06/06/2018

Masterpiece: A (dangerous) nothingburger that will change nothing (and maybe everything)

by Jeremy Hooper

Since I was once so vocal about these so-called “religious freedom” cases, a number of people have asked me to jumped back on here and weigh in on the Masterpiece Cakes decision in longer form than my Twitter habits (@goodasyou) will allow. So here are a few thoughts.

 

1) I’m not surprised. Based on what we heard in court, I expected to lose. Not because we should’ve lost, but because we very much live in a country where questions regarding religion can be morphed and twisted in a way that obscures fact, even among learned people. Even among liberal-minded Supreme Court justices.

To fully understand the full range of complexities associated with anti-LGBTQ cases like this one, one needs a very specific and rarefied skills set. One needs to understand what organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom are and what they what they really one. One needs to be able to read the subtext within the carefully crafted legal briefs. One needs to have years of experience dealing with these aggressors to know why they are twisting and turning the way that they are. Very few people have this sort of obsessive knowledge base, which is why opinions like the Masterpiece one are so annoying for those of us who have done our homework. We see so many truths that we know will go unexplored in court and unexamined by the mainstream media.

 

2) Kennedy’s opinion is super flawed. The way he went after the Colorado Civil Rights Commissioners for supposed bias was super wrong-minded. The commissioners’ references to the way religion has been used to justify all sorts of things might make some uneasy, but those references are accurate. They are factual. The commissioners were not saying that Mr. Phillips is just like someone who used religion to justify slavery or the Holocaust; they were simply saying that religion has been used to justify a whole lot of bad, and that religion cannot and should be a “get out of jail free” card. But even, religious discussions can lead even the best scholars toward anti-intellectual choices. 

 

3) The anti-LGBTQ groups know that this isn’t a big win for them. Listening to ADF lawyers on both mainstream and conservative media, it’s clear to me that this is not the outcome they wanted. Because again, I speak their language quite fluently. I know when they see a cause fro celebration and when they see concern within their “victory.” They see concern here. They know that another gay couple could go back into Masterpiece, suffer the same discrimination (or worse now that Phillips feels emboldened), and file a new suit. If the Colorado Civil Rights Commision is more careful in its (accruate) words and (factual) comparisons, this case could go right back through the courts and Mr. Phillips could continue to lose. It’s probable, actually. And if/when this happens, the ADF will be even more optionless than they were before. It could be one of those situations where their early “wins” actually help us more ably make our case—and they know it.

 

4) This opinion creates a landscape that could be both dangerous and helpful for our path toward our eventual victory on this issue. First the danger: I’m already seeing embolden anti-LGBTQ activists who seem to believe that this decision was an all-out victory for them. They feel emboldened and believe that they now have a court-tested right to not give “lip service to the queers” (something a Phillips supporter actually wrote on his donation page). This creates and obviously frightening landscape for LGBTQ people who would very much like to move forward with existences without constant fear of attack. Stay safe. Stay vigilant.

But now for the helpful part: These emboldened activists always overplay their hand. In the marriage fight, the anti-equality activists were always at their worst after they had a “victory.” Which is to say they were at their best, as their string of terrible moves when they were at their apex always served to help us more ably make our case against them. This is likely to be the case now. When business owners start trying to apply this decision in a way that turns away LGBTQ customers from everyday commerce, there will Be even more evidence of the inherent bigotry that we know to be at the heart of these cases. With only a handful of media-trained “victims,” groups like the ADF can more ably control the message. When members of a dangerous movement that they have deceived into seeing themselves on the right side of history start taking matters into their own hands, no carefully crafted ADF press release will be able to roll back the obvious discrimination at hand. And the fact that these newfound discriminators will inevitable use Masterpeice to justify their actions will make the ADF look even worse.

 

So in short: Annoying (quasi-) setback. Dangerous precedent. Still better to be us than them (by a wide mile).

