Cutting Through The Crap

Showing posts with label gay rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gay rights. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lefty View Of Homosexuality

From an interview with an openly gay Catholic priest and theologian, this might be the best analogical discussion of homosexuality that I've seen:
Think of it this way. There is a distinction between left-handedness and the act of writing left-handedly. For most of us the distinction remains exactly that, and has no moral consequences. We would understand that a left-handed person forced to write right-handedly owing, say, to having their left arm in a plaster cast, or a right-handed person forced to write left-handedly for analogous reasons, would, with some difficulty, be able to learn to do so. These people would in some sense be acting contra natura. But the use of the hand appropriate to their handedness would be entirely unremarkable. Now, imagine that, involved in a Catholic discussion, you find yourself addressing a left-handed person. You say: “Any left-handed writing you do is intrinsically wrong; and in fact the inclination we call left-handedness must be considered objectively disordered.” The only justification for using the distinctions in this way is if you have received, from quite other sources, the sure knowledge that right-handedness is normative to the human condition, anything else being some sort of defect from that norm, and yet you don’t want entirely to condemn the person who has a strong tendency to left-handed writing...

No, it seems to me quite patent that here we have an unwieldy bid to fit a reality into an acceptable framework, rather than learning from reality how to adjust a now unreliable framework.
My own belief is that being gay is a regularly occurring nonpathological minority variant in the human condition, and that an appropriate analogy is left-handedness, which also, as it happens, used to be regarded as some sort of defect in a normatively right-handed humanity. I’ve arrived at this position having, as an educated amateur, followed the studies and arguments back and forth over many years, and notice that this position is tending to be confirmed the more we know and see of gay people who are able to live their lives openly...
Not only does it comport with what we are learning about sexual orientation and choice, it also reminds me that my dad, a southpaw, went to school in the era where people like him were forced to write right-handed. He had the worst handwriting I've ever seen (and I'm a doctor!!!)

When we played catch, he threw from the left.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Courting Disaster

Of all the things that happened on election day, this is by far the most disturbing to me, for it has implications deep and broad for the future of constitutional democracy. It's the real danger of teabagger mentality, their abject failure to understand (or to give a sh*t about) the law:

DES MOINES — An unprecedented vote to remove three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the unanimous decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state was celebrated by conservatives as a popular rebuke of judicial overreach, even as it alarmed proponents of an independent judiciary.

The outcome of the election was heralded both as a statewide repudiation of same-sex marriage and as a national demonstration that conservatives who have long complained about “legislators in robes” are able to effectively target and remove judges who issue unpopular decisions.

Leaders of the recall campaign said the results should be a warning to judges elsewhere. “I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people,” said Bob Vander Plaats, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor who led the campaign. “It’s we the people, not we the courts.”

It literally gives me a chill, makes me feel ill. How far from understanding our Constitution is such a statement. How threatening to the deepest of our roots in law. It's me, the son of a supreme court judge speaking here, the son of a chief judge of a court of appeals; but you don't have to be born into a family of law to have a third-grade understanding of how it works.

Gay marriage is not the issue (although it is.) The point is that we have laws, the responibility of seeing to the following of which falls to the courts. If you accept the idea of America, then you must accept the idea that when a state passes a law that's contrary to its own or to the nation's constitution, then judges must strike it down. It is the single most important barrier between ourselves and mob rule. Mob rule should frighten us all. Even the mobs.

There are ways to legalize the discrimination against an entire class of fellow humans, and I don't doubt that teabaggers and everyone else who reveres the RWS™ and believes Fox "news" would love to invoke them. If we want to be a country that dehumanizes gays and denies them basic civil rights; if we want to become a Christian nation and deploy our equivalent version of Sharia law upon the land (which I'm also certain the right wingers would love to do), we can do it. All it requires is the established process of constitutional amendment. (Which, by design, isn't as easy as brewing tea.) You want it, go for it. And if you succeed, judges will be expected to defend it.

That obscene statement at the end of the quoted paragraphs above is as unAmerican as it gets. You want to see actual, not made-up, fascism? That's it. You want to see how misguided and uninformed teabaggers are? Re-read that sentence, over and over. It's as far from our democracy as any idea can be. If you like the idea of judges ignoring the law and allowing "the people" to run unshod and smelly-footed over it; if you like the idea of judges doing the bidding of the people in charge no matter what laws say, then you'd like living in Iran.

