The New Consensus and the Intransigents

LGBT Democratic activists are never at a loss to point out GOP nastiness toward gay legal equality and social inclusion. But when they claim that nothing has—or it’s implied, can—change in the Republican party, they are being willfully disingenuous.

This past week saw Dr. Ben Carson, popular on the GOP social conservative right, come out with some asinine claims that being gay is “absolutely” a choice — and prison proves it, “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.” Carson’s remarks were so over the top that even he had to backtrack and issue an apology, sort of.

This same week saw GOP mega-donor David Koch, one half of the brother duo that’s a bête noire of progressive Democrats, join with other conservatives in filing an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to rule against bans on same-sex marriage. LGBT Democrats will reply that this hardly makes up for the Koch brothers supporting anti-gay candidates through the years (the Kochs give their dollars to conservatives who favor less government intrusion in business and the economy, and many but not all of these candidates are also social conservatives).

But once freedom to marry is the law of the land from sea to sea, and with gay servicemembers now serving openly in the military, the political calculus is going to shift markedly as regards gay issues. There will be an intransigent religious right, but mainstream conservatives will embrace the new consensus that gay marriage, like gays in the military, is a done deal and so let’s move on.

The GOP may, more broadly, defend religious liberty from those who feel wounded that everyone doesn’t share and express their progressive views, and I believe there is merit in the party’s doing so. That will incite LGBT Democrats, but it’s a side skirmish. The war will have been won.

More. Via National Journal:

Any Republican who says something incendiary about gay people will surely get media play. But with public rebuttals, political counsel and money, gay conservative groups are working to build a wall of defense to keep these comments on the fringe—and out of the 2016 conversation.

Furthermore. Some LGBT progressive have in the past accused David Koch of “pinkwashing” the Koch brother’s record by embracing legal equality for same-sex couples. But in the days since Koch signed the amicus supporting same-sex marriage, it’s becoming clearer that the media response around the announcement (fueled to no small extent by the willingness of Koch’s publicists to cooperate) is meant to send a signal to candidates who receive (or will receive) Koch support. Which is, opposition to same-sex marriage is not going to be a winning position going forward, so get over it.

If so, not everyone is getting the message, however. The desire to run on Jeb Bush’s right is a contravening force that will be a political dead end, but it may take at least another election cycle to make that clear to the intransigents.

Utah’s Anti-Discrimination Compromise

Utah is moving forward with an LGBT anti-discrimination and religious freedom measure, for which both local LGBT political groups and the Mormon church provided input and have announced their support. The text of the bill is here. As the AP reports:

At a news conference where Utah senators and LGBT-rights activists joined high-ranking leaders of the Mormon church, officials touted the measure as a model for the rest of the country and history-making for Utah.

The legislation, which includes transgender protections, covers employment and housing discrimination but not public accommodations, which could indicate how strong-arming cake bakers and photographers has played out. It also exempts religious organizations [as well as] the Boy Scouts, and includes job protection for employees who voice moral or political views about marriage or sexuality “in a reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing way.”

Nationally, the LGBT left and religious right will be against it. And given many LBGT activists’ opposition to exempting religious organizations, such a deal isn’t likely in future federal legislation. But in red states that currently don’t have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination provisions, it could be a way forward.

Are the compromises worth it to secure employment and housing protections? Jonathan Rauch and the Brookings Institute will be exploring that topic in an upcoming forum.

More. LGBTQ Task Force leader Rea Carey recently reiterated her group’s opposition to exemptions for religious organizations in the proposed Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), declaring:

…on July 8th, we pulled our support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. We simply had come way too far to compromise on such a fundamental principal of fairness and federal equality in the workplace. Instead we redoubled our work for what we really need—strong federal non-discrimination legislation without broad exemptions. I’m happy to report that our opposition, and that of other organizations, worked.

As I noted in an earlier post, “Well, it worked in terms of killing ENDA.”

The following LGBT groups, among others, also withdraw their support for ENDA over its exemption for religious organizations: Lambda Legal; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Transgender Law Center.

Moreover, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he shares “grave concerns” over the religious exemption.

