Tag Archive | civil rights

Voting is our best weapon, but they’re trying to take that away, too

Voter ID laws don't effect everyone equally (click to embiggen)

Voter ID laws don’t effect everyone equally (click to embiggen)

Voter Suppression Laws Are Working. The real purpose of so-called Voter ID laws is not to prevent voter fraud. That’s how they sell it, but the real aim is to keep poor people, the elderly, and other marginalized people from voting. Voter fraud is a for all intents and purposes a myth: There have been just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election – three of them voted for Trump. The number of fraudulent votes cast are always such a tiny fraction of the total that they don’t effect the outcome of races. And we’ve known this for a while.

Seriously, during part of the George W. Bush administration, U.S. Attorneys were ordered to make finding voter fraud a higher priority than any other case they were investigating. And after a lot of time and effort was expended, they came back and told the administration what state officials who run elections have been saying for decades: voter fraud is virtually non-existent. The most common forms of voter fraud, which add up to far less than one percent of the votes cast, are relatives of recently deceased people casting an absentee ballot for the dearly departed. The next most common is a relative who has been appointed a legal guardian of an elderly relative believing (incorrectly) that the power of attorney they have been given over the relative with a diminished capacity gives them the legal right to fill out the relative’s ballot. And the third most common are people who are wealthy enough to own homes in multiple states registering in all of them and voting there under the mistaken notion that because they pay taxes in more than one place, they can vote.

The Republican party of my state several years ago famously spent more than a million dollars tracking down four voters who had voted illegally in the very tight governor’s race that year: all four of the convicted felons who hadn’t had their voting rights restored had voted for the Republican (because the Democratic governor had been the state’s Attorney General before, and the four felons held grudges against her).

A lot of people ask, “What’s so hard about showing your ID?” Which seems like a reasonable question to a person who enjoys a certain amount of privilege. The funny part is, that the people asking this know how hard it can be and you can prove it to them. All you have to do, is ask them whether they look forward to going to the DMV to renew their driver’s license. They will either brag about how wonderful it is now that their state allows people to renew on line, or they will tell you a horror story about being trapped at said office for a long period of time. While it is an inconvenience to someone who is able-bodied, has access to their own transportation, and has a work schedule that allows them to take the time to go stand in line, to anyone who isn’t in that situation, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

Most poor people in the U.S. work multiple jobs. They aren’t hanging around on street corners waiting for a welfare check (that’s an even bigger myth). The typical low income family has trouble finding the time to sleep and cook meals for their kids, let alone try to find enough time during one of the days a licensing office is open to go stand in line for hours. That’s if they can even get to the office. The states that have passed strict Voter ID laws also happen to be states that have fewer offices where people can get an ID. And coincidentally, they tend to only have those offices in locations convenient to affluent neighborhoods.

So you have to add many miles of travel (and the time and expense involved) to the difficulties to overcome to get an ID. That’s if the person has their own transportation. And it just so happens that the same states the have strict Voter ID laws also spend the least amount of money on public transit. Yet more barriers.

I think about the hassle my mom went through a few years ago after a move when she was trying to get her license renewed and updated with her new address. I don’t remember how many times she had to go back, but it was several. One time it was because whoever she talked to before she went in didn’t tell her the right documents she would need to prove what her new address was. I don’t remember what the problem was the next time, but then after she finally got it after her third or fourth visit, they mailed it to her and several pieces of information on it were incorrect. So she had to go back to get it corrected, and that took more than one trip.

My mom is retired, so she theoretically had the time, and she can drive herself, and the office wasn’t very far from her apartment, but she’s got a lot of health issues, and some days she just doesn’t have the stamina to sit in a non-ergonomic waiting room chair for who knows how long, right?

And then there’s the matter of the fee to get the ID. The constitution forbids poll taxes but the requirement of having state provided ID for which you are required to pay a fee is essentially a poll tax. And even if you argue that the ID serves other purposes, the fee is yet another barrier for low income and fixed-income people.

