To Buy or Not to Buy

As the Washington blade reports:

Elton John is among those who support a boycott of gay fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s label over their controversial comments about children conceived through in vitro fertilization. “You are born and you have a father and a mother, or at least it should be so,” said Dolce during an interview that Panorama, an Italian website, featured in its March 12 issue. “You cannot convince me of what I call children of chemistry, and synthetic children: Wombs for rent, seeds selected from a catalog.” …

“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’” wrote John, using the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana. “And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF—a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay…

I have no issue with anyone publicly stating they won’t be purchasing products or services because they find the expressed views of the business owners insulting or bigoted, or when (apparently not the case with Dolce & Gabbana) the profits of the business are being used to support efforts that are viewed with disdain. Your money, your choice.

By the same token, those who think the personal or political views of business owners should not be a factor in purchasing decisions have that right as well. As Gabbana responded to John’s boycott, “You preach understanding, tolerance and they you attack others? Only because someone has a different opinion?”

Boycotts of this kind become problematic when government gets involved, as when liberal local officials threatened to zone out Chick fil A franchises because the owning family funded groups opposing same-sex marriage (the company says it no longer contributes to anti-gay marriage groups).

The decision to purchase or not purchase is an individual one. Efforts to press companies to change their support or opposition to political causes (that is, boycott organizing) is part of social pressure and lobbying that takes place in civil society. Dolce and Gabbana have rights to express their views, and Elton John and Ricky Martin can take exception and urge consumers to boycott the company. Some will see that as another kind of intolerance, and others will view it as appropriate.

Efforts to outlaw political speech deemed offensive, or to use the power of the state to punish those who exercise their legal rights to engage in the political process, is where we should always draw the line.

On the Religion Front

The United Methodist Church is facing a possible schism between those who support and oppose same-sex marriage, the Washington Post reports. One issue:

like much of Christianity, its growth today is in the developing world—particularly in Africa and the Philippines, where United Methodists tend to vote against gay equality.

A similar problem bedevils the Anglican Communion, although the U.S. Episcopal Church has the independence to be inclusive on its own, with a small number of congregations that have chosen to perpetuate traditional discrimination breaking away so as to align with African Anglican churches that prefer hate to the gospel of love.

Meanwhile, U.S. Reform Jewish rabbis have just installed their first openly lesbian leader. Orthodox Jewish congregations remain opposed to ordaining gay rabbis and marrying same-sex couples.

Religious denominations are and should be at liberty to pursue whatever principles of faith they like, even when their tenets collide with government policy or increasingly common views of what is right and just. Things get dicey when government gets entwined with the practice of faith, as when ordering religiously affiliated organizations to pay for abortifacient drugs, or not to discriminate in hiring against gay people.

Another interesting entanglement: should military chaplains from religiously traditionalist churches be stopped from telling service members their denomination’s views against homosexuality?

If the government is going to have military chaplains, I don’t think they should be censored. Also, I’m told service members are given access to a wide variety of chaplains at military bases, both Christian and non-Christian, and from conservative evangelicals to the more liberal protestant churches. Still, this shows how government entanglement with religious faiths can work to the detriment of both.

More. Obviously, in combat situations, there is not a choice among chaplains. And yes, chaplains can take part in nondenominational or cross-denominational services and counseling as well as ministering to service members who share their faith, depending on the circumstances. This particular instance, resulting in the chaplain facing the threat of dismissal, seems to have involved conversations in which a soldier asked the chaplain about his views and those of his church.

Update. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes same-sex marriage:

Pastors—traditionally known as “teaching elders”—have already been allowed to perform same-sex marriages in states where they’re legal since last June. The new amendment leaves the discretion of whether to conduct such ceremonies with individual ministers.

“There is nothing in the amendment to compel any teaching elder to conduct a wedding against his or her judgment,” the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church’s stated clerk, or top ecclesiastical official, said Tuesday.

Seems like a reasonable step forward that allows same-sex couples to marry within the denomination while also respecting the rights of clergy who are not yet onboard.

The church earlier eliminated barriers for ordaining gays, reports USA Today, which says “The denomination is now the largest Protestant group to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian.”

More. The National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans, has broken its fellowship with Presbyterian Church USA following its recent vote to approve same-sex marriage. How hatefully homophobic are some of these African-American churches? Take a look.

Frank’s Win-Lose Is a Win-Win.

Following on my previous post addressing former Congressman Barney Frank’s new memoir, let’s turn to Frank’s view of how America has both progressed and regressed. From the New York Times book review:

As Mr. Frank notes at the outset and conclusion of his book, the most sweeping and unexpected change from the moment he became interested in politics as a boy in Eisenhower-era America is that prejudice toward gay people has plummeted while skepticism toward government has spiked.

He is as troubled by the lack of trust in government as he is elated by the rise of cultural tolerance.

For some of us, this is a win-win (or would be, if the size, scope and cost of government hadn’t soared since the days of JFK under both Democrats and Republicans).

