Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Republicans Do Have An Agenda

A number of pundits have focused on the apparent lack of a GOP agenda going into the midterm campaign season.  They’ve noted that Mitch McConnell (aka “Dr. Evil”) has all but disavowed the list of unpopular proposals that Rick Scott produced earlier this year, and the lack of any other Republican platform.

So there’s no GOP agenda? Texas Republicans beg to differ.

As Heather Cox Richardson recently reported, Texas Republicans have put everything we suspected “out there” for all to see.  And if that platform, that agenda, that fever dream, doesn’t make chills run down your spine, there’s something wrong with you.

Delegates to a convention of the Texas Republican Party approved platform planks rejecting “the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and [holding] that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States”; requiring students “to learn about the dignity of the preborn human,” including that life begins at fertilization; treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice”; locking the number of Supreme Court justices at 9; getting rid of the constitutional power to levy income taxes; abolishing the Federal Reserve; rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment; returning Christianity to schools and government; ending all gun safety measures; abolishing the Department of Education; arming teachers; requiring colleges to teach “free-market liberty principles”; defending capital punishment; dictating the ways in which the events at the Alamo are remembered; protecting Confederate monuments; ending gay marriage; withdrawing from the United Nations and the World Health Organization; and calling for a vote “for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.”

If this autocratic, theocratic and incredibly stupid wish list appeals to even a significant minority of Texans, I hope they will “assert Texas’ status as an independent nation” and secede.  Rational human beings–not to mention people who believe in the rule of law and the clear meaning of the Constitution and Bill of Rights–won’t miss them.

If Americans needed any further evidence of just how far the GOP has deviated from its former beliefs–not to mention sanity–Texans have just provided it.

Unfortunately, the GOP lurch off the radical cliff isn’t limited to Texas.

Here in Indiana, we’ve long had Republican legislators who are looney-tunes–the gun nuts who want everyone to be able to pack heat with no license or background check; the religious warriors who want to define religious liberty as the (limited) right of every American to live in accordance with the warriors’ own religious doctrines; the anti-intellectuals who fear new ideas and want to dictate educational curricula (or just replace the public schools with vouchers to be used primarily at religious schools); and of course, a hearty sprinkling of garden-variety homophobes and racists– but generally, saner heads within the super-majority have somewhat dampened their influence.

We’ve also been lucky that pious Pence was replaced by Eric Holcomb. While I have disagreed with Governor Holcomb on specific issues (sending back $ to taxpayers rather than using those dollars to address Indiana’s myriad deficits, for example), he has mostly been a reasonable and thoughtful official, out of the mold of former Republicans.

The Indiana GOP rejected Holcomb and the so-called Republican “establishment” this week in favor of the cult members and the Big Lie. Diego Morales defeated incumbent Holli Sullivan for the nomination to secretary of state in Indiana — an office documents show once fired him .

Sullivan’s loss is a major blow to the so-called establishment wing of the party, and yet another sign that Gov. Eric Holcomb’s influence is dwindling in his second term. Holcomb had appointed Sullivan in March 2021 after then-Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced her retirement.

As WFYI reported,

Morales’s bid was viewed by many as a challenge to the governor and the so-called Republican “establishment.”

Morales, whose family immigrated to Indiana from Guatemala, has previously pushed the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. He’s criticized Indiana’s election security, arguing the state needs to do more to prevent non-citizens from voting. And he wants to cut in half the number of early voting days before each election, from 28 days to 14.

“First of all, we are going to be efficient,” Morales said. “Number two, we are going to save some taxpayers money.”

After his win, Morales preached unity among his party. During the convention, many of his supporters booed and heckled current Secretary of State Sullivan.

In red states across the country, very much including Indiana, the inmates are running the asylum. I don’t know where that asylum is located, but it isn’t in the America I inhabit.

 

Minority Rule

I recently saw a study showing that Americans hold wildly exaggerated notions about the numbers of people in various minority groups–respondents guessed that Muslim Americans are 27% of the population, that Jews are 30%, and Blacks 41%, for example.(The real numbers are: Muslims, 1%, Jews, 2% and Blacks 12%.) Other group estimates were similarly inflated.

My first reaction was that the research questioned a lot of Americans who can’t add up to 100…(Maybe those who disapprove of teaching Arabic numerals.….)

