A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: Gay Rights

Live From the Frontiers of Knowing What’s in the Bill You’re Sponsoring

by evanmcmurry

Ohio’s version of Arizona’s religious liberty anti-gay bill is now being held up by—wait for it—some of the lawmakers who sponsored it. In this case, rather than fearing that the bill will hurt business or make the state look bad, the Ohio lawmakers (one of whom is a Democrat) seem to have been genuinely unaware of discriminatory aspects of their own law (portions of which were copied word for word from the AZ version).

It’s becoming clear that this “religious liberty” issue is really two issues: a) an explicitly anti-LGBT legislative issue, and b) a state legislator competency issue.

Toward A Unified Field Theory on Public Homophobia

by evanmcmurry

Two prominent figures stepped in a bad pile of homophobia  this week. Howard Kurtz lambasted Jason Collins for hiding an ex-engagement about which the basketball player actually wrote quite candidly; and noted horrible person Niall Ferguson advanced the, um, idea that Keynes’s homosexuality explained his economic theories.

Kurtz’s post wasn’t homophobic, but it partook in the minority response that sneered at the brouhaha of an athlete coming out; from calling it a distraction to pointing out that it was no storming of Normandy, the more homophobic sides of our discourse sought to belittle Collins’s confession so as to marginalize it, and Kurtz’s dismissive post was very much in this key. Ferguson’s strange little tirade more openly availed itself of anti-gay sentiment, but equally to marginalize the ideas of its subject.

What unites both events above and beyond their homophobia is their complete wrongness. It’s strange for something to be objectively, unequivocally wrong these days. We’re so used to two (at least) irreconcilable versions of reality that are less dialectic than repulsive to each other, that it’s kind of shocking to encounter a reality unified by a single judgment. Kurtz was wrong, blatantly, inarguably, wrong. Ferguson was wrong, blatantly, inarguably wrong*. There are no other sides to either story, which is why one man was fired and the second is in full, ass-saving retreat.

But more interesting, in both cases, the homophobia seems to be stepping in for some gap in the men’s logic. Contrast their statements with Chris Broussard’s. Broussard advanced a straight-up anti-gay syllogism: gays are walking in sin, sin no bueno, ergo gays bad. This is logic that concerns only homosexuality; any references to any other issue, like religion, are in service of the initial argument. It’s also a more traditional brand of homophobia, one steeped in ye olde heteronormative* values. As one commenter put it, the whole thing sounded very 1994.

But neither Kurtz’s nor Ferguson’s arguments directly concerned homosexuality. Kurtz seemed miffed over our culture’s aggrandizement of gay figures, almost as if they got a moral pass by participating in the identity du jour; his argument was more with liberalism than homosexuality. Furgeson, meanwhile, was railing against Keynesian economics. Neither could make his case based on evidence or reason, so reference to homosexuality was stitched over the bare spots like a patch. Whereas Broussard’s logic was wrong only in reference to its argument about homosexuality, Kurtz and Ferguson were doubly wrong, both in their original arguments and in their recourse to homophobia to make it. This suggests a sort of symbiosis between homophobia and illogic; the two are feeding off each other in a more complicated way than they did back when the majority of society thought gay marriage should be illegal.

This is important, not in the least as it concerns how we respond. Conservative commentators have rallied around Kurtz, claiming he’s been railroaded for picking on the left’s new sacred cow. This is nonsense; Kurtz’s error was indefensible, which is why you didn’t see a single reputable journalist or publication second-guessing his firing. Meanwhile, I’m sure the darker corners of the internet are already ginning up some narrative of Ferguson being bullied by the PC police, even as Ferguson himself has issued an unqualified and detailed apology. In both cases, the defense of the men has and will focus on the aspects of their logic that concerns homosexuality, and not their initial, flawed arguments. In short, even in the defense of the men, reference to homosexuality, this time in its supposed elevated moral status in liberal culture, will be used to mask their original illogic. Recognizing the connection between bad argumentation and use of homophobia is essential to combatting the attempts to make homophobes into victims.

Fortunately, the presence of homophobia in crack-brained ideas suggests its increasing marginalization. In the same way that once-common anti-semitic ideas now appear only in fringe theories (“The Jews are engineering gun control”), homophobia, at least as part of a public discourse, is inching its way out of the mainstream. The further it gets, the more it will be a recourse for illogical or incoherent ideas; the more it comes to be the vehicle for those ideas, the more reality will be unified in dismissing both the ideas and homophobia, as we saw twice this week. This is a good thing.