So, Voter ID laws effectively take the vote away from low income people, people with disabilities or mobility issues, and people living in certain communities. And the lawmakers who pass the laws are well aware that those populations tend to vote in favor of one party more often than the other. They want to take that vote away.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it: Donate to and/or Volunteer with Spread The Vote (spreadthevote.org). Spread The Vote helps people get their required ID. They provide volunteers to help people collect the required documents, transportation to the apply for their ID, assistance with fees, and so forth.

If you want to help with the fight at a legislative and legal level, consider donating to Project Vote (projectvote.org). Project Vote is working to improve voter registration processes and remove the barriers to make it difficult for people to get registered and to vote.

Card-carrying member of the ACLU, and proud of it!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-25-17-pmIt’s George H.W. Bush’s fault. During the 1988 Presidential Debates, then-Vice President Bush sneered at his opponent, Gov. Mike Dukakis, for being a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Bush claimed that the ACLU was out to make child pornography legal as well as make it legal for children to see X-rated movies. Both of those claims were, at best, distortions of actual ACLU goals (the ACLU has long opposed a rating system used in the U.S. because the system is secretive, favors large studios over independent ones, and sometimes serves as a form of de facto censorship, for example), but it almost certainly shored up support from Republican-leaning voters. But the other thing that happened was that, in the days after the debate, tens of thousands of people called the ACLU and asked what it took to become a card-carrying member.

And then they donated and joined.

I wish I could say I was one of them. I didn’t become a member for a few more months. I was in the process of transitioning from college to working full time, and my wife was still a full-time university student (yes, I used to be married to a member of the opposite sex; it’s a long story). And in 1988 you couldn’t just google the ACLU and in a few clicks sign up. It was after the election, and after I got a better job, so it was sometime in the spring of 1989 that we signed up as members.

I’ve been a proud member ever since.

When school districts try to discriminate against queer students, it’s the ACLU that sends lawyers to sue the school and get kids their rights. When peaceful protesters are arrested, it’s the ACLU that sends in lawyers to get the protestors out of jail, to defend against the bogus charges, and sue the appropriate government officials to try to prevent future violations. When high school students are unconstitutionally strip searched by school officials, it’s the ACLU that sues the school district. When states enact unconstitutional voter suppression laws, it’s the ACLU that sues and often gets the measures overturned. When federal authorities tried to hide documents about torture progams, it was the ACLU that sued to get the documents brought to light so that citizens and legislators could demand changes. When states fail to provide required medical and mental health treatments to people in state custody, it’s the ACLI that sues to get people the basic care they are guaranteed under the law. And as everyone saw this weekend, when a narcissistic megalomaniac issues an unconstitutional executive order resulting in people being illegally detained or deported, it’s the ACLU that goes to court for stays to try to halt the illegal actions, and send lawyers to try to meet with detainees to help them.

I could go on and on.

If you believe in liberty; if you believe the Constitution guarantees that everyone is equal before the law; if you believe that everyone deserves legal representation and the full protection of the law; then the ACLU deserves your support.

gotyourbackOh, and if you’d like one of those spiffy blue pocket Constitutions to keep on your person in case you need to assert your rights (or just correct a douche bro who doesn’t understand what the Constitution actually says), the ACLU sells them in very affordable 10-packs. Because you want to pass out extras to your friends and loved ones. And if, like me, you have a lot of freedom-loving friends who are also bibliophiles, you might want to pick up some Bill of Rights bookmarks. Not to mention stickers and other things.

If you can, support the ACLU!