When it came to sexual orientation minorities, the degree of error was even more astonishing. According to the poll, gays and lesbians were estimated at 30 percent of the population. (While estimates vary, thanks to the persistence of the closet, the article pegged the true number at around 3 percent). Respondents estimated that 29% of Americans are  bisexual–the true number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%. And those scary transgender people were estimated at 21%; credible estimates put the number at  0.6 percent). (That’s six-tenths of one percent, not six percent!)

The article considered a number of reasons why these perceptions were so far off.  One possibility was that media devotes disproportionate attention to issues involving minority communities, skewing perceptions. That led me to wonder whether we aren’t also vastly over-estimating the percentage of crazy rightwing Republicans among actual, registered voters.

Last July, Ballotpedia had a partisan breakdown of the number of registered voters in the states that allow voters to register by party and that report those totals publicly.
They reported that, in those states, 49.3 million identified as Democrats, or 39.6%. A total of 36.4 million registered voters identified as Republicans, or 29.2%. Another 38.8 million identified as independents or members of third-parties, amounting to 31.2%.

It’s worth noting that various polls lump party members with Independent “leaners,” and that there are multiple surveys and polls asking members of the general public–registered or not– which party  they prefer. None of this, of course, gives us a firm handle on how many registered Republicans or Republican “leaners” are committed (and arguably commit-able) members of the MAGA base.

And that brings me to the stranglehold that base has on the GOP and policymaking. That stranglehold accounts for the wide discrepancy between public opinion–even among Republicans–and the culture war policies being pursued by elected Republicans.

A recent report from Religion News Service is illustrative.

Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights is higher than ever, according to a new report by Public Religion Research Institute, though two groups have “consistently lagged” in their support for key policies: Republicans and white evangelical Protestants.

Those findings, released Thursday (March 17), are part of PRRI’s 2021 American Values Atlas project, a seven-year survey measuring Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights policies.

The report comes as a number of states are considering legislation related to LGBTQ issues and as questions of whether one can refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs are likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next year. Currently, few states have nondiscrimination protections in place for LGBTQ people.

PRRI has been polling on the issue for several years, and the number of Americans who support same-sex marriage has steadily increased . Furthermore, that increase has occurred among all political and religious groups, rising from 54% to 68%. Support for anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people is even higher, at 79%.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (66%) also oppose religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people — a number that has fluctuated while trending upward from 59% since 2015.

The outliers, as you might expect , are disproportionately Republican and White Evangelical Protestant. But even their support for LGBTQ rights has increased overall– and strong majorities of both support nondiscrimination policies.

So why are Republican politicians eagerly pursuing policies that large numbers of Americans–including significant numbers of registered Republican voters–oppose? As the director of PRRI’s research puts it:

White evangelicals are a small part of the U.S. population, Jackson noted, but they are dependable voters. And evangelical leaders have had close ties to politics and politicians for decades, she added.

“White evangelicals are about 14% of the population overall, which is certainly not what you would think by the amount of focus that they get, the amount of leverage that they seem to have,” she said.

The bottom line–and not just with respect to the wedge issues (sexual orientation, gun laws, women’s reproductive rights, etc.) beloved by MAGA culture warriors–is that all policy decisions in the United States are being held hostage by the minority of cultists who control today’s GOP.

Call that whatever you will, but you sure can’t call it democracy or majority rule.

 

 

Pride Month Musings

June is Pride Month. It wasn’t so long ago that today’s widespread recognition of–and support for– Pride would have been unthinkable. In my adult lifetime, there have been few changes in social attitudes as swift or as welcome as the legal and social acceptance of LGBTQ Americans.

That said, progress inevitably invites blowback. We are particularly seeing it in punitive legislation directed at transgender Americans. But we are also seeing continued opposition to gay equality from the same Christian Nationalists and religious fundamentalists who are determined to ignore America’s history of racism and other bigotries.

The good news is that anti-gay attitudes are far less pervasive among young Americans; in fact, sociologists and scholars of religion attribute much of the exodus by young people from fundamentalist congregations to distaste for their theological homophobia. Among older, conservative, religious Americans, however, LGBTQ citizens still encounter considerable bias–and when sexual orientation is coupled with HIV, no matter how well controlled, considerable stigma.

