Bad for the Goose

by David Link on April 16, 2014

J. Bryan Lowder continues his very strong defense of the attacks on Mozilla’s Brendan Eich, and anyone else who publicly supports laws that exclude same-sex couples from marriage.  Lowder seems to accept that he will now be known as the person who wishes equality opponents would “simply shut up.”

He embarrassingly overargues his case, complaining that the trauma of having grown up homosexual in an anti-gay world justifies a little gloating about our still-emerging victory in the culture.  Even equality supporters like Conor Friedersdorf whose treachery is a willingness to tolerate anti-equality advocates  misunderstand the agony we endure, since we have been “…sexually and emotionally traumatized since childhood.”

But there is much more at stake here than the melodramatic ravings same-sex marriage seems to inspire on both sides.

I think Lowder would agree that it is bad when government uses its power to take sides in a public debate.  It is abhorrent that Russia and Uganda have declared speech in favor of homosexual liberty off-limits.  There is no proud history of government efforts to police the speech of citizens.  That is true whether you think the government is enforcing the right side of the debate or not.

Religions, too, have sinned savagely throughout history in prosecuting heresy.

The question today is whether majorities can fare any better in crusading against propaganda we do not like, or civil heresy.  I think not.

The First Amendment’s protection of speech applies to the government, but its wisdom goes deeper. In any culture where individual liberty is central, opinion cannot be chaperoned.  People will believe what they believe.

Should we and our allies try to do to our opponents what they so successfully did to us for centuries: silence them?  Punish them? I think the logic of the First Amendment counsels against that.

An opinion suppressed is an opinion inflamed.  As a matter of politics, it is best to allow the expression of opinions, disagreeable and even terrible ones.  As long as people do not act on their worst opinions (something government can appropriately respond to), the airing of grievances is healthy.

Which is not to say it is comfortable.  Lowder is offended that, despite majority support for our equality, the lives of lesbians and gay men are still subject to extraordinary, invasive scrutiny; and that is offensive.  But more offensive is the self-righteousness that would not just argue against offensiveness, but punish its expression.  It is unfortunate that we have to live in the same country and community with discourteous and boorish people, but the alternative of banishment or enforced correction of their error is worse.



The Shift

by Stephen H. Miller on April 14, 2014

A trend is being recognized here:

National Journal, Republicans Are Openly Softening Their Tone on Same-Sex Marriage: “Social conservatives may not have raised the white flag on same-sex marriage yet, but their party’s leaders are in search of something of a compromise.”

BuzzFeed: No Sign Of Social Issues As Conservative Leaders Preach To Activists: “the prospective [GOP presidential] candidates’ reluctance to talk about these issues at an event that had been explicitly marketed as a 2016 preview does not bode well for the religious right’s agenda.”

The GOP leadership and presidential front-runners know that a generational shift within the party is coming—61% of young Republicans support same-sex marriage—and what that means.


Gays as ‘Rootless Cosmopolitans’

by Stephen H. Miller on April 13, 2014

Catching up, this was an interesting Washington Post column by Anne Applebaum. For Putin’s Russia and its anti-Western allies, gays have replaced Jews as the hated avatars of modernity, openness and tolerance. We see this worldwide, in places where, as Applebaum writes:

xenophobic, anti-European and, nowadays, anti-homosexual rhetoric [sometimes] becomes an argument in favor of local oligarchs or economic clans and against foreign investment or rules that would create an even playing field. It always focuses on Western decadence, economic or sexual, and welcomes any sign of Western hesitancy.

Achieving legal equality for gay people in such places will be a long, arduous struggle. Timidity with regard to defending enlightenment-rooted values—and open debate in particular—as was exhibited last week by Brandeis University and is, sadly, part of a much broader trend, makes those who hate us bolder.


Liberty Delayed

by Stephen H. Miller on April 8, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t be hearing the first case to reach it dealing with expressive freedom for service providers who don’t wish to be forced by the state (and LGBT heresy-hunting zealots) to create messages celebrating same-sex marriage. With a number of other such cases heading through the judicial system, it’s unclear how much can be concluded from the failure to grant cert in the Elane Photography case. But it’s a sad day for liberty, and for America, when the situation is as follows:

[T]he Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint in 2012 with the local human-rights commission against the outfitting company Hands On Originals in Lexington, Ky., after its owner refused to print shirts for a gay-pride festival. The owner, Blaine Adamson, said he offered to refer the group to another T-shirt maker that would make the shirts for the same price.

Mr. Adamson, whose case is still pending, said he has also refused to print shirts for other events unrelated to gay rights that he believes conflict with his Christian beliefs.

