Boy Scouts May Do the Right Thing

The Boy Scouts of America, according to its national president Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, seems to be recognizing that its longstanding ban on participation by openly gay adults is no longer feasible. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” Gates told the Scouts’ national annual meeting in Atlanta.

It’s a good thing for a bedrock national organization to stop discriminating. In this case, the courts have recognized that scouting is a private organization that is free to choose its voluntary troop leaders. But the scouts are responding to the changing times, and the increasingly common view that their policy is intolerant and mean spirited.

But if you read the comments to the AP story (why do we read the comments!), you realize how strong the antipathy/animus remains, and how unrelenting is the belief that gay men just want to be in scouting for the opportunity to sexually abuse boys.

Again here, as elsewhere, our opponents are making excellent use of the heavy handed and, yes, also mean-spirited attempts to force bakers, florists and photographers (and pizza shops) to provide services in celebration of same-sex weddings. If for no other reason than the sheer tactical stupidity of these lawsuits and mob mobilizations against small working-class vendors with traditional religious beliefs, they should not be supported.

Zealotry

Aaron Hicklin writes at Out:

All minorities are acutely sensitive to being belittled and disparaged, and rightly so, but in the febrile world of the Web, it’s easy to take umbrage at every passing slight. We begin to care too much about whether our pasta is too conservative, or if a pizza maker will cater a hypothetical wedding in a state that until just recently didn’t even have marriage equality. We act like petty tyrants exploding in anger whenever someone says something that falls foul of approved policy.

Increasingly, of course, the targets of that anger are other LGBT people, because that is the way tyranny works…

The dismissive snark in the comments to Hicklin’s article on the Out site prove his point.

More. Of course there is and has forever been zealotry on the right, and the anti-gay right (and left) has had state power to use against LGBT people from time immemorial. Now, that’s shifting. The use of the term “zealatry” as applied to those who view themselves as progressives is intentional—why do you want to be like them? And targeting the small working-class vendor with religious-based qualms about gay marriage, with all the rage built up against the forces of intolerance and persecution, is sheer scapegoating. And its ugly. And those who spur on the mob and participate themselves should be ashamed. You are not the force of progressive light; you, too, have a shadow-side. Confront it.

Furthermore. The case of The Tolerant Jeweler Who Harbored an Impure Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage. Also noted by Rod Dreher here:

This Christian jeweler agreed to custom-make engagement rings for a lesbian couple, knowing that they were a couple, and treated them politely. But when they found out what he really believed about same-sex marriage, even though the man gave them polite service, and agreed to sell them what they asked for, the lesbian couple balked, and demanded their money back — and the mob threatened the business if they didn’t yield. Which, of course, he did.

And yes, Dreher is no supporter of gay rights. But our media advocates don’t report on this, do they? Wouldn’t make their readers feel all warm and superior and full of self-righteousness.

The Iowa Factor?

Jeb Bush, facing campaign headwinds, takes a somewhat stronger stance against same-sex marriage (although the New York Times may be overstating what is essentially a change in tone).

All the GOP contenders are competing to the right in the primaries (and particularly in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, dominated by the religious right). But it will haunt the eventual nominee in the general election, and even goes against the shifting views of GOP voters overall.

Post-Marriage Battles Loom

LGBT activists are saying that after (hopefully) the freedom to marry throughout the U.S. is recognized by the Supreme Court, other battles await. For many, the fight for strong anti-discrimination protections looms large; for some, it’s the perennial goal of even more closely embedding LGBT activism within the broader progressive agenda of redistribution and regulation.

But as the Washington Post reports, evangelical and Catholic religious groups, including charities and universities, fear that they will find themselves targeted in the battles ahead:

Leaders of religious institutions, including colleges, hospitals and nonprofits, are waiting to see how the case might affect issues like accreditation, government funding and tax exemption. Organizations have worked on issues related to poverty for the past 50 to 100 years, including Catholic Charities and World Vision, receive government aid for their services, aid that some fear could be challenged….

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical campus ministry, which has corralled hundreds of thousands of students to work on issues such as poverty, was denied recognition on several California campuses because of it did not sign a nondiscrimination statement.

“Setting aside the overblown rhetoric in all directions, there does seem to be a real difference for the framing of ‘religious liberty and the American culture wars’ when the battle lines move from issues like school prayer and vouchers—or even cake bakers and florists—to questions of whether religious student groups can be on public university campuses, whether religious colleges should be accredited, and whether local school systems should accept volunteer support from churches and ministries,” [John Inazu of Washington University School of Law] said.

The hope that we might achieve legal equality under the law, including the right to marry, but that no one should be forced by the state to provide services or otherwise participate in same-sex marriages, and that religious groups might be afforded reasonable tolerance to abide by their own traditions, is likely not going to happen. Zealots on both sides have too much invested in maintaining the culture wars.

