Dude, Your Racism is Showing

There’s something missing in all this discussion of Duck Dynasty. There’s something missing from the response by National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and Ted Cruz (up-and-coming Republican star and current US Senator) to the suspension of Phil Robertson from his TV show on A&E. Even Sarah Palin and Louisina Governor Jindal have spoken out against the suspension of Phil Robertson.

If you listen to these people, the suspension of a media personality from a television network is something straight out of a totalitarian regime. It’s political correctness and silencing of dissent. All for just speaking the “Christian” view of gays.

There’s a bunch wrong with the responses. I’ll start with the lessor problems first. The very people and organizations criticizing A&E for suspending someone that works for them is now wrong. Yet these are the people that believe religious people should be able to violate any law they disagree with, to not serve blacks, gays, or anyone else they don’t like – the right to refuse service and all. But let’s ignore that, as it’s a nuanced subject that the right wing doesn’t understand – they don’t understand the history of discrimination which created the Civil Rights Act and other non-discrimination laws.

So, let’s move onto other problems. It goes without saying, it seems, that the Christian view of gays is that they are going to hell, should be stopped by society, and are acting out of choice. But of course that’s only the views of some Christians, but hardly a defining doctrine of Christianity, no matter how much the loud bigots want to make it one. Plenty of other churches have moved past this bigotry, just as they moved past other bigotries in the past. Christianity isn’t one thing, and you should always be suspicious of anyone who claims a major religion is united in belief – particularly about a social issue that society remains divided on.

And I will say that Phil’s remarks on gay people were plenty deshabille, wrong, and just plain ignorant. If ignorance passes for speech that lobby groups and politicians are seeking to protect, we are in trouble. But I’m not going to repeat those remarks – they are easy to find through Google.

And, finally, the last minor point, before I get to the meat of what I want to say, is that being suspended from A&E is not a violation of anyone’s free speech rights. Phil can continue to speak his ignorant mind. And A&E can choose to suspend him. This is not a conflict – in fact, A&E is exercising a form of speech as well, by showing opposition to Phil, as any citizen or group of citizens is allowed to do. Free speech was never intended to be speech without consequences. It was protected from government interference, not private organizations choosing to not employ the speaker. Nobody I’ve seen is seriously calling for Phil to be sanctioned by the government or to be jailed or otherwise deprived of his freedom.

But, no, that’s not the meat.

Here’s the meat of my concern: All this right-wing chest thumping about freedom of speech and religious persecution is ignoring something else that was said. None of these people are shouting from the rooftops that Phil’s ignorant and racist statements about blacks are okay, or that A&E should employ someone speaking racist shit.

Yet, racist shit is exactly what Phil said – in addition to the aforementioned anti-gay shit. During the same event where he faced criticism (rightfully) for his ignorant views of gays, he said some ignorant things about blacks – despite, by his own admission, living during a time period and around the very people discriminated against. He said,

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

That is from the same article about his interview with GQ – read it for yourself here.

There’s a lot wrong with this in just a few words. Perhaps that’s why the NAACP has spoken out against Phil’s statements! No, not perhaps. You bet that’s why they did. Rightfully.

I’m wondering what is meant by “pre-entitlement.” Perhaps he means, “Pre-Civil Rights Act of 1967.” That’s the one that said Blacks didn’t need to sit at the back of the bus (or get kicked off entirely, at the driver’s whim). Or that Blacks could drink from the same water fountain. Or that blacks could vote. Perhaps he means “Pre-Brown v. Board of Education” and the entitlement to a decent education. Perhaps he means the time before people of all races were entitled to vote. Or perhaps before they were entitled to marry someone of another race.

And, even more concerning: Why are people not calling these right wing groups out on their support of racism? It’s bad that they are saying anti-gay shit. And they should be called out for that. But supporting racists is also worthy of being called out on. It’s every bit as offensive to discount the discrimination faced by blacks as the discrimination faced by LGBT people.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Polygamy Case didn’t Legalize Polygamy!

Okay, we know groups like the National Organization for Marriage (famous for their support of banning same-sex marriage in California) are anti-gay and anti-trans. That’s nothing new. But their lack of logic continues to amaze.

After all, National Organization for Marriage claims that the gay lobby legalized polygamy in Utah! Seriously. Of course polygamy is still illegal, and the case they referred to has a bit of nuance that clearly groups like NOM can easily miss.  The Utah case involved a man with several “wives” who aren’t legally married to him (Helpful tip to NOM: a man only attracted to women, even if attracted to many women, is not gay) – the judge basically said that what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors and doesn’t involve legal recognition is up to those adults. That’s not a particularly surprising ruling.

Yet, the logic used to blame gay groups is this:

“There’s no doubt that the arguments for same-sex marriage were a template for this case,” [NOM head Brian Brown] said. “Once marriage is determined to be primarily about providing government recognition and benefits for loving, committed relationships, there is simply no principled way not to extend ‘marriage’ to everyone, no matter the nature of their relationship. People in polygamist, plural marriages are just a short step away now from winning official marriage rights. Adult incest practitioners will have similar claims, as will adult siblings and other close relations. Lost in this disastrous push to transform marriage into the satisfaction of adult sexual desires are the interests of children, and their right to the love of one mother and one father.”

Of course that marriage is not about love is news to anyone that doesn’t feel you can buy a wife for enough goats. But ignoring that, the ruling essentially strikes out one phrase from Utah’s bigamy laws.  You can find the laws yourself – See Utah title 76, chapter 7, section 101, subpart 1, which reads:

(1) A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.

The judge essentially decided that the above was unconstitutional, so, according to the judge, the law is essentially:

(1) A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.

