Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gay Rights Are Human Rights

My favorite newspaper is The Onion because their satire typically nails truth’s core in a manner the “respectable” media simply can’t. My favorite article from them was a couple years ago about a husband and wife in Montana that divorced because they felt “threatened” by gay marriage. In their inimitable manner, The Onion illustrated just how asinine the debate over gay marriage truly is. The notion that one can feel “threatened” by gay marriage or equal protection under the law for an entire community is utterly moronic.

Whenever I read or hear about some Christian reactionary protesting the gay community’s quest for a basic right such as visitation access to their partner in a hospital, I immediately recall Shakespeare’s classic line, me thinks you doth protest too much.” As David Brock exposed in his tell all book several years ago, “Blinded by the Right: The Conscious of An Ex-Conservative,” the Republican Party is compromised of many closet homosexuals, who profit from a cottage industry of hate spewing homophobic rhetoric. Much of the Republican Party is financed by efforts to deny homosexuals health benefits, equal protection under the law as workers, and promote a culture of violence against them in the name of God. In the Republican mindset, God only loves members of their constituency and gays are on the outside. Unless of course they conceal their orientation and actively work to promote the conservative cause, as David Brock used to.

While interning at the corporate library of American Express in 2001, I came across one of their internal marketing intelligence reports that illustrate America’s hypocrisy regarding gays. American Express noted that contrary to public perception, homosexuals are mainstream contributors of society. Typically well-credentialed and earning incomes commiserate of high skilled professionals. American Express therefore wanted to develop a marketing campaign that appealed to homosexuals to earn their business without offending “middle America.” In other words, “we want your money but we don’t want to be associated with you.” Amex feared the sort of reaction that bedeviled Ford Motor Co. years later when Christian groups organized a boycott of the company for daring to promote themselves in a gay pride magazine.

A contributing factor for American Express’s ambivalence is that Democrats have not aggressively and unapologetically advocated for human rights. The time has long past for the Democrats to stop hiding underneath their covers and tell it the way it is. This entire debate needs to be reframed as defending human rights instead of promoting “the gay agenda.” Well, once and for all what the hell is the gay agenda? Too many Americans perceive it as an unruly mob riding down their suburban streets on floats, dressed in drag and chanting “we’re queer, we’re here, get used to it!” In reality the so- called “gay agenda” is about human rights and those who oppose human rights in the United States need to be put on the defensive forthwith.

That means the Democrats have to cease their hypocrisy about coveting the gay vote while simultaneously supporting “state’s rights.” Human rights are universal and too important to be left to the machinations of state and local governments. An example of this was recently reported by a Green activist Alaskan blog called, The Ester Republic. Alaska’s state legislature is currently proposing an amendment to their constitution, that would not only ban gay marriage but also not recognize any benefits for heterosexual couples not legally married. So when Democrats declare they’re personally for civil unions but willing to defer the issue to states, they’re giving carte blanche to state legislatures such as Alaska's to tread upon human rights. How is that any better than states rights advocacy that supported segregationist policies decades ago?

Even worse, deferring the matter to state governments implies there is something inherently wrong with supporting equal protection under the law for millions of gays. The Democrats are conveying a mealy mouthed rationale that isn’t fooling anyone: “if you the good people of Kansas or Wisconsin prefer to trample on your fellow citizens feel free. Understand we’re going to throw some rhetorical crumbs to the gay community because we’re pandering for their votes but you don’t need to worry that we support their agenda.” Has it worked? On a national level the Democrats continue to be pummeled on values even as there is no practical difference between them and the Republicans on the issue because both parties are deferring to the states.

Yes, the Republicans supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the Federal level but that never had a chance to pass anyway. The real action is taking place on the local level and the trend is disturbing. Once upon a time this country had “slave” states and “free” states and it appears we’re headed towards “tolerant” states and “homophobic” states under the law. That is not acceptable. It’s wonderful some mayors are presiding over gay marriages while different states have codified civil unions. But suppose your roots are in a community that doesn’t provide equal protection under the law? We're supposed to be one country.