Myths about bigotry: respectful disagreement

“Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed in the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negor's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr, Letter From Birmingham City Jail (1963)

Quote from Martin Luther King Jr, Letter From Birmingham City Jail, 1963 (click to embiggen)

I always feel a little nervous posting anything on Martin Luther King Jr Day, as I don’t want to co-opt another marginalized community’s hero, day, or message. Especially after seeing several people of color on my various social media feeds caution against talking rather than listening. But during his life, King said more than once that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and I believe we have entered a very dark time in our nation’s history where all of us who believe in equality for everyone need to stand together. So while I may be a white guy, as a queer person I have some experience with oppression and believe that I have a responsibility to use whatever gifts, privilege, and platform I have to promote justice.

A lot of people, not just the moderates that Dr. King talked about in that quote from Letter From Birmingham City Jail, rationalize and deny the existence of bigotry by making appeals to certain fallacies. Academically, we often state those myths as five fallacies:

  • Individualistic Fallacy: racism/homophobia/antisemiticism/etc is perceived as being only interpersonal, ignoring the systemic structural realities (such as underfunded schools)
  • Legalistic Fallacy: the belief that abolishing racist/homophobic/religious laws automatically ends the bigotry.
  • Tokenistic Fallacy: the inference that the presence of members of the marginalized class in influential positions in society proves that all bigotry has ended.
  • Ahistoric Fallacy: the belief that the denial of basic rights in the past has no lasting effect on subsequent generations (“but slavery is over!”).
  • Fixed Fallacy: assumes there is one and only one kind of discrimination, not recognizing new forms that emerge in context of societal and legal changes.

There’s an academic paper that explains all of this: WHAT IS RACIAL DOMINATION?, by Matthew Desmond & Mustafa Emirbayer of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, if you want to get into it. It’s rather long and involved, but if you open the PDF at the link and search for Five Fallacies you can jump right to their discussion of the fallacies. The paper is focused on racism, but the fallacies apply to all kinds of bigotry.

All of those fallacies contribute to that preference for an absence of tension rather than a passion for justice that Dr. King talked about. It’s the classic “Can’t You Get Past it/Live and Let Live Fallacy.” Or maybe another name could be the “Respectful Disagreement Fallacy.” It’s the belief that as long as a person isn’t physically attacking you right this moment, and is framing their critiques in polite-sounding language, than it can’t possibly be racist/homophobic/antisemitic/misogynist/etc.

So the bigot talks in dog whistles (coded language that doesn’t sound overtly like bigotry to people who don’t know the code), claims to respect or even feel love for the community targeted by their language, and if we point out that they are being racist or misogynist or antisemetic or homophobic, we’re the ones causing a problem. And people who think of themselves as moderate or enlightened turn on us. They don’t just look the other way from the bigotry and bigoted policies that the community is enduring, they actually enable it.

Which means they’re part of the problem. They’re not being neutral. They’re not seeing things from both sides. They’re not being nuanced. They’re oppressing other people.

I wish there was a simple solution. I wish I had some words of wisdom. Instead, I’m just stuck with this regrettable conclusion, having to try to educate people who don’t think they’re being an enemy.

“Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed in the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr, Letter From Birmingham City Jail (1963)

Imagining hope

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that ordinarily my optimism is almost pathological. I knew when I wrote yesterday’s post that I was in the pit of despair. Or, as another friend described it, metaphorically in a fetal position.

This is not a post where I’m going to tell you I’m getting over it.

I’m still more than worried, and it isn’t idle anxiety. Trump’s running mate is a man who signed a so-called Religious Freedom bill when he was governor of Indiana that explicitly gave people and corporations the right to refuse to obey laws that conflicted with their religious beliefs. That means that an employer can decide not to offer health coverage to same sex partners of their employees. That means an employer can literally fire someone explicitly because they are queer and the employee can’t sue and that state can’t otherwise penalize the company.

Last year, before any judges appointed by someone like Trump were on the Supreme Court, the Court ruled that a private company could refuse to pay for birth control as part of the health care benefits for its married employees if it cited religious objections. And Trump has promised to appoint judges recommended by an anti-gay and anti-abortion group. And he has an open seat to fill.