 

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03/07/2018

Yes, I teach my child to resist

by Jeremy Hooper

Even in the moment, as devastating and other-worldly as it was, I made note of the way she was looking at me. At age three, a child can have strange reactions to a parent’s emotions. Sometimes they nervously laugh. Other times they recoil in an outsized way. Savannah, someone who has always been hard on herself whenever she thinks she has upset someone, has (and had) a tendency to turn into a problem solver who throws out a million on-the-spot ways she might be able to help lighten the situation.

But this time was different. This time she was staring at me in a very deliberative way. She was studying me with a curiosity, each of us surprising ourselves with what instantly felt like a new chapter in life.

It was November 9, 2016—the day my child still remembers as the first time she saw me cry. It’s a day she still talks about on th regular. And she doesn’t talk about it as a self-contained memory. Instead, she casually drops in into conversation. As in,

“Hey Savannah, what are some things that make people cry?”

”Uhm, when you lose a balloon, when you fall in hurt your knee, when Hillary Clinton loses to Donald Trump, or when you don’t want to go to bed and your daddy makes you.”

We’re working on the last one. The third one, however, is known in our family as a perfectly reasonable, throughly logical, virtually duty-bound response to the election of a person whose character, values, experience, and temperament make him a threat to just about everything we hold dear.

We don’t portray the president as a monster, since we of course don’t want to scare her. We obviously don’t voice our global fears, as we take our role in allevativing rather than exacerbating her worry quite seriously. In fact, we don’t even bring up the subject of the Trump presidency unprovoked. It’s just that we have a very bright child on our hands, and she questions everything she hears. Like, seriously—ev. er. y. thing.

95BCE0E0-8990-463D-AE72-CDF2E6887930Since she does have questions, we have no choice but to empower her with facts. When she asks if we like them, the answer is a very direct, “No, based on everything we know about this person, we do not like him being our president.” When she asks if he is nice, the answer is a measured but certain, “No, sadly he has not shown himself to be a nice person.” When she wonders how long he will be president, we make it clear that we hope to get him out of office as soon as we possibly can, and we explain, in a way that a four-year-old can better understand, that this is because we care immensely about both the country that we love and the office that he holds. We essentially tell her that this person is a mistake who never should have found himself into the Oval Office.    

This then leads to a whole discussion about ovals and how they’re shaped liked eggs. Then she asks for eggs for dinner. Then she asks to crack them. Then she wonders if she can have a play date. And we move on. Kids’ attention spans, am I right?

Yet whenever the conversation returns, as it inevitably does, we again make it clear: we proudly resist this presidency, and we encourage you to do the same. In her movie, he is not frightening like Ursula or Maleficent. He’s kind of like a combination of Gaston and Le Fou: a misguided soul in need of further education, a few years of yoga, and a hug. For her, resistance means simply adhering to the basics that she learns in preschool everyday. In fact, she has kind of taught me a thing or to about how to resist. We talk about it.

This is not how I would have raised a child during the George W. Bush era, even as that administration was pushing a Federal Marriage Amendment that arguably threatened my family even more directly. Yes, I would have made it clear to my child that we rejected things that this person was promoting, and yes I would have ensured her that her daddies will always protect her. I don’t, however, believe I would have cared so deeply about her knowing that we are experiencing a time where those of us who know and want better must step up and make things better. In that and similar times, I believe I could’ve kept her fully detached from anything resembling political or governmental affairs. At this time, however, it feels like I would be neglecting my duty as a dad who wants my child to develop a strong conscience and values set if I just overlooked or sidestepped the things she hears and questions. I don’t want her remembering this time and wondering whether her parents were silent. Or worse, complicit.

Savannah has processed this information stream and come up with two takeaways that she will tell anyone who will listen:

  1. She will use her powers of niceness to change the president and better her country.
  2. More people voted for Hillary Clinton.

That feels like a parenting win.

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Going to bed a caterpillar, waking a ‘Failed loser butterfly. Sad.’

by Jeremy Hooper

Sure, the TEA Party started making things weird even before our current decade began. And yes, the attacks on President Obama started trending off the political pages and into high school slambooks. I don’t want to be halcyon about an era that had an ability to feel hallucinatory.

But still, the political game from 2004–2016 was largely played in the same basic arena that we had known throughout modern history. With a studied understanding of governmental affairs and the ability to form opinions, both the dedicated political pro and the armchair commentator could find an entry point. The game might lead to a love/hate relationship, but the basic parameters of that relationship were understandable. Consensual. 