“It’s not that we have a sign on the front door that says ‘no gays allowed.’ We’ll work with anybody,” said Mr. Adamson in a video on the ADF website. “But if there’s a specific message that conflicts with my convictions, then I can’t promote that.”

This won’t shame the zealots, for they have no shame, just hatred and smug self-righteousness used to cloak their totalitarian mindset.


Silence Isn’t Golden

by David Link on April 7, 2014

Maybe the closet isn’t such a bad thing — if only you can get the right people into one.

That is the premise of the crusade against Brendan Eich.  Maybe our heterosexual allies who have been so vehement on our behalf can be forgiven for not appreciating the natural consequences of this movement; but if gays can’t oppose what is happening, there is no meaningful definition of “irony” left.

Californians in particular should take heed.  Andrew Sullivan helpfully cites our Labor Code section 1102, which explicitly prohibits discriminating against employees based on their political beliefs and actions.  But that’s just the start.

That statute, along with its companion section 1101 served as the foundation for launching the public part of the gay rights movement in this state.  In a 1979 case called Gay Law Students Ass’n v. PT&T, our Supreme Court ruled for the first time that lesbians and gay men could not be discriminated against by employers based on their public activities in support of gay equality.  The case did not say they can’t be discriminated against for being homosexual — it was strictly based on public political actions.

Here is the court’s reasoning:

A principal barrier to homosexual equality is the common feeling that homosexuality is an affliction which the homosexual worker must conceal from his employer and his fellow workers. Consequently one important aspect of the struggle for equal rights is to induce homosexual individuals to “come out of the closet,” acknowledge their sexual preferences, and to associate with others in working for equal rights.

In light of this factor in the movement for homosexual rights, the allegations of plaintiffs’ complaint assume a special significance. Plaintiffs allege that PT&T discriminates against “manifest” homosexuals and against persons who make “an issue of their homosexuality.” The complaint asserts also that PT&T will not hire anyone referred to them by plaintiff Society for Individual Rights, an organization active in promoting the rights of homosexuals to equal employment opportunities. These allegations can reasonably be construed as charging that PT&T discriminates in particular against persons who identify themselves as homosexual, who defend homosexuality, or who are identified with activist homosexual organizations. So construed, the allegations charge that PT&T has adopted a “policy … tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees” in violation of section 1101, and has “attempt[ed] to coerce or influence … employees … to … refrain from adopting [a] particular course or line of political … activity” in violation of section 1102.

Eich, of course, is not an employee, so this doesn’t apply to him in particular.  But it is very clear that if he had not publicly supported Prop. 8 so many years ago, he would be CEO of Mozilla today.  And he is not alone in his beliefs.

That’s what the closet feels like, to those of us who have been there.

I don’t think there is much chance of marriage equality failing in California any more due to Eich’s — or anyone else’s — urging.  It’s now even possible to imagine some form of relationship recognition as a federal constitutional right.

But even if there were, trying to enforce silence on one side of a debate is a time-tested malevolence, which gays more than anyone should recognize.  Pretty much all of the civil arguments against equality have failed because they were given the space to be aired against the opposing arguments.  What is there to gain today, except some noxious exhilaration, by trying to silence or punish the true believers?

We had to be silent once.  That’s nothing to wish on anyone.


Another Day, Another Scalp

by Stephen H. Miller on April 3, 2014

Brendan Eich resigned as chief executive of Mozilla, best known for its Firefox web browser, “after intense criticism over a six-year-old, $1,000 donation he made in support of a 2008 California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The company has profusely apologized to the LGBT community for the offense.

Some had called for a boycott, and some then celebrated their victory, but Andrew Sullivan lamented:

“The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”

The fact is this was a personal donation, and the company has not discriminated against gays, married or otherwise. I can see why some, given a choice, might not want to do business with an individual who doesn’t support their legal equality. But there is something fearsome about the vendetta mentality bubbling up from the LGBT community, manifesting, in this instance, in trying to get a man pushed out of his job for supporting a position that is politically incorrect, rather than leaving him to his personal convictions or engaging with him over the marriage issue.

The now-widespread view that silencing opponents is right and proper, once our side has the power to do so, truly is the liberalism of Robespierre.

More. How many of those cheering Brendan Eich’s forced resignation consider it one of the great national scars that American communists and fellow travelers were blacklisted during the 1950s? Most, I suspect. And hey, all they wanted to do was destroy Western civilization and replace it with Stalinist tyranny.

