Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hate and Conservatism

Dana Milbank wrote this week in the Washington Post that the Family Research Council is not a hate group, even though the Southern Poverty Law Center has concluded, after extensive and meticulous research, that they are. Milbank says the group is simply "a mainstream conservative think tank."

Required reading: John Aravosis' rebuttal on AmericaBlog explains exactly why FRC is a hate group. It is a long post with lots of quotes and links. Only those who are actually motivated -- LGBT people and straight allies, that is -- will read it, but you should follow his reasoning and his references.
At one point, I had the Congressional Research Service send me a copy of every single document the Family Research Council had written about gays, and then I had CRS get me every single document listed in the FRC doc's footnotes. I.e., all the "original sources" for the Family Research Council's anti-gay claims.

And there were a lot of them. At the time, FRC's list of footnotes could be nearly as long as the written part of the document itself.

What did I find when I went through the original sources cited in the footnotes? I found that nearly every single footnote was a lie. Not a lie in the conventional sense - meaning, they didn't make up a source that didn't exist. Rather, they did things like quoting a damning opinion from a judge in a court case without mention that the judge was in the minority, that the gays had actually won the case they were citing.

Or they'd quote a study with a hideous conclusion about gays and lesbians, only for you to realize later that the actual quote in the study was rather benign - instead, FRC "forgot" to put and end-quotation mark on the quote, added an ellipse, and then put their own damning conclusion.
Read it. Bookmark it.

OK, there is no doubt that FRC is a hate group. Milbank says "it’s absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church," but it is not absurd. The Family Research Council is just like those groups. Maybe slicker than some of them, but just the same.

But really, that doesn't matter right now, they are what they are. I am interested in the idea that hate has become a "mainstream conservative" value.

There used to be something scary called "conservatism." Barry Goldwater was the figurehead and the spokesman for the movement. Conservatives were brash, outspoken, belligerent, and opposed to mamby-pambyism of any sort. It was the far right of American politics, and reasonable people were alarmed. They tacitly supported segregation (aka "states' rights") and loudly supported war, with nuclear weapons if possible. Scary, dangerous people with wild, un-American, totalitarian ideas.

By 1998, even Goldwater and fellow conservative Bob Dole realized that the right had shifted so far toward the extreme that their views were considered liberal.

By the time GW Bush had become President, elected twice, conservatism had come to stand for a kind of anti-intellectual mashup of any beliefs that would allow the white working class to believe that it was an exceptional and wonderful group of people, compared to everybody else. The core belief was, "This is the way we live and everybody else should, too." Things that made white people uncomfortable were bad, things they liked were good, because God made it that way.

The Family Research Council calls itself a Christian group, but the beliefs they promote are not to be found in any Christian scripture. There's nothing about "traditional marriage" in the Bible, for instance, in fact there are all kinds of living arrangements in the Bible, many of which the FRC would oppose. There is almost no mention at all of homosexuality, certainly Jesus never mentioned it, and the FRC's positions are the direct opposite of the philosophy that was taught by Jesus Christ. The group exists to put a presentable face on the loathsome beliefs of those who now call themselves conservatives, to market conservative beliefs under cover of real-sounding research and statements by real-sounding authorities.

It is a Christian group in the sense that a church can be an authoritarian community that promotes a kind of prudish conformity. There can be something heartwarming and even helpful about a preacher telling his people to get their act together, and I don't blame anybody for attending services and enjoying them, but it is important to distinguish between the sense of community you get from belonging to a group and the actual scriptural teachings of a religion.

The FRC and similar groups take something peripheral to Christianity and put it at the center. Jesus, at the real center of Christianity, would have invited LGBT people into his tent, he would have taken joy in their love and blessed their marriages, but some fire-and-brimstone minister will point a blaming finger at sinners in the pews and that is the part the Family Research Council has adopted, the blaming finger. And they point it at people who do not belong to their congregation.

This is the worst of America. It is not the America that believes in freedom and opportunity for all, it is the opposite of that, and we need to shake ourselves occasionally to wake up and realize how crazy it is to take these guys seriously at all.

