Tag Archives: equality

LGBT Rights: Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders

Sanders-vs-Clinton1In case some of you missed the first democratic debate last Tuesday, allow me to bring you up to speed. It was not the moronic shit-show we are used to with the Republican debates, and instead was an engaging, interesting discussion between mostly intelligent people. While I would encourage everyone to watch the entire debate, if you are pressed for time, I recommend at least catching up on the greatest moments below.

I don’t know about anyone else, but in the past, I’ve loathed the presence of LGBT questions at many different debates, as it seemingly always results in at least one candidate’s homophobia being put on display. This debate was different, however. There was very little mention of the LGBT community at all. I believe the reason for this is that it is understood that each democratic candidate is a champion of LGBT rights, at this point.

Who can forget Hillary’s infamous 2011 speech in Geneva, when she called for global support for the LGBT community. Still, Clinton is often criticized for being “late to the game” on supporting same-sex marriage. The Economist called her move a “belated conversion” and deemed it “cautious to the point of cowardice.” Still, Hillary has since offered her full support, and I stand with many in the LGBT community who have watched our own family and friends evolve over time, understanding that doesn’t always happen overnight.

Representative Bernie Sanders, however, has been a longtime, fervent supporter, long before LGBT rights were even a hot-button issue. Check out a letter he published in the early 1970’s where he called for further LGBT support:

So, with Hillary’s initial lack of support and change of heart, naturally people begin to question her authenticity. “You know, somebody is always first,” Clinton told NPR in 2013. “Somebody’s always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who joined later in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change are any less committed. You could not be having the sweep of marriage equality across our country if nobody changed their mind. And thank goodness so many of us have.”

Currently, on both candidate’s websites, you can check out where they stand on LGBT issues, and it seems they are both aligned. Now that gay marriage has been voted a constitutional right, it is now a focus to end discrimination with housing and employment. It is true that Sanders was lightyears ahead of Hillary on that issue, but they have both certainly ended up in the same place, and they are running for president now, not in previous decades.

What I am most impressed by is what solid supporters and allies we have in these candidates. It was lovely to watch a debate and not have to worry that in some way, one of the candidates was going to decimate the LGBT community. Instead, we could go in knowing that each candidate will champion support, and ultimately our decisions can come down to other issues including race relations, gun control, environment, etc. Such a sweet relief from the homophobic, racist, sexist circuses that are the republican debates.

Hey, Madonna and Patricia Arquette, The Gays Are With You!

These two amazing women recently sparked controversy when they both separately made comments comparing the gay rights movement and the women’s rights movement. It started initially with Patricia Arquette, who in a recent Oscar acceptance speech stated “People think we have equal rights; we don’t. Until we pass a constitutional amendment, we won’t have anything changed. It’s time for all women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

This caused people to point out that many women are, in fact, women of color and part of the LGBTQ community. While this point is valid, it shouldn’t overshadow the poignant comments that Ms. Arquette made. We can’t forget that there is currently a website tracking equal pay amongst women in the United States, which can be seen at statusofwomendata.org. Here, you can see that women are marginalized and discriminated against in employment and earnings, and where each state ranks. The site promises to also offer data on female poverty, reproductive rights, opportunity, political participation, among other things. Time Magazine recently reported that if the current trend continues, women will not see equal pay in five US states (West Virginia, Utah, Louisiana, North Dakota and Wyoming) until 2100!

Discrimination against women is very real and and it is the worst for women of color. It is unbelievable, but true, that in 2015, there is still a pay gap. There is still a very strong movement attempting (and in some states, succeeding) to deny women of their basic reproductive rights. People who hold political office still think that women’s reproductive systems shut down during rape to prevent pregnancy. Others just don’t think pregnancy results from rape very often, despite the fact that it happens over 30,000 times a year. Don’t you think women have cause for concern?

Shortly after Patricia Arquette made these comments, Madonna made similar comments that sparked controversy. Keep in mind, Madonna has been a very outspoken ally for the gays for over three decades now, and whatever you think of her… It seems to me that the gay community owes Madonna an awful lot. There is actually a Wikipedia article titled “Madonna As A Gay Icon,” and she is considered by LGBT magazine “The Advocate” to be the greatest gay icon. She even recently admitted that she used to pine after gay men when she was younger, living in New York City.

“I didn’t feel like straight men understood me. They just wanted to have sex with me,” she explained. “Gay men understood me, and I felt comfortable around them. There was only that one problem, which is that they didn’t want to have sex with me! So…conundrum!”

Madonna recently had the following to say: “Gay rights are way more advanced than women’s rights,” she stated. “People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period. It’s moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just treading on their ass… To me, the last great frontier is women.”
She continued, “Women are still the most marginalized group. They’re still the group that people won’t let change…You must fit into this box… You must behave this way, dress this way. You’re still categorized — you’re still either a virgin or a whore. If you’re a certain age, you’re not allowed to express your sexuality, be single, or date younger men.”

Despite the controversial nature of her comments, I must say that I agree. Gay rights, while they still have a long way to go, have come along way, but we have been extremely stagnant, and often even taken leaps backward, when it comes to equality for women. I think the real lesson here is that the struggle is never over. Just because gay marriage is legal in most states and will likely be legal in all of them before the end of the year, doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong resistance movement. Gays face discrimination every day… As do women and people of color. And we must not marginalize each other. Instead, we need to recognize this and be supportive of one another. If we don’t continue fighting together, we might face what women have faced – stagnation and regression of their personal liberties.

Employment Discrimination: A New Approach from Religious Homophobes

Early this week, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees amongst federal contractors. The move simply added two terms to the already existing non-discrimination ordinances: sexual orientation and gender identity. These two terms, however, seem to be quite controversial among certain groups, namely the religious right. Prior to the order being signed, religious leaders came forward requesting exemption from said non-descrimination. Obama did not oblige, but did leave intact a 2002 executive order signed by George W. Bush which allows religious organizations to prioritize the hiring of people of shared faiths.

The president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, called the move “a path toward a new thought-policing state where those who hold traditional values about marriage and family are to be marginalized.” He further opined that “the fact is that non-discrimination rules like the order issued by President Obama can become a weapon used to punish and harass individuals and groups who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

What is interesting about Mr. Brown’s statement, however, is that this executive order is an entirely separate issue from same sex marriage. In the United States, at present, there are nineteen states where same sex marriage is legal, with an additional twelve states currently in the appeals process after having overturned same sex marriage bans. What this weeks ruling offered was employment non-discrimination. It is one thing to have a deeply-held religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, but to publicly shame the president for ensuring employment non-discrimination… This simply offers total evidence that you are not an organization who merely values marriage as a ‘sacred’ institution that shouldn’t involve LGBT citizens, you are homophobes. (Author’s Note: We already knew this from your stance on same sex marriage, among other things, but this completely solidified it).

The Family Research Council’s Peter Brigg’s offered the following:

“Religious faith is not simply a matter of intellectual affirmation but of active practice. A religious organization which is denied the power to require its employees to conduct their lives in a way consistent with the teachings of their faith is an organization which is being denied the right to exercise its religion, period. People with deeply held convictions regarding the morality of certain types of sexual behavior should not be bound by the dictates of President Obama’s agenda.”

Are your “deeply held religious convictions” keeping you from supporting equal employment opportunity? I mean, after all, it is in your best interest to support the right to employment for LGBT citizens. Without employment, LGBT citizens wouldn’t have the honor of paying taxes and if LGBT citizens don’t have the honor of paying taxes, who is going to make up revenue for the church’s sizable exemptions? It seems that the new approach from the religious right is to submit to the inevitable advancement of LGBT equality, while simply asking for exemption. It is as though we are sitting in a classroom instructing children not to bully one another, and receiving requests from certain students to continue their bullying because it simply aligns with their “beliefs.”

I would like to add, however, that not every religious organization has been as disgusting. In an editorial published by the National Catholic Reporter, the editorial staff applauded the decision and called opposition a “willful misunderstanding,” adding that “a religiously affiliated organization does not hire an inclination or an act, it hires a person.” So, it turns out that it is possible to honor your “deeply held religious beliefs” while still not being homophobic.

So, despite the inevitable backlash, this was a positive move. We are happy to see that some religious organizations understand this, while others simply oppose any legislation that would ensure equality for LGBT citizens. We are also happy to see that the White House did not succumb to religious pressure to allow for these exemptions, and stood ground that equal employment opportunity is an imperative for all American citizens. (Author’s Note: Can you believe we are even discussing this?)

