Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

March 27 2015 12:20 PM

Georgia Legislators Admit It: “Religious Liberty” Bill Is About Anti-Gay Discrimination

One of the most irritating aspects of the campaign to legalize anti-gay discrimination in the guise of “religious liberty” is the fact that anti-gay activists are so snidely mendacious about their true aims. Legislators from Arizona to Indiana have openly conceded that the intent of their bills is to protect business owners, like florists and bakers, from having to serve gay couples. Yet the right-wing media continues to sneeringly insist that anyone who detects discriminatory intent behind “religious liberty” legislation is, in one writer’s childish words, “a complete idiot.”

On Thursday, however, the façade fell away. During a Georgia House Judiciary Committee debate over the state’s new religious freedom bill, Rep. Mike Jacobs—a Republican!—called anti-gay legislators’ bluff. Jacobs proposed a simple amendment to the legislation clarifying that it must not be interpreted to legalize discrimination. Conservative representatives cried foul, asserting that an anti-discrimination amendment would defeat the purpose of the bill. When the amendment narrowly passed, conservatives quickly tabled the bill, postponing its consideration indefinitely. A religious freedom measure with an anti-discrimination provision, they decided, was not a real religious freedom measure at all.


This kerfuffle is both illuminating and, frankly, satisfying for those of us who have maintained that discrimination was the actual purpose of these bills all along. After the campaign to defeat Arizona’s religious liberty bill succeeded, the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway called those of us who viewed the measure as discriminatory—that would include me—“ignorant,” “dumb, uneducated, and eager to deceive.” Never mind the fact that Arizona legislators openly declared that the bill’s purpose was to let businesses turn away gay couples, baking discrimination into the measure’s legislative history in a way state courts can’t ignore. In the topsy-turvy sophistry of the far right, heeding committee minutes qualified as “ignorance,” while ignoring the stated intent of a bill qualified as intelligence.

But if anti-gay conservatives have any intellectual integrity, Thursday’s Georgia dispute should put an end to this charade. Jacobs, the representative who introduced the anti-discrimination amendment, is no flaming liberal; he is a moderate Republican who was legitimately concerned that a broad measure protecting businesses’ “religious exercise” could function as a license to discriminate. If Georgia’s religious freedom bill truly wasn’t designed to legalize discrimination, this amendment would have been utterly uncontroversial. Instead, it spurred heated opposition from conservatives, who refused to support any religious liberty bill that explicitly forbade discrimination.

There’s one interesting (and revealing) coda to the Georgia conflict. Eric Erickson, a viciously anti-gay Christian commentator, has long supported the Georgia legislation in the name of religious rights. But on Thursday, his wording suddenly shifted: Now the Georgia bill was about protecting Christians’ rights. This unsubtle revision may be due to the fact that Jacobs, the sponsor of the anti-discrimination amendment, is Jewish. In a vitriolic blog post following the vote, Erickson slammed Jacobs as “the man who wants to deny protection to Christian businesses.” Not religious businesses—Christian ones.

You’d have to be deaf not to hear that dog whistle, and you’d have to be blind not to see the desperation in Erickson and co.’s maneuvering. On Wednesday, I noted that millions of devout believers are standing up to defend their faith against those who seek to coopt it for discriminatory purposes. Included among these millions are myriad religious groups and faith leaders—including the esteemed Anti-Defamation League—who are insulted by the notion that bigotry is a component of religious liberty. Champions of intolerance are losing, and losing badly. For a while, they found a way to shroud their goals in duplicity. Now the guise has collapsed—and everyone, even Georgia Republicans, can see the glaring animus driving this callous campaign. 

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March 26 2015 1:03 PM

Devout Christians Protest Indiana’s New Anti-Gay Law. We Need More Of This. 

Despite their frequent claims to the contrary, anti-gay Christians do not hold a monopoly on the interpretation of their faith. Although conservatives have strived to depict marriage equality as a grave threat to religious liberty, millions of devout Christians across every denomination enthusiastically support equal dignity for gay people. The future of gay rights in America is most likely in these Christians’ hands. Atheists, agonistics, and Reform Jews already overwhelmingly support full LGBTQ equality. At this point, only tolerant Christians can push back against the absurd and insulting idea that the only valid reading of the Bible is an anti-gay one.

