We Owe It All to Dear Leader

by Stephen H. Miller on July 21, 2014

The Human Rights Campaign’s blogging on President Obama’s long-awaited executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees focuses more on celebrating Obama than on heralding a step forward by LGBT Americans. The posting, With Executive Order, Obama Takes His Place in History, tells us:

“The order, profoundly consequential in its own right, dramatically underscores President Obama’s own LGBT legacy of achievement, unmatched in history … Viewed in full, President Obama’s legacy of achievement is unmatched in history…including the largest conferral of rights in history to LGBT people via the implementation of the Windsor decision….”

There’s also a link “for more information on President Obama’s six-year record of accomplishment.”

Here’s how I would have put it: “Finally, after 5-plus years of ignoring pleas from a voting bloc that has disproportionately supplied funds, labor and votes to his party, President Obama ordered that contractors working for the federal government his administration oversees can’t discriminate against LGBT workers. If organizations claiming to be leading the fight for LGBT equality had exerted more pressure instead of acting as supplicant lapdogs, it would have happened much sooner….”



Numbers Racket

by Stephen H. Miller on July 20, 2014

A report last week from the Department of Health & Human Services/Centers for Disease Control finds that only 1.6% of Americans identify as gay or lesbian and 0.7% identify as bisexual, meaning just 2.3% of the population identifies as LGB (T’s were not included). The findings are based on data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey.

In past years, such low numbers would result in considerable pushback from LGBT activists, who have long bandied about the figure of 10% for gay America, citing Kinsey’s research in the 1940s, to the consternation of social conservatives. Others have put the number at around 5%, and indeed exit polling typically places the self-identified LGB vote around that figure.

Maybe because the new stats come from the Obama administration, the response has been…crickets. Or maybe with victories coming so quickly on marriage equality and given Obama’s new executive order on nondiscrimination among federal contractors, the numbers game just isn’t that important.

But 1.6% seems way out of whack with everyday experience, even with the expectation that gay people gravitate to larger cities in big numbers. Are people lying to government survey takers? Or to themselves despite their sexual behavior? And do we in fact go to the polls in numbers far out of proportion with Americans overall? Perhaps better analysis will be forthcoming.


Understanding Today’s Religious Right

by Stephen H. Miller on July 14, 2014

A look at shifts occurring within the religious right, via National Journal. The gist: the religious right is experiencing “a generational shift from offense to defense,” from using government power to impose “family values” to seeking to carve out a sphere of “religious liberty” for religious dissenters:

The Hobby Lobby case is in many ways a model for the new strategy being pursued by the Religious Right. It represents a way to engage in politics that is less aggressive than the tactics of the previous generation of believers. Back then, the key phrase was “family values”; now, it is “religious liberty.” You see it everywhere—from contraception court cases to legislation to think-tank conferences.

This shift in rhetoric has moved the Religious Right from offense to defense in the culture wars, as Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins put it last year. The main aim, it seems, is not to oppose contraception or gay marriage but to be left alone: to extract a promise that religious conservatives will not have to photograph a gay wedding or pay for someone else’s birth control. It is a version of the Religious Right that even the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—a historical rival for influence within the GOP—can get behind.

While some of us believe religious conservatives do, in fact, have a right to the exercise of their religion without undo state interference, others believe that allowing any such deviation is anathema.

More. Via Reason: “Libertarians are the ones who tend to both support same-sex marriage and people’s right not to be compelled to work in service of one; to want to get both our bosses and the government out of birth control decisions; and to take free speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and personal autonomy very seriously.”

Conservatives and progressives…not so much.

Furthermore. Michelangelo Signorile’s “ENDA Nightmare“—ENDA passes the House attached to another year-end bill with GOP support and becomes law. Yesterday’s must-pass legislation becomes today’s “dangerous religious exemption” because it doesn’t allow the state to regulate hiring decisions at religious organizations.

Worth repeating. Seriously? Model trains?


Portentous Prognostication

by Stephen H. Miller on July 13, 2014

Political predictions rarely hit the nail on the head. But journalists love to make them, and we keep reading them. Here’s one take on a possible scenario for the 2016 presidential election, with Republicans driving themselves to defeat by clinging bitterly to their opposition to gay marriage (along, presumable, with their guns and religion), via the Washington Post. I don’t think it will happen this way, but you never know.

More. A positive note—the Texas GOP’s looney gay-bashing helped lose Dallas the 2016 Republican Convention.

Furthermore. Another countertrend: working to bring the GOP around. As National Journal reports:

Similarly, rather than talking about gay marriage, strategists are guiding Republicans to talk about the freedom to marry, and they cast the question in familiar conservative terms about the government’s role in people’s private lives.

“Use freedom language, why it’s important for families, why it’s inappropriate for the government to treat people differently and treating gay people as taxpayers,” said one GOP gay-rights lobbyist.

And beyond changes to the rhetorical approach, the LGBT-rights community is bringing cash to the effort.

These efforts won’t change things tomorrow, but could do so down the road. As Darwin advised the animals, evolve or die.

Plus, National Journal on the importance of Carl DeMaio’s run.


The ENDA Brouhahah, Again

by Stephen H. Miller on July 9, 2014

Major LGBT rights and progressives groups, including Lambda Legal and the ACLU, have withdrawn their support for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that seeks to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT workers in the private sector, because ENDA includes a broad exemption for religious organizations, including religiously affiliated hospitals and charities, for instance. The act passed the Senate last year, when it was supported by these same groups, despite the religious exemption.

But after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, finding that closely held businesses run by their owners on religious principles (but not necessarily religiously affiliated) need not be forced to purchase certain contraceptives for their workers, the left has found an issue.

ENDA, of course, appears to have no chance of being brought up in the GOP House, and the House is going to stay GOP controlled for the foreseeable future. So much of this is about ensuring that the president’s upcoming executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors doesn’t provide a religious exemption, except perhaps to houses of worship, and some would probably not want to see even that.

I don’t think business owners should be forced by the state to violate their religious consciences, and I am even more wary of the state telling religious organizations who they can hire, fire, or promote to leadership. But the issue becomes clouded when these organizations accept taxpayer money to serve the state.

Nevertheless religious organizations, or even private companies that can demonstrate they are run on religious principles, represent a tiny fraction of the workplace. And much of this controversy feels manufactured with the aim of inducing a certain amount of politically useful hysteria on the left.

More. Some politicos tell me that, at least before this latest contretemps, ENDA had enough GOP support in the House to pass if the leadership would allow it to be brought up for a vote. But that’s conditioned on a broad exemption for religiously affiliated organizations. So apart from pressuring Obama not to provide a meaningful religious exemption in his executive order, another result of the LGBT and progressive groups withdrawing their support for ENDA, as currently conceived, is to ensure that it has no chance of passing the House even if brought forward, thus keeping the issue of a “pure” ENDA alive for another round of Democratic electioneering and fundraising.

ENDA, it should be noted, languished in committee when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama presidency (2009-10), even as it appeared Republicans were likely to retake the House in the November 2010 midterm election, during which the party appealed to gay voters for funds and support (wait for it) in order to pass ENDA in the next Congress. Yes, kiddies, it’s all about politics and mobilizing the base, and always has been.

Furthermore. As the Washington Post article linked to above reports, the Human Rights Campaign is the outlier among LGBT groups, maintaining its support for a passable ENDA with a religious exemption clause. HRC very much wants, eventually, to claim a victory for ENDA, its top legislative agenda item. Other LGBT groups with rival fundraising operations, however, don’t see their interests aligned with passage anytime soon.


Polarization, and Beyond

by Stephen H. Miller on July 7, 2014

The new Pew Research Center report on political polarization has some interesting findings. Among them:

Young Outsiders lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party; in fact they tend to dislike both political parties. On many issues, from their support for environmental regulation to their liberal views on social issues, they diverge from traditional GOP orthodoxy. Yet in their support for limited government, Young Outsiders are firmly in the Republicans’ camp.


The Next Generation Left are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But they have reservations about the cost of social programs. And while most of the Next Generation Left support affirmative action, they decisively reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason why many blacks are unable to get ahead.

These are groups not firmly in either the liberal/left or conservative/right camps, but likely to support equal government treated of LGBT people—if they’re not told doing so requires them to sign up for the full progressive government-expansion agenda and the identity politics of perpetual victimization. And let’s hope they don’t stumble across the gay press.

More. Pew charts partisan shifts over the past decade.


Stereotypes, or Eye of the Beholder

by Stephen H. Miller on July 2, 2014

There’s a cultural divide, apparently, about whether sitcom representations of gay men tend to be offensive, campy stereotypes, and it’s gained notice by the New York Times.

As for me, the portrayal of Cam on “Modern Family,” played by straight actor Eric Stonestreet, has never rung true, whereas Kurt on “Glee,” played by openly gay Chris Colfer, has always been convincingly authentic.


A Good Day for Liberty

by Stephen H. Miller on June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court strikes a few blows for liberty, although LGBT progressives won’t see it that way.

In the long-awaited Hobby Lobby ruling, the court found closely held for-profit companies are not required to pay for employees’ contraceptives (specifically abortifacients) if their owners have religious objections:

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito the court held that as applied to closely held corporations the Health and Human Services regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. … Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion.

The decision is a victory for the Green family that owns the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and the Hahns who own Conestoga, a cabinet making company, who had challenged the so called contraceptive mandate saying it forced them to either violate their faith or pay ruinous fines. The government defended the provision as an essential part of health care coverage for women.

The ruling bodes well for the eventual likelihood that the rights of nonpublic employers (that is, private, closely held firms and small proprietors) not to be compelled by the state to provide artistic or creative services that celebrate same-sex marriages.

Also worth noting: the court’s ruling that government-employee unions can’t make nonmembers pay fees.

It’s a bad day for progressives who believe all rights come from the state, and only that which the state specifically allows should be permissible.

More. Get Equal issues a predictable response. And the Human Rights Campaign helpfully informs us that “countless lesbian and bisexual women as well as some transgender men rely on contraception.”

Returning to the world of reason, some insights from Ilya Shapiro, blogging from the libertarian Cato Institute. And an observation from Cato’s Walter Olson.

And Cato’s Julian Sanchez weighs in:

The outrage does make sense, of course, if what one fundamentally cares about—or at least, additionally cares about—is the symbolic speech act embedded in the compulsion itself. In other words, if the purpose of the mandate is not merely to achieve a certain practical result, but to declare the qualms of believers with religious objections so utterly underserving of respect that they may be forced to act against their convictions regardless of whether this makes any real difference to the outcome. And something like that does indeed seem to be lurking just beneath—if not at—the surface of many reactions. The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal….

And that, too, is what the demand by progressive activists for conservative Christian bakers and photographers to labor in celebration of same-sex weddings is all about.

Furthermore Additional comments from Ilya Shapiro, via The Federalist website:

The essence of freedom is that government can’t willy-nilly force people to do things that violate their consciences. Americans understand this point intuitively. Some may argue that there’s a conflict here between religious freedom and women’s rights, but that’s a “false choice” (as the president likes to say). Without the HHS rule, women are still free to obtain contraceptives, abortions, and whatever else isn’t illegal. They just can’t force their employer to pay for them.

Still more. Here’s Steve Chapman’s perspective:

The conservative alarms about the alleged threats to religious freedom are way overblown. But there is something to be said for government policies that let people of strongly held opposing views go their separate ways.

On the other hand, this take, via the Washington Blade‘s political cartoonist, is just bonkers, pandering to the low-information, hyper-partisan reader—and the accompanying op-ed isn’t much better.

Here’s a graphic retort.

Even more. Megan McArdle: Who’s The Real Hobby Lobby Bully?:

Cards on the table: I think that institutions Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor are obviously correct—they are being forced by the government to buy something that they don’t want to buy. We can argue about whether this is a good or a bad idea, but the fact that it is coercive seems indisputable.

…the secular left views [religion] as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

I think that’s right.


It Was 45 Years Ago Today

by Stephen H. Miller on June 28, 2014

On the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, let’s revisit this essay David Boaz penned a few years back placing Stonewall in context as resistance against oppression by the state.


It’s Not History, It’s HBO

by Stephen H. Miller on June 25, 2014

HBO’s documentary on the legal fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, “The Case Against 8,” is undeniably a moving piece of TV. It will surely, among those who see it, reinforce their commitment to marriage equality.

But when you step back, it suffers from the same faults as journalist Jo Becker’s book on the case, Forcing the Spring—it’s as if the fight for gay marriage has no previous history, and the momentous fight in the case against Prop. 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was a world-changing victory won through the heroic efforts of three men, LGBT activist leader Chad Griffin (now president of the Human Rights Campaign) and superstar lawyers Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies.

What’s most egregious, however, is that short shrift is given to the case that actually is leading to national marriage equality, United States vs. Windsor, decided by the Supreme Court on the same day. In only the briefest of mentions in the HBO documentary do we hear about this case, and its plaintiff Edith Windsor and her lawyer, Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan, go unheralded.

Hollingsworth may have sought to establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, but had the far more limited outcome of restoring marriage equality in California, and it did so on the exceedingly narrow grounds that the opponents to the lower court ruling against Prop. 8 lacked standing to bring the appeal (since the current governor, Jerry Brown, declined to do so). As Hank Stuever writes in his Washington Post review, the HBO documentary is “fascinating for all the wrong reasons.”

James Kirchick suggests in his Wall Street Journal review of Becker’s book (and a similarly themed book by Olson and Boies), Hollingsworth will be just a footnote in the history of marriage equality; Windsor is the decision that’s changing everything. Writes Kirchick:

Not only did the victory [in Windsor] grant federal recognition to every gay marriage registered in a state that recognizes such unions, but the decision has since been cited by multiple state courts in striking same-sex marriage bans from the books. Hollingsworth reversed Proposition 8—no small feat considering that California is the country’s most populous state but hardly the sort of victory that merits the mantle of “revolution”…

A similar point is also driven home by Alyssa Rosenberg in her Washington Post commentary.

Clearly, it’s Windsor that courts across the country are relying on as they grant gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry, including the 10th Circuit’s historic ruling. Thank you, Edie Windsor and Robbie Kaplan. Too bad you lack the PR machinery of Griffin, Olson and Boies.

More. The Cato Institute’s David Boaz reminded us back in 2010, when district court judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop. 8 (the ruling eventually allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court), that when Walker was nominated by Ronald Reagan to the federal bench:

…such groups as the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force worked to block the nomination.

In other words, this “liberal San Francisco judge” was recommended by Ed Meese, appointed by Ronald Reagan, and opposed by Alan Cranston, Nancy Pelosi, Edward Kennedy, and the leading gay activist groups. It’s a good thing for advocates of marriage equality that those forces were only able to block Walker twice.

In the HBO documentary, Griffin jokes that if the chairman of the Cato Institute supports marriage equality, maybe he should rethink his position, demonstrating a lack of awareness about libertarians versus conservatives. (Cato’s chairman Robert A. Levy discusses Griffin’s remarks here.)

Furthermore. More on libertarians and gay marriage from Cato’s David Boaz, via (and with commentary from) Richard J. Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) of D.C.

And Dale Carpenter adds: “Rarely have so few overlooked so many to claim so much based on so little.