My own attitude about this issue evolved over time. I grew up in a suburb that is best described as cookie cutter white bread land. I later attended a small liberal arts college containing a high percentage of homosexuals. Somehow, even at college I remained apathetic about homosexual politics. On an abstract level, I suppose I supported equal protection under the law for gays but on a personal level it had little impact on my life. Indeed, the only extent it mattered to me personally was that lesbians were not eligible for my pursuit! However, after college I became friends with someone I worked with at an employment agency. He described to me his traumatic journey to fit in with mainstream society when he simply wasn’t wired that way. Whenever he dated a girl in high school he found the female body unappealing. He grew up in South Carolina and was afraid to reveal his true self. The one impression from him that always remained with me was how he and his partner resembled every other couple I had ever met. When I last saw them they were considering their future plans and very much hoped to adopt children. After meeting them the issue was no longer an abstraction for me.

On a political level, Democratic politicians treat gay issues as part of a grand political conundrum to be finessed. Some Democrats are hoping to replicate the success of politicians on a local level such as Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and focus solely on meat and potato issues while adopting the cultural mores of a particular region. That only works for so long however. The Republicans will always engage the values debate on a national level and the Democrats will never outflank them on the right. Nor should they try. Straddling the center is transparent on a moral issue such as human rights and can’t be finessed. It certainly didn’t work for John Kerry in 2004 who boasted that his position on gay marriage matched that of Vice President Cheney’s.

I’m pragmatic. I accept that Democrats have to move to the cultural center on issues such as guns and religion in public life. On human rights however the Democrats need to learn that strength stems from authenticity. The party will win more respect if it doesn’t back down and unequivocally states that human rights are universal and not to be trampled upon in state capitals. Equal protection under the law on the Federal level for gays should be the unequivocal position of Democrats seeking higher office. Such a posture will demonstrate toughness and show that Democrats are a party one can count on in a foxhole. When attacked for supporting the “gay agenda,” the response is easy: “I support human rights. Why don’t you?” Anything less is immoral.

SIDEBAR: Today's posting just became a recommended diary on Daily Kos in case anyone is interested in reviewing the growing number of comments posted there. I'm gratified because I consider this issue to be vitally important and in need of maximum exposure.

12 comments:

pansophia said...

I wish there were more effort to promote the concept of human rights in this country. Human rights are being eroded every day because corporate interests own both the legal system and the media. I think gay rights should be folded into general advances in human rights, or else conservatives will continue to cry "special rights".

josephus said...

Rob, as the parent of a gay son, now partnered for about 14 years, you are absolutely right on, especially about the hyposcrisy of Democrats. (Being an Eisenhower Republican, I expect hypocrisy from today's brand of Republicans.) But, as I suggested the other day, the real cause of our problems with sexuality, however it is expressed, is ignorance — and those who want people to remain ignorant out of their desire to be able to manipulate and control. Overcoming ignorance is what Democrats could be about. I think they might be surprised at the number of people (voters) who want ignorance overcome and cast aside.

VtPoet said...

"Anything less is immoral." The immorality of the Christian Right's stand (and this is what it really is) needs to be contronted as such. This is not a matter of religion, but of a religion's lack of morality. Lets not let Christians off the hook. The *true* (by any moral standard) Christians have a responsibility to defend the humanity of a people whom their fellows have savagely judged. No one whose pursuit of happiness is in loving and cherishing, should find their freedoms reviled, judged and curtailed. This is a savage ignorance and prejudice. Just as we have recently seen various Evangelical groups speak out on matters of ecology and conservation, it is time for them to speak out on matters of sexuality.

Soon enough, the right to choose an abortion will be sent back to the alleyways and filthy back offices where hundreds of thousands of women have and will die again, along with their babies. A minority of this country has decided that these women (and their babies) deserve this death, should that be the outcome; and deserve to go to hell.

It's not a question of tolerance. We did not tolerate Slavery (though there were many Christians who held out the Bible as its ultimate justification). There are ignorant, prejudiced and bigoted people in this country and the Republicans, along with their "Christian" supporters, need to be called on it.

jay lassiter said...

equality for gays is thge single most important civil rights issue on my lifetime.
Its does my heart good to have straight allies who are committed to the cause.
to josephus: thanks for sharing the story about your family. it's nice to hear that kinda stuff.

