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04/06/2009

'Judges, schmudges!' say those who unfairly judge gay people

by Jeremy Hooper
"Any legislator not willing to sponsor [a marriage ban] is proving their loyalty is with political agendas and not with the people of Iowa or the intent of our Founding Fathers."

The above comment comes from Tamara Scott, the state director for Iowa's arm of the Concerned Women For America. Let's dissect tamara-scottit, shall we?

-Legislators: Elected by the people, to whom they are and should be beholden. But while one hopes that each and every one of our men and women in elected office possess more than a passing knowledge of the constitution and civil law, such expertise is not requisite. Legislators come from all kinds of backgrounds, viewpoints, and levels of aptitude.

-Loyalty: Legislators are usually part of partisan machines, with their actions reflecting their local and nation party's goals. In America the world, there are very few true independent lawmakers. There are all kinds of outside and internal influences, machinations, deals, and yes, agendas, that lead to their proposed laws. It's silly to (a) act as if agendas are a one way street in either direction, and (b) present these collective, strategic goals as automatic negatives.

-Agendas: These can be set by political parties, groups who helped get them elected, past skeletons who know too much, voting blocks who may threaten their future re-elections, faith-based organizations who wish to exploit the lawmaker's own religious beliefs in order to foist theology into civil law, or just about anyone who has some sort of power that could change the course of the lawmaker's career. These can and do vary in both principle and reason.

-"The people": Even though the opportunistic version of this phrase is typically employed by social conservatives who want to convince folks that they've been somehow robbed of their roles in the political process, the reality is that "the people" does not refer only to the majority. And in fact, it's often the minority that is most in need of folks in power who are willing to stand for their underepresented-yet-no-less-valid truths.

-The Founding Fathers: Like "the people," social conservatives often invoke the ghosts of the (white, male, hetero-identified) people who got this whole America experiment up and running. But just like their usage of "the people," these founding father seances are unfairly brazen. They imply that these long-dead men stood only for concepts that were understood within their mortal times, and only for the sorts of people who society had deemed (or now deems) fit for freedom. They overlook the growth that we have made, still need to make, and/or will continue to make. They also overlook the way that the founders' principles -- including church/state separation, balance of powers, minorities being protected from majority tyranny -- should apply to modern life. Their grave-digging is one of political convenience, not deep analysis.

Which brings us to an element not mentioned in Ms. Scott's quote (and barely mentioned in her full press release), yet one that would've been intrinsically ingrained in her evaluation if she genuinely cared to accurately assess the Iowa situation. We're talking about the anti-gay side's long-shunned, dangerously marginalized, most unfairly demonized foes:

-The independent judiciary: Unlike the majority, the justices are required to derive safety in fair interpretation rather than numbers. Unlike legislators, our nation's justices are required to have completed a certain level of training. For them, being schooled in the law is not an option. Passing the bar is not an option. And legal aptitude is the number one job requirement. Their master is the constitution, towards which they have willing signed up for a life of lawful servitude. And even though ideologies and judicial interpretations differ, their learned commitment to the job should not.

So it's interesting (read: infinitely frustrating) that it's this particular branch that the religious right paints as a motley crew of agenda-driven crazy people. Even though the judges are the ones who should know more than any of us about constitutional law, the members of our judicial system are routinely written off as elitist god-haters who are "legislating from the bench." It doesn't even matter if the justices in question are Republican appointees. A pro-equality, pro-fairness justice will routinely see their life's work, no matter how lengthy or impressive, reduced by anti-intellectual sound bites that really say nothing more than, "They didn't agree with my faith-based views so I'm going to f**k with their credibility." The merits, precedents, and civil realities don't matter, as the majority of gay rights opponents don't place a premium on facts, scholarship, or fair-minded and inclusive world views. Their immediate reaction to a judicial panel's studied pro-gay opinion is to turn to a less-qualified body of people and say, "How can we use our personal convictions to ensure that constitutional freedoms contain an 'except for LGBT people' caveat?"

In the same press release where she made the comment that began this post, Ms. Scott concludes by saying:

"Iowans are a sturdy and determined people, and we hope they will refuse to allow high-dollar attorneys funded by the homosexual movement to have the last word in the Heartland."

Never mind that the anti-homosexual moment had equally (or more) funded attorneys arguing against marriage equality. Never mind that the justices cast the opinion, not the attorneys. Never mind that gay folks have been "sturdy and independent" enough to weather decades of inequality and marginalization to get to this long overdue day. To the Concerned Women For America and their ilk, we will not have reached the last word to the "Are gay people equal?" question until a mob of people rise up and drown out the reasoned, learned yeses with a resounding "NO!" Because that is their team's agenda: To "win" this culture war by any brute means necessary, even if those forceful pushes do not hold up to sensible, prudent scrutiny. For the sake of our nation, they need to be called out on on their bullshit.

Concerned Women for America of IOWA Urges Iowans to pursue Constitutional Amendment in Light of State Supreme Court's Activist Ruling on Same Sex Marriage [CWA press release]

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Your thoughts

Right on!!! They do need to be called out. I hope that the National Media starts doing that in an ever increasing way. It's time that bigotry not be tolerated and that the media start calling those who are bigoted toward LGBT people to account for that bigotry. I still see too much of it let slip by the journalists including Anderson Cooper who knows better.

Posted by: | Apr 6, 2009 12:58:15 PM


And none of that includes her faulty grammar. That is, the subject, "legislator", is a singular/plural mismatch with "their".

Posted by: dave b | Apr 6, 2009 1:37:15 PM

Well Dave, I'm gonna forgive her that one. "Their" usage has become the subject of great debate in modern copy-editing circles:

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2008/10/one-story-respect-for-tradition.html
http://deannahoak.com/2008/10/28/their-as-a-singular/

Posted by: G-A-Y | Apr 6, 2009 2:17:16 PM


It's very comforting that I'm not the only one who worries about stuff like this. I've mentioned the "their" problem to friends and many times I just get funny looks.

Thanks for the links. Although it looks like I'm out-voted, I still will go along with Andrew Wheeler and at least avoid the usage - old dog, new tricks and all of that. :)

db

Posted by: dave b | Apr 6, 2009 5:33:41 PM

Thanks for the links. It looks like I'm out-voted on this one, but it is comforting to know I'm not the only one who worries about things like this. I will still stick with Andrew Wheeler, though, and avoid the usage in my own writing. I guess the construction symmetry is just kind of appealing to me. :)

db

Posted by: dave b | Apr 6, 2009 6:11:23 PM

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