20 Years from DP Benefits to Marriage

As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz and I both predicted 20 years ago(!), domestic partner benefits may be left behind in an era when all couples can get married. David’s May 13 blog post at the Cato at Liberty blog takes note of the long road from then to now. He also links to both recent Wall Street Journal coverage on this development (“Firms Tell Gay Couples: Wed or Lose Your Benefits“), and my January blog post (“Domestic Partner Benefits Are (Almost) Passé“).

For the historically minded, two decades ago David addressed the issue here, among other places, and I did so here.

‘ Gay Identity’  Post-Marriage

A rather extensive analysis over at Slate by J. Bryan Lowder, What Was Gay? provides an update on the long-running debate between unique gay identity versus gay assimilation into the mainstream. That cultural conflict has been heightened by marriage equality (we tend to forget how opposed gay liberationists were, and some “queer theorists” remain, to the idea of same-sex marriage).

Lowder looks back at the rise of “gayness” as a “quasi-ethnic group.” He argues “the price of equality shouldn’t be conformity, ” and it’s hard to argue in favor of “conformity,” although subcultures can also fall prey to their own suffocating orthodoxies.

Lowder concludes:

I still think gay is good, though making that argument in a world in which identity is becoming both more complex and more contested will be difficult. But gay is also resilient, and it has a way of thriving best when welcomed least. Future gayness will undoubtedly be different from what it was—but then, isn’t reinvention the essence of good style? I, for one, can’t wait to see what gayness will become.

Post-marriage, that will be interesting to see.

Rearguard Actions

Leading up to and after a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, we can expect to see more last-ditch actions such as those aimed at forbidding county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, which could be passed in Texas and in the deep South, until federal courts put these efforts asunder.

We’d be in a stronger position to oppose these efforts to enshrine discrimination by the state if certain quarters weren’t using the power of the state, where they are in control, to force private vendors to provide services to same-sex weddings (the comments to the Dallas Morning News story contain many claims that it’s LGBT people who are the ones being intolerant, provoking responses claiming that our intolerance is justified intolerance while your intolerance is just intolerance…or whatever).

On a related front, CNN.com looks at the schism between Christian conservatives and big business over defense of religious freedom laws. Then again, the populist right and its counterpart, the progressive left, have never really looked kindly on big business anyway.

More. The debate over whether independent vendors with religious views opposed to participating in same-sex weddings should be forced by the state to do so gets confused, often deliberately by the right, with a related but different issue: whether civil servants should be able to opt out of performing same-sex marriages. As I posted last month:

…here I think the answer has to be no. There is a key difference between private, self-employed citizens who don’t want to provide creative services to same-sex weddings, and servants of the state.

While some of my friends on the left seem to think everyone is essentially (or should be) treated as a servant of the state, that’s actually not the American way, and shouldn’t be.

But, on the other hand, if government officials can’t perform their duty to treat all citizens equally, citing their own religious convictions, then they should step aside. Separation of church and state is also the American way.

Cameron’s Victory

Congrats to British Prime Minister David Cameron on guiding the Conservatives to an unexpected victory, and who famously said in 2011, despite opposition from many in his party:

“Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”

Looking back at the Washington Post‘s coverage at the time, Cameron’s efforts drew fire not just from some fellow Conservatives but from prominent British figures on the gay left:

“This is more of David Cameron trying to drag the Conservatives kicking and screaming into the modern world,” said Ben Bradshaw, a ranking Labor lawmaker who in 1997 became one of Britain’s first openly gay members of Parliament. “Of course, we’ll support it, but this is pure politics on their part. This isn’t a priority for the gay community, which already won equal rights” with civil partnerships.

He added: “We’ve never needed the word ‘marriage,’ and all it’s done now is get a bunch of bishops hot under the collar. We’ve been pragmatic, not making the mistake they have in the U.S., where the gay lobby has banged on about marriage.”

Civil marriage for same-sex couples became legal in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014 (but not in Northern Ireland).

More. George Will, one of America’s most important conservative (with a libertarian bent) columnists, takes a Cameron-like position when he calls Mike Huckabee’s crusade against same-sex marriage “appalling.” Specifically Huckabee argues that states have the right to nullify rulings by federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Furthermore. Via David Frum at The Atlantic: What Republicans Can Learn From British Conservatives:

Their American detractors may grumble, but these other conservatives [center-right parties in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand] are indeed “real conservatives” … After coming to power in 2010, the Cameron government cut personal and corporate income taxes. It imposed tough new work requirements on physically capable welfare recipients. Government spending as a share of GDP will decline to pre-2008 levels next year. Thanks to Cameron’s reforming education minister, Michael Gove, more than 3,300 charter schools (“academies,” as the British call them) are raising performance standards in some of Britain’s toughest neighborhoods—a 15-fold increase since 2010. Under the prime minister’s leadership, the post office was privatized.

