Alabama’s End Game

It’s not surprising that Alabama would put up a fight against equal rights to marriage under the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a stay to a federal district court’s ruling upholding the freedom to marry, despite Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore instructing probate judges to continue refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, signals the end game. What’s surprising is that things haven’t become even uglier in the Deep South. One can only hope that live and let live with equality under the law is soon seen as the right thing to do by all sides.

More. A statement from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says that while he is disappointed the U.S. Supreme court did not stay the district court ruling, he will not take action against probate judges:

“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue.

“We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”

The statement is vague, but the Washington Post reports that it means Bentley won’t take action against probate judges who do or do not issue marriage licenses.

Yes, it’s about over. And Judge Moore’s stance, invoking memories of opposition to federal court rulings on desegregation, seems to have backfired. Changing times, indeed.

Parsing Bruni

Liberal, openly gay columnist Frank Bruni makes some worthwhile observations about anti-gay prejudice and intransigence among GOP cultural conservatives, but felt the need to score added partisan points by ignoring the Democrats’ own failings. He writes:

…most states have never enacted laws protecting gay people from employment discrimination.

Federal legislation to that effect finally passed the Senate at the end of 2013, when the chamber was controlled by Democrats, but the Republican-led House never bothered to vote on the bill. And there’s no way that the current Congress will send something like it to President Obama for his signature.

OK, but you wouldn’t know from his accusation that the Democrats controlled both House and Senate from 2008-10, and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act never made it out of committee because, well, the Democratic-led House (and Senate) never bothered to vote on the bill.

Meanwhile, the first law the Democratic Congress enacted was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, supported by feminist groups.

There are interesting conclusions that could be drawn about the Democratic leadership’s decision not to spend political capital to pass ENDA despite having the votes, and why LGBT political lobbies didn’t push harder for it. But you can’t get there if you’re just interested in lambasting the GOP.

More. The argument that the GOP would have used Democratic votes for ENDA as a campaign issue so Democrats were forced into inaction is specious. ENDA enjoyed some GOP support, after all, and an anti-discrimination measure was supported by most Americans. Republican opposition didn’t derail Lilly Ledbetter (a bill that did far more for trial lawyers than working women, who already had statutory rights to equal pay for equal work).

Moreover, the claim that ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a better priority isn’t supported by the facts; the Democratic leadership was uninterested in moving on either ENDA or DADT repeal. The latter happened only at the end of 2010, when there was an eruption by LGBT bloggers and some activists not beholden to the Human Rights Campaign, as it became apparent Harry Reid was blocking a clean vote that could pass (with more GOP support than Democrats predicted). It was this upsurge of anger from the LGBT community, plus the vital intervention of Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Joe Lieberman, that finally pushed the vote to the Senate floor.

Sometime during the previous two years ENDA could have been moved, but the strategy was (as with immigration reform) not to pass a bill, but to keep the hope of future passage alive as a campaign issue that would help mobilize targeted voting blocs in the next election cycle.

Changing Times

The New York Times reports:

Speaker John A. Boehner said on Thursday that he expected House Republicans to accept the decision on same-sex marriage that the Supreme Court is scheduled to issue later this year.

“I don’t expect that we’re going to weigh in on this,” Mr. Boehner said. “The court will make its decision, and that’s why they’re there, to be the highest court in the land.”

The statement comes as a bit of a surprise, given the House Republicans’ expensive defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

A commenter posted on an earlier item that he was afraid predicting that once the freedom to marry was secured, “rich gay men” would “vote their wallets.” To which I can only say, I hope so. Not because greed is good, but because a prosperous, growing economy that creates real jobs relies on private sector investment and modest, targeted regulation, not higher taxes on investments with ever-expanding regulatory burdens, uncertainties and liabilities.

More. The progressives sound worried. Jonathan Capehart writes:

Finally, the LGBT community must do a better job of making common cause with others seeking equality and freedom from discrimination. Where is the community on immigration? On economic inequality? On racial justice? …

There are poor LGBT Americans. There are millions of people who would benefit from an increase in the national minimum wage who are also LGBT.

By the way, the next time you’re faced with self-checkout at the grocery or drugstore, or an automatic parking garage, or, increasingly, automated self-ordering at fast food restaurants, you can thank those increases in the minimum wage intended to help lower-income Americans but which often end up cutting back their hours and opportunities—or eliminating their employment prospects altogether, especially for the young seeking entry into the workforce.

Furthermore. It’s not just LGBT voters who are feeling more at ease with the GOP. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are being wooed by Republicans with increasing success, for example. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

Republicans, after musing about the possibility for more than a decade, have finally found a footing in Silicon Valley, ingratiating themselves with tech entrepreneurs who had long eschewed politics in general, conservative politics in particular.

Democrats haven’t yet lost their advantage, but Bay Area techies are writing increasingly sizable checks to GOP candidates and causes.

You betcha that the waning of the marriage issue is making this much easier for them.

Religious Liberty: Can We Avoid a New ‘Culture War’?

“While finding that Americans narrowly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, a new Associated Press-GfK poll also shows most believe wedding-related businesses should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples for religious reasons,” reports the AP:

David Kenney, a self-employed Catholic from Novi, Michigan, said he’s fine with same-sex marriage being legal. He’s among the 57 percent of Americans who said wedding-related businesses—such as florists—should be allowed to refuse service if they have an objection rooted in their religion.

”Why make an issue out of one florist when there are probably thousands of florists?” asked Kenney, 59. “The gay community wants people to understand their position, but at the same time, they don’t want to understand other people’s religious convictions. It’s a two-way street.”

Reasonable compromise that extends freedom to all parties—an affront to progressivism!

Relatedly, in the Wall Street Journal, an op-ed: What Will Matter to Evangelicals in 2016 (firewalled, so google: “What Will Matter to Evangelicals in 2016″ site:wsj.com). Writes Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

This isn’t only a Republican issue. Democrats and Republicans stood together for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—signed by President Clinton. Perhaps it is time for Hillary Clinton to stand up for Jefferson’s vision of freedom of conscience against the sexual-revolution industrial complex in her party, which too often dismisses basic protections of free exercise as a “war on women” or a “right to discriminate.”

More. Meanwhile, LGBTQ Task Force leader Rea Carey, in her annual State of the Movement speech, took issue with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that employers with religious objections should not be forced to purchase abortifacient drugs for their employees, and with exemptions for religious organizations in the proposed Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), declaring:

…the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling was a game changer—creating a world where employers could impose their religious beliefs on their employee’s health care choices. That ruling really magnified the potential impact of blurring the lines between religious beliefs and employment; between the separation of church and state. And, 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.

Well, it worked in terms of killing ENDA (maybe not a bad outcome, after all).

Intolerance of Intolerance, or Academic Censorship?

Should a tenured professor be fired for online criticism of a graduate student instructor who allegedly told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class? The story from Inside Higher Ed:

In November, [John] McAdams, an associate professor of political science [at Marquette University], wrote a blog post accusing a teaching assistant in philosophy of shutting down a classroom conversation on gay marriage based on her own political beliefs. His account was based on a recording secretly made by a disgruntled student who wished that the instructor, Cheryl Abbate, had spent more time in class one day on the topic of gay marriage, which the student opposed. McAdams said Abbate, in not allowing a prolonged conversation about gay marriage, was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which opinions they disagree with “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

Abbate said McAdams had distorted her actions—and that she wasn’t trying to shut down an argument she disagreed with, but simply had wanted to keep a focus on an in-class conversation about the philosopher John Rawls’s equal liberty principle. But conservative blogs spread McAdams’ take on the situation— and she found herself receiving a flood of hateful email messages, some of them threatening.

And from FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):

Marquette is taking action against McAdams, a political conservative and frequent critic of the administration, supposedly in response to his online criticism of a graduate student instructor who told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class. Marquette had previously suspended McAdams without due process, treated him as though he presented a violent threat, and cancelled his current semester’s classes. …

“If Marquette can fire a tenured professor for criticizing a fellow teacher on a blog, then tenure at Marquette is worthless, as are freedom of speech and academic freedom,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “While this is more than likely just an excuse to get rid of McAdams, the fact that McAdams’s supposed offense was criticizing a teacher for squelching dissenting opinions in class only makes Marquette’s utter contempt for dissenters more obvious.

It’s hard to say what the truth of the matter is, but this is bad optics even if McAdams over-reached. Some instructors do, sometimes, stifle/shame students for expressing political opinions that they disagree with, and it’s legitimate to call them out on it. And if that’s not what happened in Abbate’s classroom, then she certainly can respond. So the firing of McAdams sounds like politically correct intolerance by those who like to present themselves as defenders of tolerance (just not of views they happen to know are incorrect).

From the ‘Unintended Consequences’ File

I recently read a snarky column in the conservative Washington Times taking issue with housing being developed for LGBT seniors. But this point struck me as of interest:

In 2013, a federal housing study found that when heterosexual married couples look for a place to live, they are slightly more likely to get a favorable response than gay couples. HUD said that while the gap isn’t huge, it did find more discrimination in states that had laws on anti-gay discrimination than those that didn’t. The five-month national study covered 50 metropolitan markets and took place in 2011.

Could that be right? I googled and came across a June 2013 Huffington Post story that reported:

One of the most interesting findings of the new HUD survey is that discrimination was actually slightly higher against same-sex couples in states with protections for LGBT individuals.

“Several factors could account for this unexpected finding, including potentially low levels of enforcement, housing provider unfamiliarity with state-level protections, or the possibility that protections exist in states with the greatest need for them,” HUD concluded.

Since it’s the liberal jurisdictions that have passed LGBT-inclusive housing measures, it doesn’t really seem likely that “protections exist in states with the greatest need for them,” does it. What is more probable is that once these nondiscrimination statutes are passed, landlords are less likely to rent to same-sex couples because it becomes that much harder to evict them for legitimate reasons if the tenants can claim unlawful discrimination.

Something similar has become evident with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of what used to be called disabilities. Once protected-status individuals are hired, it increases the employer’s liability in the event that they are let go. Which could be why, as pointed out by Walter Olson, labor force participation for the disabled actually declined after the ADA’s passage.

Beware those unintended consequences of well-intentioned legislation.

Another example: Labor advocates push for raising the minimum wage to help low-wage earners, who then have their hours cut or find themselves unemployed because, it turns out, businesses actually don’t operate with excess profit margins that can be redirected, by government decree, to salary budgets. Seattle is just the latest demonstration of this unintended (but actually quite well-documented) consequence.

More. The proposed federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is focused on employment discrimination, not housing or public accommodations (while some activists are now advocating that its scope be expanded to include these areas). But the principle of unintended consequences remains very real, which is one reason I remain equivocal about it. The belief that absent a compelling reason for it, businesses are best left to hire, fire and promote as they see fit, is another. And LGBT advocates have failed to produce convincing evidence of systemic employment discrimination.

As for the comparison with race- and gender-based civil rights measures, enforcement of these typically falls back on disparate impact analysis, meaning employers who don’t employee women and racial minorities based on their representation in the population (or at least their representation among qualified job applicants) can be sued by either the EEOC or those who believe they suffered discrimination by not being hired (or promoted). Since there is no convincing count of LGBT people in the population, no one is seriously proposing that LGBT disparate impact be written in to anti-discrimination legislation.

Furthermore. Walter Olson also took note of the housing discrimination finding.

Contretemps on the Left

I almost feel sorry for the Human Rights Campaign. I think they long-ago sacrificed their integrity by becoming an outreach arm of the Democratic party. But the LGBT left is incensed that HRC is not working explicitly for the progressive statist/absolutist agenda. Some days you just can’t win.

More. The protesters are charging, for instance, that HRC fails to include “economic justice” concerns in its Corporate Equality Index, thus “pinkwashing” the grievances they have against corporate America.

Furthermore. LGBTQ Task Force leader Rea Carey said, in her annual State of the Movement speech, that LGBT activism has a “moral obligation” to expand its efforts on behalf of the “greater good,” and “to use our progress and any relative privilege we might have to…do our part for a changed and just society.” By which she means bigger, more coercive and confiscatory government. And no exemptions for religious organizations from the dictates of the state. No thanks, Rea.

A ‘Lifestyle Choice’ Brouhaha

At first this seemed too silly to bother with, but it’s getting attention from both LGBT and religious right media, so it warrants some acknowledgment.

In an interview with YouTube personality (if that’s the right word) GloZell Green (pictured here), Obama said he hopes the Supreme Court makes the “right decision” on marriage rights for same-sex couples, adding: “I think people know that treating folks unfairly—even if you disagree with their lifestyle choice, the fact of the matter is they’re not bothering you.”

As reported by the Washington Blade:

President Obama deviated this week from the language considered acceptable for talking about gay people when he described the lives of same-sex couples as a “lifestyle choice”—but virtually no one cares.

The Washington Blade reached out to various LGBT groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force and GLAAD, to ask whether they objected to Obama’s use of the phrase. None of those groups responded to a request to comment on that language, which is widely considered unacceptable and offensive because it suggests that sexual orientation is a choice.

Well, apparently the religious right cares. The religious conservative website WND reported (if that’s the right word):

His answer, which seemed to undermine the foundation for claims across America that homosexuals are a class of people with defined characteristics and deserve minority protections, came recently during a recorded interview with GloZell Green, a green-lipstick-wearing, milk and cereal bath-taking YouTube personality who was picked by the White House to visit with the president after his recent 2015 State of the Union address. She begins her videos asking, “Hello this is Glozell! Is you OK? Is you? Good, ’cause I wanted to know!’”

As to treating people fairly because “even if you disagree with their lifestyle choices, the fact of the matter is they’re not bothering you,” one commenter on the WND site wondered if Obama was “finally telling the homosexual lobby to stop suing Christians?”

A few days later, the Blade reported that the White House responds to Obama ‘lifestyle choice’ remark. But it was actually a nonresponse:

In a news conference that marked the first time an openly gay person conducted an on-camera White House news conference, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz addressed questions Wednesday over President Obama’s remark that being gay is a “lifestyle choice.” In response to a question…on whether Obama regrets using the phrase, which he used in a YouTube interview with GloZell Green last week, Schultz replied he hasn’t talked to Obama about the matter.

So, a linguistic tempest in a teabag? Obama probably was revealing, off the cuff, his personal view, and it doesn’t help. That’s what happens when he doesn’t have a teleprompter. But it essentially is inconsequential. The only point worth remarking on is how even inconsequential minutia becomes fodder for media buzz these days.

On the other hand, if a prominent GOP politician made such a remark, there would have been a firestorm of criticism, while the Blade couldn’t get any of the big LGBT activist organizations to call Obama out on this.

The Dish (cont.)

Count me as someone who would like to see The Dish continue after Andrew Sullivan’s retirement.  I have been reading Andrew for as long as he’s been published, and have been a happy Dish Head since its first day.  I don’t pay directly for much on the Internet, but his site has been well worth my time and money.

Andrew is a hard and deep thinker, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than reading something of his that I am inclined to disagree with to see if he can change my mind.  Sometimes he has (the Clintons’ lust for power), sometimes not (NFL concussions), and sometimes I’m left suspended in mid-air (Trig Palin).

But there’s a less discussed aspect to The Dish that I would like to see survive him.  Over the years, it has developed into what would have been called, in an earlier time, a salon.  A great deal of Dishness happens when Andrew steps aside and just serves as the host for a vivacious discussion among well-informed and highly interesting voices.

My guess is that this is not something he is able to achieve on his own.  The staff at The Dish has developed a keen judgment about what things are worth my time.  And that includes not only thoughtful and sometimes dyspeptic argument, but also the invaluable Mental Health Breaks, the cream of dog and cat videos, and the Sunday Sermons that are better than anything I remember from any Catholic priest I ever had to listen to.

Even without Andrew, I think that sensibility can continue.  I know it is something I rely on, and possibly am addicted to.  The Dish filters out much of the Internet’s toxicity.  We are all going to need sites with that kind of judgment in the years to come.  I’m ready to continue supporting the people who are doing that job so well right now, if they are willing.

It’s Not Propaganda If Liberals Support It

Below is the kind of government action that causes left-liberals to roll their eyes over the thought that anyone but abject bigots should object to it, and causes libertarians to roll their eyes because liberals think this is just a dandy use of taxpayer money.

At issue: The National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $10,000 taxpayer-funded grant to a theater company in San Francisco to produce and tour a collection of plays advocating same-sex marriage called “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.”

As reported by the Washington Times:

The project was touted by Variety as “a celebration of gay marriage” … But taxpayer advocates say the government shouldn’t be using tax dollars to promote the arts, especially when the art in question has a political agenda that not all taxpayers support.

“This isn’t a pro-gay-marriage or an anti-gay-marriage issue. It’s an issue about how tax dollars are spent. It’s inappropriate and irresponsible for the government to make taxpayers subsidize art in general, and doubly offensive for the taxpayers forced to pay to promote something they might oppose. It would be just as offensive if tax dollars went to fund a play that opposed gay marriage,” said David Williams, president of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Leaving aside the larger issues of our federal government distributing taxpayer money to local arts projects that government appointees deem worthy, this is the sort of thing that almost seems intended to provoke a conservative backlash—live and let live, equal rights under the law, it is not.