In the decades before 2013, exempting religious organizations from LGBT anti-discrimination statutes was a consensus position. Now, on the federal level, it’s anathema for many national LGBT rights advocates.

And on the local level, ferreting out self-employed service providers who have conscience objections to performing expressive services for same-sex weddings, and using the state to prosecute them for refusing these gigs, is the new activist front for “equality.”

Furthermore. Jonathan Rauch writes that while the Human Rights Campaign lauded the deal:

…one-sided “religious freedom” laws sought (and sometimes passed) by religious conservatives in other states have deepened suspicion in the LGBT world that religious accommodations are intended as a “license to discriminate.” Some LGBT folks now view any such accommodations as a poison pill. That view did not prevail in Utah, whose example suggests that good-faith negotiations and a tangible upside can still attract gay support for compromise.

Update. Passed by Utah’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, and signed into law by GOP Governor Gary Herbert.

Final word. In his Wall Street Journal column (“Utah Shows the Way on Gay Rights”), William A. Galston writes:

By overwhelming majorities, the state legislature adopted a pair of bills that banned discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals in employment and housing while carving out accommodations for individuals and institutions with conscience-based objections to these measures. Individual local officials who object to same-sex marriage are not required to preside over such ceremonies, for example, but each local office is responsible for doing so.

… Neither side allowed the best to become the enemy of the good. Both came to see that protections for LGBT individuals and for religious conscience needed to be enacted simultaneously, as a package.

A Politics of Purges and Forced Incantations

James Kirchick has penned an important essay looking at the “victimology” hierarchy that now obsesses the politically correct left, in which:

The discussion of vital issues today has been reduced to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, in which the validity of one’s argument is determined not by the strength of your reasoning but by the relative worth of the immutable qualities you bring to the table…. In the game of Race, Gender, Sexuality, black beats white, woman beats man, trans beats cisgender, and gay (or, preferably, “queer”) beats straight.

In recent years, as the liberal imagination has grown to embrace new victim groups, supplementary categorical rules have been added to this list: Trans beats gay and Muslim beats black.

And this:

Like gay men, Jews have been relegated to the bottom of the progressive victim pyramid, a low ranking that has held fast in spite of the rampant bigotry and violent attacks directed at them.

And this:

The problem with these little purges, these forced incantations of the latest auto-da-fés, however, is that they never quite end, for the tumbrils always need replenishing. Like all good left-wing revolutionaries, these latter-day cultural warriors are eating their own. There is an unholy synergy existing between the notions of identity politics and the mechanisms of social media, which fused together form a concatenation that is debasing political debate. The mob-like mentality fostered by Twitter, the easy, often anonymous (and, even if a name is attached to the account, de-personalized) insulting, fosters a social pressure that aims to close discussion, not open it.

It’s well worth reading the whole thing.

More. Liberal LGBT Democratic activist Richard Rosendall on political correctness: “We do not advance the cause of justice by censorship or by claiming to be traumatized by other people’s opinions.” Admittedly, he’s addressing viciousness among LGBT activist factions. Still, real liberals defend the open exchange and debate of ideas; progressive authoritarians, not so much.

Furthermore. Heather Mac Donald, in another but related context (discussing academic “queer theory”), notes: “The search for victimhood is a quasi-religious credo that motivates and gives meaning to individual action.” This explains quite a lot.

Yes, there are continuing and awful examples of hurtful discrimination and prejudice. And yes, there has also arisen a culture of false or wildly exaggerated claims of victimization. Both can be true, which is why facts and discernment, rather than self-righteous posturing, are necessary—and thuggish attempts to shut down discussion and debate (“no platforming“) must be resisted.

Not a Parody?

At Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the “Open House” residence is:

a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.

I am shocked that they have invisibilized and excluded Two Spirit (TS) Native Americans, as well as the entire Intersex (I) community from their acronym. (And no, adding on “gender dissident communities” as a generality does not appease us. We demand full acronym inclusion, Now!

More. No, this is not a parody. It’s a link from the official Wesleyan Program Housing page. It is conceivable that the denizens of Open House themselves are having some fun, but given the general humorlessness of LGBT political correctness that would truly mark them as outliers.