What the hell happened to that place?! And what is this twisted new world? And how do we leave?

76D019C1-41AB-4FB9-A63C-0D7D6AC396C2When I stepped away from daily commentary writing and turned my focus toward my family, I felt really good about where we were. Nothing was perfect, but it felt relatively calm. Problems felt like they were at least in search of solutions, even if those answers were still down the road. There at least seeemed to be a road. I felt okay getting off of it for a spell and letting others drive us forward.

Entering back into the picture now, I feel like someone who spent a decade obtaining an advanced degree in a subject that no longer exists. Like someone who recorded 60 Minutes, only to have the DVR replace it with a particularly lowbrow Real Housewives episode.

A president tweeting insults at an actor who portays him on SNL is how something unremarkable. A son-in-law serving in a senior White House role without a security clearance no elicits casual eye-rolling rather than national outrage. Former caddies are now senior communications officials. Porn stars sue the president. Resignations are as common as press briefings. We slur and ban and wall-in minority groups. Russia chooses our Secretary of State. Jailtime seems more likely than not for several key figures.

Forget talking about legislation. Silly child, that’s no longer a thing. To be a political commentator in 2018, one must instead perform psychoanalysis on a president who doesn’t seem to have even a basic understanding of his role, on inexperienced colleagues who seem both complicit and disdainful in equal measure, and on scandals that range from National Enquirer to global inquiry.

And then when there is an actual policy discussion, say on guns or on DACA or trasngender military access, the information stream is so muddled and confusing, led at the top by a man with the vocabulary of Nelson Muntz’s less intellectually curious cousin and carried out by a GOP leadership cabal that just wants to ramrod in anything they can before this Devil’s bargain runs out, that someone with a heart for reasoned debate and sound policy has almost no chance at achieving a toehold.

And no, this isn’t a byproduct of being a left-leaner coming up for air in a world that turned right. This new world is not right (in any sense). I love a good debate with the conservative side, and I spent years having that conversation at a time when my movement was lost in the political wilderness. I’m quite comfortable in an underdog role. I like making an against-the-odds case.

What I’m not comfortable with doing is pretending anything going on right now is normal. Or good for our country. Or safe. Or even humane. To even concede that this is a “new normal” is, to my mind, an exceedingly dangerous choice for the continuation of our nation. If young people in particular see this crude and cruel experiment as something to replicate, we will become an unrecognizable people.

And I liked us how we were before, despite our considerable flaws.

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03/04/2018

Because I have thoughts about things

by Jeremy Hooper

So parenting is a lot. Like a whole lot. As in it’s impossible to compare to anything I’ve ever done prior in life. 

In the three years since I stepped away from daily updates on this site to spend the bulk of my time shaping a tiny human, I have pushed myself harder, worked myself longer, sacrificed sleep more readily, practiced patience more studiously, been humbled more frequently, and Doc McStuffins-ed more Doc McStuffins-ingly than I ever thought possible. And while individual moments have been trying, the journey has been a dream—far more than I ever knew to believe possible. My child is soaring; my soul follows suit.

But now we are turning a corner, of sorts. With age comes independence. With increased schooling comes more time for daddy. And for this daddy, more time means more ability to get back to myself as a writer. Not only is it something I want for myself, as a means to get these thoughts of my head and to sort them out the way that I have always found both meaningful and therapeutic, but something I also want for my kid. I want her to know this part of me.

I am going to get back to updating this site on a semi-regular basis. It will not be what it was before. G-A-Y from 2004–2015 will for now and forever be an archive of a very specific time in the LGBT rights movement. It is a time that feels logically encapsulated for me personally, but a time that I also believe to be neatly bookended in the grander sense. The journey from Massachusetts marriage equality to the Supreme Court’s Obergerfell decision is an epic one. G-A-Y’s coverage of this period is epochal. There are findings and developments and documentation from this period that are exclusive to this site, and the gritty archives will remain part of the canon indefinitely. 

