True Colors

Sponsors of anti-gay legislation and proponents of measures to “save marriage” nearly always deny that they are homophobic. They just love their gay friends, and care deeply about the welfare of their gay neighbors. In a phrase I’ve heard so often it makes me want to upchuck, they “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

Sure they do.

As gay equality becomes ever more inevitable, and these bigots become more hysterical, the mask of goodwill–never very persuasive–slips further. Two recent, glaring examples come from Wisconsin and Michigan.

In Wisconsin, demonstrably crazy Governor Scott Walker has evidently taken a break from demonizing public sector employees and harassing public school teachers, in order to pursue his latest “policy” initiative: reversing laws that grant hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners. Walker claims that allowing such visits violates language in the Wisconsin Constitution.(Interestingly, the language Walker is relying on is exactly the same as the language Republicans are trying to add to the Indiana Constitution–language denying same-sex couples not only the right to marry, but the right to any benefit “substantially similar” to marriage.)

In Michigan, the House of Representatives–with the strong endorsement of Rick Snyder, Michigan’s Governor (and strong contender for America’s Nuttiest Chief Executive)– has approved an amendment to that state’s education budget that would impose a five-percent penalty on colleges and universities that offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex partners.

The only reason to deny hospital visitation rights is to hurt people at their most vulnerable. Such a measure serves no other purpose. The effort to “punish” universities makes it more difficult for them to offer a high-quality education–not just because of the lost revenue, but because an anti-gay message coupled with an inability to offer partner benefits is a huge roadblock to recruitment of good faculty–gay or straight.

These measures, and others like them, are desperate, last-gasp efforts to deny cultural change. They will undoubtedly be reversed, if they become law at all. But they offer us a very valuable look at the real face of anti-gay activism–a face contorted by hate and fear.

Whatever else they may be, when the mask comes off, these are small, mean-spirited people.


  1. Thank you Sheila, for once again making it plain for all to understand. I have always siad the best way to dfeeat these people is to let their real words speak loud and clear. If the LGBT and Allied community don’t get it yet – YES they are coming for YOU. The only way to stop it, is to come out, be loud and fight back with your ALLIES at your side.

  2. The LGBT community and allies get it. Trust me on that.
    I’d have thought the problem lies with the homophobes. Unless, of course, it’s become stylish again to blame the victim.

  3. The hospital visitation issue is just plain hatred. I’m a grown adult. Is someone going to tell me I can’t have whomever I wish at my bedside? Really?

    As for the penalties on universities that offer partner benefits, more hatred. The cost is more than recouped in recruiting and retaining good faculty and staff. At my institution, state support is less than half our budget. Don’t know about Michigan, but who is actually paying the bills? Incredible.

  4. Thank you so much, Sheila, for this analysis. I think it helps shed light on the completely inane and inadequate response I received from my former state senator (I moved) when I sent her an e-mail explaining why my wife and I encouraged her to vote against the amendment. I’ve been looking for a place to share her e-mail for some time, and this seems as appropriate a venue as any. By her own logic, the reason she supports the amendment is her own bigotry (though I doubt she’d frame it that way):

    Dear E.J.,

    Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana, but House Joint Resolution 6 would prevent an Indiana court from declaring that prohibition unconstitutional.

    On February 7th, 2011, the House Judiciary committee voted 8-4 along party lines to advance the resolution, authored by Representative Eric Turner, out of committee. On February 15th, 2011, the resolution was approved by the full House and will now face Senate scrutiny. Even if the measure passes both houses this year, however, it would still have to be approved by another, separately elected legislature and then in a referendum by voters, before being placed into the state’s founding document. For instance, a prohibition on same-sex marriage passed the General Assembly in 2005, but it did not pass the newly-elected legislature in 2007 and therefore did not progress to a statewide referendum. Currently thirty states ban gay marriage in their constitutions; Indiana is one of nine others which ban it by state law.

    I treasure the vital role traditional marriage plays in our society, and therefore favor a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. My desire to protect the sanctity of marriage is tempered by my reluctance to support any discriminatory legislation. I envision this resolution as an attempt to maintain Hoosier values, and it ought not be hijacked to unnecessarily or unfairly degrade any Indiana resident. While basic beliefs shouldn’t be cast aside in response to calls for a vague inclusiveness, neither should we forget that the preferences of the majority do not negate the rights of the few.

    If you would like more information on the progress of the resolution during its tenuous and lengthy process, please ask. Marriage is one of our society’s most foundational institutions, with roots stretching back through centuries of cultural, legal, ceremonial, and religious practices. Defining marriage as the traditional union between a man and a woman is a measure I support and hope to see ratified as an amendment to our constitution.


    Senator Connie Lawson
    Majority Floor Leader
    200 West Washington Street
    Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

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