Furthermore. Many tech companies outscore Mozilla in terms of total contributions by employees in support of California’s anti-gay-marriage Prop. 8, shows William Saletan at Slate. Also, this overview of the controversy by the Washington Post‘s Gail Sullivan.

Plus Jonathan Rauch shares his views in the New York Times, Intolerance in the Name of Tolerance, and writes: “A handful of hotheads forgot what the gay rights movement is fighting for: the embrace of diversity and the freedom for all Americans, gay and straight, to live publicly as who they truly are.”

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, Eich Resigned. That’s Not Good: “But at a time when we are demanding passage of the Employment Non-Discrmination Act so that companies can’t just up and fire LGBT employees because they don’t agree with them — as they can now in about two-thirds of our states — we need to think very long and hard about we should demand someone be removed from his job for exercising his constitutional rights as part of the cornerstone of our democracy: a free and fair election.”

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, Mozilla’s Gay-Marriage Litmus Test Violates Liberal Values: “The rise of marriage equality is a happy, hopeful story. This is an ugly, illiberal footnote, appended by the winners.”

Frank Bruni at the New York Times sums up in The New Gay Orthodoxy: “Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.”

Dale Carpenter at The Volokh Conspiracy, A Strange New Respect for Markets: “The gay-rights movement and its supporters are better than this. And hiding behind fictions about the marketplace won’t fool anybody.”

Ross Douthat in the New York Times, The Case of Brendan Eich: “[A]n elite culture that enforces the new norms on marriage this strictly, and polices its own ranks this rigorously, is likely to find reasons (and, indeed, is already adept at finding them) to become increasingly anti-pluralist whenever it has the chance to enforce those same norms on society as a whole.”

Mark Lee, Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory? “Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution? If so, that’s sad.”

But the heresy hunters are jubilant, and they’re keen to light more pyres.

Still more. I’m not unaware that Catholic and evangelical organizations (and the Boy Scouts) can and do fire employees for being openly gay and/or advocating gay equality. I just don’t agree that lowering ourselves to their level of intolerance, when we have the opportunity, is somehow fair play.

After a few days, it seems clear that Eich’s forced resignation not only hasn’t advanced the cause of marriage equality, it’s hurt it. Just the way that a public spotlight on using the judiciary to force religiously conservative florists, bakers or photographers to provide expressive services celebrating gay weddings (or be forced out of business) hurts us. It’s the victims becoming the victimizer when they have the chance. We’ve seen it all through history, from Christians to Communists, and it’s always ugly.

And it’s another day, and so — you got it — another scalp.


Small Steps Forward Are Still Steps Forward

by Stephen H. Miller on March 31, 2014

[Note: Due to a server/software problem, recent postings had disappeared from the site for a few days and we were unable to update, The problem has been fixed and the site updated. IGF appreciates its volunteer support.]

In not quite breaking news, GOP remains at odds with LGBT Americans, Raymond Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, writes that:

“It’s been a year since the Republican Party pledged to be more inclusive, but all it has done is highlight that the GOP continues to stand at odds with the values and priorities of LGBT Americans.”

Buckley’s op-ed in the Washington Blade was perhaps a sop to counter-balance the Blade‘s running a profile of Dan Innis, the openly gay Republican candidate for Congress in New Hampshire. But it’s interesting that the Wall Street Journal, on the same date, ran GOP Wrestles With Its Stance on Gay Marriage (subscriber firewall), noting:

But in a half-dozen state legislatures controlled by the GOP, bills allowing businesses to refuse services for gay weddings are dead or on hold. In Illinois, three Republicans who voted to allow gay marriage in their state won primaries this month, despite opposition from social conservatives, preliminary results showed. … As candidates, both Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez opposed gay marriage. Recently, they said they wouldn’t fight court decisions in their states. … In Massachusetts, former state Sen. Richard Tisei introduced his husband at a speech this month and then accused the Republican Party of being “stuck in the 19th century” for not supporting marriage rights for gays. Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilor now running for a House seat, ran a TV ad that includes footage of him holding hands with his male partner.

Small steps, to be sure. But Buckley’s assertion that the GOP has and will do nothing to evolve its position is partisan hackery that seeks the objective (the GOP remaining as anti-gay as it’s ever been) that it appears to be condemning. [Added: Yes, those who seek to defeat openly gay GOP candidates such as Innis are working to ensure that the GOP doesn't change.]

