Homeland Security’s Priority – Closing Down Gay Escort Service

As Reason reports, what a waste of time and money: Homeland Security Raids Rentboy.com — DHS “will use its unique authorities to disrupt and dismantle” gay escort sites, says special investigator.

In addition, Scott Shackford shares 6 Thoughts on the Rentboy.com Bust from 1 Angry, Gay Libertarian. He explains:

There is absolutely no pretense of pretending there are any “victims” here. Nobody is charged with “trafficking.” There is absolutely nothing in the complaint that even hints at the idea that there is anything nonconsensual happening….

As usual, follow the money. Want to know the real reason why DHS is involved? … The feds are looking to seize $1.4 million from six bank accounts related to the raid. This money, thanks to federal asset forfeiture rules, would likely be split among the agencies involved, including the New York Police Department, who offered up their assistance in the raid even though there was probably no need for both agencies.

Will LGBT Democrats defend (because, you know, it’s Obama so it’s gotta be ok)?

More. Some are speaking out. Good! But not the beltway players.

Some are also wondering why NYC’s famously progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton worked with the federal prosecutors.

Imagine if this happened with a GOP president and mayor. LGBT media would be nothing but ‘Republicans’ war on gay sex!!!!’

The Legacy

Obama does the right thing in Kenya.

As I’ve said previously, I believe advances in gay legal equality and social inclusion will be the great legacy of the Obama administration, and I suspect Obama may realize this.

Perhaps health care exchanges will last, although the labyrinth of business mandates under Obamacare are likely to be scaled back by a future administration and Congress. Otherwise, the debt-spiraling misspent trillions in the great redistributive give-away that Democrats called “stimulus,” the ever-expanding growth-deterring over-regulation of businesses, and the hapless foreign policy will be seen for what they are.

Even so, beginning at the very end of his first term with repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell (which heretofore he seemed willing to let Harry Reid block along with the Employee Non-Discrimination Act), followed by the administration’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and support, eventually, for marriage equality, up through making an issue of gay rights internationally, Obama got one big thing right.

More. Sadly, he’s gotten so much else wrong. Columnist Daniel Henninger writes in the Wall Street Journal (7/30/15):

The American anxieties Donald Trump has tapped into are real and rational. … It’s what everyone in politics, including Hillary Clinton, knows has been the No. 1 concern of the American people for years: the U.S.’s underachieving economy. …

The U.S.’s average postwar growth rate is 3.3%, and has often been higher. Across the entire 6½ years of the Obama presidency it has been about 2%, and often lower. … The labor-force participation rate, 62.6% last month, is at its lowest level in 38 years. In human terms, 432,000 people dropped out of the workforce in June, and nearly two million are called “marginally attached to the labor force” by the government. … For much of the private economy, the Obama presidency has been almost seven years of “Survivor.” …

Here is what Reagan’s tax and regulatory policies produced from 1982-89: an economy that grew by a third and a standard of living, as measured by real disposable income, that grew by 20%.

Henninger concludes, “The result [of Obama’s economic policies] is a populace that is becoming resentful, surly and anxious for a way out,” and increasingly receptive to populist demagoguery.

Also from the WSJ, The Six-Year Slough: New GDP revisions show the worst recovery in 70 years was even weaker.

And yes, Reagan on gay legal equality/social inclusion, not so good. No party has a monopoly on the truth.

Support for Liberty Grows

Despite steadily increasing support for same-sex marriage equality, “the percentage of people who agree that wedding service providers should be required to serve same-sex couples has fallen to 38% from 52% in 2013,” a 14-point drop in two years, according to the 2015 State of the First Amendment study by the Newseum and USA Today.

Correspondingly, “Americans’ support for the First Amendment rebounded strongly over the past year,” specifically, three-quarters of Americans say the First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion “does not go too far,” a jump from 57% last year.

This rise in support for expressive and religious liberty is occurring as LGBT activists gear up to switch from fighting for marriage equality to fighting to deny the right of religious dissent. This trend is exemplified by Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, who has come out strongly against religious exemptions for businesses in the proposed federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a position he seems to be doubling down on after the marriage victory.

Even those with whom we strongly disagree about gay rights and equality have fundamental rights as Americans that must be protected, or else we will all suffer from the results when the state, backed by progressive activists, declares their freedoms denied.

