Monday, June 05, 2006

Desparate GOP Unloading On Gays To Divert From Real Issues

Republicans at both the national and state level have ratcheted up gay bashing to a new level in a desparate attempt to avoid an election-year debacle not experienced by either political party since the 1994 realignment election in favor of the Republicans. President Bush, hovering just below 30% in his public approval rating, used the bully pulpit of his presidency today to urge congressional approval of an all-but-doomed effort to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution against gay couples. Meanwhile, House Speaker Brian Bosma's grand plan of using gay bashing as a means of protecting his small minority in the Indiana House emerged in the Evansville House seat currently held by Rep. Phil Hoy (D), an opponent of amending Indiana's Constitution to discriminate against gay couples.

Let's start at the White House, where President Bush took time away from such important issues as the war in Iraq, out-of-control federal spending, skyrocketing fuel prices, the looming bird-flu pandemic, and immigration reform to discuss the importance of protecting the institution of marriage. Bush told us, "Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization, and it should not be redefined by activist judges." Bush "call[ed] on the Congress to pass this amendment, send it to the states for ratification, so we can take this issue out of the hands of overreaching judges and put it back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people."Marriage, he says "is critical to the health of society." He warns that "changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure."

If we don't enact this amendment, Bush is afraid the Defense of Marriage Act will be ruled unconstitutional and states which don't recognize gay marriages will be forced to recognize them.
Of course, up to now in our country, that is the way it has always worked without any call for a constitutional amendment demanding the protection of marriage as an institution. It's called the Full Faith and Credit clause, which provides that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof." For example, a state which did not recognize marriages between a black man and a white woman, as was once the case in many states, nonetheless had to recognize such a marriage lawfully entered into in another state. And when heterosexuals decided they had had enough of having to sue their spouse for a divorce and began getting state legislatures to adopt no-fault divorces, even states which did not allow no-fault divorces had to recognize those granted in other states.

But let's not kid ourselves. This federal amendment has nothing to do with protecting the institution of marriage, which heterosexuals have managed to screw up well enough without any help from gays and lesbians. It's about using a wedge issue to divide people along fault lines in an effort to divert attention away from the real issues facing our country.

Down in Evansville we learn today from the AP's Mike Smith that a Republican state representative candidate, Andrew Smith, is using gay bashing against his Democratic opponent, Rep. Phil Hoy, as a way of raising money for his fledgling campaign. Smith tells us about candidate Smith's fundraising letter:


Smith's fundraising letter cites Hoy's vote last year against a bill to add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution and his performance of commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples in his capacity as a retired United Church of Christ pastor.

Smith said the letter mailed to about 200 GOP voters who describe themselves as opposed to same-sex marriage brings up legitimate public policy issues for voters in House District 77. "Phil gets upset whenever his extremist views are talked about," he said.

The fundraising letter prominently features in enlarged letters a United Church of Christ statement and includes this quote: "(Homosexuality) is a good gift of our Creator, as is its responsible, loving expression."


Smith acknowledges that he changed the word "sexuality" to "homosexuality" but he said it is clear that the statement on the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues" link on the church's Web site refers to homosexuality.



Candidate Smith just can't resist the opportunity to change a statement from Hoy's United Church of Christ on "sexuality" to read "homosexuality." The word "homosexuality" has so much more zing to it you see--sort of the same way referring to an African-American as a "nigger" helps work up the prejudicial sentiment designed with its use. Its use was to prove that Hoy signed a statement saying he believed "homosexuality" is a normal, loving expression for gays and lesbians.

Hoy, for his part, denies signing any such statement, but he's not afraid to stand his ground on principle. "I believe people are born with their sexual orientation. Perhaps there's some gene we haven't discovered. The way gays and lesbians are beat up on, verbally and physically, would you choose that?" Hoy told the AP's Smith. Hoy also told Smith that he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into civil unions, and that he admits as a retired pastor he has performed commitment ceremonies between same-sex couples. "The (ceremonies) I perform aren't marriages; they're a blessing on two people's love for each other," Hoy tells Smith. Wouldn't it be nice if all legislators could think so honestly and sincerely as Rep. Hoy?

Confirming AI's suspicion that candidate Smith isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, Taking Down Words, in a post about the same AP story called out Smith as a troll on its site and called on him to come out and talk about the real issues. The publicity-starved Smith took the bait and had the audacity to claim that the issue he raised in his fundraising letter was not about politics, but rather Hoy's theological views. Smith explains in a lengthy comment posted at TDW:

My issue with Phil is primarily theological, not political. He's an ordained minister, and when he marries people, he is performing a sacrament. Now, Phil may believe--as I'm sure he does--that gay people have every right to enter into the binding social contract that society calls "marriage." But as a Christian minister, he has a deeper obligation to respect the 2000 year old moral and intellectual tradition of the church.