Americans should be skeptical about activist government, because its actions are so often counter-productive if not in fact destructive. Government should be held to the highest bar to prove that its interventions are necessary and the these essential objectives cannot be obtained other than through the coercive force of the state, which is backed by the treat of punishment.

Sometimes, federal intervention meets this standard, as when Washington (all three branches, executive, legislative and judiciary) intervened to put an end to unconstitutional state Jim Crow laws that institutionalized discrimination against African-Americans. But one of the greatest domestic failures of government has been its attempts to end poverty, more often fostering dependency instead of independence, in no small measure by undermining African-American families.

Still not convinced government action should be limited by strict scrutiny? Check out the amicus brief of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (the consolidated same-sex marriage cases), and prepared with attorneys at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. It uses many recently acquired original source documents to show the long, tragic history of federal and state government animus toward, and persecution of, gay Americans. (For an overview, you can also read the press release.)

Rising distrust toward government? I’m all for it.

Frank Disdain

I don’t agree with former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank on his regulatory state policy objectives (Dodd-Frank has been an anchor around the economy, particularly for startups, while a goldmine for compliance lawyers). But in terms of tactical assessments, he has some interesting observations in his new memoir, as reviewed by the New York Times. Some excerpts from the review:

[Frank’s] chief motivation in writing this book appears to be using his experience in public life to argue that the democratic process, though imperfect and given to incremental gains, is a more effective tool for social change than the protests and provocations often favored by the left. …

In 1993, during the debate about gays serving in the military, Mr. Frank participated in a large Washington demonstration for gay rights and relates that he prevented what he says would have been a “disaster.” He eyed a group of about nine or 10 gay uniformed soldiers practicing a leg-kick routine they were to perform on the stage during the televised rally.

“Nothing could have been more devastating to our argument that L.G.B.T. people would blend comfortably into the military than a photo—or worse a video—of these guys lined up not to march but to emulate the Rockettes,” he writes.

Mr. Frank convinced them not to do it and endured their anger—which, he notes, he would often face when urging strategic or tactical restraint with gay rights groups or individuals.

But he vociferously contends that his approach was more effective, and holds up the disciplined and orderly 1963 March on Washington for civil rights as a comparison. “The contrast between that great sober, moving occasion and the antics at our march [in 1993] could not have been greater,” he writes, recalling that one lesbian comedian had said onstage she would like to have sex with Hillary Clinton, then the first lady (using a more expressive four-letter verb). “If a black comedian had begun to joke about having sex with Jackie Kennedy, he would have been thrown in the reflecting pool, not cheered.”

The activists would respond that their militancy lit a fire under the politicos, and there are some narrow examples where that seems true (Act-Up and the FDA). But in general, Frank has a point—up to a point. The national “marches” (in 1979, 1987, 1993, 2000, and 2009) failed to achieve their primary goal (Democrats didn’t move a federal anti-discrimination bill during the times when they controlled Congress during both the Clinton and Obama administrations). Creating “community” and fostering solidarity, often mentioned as vital secondary objectives of these mass mobilizations, are harder to quantify, so that debate will go on.

And yet….What is grating about Frank’s critique is his default supposition that it should be left to inside-the-Beltway politicians to deliver gay legal equality. That’s on par with his default supposition that everything is best left to our liberal-elite Washington betters to handle. It’s (almost) condescending enough to make one side with the militants.

More. As for remembrance of things past, friends who were at the first march in 1979 tell me it was personally transforming. I was there in 1987 and found it inspirational and energizing. But by 1993, the attempt seemed more like politically correct ritual (maybe my consciousness of such things was better attuned), and I skipped the others and watched on C-SPAN, where they appeared to be progressively worse in that regard.

It’s worth noting that these were the goals stated in 1979:

–Pass a comprehensive lesbian/gay rights bill in Congress.
–Issue a presidential executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government, the military, and federally contracted private employment.
–Repeal all anti-lesbian/gay laws.
–End discrimination in lesbian-mother and gay-father custody cases.
–Protect lesbian and gay youth from any laws which are used to discriminate, oppress, and/or harass them in their homes, schools, jobs, and social environments.

The top goal was never achieved (and I remain equivocal about it), while an executive order banning discrimination among federal contractors was finally obtained last year (although Obama had promised it when seeking LGBT votes in 2008).

A tangent: In the cultural sphere (a least in terms of popular media and audience response), progress is undeniable, as “The Fosters” on ABC Family showed with a recent episode where two 13 year-old boys kiss. Yahooo Entertainment says this marks “the youngest gay kiss in television history.” And “while there was undoubtedly a slew of angry, hateful tweets—unfortunately, that’s nothing new for a show revolving around an interracial lesbian couple and their five biological, adopted, and foster children—the overall reaction has been positive,” the network reports.

For those of us who can recall the controversy and advertiser boycott over “thirtysomething” in 1989, it’s a much changed media world, reflecting a much changed actual world. Washington seems to be the behind the times outlier, to be remedied to a great extent if the Supreme Court does the right thing in June.

Gaining Iowa and Losing the (Real) Libertarians

The Republican dilemma: pandering to social conservatives to win primaries in Iowa and the South means alienating younger voters and centrists who are fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, especially on marriage equality. Those voters could be won over by the GOP in a general election, if not permanently offended by pandering to religious rightists.

Rand Paul has pushed himself over that cliff, to his detriment, by saying that same-sex marriage “offends myself and a lot of people,” and suggesting (if, I think, not quite stating) that gay people be denied an equal right to marry under the law, while in some future libertarian age—when the government has no role in marriage whatsoever—everyone could enter into relationship contracts as they desire, to be sanctified by religious ceremony (by willing clergy) if they wish. But until then…

We’ll see if the more moderate positions on marriage taken by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker hold. Obviously, they too have been against marriage equality. However, noting that people have strong feelings on both sides but “it’s the law now, let’s move on” might navigate that thicket, if they can stick to it.

More. Ted Cruz’s animus in Iowa makes Rand Paul seem positively gay friendly.

Furthermore. At reason.com, Scott Shackford argues that Paul is getting a raw deal and was actually offering a nuanced position. “He said the idea of gay marriage ‘offends’ him and some others, so you can guess which part of his response ended up in headlines.” Well, yes.

In fairness, an Oklahoma bill that would take the state out of the marriage licensing business but (if the Supreme Court does the right thing) still recognize same-sex marriages may give a clearer idea of what Paul is suggesting. Shackford writes:

While it is true that the legislation is a direct response to the federal courts striking down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage recognition and the likelihood that the Supreme Court will uphold those rulings this summer, [state Rep. Todd Russ] said his legislation is intended to take the state out of the fight, not to perpetuate the conflict. He said Oklahomans likely wouldn’t even notice a difference in the legal status of their relationships under his bill.

“I’m not picking a fight with them,” Russ said in reference to opposition to the legislation. “I’m not their judge. I didn’t go there.”

Update. via Scott Shackford at reason.com: Rand Paul Reaches Out to Evangelicals over ‘Moral Crisis’ Connected to Gay Marriage. Sadly, he’s shifting to the right, ever to the right, on the freedom to marry and other issues. Some see a panic response to low poll numbers and to Ted Cruz’s hyperactive lobbying of evangelicals. Others argue that Paul is still telling the pastors that while he shares their views about the “moral crisis” that includes same-sex marriage, they shouldn’t look to Washington for solutions (and instead, they should hold tent revivals, etc., as part of a new religious Great Awakening).

Non-political Actors: A Theory

I don’t know or care a lot about whether this actor from “Empire” is gay or not.  His non-reaction to a general sense that he is gay seems like a replay of what we went through with Sean Hayes back in the day.

But I have to say I think I can understand the reluctance of some young actors to be publicly and irrevocably identified as homosexual.

It’s not because of the closet — at least not these days.  Whether or not we’ve reached critical mass on gay acceptance, it is clear to most people in Hollywood that it is not only possible to be openly homosexual and have a successful career, it can even get you some favorable press.  In any event, we are long past the days of Rock Hudson.

The bigger challenge for a gay celebrity these days in coming out is the fear of being commandeered by the gay political establishment as the Latest Model.

For the last half century or so, lesbians and gay men have had to live in an artificially politicized world for the simple reason that the laws that were so harmful to us needed to be challenged by someone, and it pretty much had to be us.  Very few heterosexuals worried about having sodomy laws used to blackmail them, and it took a generation of constant effort to get people to see that the lack of legal recognition for our relationships was, in fact, a problem for us.  Those efforts have paid off in record time.

But here’s a fact that a lot of politically active people don’t always understand.  Many people didn’t want to be political, or didn’t have the inclination in that direction.  All those years of yelling, “Out of the bars and into the streets!” were a recognition of that fact.  At lot of people did get out of the bars and into the streets, but it was only because they were persuaded how vitally important that was.

Once established, political activism can become just another bureaucracy fighting for its own continued existence.  That’s perfectly fine for those who live for controversy and grievance.

But what if that’s not your thing?  In a world where sexual orientation is far better understood (though there are notable exceptions), lawyers and postal workers and bakers and nurses have the luxury of leading lives as private as they choose.  For actors or others in the orbit of celebrityhood, though, a certain amount of publicity is their oxygen.  It’s also the oxygen of the activists, who tend to resent the closet because they have to respect it.  Outing has always been controversial because it violated that necessary respect in a context where being openly gay would have the most value.

But we have a more than adequate supply of good, great and even superlative role models who are openly homosexual now.  The almost unbelievable progress we have made in both improving the law and opening the culture has broken through the silence that equalled death and a multitude of other gruesome, painful and noxious consequences.

Which is why I’m willing to give celebrities who want to avoid being coopted by the gay political establishment a break. There are actual gay politicians now, the professionals in this sport.  And there are enough high-profile homosexual celebrities that we don’t need every actor out there to publicly declare and risk conscription.

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.