More. In response to those who defend using the state to destroy small businesses that don’t toe the correct line, commenter Craig123 quotes Marx (facetiously, I think), who warned progressives that “The petite bourgeoisie is the most reactionary of classes” and thus must be pulled up by its roots. Given that other commenters have in prior posts charged this blog with “homocon idiocy” while themselves spouting the anti-capitalist anarcho-syndicalist ideas of Noam Chomsky (replacing corrupt private ownership with workers councils and all that), you get a sense of what some of them, in their fervid dreams, are really after—if only those outmoded individual rights can be put asunder.

Furthermore. Why I Support ‘No Gays Allowed’ (via the Huffington Post, and penned by C.J. Prince, executive director of North Jersey Pride, in case you thought it was by some self-loathing “homocon”). She writes that “As a strong supporter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion”:

I do not want to order a wedding cake from a bakery owned by a guy who thinks I’m going to hell. I have no desire to purchase bouquets from a florist who pickets Pride parades. …

If you don’t support my freedom to marry, have the guts to come out about it. Exercise your constitutional right to free speech, and I’ll support that. Then I’ll exercise my capitalist right to shop from your competitor—and to proudly put my money where my allies are.

Cry Wolf

If there are Christian tattoo artists, we may have the next wave of anti-anti-discrimination cases.

I can’t say I find Mr. Bythewood’s argument for not providing the tattoo particularly convincing (is there really a “traditional tattoo honor code?”) but that’s the point. I don’t have to.  It’s his business, and unless I’m very mistaken, he’s not the only tattoo artist in New York.

Anti-discrimination laws, including those based on gender, were most needed when discrimination was extensive, unregenerate and unlocalized.  Since the 1950s, America has switched the defaults, and marginalized the kinds of discrimination that were taken for granted: based on race, gender, and now even sexual orientation.  There will never be no discrimination unless someone has finally figured out a way to make a utopia work when its inhabitants will be human beings endowed with liberty.  The best a free society can hope for is to stand, as a whole, for individual liberty, draw clear enough lines about what is truly out-of-bounds, and leave the gray areas for people to negotiate.

Getting a tattoo, ordering a cake for your wedding, arranging for a photographer to document your happiness; these are perfectly respectable gray areas where there are choices pretty much anywhere in this country.  Those choices will not always be ideal ones everywhere, but unless the rule we are seeking is that everyone must have ideal choices everywhere, every time, we have to consider what the appropriate limits on government power must be.

I don’t want my government demanding that I can get a tattoo or a cake from anyone I want.  As an un-inked American, I could no more have gotten a tattoo from Mr. Bythewood than Jane Marie could.  Going somewhere else is one of the calamities I must live with as someone who values a free society.

Bythewood is partly right that Jane Marie trivializes the tradition of feminism with her overstated “wolf cry.”  But that kind of self-dramatizing is becoming endemic.  As true discrimination has diminished, it takes more effort to play the victim.  Histrionics are practically necessary.

This does not just trivialize the profoundly important movements that got us to today, it trivializes government itself.  There are vitally important things that we should expect of our government.  But policing an infinite number of daily commercial and personal transactions is not among them.

Magistrates and Marriage: They’re Not Private Citizens

Win some: Florida Gov. Scott Signs Repeal of Gay-Adoption Ban, Despite Vocal Opposition. Lose some: North Carolina Okays Opt-Out for Officials Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage.

Interestingly, two GOP governors tried to do the right thing (in North Carolina, the legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory).

The Cato Institute’s David Boaz shared this comment on his Facebook page:

Well, I’m sorry to say that the North Carolina House has NOT recognized its constitutional obligation to offer equal justice to all citizens. Instead it has joined the Senate in overriding the governor’s veto of a bill exempting magistrates (the only civil officers authorized to perform marriages) from performing same-sex marriages if they have a religious objection.

As I said previously, this seems clearly wrong. Private citizens — florists, photographers, caterers — should not be forced to participate in ceremonies that offend them. Marrying couples can find another florist or baker who wants their business. But the government represents all citizens. Officers of the court must serve all citizens. By the way, the mission statement of the NC Magistrates Association is “The mission of the Magistrate is to protect and preserve the rights and liberties of all of the people, as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States and North Carolina, by providing a fair, independent and accessible forum [for] the just, timely and economical resolution of their legal affairs.” Under the new law they will insert “except the gay ones” after “all of the people.”