While I have been doing similar work behind the scenes for the past two years (you’ve likely seen some things that have my brain-prints on them), I don’t feel like I could even do the daily coverage that I did for over a decade. Things have changed in oh so many ways both locally and globally.

But something else that was always part of the G-A-Y brand was taking a positive tone even with things seemed dire. My major motivation back in the early aughts was to help the movement rise above on high road even while our political opposition tried to drag us down in thicker and more limiting mud. It was the only way I knew.

It’s still the only way I know. Even more so now, in this era where behavior that was as unthinkable as it was inexcusable when I began this site are now daily occurrences. Ours is a time that needs a lot of help in oh so many ways. One way I believe I can help is to put some positivity out into the world.

I don’t know what the means exactly in terms of content. Will I still cover LGBT matters? Occasionally, sure. But also guns. And pizza. And the midterm elections. And the children’s books I’ve been working on. And that great TV show I happened to catch. And early education, for which I have found a real passion.

Over time, this might all shape up into a more crystallized vision. Maybe it will not, and this platform from 2018 onward will be hodgepodge of personal musings that serve the self more than a greater purpose. I don’t know. I do know that I want to get back to writing, and that this remains my home for daily commentary that exceeds social media character limits.

It feels good to be back. 

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02/28/2017

'Renewal of American Spirit'

by Jeremy Hooper

For LGBTQ people and our associated rights, the second decade of the 21st century has been a time of unprecedented progress. Despite setbacks and goals yet achieved, we are living in landmark times for our civil rights movement, and the history books will surely reflect this rise.

But it didn’t necessarily feel that way at millennium’s turn. Throughout the aughts, we experienced a number of setbacks that made the road ahead seem stark, lonely, and treacherous. It was a depressing time; it was a dispiriting time. Wins seemed out of reach around 2004, and after.

And yet we persisted. LGBTQ people and allies dug down and did enoromous work. Costly work. Tedious work. Often soul-crushing and back-breaking work. But work that we proudly took on because we knew that the end justified the rough means of the day.

That journey, from the wilderness of the 2000s to the monumental gains of the 2010s, represents the American spirit at its finest. Digging in and standing firm at times when the ground seems the softest and the trails so poorly lit is fundamental to American spirit. It is this spirit that propels a movement through scary votes, bad polling, well funded opponents, and threats of physical and mental persecution. This gritty determination is a uniting aspect of the American character. It is a spirit that people from all walks of life, and all political parties, roundly applaud. 

This journey across the 21st century’s first sixteen years was, in essence, a renewal for the LGBTQ rights movement in America. It was, up until recently, a journey that felt like it was headed in one decided direction. While we knew there were tough fights ahead, and while we were (and are) prepared to fight them, it was easy to get caught up in the history of these moments and see them as the irreversible gains of an enlightened society. One could be forgiven for taking the time to celebrate---and breathe.

And yet here we are. Here we are at---something. A crossroads? A plateau? An avalanche? A tiny flick on the arm that we’ll barely notice in the long run? We’re at a---something.

But it would be hard for most LGBTQ activists to say where we are now is at a time of “renewal of the American spirit.” For us, that renewal is sort of what we’ve been living through for the past few years. Times were initially bleak, then we moved forward to a White House that was literally illuminated in pride colors. Because of the deep spirit of our movement, we experienced our great renaissance. It felt like a renewal, it certainly felt spirited, and it damn well felt American.

And so as the President gears up to address Congress with a much-ballyhooed speech his administration is shaping under the theme “Renewal of the American Spirit,” the LGBTQ community has to wonder how, exactly, the decisions we have already seen from this 45th presidency make up a renewal for us as Americans. How does a Cabinet with a Rick Perry and a Tom Price and a Ben Carson (to name just three outspoken anti-LGBTQ activists in the ranks) represent hope for administrative policies that might reflect our lives? How does an administration that floats a draft of an anti-LGBT executive order supposed to feel like a friend? How does that same administration make us feel respected, to say nothing of protected, when it’s near-certain that a so-called “religious freedom” executive order (which would grant anti-LGBTQ activists some measure of protection when they discriminate against us, so long as they use religion as justification) is going to drop any day now? How does transgender students feel safe when this administration just removed guidance granting them the right to pee in peace?