Breaking Ranks on the Right

Jonathan Rauch and others across the liberal/conservative spectrum ask Can Gay Wedlock Break Political Gridlock?: Some excerpts from their manifesto:

Suddenly, it’s in both parties’ interests to fight the broader decline of marriage. Here’s the case for a “marriage opportunity” agenda. …

But now, particularly as the legal and social barriers to gay marriage come down, we have reached a moment when we may finally be able to change course. Today we have a remarkable and perhaps even unique opportunity to think anew about the meaning and role of marriage and to come together as a nation to address the growing class divide in American marriage. …

Conservatives fighting for social stability and stronger families can now, based on the logic of their deepest values, recognize gays and lesbians who seek the same family values.

As I’ve said before, you won’t convert the hardcore traditionalist religious right, but other conservatives are starting to break ranks (witness the number of GOP governors in states where courts have ordered equal access to marriage, who have stated that same-sex marriage is now the law and it’s time to move on).

Other examples in today’s news: In New Hampshire “Dan Innis, the married gay man who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in New Hampshire, was confirmed to be a member of the state Republican Party’s leadership,” reports BuzzFeed. And Politico reports “The head of the Log Cabin Republicans has been invited to speak on a panel at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the pro-gay rights group announced Monday.” (The Washington Blade’s coverage is here.)

Small moves, perhaps, but signs of the times.

More. Via the Wall Street Journal:

After a court struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage last month, [Jeb] Bush called for “respect for the rule of law.” The softer tone from Mr. Bush contrasts with the positions of other Republicans weighing presidential campaigns. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee recently said that expecting Christians to accept gay marriage is like “asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.” Other likely GOP candidates have taken stances akin to Mr. Bush’s. …

While socially conservative voters, who typically dominate several of the earliest presidential nominating contests, tend to oppose gay marriage, other Republicans see it as a wedge issue that would inhibit the nominee’s appeal in the general election. “I don’t know how you can be a conservative and want less government and yet want government to tell you what to do in your personal life,” said Julie Finley, who co-hosted a northern Virginia fundraiser for Mr. Bush earlier this month.

Furthermore. I didn’t intend for this to be a post about Jeb Bush, but here’s BuzzFeed on how things are changing in the GOP, which is the point of the original post:

When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching equality for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay.

Social conservative Rod Dreher laments:

To an extent that would have been unthinkable in past elections, one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has stocked his inner circle with advisers who are vocal proponents of gay rights. … [Bush’s actions] ought to bring home to social conservatives how profoundly we have lost this thing. … Besides, we all know that the Supreme Court is going to constitutionalize same-sex marriage later this year, so there’s a political advantage to getting on the SSM bandwagon before SCOTUS leaves socially conservative Republicans behind.

Final word. Yes, Bush also says, when asked, “I believe in traditional marriage.” As do the GOP governors that are now enforcing marriage equality because it’s the law in their states. This, too, is politics, and there will still be attempts to placate the social conservative faction of the Republican base. But pretending that nothing is changing in the GOP is partisan hackery.

At CPAC, Ted Cruz was noticeably an outlier. That, too, is a sign of change.

Discrimination and Choice

The case of the Michigan pediatrician who declined to take as a patient the newborn child of two lesbians moms, instead referring the family to another doctor in her practice, is being raised as a picture perfect example of why anti-discrimination laws are needed. As Dr. Vesna Roi explained in her letter to Jami and Krista Contreras, “After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay [the baby]. I felt that you deserved that type of relationship and I know you could get that with Dr. Karam.”

This is a grayer area than forcing bakers, caterers and photographers to provide expressive/artistic services in celebration of same-sex weddings. Access to medical care strikes deep chords. In a better world, Dr. Roi wouldn’t have felt this way. But with an anti-discrimination statute, would the Conteras and their baby be better off with a surly and resentful pediatrician? But what about families who don’t have medical options?