Anchorage Activist said...

Gay marriage is a red herring. We don't need gay marriage to permit hospital visitation rights. If hospitals do not voluntarily modify such visitation procedures, we can pass legislation mandating such changes.

But the gay rights lobby risks huge backlash over this marriage issue. Anti-gay sentiment continues to grow in mainstream America over this issue. The harder the gays push for this, the more we'll resist. Mainstream America, particularly working class non-Jewish whites, have seen too many changes pushed upon us undemocratically, particularly through rogue judges who usurp legislative functions. We've seen our people stripped of good jobs through affirmative action and mass immigration, we've seen our culture and history deliberately denigrated and trashed, and we've been told we "owe" something for legacies that we had absolutely nothing to do with constructing.

You can deny it, blow us off as racists or homophobes, or you can reach out to us and work out a compromise. However, if you call working-class whites racists or homophobes, that will no longer shame us or stop us. We've heard it too often and we are now inured to it.

I suggest that gays simply take what we've given them, make it work as best as they can, and come back with the marriage bit in 20 years when attitudes may be more receptive. Or they can be stubborn, fanatic, and irredentist, and spark a backlash most assuredly leading to physical consequences. One Matthew Shepard was not only enough, it was one too many.

And here's another reason why I cannot accept "gay civil rights" in the same vein as racial civil rights: I've met several former gays, but I've never met any former blacks.

VtPoet said...

//Gay marriage is a red herring. We don't need gay marriage to permit hospital visitation rights.//


In that case, *all* marriage is a red herring. We certainly don't need marriage to have sex, have children, have visitation rights, have shared property, etc.. etc.. etc. We can just pass legislation mandating the same -- *for everyone*. Why not? This is what the Italians have done. Marriage in Italy is a secular affair addressed by the state, not the Church.

And yet (go figure) it's the religious who, for hundreds of years, have been *insisting* that marriage is a necessity for sex, for children, for rights, etc., etc...

//But the gay rights lobby risks huge backlash over this marriage issue. Anti-gay sentiment continues to grow in mainstream America over this issue.//

Sort of like what happened with Civil Rights, eh? The South still hasn't forgiven the Democrats.


//The harder the gays push for this, the more we'll resist.//

Fortunately for the rest of us, religious-based intolerance has historically given way to human rights. It's not a question of *whether* all human beings will have the same rights, but *when*.


//Mainstream America, particularly working class non-Jewish whites//

As opposed to who? Unemployed non-Jewish whites? Jewish Whites? For the most part, *all* mainstream non-Jewish "whites" are "working", but they don't all agree with you.... like me.


//have seen too many changes pushed upon us undemocratically, particularly through rogue judges who usurp legislative functions.//

America's founders, Jefferson among them, strongly forwarded the proposition that Church & State should be kept separate for the health of the nation. Jefferson, in fact, felt that "too many changes were pushed upon us undemocratically" by religion.... by self-appointed arbiters of ethics and morality in the priestly class. (Rogue religious fundamentalists are far more damaging to this nation than "rogue judges".) Religion, he felt, should be kept out of government. To that extent, judges and the legal system speak with a secular voice, meant to protect the rights of the minority from the "rogue" voices using & manipulating the majority.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties." Tho. Jefferson

For a portrait of rogue priests, check out Iran.


//We've seen our people stripped of good jobs through affirmative action and mass immigration//


So... to hell with human rights? Is this your reasoning?

//we've seen our culture and history deliberately denigrated and trashed, and we've been told we "owe" something for legacies that we had absolutely nothing to do with constructing.//


And... what has this to do with human rights?


//You can deny it, blow us off as racists or homophobes, or you can reach out to us and work out a compromise. However, if you call working-class whites racists or homophobes, that will no longer shame us or stop us. We've heard it too often and we are now inured to it.//

So... what does name-calling have to do with human rights? Since when do a people "compromise" on human rights?