But it's a hard concept. The idea that just because a majority of people choose to do something it isn't automatically legal is one that sits poorly with the right wing. Strangely, since it's they that claim to have a monopoly on patriotic love. Tri-corners don't seem to transmit wisdom to the head on which they sit. Nowadays.

It's legal in many states to vote judges out of office; one instance might be happening in my state (although here, it's about his off-court behavior.) But in the case of Iowa, I hope that whoever they elect in their place have the guts and wisdom to follow the law, the willingness to be unelected for doing so. (It was a unanimous decision, and two of the ousted judges were appointed by a conservative Republican governor.) Of all people to understand that, you'd think it'd be conservatives. But that's not who's calling the shots any more. It's the religiously blind, the brainwashed, the Foxobeckified, the prejudiced, the lazy thinkers who don't do hard, who stamp their feet and demand their candy. For free.

That they're putting the inmates back in charge of the asylum known as Congress is old news, big deal. Happens all the time. Congress has always been full of idiots. Hard to tell them apart, sometimes.

It's why we have judges.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Random Signs Of Something

Orrin Hatch, perhaps the last Congressional R with half a brain (or maybe it's that he uses the good half or the other one randomly), is in favor of (or not really against) the non-mosque at non-ground-zero.

Let's be honest about it, in the First Amendment, religious freedom, religious expression, that really express matters to the Constitution. So, if the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so. The only question is are they being insensitive to those who suffered the loss of loved ones? We know there are Muslims killed on 9/11 too and we know it's a great religion. I know a lot of Muslim people who I have a very great regard for, not the least of which is Muhammad Ali. He's a great friend of mine. But as far as their right to build that mosque, they have that right.
The question is, should they? Is it insensitive not to, in the eyes of the majorityof New Yorkers? It's going to come down to New York and what New York decides to do....
...There's a question of whether it's too close to the 9/11 area, but it's a few blocks away, it isn't right there. Frankly, there are a lot of people who feel, including the mayor of New York, that they should have every right to do it, and that New Yorkers should support them...


Wanna know how the site for the non-mosque and non-ground-zero was actually chosen? Read this:

“Listen,” said El-Gamal, “do you have any clue how the Manhattan real-estate market works, what is involved? People seem to think that we picked that building to make some kind of point. But that is simply insane. This is New York; no matter who you are, you just don’t choose a building, move in, and take over. Do you know how many places I looked at? I looked at Chambers Street. I looked at Vesey Street, Broadway, Greenwich Street, Warren Street, Murray Street. Maybe half a dozen more, I can’t even remember now. It was only after all that that Park Place came up. Even then, it was the most grueling negotiation of my life. So many times I told myself, Wow, this just isn’t worth it. One minute the deal was on, eight months later it was off. The whole thing almost drove me nuts.”
"Triumphalism," indeed.

One of the, until now, loudest scientific voices against anthropogenic climate change has become a believer.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "sceptical environmentalist" once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN's climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.


Watch this. The man is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Talk about balls, and deafening silence:

Tell me the gay rights thing isn't 100% about religion-based bigotry. Voices like his are drowned like witches.


And Paul Krugman, at least as grumpy as me when he looks around, recently had this to say. Hardly anything new to me, since I've been saying it, too, ad nauseum mio. But these days you can never feed bad enough:

The last time a Democrat sat in the White House, he faced a nonstop witch hunt by his political opponents.... — at one point taking 140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White House had misused its Christmas card list.

Now it’s happening again — except that this time it’s even worse. Let’s turn the floor over to Rush Limbaugh: “Imam Hussein Obama,” he recently declared, is “probably the best anti-American president we’ve ever had.”

...Republicans will soon control at least one house of Congress. This is going to be very, very ugly...

...What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage...

...And powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage. Jane Mayer’s new article in The New Yorker about the superrich Koch brothers and their war against Mr. Obama has generated much-justified attention, but as Ms. Mayer herself points out, only the scale of their effort is new: billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife waged a similar war against Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, the right-wing media are replaying their greatest hits... ...Now, as we’ve just seen, [Limbaugh's] doing his best to insinuate that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. Again, though, there’s an extra level of craziness this time around: Mr. Limbaugh is the same as he always was, but now seems tame compared with Glenn Beck.

And where, in all of this, are the responsible Republicans, leaders who will stand up and say that some partisans are going too far? Nowhere to be found.