Looking toward the Congress that the President will be addressing, how do we take comfort when both the Speaker and the Majority Leader have abysmal voting records on our rights, current members have taken multiple steps to weaken the effects of our gains, and the President has indicated he would sign the anti-LGBTQ movement’s most sought-after legislation?

“Renewal of the American Spirit?” Can easily feel more like a cancellation.

It’s of course no shock for politicians to use overstated maxims to sell a campaign, speech, or policy proposal. In fact, one will find instances of Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan using the “Renewal of American Spirit” theme, verbatim.That slogan, like “Make America Great Again,” was actually a favored phrase of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns and administration. In that sense, it’s a somewhat innocuous theme for President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

And yet it’s not. I’m of course only focusing on LGBTQ, but many Americans feel that we far from a time of renewal. Even ardent Trump supporters seem to see this more as a time for building a whole new enterprise than a time for renewing anything of recent memory, from either party. This was reflected in the President’s dystopia inauguration speech, and it is ingrained in just about every move he has made since. Despite its “great again” tendencies, this is not an administration that seems to be that concerned with customs or traditions or protocol, favoring the construction of new walls over the return to deeply rooted American norms.

For LGBTQ people, it’s only more pronounced because the renewal we just lived through was so strong. The conceit of taking steps backward every other decade, as if someone is flicking on and off the lights in some sort of sick trick against our lives, is not a set of terms that we are willing to accept. If the coming years are going to build on rather than weaken our progress, this administration is going to have to prove it with tangible promises, not slogans. Our spirit shall not be crushed behind anyone’s twisted sense of renewal.

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02/16/2017

Why can’t we ever stop talking about Russia?

by Jeremy Hooper

I’m not saying there’s a direct connection. But it is weird.

If you followed politics anytime between 2013–2015, you are certainly aware of the preponderance of stories surrounding LGBTQ rights and the Russian government’s hostility toward them. From the 2013 “gay propaganda law” to the controversies surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to the many stories about American anti-LGBTQ activists’ acting in concert with Russian activists in order to strategize around shared concerns, there was a three year period of time where just about any domestic story that popped up about the Eurasian nation or its President, Vladimir Putin, somehow involved LGBTQ rights, either in part or in full. Firsthand stories about the frightening state of being LGBTQ in Putin’s Russia were everywhere at the time (see here and here and here and here and here and here). The outsized focus sort of came out of nowhere.

For those of us who did follow this stuff so closely (and especially for those of us who also watch The Americans), it was almost surreal to then find Russia a daily talking point throughout the 2016 election. And of course now, Russia is in the news in an even bigger way, as the pivot point that’s turning a growing crop of concerns about the nascent Trump administration into a tempest of potential scandal:

Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence [NY Times]
It’s certainly peculiar to find this one nation so ubiquitous in our lives and headlines here in the U.S. What’s even more bizarre is how closely related to the whole thing Donald Trump was back then, when LGBTQ rights were the big focus and well before he was in a political role.

Back in 2013, there was a massive blowup about the Miss Universe pageant, which he then owned being hosted in Moscow. LGBTQ rights activists were outraged at the choice and called for the pageant to be moved. But not only did the pageant stay in Moscow, but the then-reality TV host, now-POTUS publicly (and now infamously) wondered if he could become best buds with President Putin while in the capital city.

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 At 8.37.16 Am

At this same time, Trump also told out gay newsman Thomas Roberts that the two do indeed have a relationship.

At the very least, isn’t it strange? A man who was known only as an entertainer and birth certificate hunter, reaching out in a truly bizarre way to a world leader who had backed draconian anti-LGBTQ laws in his nation, now shocking the nation by becoming the President of the United States under a thick and growing cloud of suspicion that this same world leader and his affiliates were somehow involved in the outcome. It’s one of those things that I probably wouldn't put into a novel out of fear of implausibility.

