Gays, God, and Government

Self-Righteousness in the State Capitols

The mantra of almost all conservatives — it makes no difference what political party they belong to — is to keep government out of their lives. But, they don’t mind government interference when it plays to their biases and bigotry.

For example, it’s perfectly acceptable for the government to enter one’s bedroom if the purpose is to ban homosexual activity and — horrors! — gay marriage. In Pennsylvania, political conservatives and religious fundamentalists thought the existing state law against same-sex marriage was vulnerable to a constitutional challenge, and wanted something more permanent — a constitutional amendment to “preserve” the sanctity of marriage.

Having heard the call — and an opportunity to score with his constituents — State Sen. John Gordner unleashed his horse and charged into battle, thrusting his sword of righteousness into every hole that could allow for same-sex marriage. The proposed amendment sailed through the judiciary and appropriations committees, of which Gordner is a member, and onto the Senate floor where the Republican-dominated Senate was expected to pass it and forever preserve what they believe is the sanctity of marriage.

“We do not want to take away any existing rights that gay and lesbian partners have,” said the senator from Pennsylvania’s rural northeast. Nonsense, said Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia. “When you enter this language into the Constitution, you’re begging to overthrow Devlin and everything else,” said Fumo. Devlin v. Philadelphia assured that same-sex rights were permissible as long as there was nothing to create a “functional equivalent of marriage.” A constitutional amendment could eliminate all benefits, Fumo pointed out. With tongue-in-cheek reasoning, Fumo thrust home his concern by suggesting an amendment to the proposed amendment. If same-sex marriage destroys the institution of marriage, why not ban all divorce, he suggested.

As a windstorm of protests emerged, the senators ran for the shelter of political expediency. Since the state’s House of Representatives probably wouldn’t waste its time on such an outrageous display of public pandering, the Senate tabled the bill and blamed the House. This is the political “two-step.” The senators could continue to spout moral and religious bigotry while blaming some else for the problem.

A week after the Pennsylvania Senate’s blunderbusses blew up in their face, California became the second state, after Massachusetts, to throw out a state law against same-sex marriage. California’s law was passed in 2000 by 61 percent of the voters.

In an overview of the issue, Chief Justice Ronald M. George, a Republican, noted, “[An] individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation.” In his majority opinion, George cited a 1948 California case that overturned a law that banned interracial marriage. “An individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights,” he wrote.

This is not an activist/liberal court that conservatives so frequently blame for what they see as all of the nation’s problems. “The decision was a bold surprise from a moderately conservative, Republican-dominated court that legal scholars have long dubbed ‘cautious,’” noted the Los Angeles Times.

The religious right and conservative movements aren’t bending over and taking their defeats. They’re gathering signatures to place onto the November ballot a constitutional amendment to forbid same-sex marriage. That amendment would be more powerful than any state law. Ironically, such a constitutional amendment may be unconstitutional.

Twenty-six states have laws that ban same-sex marriage, and Florida already has a proposed constitutional amendment ready for the November election. For conservatives, apparently, there isn’t enough governmental intrusion when it comes to continuing bigotry.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. evie said on May 22nd, 2008 at 6:25pm #

    I’ll begin with saying I have known, lived, and worked with gays all my adult life and I believe in live and let live. I would support same-sex civil unions. Would you define the difference politically, if there is one, between same sex civil union and marriage?

    However, I find it a bit bothersome when sexual orientation “rights” are equated with racism.

    White gay men and lesbians, unless obviously flaming or butch, can go about their daily lives without experiencing overt and covert discrimination. Most of white America would sooner see a gay couple move into the neighborhood than a black family. The white saleslady does not follow lesbian Liz around the boutique the way she does Jamicka. The white cop with a shaved head does not pull gay Gary over for driving in the wrong neighborhood at night. If the cash drawer at the deli comes up short $50 bucks, which cashier will the white manager suspect first, Gary Gay or Tyrone Black? etc., etc. And gay Gary White can usually reach for his wallet w/o being shot 40 times.

    My experience is that most of black America is not concerned about gay rights, in fact many are quite conservative on the issue – does that make them bigots?

  2. Giorgio said on May 22nd, 2008 at 6:26pm #

    ” The mantra of almost all conservatives — it makes no difference what political party they belong to — is to keep government out of their lives. But, they don’t mind government interference when it plays to their biases and bigotry.”

    N.B. NOT Ron Paul, the Libertarian Consevative, who is hell-bent in keeping government out of people’s lives !!
    How much support has he been getting from the American Left?
    Zilch ! So, DON’T CRY, BABE, when Orwell’s 1984 arrives in America by the year 2014, thirty years belatedly and with a Vengeance….