//I suggest that gays simply take what we've given them, make it work as best as they can, and come back with the marriage bit in 20 years when attitudes may be more receptive. Or they can be stubborn, fanatic, and irredentist, and spark a backlash most assuredly leading to physical consequences. One Matthew Shepard was not only enough, it was one too many.//

So, you're in love with the sound of your own rhetoric? Try this on for size and tell me how you like it:

"I suggest that Americans simply take what we've given them, make it work as best as they can, and come back with the "Democracy" and "Women's Rights" and "Freedom" bit in 20 years when attitudes may be more receptive. Or they can be stubborn, fanatic, and irredentist, and spark a backlash most assuredly leading to physical consequences. One "Twin Towers" was not only enough, it was one too many.

Love, Osama Bin Laden"


//And here's another reason why I cannot accept "gay civil rights" in the same vein as racial civil rights: I've met several former gays, but I've never met any former blacks.//

Yeah, and I've met several former Christians, but I've never met any former blacks. Therefore, it stands to reason that we shouldn't allow Christians to marry.

josephus said...

I thank "anchorage activist" for so clearly demonstrating what I meant when I used the word "ignorance" in my comment. And thanks to "vtpoet" for further illustrating the point. And BTW, anchroage activist, there isn't such a thing as a "former gay" and if someone tells you they're a former gay they are lying or delusional.

VtPoet said...

//And BTW, anchroage activist, there isn't such a thing as a "former gay"//

Yeah there is. Truman Capote was a former gay. Liberace was a former gay. They are both no longer gay. "Acnhorage" is also wrong about blacks. Martin Luther King is a former black man. He is no longer a black man.

Death, you know, is the great equalizer.

//...and if someone tells you they're a former gay they are lying or delusional.//

Or channeling.

Anyway, I think what "Anchorage" means is that you don't get human rights unless you have the right skin color.

Thomas said...

I wonder what would the Republicans do if all the gay people just up and disappeared one day.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Alaska's current amendment proposal isn't aimed at gays, it's aimed at employers, or any other giver of benefits or rights, or any person owed an obligation, like a lienholder. Essentially, it says that no one can provide benefits or obligations to somebody who isn't married as recognized by the state. So single moms shouldn't be able to get benefits that are provided to married couples for their dependents. Or nonmarried heterosexual couples can't be given the same health benefits that a married couple can.

This amendment will result in so many lawsuits and stupid legal confusions that it will make a lot of money for the legal establishment. It's meddling in what one person can pay another. And it's meanspirited.

And a further point for Anchorage Activist: nobody anywhere has ever gained their rights by waiting around for somebody to "give" those rights to them. It just doesn't happen. Women had to fight to get the right to own property--and to stop BEING property (that particular struggle continues in other countries). Native Americans are STILL having to fight to get their rights accommodated. Black people are still, despite the gains of the civil rights movement and affirmative action and equal opportunity laws, stuggling against unfair banking practices, a grossly biased legal system, etc.

And gay men and women get killed or beaten up for daring to express affection for each other in public (or because they are suspected of expressing it in private). How many more people should we let get screwed out of their jobs and health and visitation benefits, fired, murdered, raped, and so on over the next two decades? How many parents prevented from raising their children? Twenty years is a long time, Mr. Activist. That's a lot of hurt people and ruined lives. And there's no guarantee that after sitting around meekly for a couple of decades while our current legislatures and religious fanatics hope they all go away that anything will change.

Oh, yeah, there was some sort of movement for gay rights back in the 20-oughts, but it went away.

Colin Cameron said...

Hi.

Here's my new blog which you're all welcome to contribute to.

http://globalsocialforum.blogspot.com/

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Markos Moulitsas (DailyKos) Opposed Gays in the Military

In the run-up to the YearlyKos annual gathering at which the Democratic candidates will be speaking, they're having a furious debate at DailyKos over a 1993 essay in which Markos Moulitsas said, "the demands and pressures of military life are incompatible with allowing integration with homosexuals."

I wonder how "progressive" Markos Moulitsas is going to explain this 1993 essay?

The Truth About Kos Blog