Earlier this month, the Presbyterian Church demonstrated that this pushback is already in full swing by voting to recognize same-sex marriage in order to honor “the love of gays and lesbian couples.” Now another mainline Protestant denomination has taken a firm stance in favor of gay equality. On Wednesday, the Disciples of Christ asked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to veto a new bill legalizing anti-gay discrimination, threatening to move their 2017 General Assembly to another state if the bill became law. Pence signed the legislation on Thursday morning in a closed-door ceremony. But the Disciples have not backed down, and—if they follow through on their promise—will deprive the state of nearly $6 million in revenue.

March 26 2015 11:44 AM

When Deciding Gay Marriage, SCOTUS Should Listen to John Roberts’ Confirmation Hearing

With the Supreme Court about to take up the momentous question of whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges, dozens of briefs have been filed with the court explaining why it does. The excellent arguments made in those briefs should resonate with all but the most closed-minded on the issue of marriage equality. And among those arguments, one in particular should resonate with Chief Justice John Roberts—that the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia is clear that the laws challenged inObergefell infringe on the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry. In a perhaps long-forgotten portion of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005, Roberts (then a judge on the D.C. Circuit) engaged in an interesting discussion of Loving with then-Sen. Joe Biden, a member of the committee.


In Loving, the court struck down the laws of the 16 states that still prohibited interracial couples from marrying. The court’s ruling had two independent bases in the 14th Amendment: that the laws were racially discriminatory in violation of the equal protection clause and that they denied interracial couples the fundamental right to marry, impermissibly infringing on the liberty interest protected by the due process clause. As a general matter, the Supreme Court has explained elsewhere that “the Due Process Clause specially protects those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively, ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.’ ”

March 25 2015 11:57 AM

Looking for a Final Chapter: HBO Cancels Looking

Looking aired its second season finale Sunday night, and today we learned that the show will not be back for a third. But that doesn’t mean viewers will be left wondering if Patrick, Agustín, Dom, and co. ever found love and self-actualization. Fortunately for everyone who loves closure, their stories will be wrapped up in a special episode.

According to a statement from HBO:

After two years of following Patrick and his tight-knit group of friends as they explored San Francisco in search of love and lasting relationships, HBO will present the final chapter of their journey as a special.  We look forward to sharing this adventure with the shows loyal fans.

Disclosure: Slate editor Julia Turner’s husband works on the show.

March 25 2015 11:26 AM

Ask a Homo: Boyfriend in the Closet

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the gays of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other queer conundrums. This week, an openly gay man seeks advice on how best to support his closeted boyfriend.

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, this is your chance. Send your queries—for publication—to slateoutward@gmail.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.


Other Questions Asked of Homos:

March 24 2015 3:33 PM

The Library Is Open for the Philosopher-Queen 

As a master drag queen and host of the popular drag competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul makes his living working on a stage. So it was striking to see Mother Ru begin her interview last Friday at the New York Public Library—part of the institution’s excellent LIVE from the NYPL series—on a note of awkwardness. Dressed in a fetching boy drag ensemble, Ru took the stage after being introduced by Paul Holdengräber, series host and interviewer for the evening, to wild applause from a significantly gay audience who had been primed for her arrival by tracks from Britney Spears and Ru herself. The library, as the great drag saying referring to the art of playful insult called reading goes, was very much open.

As the clapping faded, however, it quickly became apparent that Ru was not only at little unsure of how to handle this particular spotlight, but was also a fascinatingly weird match for Holdengräber, a man of a rather more staid and highly literary caste. Indeed, the host began by posing an Oscar Wilde quote about self-styling and mimicry to Ru, as if to somehow get a handle on her gayness by invoking one of the relatively few queer writers taken seriously outside “the family.” Ru expressed appreciation for the gesture but seemed somewhat confused by the formality of it all. And to be fair to Holdengräber—who was clearly doing his best, having apparently never met a queen before—Ru himself seemed unable to take the “luminary interview” format seriously, immediately launching into a meta-discussion on the constructedness of the scenario. “It’s hard to get intimate with an audience,” Ru confessed, adding later, “I’ll make it seem like I’m being very candid and very open.”

