Is it possible to be against discrimination and for Amendment One which wrote discrimination into the North Carolina Constitution? Is it anti-American to suggest “Our nation’s strength lies with the family” and a few sentences later say “We oppose adoption by same-sex couples”? After all, that adoption would create the family structure they just said would strengthen the nation. Today, the oxymorons of the North Carolina Republican Party are On Our Radar.
The North Carolina Republicans held their state party convention last weekend. You probably saw sound bites from the speeches on the news. Rick Perry made a joke about his frontrunner status being “the most exhilarating three hours of my life.” Donald Trump proclaimed in all seriousness that he couldn’t be a racist since he chose Arsenio Hall as his apprentice, and the platform committee introduced a noteworthy new phrase into the Tea Party lexicon. “Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category.”
The Republicans of North Carolina, a state which until the passage of Amendment One last month was known affectionately by Democrats as “The Good Carolina,” proudly adopted their new state party platform at their gathering in Greensboro. Article III Section 3 reads: “Government should treat all citizens impartially, without regard to wealth, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, political affiliation or national origin. We oppose all forms of invidious discrimination.”
You know what’s coming don’t you? Here’s the last line: “Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category.”
No, you’re not being punked. The platform committee wrote a plank that by all the rules of logic can never be true outside the government’s declaration that LGBT members aren’t people, or a scientific determination that gays are actually alien life forms attracted to Earth by our musical theater. If you claim government should treat ALL people impartially, then you cannot qualify it – but not gay people. The same is true of the claim to oppose ALL forms of invidious discrimination – as soon as you exempt gay citizens, the statement becomes an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, like being “slightly pregnant” or a “straight gay.”
The correct statement, at least a statement faithful to the rules of logic, should have been: “Government should treat SOME citizens impartially,” and “We oppose SOME forms of invidious discrimination.” I would even have given the platform committee a begrudging pass if they announced they oppose “MOST invidious discrimination.” I’m going to resist the urge to make a home-school joke here, but I sometimes wonder if they say these things to make liberals nuts.
Consider this second item in the NC Republican Pledge: “We Believe… Good government is based upon the individual and that each person’s ability, dignity, freedom, and responsibility must be honored and recognized.”
Note there is not even the cover of a “sexual orientation is not an inappropriate category” demur in that unambiguous statement. So allow me to inquire. Did these very same Republicans passing Amendment One last month make you feel more honored and recognized? Or more dignified and free?
Here’s another gem from the Principals of the Party: “We Believe… the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations, and that the best government is that which governs least.
Now square that with a government exercising veto power over a citizen’s choice of spouse. I found myself wondering if this could really be the official website for the NC Republicans or if I’d stumbled upon Stephen Colbert at play.
The convention produced many a head-scratcher, but its new catch phrase, “Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category” stands out as the gathering’s most memorable contribution. But it struck me immediately that it is intentionally an incomplete thought. “Appropriate category?” For what? A game of Jeopardy?
Of course we all know what the platform committee meant by that incomplete thought. They intended it to be evident. It was their job to vet every phrase. They just didn’t want to say the words: Sexual Orientation is not an appropriate category…. of people to protect from bigotry. You can see why the committee members might stumble over that harsh truth. Of course, they would have attempted to phrase it more gently wouldn’t they? I wonder what other words they might have tried on for size?
Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category… of school kids to protect from bullying?
Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category…. of workers to protect from being fired?
Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category… of travelers to guarantee a night’s lodging?
Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category… of college kids to keep from being hung on a fence post?
If you lean right, you are probably complaining now that just because Republicans don’t want to offer gays any legal protections, doesn’t mean you want them to be harmed. I would remind you that this very week, House Republicans unanimously rejected reauthorizing a “Violence Against Women Act” that included an extension of its protections to LGBT victims. Oh, I forgot for a moment: Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category…
Surprisingly, I find a glimmer of hope in the possibility that the platform committee had enough self-awareness to realize there is no way to finish the thought “Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category…” that reflects well on the people who offer it. I truly think someone somewhere in the organization, whose job it was to weigh each word, tempered the end of that line. I’m hoping it’s a green shoot. Someone felt shame and his view was upheld. Others had to agree or at least acquiesce. What went into the platform was still a horror: “Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category” but they lacked the courage to name their sin: Not an appropriate category of citizens to treat as equal.
I wish I had been there to give the platform committee this clue: As Americans, we are all an “appropriate category” to protect. Until that lesson is well learned, the oxymorons of the North Carolina Republican Party will be On Our Radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.
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