Stereotypes, or Eye of the Beholder

by Stephen H. Miller on July 2, 2014

There’s a cultural divide, apparently, about whether sitcom representations of gay men tend to be offensive, campy stereotypes, and it’s gained notice by the New York Times.

As for me, the portrayal of Cam on “Modern Family,” played by straight actor Eric Stonestreet, has never rung true, whereas Kurt on “Glee,” played by openly gay Chris Colfer, has always been convincingly authentic.

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A Good Day for Liberty

by Stephen H. Miller on June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court strikes a few blows for liberty, although LGBT progressives won’t see it that way.

In the long-awaited Hobby Lobby ruling, the court found closely held for-profit companies are not required to pay for employees’ contraceptives (specifically abortifacients) if their owners have religious objections:

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito the court held that as applied to closely held corporations the Health and Human Services regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. … Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion.

The decision is a victory for the Green family that owns the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and the Hahns who own Conestoga, a cabinet making company, who had challenged the so called contraceptive mandate saying it forced them to either violate their faith or pay ruinous fines. The government defended the provision as an essential part of health care coverage for women.

The ruling bodes well for the eventual likelihood that the rights of nonpublic employers (that is, private, closely held firms and small proprietors) not to be compelled by the state to provide artistic or creative services that celebrate same-sex marriages.

Also worth noting: the court’s ruling that government-employee unions can’t make nonmembers pay fees.

It’s a bad day for progressives who believe all rights come from the state, and only that which the state specifically allows should be permissible.

More. Get Equal issues a predictable response. And the Human Rights Campaign helpfully informs us that “countless lesbian and bisexual women as well as some transgender men rely on contraception.”

Returning to the world of reason, some insights from Ilya Shapiro, blogging from the libertarian Cato Institute. And an observation from Cato’s Walter Olson.

And Cato’s Julian Sanchez weighs in:

The outrage does make sense, of course, if what one fundamentally cares about—or at least, additionally cares about—is the symbolic speech act embedded in the compulsion itself. In other words, if the purpose of the mandate is not merely to achieve a certain practical result, but to declare the qualms of believers with religious objections so utterly underserving of respect that they may be forced to act against their convictions regardless of whether this makes any real difference to the outcome. And something like that does indeed seem to be lurking just beneath—if not at—the surface of many reactions. The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal….

And that, too, is what the demand by progressive activists for conservative Christian bakers and photographers to labor in celebration of same-sex weddings is all about.

Furthermore Additional comments from Ilya Shapiro, via The Federalist website:

The essence of freedom is that government can’t willy-nilly force people to do things that violate their consciences. Americans understand this point intuitively. Some may argue that there’s a conflict here between religious freedom and women’s rights, but that’s a “false choice” (as the president likes to say). Without the HHS rule, women are still free to obtain contraceptives, abortions, and whatever else isn’t illegal. They just can’t force their employer to pay for them.

Still more. Here’s Steve Chapman’s perspective:

The conservative alarms about the alleged threats to religious freedom are way overblown. But there is something to be said for government policies that let people of strongly held opposing views go their separate ways.

On the other hand, this take, via the Washington Blade‘s political cartoonist, is just bonkers, pandering to the low-information, hyper-partisan reader—and the accompanying op-ed isn’t much better.

Here’s a graphic retort.

Even more. Megan McArdle: Who’s The Real Hobby Lobby Bully?:

Cards on the table: I think that institutions Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor are obviously correct—they are being forced by the government to buy something that they don’t want to buy. We can argue about whether this is a good or a bad idea, but the fact that it is coercive seems indisputable.

…the secular left views [religion] as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

I think that’s right.

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It Was 45 Years Ago Today

by Stephen H. Miller on June 28, 2014

On the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, let’s revisit this essay David Boaz penned a few years back placing Stonewall in context as resistance against oppression by the state.

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It’s Not History, It’s HBO

by Stephen H. Miller on June 25, 2014

HBO’s documentary on the legal fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, “The Case Against 8,” is undeniably a moving piece of TV. It will surely, among those who see it, reinforce their commitment to marriage equality.

But when you step back, it suffers from the same faults as journalist Jo Becker’s book on the case, Forcing the Spring—it’s as if the fight for gay marriage has no previous history, and the momentous fight in the case against Prop. 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was a world-changing victory won through the heroic efforts of three men, LGBT activist leader Chad Griffin (now president of the Human Rights Campaign) and superstar lawyers Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies.