It’s tempting, during Pride month and especially during the local celebrations and parades, to focus on the considerable progress made by the gay community, and that progress is well worth celebrating. But it’s important to couple the celebration with recognition of remaining challenges.

For that matter, the contemporary lessons to be drawn aren’t  limited to LGBTQ issues.

Over the years, Black Americans, gay Americans, Jewish and Muslim Americans and other minorities have achieved significant legal protections: civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, and (in the case of LGBTQ folks) recognition of same-sex marriage have all gone a long way to level the legal playing field.

Hearts and minds have proved to be a harder nut to crack.

Too many Americans approach issues of inclusion and equality from a “zero-sum” perspective. The fear of “replacement” (more on that in upcoming posts) is an example. The evident calculation is that If “those people” get rights, my rights have been correspondingly diminished. The history of the gay rights struggle provides an excellent example; remember the hue and cry over “special rights”? The argument was that laws requiring equal legal treatment of gay men and lesbians were really an award of “special rights,” and the implication was that straight people didn’t have those “special rights.” 

When the Founders hammered out the U.S. Constitution, one of its most significant breaks with the past was the establishment of a legal system that would evaluate citizens based upon behavior, not social status or identity. Even when America hasn’t lived up to the principles set out in our constituent documents—and we frequently haven’t—the  official American vision has been one of a society in which group identity is legally irrelevant, a society where an individual’s conduct is the only proper concern of government.

In other words, in America, individuals are supposed to be rewarded or punished based upon what they do, not who they are. Race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and similar markers of group affiliation are supposed to be irrelevant to our legal status. No matter how meaningful those affiliations may be to us personally, the government may not award or restrict our rights based upon them.

Although they seem unable to understand or accept it, that basic element of America’s rule of law protects Christian Nationalists as well as members of minority populations.

The larger challenge we face is how to internalize that legal premise. How do we socialize our children into a worldview that sees other human beings as other human beings, and accepts or dismisses them individually, based upon their actions and behaviors–evidence of the content of their characters–not on their skin color, their sexual orientation or their theological preferences.

We have a way to go…

Happy Pride Month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Tolerance

One of the (relatively few) bright spots in recent American culture has been the vast improvement in social attitudes about LGBTQ people and the laws addressing their status. It never made sense–culturally or constitutionally– to make the religious beliefs/prejudices of one subset of Americans the law of the land.

Of course, a fair number of our persistent “hot button” issues are a replay of that same  demand–the insistence by some Christian denominations that the law should require everyone to abide by their denomination’s religious convictions.

The progress toward equal civil rights for LGBTQ folks should not lull us into a belief that we can declare victory for “gay rights,” because it turns out there are still powerful forces intent upon turning back that progress.

The Guardian recently published a lengthy article about one such effort.

Titled “The Multi-Million Dollar Christian Group  Attacking LGBT Rights,” the article focused on an organization called–misleadingly–The Alliance Defending Freedom. (Of course, the “freedom” the Alliance is defending is the freedom to impose its religious views on others).The Alliance is described as “a conservative Christian powerhouse working internationally to remake laws governing family, sex and marriage in a vision which ‘keeps the doors open for the Gospel.'”

Their Gospel, of course.

ADF, which reportedly received more than $55m in contributions in 2018, claims to have more than 3,400 affiliated attorneys and judges worldwide. In the 25 years since it was founded, it has brought 10 cases before the US supreme court, including some of the most consequential cases of the last decade on contraceptive and gay rights.

ADF is, “an aggressive, strategic legal group that is about Christian supremacy and hegemony in the US and in the world,” said Frederick Clarkson, a senior research analyst with Political Research Associates. “It’s the world under God’s law.”

The group’s work against LGBTQ+ people has led experts on extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center to label them a hate group. ADF rejects that label.

The Alliance gave us Hobby Lobby, and more recently, the case of the baker unwilling to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding.

The group was founded by prominent opponents of gay rights, including Jeff Sessions, and it hasn’t confined its activities to the U.S. (In the UK, for example, it is defending graphic signs used by anti-abortion protestors.)

In the last decade, ADF attorneys argued in favor of state-sanctioned sterilization for trans people at the European Court of Human Rights. Their brief argued, “equal dignity does not mean that every sexual orientation warrants equal respect”.

