, but it could hardly have come as a surprise. The handwriting has been on all the walls for several years now.

It’s past time for Greg Zoeller to stop spending Hoosier dollars defending discrimination. His determination to appeal a decision that mirrors every other decision the courts have handed down is an exercise in futility, a waste of time and money, but of course, he and Pence and the other Professional Christians can’t help themselves.

They refuse to understand that they already live in the dustbin of history.

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Yesterday, the Indiana GOP held its convention and adopted its platform. According to the Indianapolis Star, 

After a contentious weeks-long debate, more than 1,600 delegates from across Indiana approved the new language for the state party’s platform. It says, “We believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.”

Chalk up another win for the party’s social conservatives–the “Christian” theocrats  who are firmly in charge of what used to be a rational political party.

Most observers predicted this outcome. The real question is whether members of the Hoosier electorate–whom poll after poll show are far more moderate than the current GOP,  on this issue and others–will care enough to vote their displeasure.

Back when I was an active Republican,  the Marion County Chairman frequently noted how grateful he was for the apathy of Democrats. Even then–back in the 1980′s– Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Indianapolis. Republicans kept winning elections,  however, because they voted. Democrats didn’t.

On this issue and so many others, the research suggests that Democrats have won the policy debate. Most Americans agree with them.

What they’ve lost is GOTV.

 

Our Attorney General’s “Professionalism”

One of the cardinal rules of the legal profession is to zealously represent your client–to put the interests of that client first. To be an effective and ethical lawyer, you must put aside your personal prejudices and obsessions, and focus upon the job you’ve been hired to do.

Back when I was in practice, we all knew which (few) lawyers took their clients’ money and proceeded to posture to the media, or file unnecessary pleadings, or otherwise use the lawyer-client relationship for self-aggrandizement, personal gain or ideological vendettas.

Which brings me to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

The Attorney General is elected to protect the legal interests of Hoosiers. Zoeller, however, has consistently used the position to advance his personal religious beliefs, intervening in national high-profile, culture war cases having the most tenuous connection (if any) to Indiana. He has been especially eager to volunteer in cases involving gay rights; he spent enormous time and energy–and taxpayer resources–opposing same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court’s Windsor case.

Last week, a federal court in Indiana required Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney.  Niki is battling a particularly aggressive cancer, and has been told that she is terminal. The couple has two children, ages 1 and 3. Niki wants to be recognized as married in her home state while she is still alive; she wants the comfort of knowing that her family will receive the legal protections that all other married families in Indiana receive.

Zoeller immediately announced his intention to appeal. As Lambda Legal noted,

No other attorney general in the country has chosen to appeal after a court has protected the marriage of a same-sex couple on a temporary basis as a lawsuit moves forward because one of the partners is terminally ill. For example, the Ohio AG declined to appeal a court’s temporary order protecting the marriage of a man fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease as his lawsuit challenging the State’s marriage ban moved forward, even as the Ohio AG fought to uphold the ban.

When a Lambda attorney characterized the decision to appeal as “a display of cruelty,” Zoeller’s spokesperson accused the organization of an “unprofessional approach in their utterances toward opposing counsel, one not consistent with standards of civility and respect that Hoosiers and Hoosier lawyers uphold in our legal system.”

Excuse me?

Let me tell you what is “unprofessional.”

What’s “unprofessional” is using your elected position to further a theocratic agenda at the expense of voters who elected you to a secular office.

What’s “unprofessional” is volunteering your efforts–and spending our tax dollars–on cases that don’t involve Hoosiers.

What’s “unprofessional” is taking positions on behalf of all Indiana citizens with which a significant percentage of those citizens vehemently disagree.

What’s “unprofessional”–and utterly despicable–is homophobia so ingrained and obsessive that you would deny a dying woman the comfort of knowing that her children will be protected, by appealing a temporary order that applies only to her family. 

And what is really “unprofessional” is having the chutzpah to complain when someone points out your own lack of humanity and respect for the limits of the position you hold.

About that Dustbin of History….

Indiana culture warriors Micah Clark and Eric Miller cannot be happy campers.