Other Republicans have been itching to pass a law like the Indiana Religious Freedom law, but they haven’t because they knew Democrats in the Senate would try to derail it, but more importantly that Obama would veto it. But Obama is only going to be there for a couple of more months. So they can pass such a law, and suddenly people like me start losing our rights.

So when someone tells you that we’re fearmongering and gay marriage isn’t going to go away, tell them they aren’t paying attention. Maybe the marriage equality ruling isn’t going to be reversed right away, but if people, including government employees, corporations, and so forth, are free to discriminate (free to withhold legal rights, et cetera) against queer people who have gotten married under the ruling, the ruling stops meaning anything.

Texas has already tried to assert that the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t obligate them to extend health benefits to the spouses and children of same sex couples who have gotten married. Think about what states like that are going to do when the U.S. Justice Department is headed by Rudy Guillianni instead of someone appointed by a pro-equality President.

And this is just one of the millions of ways that a Trump administration can make life hell for queer people. Or people who want or need birth control (some of the people in Trump’s transition team have, in previous parts of the political career, argued that straight married people shouldn’t have a right to birth control). Or women who file sexual harassment claims. Or…

So there are very good reasons for a lot of us to be scared.

I said yesterday that I plan to fight, and I do. And I know a lot of other people plan to, too. But it isn’t going to be easy. We’re going to be suffering the death of a thousand cuts, all of us will be, and at the same time trying to defend each other.

I know that I’m going to find my hope again. I’m getting by right now by imagining what it will feel like to have hope back. I know how it feels to be confident in the justice of my cause. I know how it feels to be determined not to back down. I know how it feels to be righteously outraged at injustice. I know how it feels to feel strong enough to stand up. And I got through a day of going into work and trying to act as if everything is fine by imagining that I was that person feeling those things.

It really does feel as if I’m a character in one of my own stories, at the moment. I’m imagining how a character who feels these things would act, and then trying to do it. It’s a little bit surreal.

I know that I’ll get past the point of faking it. I know that I will start to feel able to step up and face the opposition. I’m just not emotionally there, yet. And I’m not the only one.

I don’t need to watch the debate, I know which candidate thinks I have a right to exist, and which doesn’t

“Gay people are born into, and belong to, every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know it or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.” —Hillary Clinton

“Gay people are born into, and belong to, every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know it or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.” —Hillary Clinton

I’ve had a few people ping me to ask if I’m going to watch the first official debate between Hillary Clinton and Trump. Short answer: no. Trump has vowed to appoint to the federal bench only judges approved by the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation doesn’t just oppose gay marriage, they oppose gay rights of all levels, and still regularly call for overturned the Supreme Court decision that blocked anti-sodomy laws. They don’t just want to end my marriage, they want it to be literally illegal for someone to be queer. And if you happen to be straight or otherwise don’t consider yourself queer: they also think it should be illegal for straight unmarried people to have sex. They aren’t just anti-abortion, they think that it should be illegal for straight people, married or not, to buy birth control.

Whether you believe that a seat is going to open up on the Supreme Court in the next four years (and statistically it is extremely likely it will), there are hundreds of open appointments at lower levels of the federal judiciary that haven’t been filled because the Republicans in the Senate resist confirming anyone Obama nominates for just about anything. If Trump is elected, judges who think that being gay should be illegal (and a whole lot worse) will be appointed. The damage that alone will do to everyone’s civil rights is frightening to contemplate.

I wrote before that Hillary wasn’t my first choice this time. But you know what, she was my second choice, both this time and in 2008. Because (among other things) I remember back in the 1990s when she and her husband made Republican heads explode simply by saying that gay people deserve any legal rights at all. I hear a lot of people still giving her grief for not coming around on marriage equality until 2013, completely unaware of how far ahead of the rest of the Democratic party both she and her husband had been on the matter of gay rights for more than two decades before that. And really, if we insist on punishing politicians who were slow to come around on some of our issues, what incentive do any of them have to change their minds when we advocate for our needs?

