After President Obama finished his second inaugural speech, Republicans jumped to claim that it was a “full-throated defense of government activism,” and that “he seeks to move the country even further left.” Overall, the conservatives concluded, the speech was partisan.
The only problem? It wasn’t. On every major issue addressed during the inaugural on Monday, a majority of the public agrees with Obama. The speech was not so much a shift to the left as a microphone for the majority.
Here’s a look at the points of Obama’s speech, by the numbers:
Russian lawmakers have been considering a nationwide law that would ban “homosexual propaganda,” modeled off similar laws that have been passed in St. Petersburg and other cities. Though the bill claims to protect minors from “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism,” the term “propaganda” is not defined, and thus such a law could essentially ban all free speech on LGBT issues.
Over the weekend, LGBT groups protested the proposed legislation in both Voronezh and Moscow and experienced physical violence in retaliation. Watch videos of the brutal assaults on the peaceful protesters:
RT reports today that consideration of the bill has been indefinitely postponed, but its proponents suspect a conspiracy among its opponents is preventing it from advancing.
The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee just unanimously advanced the same-sex marriage bill, HB5015, with an 11-0 vote. According to Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, this is the first time a General Assembly committee has advanced marriage equality to the floor. The full House is expected to take up the bill on Thursday.
First, those who choose to place their same-sex attraction at the center of their identity are “treated like anyone else under the law.” They are perfectly free to participate in the sexually complementary institution of marriage. They choose not to. They are not asking to be treated equally. They are demanding to be treated specially. They want the unilateral right to jettison the central defining feature of marriage (i.e. sexual complementarity) — something, by the way, that polygamists, polyamorists, “minor-attracted persons,” and sibling-lovers are not permitted to do.
Second, does our president actually believe the idea he clunkily articulated in his speech, that “surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love polygamists “commit” to their wives “must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love a high school teacher commits to his student “must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love five polyamorists of assorted genders “commit” to one another “must be equal” as well? Does he believe the love a brother and sister “commit” to each other “must be equal as well”?
IFI’s Laurie Higgins presents this not-so-compelling argument in the context of homosexuality is not “heritable” or “immutable,” an allusion to her belief in the validity of ex-gay therapy, despite ample research showing it is at best ineffective and at worst quite psychologically harmful. She goes on to claim Obama has “heretical views of marriage” that are “destructive” and “pernicious.”
It’s an important opportunity to recognize why the comparisons Higgins provides are offensive and inaccurate. Polygamists and polyamorists who are open to multiple simultaneous relationships are not acting on behalf of an innate sexual orientation. A high school teacher in a romantic relationship with a student is violating that student’s consent and compromising the learning environment. Laws against incest protect young people from rape, child molestation, and abusive incest as well as the genetic consequences of inbreeding. Though homosexuality has historically shared a reputation with these other forms of relationships for being taboo, modern understandings of sexuality negate the ongoing juxtaposition. Of course, IFI refuses to acknowledge the innate nature of sexual orientation or the lived experiences of gays and lesbians.
Once again, conservatives are trying to simultaneously claim that the LGBT community already has equality but doesn’t deserve it. Reality shows the opposite of both points to be true: LGBT people do not have equality in society, but there’s no justified reason for continuing to deny it.
Prominent Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten regularly rants against LGBT equality in her columns, but in an article earlier this monthpromoted today by the National Organization for Marriage, she set her targets on LGBT young people. Railing against proposed anti-bullying initiatives in Minnesota, Kersten claimed that anti-LGBT bullying is not a concern and that the new policies would discriminate against Christian students:
Why this new law? The task force appears to presuppose that bullying is a pervasive and growing problem. In fact, however, incidents of bullying and intimidation have dropped markedly in recent years, according to surveys by the Department of Justice.
And while the task force gives the impression that LGBT students are a primary focus of bullying, evidence suggests that the vast majority of bullying is directed at other students. The DOJ surveys indicate that the percentage of 12- to 18-year-old students who reported being targets of hate-related words based on their sexual orientation fell from 1.0 percent in 2007 to 0.6 percent in 2009.
Though there is a Department of Justice survey showing those results, it’s quite disingenuous for Kersten to derive such conclusions from it. GLSEN’s studies, which actually survey LGBT youth, found that 82 percent of LGBT students reported verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation. So Kersten highlights that among all students, anti-LGBT bullying isn’t a big problem, neglecting to admit that among LGBT students, anti-LGBT bullying is a rather significant concern.