But while the whole thing is bizarre to just about everyone, for LGBTQ activists, it’s on another level. The period of time when LGBTQ rights dominated the Russian conversation here at home neatly abuts the time when the Russian conversation pivoted toward the election, and there are so many coincidences between them. Back then, we were always talking about the anti-LGBTQ activists who were making odd and suspect trips to visit Kremlin officials, and now this same crop of activists is simply over the moon about the election outcome. Back then, we were talking about Russian propaganda laws at a time when our own domestic conversation was largely about marriage equality, and now our domestic LGBTQ conversation has heavily shifted toward our own matters of expression and representation in the public square. Back then, some of President Obama’s allies and donors faced sanctions because of support for LGBTQ rights, and now we wake up to daily stories about potential meddling in an election that many saw as a referendum to build on or upend President Obama’s legacy.

Oh, and one through-line connecting then and now? Donald J. Trump. The friendship for which Trump once longed in a tweet has only seemed to grow in the subsequent years:

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 At 8.37.23 Am

Again, I’m not saying there’s a direct connection linking all this mess. But it is weird.

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02/07/2017

If Jared and Ivanka support us, they need to show the work

by Jeremy Hooper

Jared and Ivanka: If you support us, show the work

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom are universally seen as influential figures in the President of the United State’s life and decision-making, are getting much credit in the press for their supposed role in killing a proposed Executive Order that would’ve reversed LGBT protections put in place by the Obama administration. And that’s good. Great, even. But it’s also not enough to earn praise.

Let me start by saying I do believe that the president’s daughter and her husband, now a special advisor to the president, are personally pro-LGBT. There are multiple sources claiming them to be. They both come from lines of work, fashion, and media that tend to feature outsized support for the LGBT community. Plus Kushner, a lifelong Democrat, was involved in the Human Rights Campaign’s “Americans For Marriage Equality” campaign. Reasonable assumption, as well as anecdotes from acquaintances who know them, tell me they are most likely with us on most, if not all, LGBT rights.

That said, I am not willing to applaud them as LGBT rights supporters unless and until they take actual public stands in support of actual LGBT rights.

Because let’s be clear: Simply stopping a less-than-LGBT-friendly team from rolling back an Obama era policy is not what constitutes an ally in the year 2017. The rules of support have exceeded that low bar.

There was a time in history when we applauded a public figure for standing against a proposed amendment banning marriage equality or using words like “tolerance” in association with our rights. That ship has sailed. Sunken, even. Nowadays, it’s not enough to just stand against a bad idea—you have to tell us what you’re for. A supporter doesn’t just stop a bad needle from popping a good bubble—a supporter moves the needle even further down the still uncharted path toward progress.

When President Trump appears in the Oval Office with his team, that team includes Mike Pence, one of the most anti-LGBT cogressmen and governors of the 21st century, and now Vice President of the United States. That team also includes Steve Bannon, who gave an award to the star of Duck Dynasty for doing nothing more than making anti-LGBT comments. That team includes Reince Priebus, who used his time as head of the RNC to keep the party publicly opposed to LGBT rights. The team that surrounds this president, who himself stands opposed to marriage equality and other LGBTS rights, is a team that has never shied away from public statements in opposition to basic fairness for LGBT Americans.

Jared and Ivanka are also key members of the team. If they want the glowing press and praise that comes from being the LGBT supporters on this team, then they must act like LGBT supporters.

We are not to be whispered about behind the scenes. Our rights, so fundamental to the previous administration’s goals, are not political footballs, and the team that thinks they are doesn’t get to score points for simply not fumbling the ball. We are not in a place in our history where we are going to pretend that marginalizing us is the default position and that anyone who dares to show basic decency deserves outsized praise. We have fought too hard and we have won too much. We are not diminishing our worth, nor are we diminishing the criteria for calling oneself a true ally.

With a team like the Trumps, there are surely going to be countless opportunities for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to stand up and act like true supporters. I, for one, am 100% willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and to applaud them when they have the principled fortitude to speak up and speak out against bad ideas.

I am not, however, willing to grade on a curve. After all, these two worked to get President Trump into office despite the anti-LGBT judges he promised to nominate, the anti-LGBT figures he promised to appoint, and the anti-LGBT ideas he considers good for America. To counter all that, we are going to need some bona fide positive statements from Ivanka and Jared, not just some behind-the-scenes pleas for base-level decency.

