Saturday, May 20, 2006

No Special Rights Group Cries Foul After Declaring Open Season On Gays

The South Bend Tribune prominently features a story in today's edition about a press conference called by the No Special Rights group, which was formed to fight against passage of a gay rights ordinance for South Bend. No Special Rights leader Patrick Mangan decries the criticism directed at his group's efforts by several blog sites, including Advance Indiana, as defamatory because the group is depicted as a "Christian hate group" which is "bigoted" against gays and lesbians. He demands an apology from Advance Indiana and other blogs for characterizing he and his group in this manner. Mangan also falsely asserts that AI is a part of South Bend Equality.

Where to begin? One need only wander over to the group's website to discern why the group has been subjected to criticism by this site and others. Because today's story by Jamie Loo makes no reference to the inflammatory and hateful words No Special Rights uses to describe gays and lesbians, AI can only assume she accepted Mr. Mangan's characterization of his group's work as strictly "loving".

While the South Bend Tribune didn't bother to share the content of No Special Rights' website with its readers, let us share some of their ideas with our readers. Let us begin with the group's name, which as it implies, is premised upon the notion that making it illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is tantamount to according these classes of persons "special rights." As authority to debunk this often repeated refrain of those who oppose equality for GLBT citizens, we need only look to the words of a conservative Republican justice of the Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy. In striking down a Colorado law which prohibited communities in that state from enacting ordinances very similar to what South Bend is now considering to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, Justice Kennedy made it clear that such laws did not provide "special rights." He wrote in Romer v. Evans:

[W]e cannot accept the view that [the Colorado law's] prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. (emphasis added) To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by [ ] enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the state constitution or perhaps, on the State's view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections [the Colorado law] withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society."

No Special Rights' website is replete with examples of hateful and demeaning words and phrases used to describe gays and lesbians which, if accepted, have the effect of promoting hate against gays and lesbians. Their entire premise is based upon an antiquated view that gays and lesbians choose their sexual orientation. This defies the medical opinion of every major health care organization, which accepts that sexual orientation is an innate characteristic over which the person has no more control than deciding the color of their eyes, hair or skin. Here are just a few examples:

  • refers to "homosexuality" as a "dangerous, destructive lifestyle"
  • warns of "negative consequences of giving homosexuality a "special protected class status"
  • describes homosexual sex as "a form of sexual sin as it is clearly defined by the Bible"
  • "persecution of faith-based organization" is the claimed result if ordinance is passed, even though it exempts religious organizations
  • calls homosexual sex acts "sinful acts"
  • argues that passage of a gay rights ordinance will "force the moral acceptance of homosexual acts as normal"
  • claims gays and lesbians are "addicted to homosexuality"
  • warns that "practice of homosexual sex is a key part in the spread of syphilis"
  • asserts that "life expectancy for homosexual men is 8 to 20 years less" than the life expectancy of heterosexual men
  • declares that the "sexual practices in question are physically and medically dangerous"
  • warns of "negative local effect on health care plans" if gay rights ordinance is passed

The dictionary meaning of a "bigot" is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices". "Prejudice" is defined in the dictionary as "an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." It is AI's contention that any person or group who would use the words and phrases No Special Rights and its members use to describe gays and lesbians is an anti-gay bigot. No Special Rights accepts an obvious fallacy--that gays and lesbians choose their lifestyle--to form an adverse opinion of them. As their words and phrases so aptly reflect, they are intolerantly devoted to their wrong-headed opinions and prejudices.

That a fundamentalist religious group like No Special Rights would hold prejudicial views is nothing new. Slavery we were once told was an accepted practice in the Bible. Women hold an inferior status to men in society we were told because it says so in the Bible. Jews must be punished for not accepting Jesus Christ as their lord savior because the Bible says so. Catholics must be punished because they are paganists and not true Christians we were told because the Bible says so. Fortunately, voices of reason and moderation prevailed to help remove the scourge these views inflicted on society. That is what must happen when it comes to people's views on sexual orientation and gender identity. Legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians is the last great bastion of prejudice for religious zealots to use as scapegoats for all that is wrong with society today. This scourge like all the others that came before it must be eradicated. Only then will we have a country where truly all people are accorded equal rights under the law.

No Special Rights also criticized AI for its harsh characterization of Jay Dunlap's use of his brother's death to promote opposition to the gay rights ordinance. Mr. Dunlap attributes the untimely and tragic death of his brother to the "homosexual lifestyle", which he said has made it understandably difficult for his family to discuss homosexuality. As Jamie Loos' story reports, AI apologized to the Dunlap family for AI's unfair characterization and promptly corrected the original post when it was brought to my attention. AI does, however, believes the tragic death of Mr. Dunlap's brother is not justification for discrimination against an entire class of people. Unfortunately, Mr. Dunlap has adopted the logic of the No Special Rights group in opposing the ordinance. Reporting on a radio interview with Dunlap this past week, WFRN reported:

Former South Bend TV news anchor Jay Dunlap's brother, Tim, died at the age of 27 after a homosexual lifestyle, and Dunlap says it's not healthy and that homosexuals' life spans are less than the national average. Plus, he says changing city code could have a damaging affect on church-based programs, like Catholic Charities, which help find homes for unwanted kids. Catholic Charities in Boston has been forced to shutdown its adoption operations because of Massachusetts' law that allows same-sex marriages. The charity would have to allow gay couples to adopt to stay open.

Mr. Dunlap mixes the issue of gay marriage with the proposed gay rights ordinance. The use of this issue is disingenuous as Dunlap and No Special Rights know full well that Indiana law does not permit same-sex marriages, and that passage of the ordinance will not change that fact. The ordinance also exempts religious organizations, but again, this issue is raised as a misleading appeal for opposition to the ordinance.

Mr. Mangan's attempt at yesterday's press conference to convince Ms. Loo that AI is nothing more than a front-group for South Bend Equality is patently false. AI is operated by me, Gary R. Welsh. My writings on this site are completely independent of South Bend Equality. South Bend Equality has never engaged me to write anything on their behalf.

When it comes to fighting for civil rights, the views of AI and other blog sites with similar views cannot be silenced by No Special Rights. Much to their disappointment, our sacred right to free speech has not been deprived of us, as other fundamental rights have been. Our voices will be heard whether No Special Rights wants them heard or not.


LPerdue said...

Well argued, Gary. Thank you for being the voice of logic and reason against such intolerance and bigotry. Laughable that anyone would think AI a part or front for South Bend Equality. Clearly someone didn't do their homework.

Gary R. Welsh said...

These people see conspiracies lurking around every corner.

Anonymous said...

i got basically bashed by the patrick mangan on his website.

he dug up an old letter to the editor in which i took to task the human rights commission in south bend, indiana and the two people on it that had problems with the equal rights and protections for gays. as usual with right wing christian groups he cherry picked what i wrote so he could tell me i was wrong and i didn't know what i was talking about.

evidently they actually paid to get my address because now i am getting unsigned notes telling me i wasn't born gay and xeroxed copies of the writings of st. augustine as paraphrased by some catholic in a book that tries to use his teachings to give a reason for discriminations against gays. i never even said i was gay in my letter to the editor, i just pointed out how specious their arguments were. i gave a whole list of people that according to the bible should not only be discriminated against in all aspects of their lives but also stoned to death.

sorry, for my poor typing, i have carpal tunnel and typing is hard on some days, i just can't get that shift key to work.

thanks for letting me vent. i am so sick and tired of my words being taken out of context. between the gay bashers and the creationists i am about ready to bash a christian for christ.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for sharing that anonymous. I too received a similar unsigned letter during the debate over Indianapolis' HRO after I submitted a letter-to-the editor.