Milbank might be right, the Family Research Council might be a mainstream conservative think tank. But Aravosis is right, too, it is a hate group by any reasonable standard.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

About the Shooting at the Hate Group Office

Yesterday a guy went into the office of the Family Research Council in Chinatown and shot the security guard. As I write this, not many details are known. The guard was not killed, he works for the FRC directly and is not a contractor apparently, he subdued the shooter after being hit in the arm. The attacker was carrying some stuff from Chick Fil-A, we don't know what he was going to do with it.

The shooter, Floyd Corkins II, was a volunteer at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, and was described by colleagues as "gentle, kind, and unassuming."

All the gay advocacy groups immediately issued statements decrying violence. But you know how this is going to be used.

When somebody blows up an abortion clinic, news reports rarely use the word "terrorist," and always mention that the building was an abortion clinic. It is usually mentioned in the headline. "Somebody" blew the place up because it was an abortion clinic, the target of the attack bears the blame. But when the target is a hate group, news reports don't even tell the public what kind of organization it is, go figure. They call it a "policy center," or "conservative lobbying group." Here's how this morning's Post article started:
An armed intruder, spouting opposition to social conservatism, walked into the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council on Wednesday and shot a security guard before the wounded guard and others wrestled him to the floor and subdued him until police arrived, authorities said. Family Research Council guard shot by gunman in D.C.
Seriously -- "spouting opposition to social conservatism?" Somehow I think that might be a high-level summary that drains the event of its content. It appears to me that we probably have a gay man coming in to kill some people who have devoted their lives to the encouragement of prejudice and discrimination against him and people like himself; I am guessing he did not mention "social conservatism."

You could read this entire Post article without discovering that the Family Research Council is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

There are a few media outlets that have mentioned the fact, but they do it in an amazing backward way. For instance, CBN, a Christianist site, blamed the shooting on the SPLC for labeling the FRC a hate group. It's just another instance of liberals stirring up trouble. Nobody wants to come out and say out loud what everybody knows, which is that the FRC actually does promote hatred.

We don't know all the facts here, and obviously there is going to be a lot of talk, it was a bad thing for this guy to do and he will go to prison for it. You might get tired of the insults, the denigration, the lack of respect, the arrogance, but you don't react by shooting people. There is no way anything good could have come of this kind of behavior. It does not advance the cause in any way that I can foresee, and only offers a soapbox to those who want to brand all gay and lesbian people as unhinged and dangerous in one way or another. Groups like the FRC are losing traction in this country, and it would be enough just to let them shrink to nothing on their own. It's funny to say it, but I just don't think violence is a good way to win a debate. We are certainly a violent country, both as individuals and in the international sphere, but I don't think violence changes people's minds.

I wonder how the press would play it if a black person opened fire on a Klan rally. That's all, I just wonder.

Luckily no one was seriously hurt in this incident. The security guard is a hero, he deserves that label, he did his job and stopped a killer. The Family Research Council is a hate group, they have earned that label as well. But don't look for the media to mention that fact. The story will be "Crazed queer attacks Christian organization that supports families and marriage."

I don't know how it will play out, but I am pretty sure you will not see gay people on the talk shows, explaining how frustrating it is to have groups like the Family Research Council lying about you and criticizing the most intimate personal part of yourself, the part of you that loves and cares about others, as if you are dirty and sinful. None of that justifies violence, we are not talking about that, but it is certainly a factor in understanding this crime. The FRC has attacked gays in the most evil ways for years, relentlessly, and somebody snapped. But you won't hear it that way on TV.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Obama, Romney Agree on LGBT Discrimination

This year's presidential campaigns offer a stark distinction between the two candidates, but it turns out there is one thing they agree on.

Metro Weekly has this one:
Nearly a month after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed the organization's ban on out gay members and leaders, Mitt Romney confirmed that he believes the organization should permit gay people to join.

At a debate with Kennedy during that race, Romney said that while he supported the right of the BSA to determine their own policies, he personally believes "all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."

Romney previously served on the Boy Scouts' national executive board.

The confirmation from the Romney campaign comes after video of that debate surfaced on the Internet and as protests against the organization have increased since last month's announcement. Obama, Romney Against Boy Scouts' Gay Ban
This was kind of funny. When the story originally came out it said, "The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment." Turns out the President had not commented on the situation at the Boy Scouts, who do not allow gay leaders or scouts.

Then, later in the day, the story was updated:
UPDATE @ 3P WED: White House spokesman Shin Inouye confirmed that President Obama opposes the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members and leaders. In an email to Metro Weekly, Inouye writes, "The President believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century. He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation."
For the first couple of years of Obama's presidency, there was disappointment in the LGBT community about his unwillingness to follow through on promises he made to them. But it turns out these things go slowly, and during Obama's first term there have been many major breakthroughs in gay and transgender rights. It is now clear where Obama stands on the issue of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, though he had not commented on this particular issue.

I'd say it was bad form for Obama to let Romney get ahead of him on this one, but by the end of the day both candidates had expressed clear and well-appreciated positions against prejudice and discrimination.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Age and the Maryland Marriage Referendum

The Silver Spring Patch makes some pretty good observations here about the upcoming referendum on marriage equality.
Based on Maryland's age distribution and a changing national attitude on same sex marriage, one could expect–surprise–a close referendum fight in November.

Earlier this week, you may have read that increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage is not the result of a nationwide change of heart, but because those opposed tend to be older and are literally dying off.

A study by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found that the increase of acceptance for same-sex marriage is the result of changing, aging demographics and "generational replacement," defined by Pew as "the arrival of younger, more supportive generations making up a larger share of the population."

Nationally, 48 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 35 percent in 2001, according to Pew. Among those born after 1981, the so-called millenial generation, 63 percent support same-sex marriage. Fifty-two percent of generation X-ers support gay marriage. Support drops precipitously from there. Only a third of their silent-generation grandparents do, and only 41 percent of the baby boomer parents of most millenials support same-sex marriage. Age, Same-Sex Marriage and Maryland
Actually, it is a combination of attitude change and generational replacement. I am of the boomer generation, and when we were growing up there was no debate about same-sex marriage. Nobody thought about it or considered it. Even gay people did not think of marrying in the middle of the century. In the 1970s there were a few cases where same-sex couples married, in the absence of any law saying they couldn't, before anybody thought to oppose it.

So anyone in the boomer generation who supports the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry has undergone an attitude change -- and there are a lot of us! The change in status of the LGBT population is an amazing story of social evolution. It comprises a large component of learning, rethinking, discarding inappropriate beliefs, and personal growth. Plus it's true, today's young people have an entirely fresh, new, and tolerant view of sexual orientation; the tide has turned.

So, what does this mean for Maryland's upcoming referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage?

Well, consider that the bell curve of the voting age population in Maryland heavily skews towards a younger population. The Census Bureau tabulates ages in five-year ranges that don't exactly match up with the generational cohorts used by Pew's statisticians, but it is close enough for approximation.

With that in mind, note that 41.7 percent of Maryland's population fell between the ages of 20 and 49, roughly corresponding to the millenial and generation-X cohorts, the two cohorts most likely to support same-sex marriage.

Baby boomers and their silent-generation parents, cohorts significantly more conservative on same-sex marriage, make up only 31.9 percent of the state's population.

But, of course, the only important number is how many people in the respective generations actually vote.

In 2008, Maryland's millenials made up more than 20 percent of the state's population but only accounted for 17 percent of its registered voters, according to a fact sheet from the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Of those youngest registered voters, only 56 percent voted in the 2008 presidential election, up 6 points from 2004.

Baby boomers and the elderly tend to turn out in much greater numbers. State level data is hard to come by, but according to the Census Bureau's 2008 Voting Hot Report, more than 60 percent of voters aged 50 and up voted in the last presidential election.

Based on those statistics, we're back where we started: A close vote.
So, in a nutshell, younger citizens are more likely to approve marriage equality, and less likely to actually vote. You know what you have to do.