Thursday, January 20, 2011

Call it what it is: Bigotry

Call it what it is: Bigotry

The rights of minorities have never been popular. That's one of the reasons rights are cemented into constitutions, the most fundamental law and the hardest to change.

Yet the Iowa House's move to amend the state Constitution and end marriage equality is pushing in just the opposite direction. Despite this paper's slanted headline: "Bill introduced to allow public to vote on same-sex marriage," this is a move to take rights away.

The Iowa House has dropped all pretense with its wording: "Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state." That's not a defense of freedom of religion, of the right of churches to recognize what they want. It's a call for official state discrimination. It excludes not just civil marriage but the Marriage Lite of civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The lead House sponsor of the amendment is Dwayne Alons, the same yo-yo who once said "We shouldn't be as concerned, actually, about warming, especially now that we have modern refrigeration and air conditioning."

Here's Alons' rationale: "I think the biggest issue is that if that (a same-sex marriage ban) is carried forward, and then Iowa does civil unions and recognizes that as a substitute status, then, from what I've seen in other states," people would come to consider same-sex civil unions as equal to marriage."

While Alons, and all but four other House Republicans, work that track, newly minted state rep Tom Shaw is doubling down on the impeachment rhetoric: The opinion, written by Justice Cady, rendered that the definition of Iowa’s law declaring that marriage is between one male and one female, was unconstitutional. Furthermore, they ordered that same-sex “marriage” licenses must be issued.... Note the condescending and delegitimizing quotation marks around "marriage."

Let's just call this what it is. The amendment and impeachment have absolutely nothing to do with "co-equal branches of government." It's not about separation of powers. It's about queers.

It's bigotry.

If you are against marriage equality, you are by definition a bigot. You might be a "nice" person who bakes cookies for the neighbor and loves kittens, but you're a bigot. In some ways that makes it even worse because it legitimizes it to other people. You're Fred Phelps with cookies. You are prejudiced against gay people, and believe they should not be given the same rights as others. You are simply arguing that your particular prejudices and bigotries should be endorsed with the force of law--just as bigots have throughout the ages.

Perhaps you believe this bigotry is a tenet of your religion. If so that's your right, but I feel sorry for you. The leader of my religion, a long-haired sandal wearing guy, was silent on the subject of gay marriage, but He had a lot to say about loving thy neighbor.

I'm a believer in secular states myself, from here to the Middle East, and don't believe anyone's religious bigotries should be given the force of law.

This debate, and the related gays in the military debate, comes down to one question: is it OK to be gay? More specifically, is being gay just a way people are, or is it a sinful choice? Overwhelming evidence is that it's just what some people are, no more a "sin" than hair or eye or skin color or set of genitals.

That's part of why these fights have been so bitter. Bigots are clinging to the thinnest straws, desperate for the state to endorse their prejudices. Saying gay marriage and military service are OK means saying being gay is OK, and that backs people into a corner.

Much of this is a generational thing. Many people born pre-Baby Boom simply can't conceive of homosexuality and react with hostility and loathing. That's why they're so eager to cement this discrimination into state constitutions; they know time is not on their side as more tolerant generations follow.

Fifty years after the civil rights movement and two years into the first black president's term, there are still racists, far too many. But our society no longer endorses these prejudices with the force of law, and generational change has eased the most blatant forms of discrimination.

Read the Varnum v. Brien court ruling. It's eloquent and air-tight. Same goes for the rulings in California's Proposition 8. Denying gays and lesbians equal marriage rights is the very definition of discrimination. Think: if such discrimination weren't so fundamental, would it be necessary to amend the Constitution to "fix" it? The only way to argue against it is to argue against the system itself. Don't like the call? Fire the referees. Don't like the rules of the game? Change them.

Drop the pretense that this is about anything other than prejudice. Get up on the House floor, say "I hate fags," and sit back down. It'll save us all time and it'll be more honest.

No comments: