A pleasant surprise this morning to learn that Nebraska now protects trans athletes with a specific policy, making it one of only a handful of states (generally much more liberal states) to do so. Read and enjoy the good news.
Michelangelo Signorile writes about the brutal anti-gay violence which is on a steep rise in backlash to our recent victories for equality. It reminds us that legal victories are not sufficient, that we still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go to achieve equality.
Early in my coming out I read Michael Bronski's The Pleasure Principle. I purchased it at Half Price Books. At the time I was trying to learn as much as a I could about gay culture and history. The Pleasure Principle was probably the first book of queer thought I read, arguing against conformity and for the more radical liberation perspective. It deeply influenced my thinking. Despite living a rather conservative lifestyle, my views, writings, and public advocacy have encouraged more radical liberation.
So, I was excited to see this Bronski book in Powell's bookstore in Portland. But it wasn't as good as the previous book.
Now, what I did like, is that Bronski didn't just tell a history of LGBT people and their influence on American culture, but he discussed and analyzed how America constructs gender and sexuality. This was interesting, though at times it left me wanting more. For example, "These widely disseminated archetypes -- the lesbian waiting to be fulfilled as woman, the sexually rapacious homosexual male -- were fantasies that emerged after World War II. Each served a specific cultural function that was to play out in mass-market publications." But he never explains what the "specific cultural functions" were.
There were elements of LGBT history that were overlooked or treated minimally, including the career of Harvey Milk. There was no mention of the Metropolitan Community Church or any religious developments. He also concludes the book in 1990, though it was written in 2011. An "Epilogue" summarizes developments of the last twenty years, but he contends that writing about these would be "new" and not "history." That seemed odd to me.
I liked his analysis in some places, and thought the strongest chapter was that on the 1950's and 1960's.
The now famous exchange last week between Ted Olson and Antonin Scalia on when it became unconstitutional to ban gay marriage has not yet received the reply I think it deserves. Time included it at the end of their good cover article, but failed to make the correct point.
I was actually disturbed by Olson's failure to answer the question, particularly when Scalia actually set up the appropriate answer. Olson responded to Scalia's question with a question of when it became unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage, and Scalia responded that that was easy -- when the 14th amendment passed, even if it was not recognized till Loving v. Virginia.
Olson's answer should have been the same, which would have also led back to the core argument about equal protection.
It because unconstitutional to discriminate against any person because of status when the equal protection clause was passed. Over time we have come to understand that that protection must apply to groups not originally considered when the amendment was addressing the conditions of newly freed black slaves -- women, other minorities, religious minorities, etc. Because bans on gay marriage violate the equal protection clause, they've been unconstitutional since the 19th century, though we have only recently come to understand that to be the case.
I've been worried about that after listening to the hearings. In fact, the only real solution is to declare that:
gay people are covered under the 14th amendment
that discrimination must meet strict scrutiny
and that gay people have a right to marry
Those rulings will come eventually, even if not this year, but narrow rulings will create chaos, as even the hearing indicated. Mr. Clement, for the opposition, cited the problem of military personnel refusing a transfer from West Point to Fort Sill, because it would mean losing their rights.
My friend Razi Hashmi sent me the link to this column arguing for marriage equality based on the principles of limited government. The columnist rightly points out that the state interest in marriage is relatively recent and inappropriate. It is also tainted by a racist past. He writes:
As a matter of principle, the argument is charmingly simple: from where does the government derive the authority to prohibit consenting adults from marrying each other?
Though the word “traditional” has erroneously become attached to the concept, the state licensure of marriage contracts is not traditional in any sense of the word. State licensing regimes replaced church- and contract-based marriage only in the last few centuries, and are the byproducts of a sordid period of American history when governmentstook it upon themselves to prevent people of different races from marrying one another (licensing subsequently became a source of revenue generation for the same governments, which is why the practice continued even after the boogeyman of miscegenation was largely snuffed out).
In short, the state co-option of marriage was an exercise in massive government infringement on the natural rights of individual citizens, not a hearkening back to “traditional” values. Prior to that, marriage was widely considered a religious and contractual (i.e., a private) affair, not an institution of the state. For advocates of limited government who believe that the state has only the power to protect life, liberty, and property, it should be easy to condemn and oppose the racist, extortive practice of states usurping marriage regulation from churches and civil society.