FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Politics of Bigotry

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

There are things to be grateful for. Our bigotry is much more civilized than bigotry found in other countries.  Just compare.

In Abuja, Nigeria in early February, a mob attacked young gay men, dragging some of them from their homes, beating them with clubs and whips and shouting that it was “cleansing the community.”  When the victims were turned over to the police, they were given further beatings.  The mob was inspired to attack by a new law that was signed by President Jonathan Goodluck, The law provides for a 14-year prison sentence if a person is convicted of being gay.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has promised to sign a new piece of legislation that prescribes life sentences in prison for acts of “aggravated homosexuality.”  Among the acts proscribed are repeated sexual acts among consenting adults of the same sex. The also law applies to Ugandans living abroad who may be extradited if they violate its terms.

Russia, too, has recently taken steps to protect itself from the scourge of what its gay (as in cheerful and of unfailing good humor) president, Vladimir Putin, objects to.  In 2012 in Moscow, city and district courts upheld a Moscow ban on gay pride parades.  The ban is to remain in place for 100 years.  The ban seems harsh until one realizes that it was imposed as a courtesy to the gay community.  It takes a long time to organize a gay pride parade and by letting the community know that the ban will be in effect for 100 years the gay community will not waste its time planning such an event.  On June 30, 2013 President Putin signed a bill banning  “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” subjecting violators to arrest and fines.  Another permits police to arrest and hold for up to 14 days, tourists suspected of being gay or pro-gay. All of which brings us back to the United States which, as I said, is much more civilized in discriminating against gays.

Consider Kansas.  It just decided, at least for now, to tone down its anti-gay legislation.  On February 12, 2014 the Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2453 known as the Religious Liberty Bill.  Drafted by bigots whose intelligence is defined by their beliefs, it was a bit hard to understand. The bill provides that  “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of [an] individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender” such a person or religious entity shall not be required by any governmental entity to, among other things:  “provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges. . . related to (sic) or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”

The bill passed the Kansas House on February 12, 2013 by a 72 to 49 vote.   It looked like it was headed to similar success in the Kansas Senate until the president of the Senate raised concerns as to how it might impact public safety if firemen with religious beliefs went to a burning house occupied by a gay couple.  Although it is unclear how putting out a fire is “related to the celebration of, any marriage, etc” she felt that language could in fact impact public safety and firemen unwilling to provide services to married gay couples might decline to extinguish the blaze. As she explained:  “I believe that when you hire police officers or a fireman that they have no choice in who (sic) they serve.”  .  A close reading of the bill suggests that its impact on public safety is the least of its problems. Kansas is not, of course, alone.  Bills in Ohio, Mississippi, Arizona, Idaho and Oklahoma permit people to assert religious freedom defenses if sued by gays whom they refused to serve.

Bigotry is not restricted to legislatures.  U.S. News and World Report had a picture of E.W. Jackson, a former candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia addressing a group of demonstrators in front of the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia.  He was lamenting the fact that a federal judge had struck down Virginia’s law banning same sex marriage.  Mr. Jackson is black and an enthusiastic supporter of laws that discriminate against gays.  He probably is too young to remember when Virginia said it would have been a felony for Mr. Jackson to marry a white woman.  Had he done so he and his wife could have been sentenced to prison for up to five years.

Ted Cruz, the United States’ answer to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has introduced a bill in the United States Senate to permit states to define marriage any way they see fit.  As Mr. Cruz explained, the bill “respects the definition of marriage held by the people of each state and protects states from the federal government’s efforts to force any other definition upon them.”  Mr. Cruz does not think the U.S. Constitution should keep people from discriminating against their citizens if that’s what a majority of their citizens want.  Kind of the way Virginia did it before the U.S. Supreme Court said blacks could marry anyone they wanted to marry.  Mr. Cruz would probably have opposed ending the ban.  He’s for what he believes even if it tramples on a minority-kind of like Presidents Goodluck, Museveni and Putin.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

 

More articles by:

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail