Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bigotry Isn't Only a Southern Brew

I'm a native North Carolinian and my state turned to the dark side this past Tuesday, voting to amend our state constitution to prohibit gay marriage, indeed any type of union other than a so-called traditional marriage between a man and a woman. I don't know if that means in the tradition of Kim Kardashian or if those who voted for the amendment have something a bit bit longer in mind before it counts as a marriage.

I voted against the amendment as did all the people with whom I'm still speaking. I have no patience with bigotry of any sort and there is no rational basis for such beliefs. The "I'm entitled to my opinion" argument doesn't fly with me. I'm entitled to discontinue all association with you if you choose to be a bigot.

However it is not my intent to rant about bigotry in this post. 

I am disturbed at a trend that I've spotted among quite a few non-southern folks to declare this anti-gay marriage bigotry to be a southern problem. It's not that I mind well deserved criticism directed at my state for the recent vote to add legalized discrimination to our state constitution. I am disturbed because as long as it's the other guy who is responsible then we avoid uniting in a collective effort to dismantle these laws as in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  History is littered with denials of rights up to and including genocide in which everyone says, "Who me? I didn't approve of it. It was ________." (fill in the blank).

Thirty-one states have amended their constitutions to declare that marriage is between a man and a woman. Unless the South has cloned itself, this problem extends way beyond the south. 
Only the gray states lack an amendment prohibiting gay marriage.

It was particularly disturbing to read one person's comment, on a blog post about NC's recent vote, asserting that she lived in Virginia and would not set foot in NC because of the passage of Amendment One. Virginia already has a constitutional amendment preventing gay marriage. It's as if the country has been asleep since around 2004 when state legislatures began amending state constitutions to enshrine bigotry as legal.

What NC has done is draw attention to this problem yet again. By the way. Minnesota plans to vote on this issue in November 2012. I'm not good at geography, but I'm pretty certain that Minnesota is not in the south.

Only six states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriages as of May 2012. Wikipedia has a good article identifying which states have passed anti-gay marriage amendments and the effect of those amendments that is accurate up until May 2012. It includes NC's recent vote.

Until we face the reality that bigotry knows no geographical boundaries, we're simply going to engage in periodic indignation when homophobia slaps us in the face, blame it on the south and then go on about our business, secure in the myth that only those other people practice bigotry. Thirty-one states down, only 19 more to go. This is a national issue, not a southern one and we need a national strategy to address it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The President and Gay Marriage

After hearing the president's announcement of his personal support of  same-sex marriage, I just wanted to enjoy the president's positive statement. I figured that there would be affirmation and support for the president among progressives. Was I wrong!

PZ Myers post over at Pharyngula is an accurate reflection of the critiscism that the president is reaping from some progressives and some members of the LGBT community who feel that the president's statement was weak and insignificant. Myers writes:
That’s the best we’ve got from Obama? Seriously? It’s taken him this long to “evolve” to the point where he can take a personal (not even a political) stand on civil rights? 
What do people expect from this president? He has gone further than any president has before. What is there to be skeptical about? This was not a clever campaign move designed to garner votes. In taking this position he stands to lose some Black and Latino votes, two groups with numbers significant enough to make a difference in November. What he may gain from the LGBT vote will not be nearly enough in numbers to compensate for the votes that he stands to lose. I think that he did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

But I am flabbergasted at some of the responses from his critics who identify with the progressive movement. Everything does not happen at once. During his administration, DADT has been repealed and cannot rear its ugly head again unless Congress passes another discriminatory law. Unlike what could have happened if he had merely ended DADT with an Executive Order that would have had limited authority for enforcement and that could have been easily rescinded by the next president without congressional approval.

Now he has taken a very public position on an issue that no president before him has ever addressed. What's the alternative position? Would you prefer that he have continued to say nothing? Exactly what nefarious reason could he have for making this declaration in favor of equality?

And the notion that his speaking out two or three years ago would have made any difference in North Carolina's recent vote to amend the state constitution to declare that marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic union recognized in the state is ludicrous. This particular legislation has been proposed every legislative session for at least the last five years. NC joins 30 other states that have already passed similar constitutional amendments. The majority of voters still don't believe in same-sex marriage as evidenced by the 31 states where citizens came down firmly against safe-sex marriage by referendum. No other president has said a word about gay marriage and now this man finally speaks up and the whine is, it's not enough? Obama made history today.

Obama has been in office less than four years and in those four years it seems that people expected him to undo the biases and prejudices that have been firmly entrenched in this culture for centuries. Myers and his allegedly progressive cohorts sound like petulant children and don't offer any constructive criticism, only complaints that Obama hasn't done enough. For the 100th time, presidents don't propose nor write legislation and an Executive Order is not a magic wand. Most of what the public believes can be done with an EO is based on a total misunderstanding of the scope of the president's power.

All of you who feel betrayed by President Obama, would you feel better if he hadn't addressed the issue at all? What's your plan for November? Quite a few critics of the president's statement in support of same-sex marriages also declared their intent not to give their vote to Obama in November. I can only assume that they somehow believe that helping Romney win the presidency will teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. I think that this is what it means to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Think this is far fetched? Perhaps you missed the story from West Virginia about Tuesday's primary. Keith Judd, currently incarcerated in Texas, managed to get himself on the ballot for West Virginia's Democratic primary. Judd got 40% of the Democratic vote. It seems that 40% of Democrats cast their vote for Judd in order to to vote against President Obama. You can't make this stuff up. If we end up with a President Romney, there are a whole lot of people who are going o have some explaining to do.