What’s most egregious, however, is that short shrift is given to the case that actually is leading to national marriage equality, United States vs. Windsor, decided by the Supreme Court on the same day. In only the briefest of mentions in the HBO documentary do we hear about this case, and its plaintiff Edith Windsor and her lawyer, Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan, go unheralded.

Hollingsworth may have sought to establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, but had the far more limited outcome of restoring marriage equality in California, and it did so on the exceedingly narrow grounds that the opponents to the lower court ruling against Prop. 8 lacked standing to bring the appeal (since the current governor, Jerry Brown, declined to do so). As Hank Stuever writes in his Washington Post review, the HBO documentary is “fascinating for all the wrong reasons.”

James Kirchick suggests in his Wall Street Journal review of Becker’s book (and a similarly themed book by Olson and Boies), Hollingsworth will be just a footnote in the history of marriage equality; Windsor is the decision that’s changing everything. Writes Kirchick:

Not only did the victory [in Windsor] grant federal recognition to every gay marriage registered in a state that recognizes such unions, but the decision has since been cited by multiple state courts in striking same-sex marriage bans from the books. Hollingsworth reversed Proposition 8—no small feat considering that California is the country’s most populous state but hardly the sort of victory that merits the mantle of “revolution”…

A similar point is also driven home by Alyssa Rosenberg in her Washington Post commentary.

Clearly, it’s Windsor that courts across the country are relying on as they grant gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry, including the 10th Circuit’s historic ruling. Thank you, Edie Windsor and Robbie Kaplan. Too bad you lack the PR machinery of Griffin, Olson and Boies.

More. The Cato Institute’s David Boaz reminded us back in 2010, when district court judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop. 8 (the ruling eventually allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court), that when Walker was nominated by Ronald Reagan to the federal bench:

…such groups as the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force worked to block the nomination.

In other words, this “liberal San Francisco judge” was recommended by Ed Meese, appointed by Ronald Reagan, and opposed by Alan Cranston, Nancy Pelosi, Edward Kennedy, and the leading gay activist groups. It’s a good thing for advocates of marriage equality that those forces were only able to block Walker twice.

In the HBO documentary, Griffin jokes that if the chairman of the Cato Institute supports marriage equality, maybe he should rethink his position, demonstrating a lack of awareness about libertarians versus conservatives. (Cato’s chairman Robert A. Levy discusses Griffin’s remarks here.)

Furthermore. More on libertarians and gay marriage from Cato’s David Boaz, via (and with commentary from) Richard J. Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) of D.C.

And Dale Carpenter adds: “Rarely have so few overlooked so many to claim so much based on so little.

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The Divide

by Stephen H. Miller on June 22, 2014

A revealing article about politics today (hat tip: Walter Olson):

Fisher says he has friends who usually vote Democratic but are thinking about switching sides because “they’re really unhappy about the situation they’re in,” with too much of their paycheck going to the government.

He, too, chafes at high taxes. He sticks with the Democrats mainly because of their liberal social agenda — mindful of his aunt, a lesbian, who has “come out of her shell more” as states have legalized same-sex marriage. He would consider crossing the aisle if Maryland Republicans took a more libertarian approach to social issues, taking the government out of people’s personal lives.

“It would be very cool to see a Republican who says, ‘I’m for gay marriage,’” Fisher says. “If the Republicans got on board with that, it would be a really difficult decision for me.”

Which is what frightens LGBT Democratic partisans. They much prefer their Republicans like this.

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The Long-Delayed Executive Order

by Stephen H. Miller on June 17, 2014

I’d welcome an executive order prohibiting LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Those who contract with the government (and are paid with taxpayers’ dollars) agree to abide by its rules, or they shouldn’t take the work. This is different from private companies in general, including individual proprietorships, who should have an expectation of greater freedom in how they choose to conduct their business, including the hiring, promotion, firing, and payment of their employees and the jobs they chose to accept or reject (rights greatly curtailed by the regulatory state, and which progressives would virtually eliminate*). As government expands and its prohibitions and dictates mount, liberty within civil society recedes.

It’s also worth noting that after news of an upcoming executive order was announced, as MSNBC notes, “Obama effectively painted a bull’s eye, inviting Republican apoplexy. And yet, crickets.”

The order’s timing was intended to galvanize the base before November’s congressional elections by inciting reaction from GOP office seekers. But the times are changing.

*Pay equity theorists on the left, for instance, advocate legislation to limit allowable private-sector pay determination to nonsubjective factors such as education levels, job descriptions and years of service (restrictions that currently apply when determining compensation for public school teachers and often for other unionized government employees), since taking into consideration job performance as a pay factor is always, in their view, subject to bias. (Some of this thinking has made its way into the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act.)

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San Francisco Shame

by Stephen H. Miller on June 15, 2014

National Guard Not Welcome at San Francisco LGBT Pride Weekend:

Organizers of San Francisco’s pride weekend festivities have yanked the welcome mat away from the National Guard, voting to ban the Guard from setting up a booth at the festival. … Last year, the National Guard had a booth at Pride Weekend for the first time – staffed by gay soldiers – following the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

They’re showing the Texas GOP that they don’t have a monopoly on exclusionary booth denial!

And there’s icing on the politically correct cake:

The decision comes at the same time Pride organizers are allowing a controversial Army private who leaked military secrets to be honorary grand marshal.

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The GOP’s Cultural Contradictions

by Stephen H. Miller on June 15, 2014

Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz of the Washington Post report:

Another new, unpredictable element is the increasing influence of the libertarian movement, say many senior Republicans. It has infused the party with energy and has genuine appeal for many young people but has also interjected into the dialogue propositions that many traditional Republican activists reject, such as drug legalization.

“There is a loud libertarian faction,” agreed South Carolina [GOP] strategist Katon Dawson. “Libertarianism has moved into the Republican Party and is trying to hijack it.”

But David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, insisted that social issues aside, there is far more common ground than conflict in the GOP.

“I think the Republican Party is more uniformly anti-big-government than it was before, and that is not the same thing as conservative,” Boaz said. “It is more anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-Washington, which in a sense is where conservatism and libertarian views overlap.”

One source of confusion is that many in the GOP (including some, not all, in the tea party movement) who call themselves “libertarians” remain social conservatives. Whether genuine libertarians can convince them you can’t favor liberty from government on economic matters and then champion government to restrict liberty by blocking the right to marry or enforcing drug prohibition is another matter.

Jonathan Rauch touches on some similar themes at the liberal Daily Beast site, writing:

Evangelicals are, and will remain, a large and critical element of the Republican base. Three-quarters of them supported Romney in 2012. No wonder the GOP is having so much trouble with gay marriage: opposing it alienates younger voters, but supporting it angers evangelicals. Until that equation tips, individual Republicans may break ranks on gay rights, but the party remains a countercultural [anti-gay rights] bastion.

I disagree, however, on the “shrewdness” of the Human Rights Campaign’s initiative to foster dialogue in the South aimed at “changing hearts and minds in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, three of the country’s reddest states,” given HRC’s primary role fundraising for progressive Democrats and its opposition to electing openly gay conservative Republicans (such as Carl DeMaio). You can’t have it both ways (i.e., “we’re from the leftwing of the Democratic party, and we’d like to talk to you about gay equality”).

I’d also argue that, although some of the state initiatives on religious exemptions were poorly worded and supported by anti-gay evangelicals, allowing faith-based exemptions so that small business owners aren’t forced to perform artistic services celebrating same-sex weddings is the pro-liberty position.

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Hillary’s Pique

by Stephen H. Miller on June 13, 2014

Obviously, Hillary Clinton will run on a strong gay rights/marriage equality platform, but it’s interesting to note how her views changed with the shifting political winds (a phenom that’s ubiquitous in politics). Of course, the rolling disaster of the Obama administration’s foreign policy might be more pertinent to her campaign.

More. Yes, ubiquitous. Wisconsin’s GOP governor (and presidential wannabe) Scott Walker puts his finger to the wind.

Furthermore. Andrew Sullivan observes about Clinton, “the idea that she has ever risked an iota of her own power to back the equality of gays and lesbians is preposterous.”

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Milking Victimhood for Fun and Profit

by Stephen H. Miller on June 13, 2014

This is certainly not Lambda Legal’s finest hour, and it reveals a corrupt mindset that puts creating controversy for self-promotion—and perpetuating victimhood—above all else. Money quotes:

Even after being told how the restaurant handled the situation, Lambda isn’t backing down from the campaign. Instead the organization has dug in its heels. … Lambda is urging their followers to damage the reputation of a company that is recognized as an LGBT-friendly spot and hasn’t been proven guilty of any wrongdoing. …

“Lambda Legal has no obligation to investigate the allegations before doing media work or filling a case. That’s up to the [human rights] commission to decide,” said Dru Levasseur, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director. “The business’ reputation is not our concern.”

More. Mark Lees asks in the Washington Blade, “Can a business undo damage done by gay zealots?”

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