Following the trite anti-equality talking point with precision — no doubt why NOM saw fit to highlight her column despite it not even being about marriage — Kersten goes on to paint religious conservative students as potential victims: Read more
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was not pleased that President Obama used his inaugural speech Monday to compare the Stonewall riots to Selma and Seneca Falls. On his radio show yesterday, Perkins poorly described Stonewall as “homosexuals… pushing back for special rights,” and went on to claim that gays never have their civil rights violated:
PERKINS: Seneca Falls was a woman’s suffrage movement, giving women the right to vote. Selma, obviously, a push to ensure that African Americans — black American in this country had full voting rights and civil rights. Stonewall, many people may not be aware of, was a move of New York of homosexuals that were pushing back for special rights. To tie all those together, there is not a single person in this country today that is gay or lesbian that are denied the rights to vote, the right to work, or doing anything else.
What they’re seeking, and it’s a little disingenuous ’cause he doesn’t say it, but it’s code what he’s saying here. He’s going to push to give them the right to redefine marriage. They have every right that you and I have today. This President has a very loaded agenda.
Listen to it:
Perkins was right that Stonewall wasn’t about voting, but it was about another fundamental right: the freedom of assembly. Back in the 1960s, the LGBT community was regularly denied service in bars, and when they did find safe places to gather (like the Stonewall Inn), the police would regularly raid those bars and load the gay patrons into paddy wagons. The riots that ensued in June of 1969 were a response to police brutality from a community who simply wanted to enjoy a drink in a space where they didn’t have to hide their identities. There is nothing “special” about such an expectation in a free society.
Just like in the response from the National Organization for Marriage, Perkins claims that gays and lesbians have equality under the law, specifically mentioning “the right to work.” Of course, as noted in the earlier post, gays and lesbians can be fired from their jobs just for being gay and lesbian in 29 states — 34 states for people who are transgender. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to create national protections for LGBT employees, has floundered in Congress for decades and notably, the Family Research Council opposes it!
It seems that conservatives are attempting to arbitrarily declare equality won on behalf of LGBT people, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This “already treated equally” argument is designed to reserve marriage as a privilege just for heterosexual people, as well as protect the so-called “religious freedom” to flagrantly discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Perkins, Brian Brown, and the other pundits who have used this line in reaction to the President’s speech demonstrate that they have absolutely no comprehension of the discrimination, harassment, and inequality experienced by LGBT people every day, let alone compassion on their behalf.
President Obama made history Monday by supporting LGBT equality in his inaugural address, but conservatives are not happy about the nod to marriage equality. National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown responded by claiming that Obama’s words “further divide the nation” because “gay and lesbian people are already treated equally under the law”:
BROWN: Gay and lesbian people are already treated equally under the law. They have the same civil rights as anyone else; they have the right to live as they wish and love whom they choose. What they don’t have is the right to redefine marriage for all of society. In fact, six federal courts have rejected the idea that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in a summary decision in 1972. Furthermore, that vast majority of states have codified the commonsense view held for thousands of years that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The President is profoundly wrong to imply that those who have acted to protect marriage have denied anyone’s rights by doing so.
A presidential inauguration should be a time for the nation to come together; instead President Obama chose to voice his support for a radical agenda advanced by some of his biggest campaign contributors to redefine marriage for everyone. Marriage brings our nation together. The concept of gay ‘marriage’ would have been totally alien to our founding fathers, and the protection and advancement of marriage between one man and one woman will immeasurably serve the common good of this country and further strengthen our Union. Today the President should have thrown his support behind this beautiful vision of men and women coming together in love to raise the next generation. Nonetheless, we pro-marriage Americans pledge to defend the institution which the President has chosen to undermine once again.
Brown distorts both history and present reality. The Supreme Court dismissed that 1972 case, Baker v. Nelson, with a one-sentence order that did not speak to constitutional rights whatsoever, opting simply not to take up the question of same-sex marriage at the time. However, six years prior in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, the court unanimously ruled that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” According to Brown’s position, the right to legal protections with a committed partner and children is a “basic civil right” that only straight people deserve.
Gay and lesbian people are not treated equally under the law. In more than half of states, they can be summarily fired from their jobs or kicked out of their homes, let alone not marry their loved ones. (The situation is even worse for members of the transgender community, who are unfortunately largely invisible in discussions about same-sex marriage.) Brown clearly rejects the lived experience — if not the very existence — or the nations millions of same-sex families. There is nothing “radical” about these families seeking the same protections other families are entitled to, and nothing “equal” about them not having such access.
Richard Blanco, who is openly gay and the son of Cuban exiles, was invited to compose an original poem to commemorate President Obama’s second inauguration. Here is video of Blanco sharing that poem, “One Today,” with the full text below:
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you’re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- Vanderbilt University quarterback and NFL prospect Jordan Rogers has no problem with having a gay teammate.
- LGBT Jamaicans have launched a new YouTube campaign, “We Are Jamaicans,” challenging the country’s rampant homophobia.
- The Lesbian and Gay Band Association, made up of LGBT performers from across the country, performed Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” for President Obama in the inaugural parade (additional clip available here):