And also:

All have accepted gay equality, with Australia on the verge of a parliamentary vote to permit same-sex marriage. They are parties comfortable with racial inclusion and competitive with ethnic-minority voters….

Sounds like the key to electoral success.

Victory Ahead; Shadows Loom

Matt Welch writes at the libertarian magazine/website reason.com:

Gay people and gay rights activists should be among the first to recognize the critical link between open-mindedness and ending discrimination. It’s difficult to fathom in this historic year of 2015, when the Supreme Court may be on the verge of legalizing gay marriage nationwide, but gay rights advocates were almost hopelessly outnumbered in living memory. For decades, just about the only glimmer of hope came not from courtrooms but in the arena of public debate. …

But as the longtime minority view [on gay marriage] tips into what is looking like a permanent majority . . . Too many activists are now emboldened by their newfound political power to compel obedience and hound heretics rather than continue their incredibly successful long-term efforts at persuasion.

Driving the Kleins [owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery] into bankruptcy seems an odd tactic for changing their minds. Unless the goal is no longer about opening hearts, but rather enforcing new social norms by making examples out of nonconformers. …

But openness is also a condition of mind and a habit of discourse. Abandoning it in the face of victory will create as yet unimagined self-inflicted defeats. If we want to keep “open-minded” as a compliment, we need to make sure we don’t replace one set of intolerant laws with another. And we had better nurture a culture that appreciates the opportunity to debate, rather than driving disfavored opinion into the closet.

This blogsite pays so much attention to the issue of government action/lawsuits/mob threats against small businesses that don’t wish to provide services to same-sex weddings, based on the owner’s traditional religious beliefs, because it may be a bellwether of the next great civil rights struggle in our country—the right to dissent from the majoritarian view of the progressive state, and the corresponding right to be left alone and not to be coerced, by threat of punishment, into activity that violates religious conscience.

The magazine Welch now edits, he points out, “was editorializing in favor of gay marriage as early as 1974,” so this is not an issue of gay rights opponents suddenly discovering liberal (in the traditional sense) values. It is, instead, a matter of being consistent in defense of classical liberal values.

As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz tells The Federalist:

… mainstream libertarians have been generally supportive of gay marriage and the right of private individuals not to be required to participate in ceremonies that offend them. Cato has filed amicus briefs in gay marriage cases, also filed an amicus brief in the Elaine photography case out in New Mexico, and also in the Hobby Lobby case. I don’t know if there’s been a case in Indiana that would be relevant. People at Cato have defended the right of private individuals—and even reasonable large businesses like Hobby Lobby—to not support policies or participate in ceremonies that are offensive to them. It seems to me that libertarians have defended liberty on both sides on those particular issues.

More. We’ve seen it all before: Pagans persecute Christians, then Christians gain control over the state and persecute pagans; Catholics persecute Protestants, then Protestants gain control and persecute Catholics; the old guard persecutes the revolutionaries, then the revolutionaries gain control and persecute the old guard. When will they ever learn?

2015 Isn’t 2012, and Bush Isn’t Romney

The conservative Washington Times reports Jeb Bush misfires with evangelicals over gay marriage supporters in inner circle:

Rich Bott, whose religious radio network of 100 stations stretches from California to Tennessee … said it’s “hard to imagine evangelicals being excited about a Bush candidacy if he has well-known advocates of homosexual marriage leading his campaign.”

Mr. Bush is on record as opposing same-sex marriage but hired David Kochel to run his campaign organization when it becomes official. He also hired Tim Miller [who is openly gay] to be the communications director of the campaign when it gets underway, presumably later this spring.

Mr. Kochel and Mr. Miller publicly advocate same-sex marriage, arguing that it should be guaranteed under the Constitution.

Evangelical social conservatives successfully pressed Mitt Romney to drop his openly gay foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell in 2012, and that made Romney look weak. I think Bush will stand up to them, and be the stronger for it.

More. Sage words from Barry Goldwater.

Furthermore. Bush strives for balance in his May 9th commencement address at Liberty University:

Jeb Bush delivered a forceful defense of religious freedom from a secular government during a speech at an evangelical university on Saturday, deploring the rise of “coercive federal power” under President Obama that he said was seeking to impose progressive dogma on the country’s faithful.

But in an intriguing omission at a school known for its long-time opposition to same-sex unions, Mr. Bush did not mention the raging debate over the legalization of gay marriage, or express his opposition to it, even as he touched on the environment, sex trafficking and abortion.