March 24 2015 2:00 PM

Personal Anecdotes Shouldn’t Dictate Policy on Same-Sex Marriage

Here we go again. In what appears to be a mini-meme, another child of a same-sex couple has “come out” about her experience and is trying to turn her pain into policy. (A quartet of these folks, who are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold same-sex marriage bans, were profiled by Zack Ford at ThinkProgress last month.) Now, in a piece for the FederalistHeather Barwick argues that same-sex marriage should be prohibited. While no one’s story should be discounted, her arguments aren’t coherent. No one should be beguiled into thinking otherwise.

Barwick was the child of a mother and a father, but both parents knew that her mom was a lesbian, so—surprise!—the relationship didn’t last. After the couple split, dad rarely came around. “He wasn’t a great guy,” Barwick says. Her mom ended up in a long-term relationship with another woman, and, it seems, Barwick was raised “surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man.”

March 24 2015 10:00 AM

What the Heck Is Genderqueer?

Are gender stereotypes a natural, if culturally influenced, outgrowth of sexual dimorphism? Or are they a coercively imposed social regime that stifles individual expression in order to maintain oppressive, entrenched power structures? A great many uptight, self-certain people argue passionately for the former point of view, using it to justify everything from differences in employment patterns and wages between the sexes to their distaste for individuals who fall too far outside the expectations for persons with their genital configuration. On the other hand, members of the LGBTQ community tend to incline more toward the latter view, which is intellectually based in queer theory and culturally practiced by individuals who declare themselves to fall under the genderqueer umbrella.

Genderqueer, along with the somewhat newer and less politicized term nonbinary, are umbrella terms intended to encompass individuals who feel that terms like man and woman or male and female are insufficient to describe the way they feel about their gender and/or the way they outwardly present it. The term genderqueer was originally coined in the 1990s to describe those who “queered” gender by defying oppressive gender norms in the course of their binary-defying activism. Members of the genderqueer community differentiate themselves from people who are transgender (itself originally intended as an umbrella term), because that word has come to refer primarily to people who identify with the binary gender different from the one they were assigned in infancy.

March 23 2015 3:02 PM

Will ICANN’s Dotgay Do-Over Be Done Well?

In late January, dotgay LLC announced some good news for those of us who favor LGBTQ community control of a dedicated space on the Web: Following a lively campaign by Internet users and LGBTQ organizations, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers questioned the work of the Economic Intelligence Unit, the entity it had charged with reviewing the application of dotgay LLC to own the future .gay generic top level domain, and ordered EIU to carry out a new review with a new team of evaluators. Reopening the application may lead to approval of dotgay LLC as owner of .gay, but unless the review takes into account the inherently blurred borders of the LGBTQ community, we may end up with a second, and definitive, rejection of the existence of an online “gay” community from ICANN.

As I’ve written before (herehere, and here), the creation of the .gay domain space has been a long and troubled process. The new domain is part of ICANN’s controversial decision to create new domain names alongside stalwarts like .com, .org, or .uk. This has already given us new extensions like .wedding, .london, and .audi. The whole scheme has been called a giant scam, aimed at forcing existing brand owners to buy new domains to protect their intellectual property. Such is the case of the new .sucks domain, where the only way for a company like General Motors to avoid the creation of a website at generalmotors.sucks is to buy the domain, at an annual cost of $2,500, a situation described by former Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., as "little more than a predatory shakedown scheme.”

March 23 2015 10:39 AM

One Californian’s Response to That “Kill the Gays” Measure: The Intolerant Jackass Act

Last Friday, I wrote about California attorney Matt McLaughlin’s bizarre quest to have all gay people in his state executed. In February, McLaughlin paid $200 to file a ballot measure called the Sodomite Suppression Act, which, if passed, would require that gays “be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” Although the goal of the act is clearly illegal, McLaughlin’s support for it is a constitutionally protected act of free speech for which he probably can’t even be disbarred. Further, California’s attorney general has no power to halt the proposal, thanks to an odd gap in the law. As a result, the Sodomite Suppression Act will now move on to the signature-gathering stage—and, in the unlikely event it receives 365,880 signatures, it will appear on the ballot in November.

Frustrated by the attorney general’s inability to combat McLaughlin’s proposal, Charlotte Laws has decided to fight back with some free speech of her own. On Monday morning, Laws plans to file the Intolerant Jackass Act, accompanied by the requisite $200, with the California attorney general. Laws’ proposal cleverly mirrors and skewers the Sodomite Suppression Act, explaining that the “abominable crime known as prejudice against sexual orientation” is “a destructive view that society commands us to suppress.”