This is not an issue I am particularly excited about. I have a number of gay and lesbian friends (or at least, I did before the publicity surrounding David Hennig's letter). I have spent a great deal of time wrestling with my position on the issue. Laugh if you will, but I have prayed for guidance on how to talk about it respectfully and faithfully as a candidate and a public official.


In the end, I think it comes down to how one views marriage. Do you see it as a human rights issue? If so, you will always come down on the side of expanding "marriage rights" to include homosexuals, polygamists, etc.


If, on the other hand, you see the family as the basic building block of society--and marriage as the sacramental cement that hold families together--you will take a more restrictive view. As for me, I fall into the latter camp.

I don't intend to make this one of the major issues in my campaign--I
never have. If asked, I'll give my position on it, but that's about as far as I
want to go.

So in the same breadth Smith claims the issue is not one he is "particularly excited about" and says he has "a number of gay and lesbian friends", he lumps the discussion of same-sex marriages in with polygamy. C'mon Mr. Smith, you're not running for the position of state theologian, you're running for state representative. Who cares what Hoy's theological views are, and why would you raise the issue in the context of a political campaign if it wasn't for political purposes? And then you complain that talk of the issue too often deteriorates in one side being called a bigot. Give me a break.

Republicans are in for a big surprise if they think bashing gays is their ticket to remaining in power this year. Voters aren't about to be fooled by such cynical ploys by politicians to avoid public accountability for their true record in public office. The sooner Republicans figure this out, the sooner we can begin moving the country forward again.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gary-

Don't believe everything you read. The media loves to gin up controversy and conflict, particularly around emotional hot-button issues such as homosexual marriage. And in the current atmosphere of polarized politics, it is easy thing to do. As a result, any discussion of these issues tends to get reduced to a kind of lampoon of real dialogue: "you're a bigot!" "no, you're a degenerate" etc. etc. This accomplishes nothing, and it hurts a lot of people in the process.

The letter that went out was sent by David Hennig. I take full responsibility for it, since my campaign paid for its distribution. However, I most strenuously object to your characterization of it as "gay-bashing."

I have known many gays and lesbians throughout my life, and many of them are dear friends of mine. I have not a whit of hatred in my heart for them--or for anyone.

When it comes to civil rights for gays and lesbians, non-discrimination laws, etc., I am about as open-minded a person as you're likely to meet.

As for the issue of marriage, it is something I've grappled with more than almost any other issue.

If you see marriage primarily as a human rights issue, then of course you're going to come down on the side of expanding "marriage rights" for homosexuals, polygamists, etc.

If, on the other hand, you see marriage and family as the fundamental building block of society--as I tend to do--then you will probably end up with a different public policy perspective.

I look around the world and see many cultures--some of them quite advanced--that are based on polygamistic marriage. I don't condemn those cultures. I don't call them "evil" or even "sinful." But that is not how *our* society is constituted. And I believe it would be a dangerous thing if we were to start tinkering with one of our fundamental cultural building blocks like marriage.

Now...this may in all likelihood confirm your opinion that I am a "bigot." And if that is the case, then I am truly sorry. Perhaps one of these days, I'll have an opportunity to prove you wrong.

For my part, I would VASTLY prefer to be talking about other issues, which I agree are far more important than this one. Education reform, for instance. Rebuilding our state infrastructure. Bringing jobs and economic development to SW Indiana.

These are the issues on which I am basing my campaign, news reports to the contrary.

Best regards,

Andrew G. Smith

Advance Indiana said...

Andrew,

I appreciate you taking the time to post a response. But I would remind you that people of like mind use to insist that our marriage laws make interracial marriages unlawful. In fact, most of our states had such laws at one time, including Indiana. That was based on fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Similarly, women were deprived of the right to vote and equal rights in other matters such as employment and property ownership. Again, that was based on fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the Bible. Do you still maintain that those positions were the right positions to take? I would hope not. I think this will come to pass where one day the issue of gay marriage will be looked upon the same way. Just another effort by extremists to discriminate against a segment of society with which they disagree, using the cloak of religion to justify it.

Wilson46201 said...

Considering what the Bible says about divorce, we should work to preserve the traditional family by banning such a traditionally immoral practice. Divorce rips apart families much more than any other factor. Candidate Smith dare not oppose divorce despite its recent popularity in SW Indiana...

Anonymous said...