I made a similar point in an April post:

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.

Post-Marriage Forecast

The New York Times looks at the likely aftermath of a June Supreme Court ruling that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage:

Still, once the Supreme Court speaks, in a decision widely expected to make same-sex marriage a national right, the opponents’ anger and energies are likely to focus on a more limited issue, what they call protections for conservative religious officials or vendors who want to avoid involvement in same-sex weddings.

Gerald N. Rosenberg, a political scientist and legal scholar at the University of Chicago, said his former predictions of a wider, lasting backlash to marriage rulings had been overtaken by the “sea change in public opinion.”

Such “opt out” proposals may produce political heat, as recently seen in Indiana and Arkansas, where the governors, under pressure from businesses, felt compelled to weaken so-called religious freedom bills. But they will not impede the ability of gay couples to marry, Mr. Rosenberg said.

And this:

Yet whatever resistance strategies are adopted, many legal and political experts who have studied the impact of divisive Supreme Court rulings in the past, and the trajectory of the same-sex marriage movement, say they do not expect a lasting, powerful backlash of the kind that followed decisions on school desegregation and abortion.

Instead, the experience in states where same-sex marriage has already been legalized suggests that public opposition is likely to wither over time.

“As more couples marry, more people will know people who are married,” said Michael J. Klarman, a legal historian at the Harvard Law School and author of a 2012 book on earlier same-sex marriage rulings. “And those who oppose it will find out that the sky doesn’t fall.”

Assuming that the Supreme Court rules the right way, I think that’s correct. Same-sex marriage is not abortion; it is not the taking of life. There will not be mass mobilizations to pass Ted Cruz’s constitutional amendment.

But 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 (at the behest of angry authoritarians) will continue, and it will be ugly. Think witch hunts.

Confusing the matter is a related but different issue: whether civil servants should be able to opt out, and 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.

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.

“This law is no different. . . “

The U.S. Olympic Committee is doing its best to tread a very fine line for Sochi:

The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways.  It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.

It’s true that law, in the abstract, means roughly the same thing no matter where you are: It is the rules citizens and even visitors are expected to obey.  And because Olympic athletes by definition must visit many countries, it’s hardly unreasonable to expect that they should not intentionally break the laws of any country in which they compete.

But is the Russian law truly no different from any other law?  Certainly athletes at the Sochi games should not murder people or steal or commit rape.  Even laws that have less universal agreement should generally be obeyed, both out of respect and prudence.

The Russian law, though, prohibits propaganda.  In itself, this is an indication of illegitimacy, at least by modern standards.  The law also prohibits only propaganda of a very specific kind.  Here is the closest I have been able to come to an English translation of Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses:

Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

One of the cornerstones of law is clarity.  People must know, within reason, what the law requires or prohibits.  This law is a model of vagueness.  What are “nontraditional sexual relations?”  For that matter, what are “traditional” ones?  Can Russian TV run “Sex and the City?”  Discuss.

Still, we clearly know what the Duma and Vladimir Putin intended — Shut up about the gay rights.  More specifically, shut up in front of the children.

This a a modern spin to remove the stigma against laws about propaganda.  Everyone wants children protected.

But children are everywhere.  More specifically, any form of journalism in the modern world, from NBC to the internet, may be seen by minors, which means the practical effect of this law is to prohibit any public discussion of gay rights.  The invocation of children is superfluous to the goal of banning pro-gay speech.

And that equates exactly with prohibiting any chance of achieving gay rights.

Absent an explicit equal protection guarantee, minorities have little but speech with which to make their case.  By definition, minorities must persuade a large number of the majority if they are to have any peaceful political participation at all.  Majorities seldom change their minds just because.

The Russian propaganda law is ideally designed to prohibit not just Russian discussion of gay equality, but to make sure it doesn’t happen when Russia is on the world stage.  At its best, this law is little more than Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  At its worst, it is the first step toward a set of Nuremberg Laws for Russia’s lesbians and gay men.

This makes it not just important to mock the law, it makes it imperative.  However, that can be done respectfully, even joyously.  Rainbow fingernails? Perfect. Holding hands?  Sweet.  These and hundreds more small gestures skirt the law without violating it.  Maybe the rainbow fingernails are a fashion statement.  And holding hands is just holding hands, right? Heck, in post WWII Russia, this was a postage stamp!