More. And those who say social conservatives will not let the GOP change don’t see that religious right traditionalists are already moving to accept their defeat as they negotiate the terms of surrender (that’s not original to me; it’s been on the blogosphere but it’s a good line). As the Washington Examiner takes note, prominent “family values” advocates’:

fallback position — there’s no other way to describe it — is to insist that once the marriage fight is lost, the beliefs of Americans who oppose homosexual marriage on religious grounds be respected. … [The position of Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention] fits perfectly with a recent assessment by the Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney: “Conservatives see religious liberty arguments as the last redoubt in the culture war: You guys won your gay marriages, permissive abortion laws, taxpayer-subsidized birth control, and divorce-on-demand; let us just live our lives according to our own consciences.”


Religious Exemptions a ‘Slippery Slope’?

by Stephen H. Miller on March 27, 2014

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius, on whether business owners can be mandated by the Affordable Care Act to pay for employees’ contraceptives that involve abortifacients such as the “morning after” bill, which take effect after fertilization and are viewed by the business owners as a form of abortion. The Obama administration has steadfastly refused to allow limited religious exemptions for business owners in this dicey area.

The New York Times reports:

“The questioning was sometimes technical but often unusually blunt and direct…. By the end of the argument, there seemed to be a tentative consensus that the two companies, both controlled by religious families, could be allowed to claim rights under the relevant law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, without opening the floodgates to objections from major public corporations.”

Scotusblog observed:

“Chief Justice Roberts wondered why, if a corporation could bring a claim of race discrimination, why couldn’t it bring a claim of religious discrimination? And, seeming to look for a way to rule narrowly for corporations, he suggested that the case might be decided by finding such protection only for corporations that are owned by a tightly limited group of shareholders.”

The upcoming ruling will impact cases heading toward the high court dealing with the right of religiously conservative small business owners to refuse assignments that involve servicing same-sex weddings, particularly expressive services such as creating floral arrangements or designing cakes with two grooms or brides atop. Progressives argue against religious exemptions here as well, citing the beloved slippery slope (first we fail to compel business owners to provide a service they feel violates their faith, next we’ll have anti-gay segregation).

Also on display at the Court during the contraception case arguments, the fear that allowing individuals to make faith-based choices will erode centralized authority: “So one religious group could opt out of this and another religious group could opt out of that and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan fretted.

But other justices noted the difference between a small, independent business and large corporations. Ultimately, resolving the issue of self-employed florists and bakers might involve making a similar distinction.


Coming Round

by Stephen H. Miller on March 26, 2014

From The Atlantic, Republicans Are Driving the Momentum for Gay Marriage: “From politicians and donors to the party rank and file, a change of heart in the GOP is a major factor in the issue’s increasing public acceptance.”

The headline might overstate things a bit, but there is a definite change in the grassroots. As I’ve said before, the party is no longer monotone on the issue (unlike the carping of LGBT Democrats who might have nothing to get them up in the morning if not their hatred of all things Republican).

Speaking of which, the level of Democratic mendacity in the party’s attacks on openly gay GOP congressional candidate Carl DeMaio is reaching new heights, which is hopefully a sign of desperation. I’ve written about DeMaio often before, most recently in Gay Republicans Who Might Win Drive LGBT Democrats Berserk.


Cracks in the Resistance

by Stephen H. Miller on March 25, 2014

A hat tip to Walter Olson, who pointed me to this development at World Vision International, the evangelical overseas charity, announcing it will now hire Christians in same-sex marriages (but expects all unmarried employees to abstain from sex outside of marriage).

Walter noted it’s a sign that same-sex marriage is rapidly being integrated into sectors of American culture heretofore unrelentingly resistant. Progressive secularists will scuff and demean this change among those they view as benighted, but those of us who want equal treatment, and not to force our worldview on others, should cheer.

More. Rachel Held Evans writes On the World Vision Reaction: Some Bad News, Some Good News, and Some Ideas:

The good news—and I want those of you who are discouraged to hear this—is that things are changing. As loud as these legalistic voices may seem right now, you will notice that they are often the same voices, over and over again. What I hear every day on the road and in my office is something different. It’s a freedom song, and it’s coming from thousands of pastors, writers, parents, teachers, and Christ-followers from all walks of life from all around the country and world. My desk is cluttered with books arguing for a more compassionate and inclusive way forward. Where I once scoured the internet for articles in support of women’s equality and LGBT equality, they are now plentiful, overwhelming. Letters detailing changed hearts and minds clog up my inbox. Things are changing. Hearts are softening. People are listening to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and engaging Scripture in fresh, yet faithful, ways.

Furthermore. World Vision reversed its decision after an uproar for the religious literalist establishment. But you can’t hold back the changing attitudes among younger evangelicals; you can only delay the inevitable.