Tag Archive | civil rights

That statue doesn’t mean what you think it means—bless your heart

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.”

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” (click to embiggen)

I wasn’t born in the South, but because of economic factors too complicated to go into at this juncture, the small town in Colorado where I was born was inhabited almost completely by recently transplanted southerners. All of my grandparents had been born in former Confederate states, as had most of the teachers at the public school, and the parents and/or grandparents of 95+ percent of my classmates at school. And even though my father’s job had us moving around to other parts of the central Rockies through most of grade school, because our family attended Southern Baptists churches, I continued to be exposed to certain myths about the Civil War that descendants of Confederate families tell themselves. I was taught that slavery wasn’t the primary issue of the war, for one. I was taught that most soldiers on the Confederate side had been involved for economic reasons, and certainly not because they believed that whites were superior to blacks, for another. And I was taught that just because the Southern Baptist church and many other institutions still advocated for the segregation of that races, that it wasn’t because they still believed that one race was superior to the other.

Each of those statements was a lie.

I was a teen-ager in the 70s when the Southern Baptist Convention finally endorsed desegregation of its churches. And it was as a teen that I learned most of what I’d been taught about the history of our denomination and the Civil War was untrue.

Historically, every state that seceded to form the Confederacy (not just Mississippi a port of whose declaration is pictured above), explicitly listed either slavery or the superiority of the white race (and some mentioned both), as their reasons for seceding. The infamous cornerstone speech delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens explained that the foundation of the new Confederate government was “the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

It can’t be any clearer than that: the primary mission of the Confederacy was the perpetuation of slavery of black people and the entrenchment (nay, glorification) of white supremacy. And Confederate soldiers did not volunteer, fight, and die by the thousands because of some need to preserve the mythical idyllic pastoral culture of the Southern plantation—most of them were too poor to own plantations, for one thing! No, typical Confederate grunt believed that if slaves were freed, working class whites would surely lose their livelihoods. The collective self-esteem of the white working class was shored up by the explicit statement that at least they weren’t slaves, so while they might have worked hard in exchange for less than their fair share of societal prosperity, at east they were better off than those black folks! The abolition of slavery was then perceived as an existential threat to the white working class. Of course they were willing to take up arms to protect slavery!

In the immediate aftermath of the war, symbols of the Confederacy weren’t displayed publicly. There were memorials erected in a few places to those who died in one battle or another, and certainly individual tombstones were occasionally emblazoned with Confederate symbols, but there wasn’t a stampede to erect statues to the leaders of the Confederacy afterward. For one thing, there wasn’t a lot of pride in having been on the losing side.

The first big rush of Confederate monuments was years after the war ended as Reconstruction officially ended and Federal troops were withdrawn in 1877. Across the former Confederacy, state legislatures started enacting Jim Crow laws, designed to make it difficult or nearly impossible for black people to exercise their right to vote and to enforce segregation of the races. And statues and monuments went up all over the South. The plaques usually talked about the bravery of the person depicted, but there were also language about the nobility of the cause for which they fought. Blacks living in those states, most of whom were former slaves, knew exactly what that cause had been, and the message the statues and monuments was clearly: “white people are in charge again, and don’t you forget it!”

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center's graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

Most of the Confederate monuments were put up in the 1910s and 1920s, coinciding with an increase in activity of the KKK and similar organizations terrorizing blacks. And the next big surge was in the 50s and 60s when civil rights organizations began having successes against some of the Jim Crow laws. The purpose of those monuments was not to honor the culture of the South, the message was still “stay in your place, black people, or else!” A great example of this resides not many miles from my home. Washington territory was never a part of the Confederacy, and the few inhabitants of the state who served in the war did so as part of the Union Army and Navy. A local family, some years after the war, donated land in what would one day become the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Grand Army of the Republic (which was an organization made up mostly of Union side Civil War Veterans) for a cemetery for Union soldiers. And that’s who was buried there. But decades later, during one of those surges of monument building, the Daughters of the Confederacy paid to have a monument to soldiers of the Confederacy erected in the cemetery. There are no Confederate soldiers buried there. Not one. And there are no soldiers’ names engraved on the massive monument. But there it is, erected in a cemetery full of Union soldiers, a monument to the so-called noble cause of the Confederacy.