 

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02/01/2017

In collegiate LGBTQ debate, Trump SCOTUS pick defended discrimination

by Jeremy Hooper

In the mid-1980s, the United States military had yet to even enact its discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, operating instead under an even more sweeping ban on openly LGBTQ soldiers whether they were silent or not. As they usually are on hot topics of the day, university students across this nation were embroiled in debate as to whether or not military recruiters should be allowed on their campuses, since the armed forces’ hiring practices were in violation of many of these schools’ own nondiscrimination policies.

Columbia University was one such school. In fact, the debate was so much on the minds of students that the Columbia Spectator, in the 1986 edition of its annual questionnaire for prospective student senators, put the question of military recruitment at the top of its list. The paper asked each of the senate candidates, quite simply:

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A fair and straightforward question. And since the discrimination was so obvious, six of the candidates were quick to note it in their answers. For instance, one said:

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Another student thought:

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A third chimed in with:

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And a fourth:

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And there was this one:

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Even the one that was a little more sympathetic to a discriminatory military still noted that there was indeed exclusion going on:

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Because let’s be clear: There was crude exclusion going on. By the time Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed at the end of 2010, a wide majority of Americans had come to realize that even that Clinton era compromise was discriminatory. Keep in mind that this 1986 question predates even that! These students were talking about a government institution that told their LGBTQ friends they were born as unqualified Americans simply because they were born as they are. These students, who were all seeking student office, were right to use their free expression to speak out against their tuition dollars supporting this recruitment.

But there was a seventh young candidate for student senate, a young man named Neil, who also answered that 1986 survey. And when Neil did, he broke rank from all of the other six classmates seeking the student senator position, giving a long and convoluted answer that made no reference to the people at the center of the plight, instead focusing on “chosen lifestyles” and the apparent “free speech” of a government institution against its citizens:

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“Free speech,” I will remind you, applies to governments shutting down their citizens from speaking. Columbia University was and is a private university that does indeed make all kinds of determinations on who can utilize space. Being a university, Columbia surely did and does offer venues to all kinds of groups, from all kinds of points of view---even controversial ones. And that’s great. But freedom also allows every private university to enact a nondiscrimination policy, and it allows for students to ensure that their university is acting in compliance. The politically active young man who answered this question in a way so dissimilar from the others is sidestepping the actual question at hand in order to raise points that have little application to the matter.

But young people grow up. And when they do, they move into careers. And sometimes, those careers lead them to new choices. New decisions. New judgements.

For instance, that career might ask this same, now-grown man to consider whether a for-profit company has the right to express itself against laws that the company simply doesn’t like. And Neil, now a circuit court judge, might once again side with religious-based limitation rather than fair enactment of fair policy:

Hobby Lobby Apt To Duck Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Rule [Law360]

Or Neil might take up writing, penning a piece for a conservative outlet where he argues that minority groups, like those suffering under the weight of a hefty military ban, have no options in the courtroom to remedy their poor treatment:

The Left’s alliance with trial lawyers and its dependence on constitutional litigation to achieve its social goals risks political atrophy. Liberals may win a victory on gay marriage when preaching to the choir before like-minded judges in Massachusetts. But in failing to reach out and persuade the public generally, they invite exactly the sort of backlash we saw in November [of 2004] when gay marriage was rejected in all eleven states where it was on the ballot.

Read more at: National Review Online

In fact, Neil’s career in the law might head so decidedly in one direction that experts in that chosen field note how closely his record aligns with one of the field’s most notoriously anti-LGBTQ figures:

In fact, one study has identified him as the most natural successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Trump shortlist, both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.” [SCOTUSBlog]

And it’s possible that this now-grown Neil, who so closely mirrors Antonin Scalia, will then take these views and turn them into a lifetime appointment—on the United States Supreme Court:

President Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court [CNN]

So when considering such a big job that could affect the lives of LGBTQ people for decades to come, it’s important to consider whatever record we can find. Even his record from 1986:

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[Columbia Spectator Archives]

 

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