More. In the end, medical care should not be denied on the basis of minority status. Whether this requires government intervention is quite another matter, and there is a convincing case that the better response is censure by the American Medical Association, which holds that:

“A physician may decline to undertake the care of a patient whose medical condition is not within the physician’s current competence. However, physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination.”

That said, in a non-emergency situation where there are choices, why would you want the doctor who doesn’t want you?

Added: Censure by a licensing organization brings social stigma and can limit practice opportunities. To some, apparently, that’s insufficient and the power of the state must be brought in through anti-discrimination statutes to impose confiscatory financial penalties (which if unpaid lead to the threat of incarceration). Sorry, I don’t feel that the iron fist of the state is necessary in this and similar situations.

Added: For the record, the health practitioners’ credentials at Eastlake Pediatrics include Vesna L. Roi, D.O, and Melinda E. Karam, M.D. So Dr. Roi is not a medical doctor but Dr. Karam is. This makes the demand that Dr. Roi be the primary pediatrician—in lieu of an actual M.D.—seem even more strained.

(And if that is not the objective of the lesbian moms, as some responded indignantly, then what is—that Dr. Roi not be able not to take their child as a patient, which is somehow different from insisting that Dr. Roi be their child’s doctor?)

A further note: The American Osteopathic Association covers sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination provisions, but Dr. Roi does not list the AOA among her associations. She does list the American Academy of Pediatrics, which also prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in its ethics code. I’m betting Dr. Roi wishes she had just said she was too busy to take on new patients.

The Bisexual Governor Story

Democrat Kate Brown was newly sworn in as Oregon governor after the incumbent resigned in yet another green energy/government corruption scandal. As the New York Times reports, Brown:

is also bisexual, having come out in an essay on a website about elected officials who are “out,” and is being recognized by gay rights groups as the first openly bisexual governor in the nation.

Also widely noted, Brown has been married to Dan Little, who has worked for the U.S. Forest Service, since October 1997.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Ms. Brown, 54, who lives in Portland with her husband of 15 years Dan Little and two stepchildren, has been open about her sexuality throughout her long political career….

While gay rights have been expanding at the national and state level, bisexual people—the “B” in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community—have had particular challenges. Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), says bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

In terms of behavior, however, Brown might, in fact, seem more akin to an ex-LGBT living a heterosexual lifestyle who acknowledges same-sex attraction, unless (and this isn’t clear from the coverage, which seems adamantly not to want to go there) she has an open marriage. But if you’re going to make a celebration of bisexual identity your story, you’d think clearing up that matter would, well, matter. Whatever.

As a liberal in a very progressive state, the Times observes:

her sexual orientation is unlikely to raise much of a fuss, and in some areas, it could probably be a plus. “I just learned that she’s bisexual,” said Jared Dahle, 28, who works as a window cleaner and in a bar in Portland. “That’s cool.”

Polls and Predictions

New 2016 primary polls by NBC News/Marist College have a surprising finding, reports the Washington Post. The findings show that about half of likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina said they find opposition to gay marriage either “mostly” or “totally” unacceptable in a candidate. Fifty-two percent of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina said opposing gay marriage is either mostly or totally unacceptable, while 47 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters agree.

The findings, however, have some caveats. For instance:

There’s also the possibility that the poll question confused some people. Asking people about gay marriage opposition rather than support for it brings double-negatives into the picture, possibly confusing some poll respondents. And people are more apt to respond in the negative when in doubt. …

You also have to wonder just how much of a deal-breaker gay marriage support is. The poll asked about opposition to gay marriage—not support—so it’s a little harder to suss out just how many people would vote against a candidate who supports gay marriage. We’re guessing it’s still more of a voting issue for those who oppose gay marriage than those who support it— at least on the GOP side.

I think these poll results need to be taken with a grain of salt. But if not now, then sooner than many expect, support for marriage inclusive of same-sex couples will be an accepted conservative stance, as it is in Britain and, albeit to a lesser extent (for now) in Canada, although a religious-traditionalist bloc within the party will remain opposed.