And don’t start spouting stuff off about the third party candidates. Johnson, the Libertarian, doesn’t believe in anti-discrimination laws. Like most libertarians, he says discrimination is wrong, but he supports policies that let it happen. Johnson also wants to repeal the minimum wage. He wants to not just rollback the Affordable Health Care Act, but also eliminate Medicare. I could go on, but particularly if you were a Bernie Sanders supporter, it is criminally stupid for you to support Johnson, since literally every single one of his specific policy proposals are the exact opposite of Bernie’s. Every one.

I’ve written before about the many reasons not to support Stein. The quick answer is, she doesn’t have consistent policies, half of her policies are anti-science, and she doesn’t have the experience or political resources to put any of her polices in place if she did get elected. The truth is she’s not a serious candidate, she’s a troll.

Mathematically, voting for Johnson or Stein is exactly the same as voting for Trump. It isn’t a protest, it’s putting a bullet in the head of a lot of your fellow citizen. Also, voting for third parties in our system betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of coalitions and the electoral system.

But you don’t just have to take my word for it:

i will not be watching the debate tonight:

Virtually every election I’ve ever witnessed has been some kind of referendum on whether I’m a legal person – ever done ground work, going door to door, arguing with people why they shouldn’t vote to make you illegal? I have, and it sucks – and in that way, this election is no different.

The hate is just a lot more broadly aimed this time.

So I’m not watching the debate tonight. It’s bad enough being reminded every two to four years that about half the country is just fine voting to lock me up. This whole thing is yet another referendum on my existence, so why the fuck would I subject myself to that?

Bernie Sanders: ‘This is not the time for a protest vote’

This is time to elect Hillary Clinton and then work after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.

Hillary Clinton Was Liberal. Hillary Clinton Is Liberal.

According to an analysis of roll call votes by Voteview, Clinton’s record was more liberal than 70 percent of Democrats in her final term in the Senate. She was more liberal than 85 percent of all members. Her 2008 rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama, was nearby with a record more liberal than 82 percent of all members — he was not more liberal than Clinton.

Which part of ‘love thy neighbor’ confuses you?

Billboard that went up in Jacksonville, Mississippi this week after the new anti-LGBT law was signed. “Guys, I said I hate figs and to love thy neighbor.”

Billboard that went up in Jacksonville, Mississippi this week after the new anti-LGBT law was signed. “Guys, I said I hate figs and to love thy neighbor.” (click to embiggen)

Lots of us have been predicting that there would be many, many more of these so-called “religious freedom” laws passed with an intent to discriminate against queer people, and that there would be more of the anti-trans bathroom bills passed in states since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Some people thought that the swift backlash from both regular citizens and the business community which prompted the repeal of the Illinois law and then a similar Arizona law’s governor’s veto last year would put a damper on the anti-gay legislation fervor. I was not one of the latter. I knew that the bigots would keep doing this for years to come. The war for equality isn’t over. We’ve made a few touchdowns, we’ve stymied a few of the other side’s scoring drives, but there is a lot of struggle still ahead.

Mississippi’s governor signed a bill this week that is pretty awful. It protects any individual, business, or organization (including hospitals) that want to refuse service to gay people due to a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that sexual relations should take place only inside such marriages, and that the terms male or female refer to individuals’ immutable biological sex. So it specifies which “religious beliefs” are protected. That is not religious freedom, that is religious imposition. That’s not protecting someone’s right to a belief, that is forcing a very specific set of so-called religious convictions upon everyone.