To take a prime example: the hysteria over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan almost makes one long for the days when former President George W. Bush tried to soothe religious hatred, declaring Islam a religion of peace...

...But here’s the thing: Mr. Bush is still around, as are many of his former officials. Where are the statements, from the former president or those in his inner circle, preaching tolerance and denouncing anti-Islam hysteria? On this issue, as on many others, the G.O.P. establishment is offering a nearly uniform profile in cowardice.

So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: ... a “wave of committee investigations” — several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.


I wish my bank accepted this: 87,000 = 500,000. Maybe they do, the other way around.


Here and there, a flicker of reason. Extinguished before it can take hold, by the shouts of the RWS™ et al. If only they'd commit the energy to pitching in that they do to tearing down, we'd have a chance.

It'll never happen.

Wonder how they'll take down their Danish climate traitor.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


With respect to the Prop 8 ruling, a person I know writes to me and asks,

...tell me if it fits with what your understanding of the Constitution provides. One man, overruling a majority in a vote, on a Proposition approved as constitutional by the State Supreme Court.

Yes: good move No: he was one man against the majority...
Real simple.

Since the person wants a simple answer, clearly, it's "Yes. Good move." But, sadly, for what appears to be a majority of Americans, and probably nearly all teabaggers, all the RWS™, it's far from simple. Because these people, these self-described patriots who claim fealty to the Constitution (while wanting to amend it severally and serially and cynically, for votes), don't have a clue about what it says. And, to the extent that they do, they simply ignore it.

To those who are outraged by this decision, this decision by a conservative judge, argued, among others, by a Republican former Solicitor General, I say, READ THE DAMN RULING. You might learn something about the law, and why we are a nation of laws, the role judges have in protecting minorities, upholding principle and law. I admit it's not often seen nowadays; but it's a shining example of judicial restraint. It's the opposite of judicial activism. It's a non-ideological finding of fact. It's, well, conservatism. At its best. Which we rarely see any more.

As simply as I can say it: we have laws, and we have a judiciary whose job -- its most important job, anyway -- is to keep people from running roughshod over those laws. A majority can't legally ignore the Constitution. State courts can't invalidate the Constitution. If people don't like the Constitution -- and god knows Republicans really don't -- there is a constitutional way to change it. You can't do it by state proposition. Period. People who don't get that either fail to understand the idea of constitutional democracy, or don't really love the country as established and defended for the last two hundred thirty four years. Simple.

I get that many religious people are horrified by homosexuality. In the case of many of the most public of them, clearly it's because they loathe themselves for being homosexual. For them, I feel sorry. (I'm a liberal.) For the rest, it's because their interpretation of their religious literature tells them that homosexuality is some sort of an abomination. Okay, fine. Believe it. There's nothing I can do to convince them otherwise, any more than I can convince them the earth is older than six or twelve thousand years, that evolution happens, that homosexuality is not a choice for any but a small percentage, that the climate is changing. Believe what you must. If humans valued fact, we wouldn't have religion. Or teabaggers.

As the judge said, there's simply no argument to be made against gay marriage other than a religious one. None. All the arguments -- about kids, about degradation of straight marriage, about agendas -- are simply false, as was factually established during the trial. Excluding gays from the right of marriage is discriminatory, it's religious based, it's predicated on hate for a class of people the recognition of whose rights produces no demonstrable harm to a state, to the country, to anyone; and the denial of whose rights offers no demonstrable good to those doing the denying, and only harm to those discriminated against. It's obvious. I've been married for thirty nine years. When gays got the right to marry in a couple of states, it did nothing to my marriage. Nothing. There's no way it could. (DOMA. How despicable, what a laughable title for an act. How shameful that Bill Clinton approved it.)

If you don't approve of gay marriage, don't do it. If you don't like gays, don't associate with them. Don't let them in your church or your home. Hold up nasty signs and shout at them if it makes you feel good, if your low self-esteem or shaky sexuality, your perverse view of WWJD demands it. If you think gay is a choice, an infection that you can catch, well, you're sadly misinformed, ignorant of fact, and a perfect match for the Tea Party. Join up. It's your right, it's all your right. What's not your right is to vote away the rights of others.

What in god's name is the harm to you caused by gay marriage? Down the street, around the corner, in another state? What is the state's interest in being involved?