Too Much, Too Soon, For Some

While I disagree with forcing private citizens in business to provide services to same-sex weddings in violation of their religious beliefs, I believe that local government officials whose job is to perform civil weddings should not be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples, or to refuse to marry all couples, as some judges in Alabama are doing. Still, as this Washington Post story makes clear, some of these officials are people struggling with deeply felt religious convictions:

Bobby Martin had always found comfort in his job as a judge, the way it felt like a neat intersection of legality and morality, but last week it seemed to him like those two virtues had diverged. As the probate judge of Chilton County, Martin, 69, was in charge of issuing marriage licenses, and he’d done so for 26 years, in a courthouse next to the Baptist church he’d attended for decades, in the town he’d lived in since birth, to any heterosexual couple who came through the doors. This place of churches and farmland had always made sense to him, but now he’d been told he would need to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and he didn’t know what to do..…

He could agree to marry everyone, gay and straight, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized it wasn’t an option, not with what he’d been taught to believe about homosexuality and the sanctity of marriage. If it came down to that, he’d just resign, he decided. Retire early, rather than risk moral compromise.

All of these officials do not fit the “bigot” caricature through which they are often viewed by secular liberals (although, admittedly, Alabama’s chief justice Roy Moore does pretty much seem to). Nevertheless, those with government authority are required to treat all citizens as equal under the law. They are public servants, not private citizens. And if they can’t do so, they should move on.

Obama’s Canard

At this delicate moment in the fight for the freedom to marry, the revelation that President Obama was not telling the truth while running for office and during his first years in the presidency, when he claimed he personally opposed same-sex marriage because he felt “marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman,” is not helpful.

Yes, many assumed Obama’s position was taken for political expediency, but being cleverly disingenuous doesn’t make the side fighting for marriage equality look good; it makes us look deceitful. The story of Obama having “evolved” on this issue was a better model of how we hoped others would shift their views.

Opponents of marriage equality will present this, with some justification, as an act to manipulate the stupid yokels (who cling to their guns and religion). This is not the way to win hearts and minds of those who view marriage equality with suspicion.

More. Obama has denied lying about his views on gay marriage, saying that Axelrod confused the president’s personal views with his policy position, and that his policy position evolved. That’s pretty good spin, even if it doesn’t quite address Obama’s campaign statements that clearly sounded as if he personally opposed same-sex marriage because of the “sanctity” issue.

The truth is surely that if the polls had shown a majority of Americans continuing to oppose gay marriage, Obama would have remained in opposition as well.

Furthermore. Kerry Eleveld writes in Politico:

But the candidate voters witnessed never seemed particularly tortured by his stance. Between 2004 and 2008, Obama stated his opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for one man-one woman marriage repeatedly, robotically, and without flinching on numerous occasions. Few of those pronouncements were quite as spectacular as the one he made in 2008 on Rick Warren’s stage at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” he told Warren’s flock of Evangelicals. “Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

The implication was that, in his view, same-sex unions were not holy enough to count as marriages. It wasn’t the statement of a candidate who was squeamish about the consequences of his comments. Rather, it revealed a candidate who was perfectly willing to leverage religious homophobia in his quest for the presidency. In fact, the only hesitation Obama experienced in that moment came from an interruption of excited applause from the crowd.

The president’s loyal LGBT base seems split between two responses: (1) Obama was struggling with the issue for many years and eventually thought it through to the correct conclusion, and (2) Obama, being a smart politician, had to say he opposed same-sex marriage in order to get elected and (eventually) support marriage equality. And the correct answer is (3) Obama followed the polling.

Final word? Via Reason:

It’s not difficult to imagine a pro-choice candidate winning the presidency. But imagine, if you can, a president whose position on abortion “evolves” after the election. Imagine this president advocating that all innocent human life is worth protecting. Imagine that she appoints judges to solidify her new pro-life attitude. And then imagine that the president’s top adviser informs us that the president was a pro-lifer all along. I imagine that would be a pretty big story.

I’m glad Obama has appointed pro-gay-marriage judges. But I can also see why his being duplicitous is so unsettling. It’s reflected in other campaign deceits aimed at wooing the center, including his promises to bridge the partisan divide and to cut the budget deficit by half (a pretense with immense consequences).