Yes, the law later has specific language that says that it shouldn’t be construed to imply that anyone can be refused emergency medical treatment, but it will be construed that way, and people will die. We’ve had situations like this before. A lesbian couple was vacationing in Florida some years ago, one member of the couple was in an accident, her partner had their medical power of attorney paperwork, but was refused admittance to the hospital room, was not allowed to give consent to her partner’s medical treatment, and the partner died while the hospital was trying to track down a blood relative. There was no legal basis for the hospital to refuse the power of attorney. Personnel at the hospital refused because they thought that Florida’s ban on same sex marriage invalidated the power of attorney (it did not). Florida courts subsequently ruled that the hospital had been wrong to do that under the law, however they also ruled that the hospital and employees weren’t liable for the death or any sanctions, fines, or lawsuit because they had thought they were acting in good faith.

And that is part of the reason that these “religious freedom” laws are so dangerous. People will decide that their bias is more important than the life of a “sinner”—and other people will be harmed and sometimes even die. Often the person who let them die will get off despite those caveats in the law because it will be decided that they were acting in good faith.

The idea that the law will protect you if you discriminate against certain types of people will encourage people to take it further. As Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his famous dissent of the Supreme Court case that upheld sodomy laws, the mere existence of such laws, even when it was shown that they were largely unenforced, creates the notion that certain types of people are less than human. The existence of even a narrowly-focused law used to justify a plethora of other types of discrimination against people who the law is aimed at. A few years later, when the Supreme Court reversed that ruling and invalidation all sodomy laws, Justice Kennedy quoted Stevens’ earlier dissent in explaining the reason the court had changed course.

The most galling part of all of this is that these people are claiming to be following Jesus when the propose withholding medical care from queer people,  refusing to sell food to queer people, refusing the rent to queer people, et cetera. No matter how many times I read the gospels—especially the Sermon on the Mount—I can’t find anything that Jesus said that could be construed to condone such action, let alone command it! In fact, Jesus said that if someone sues you for the shirt off your back, give them your shirt and your coat, also. He doesn’t say change the law so you can shun and be cruel to some of your neighbors and be immune to being sued or legally punished for any of the consequences thereof!

This is why people are fleeing the churches, particularly young people. These folks have redefined Christianity, replacing Jesus’s teachings with condemnation of gay people. You can ignore any and all of Jesus’s actual commandments, but if you’re anti-gay enough you’ll be the hero of the Christian Right.

When laws like this are enacted, they don’t just hurt the people who get the services denied. They scare other people. They send a message that people who don’t conform to one group’s religious precepts are less than human, that they are not safe, that they cannot count on the police to help them if crimes are committed against them, that they aren’t welcome, that they won’t be treated fairly before the law. And that’s why businesses speak out against these laws. It isn’t because they are beholden to some mythic ally power queer lobbying force. It’s because employees—not just queer employees—don’t feel safe being sent to those states to work.

The truth is, no one should feel safe in places that have laws like this. Because the law gives judgmental people a license to punish anyone they think might be queer, or might be supportive of queer people. That makes these laws a form of terrorism—they are intended to scare queer people back into the closet, and with that stuff about biological sex and sex outside of marriage, all sorts of other people to lie and hide and pretend to be something they aren’t—and I can’t find any definition of love that condones that.

Marriage legal for everyone, everywhere

11175054_3836322863643_6839804740260912550_nThe Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on four cases involving Marriage Equality. Over the last year, the Court has declined to hear appeals of cases where a federal court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. These four cases are ones in which the lower courts have struck down some aspect of a state ban, and an appellate court has stayed or overruled the lower court ruling. It’s not a done deal by any means, but it seems clear that a majority of the court is at least willing to let marriage equality become the law of the land. My own worry is not that the court won’t rule that gays have a right to marry, but rather that the less enthusiastic justices will force a very narrow ruling that would ultimately allow people to get fired from their jobs if they marry, businesses to refuse to sell to gay people, and so on.

Anyway, they will hear arguments today, but the ruling is not likely to be announced until nearly the end of the term, in June. Still, people are rallying in Washington, D.C., and there are local rallies happening around the country today.

But here are two nice videos that sum up our side of things:

Nobody’s Memories – PFLAG Canada:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

It’s Time for the Freedom to Marry:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Weekend Update: 4/18/2015

Pastor Manning and his church are at it again with  weird anti-gay messages on their church sign. (Click to embiggen)

Pastor Manning and his church are at it again with weird anti-gay messages on their church sign. (Click to embiggen)

There have been further developments of some of the stories I posted about in yesterday’s Friday Links (Hugos and movies edition), as well as some things I would have included if I had seen them earlier.

Eric Flint delivers Some comments on the Hugos and other SF awards. Specifically explaining why any system of awards drifts into a subset of any large set of works. It’s a really good read if just for the information about some of the giants in the field who never won awards.

The Family Research Council is once again calling for weeks of fasting and praying to save America from the evil of homosexuality (they say it’s about other things, but just take a look at the list of prayer topics in the article). As part of this they have been publishing a suggested prayer each day. After they published one earlier this week that seemed to be suggesting that gay people raising children should be forcibly drowned, news sites started publishing stories about the other awful anti-gay things said in all of the published prayers. Suddenly, FRC has decided that the prayers needed “editing” and removed them. Fortunately, someone took screen captures each day as they were published: WHOA: FRC ‘reediting’ all those heinous fasting-for-marriage prayers I’ve been showing you!

It’s not just national anti-gay rights activists who are suddenly deleting things they were saying quite opening just a few weeks ago. The Sad Puppies (a.k.a. the anti-gay, racist, misogynist GamerGate allies who are trying to screw up science fiction awards) are suddenly trying to erase hateful things they posted, sometimes just weeks ago. Fortunately there’s Google Cache, Wayback Machine, and screen captures: since some puppies are deleting things.

As Predicted, Antigay Mechanic Says He’s Received Death Threats, Calls For Support From Fellow Christians.

The National Organization of Marriage’s (NOM) email money begs have started claiming they may have to cancel some of the buses to bring people to D.C. for this year’s anti-gay “march for marriage.” Jeremy Hooper as Good As You thinks that NOM pre-spins its likely low #March4Marriage attendance. Given how they tried to explain away the low turn-out last year, I bet he’s right.

I can’t not share these great stories about parents supporting their kids: Doubts Removed: The Day My Son’s Breasts Were Surgically Taken Off. Which lets me end this update on a positive note!

Actions speak louder than words

Credit: Associated Press)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin in a file photo from 1956.

Not wanting to co-opt another community’s struggle, I don’t usually write anything about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But since certain other people with far less right than I do have, and have done so as a way to shore up their own anti-gay agenda, I feel an obligation to make a couple of observations.

Bayard Rustin is probably most famous as the man who handled all the organizational details of Dr. King’s 1963 March On Washington. Rustin took care of everything from the transportation, to making sure there were enough porta potties for the crowd, to insuring that no one brought weapons and the march stayed nonviolent, to convincing Dr. King that King’s speech should the be at the very end of the program. Rustin was convinced that the “I Have a Dream” message that King had been writing and rehearsing would work best as the dramatic crescendo at the end of the day, rather than as an opening whose sentiment might be overshadowed and diluted by other speakers and performances afterward.

And Bayard Rustin was gay. He was not closeted and secretly gay—Bayard Rustin was openly gay in an era far more homophobic than today. Despite having been arrested, beaten, and several times fired for being homosexual, Rustin remained open and candid about his sexuality. Throughout the years of their association, Dr. King was frequently urged (and begged and ordered) to push Rustin out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to distance himself from Rustin and denounce him as a “pervert” and “immoral influence.” Again and again, Dr. King refused to do that, and continued to rely on both Rustin’s organizational and debate skills.

Dr. King was assassinated before the Stonewall Riots, therefore before the modern gay rights movement began to be noticed by the press and the public at large. We don’t know what he might have said or done at that time. We do know that he fought as much against factionalism within his own movement as the enemies without, trying to keep everyone focused on the cause of racial equality and economic equality. As more than one historian or political scientists have pointed out, if he had been anti-gay, there would surely have been a sermon delivered on the topic, or some negative comments about Rustin or other homosexuals he met among the hours and hours of FBI wiretap tapes.

And there isn’t.

Nor is there any indication he ever asked Rustin to try to hide his sexuality.

Rustin had deep religious convictions about the importance of nonviolently fighting against racial and economic equality. While he was open about his sexuality, he didn’t start publicly fighting for gay rights until the 1970s, when he referred to the treatment of gays and lesbians as the new barometer for measuring social justice.

And he wasn’t the only one.

“If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you do not have the same rights as other Americans, you cannot marry, …you still face discrimination in the workplace, and in our armed forces. For a nation that prides itself on liberty, justice and equality for all, this is totally unacceptable.” — Yolanda Denise King, Dr. King’s eldest daughter.

Today, several white leaders of anti-gay organizations have tried to wrap their hatred in King’s legacy. They do this by quoting King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, a rabid anti-abortion and anti-gay rights activist. I suppose it is petty of me to point out that the supposedly pro-traditional marriage, pro-life Alveda King has been divorced three times, had two abortions, and the only reason she didn’t have a third abortion is that she could not convince her father or grandfather to pay for it, and that she didn’t appear to become anti-abortion until she started being a paid speaker for various archconservative groups.

But I think Dr. King’s widow might have more accurate insight into Dr. King’s beliefs:

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. … But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.” — Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow.

Bayard Rustin and his long time partner, Walter Naegle.

Bayard Rustin and his long time partner, Walter Naegle.

To me, the real answer comes back to Bayard Rustin. Dr. King was pressured to distance himself from Rustin, to disavow him, to remove him from leadership positions within King’s organizations. When, before the March On Washington, a U.S. Senator read the full police report about Rustin’s arrest in 1953 into the Congressional Record, including Rustin’s guilty plea to the sodomy charge, along with statements from Rustin’s FBI file in admitting several times to being a homosexual, virtually no one would have faulted Dr. King if he had removed Rustin from his position. In fact, the then-president of the NAACP begged Dr. King to, at the very least, not publicly acknowledge Rustin’s role in organizing the march.

Dr. King did none of those things. When Life magazine interviewed King about the March, Dr. King credited Rustin and A. Philip Randolph as the organizers, which led to Ruston and Randolph appearing on the cover photograph of the magazine.

I could include many more quotes from members of Dr. King’s family and other leaders of the movement, but I think Dr. King’s actions toward Rustin tell the story.

Premiere Imagined Injury Firm

I was going to write about all the people wailing about the harm that marriage equality is causing the world, such as an email from the National Organization for Marriage which asked for donations eight times. Eight pleas (each with a link to the donate button back on their web page!) in a single email message!

But then Mark Fiore posted this funny video that says it better than I could:

And while I’m linking, PolitiFact takes a look at the other claim being thrown around by the anti-gay folks: Wedding vendors have been forced to participate in same-sex marriages under threat or even jail, Family Research Council president says.

The concept of businesses as public accommodations which cannot discriminate against customers has been around for a lot longer than the gay marriage debate—the 1964 Civil Rights Act, for instance. If you are open to the public and offering goods and services for sale, you can’t discriminate. To a lot of people this sounds odd, until you frame it this way:

Imagine a grocery store owner in a small rural community, it’s the only grocery store for miles. Should that grocery store owner be able to refuse to sell food to someone because of his personal beliefs? “No Lutherans Allowed,” for instance?

You buy a business license, you hang your sign out, you open your doors (accessed by public roads and public sidewalks), and you say, “Come in and buy!” Then you have to open those doors to everyone who will pay, behave civilly, and so on. It doesn’t matter if you’re a grocery store, or a restaurant, or a bakery, or a flower shop. You have offered your merchandise to the general public, you have to allow the general public to buy them.

It’s really that simple.

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