The judge, who must be an incredibly brave man whose life, I'd have to say, is now at risk (given the hatred regularly whipped up by the RWS™), did what any person with open eyes and guts of steel -- free of prejudice, valuing the idea of the rule of law -- would have done. He struck down a law that has no place in America; a law that clearly denies rights to people with no justification; a law for which there is no constitutional argument. That a majority chose to harm a minority is no excuse. It's exactly why we have federal courts. It couldn't be clearer why we need them. And why it's a tragedy that so few people really get it. Even those on state courts.

Judicial review is as basic to America as fruited plains. Without it, we'd be Iran, or Soviet Russia. But that's not simple, it's not easy. It's hard. Democracy is hard. Respect for minorities, for the law, is hard. Accepting the rights of those with whom you disagree is hard. Being a RWS™, being a teabagger, is not hard. It's about wishing away reality, because reality is hard. It's about anger and fear, with no need to produce solutions. It's about giving in to the basest instincts, and calling it patriotism. Or something.

Unless there are more judges like Judge Walker out there, we're on our way to oblivion. And the people who are taking us there, who are responsible, are pointing their fingers in exactly the wrong direction.

And, yeah, the question pissed me off.

[Update, 8/8: I'm not the only one who sees the judge's decision as conservatism at its best.]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Come Again?

How many incidents before we can call it not just a trend but a fact? I'd say we're there. I think we can now declare with certainty that the louder a religious right-winger rails against gay rights, the more likely it is he's a screwed-up guy with major issues about his own sexuality. A liar. A hypocrite. A sad, pathetic person who'd be deserving of sympathy if he hadn't made a career out of denying the most fundamental of rights to other people. Here we go again. Along the way, I learned a new term (and acquired a fun euphemism):
The pictures on the profile show a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his "smooth, sweet, tight ass..."
[...] On April 13, the "rent boy" (whom we'll call Lucien) arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberian Airlines Flight 6123, after a ten-day, fully subsidized trip to Europe. He was soon followed out of customs by an old man with an atavistic mustache and a desperate blond comb-over, pushing an overburdened baggage cart.

That man was George Alan Rekers, of North Miami — the callboy's client and, as it happens, one of America's most prominent anti-gay activists. Rekers, a Baptist minister who is a leading scholar for the Christian right, left the terminal with his gay escort, looking a bit discomfited when a picture of the two was snapped with a hot-pink digital camera.
I'd find it funny, were it not so sad. How much damage is inflicted by religion-based rejection of a basic fact of life. How disastrous is the need for a person to hide who he is, when it's a condition of birth over which he has no control and which has been part of the human family since history has been recorded.

How destructive are those who hate themselves so much that they must hate others to feel good. How long before people realize the anti-gay movement is led by people like this guy, people who ought to be ignored intensely.

[Added later: I guess it's okay not to ignore them, if this is how you do it:]

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


There's no rational (ie non-religious) case to be made against same-sex marriage. On that, I'm sure we all agree. The central arguments -- definitional, hysterical (eg, it threatens "opposite" marriage), apocryphal -- or is it projectional? -- (next we'll be marrying dogs and cats) are so easily dismissible as to be laugh-provoking. (Except, of course, as they do actual harm to actual human beings, they aren't funny at all.)

On the other hand, the arguments against allowing gays openly to serve in the military at least deserve a look. Because whereas gay marriage doesn't impose anything on anyone who doesn't like it, military service does. There are, without doubt, soldiers who don't like the idea of serving with gays. Based on primal prejudice and misinformation to be sure (not to mention repressed concerns of their own sexuality!); but the feelings exist and need to be addressed in some way. Being against gay marriage is misguided at best; in fact, in the hearts of most opponents it's simply hateful. But being concerned about gays in the military is, on some level, rooted in real -- if destructive -- concerns.

As the subject of repealing DADT goes forward, there are some givens: right-wingers will dig in their heels, and reasonableness will be as absent from most of the political debate as hypocrisy will be ubiquitous. Soldiers will be heard from on both sides of the issue. And we will learn of many examples of gays serving honorably, bravely, with no problems until they were outed and discharged. Thousands of them. But we'll hear worries about "unit cohesion," implications (I'll be interested to see with what proof) that having gays and straights fighting side by side will somehow change the meaning of...(wait for it...) "got your back."

So, what are we to make of it all? What, for example, are we to make of the fact that in armies around the world, gays serve openly without problems? Some say, well, we're tougher we have a harder mission. Yet in Israel, whose military toughness isn't doubted even by its enemies, and whose mission is, perhaps, more literally to allow the survival of the state than anywhere in the world, gays have served openly for years? Answer: it's a big deal only if you make it one.

