66. surprise


This morning on Twitter I saw a story from the Advocate about a church sign in North Carolina that was smashed and vandalized because of its anti-gay message:

STYLE (sic) ROM.1-26-27

The woman from the church, Anna Benson, who put up the sign in the first place, seems genuinely surprised that anyone would have found that message offensive. “I love the gays,” she said. “I love everybody.” The pastor of the church supports the message too, stating that it’s based on “biblical truth.”

Yesterday I came across an interview with Michelle Bachmann responding to questions from David Gregory on Meet the Press about her stated positions on homosexuality and her support for a same-sex marriage, amongst other things (the entire interview was about twenty-five minutes altogether).

At one point in the conversation, the following exchange took place:

“That is the view that President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?” Gregory asks (after playing an excerpt of her speech at the 2004 National Education Conference).

Bachmann responds, “I am running for the presidency of the United States. I am not running to be anyone’s judge.”

“But you have judged them,” Gregory continues.

She looks a little taken aback. “I don’t judge them,” she replies, and then later adds, “My view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s what I stand for; but I ascribe honor and dignity to every person, no matter what their background.”

There’s a tragic, profound disconnect here between word and action. Both Bachmann and Benson are either unable or unwilling to see the implications of their positions. They see homosexuality and the person as two different entities: a natural playing-out of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality that I grew up with. That’s an appropriate approach to take with, say, a five-year-old hogging the bricks in the playroom or Wynona Ryder shoplifting; but a propensity towards selfishness or a willful breaking of the law is a world away from a sexual orientation. Psychology and science are finally affirming what so many of us have known our whole lives: that, as Lady Gaga sings, we were born this way. Or if we weren’t that our sexuality was shaped in the same way that a heterosexual person’s is.

Yet this is precisely what my parents and most everyone else in the Evangelical camp continue to assert: that homosexuality is a choice, blindly in the face of mounting evidence from all sides, and that it is something that can be “cured” (or “prayed away”). And for them it absolutely has to be, or else their theological house of cards falls to pieces. Because if the Church is wrong on this issue, what else are they wrong about?

What this view allows the conservative Christian Right to do is dehumanize the GLBT community. Without a face there’s no human collateral. Rather, it’s an impersonal “agenda” that’s threatening your family, your children, your home and your way of life. An agenda can’t be hurt. It can be legislated and discriminated against without impunity. It can be vilified and demonized.

I wonder if Michelle Bachmann or Anna Benson could continue to believe what they do if they sat in a hospital room with a couple being separated because the law didn’t recognize either partner as next of kin. Or an afternoon with Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk, who is being deported back to Australia, even though they have been together nineteen years and were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago (DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing their status under the law as a state-approved married couple)–and Makk is Wells’ primary care-giver (Wells has AIDS). Were they a married couple, Makk could not be deported. Heterosexual couples do not face this scenario.

With the mobilizing machine of the Tea Party, there’s a strong likelihood that in the next presidential election a Republican could sit in the Oval Office (most likely Rick Perry, if my reading of the GOP is accurate), wielding influence and power and armed with a deliberate religious and extreme right-wing ideology to craft public policy that could have very real implications for the GLBT community in particular. It’s this dual-mindedness that allows their indifference and bigotry to thrive in conservative corners of politics and mainstream America, fueled by the voices of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and the denizens of Fox News and other conservative pundits.

It wouldn’t bother me so much either if it were just the pundits, the Glenn Becks, or the Rush Limabughs doing the ranting. They have a constitutionally guaranteed right to do so. However, We the People of the United States–e pluribus unum–are not sending elected officials to state and federal office to promote their personal or religious ideology. We elect and appoint judges who are studied in law and we expect them to apply that law fairly and without prejudice or bias. (That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.) Similarly, we elect public officials in our representative democracy to uphold the Constitution and to be the voice of their constituents. How often do judges have to make rulings that conflict with their personal beliefs? They will often say so in their dissenting opinions, but must abide by stare decisis, whether or not they agree.

Perhaps I’m being idealistic here, but I rather think politicians should be held to the same standard of upholding constitutional law rather than their religious or personal moral beliefs. They are elected to represent the People as fairly as possible, not “their” segment of the population. Will Michelle Bachmann stand up for gay Americans? Likely not.

The scales of public opinion are shifting ever-so-gradually towards a positive attitude of same-sex and other “non-traditional” relationships. But if the religious Right has their way, all of that could be undone with a few well-worded speeches and the stroke of a pen.

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