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Law, Unwrapped: Ordinary Americans, Sentinel Confrontations

by John Culhane on December 21, 2011

in Bigotry Watch,John Culhane,News,Politics

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In Troy, Michigan, two women and their kids confronted the mayor at a city council meeting. Last summer, that mayor posted to Facebook – will people never learn? – that she wanted to tear up her “I Love New York” carrying bag now that “queers” can marry there.

In New Hampshire, Mitt Romney sat down next to a Vietnam vet, hoping to score a few easy points with some rote declaration of thanks for his service. He wasn’t expecting his sixty-something year old contemporary to come out to him, and then to directly ask him whether he supported the vet’s right to marry his partner. (He doesn’t.)

Somewhere in South Carolina, a Michele Bachmann book-signing stumbled into an awkward abyss when, at her urging, an eight-year-old boy leaned in to make himself heard and then told the clueless candidate that his mommy was “gay but she doesn’t need fixing.”

And just yesterday, Newt Gingrich, whose recent statements on the judiciary conclusively disqualify him from the Presidency and possibly even for citizenship, answered a gay man’s question about how he planned to engage the gays if elected in a shocking way:  by advising the guy to vote for Obama. (Gingrich is, unfortunately, headed for the worst flameout since Ed Muskie, thereby depriving me of countless hours of savoring a yummy stew of outrage and amusement. Is there anyone out there who still thinks he’s a bright guy?)

These confrontations wouldn’t have happened just a few years ago. They’re sentinel events, highlighting the increasingly undeniable point that it’s no longer possible to simply ignore us, or to try to achieve that same goal less directly by stuffing us back into the closet. We are everywhere, and even vets and book signings attended by kids aren’t safe for this kind of casual bigotry any more. Even those in force fields built of ideological extremism (Bachmann) or piles of privilege (Romney) are finding, to call up a Star Trek standby, that their shield strength is “way down, captain.”

But things will stay ugly for awhile, because these cosseted politicos are always the last to know that their orthodoxy has been defeated. So in his risible “Strong” video, Rick Perry wonders how gays can serve openly in the military while Christian children are – and here I’m paraphrasing – burned alive for even thinking about Christmas. In a recent email to the faithful, NOM President Brian Brown solicited contributions in an effort to keep same-sex marriage from “destroying” marriage (as he knows it.) Yet as the rhetoric on the far right becomes increasingly hysterical, it becomes ever-more marginalized. So for every “like” of Perry’s YouTube video, there are more than thirty “dislikes.” 30 to 1! And the parodies of the video keep coming, in crazy proliferation. Not since NOM’s “Gathering Storm” has a wingnut video betrayed such a tin ear, or inspired such lip-licking from parodists. It’s really too easy.

That’s not to say that these videos don’t do harm, though. Like the escalating idiocy of people like Newt Gingrich, they don’t help the doomed candidates or causes, but they do enable and give comfort to those who defend bullying or, worse, the criminalization of gayness and the murder of LGBT people by repressive governments.

Am I building too shaky a bridge to bear this kind of weight? You might think so, but Rick Perry’s already crossed it. In response to the moving and eloquent speech on LGBT rights as human rights that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered in Geneva earlier this month, Rick Perry (who, as the Daily Show’s Jon Oliver memorably stated last week, has an Achilles Head) assailed the Obama Administration for “being out of touch with America’s values” and – yes! – “at war with people of faith in this country.” Listen to Clinton’s simple call for equality and justice — and basic public safety — for the world’s LGBT population and you’ll be astounded at Perry’s response. Given the content of her speech, Perry’s comments come something close to approval of violence and murder against us.

But when Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann and Rick Santorum (Remember him? Me neither.) collapse spectacularly, we’ll be one step closer to the end of barely veiled gay-bashing. It won’t come too soon.
Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.

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{ 1 comment }

Robroberts2009 December 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm

John — fabulous article! The only way to stop these hateful bigots is to publicly shame them each and every time they repeat another lie. It's like a game of "whack-a-mole" only the moles are whack-jobs.

We have some big enemies in the Mormon and Catholic churches, and all their money. Didn't the church once put people to death for believing the earth is round? They'll get the message eventually. It's clear the Mormons need the "gay enemy" to distract from their polygamy and child-bride sexual abuse, while the Catholics would prefer everyone look the other way while they diddle little boys. Why is always the most morally corrupt who are the most judgemental?

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