Now that some communities are rethinking these monuments—many of them extremely cheap bronze statues erected during times of civil rights tensions—other people are claiming taking them down is erasing history. No, taking down these post-dated monuments in public parks and so forth isn’t erasing history, it’s erasing anti-historical propaganda. The other argument that is put forward in defense of the monuments is that “both sides deserve to be heard.” That’s BS in this case, because there aren’t two sides to racism. There aren’t two sides to bigotry. There aren’t two sides to genocide. White supremacy is not a legitimate side to any argument.

When we defeated Hitler’s armies, we didn’t turn around and erect monuments to the government that murdered millions of people in concentration camps. We destroyed their symbols. When we liberated Iraq, we tore down the statues of Saddam Hussein, we didn’t enshrine his image in an attempt to give both sides equal time. Those few Confederate monuments that list off names of people who died are fine (even if a lot of them have cringeworthy language about the cause they were fighting for). Cemeteries where actual Confederate veterans are buried of course can have symbols of the Confederacy on the tombstones and the like. But the other monuments, the ones erected years later, they don’t belong in the public square.

They belong in the dustbin of history.

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Why do I keep having to explain why we need Pride?

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride movement, be thankful you don't need one.”

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”

It’s that time of year again. The perennial question arises: “If you get a Gay Pride Parade, why can’t we have a Straight Pride Parade?” I can’t decide which is the saddest aspect of this question: 1) that they think this tired old canard is clever, 2) that they don’t understand that 99.9% of all television, movies, news, and other public discourse is geared toward affirming heterosexual life, including straight sexuality (so every day is already Straight Pride Day), or 3) that they don’t understand that Queer Pride events are about our very right to exist—an act of defiance against those who want us to be invisible or dead—not merely our right to party?

And some people seem to be most hung up about the fact that we have parades and festivals. Especially the parade seems to bug them. They are always quick to say that they don’t have a problem with gay people, but the truth is that what bothers them is us being visible. When they ask us why we have to flaunt who we are, what they are really saying is why can’t he be quiet and stay hidden and not remind them that anyone who is different than they exist.

And you know how you can prove this? Ask them if they have ever raised the same objections to St. Patrick’s Day parades. The earliest St. Patrick’s Day parades in colonial times were about Irish Nationalism, since all of Ireland was under British rule at the time. By the mid- and late 1800s the St. Patrick’s Day parades were about Irish equality in the U.S., since anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment was quite high, and yes often encoded in laws and government policy. While the anti-discrimination purpose of the parades has faded away, the parade is still about taking pride in one’s Irish heritage. If a person doesn’t object to Irish pride parades (which is exactly what St. Patrick’s Day parades are), but they do object to LGBTQ+ Pride parades, the only logical reason can be that they object to the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, and all other Queers in particular, and not the idea of a parade celebrating identities in general.

I can pretend that the question isn’t a passive-aggressive exercise of bigotry and give you some simple answers. Why do we need Pride?

None of those reasons apply to straight people. No one bullies straight children just because they are straight or gender conforming. No parents kick their straight children out on the street because they are straight. No one is targeting sports bars to kill straights because they saw a man kiss a woman somewhere. No preachers are going on the air to say that straight people deserve death. No one is passing laws saying gender conforming children aren’t allowed in public school bathrooms. No one is passing laws trying to ban straight people from adopting children or getting medical benefits for their partners. Straight people and straight people’s sexuality (ever seen a romantic comedy?) is the subject of at least 99% of all movies, television shows, et cetera. So straight people don’t need pride. But if you really think you do, no one is stopping you from organizing your own parades (though I’ve argued before that you already have those, too).

The reason queers like me have been able to stand up and be ourselves is because other queers before us were brave enough to be out and brave enough to protest when necessary. Be it staging sip-ins to protest laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly allow two homosexuals be served in the bar, or fighting back when police raided a gay club, or picketing in front of federal buildings, or boycotting industries whose spokespeople lobbied for laws to take away our rights, or protesting laws making it a crime for us to be intimate with the person of our choosing, or marching in the first ever Pride event in June 1970. Those of us who can stand up for ourselves now owe a debt to those earlier generations of queers. We can’t pay them back directly, so we have to pay it forward. We do that by standing up and being counted and being visible for all of the people (especially kids) who can’t safely be out themselves, yet.

We need Pride not because we’ve come so far, but because there is still a long, long way to go.

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!

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