The discussion of gay equality in Russia has a long way to go, but reliance on state control of information will not help it be seen as a modern nation.  It will be uncomfortable for Russia’s population to experience, within its borders, the increasing support among heterosexuals for gay equality.  But there is no wishing — or legislating — away that conversation.

Back to Basics

Same-sex marriage came and went in the US Supreme Court, and the the most reactionary Republican dominated state legislatures responded by — passing new laws restriction abortion.  While the high court was deliberating a case challenging the power of Congress to prohibit or punish same-sex marriage under state law, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota and Indiana were all exploring creative ways to provoke the high court to revisit Roe v Wade.

The lack of an outcry about U.S. Windsor is partly due to the fact that the opinion left those states’ anti-marriage laws intact.  But the renewed focus on abortion and Roe, at a time when the highest court in the land was setting down a marker about marriage equality suggests something else is at work.

That something else can be seen in the non-reaction in California to the opinion overturning the notorious Prop. 8. In 2000, California voters passed Prop. 22, an initiative statute prohibiting same-sex marriage, with 61% of the vote.  The state Supreme Court overturned Prop. 22 as a violation of the state constitution in 2008, which prompted Prop. 8, an initiative that amended the state constitution itself to prohibit same-sex marriage.  Prop. 8 got a little over 52% of the vote, but a win is a win.

So California’s voters must be furious about the decision in Hollingsworth v Perry, right?

If so, it’s hard to see.  Less than two days after the ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took the final step to permit same-sex marriages again in California, and while a very few of the usual suspects showed their faces to television cameras at the subsequent marriages throughout the state, there are no signs of outrage among the voters whose will was thwarted.

Opposition to same-sex marriage is different from opposition to abortion.  There is a real and substantial moral question with abortion: At what point does human life begin?  In the 40 years since Roe, that moral question has remained alive and vibrant, and the constitutional argument about abortion has seldom flagged.  Moral feelings about abortion start strong and tend to stay strong.

Not so for same-sex marriage, where moral feelings may have started strong, but have weakened substantially over time.  The moral consensus around same-sex marriage was collapsing even before the Supreme Court weighed in.  With each new iteration of the issue, voters see less reason for opposition, more reason in the arguments made for equality.  The moral argument against same-sex marriage is no more than the moral argument against non-procreative sexual activity; once heterosexuals can see their own procreative sexual desires in the broader context of a world in which procreation is controllable, the idea of sex for other reasons — pleasure, relational intimacy, emotional bonding or just for the hell of it — moves homosexuals from their historical outsider status to a proper role as fellow members of the human family.  Procreation is a good thing, but it is not all that sex is for.

The shift back to abortion for the old guard of the GOP is some evidence that this cultural shift on same-sex marriage is taking hold.  It is harder and harder to argue against the images of joyous couples getting married, and now joyous heterosexual friends and family are joining in the celebrations.  Connection and inclusion are moral instincts, family imperatives, that it takes an effort to deny.

There is still a strong sense that abortion is worth the effort.  For a small minority, the fight against same-sex marriage will continue to be a priority.  But the continent on which they once stood is becoming more of an island every day.

 

Gay Marriage and the Federal Budget

If you haven’t heard much about the effects of DOMA’s downfall on the federal budget, that’s because there isn’t expected to be much of an effect. True, various benefits such as health and survivor benefits will now be paid to spouses of civilian workers and military personnel, and some gay persons will be entitled to Social Security benefits based on spouses’ earnings. On the other hand, it would not be surprising to see married gay couples’ income profiles falling more often on the “marriage penalty” rather than the “marriage bonus” territory on this interesting tax chart. And a host of benefit and subsidy programs, most importantly Medicaid but also other means- or income-tested programs, will save money once a spouse’s assets and income can be taken into account. All in all, a 2004 CBO study suggests the impact on the federal budget is likely to be very slightly positive. Josh Barro has the details here. He concludes:

The fiscal benefits aren’t a crucial reason to support same-sex marriage, but they do lend support to one of the “conservative” cases for it. Marriage is a structure through which people depend on each other, so they don’t have to depend on the government. For gay men and lesbians to take advantage of that fiscally friendly option, the government has to make it legal for us to marry.