Gee–I guess we are not all “God’s children…”

The Alliance is one of the groups behind those misnamed “religious freedom” laws that have popped up in so many states– laws that would give businesses the right to refuse customers or perform services based on “sincere” religious beliefs.

The article notes that, since American public sentiment now strongly favors same-sex marriage, groups like the Alliance have focused on curtailing trans rights, and the rights of trans girls in particular, alleging various “dangers” their existence causes to cis women.

Interestingly, on the same day I came across the Guardian article, the Religion News Service  reported on the “Godly” behavior of some other “Christians.”

A California-based Christian college and the former publishers of The Christian Post and Newsweek have pled guilty in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $35 million from lenders, according to the Manhattan district attorney….

Earlier this month, William Anderson, former chief executive officer of Christian Media Corporation and former publisher of the Christian Post, and Etienne Uzac, former co-owner and chairman of Newsweek Media Group, each pleaded guilty to one felony count of money laundering in the second degree and one felony count of scheme to defraud in the first degree.

Anderson stepped down from the Christian Post, an evangelical Christian publication, in 2018. Christian Post Executive Editor Richard Land, a longtime Southern Baptist ethicist, was not immediately reached for comment.

The publication made headlines in December for publishing an editorial in favor of President Trump. That editorial caused a politics editor at the publication to quit.

Perhaps the pious, holier-than-thou” “Christians” who are so concerned about other people’s “sins” should turn their attention to the behavior of their own brethren. Perhaps, too, they should consider the possibility that immoral behavior doesn’t occur exclusively below the waist.

And so long as we’re being “biblical,” Isn’t there some passage about removing the beam from one’s own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s?

Subsidizing Bigotry

As the country’s diversity and tribalism have grown, America’s public schools have become more necessary than ever. The public school is one of the last “street corners” where children of different backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn–ideally–not just “reading, writing and arithmetic” but the history and philosophy of the country they share.

Today’s Americans read different books and magazines, visit different websites, listen to different music, watch different television programs, and occupy different social media bubbles. In most communities, we’ve lost a shared daily newspaper. The experiences we do share continue to diminish.

Given this fragmentation, the assaults on public education are assaults on a shared America.

Nevertheless, politicians and (especially) religious adherents who feel threatened by diversity and modernity have worked tirelessly to support voucher programs that allow parents to remove their children from public school systems and send them to private–almost always religious–schools, where they study with “their own kind.” The rhetoric around these programs typically defends them as “allowing children to escape failing schools”–although those “failing” schools are hardly helped by sending their already inadequate resources to private schools–despite consistent research showing that vouchers virtually never lead to academic improvement. (They do, however, lead to increased racial segregation.)

As an added indignity, voucher programs send tax dollars to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ children and children with LGBTQ parents. Here in Indiana, Cathedral High School, which received over a million dollars in 2018, fired a gay teacher;  Roncalli High School, which also has accepted vouchers worth millions fired a much-loved gay counselor who was in a same-sex marriage.

Recently, in a welcome announcement, two major contributors to Florida’s voucher program announced that they would no longer be contributing to that state’s program, which also allowed recipient schools to deny admission to gay students.

Two of the largest banks in the U.S. say they will stop donating millions of dollars to Florida’s private school voucher program after a newspaper investigation found that some of the program’s beneficiaries discriminate against LGBTQ students.

In a statement to NBC News and CNBC on Wednesday evening, Wells Fargo confirmed that it would no longer participate.

“We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students,” the San Francisco-based bank said of the voucher program. “All of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind.”

In a tweet to a Florida lawmaker Tuesday, Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati, said it has told officials with the voucher program that it will also stop participating.

An investigation by the Orlando Sentinel found 156 private Christian schools with anti-gay views that participated in Florida’s program. Those schools educated more than 20,000 students whose tuition was paid by Florida taxpayers–including, obviously, LGBTQ taxpayers.

The investigation found that 83 of the 156 schools with anti-gay views refuse to enroll LGBTQ students, and that some number of those schools also exclude students whose parents are gay.

“Florida’s scholarship programs, often referred to as school vouchers, sent more than $129 million to these religious institutions,” the Sentinel reported on Jan. 23. “That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome.”

So much for the American “street corner” and our commitment to civic equality.

We taxpayers are subsidizing segregation and bigotry–without realizing the promised improvement in academic outcomes.