The soldiers who, in this era, object to serving with gays are not unlike those who, a generation ago, objected to serving with blacks. Now, it's as if there never was a problem. It's more common to see African-Americans in high rank in the military than in corporate America. Another thing: you can't serve with an African-American and not know s/he's black. But in the workplace, there's no reason why sexual orientation would even be visible. Inappropriate sexual behavior toward a co-worker is, should be, and always will be a prohibited and punishable act. To date, the transgressions that take up most space in the news are abuse of women soldiers by men.

Who represents more of a threat to the mission of the US military: gay people who are competent, skillful, good at what they do; or people who have reflexive hatred or fear of gays? Which can one imagine attacking or otherwise endangering a fellow soldier? The absence of which group would be less of a detriment? To me, it seems obvious.

Irony abounds. The military leaders whose judgment was once considered unassailable by our America-loving, tough-on-terror, militarily "strong" (except for the fact that most of them never served) neocons, are suddenly to be ignored, according to Republican leaders.

Did I already mention hypocrisy?

The issue of unit morale needs addressing. Hard to know how recruitment and retention would be affected, although there are precedents. From an above-linked article:

Polls of soldiers in the United Kingdom similarly found that as many as two-thirds of soldiers said they would consider leaving the service if gays were allowed in, but the British military reported that very few soldiers actually chose to depart when the ban was lifted in 2000. There was significant resistance among senior officers, while younger personnel tended to be more open to allowing gays to serve. (Emphasis mine: especially relevant since many point to the opinions of old admirals over here!)

It'd be funny -- in a good way -- wouldn't it, if after the ban on gays in the military is finally and inevitably lifted, it turns out to have been a non-issue. There's no doubt, though, that the process will bring out the worst in the worst of us. It already has.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I &hearts The Heartland

Iowa, home of tall corn and sturdy Americans, no-nonsense kind of place, where I once drove a tractor as a kid, stopping at the family farm of my dad's law partner, trailering our way across the country in the summer of '56. Sensible place, not taken much to crazy ideas. Not much in the way of elitists there. Patriots, all of them; churches with white wooden steeples hold down the edges of fields. Iowans are solid and steady; it's a place for combines, not conflagrations.

Their Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that outlawing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Along with them, and those celebrating it, I raise my voice in a throaty and happy cry to say the obvious: DUH.

If we are a country of laws -- and we are; if we hold as ideal belief in equal justice under the law -- and we do; if we believe in separation of church and state... well, there was a time, anyway... then there's simply no other conclusion to draw. Depriving certain law-abiding citizens of a right given to everyone else, based only on a religious belief that they are evil, or on wholly unsupportable and unproven claims that giving them that same right threatens that of others, is by my reckoning immoral. And, most certainly, illegal under our laws.

I understand homosexuality makes some people uncomfortable (the more uncomfortable, the more likely -- so it seems -- to join a church and practice it under the cloth, one might conclude); I accept that to some the Bible calls it a sin (even though there's much else in the Bible that those people conveniently ignore). To the extent that they choose to live their lives with those prejudices, I say, go for it. It's when they take it outside their homes or churches and into the public square that I -- and those judges, and everyone with a couple of honest brain cells to rub together -- must draw the line. If you don't believe in gay marriage, don't do it.

Well, people say, this isn't for the courts to decide. It's judicial activism (my favorite legal term, which means "judges ruling against you.") No. It's not. We have appeals courts because our founders knew people can be mean, nasty, and ruled by mobs. The ability of judges to rule unconstitutional laws which are UNCONSTITUTIONAL has been a basic principle of our legal system since Marbury v. Madison.

To people able to see facts -- a universe less densely populated in the US than in most other Western countries -- it's pretty clear that homosexuality is not a choice. They're as intelligently designed as the rest of us, one might say. And from that it follows that you can't catch it, or get recruited into it. It just is. And when you take stock of the openly gay among us, we're a much better society for the gifts they give.

As much as we hear, over and over, like tax cuts increasing revenue and other modern-day right-wing shibboleths, that same-sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage, I've yet to hear any actual argument that shows why that is so. Nor any evidence from places where it's allowed, that "traditional" marriage has been diminished. I rejoice in the idea of it, and so does my wife of thirty-eight years.


Friday, December 19, 2008