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The oddity that is the LGBT rights debate circa 2015

by Jeremy Hooper

For over ten years, I've slogged through this here "culture war" in order to take on the worst, silliest, and most unsound arguments that the other side uses against us. Some days it's been incredibly frustrating. Other days it's been much more jubilant. But now, at this particular stage of the game? It's just weird. Rather than talk about matters that they have largely lost, the opposition is now holding side debates that offshoot off their side debates.

For instance, we all know they've been sidestepping the marriage fight, which they know they've lost, by talking about this side notion of vendors supposedly being able to flout nondiscrimination laws in order to deny same-sex couples. But now, we're not even just talking about whether or not vendors have this right (hint: they don't). Instead, the other side wants us to debate the funding mechanisms that likeminded supporters are using to pay their legal bills, and whether these funding mechanisms have a right to deny crowdfunding resources that are directed to lawbreakers.

Or what about this silly idea that Justices Kagan and Ginsburg should have recused form the marriage cases? There was obviously no reason why justices who perform perfectly legal weddings, same-sex or opposite-sex, have to recuse themselves from any cases involving marriage. However, multiple far-right groups tried to force us into that conversation, believing that if they were loud enough with their ludicrous ideas, then those ideas were worth dignifying.

There are the threats. It seems like every day another social conservative is warning that fifty-state marriage equality is going to lead to something resembling civil war. At one time, I would have been quick to mock that notion. Nowadays, it sounds less like a ludicrous talking point I should entertain even for my own fun or political points-scoring. Instead, it sounds like a crazy conversation that doesn't even involve me. It sounds like a band of snake-handlers talking to themselves in tongues, or something. It's like I've stumbled onto someone's fantasy role-playing game. Rather than even mock or push back, I prefer to smile, nod my head, and walk back slowly from the scene so that the band of merry pranksters can continue a chant that doesn't concern me.

Or even look to something like when Tony Perkins went on Face The Nation two Sundays ago. Many of us were appalled that Evan Wolfson, an actual legal scholar, was forced to debate someone who simply holds animus for LGBT people and LGBT rights, as if those two positions are equally-footed. Fortunately, when Tony went on the air, host Bob Schieffer made the factual statement that the Southern Poverty Law Center has indeed branded Tony's organization, the Family Research Council, a hate group. Schemer also noted that Tony has called for SCOTUS justices to be impeached if they rule in favor of marriage equality, which you can hear him doing loud and clear right here. But rather than actually take on those valid points, Tony and his conservative brethren have spent the subsequent days going ballistic on Schieffer and anyone else who dared acknowledge simple truths. None have tried to refute the truths, mind you. They are just having side debates about whether or not Schieffer should note tangible realities while moderating a debate. They're living in a layer of the conservation that isn't even open for debate.

And that's just a handful of examples. Frankly, the whole thing has reached a new point of absurdity. These days, when I find myself with writers block or with frustrations, it's rarely because I'm too beaten down to defend my family once again or because I'm struggling to find a cogent way to deliver a message that will truly beat back a targeted argument that is resonating against us. Instead, I find myself wondering the point. Sometimes, I find myself wondering where the debate even lies. This debate is now filled with a maelstrom of noise that often feels inapplicable to my life, my concerns, or my political interests.

Going back to the funding thing, for example: There was that situation a few weeks back where the Indiana pizza parlor pulled in all kinds of cash stemming from a conservative funding effort. Yes, what sparked the whole thing was the business owners' comments about not catering gay weddings. But there was no actual denied customer or broken law. The whole thing involved a business that apparently likes money and many conservatives who felt compelled to send their money to random pizza parlor owners in Indiana rather than to an actual cause that could actually influence something. Frankly, if conservatives want to keep giving each other money for campaigns like this, I'm not going to have much to say about it. We have a crucial election coming up, which could lead to policy shifts that will affect me for the rest of my life. If those who would love to affect my rights in a negative fashion won't to spend their time and resources on a 21st century form of digital panhandling rather than on actual elections, then that's totally fine with me. Increasingly, that's how I feel about most of the anti-LGBT movement's squandered efforts and the opportunity costs I see attached to the same.

What's going to be interesting over the next few years is to see where the endpoints are, both for us individually and on a larger scale. We all know that the anti-LGBT movement, as entitled as it is, is likely going to keep talking about us and against us for several years to come, since many of them do seem to believe that the last word is their birthright. But just because they are talking and complaining and giving each other money doesn't mean we have to talk back. Or even care. It is certain that at some point the anti-LGBT opposition will lost most all of its political power here in the states—and likely fairly soon. At what point is it safe to leave them to their shadow boxing?

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