Sochi? Not Me

by Stephen H. Miller on February 9, 2014

I didn’t feel compelled to watch the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics, and I find that I’ve avoided the competitions as well. I know that Putin’s Russia, while oppressive, corrupt and authoritarian, isn’t the only, or worst, anti-gay regime. Our ally India gives Russia a run for the money, at least on paper if not in practice, in terms of outlawing homosexuality. Gay people face a death sentence in Iran and elsewhere in the Islamic world. In Nigeria, Uganda and other benighted places, things are little if any better.

Still, Russia rankles. Maybe it’s that Putin so obviously sees the games as a propaganda coup, as Hitler did the ’36 Olympics in Berlin. And while I didn’t support a boycott of Sochi, my gut tells me that these games are morally tainted. To cheer and applaud along with a beaming Putin turns my stomach.

Already, we’ve seen in connection with these games the arrest of Russian gay rights advocates and the stifling of anti-Putin protests (an everyday occurrence), with the IOC’s acquiescence, while Russian authorities allow a pro-Putin, anti-gay demonstration. In a more petty vein, there’s the Russians’ denial of access to at least one pro-gay Olympian’s website, reminding us of how “gay propaganda” is strictly forbidden.

I don’t condemn anyone who feels the fraternal spirit of the games themselves supersedes the sins of the host. But for myself, I can’t get over it.

More. Olympics delivering for Putin.

{ 10 comments }

Tom Scharbach February 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I feel the same way.

The athletes have worked hard to be Olympians, and I hope that each performs his/her personal best.

But I’ll read about it, not watch.

I hope that the athletes and spectators will be safe. The memory of Munich is as clear as yesterday to me, and I have no confidence at all in the Russian government.

Tom Jefferson III February 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Agreed with Tom — Tom agrees with Tom….

The ban on gay (male) sex in India is not — from what I hear — enforced with the degree of sincerity that is given to the Russian “anti-propaganda” law. In India, a high court ruled that the law violated the nation’s constitution (which makes sense if you read the national document). I guess an even higher court reversed the decision.

Iraq is probably one of the most dangerous places to live in the world, if you are gay. Jamaica and Uganda are two other nations that spring to mind.

Houndentenor February 9, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I can’t watch either. What concerns me is what will happen after the international press and security teams leave. What happens to gay people and others (it’s not JUST gay people that are being persecuted by Putin’s regime) then. We have to stay on this story. Yes, it would be even worse to be gay in most of the middle east and many parts of Africa. But Russia was moving forward and has now regressed. That’s what is so worrisome about Russia in particular. And concern about Russia obviously doesn’t mean we aren’t also concerned about what faces gays in Uganda, Nigeria, Iran and many other places.

Tom Scharbach February 10, 2014 at 8:07 am

An update on Indiana: The anti-marriage amendment will be considered by the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee today, and consideration by the full Senate is expected later in the week.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

The biggest question in the Senate — where Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 37-13 margin — is if senators will add back the amendment’s second sentence that would prohibit civil unions and similar arrangements. If that happens, it likely wouldn’t occur until the proposal reaches the Senate floor, probably sometime later this week.

In Indiana, constitutional amendments need to be passed, in the same form, by two separately elected legislatures before they can be voted on by the public. If the Senate passes the House version, then the 2015 legislature would need to pass it again before it could go to voters in November 2016. But if the Senate restores the second sentence, then the proposal would go back to the House, where the bill sponsor could concur. Or, it could be sent to a conference committee of House and Senate members to try to come to an agreement, which would then go back to each chamber for final approval. If the second sentence is restored, the issue could go to voters in November.

The decision is important. The amendment has a much better chance of passing this November, a low turnout off-year election that maximizes the high turnout rates among conservative Christians, than in 2016, a high turnout Presidential election.

Tom Scharbach February 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Update: The Indiana Senate Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee voted 8-4 to send the anti-marriage amendment to the Senate floor. The vote was party line — all 8 Republicans on the committee (Long, Wyss, Charbonneau, Ekerty, Herschman, Kruse, Merritt and Steele) voted for the amendment, and all 4 Democrats (Lanane, Arnold, Breaux and Hume) voted against.

I listened to all three hours of testimony. The anti-equality speakers (led by Curt Smith of the IFI, Peter Sprigg of FRC and Kelly Fidorek of Alliance Defends) built a textbook case could not have done a better job of building the factual basis for a successful court challenge if the amendment is enacted. Good on them, I guess.

Mike in Houston February 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm

The really good news is that the committee passed the House version of the amendment — which means that the full Senate will have to vote to re-insert the second sentence (and send it back to the House again).

If they fail to reinsert the second sentence (banning civil unions), then the amendment will not go before the voters until 2016.

Tom Scharbach February 10, 2014 at 6:39 pm

That’s right, Mike, although my understanding is that Chairman Long insisted that the committee report the House version out to the floor.

The proponents leading off the testimony (Smith, Fidorek, Sprigg and others) all were insistent that the amendment must must be amended on the floor to include the second sentence. I understand that Governor Pierce has made his support clear for a floor amendment, as well. But there was no attempt in the committee to amend the House version, and no discussion at all by committee Republicans.

