Posts Tagged ‘gay rights’

No Mitch Henck, Obama and Santorum don’t hate gays equally

January 8, 2012

Throughout American history, civil rights for various groups, from women to blacks to gays, have come slowly and painfully. Typically, the movement begins with a small group in favor of expanding rights, a small group that is hostile to that expansion, and a small group that is ambivalent. In time, the last group gradually shifts to support the newer vision of social justice. That is what we see in President Obama’s support of gay rights. Barney Frank explains:

“My own view is that I look at President Obama’s record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say,” Mr. Frank said. “And I don’t mean that he’s being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable.”

Liberals and conservatives alike enjoy pointing out that the president’s position on gay marriage is no different than Rick Santorum’s. Conservative(ish) Madison radio host Mitch Henck made this point over and over again the other day, feigning puzzlement at the gay community’s hostility to Santorum’s candidacy. Even if we disregarded the major gay rights initiatives Obama has championed, including domestic partnerships for federal employees, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a proactive campaign for gay rights abroad, there’s a major difference between Santorum and Obama on gay marriage.

Essentially, Obama is to gays what JFK and LBJ were to blacks in the early 60’s. He is trying to find a why to support the progressive definition of gay rights without losing an election. Santorum, very simply, is to gays what Strom Thurmond was to blacks. Not only is he viciously opposed to any recognition of gay partnerships, but he believes the law should reflect the view that homosexuality is immoral, just as Thurmond believed integration to be immoral.

Homophobia: Can the GOP ever get away from it?

December 3, 2009

How can they get away from gay bashing when so many of its grassroots base so obviously thirsts for it? How can mainstream Republican candidates make it out of the primaries without getting drawn into a “I hate fags more than you do” argument with an extremist primary opponent?

As Brad Vogel notes, the 7th Congressional district primary displays the painful process of eliminating homophobia from the GOP’s rhetoric in moderate states like Wisconsin. The following video is a very low budget campaign ad run by Dan Mielke, a far-right challenger to presumed nominee Sean Duffy, who was once a cast member on the Real World. Mielke goes after Duffy for sympathizing with the “gay agenda.”

ASM and gay rights

September 23, 2009

The Badger Herald has a point. Maybe it would be more appropriate for ASM to stay out of national affairs. And if ASM were to fully fund the travel expenses for students to participate in every worthy cause in D.C. we’d probably have to start paying six figure tuition bills.

However, the Herald editorial was, in all frankness, disturbing. The ed board invoked a series of ideological arguments against ASM’s expression of support in favor of the gay rights march in Washington.

It is easy to forget, as students at the University of Wisconsin, that what seems politically black-and-white to student leaders has many shades of gray for the average student. And while our students and broader culture mull over an issue as agonizingly complex as same-sex marriage — an issue that immediately implicates religion, culture, moral conceptions and constitutional interpretation — the members of Student Council have an ethical responsibility to withhold public statement.

Agonizingly complex? How? The agony in the issue come from cultural reluctance to accept homosexuality, not from an extraordinarily difficult legal decision. The Herald seems to imply that gay marriage is inherently dubious constitutionally, as if a rational interpretation of the U.S. Constitution could somehow lead to the conclusion that gay marriage is unconstitutional. That is only the case in Wisconsin, which the march in Washington has nothing to do with.

It is bad enough that a conservative student could easily get the impression that our university administration has formally endorsed the full gamut of same-sex rights proposed by activists, and that they are expected to follow suit.

Is it? What’s worse is the impression some students may get that the largest paper on campus is passing judgement on civil rights issues based on the cultural and religious views of members of the editorial board. Nobody who believes in the secular tradition of American government would invoke “religion” in the discussion of a civil rights matter.

(Some) Lutherans allow gay pastors

August 22, 2009

A very influential church in Wisconsin:

The national assembly of the 4.7 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, gave local congregations the authority to choose pastors or lay leaders who are in “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

This will likely be included in history books written on the gay rights movement. It is yet another signal sent by moderates throughout the Midwest that gay-bashing is a thing of the past, or rather, a thing of the South.

Wisconsin Republicans are unreasonable, and they have been for more than a generation, however, they cannot help but acknowledge that homophobia is beginning to drive voters to their opponents. In next year’s gubernatorial primary, I would be surprised if their is more than a token reference to “the defense of marriage” or whatever other euphemisms the Republican Party has used to say “God hates fags” in the past.