Gary-

Your points are well-taken.

I find myself thinking often of CS Lewis when the topic of homosexual marriage comes up. Lewis is sort of my guidestar when it comes to issues of morality and ethics.

Anyway, he wrote in "Mere Christianity:"

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one.

I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.


In other words, there is a difference between sacramental marriage and the economic construct of marriage governed by the state.

My beef with Phil is primarily theological. He is using his position as a minister and a politician to advance a radical re-interpretation of 2000 years of Christian teaching on sexual morality. It is his right to do so. Likewise, it is my right to challenge him on theological grounds.

I personally see that theological contest as a far more important battle than the one being fought in the courts and legislatures around the country.

But back to the issue at hand: what to do with our marriage laws? Is it a human rights issue or a question of how we want to order our society? Very, very difficult questions, in my opinion. And yet the debate is so often reduced to the charge-countercharge of "degenerate" vs. "bigot." That belies the true complexity of the problem.

I appreciate your willingness to let me post my response, and I hope we can continue to talk about this and other issues. I've been a reader of your blog for some time--it's one of the first things I read every morning.

Jeff Newman said...

I would like to respectfully reply to Mr. Smith's comment (which was also made respectully I might add).

He wrote "if, on the other hand, you see marriage and family as the fundamental building block of society--as I tend to do" as a justification for his beliefs.

In my mind this is the best argument for the other side! Marriage and family are indeed wonderful, which is why gays and lesbians feel left out. Wanting to partcipate in an institution (and the rights and obligations that come with it) does not mean we want to destroy it; it's quite the contrary.

As a proud father of two wonderful children, I am personally offended by so many of these anti-gay far-right groups who describe themselves as "pro-family", as it suggest that somehow gay people are anti-family. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeff-

Thanks for your reply.

I can't tell you how refreshing and impressive it is that Gary has created an atmosphere of true tolerance on this site. If all conversations about hot button issues could remain this civil, we'd probably all find we have a lot more common ground than we realize.

Best regards,

Andrew

paula said...

The most ridiculous part of the whole thing is in the end, regardless of the outcome, my partner and I will still regard ourselves as married in the eyes of God. Jesus said wherever two or more of you are gathered in His name there He would be also. Since we had about 100 guests and were very mindful in inviting God as we crafted our ceremony, I'd say He was there.

Since our relationship has lasted for over 20 years and has sustained us both and allowed us to grow closer to each other and to God as the years have flown by, I would say He blessed us.

The only thing that the "Christians" will succeed in doing is making certain that in our times of trial we get extra issues on top of whatever the situation is before us: illness - will we be able to visit our loved one in a hospital?
death - will we get to keep all the things we have purchased together, homes, cars, cheap momentos that are priceless to us, or will an "activist judge" side with our "real family"?
divorce (God forbid) - what happens should our relationship fail, who gets what?

Pretty ironic, eh? The one thing they want to take away is the very thing they can't, and the stuff they succeed in taking away only makes us stronger.

Troy Liggett said...

Gary -

It is my thought that the gay-bashing via the marriage amendment is a Republican PARTY ploy. While the Democrats might be wishy-washy on the whole deal, the Republicans have embraced it as an institution -- lock, stock and barrel.

Agree? Disagree?

Troy

Advance Indiana said...

Karl Rove came up with the idea of supporting statewide constitutional ballot initiatives in as many states as possible during the 2004 presidential campaign, along with the push for a federal constitutional amendment. He reasoned that the effort would mobilize the Christian right into action and help bring them out to the polls on election day, and that those voters would be more inclined to support Bush and other Republicans on the ballot. The party establishment pretty much bought into the idea and believes it worked given the outcome of the 2004 election. I think its actual effectiveness can be debated. It is important to point out that not all Republicans bought into it. John McCain, Rudy Guiliani, George Pataki, Gordon Smith, John Danforth and Jim Kolbe, among others, didn't buy into it. To the extent it was an effective issue, 2004 will have been the highwater mark. I'm confident after this year's election results are tallied, the party will be looking at the issue altogether differently.

paula said...

You are kidding about John "2006 Libery University Commencement Speaker" McCain, right?

Advance Indiana said...

McCain has taken a position against the FMA. He was one of the Republicans who voted to block a vote on it last time and plans to do the same agains this time. I hear you on the other Falwell crap.

Anonymous said...

This question is for Andrew Smith. I was wondering how you feel on the issue of people taking advantage of the handicapp. What I mean by this is for example: when people give lodging to the handicap and then use them to do the work of 4 men. This is a very personal issue to me and I would like to know how you feel about it.

Melinda Burgard