In fact, the only discussion in the committee was that of Democrat Tim Lanane, a lawyer, who enumerated the reasons why the amendment would be ruled unconstitutional when (not if) the matter was litigated in federal court.

Listening to the proponent’s testimony this afternoon was like working down a checklist of constitutionally impermissible arguments: Marriage is for procreation. Check. Children need a mother and a father. Check. God created marriage. Check. Marriage has been between a man and a woman throughout human history. Check.

You get the picture.

It was like living in a time warp.

We’ll have to see what happens in the full Senate. I understand that the measure might be taken up as early as Thursday.

Tom Scharbach February 10, 2014 at 8:08 pm

The other development today on the marriage equality front was that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, filed a statement in the 9th Circuit informing the court that Nevada would no longer defend the state’s anti-marriage amendment.

As Governor Sandoval put it in an e-mail to the AP: “Based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court.”

Indiana Republicans ought to take a look at the train coming down the track, or at least listen to the horn blaring.

Tom Scharbach February 11, 2014 at 6:54 am

It looks like the Indiana Senate is likely to consider HJR-3, the proposed Indiana anti-marriage amendment, on Thursday. The Indianapolis Star reports:

The Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee voted 8-4 to send House Joint Resolution 3 to the full Senate. The vote — with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against — sets up what will likely be a showdown on the Senate floor over whether to add back a provision that would also prohibit civil unions.

“It is now to the floor, as I hoped it would be, unamended, so the entire Senate will get an opportunity to debate this and we’ll have a robust discussion,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Long said he expects the Senate will consider any potential changes to the constitutional amendment on Thursday, but the caucus could need more time. A final Senate vote on the measure could come as early as Monday.

There seems to be no question that the Senate (37 Republican, 13 Democrats) will approve HJR-3 by a healthy margin. The question is in what form the Senate will approve the amendment.

The original amendment, first approved in 2011, is a “nuclear option” amendment, identical to Wisconsin’s, banning marriage equality and marriage-equivalent civil unions. The House version was amended last month to remove the “identical or substantially similar” ban on civil unions language, banning only marriage equality.

As we have learned in Wisconsin, a “nuclear option” amendment is likely to lead to protracted state-level litigation if the state government grants any recognition to same-sex relationships (we are in our fourth year of litigation at this point), and polling suggests that a “nuclear option” amendment has a fair chance of being rejected by Indiana voters if put on the ballot in November.

Neither is good for the Republican brand. A “nuclear option” amendment on the ballot this November will pit Republican politicians against a significant constituency (the state’s two largest employers and the Chamber of Commerce testified against HJR-3 yesterday), will allow Democrats to portray Republicans as entrenched and unreasonable, and might (if it is rejected by voters) lead to embarrassment for Republicans. Nothing fails quite as much as failure.

But rejecting the “nuclear option” also has its risks for Republicans. The House version cannot go before the voters until 2016, a high-turnout election in which younger, pro-equality voters are more likely to participate, and by then growing public acceptance of marriage equality will also work against the anti-marriage amendment. Governor Pence and other Republican candidates cannot look forward to running against so strong a tide, even in Indiana.

Either way, Indiana can rest assured of an ugly, divisive fight over the issue, with both sides pouring money into issue ads and taking attention away from Republican campaign themes.

I think that the situation in Indiana is a microcosm of the bed Republicans have made for themselves nationally. Social conservatives dominate the county parties and the Republican primary process across the country, and most Republican politicians have no choice but to stand for inequality.

If I were a Republican politician, I’d be searching for a way out.

Governor Sandoval of Nevada must be thanking his lucky stars for the 9th Circuit’s decision in SmithKline v. Abbott, which knocked the props out from under a defense of the state’s anti-marriage amendment. He can put the issue to rest, and avoid the political consequences.

But, unfortunately, Republicans in Indiana most of the rest of the country don’t have an way out like Governor Sandoval does.

In Indiana, Republican politicians are going to be pinned down on the issue from both sides, damned if they do and damned if they don’t, reminded loudly and continually of the bed that they’ve made for themselves. As the Indianapolis Star article also notes:

Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, was the only committee member to speak. He said the amendment will most certainly be challenged in court and federal courts are finding there is no rational basis for upholding this type of discrimination against a group of individuals.

“HJR-3 is an idea whose time has come and gone,” he said. “Do we allow this proposal of the past to have a long lingering death or do we put it out of its misery at this time?”

We’ll hear a lot more of that going forward, I think.

I can’t say that I’m sorry. The anti-marriage amendments were a creation of the Republican Party, a cynical attempt to leverage anti-gay bias into short-term political gain, and chickens have a way of coming home to roost. So be it.

Jorge February 10, 2014 at 8:24 am

I have no interest, for the same reason. That the deplorable situation continues is the only thing I think is worth remarking about.

Which is a sad situation for the Olympics, but then, I’m an American. I don’t have need for the Olympics to endure in order to feel right.

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