* See Blake’s post for details.

** Oy.

Howard Kurtz Is Having A Worse Day Than You

by evanmcmurry

Welp, that was quick. The only question now is whether anyone will try to gin this up into Liberal Media Blacklists Those Who Stray From Narrative when it’s clear Kurtz was fired for blatant unprofessionalism, or whatever you call “writing a hit piece without reading the article you’re criticizing.”

Note the irony inherent in the title of Kurtz’ TV gig, “Reliable Sources.”

Republicans Eat The Lunches They Deserve

by evanmcmurry

In Dana Milbank’s piece detailing the inability of tea party congressmen to do anything to renovate their image, we find this nugget, literally:

House conservatives met Wednesday for the latest installment of their “Conversations with Conservatives” luncheon series, but they took their places on the dais without sampling the Chick-fil-A sandwiches and nuggets on offer.

Good Lord, still with the Chick-Fil-A! Guys, I hereby absolve you of holding up your end in this particular cultural tug-o-war. You have my permission to eat better, non-fried lunches, and nobody will accuse you of supporting sodomy. Jesus Christ.

The Worst Point About Gay Marriage You’ll Read (Today)

by evanmcmurry

Everybody and everyone is taking batting practice at Megan McArdle’s attempt to spin gay marriage into a bourgeois victory that’s somehow the nanny state in action, or something. (“The sexual revolution is over. And the revolutionaries lost.” Dang.) Amazingly, there’s a still a pitch left to hit, so I’ll swing:

The 1970s were an open revolt against the idea of the dutiful pair bond, in favor of a life of perpetual infatuation. The elites led the way–and now they’re leading it back. Compare Newt Gingrich or John McCain to the new generation of Republican hopefuls. Jindal, Ryan, Christie, Rubio . . . all of them are married to their first wives. Jindal met his wife in high school, Christie in college. By their age, McCain was preparing for his first divorce, and Gingrich was just a few years from his second.

As Gin and Tacos points out, give those four shining specimens of elite masculinity a few more years and we’ll see who’s still married to whom. But more to the point—I thought gay marriage was supposed to be ruining the institution of marriage. Now it’s stronger than ever? Was the whole moral panic over the traditional definition of marriage really because Newt Gingrich couldn’t stop throwing it into women who weren’t his wife(ves)?

Update: Prop 8 Oral Arguments

by evanmcmurry

Here’s SCOTUSBlog’s update as of a few minutes ago. Remember, at this time in the ACA oral arguments, Obamacare was doomed.

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Is Paul Clement Secretly A Dumb-Dumb?

by evanmcmurry

We’re all having a great time (and rightfully so!) over the new DOMA briefs from the anti-gay marriage groups arguing…something pertaining to marriage, unintended procreation, and the state’s interest in enforcing shotgun marriages (see Gin and Tacos and Wonkette for funnies).

But lost in all this: it’s Paul Clement making these arguments.* Clement is one of the most renowned constitutional litigators out there!

Or at least he’s supposed to be. Clement had a moment last spring when he seemed to knock both the Obamacare and SB 1070 arguments out of the park for the conservatives. Especially after Donald Verrilli whiffed both oral arguments (I still want to bring Verrilli a glass of water), Clement arose as the superior rhetorician, single-handedly plucking Obamacare from constitutional inevitability and Arizona’s immigration law from certain defeat, mounting a successful last stand against Obama’s overreach not via vitriol but calm, cool logic. He was crowned King Orator before the decisions were even handed down.

But then those decisions were handed down, and the rest is history. The world was so consumed by the drama of the Court’s rulings—Roberts is a librul! Obama bullied SCOTUS!—nobody bothered to revise the judgment of Clement’s abilities; he snuck out the back with his provisional crown still on.

That Clement is slinging some embarrassing slop in the DOMA case is probably just a sign that no good arguments against gay marriage remain. (As djw points out, one of the unintended benefits of deciding these matters in the court is making bigots actually construct logical arguments to support their prejudices, with the predictably absurd consequences you see before you.) But at some point, we need to start wondering whether Clement actually is the inestimable constitutional warrior we’ve made him out to be.

* And we’re paying him to do it!