While southern Baptists and Pentecostals will continue to demagogue on sexuality, mainstream Protestant churches are moving away from the issue, correctly identifying it as an issue that is driving young people away from churches.

Lutherans across the nation are commenting on the decision, some optimistically, and some less so.

Why Democrats need to talk about gay marriage

August 3, 2009

This is a big day in the Badger State. The domestic partnership registry is now open and now same-sex couples are eligible to get legal recognition from the state for their relationships. Why is this an important concept in western society? Should it be? Why is there such an emphasis on getting the state to acknowledge your love for another person? Although most advocates of gay marriage or domestic partnerships will herald this day as a victory for human rights and equality, it’s nevertheless important to recognize today as a step forward in pragmatic social policy, in which the value of the family in our society has been affirmed and strengthened.

If there is one issue upon which the liberals have the moral high ground, it’s family values. Simply put, liberals support policies that foster family growth in this country. They support the right of homosexuals, who, depending on data, comprise three to ten percent of our population, to form families. The right does not. Although many on the right have retreated from the junk science claim that homosexuality is simply a lifestyle choice, they continue to paradoxically insist that gays are better off living on the outskirts of society, in certain neighborhoods of big cities, than in the American mainstream, where they can form relationships and start families.

The right now finds itself in a no-man’s land on the issue of gay rights. On one hand, it has a decreasing but still-significant constituency that believes that homosexuality is a choice and a sin that can be fought and killed. On the other hand it is under pressure to appeal to more moderate elements of the right and center, who have, for lack of better words, come to grips with the facts. While they can no longer condemn homosexuality as immoral, they must tacitly support policies that brand it as such by making vague illusions to the sanctity of marriage . The good news is that eventually the latter constituency will win out, and the Republican Party will one day have to apologize for the demagoguery of the Bush years, much like southern politicians had to make up excuses for supporting segregation after it went out of fashion.

In moderate states like Wisconsin, Republicans are quickly realizing that gay rights is not an issue they can win on anymore. Democrats should not breathe a sigh of relief. They should take the issue and hit the GOP over the head with it. Democratic leaders should emphasize the importance of encouraging marriage in our society. They should discuss the importance of encouraging monogamy and how the GOP has tacitly told gays that their relationships are not wanted – that they’d prefer to keep gays in gay bars than in families. Talk about adoption! About the thousands of orphans, who the Republicans believe are evidence of a successfully avoided abortion, but who they’d prefer to keep in orphanages than in loving families.

An appeal has already come from Wisconsin Family Acation, a right wing organization bent on making Wisconsin an artificial addition to the Bible Belt. They are claiming the domestic partnerships violates the 2006 constitutional amendment, because it mimics marriage. Based on the judge’s interpretation, the law could be ruled unconstitutional, but it shouldn’t be. Frankly, the domestic partnerships did not go that far – there are still significant legal distinctions between it and marriage. Therefore, no reasonable judge, with a technical interpretation of the law, would rule that it is a violation.

Marriage ban under attack

June 18, 2009

The storm’s a comin. In a few weeks Wisconsin’s marriage protection amendment will undergo its first legal test as the Supreme Court hears William C. McConkey v. Van Hollen in just a few weeks. The suit brought by McConkey alleges the amendment violated the constitution because it was construed in such a way as to prevent voters from voting on one distinct question at a time, as some argue Article XII of the state constitution requires.

“and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of the electors voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the constitution; provided, that if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately.”

The case will most likely be dismissed. Although most journalists who reference the case claim that the constitution forbids mixing “subjects” in amendments, the text clearly says “amendment,” not “issue” or “question.” Moreover, precedent set a 1982 case supports the right of the legislature to decide to “submit several distinct propositions to the electorate as one constitutional amendment if they relate to the same subject matter and are designed to accomplish one general purpose.” And frankly, I’m confident the Wisconsin Family Research Council supports me when I say that the general purpose of the amendment – to deny gays rights – was relatively clear.

McConkey’s argument centers on the mixing of marriage and domestic partnerships in the text of the amendment. However, he’s also challenged the ban as violating the U.S. Constitution’s “equal protection” clause in the 14th amendment. He’s got a much better chance there, and such an argument would allow non-WMC appointees to some flexibility in ruling. The 14th amendment is the best argument for gay marriage. If marriage is a legal contract recognized by the government, then it only makes sense for that legal protection be granted to every citizen.