‘Homophobia’ faux pas? The Associated Press seems to think so

A recent article in the LA Times reports that the Associated Press is distancing itself from use of the term “homophobia” in its hallowed Style Book. (For those outside of journalism, this is the Bible for press editors and writers.)

The wire service’s online style book recently recommended against the use of “phobia” in “political and social contexts.” That means terms like “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” will become rarer in the many publications that operate under AP style.

Watch Your Language…

To be fair, there are potentially valid reasons driving this move. Over the past year and a half it seems usage of “homophobia” has increased dramatically. It’s become the new “racism” – the proverbial gauntlet to the face, with anything perceived as anti-gay quickly labeled “homophobic.” Chick-fil-A. Tracy Morgan. Fox News anchor Tricia Macke. Even socialite Paris Hilton was recently accused of hatin’ on the gays.

As AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico:

. . . “homophobia” is often “off the mark” as a descriptor. . . . “It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”

Crying Wolf?

The website nohomophobes.com tracks usage of anti-gay language on Twitter: words like “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo” and “so gay.” (Apparently no homo is “a term used by straight guys who are insecure with their masculinity” to clear up confusion over something a guy says or does that may be perceived by others as gay, according to tagdef.com. You learn something new every day.)

tweets about homophobiaThe above image is just a snapshot of the home page. By the time I’d finished editing the picture (which took about a minute), mentions of “faggot” had risen to 22,935. The reality of chronic homophobia in American culture is still very real, and not something to ignore.

However, is everything labeled “homophobic” actually homophobic? Are all of the above tweets indicative of gay bashing just waiting to explode? Is Dave Minthorn correct that it’s inaccurate? Or is the meaning of the term cheapened by its quick-trigger usage?

Name Calling v. Calling a Spade

The definition of homophobia is “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals” (Merriam-Webster).

During this past election season here in Minnesota, I had to limit myself from using “homophobia” or “bigot” too often. Even when it was really tempting, and even when the shoe clearly fit, as it did on many occasions. It was almost too easy to resort to it, like a fallback. And it does tend to shut down conversations and put everyone on the defense.

At the same time, I worried about caving to pressure to be conciliatory, to be too courteous to those who were trying to take away my rights. The LA Times article later quoted John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun: “Homophobia gets used because it is useful in describing an identifiable phenomenon.” There’s a difference between name calling and calling out people for hurtful behavior.

There’s a big difference between “You’re a homophobe” and “That’s homophobic.” Nouns name. Adjectives describe. My conservative Christian parents may not necessarily hate gays or be disgusted by us, but their behavior certainly doesn’t indicate that they love us. They may not tell me outright that they believe I’m going to hell, or that I’m an abomination and a pervert. But they have told me I need therapy, that I don’t deserve to be legally married just as my younger sister was four years ago, and that they won’t acknowledge any relationship I’m ever in, no matter how committed.

Whether or not their behavior is fueled by fear or disgust is another matter. But their behavior is clearly homophobic. Does that make them homophobes? Possibly, but the issue is more nuanced than that. And that may be what the AP is trying to get at.

It’s Not Time to Back Down

Whether or not the decision is a right one is a topic for for discussion. And there will be. This may be an olive branch to Evangelicals and conservatives after the recent marriage equality victories in the U.S. and across the world. If so, it’s a potentially wrong-headed approach. They may have been defeated, but they’re just regrouping, so now is not the time to back down when we can actually make progress towards equality.

Of course, if this is a call to be more responsible and purposeful about language and how we conduct conversations, it could be quite useful. We shouldn’t be stooping to label our opponents into boxes for the purpose of dismissing them. As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “never underestimate your opponent.”

But one thing we can’t do is stop talking about homophobia and its effect on adults and children alike. We need to stop being polite when politicians say hateful things about the LGBT community. What we can do is adapt our methods and change how we talk about these issues. Instead of letting them control the conversation, we can be getting to know friends and neighbors and dissolving the lies and slander by simply being decent human beings.

Our opponents know they’re fighting a losing war, and that it’s only a matter of time before people stop listening to them. After all, if evolution teaches us anything it’s that those who fail to adapt ultimately fail to survive.