See the change? It’s pretty simple: just cohabiting (which usually involves both people have full access to a residence they share) with someone who is married to someone else was bigamy. And was a felony.

Ironically, if someone had an identical relationship as the man in this case (that is, some sort of non-legal-marriage family unit which had multiple women and one man), that could be perfectly legal under this statute – as long as either nobody was married to anyone, or if there was one or more marriages (that were legal) but the wives lived in separate residences. As long as the man did not purport to marry, and they didn’t cohabit, even under the old interpretation, it was legal in Utah.

I can see plenty of unintended consequences of the previous language that have nothing to do with polygamy. Take, for instance, a separated but not divorced man who is stationed in Utah at Hill Air Force Base. If he shares an Air Force dorm room with someone, they would both be guilty of bigamy, a felony, under the old interpretation of the law. That’s probably not the actual intent, no matter how pro-family the lawmakers were (I suspect the lawmakers were thinking only of people of the opposite sex living together when they wrote this, and that all such relationships would be sexual in nature). It’s just plain bad law.

So the judge did the logical thing: he said just living together isn’t bigamy. There’s more to it than that. He left the other part of it – the purport to be married part.

Oh, their polygamy law remains unchanged from the Utah constitution, Article III, Section 1:

First: — Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed. No inhabitant of this State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; but polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited.

This chunk of state constitution remains in force.

It should also be noted that the decision wasn’t about polygamy, either. It was about bigamy. Bigamy doesn’t require all the spouses to know about each other. That said, I can forgive NOM this since the judge also used the term polygamy, although that term doesn’t appear anywhere under the crime being charged.

So, NOM was wrong (surprise!) on polygamy becoming legal in Utah by judicial order. Or even about bigamy (what they meant to say) becoming legal.

What is legal is people living together in Utah, whether they are married or not to someone else. That’s not a huge stretch of the law.

I would recommend, if I thought NOM would listen to me, that NOM read the court decision in the future. Before they comment on it.

Discomfort vs. Identity

Recently, California passed a new law that clarified existing law – it didn’t actually do anything new, but it made the interpretation of the existing law a lot clearer.

180px-Oregon_special_election_ballot

A mail-in ballot (From Wikimedia, Public Domain license)

This law, AB1266, is short and easy to understand.  This is an advantage over the other non-discrimination law that doesn’t directly answer questions such as, “Do schools have to recognize the gender of a trans student?”  Instead, the other law simply says they can’t discriminate against a trans person, but doesn’t explicitly say lack of gender recognition is a form of discrimination.

AB1266 added to existing language in California that requires schools to treat the sexes equally (the existing language required schools to do things such as providing career counseling that included occupations outside of gender stereotypes.  The new, trans-specific language is very short:

A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.

And that’s where the issue is.  It makes it clear that a trans girl could play girl’s basketball and use the girl’s locker room.  And you don’t mess with two things in America: you don’t mess with sports or nudity.  It’s our God-given right to have as many lethal firearms as we want, to have easy access to alcohol, to allow people to die of treatable illness if they can’t afford good medical care, and to invoke the name of God in school even if it offends some students (note however that this only applies to the Christian God – don’t try to invoke the a deity from another religion!).  But, if a teenage girl finds out a penis exists…well, then it’s all over.

Of course I’ve written before about the need for privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms – and how it’s only a minority of people that the right wing cares about protecting in bathrooms.  If adults want safe places for our children to pee and shower, they can start by getting rid of non-private facilities.  Seriously.  That would be legislation worth having.  Too many people are abused in the current facilities.  Including trans people, but not only trans people.  If you want your kid safe from having to see a penis, give them both a private place to do their thing!

Unfortunately, the same people that funded much of Prop 8 are behind a new move to repeal AB1266.  These include the National Organization for MarriagePacific Justice Institute and Calvary Chapel.

The various groups behind this  also used the same tactics.  Like conjuring out of thin air not one lie, but two – they found two instances of girls being harassed by trans students in the bathroom.  Yes, both were lies.

The first one was a girl from Colorado.  Here’s a report, including audio conversation with the school, that shows one of the other organizations behind this initiative, the Pacific Justice Institute (a right-wing Christian political group) made up the accusations about harassment.  The falsely accused girl?  She’s on suicide watch.  If this doesn’t demonstrate the need to protect the rights of trans students, I don’t know what does.

The second lie was about a girl from California. This was by a Calvary Chapel of Temecula ministry – Salt and Light Ministry.  Again, the story was about a trans girl that was harassing students in the bathroom.  Just one problem: it wasn’t true either.

Now, I don’t think there is actually a commandment against trans people (maybe someone can find that for me).  But the 10 I learned did talk about bearing false witness. It also stirs up hate and violent sentiment towards trans students.

Back to present time, however. There are several groups that want to repeal AB1266, and they’ve been collecting signatures to put it on the ballot.  It looks like they’ve met that goal – they claim over 600,000 signatures, when just over 500,000 are needed.  Now, it’s certainly possible that 20% or more of the signatures won’t be valid, but I’m not holding my breath.  I hope they are.  As I see it, that’s about our only chance, because the possibility of educating people about trans people is just not realistic for 2014. And an initiative like this, funded well by the right wing, would do damage not only erasing the law, but worse in stirring up hatred and violence. And there’s a solution that meets everyone’s needs: private facilities. Yes, it would cost money. Aren’t our kids worth that?

If the signatures are valid – and, again, I pray to God there aren’t enough – then this will go to the voters. And we’ll see who the true allies are among the LGB community. Sadly, I think some will stand on the sidelines while their T brothers and sisters are thrown to the wolves. And discomfort around trans people (the “ick” factor) will win over logic and identity.