  3. evie said on May 22nd, 2008 at 6:57pm #

    Paul is an abortion foe.

    Ron Paul: ” In Congress, I have authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, HR 1094.

    I am also the prime sponsor of HR 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn.

    I have also authored HR 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called “population control.”

    Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken direct action to restore protection for the unborn.”

  4. SpaceGhoti said on May 22nd, 2008 at 7:18pm #

    Gays have been denied equal rights largely BECAUSE they’re not allowed to marry. They’ve been denied insurance, hospital rights and death benefits because a variety of courts around the nation have declared they see no reason to equal “civil unions” with “marriage” with regards to partner rights.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but discrimination is discrimination regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation. If you want to pass a law that specifically bans someone from enjoying a right everyone else gets to participate in, then you’re engaging in discrimination. No amount of waffling is going to change that fact.

    As for Ron Paul, he may not have a personal problem with gays, but he tends to side with social conservatives on a wide variety of issues. He certainly hasn’t gone out on a limb to endorse gay rights, and he’s been very vocal about his desire to effectively dismantle government and leave us in the tender care of Big Business (the Libertarians’ beloved “Free Market”).

  5. evie said on May 22nd, 2008 at 9:20pm #

    So civil unions do not have the same rights as marriage. Okay. When you say “death benefits” what exactly does that mean, i.e. as life insurance policy, which can name anyone as beneficiary? or death benefits as in a widow who draws SS on a dead spouse?

  6. mindlessbuddha said on May 24th, 2008 at 6:50am #

    I think the comparison is valid from the perspective of institutionalized discrimination. Would civil rights have progressed, would people have questioned their own understandings, if the institution of slavery had not been torn down? There is still a long way to go in racial struggles, but where would the progress be if it was still in the law to segregate, own slaves, discriminate, etc.. toward minorities? Not everyone has a live and let live attitude. Oh! I wish they did.

    Some of these comments assume all gays are white! They are not; they are black, brown, red, white, and all other shades of skin. They are in every culture and every corner of the world. I know, I’ve met them in every industrialized and underdeveloped country in which I’ve traveled. As a white male living in the hood in Philadelphia, I thought I new struggle until I met a gay black lesbian. Gay + Woman + Black… go sit with that in this culture for a day and see how it feels. Most people couldn’t hack it for an hour. In Iran it would be lynching time – literally.

    Tyrone Black can hold hands with his girlfriend and kiss her gently on the cheek where ever he please. My partner and I, on the other hand, might be pummeled to death were we to do that outside our own home. Tyrone Black can travel to Africa (one of my FAVORITE places in this world) with his wife without a second glance. They stone gays in many corners of North Africa (in many they are shaman, but that is a whole other scenario). How can things change as long as governments discriminates by making it illegal or by saying union A is marriage but union B is not? As long as governments discriminates between the two, people will not begin to question their own ignorance.

    From my perspective, which is not the general gay, white, or American perspective, the world is a hateful place. Yes, there is much love, peace, and acceptance – but there is much more hate, whether overt or covert. And, no culture, no people, no color holds the cornerstone on hate. From my perspective – y’all a bunch of ig’nant haters. It makes me laugh with amazement, I become completely confounded, when people think there is some difference between a union or marriage.

    We ,as a single human race, have really not progressed very far. It causes great compassion to well up in me for everyone, for I can not imagine a life with such shackles. I can not imagine a life with such limitations on freedom. It is hard to walk out my front door everyday and look into the eyes of people who have enslaved themselves to small minded perspectives filled with judgment and hatred without crying.

    Personally, my partner and I have no desire to participate in a pathetic institution such as government-sanctioned marriage; nonetheless, it would be nice if we could enjoy the same equal rights as all other married couples without drawing up long-winded legal contracts to protect our rights. And, even then, we can not enjoy many economic and legal benefits enjoyed by our arguing and divorcing neighbors. It is all so gloriously ridiculous and miraculously malignant that it captivates me in a state of perpetual wonderment. What an amazingly absurd world. It is like free entertainment. My own personal lowbrow soap opera.

  7. evie said on May 24th, 2008 at 9:54am #

    I think change is in the wind. My 15 y/o granddaughter has male friends who are gay (I am aware they come in different colors) and these kids attitude is much different than my generation or my children’s generation. I’ve asked her about the school’s overall attitude here in Rednecksville and she says overall most of the kids don’t have a problem with it, the few who do just ignore the gay kids.