I get Pew Research Center’s Daily Religion Headlines in my inbox. On Thursday, two headlines confirmed what anyone watching the American landscape already knows: gay rights has gone mainstream.

The first headline was from the Detroit Free Press. It read Major Michigan companies want to ban LGBT discrimination against workers. The story highlighted an effort by the Michigan business community to include sexual orientation under the state’s civil rights laws. Note, this isn’t the business community trying to block a mean-spirited measure; it’s an affirmative effort to guarantee civil rights.

The second was a headline from the Christian Science Monitor, in the form of a question. Gay Marriage: Is GOP Tiptoeing Away from Opposition? The article cited a Pew poll  that found 61 percent of Republicans under age 30 favoring the right to same-sex marriage, and it pointed to movement on the issue around the country.

  • Earlier this month, the Nevada Republican Party removed opposition to gay marriage from its platform.
  • On April 19, most of the Illinois Republican officials who tried to remove the state party chairman over his support of same-sex marriage lost their party positions.
  • On April 29, the Washington College Republican Federation announced it had passed a resolution calling for a change to both the state and federal Republican platforms’ stance on marriage to make them more “inclusive.”
  • In January, the New Mexico College Republicans agreed to drop language opposing same-sex marriage from their platform.

The day when Karl Rove could turn out the Republican base by demonizing GLBT folks is over. The party can elect people to Congress by dint of voter suppression and gerrymandering, but if it wants to elect a President sometime this century, the GOP will have to recognize that this battle is over.

The base (in both senses of that word) lost.

Shadenfruede

These are interesting times for gay civil rights.

On the one hand, thanks to a skillful campaign and the support of the business community, Indiana once again dodged a bullet. The proposal to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and anything “structurally similar” (business partnerships? Roommates? Who the hell knows?) won’t appear on the 2014 ballot.

On the other hand, several states are considering—and Arizona actually passed before the ensuing uproar led the governor to veto it—a “religious liberty” law protecting merchants and government employees’ “liberty” to discriminate against GLBT folks. (I have no clue on how the sexual orientation of customers was to be determined…) Arizona legislators evidently believe that requiring businesses and government agencies to treat all customers and citizens equally would be an unspeakable violation of their right to “religious liberty.”

I’m sure this use of religion as a justification for hateful behavior is infinitely pleasing to their (very small) God.

The Arizona legislation is just one of a number of reactions to a larger—and immensely welcome–social phenomenon. Gay civil rights have come farther, faster, than most of us could have imagined a decade ago, and these eruptions of nastiness can accurately be discounted as tantrums thrown by people who are realizing that they’re on the wrong side of history.Still, it’s hard not to let these hateful reactions get under one’s skin.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: shadenfruede.

“Shadenfruede” is a German word that translates, roughly, to “taking pleasure from the bad fortune of others,”  and it’s probably the word that best describes my not-at-all-nice reaction to a new study described in a recent issue of the Atlantic.

Researchers have found that homophobia takes about two and half years off the lives of those who harbor such sentiments.

Previous research has shown that the stress hormone cortisol increased in white people with high levels of racial prejudice when they were interacting with someone of another race. And a different survey found that having a high level of prejudice against black people was linked to higher mortality rates in whites.

In a new study, published in American Journal of Public Health, researchers at Columbia University and the University of Nebraska looked at whether anti-gay prejudice could similarly be linked to mortality.

And guess what? It could.

The researchers controlled for—and ruled out—factors like socioeconomic status, health, and demographics. They also controlled for racial prejudice and religiosity, both of which have been strongly linked to anti-gay prejudice in previous studies.

Previous research—especially the “gold standard” General Social Survey–has established that homophobia is more prevalent among people who have less education and who profess conservative ideologies.

Bottom line–even after controlling for demographic factors, the study found a “significant association” between homophobia and earlier mortality. “The difference in life expectancy between those who expressed prejudice and those who did not was 2.5 years. The researchers also looked at specific causes of death—homophobia was linked to cardiovascular-related deaths, but not cancer.”

Maybe Dr. King was right, and the moral arc of the universe does bend toward justice.