    Also though, there is still an intense undercurrent of racism in certain folks in my town, and I have heard whites say they would rather their son was gay than their daughter date a black guy. I say to myself – may their sons marry black women and their daughters date black lesbians.

    The only reason myself (black) and hubby (white) have few social problems is b/c we’re older and have enough green(backs).

  8. Kevan Giffen said on May 26th, 2008 at 4:20am #

    From the viewpoint of a gay man, the statements made thus far comparing African Americans to Homosexuals are completely erroneous and irrelevant. Black men and women are hired left and right at grocery stores and fast food restaurants, but transsexuals are forced into a life of prostitution by corporate America. I know several transsexual prostitutes who cannot find jobs because their identification identifies them as male, but their bodies appear to be female. The ones who do get jobs are usually fired if it is ever found out that they are transsexual. I know even more homosexuals who have been forced into vagrancy by Fundamentalist parents who were less than supportive when they decided to “come out of the closet”. There is also not a gay bar in this city that does not have a Christian screaming in front. If we were to go to there Churches and make-out, I’m pretty sure we would be arrested for “disturbing the peace” or some such nonsense…
    I know man in love with man who is an illegal immigrant. If he were in love with a female illegal immigrant, he could marry her and she would gain citizenship. Not only can he not give his lover citizenship, but he would not be able to say goodbye to him if he were dying on a hospital bed. This country is truly pathetic.

  9. evie said on May 26th, 2008 at 8:43am #

    If you think it’s bad here try Iran, according to Ahmadinejad they have no homosexuals at all – but they do allow sex change operations (2nd in the world to such operations, behind Thailand) and the government pays for half the cost, and considers it not a sin against Islam.

    As pathetic as the US may be I’m not immigrating to Somalia or Ethiopia anytime soon.

    Even in Latin America there are areas where the lighter skinned folks believe the Indigenous Natives are the result of people mating with monkeys. There are countries where race is not as much an issue for me as it is in the States – and that’s refreshing, liberating – but still I choose to stay in the US.

    Marriage does not automatically give one US citizenship. It will give you legal residency/green card for 2 years – but you still have to obtain citizenship through the usual applications and channels, although easier of course, unless you fail the background check, etc.

    Us black folks worked long and hard in America to get “hired left and right at grocery stores and fast food restaurants…”

  10. Kevan Giffen said on May 26th, 2008 at 8:30pm #

    I know of the problems elsewhere in the world. I don’t live under a rock. I do, however, live in the United States. The problems here directly affect me and consequently are more important to me… Why not mention countries like Australia or the Netherlands instead? Countries that are beyond doubt, better than the US in nearly every way… I’m tired of Americans using third world countries to validate the erroneous view that America is the best place to be and to belittle the problems here… “Oh, you think it’s bad here? Move to Nigeria.” It’s not a very clever argument. It does not change the fact that in other Western countries the minimum wage is 2,3, sometimes even 4 times greater than it is here… This country is the laughing stock of the Western world.

  11. evie said on May 26th, 2008 at 10:57pm #

    You need to check out the cost of living and the taxation in those utopias before thinking they’re so much better. You must have a college degree to immigrate to Australia. And the Netherlands is so open-minded they legislated to have the age of consent lowered to 12 – didn’t pass the bill thank goodness.

    “Laughing stock” is regurgitating b.s. Stop whining and live your life whether the US is what you want it to be or not – I don’t think the US will be like other Western utopias any time soon.

  12. Kevan Giffen said on May 27th, 2008 at 4:37am #

    First of all, taxation is a god thing… the more fortunate are obliged to take care of those that aren’t… do not adopt an “every man for himself” view of the world… mankind is a collective. We have banned state funded mental institution here in Texas because people bitched about taxes being to high… now these people who cannot afford treatment and cannot function in society are forced to be homeless… This is disgusting. Of course the cost of living is higher in those countries because wages are higher and the overall living standards are higher… basic economics.
    As far as I’m concerned, people should be able to fuck who they want as soon as they are old enough to function sexually… People are way too suppressive of sexuality.

    …as for my whining… attempting to open peoples eyes to the problems in our own country is hardly a negative thing… acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to recovering according to our good friends at the AA

  13. evie said on May 27th, 2008 at 4:55am #

    the grass is always greener…

  14. Kevan Giffen said on May 27th, 2008 at 11:32am #

    Perhaps we should do a little gardening?

  15. evie said on May 27th, 2008 at 2:59pm #

    Good idea. I got dibs on the tomatoes.