Friday, January 27, 2006

Lame Arguments 

Washington state today voted to ban religious freedom and the right to worship. Oops. Sorry. Actually, they voted to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The (Washington State) Senate today voted 25-23 to approve a gay rights bill and ended the debate over legislation that emerged in Washington the same year singer Anita Bryant began her "Save Our Children" crusade against such protections.

The House quickly concurred by a 61-37 vote, and Gov. Chris Gregoire said she planned to sign the bill into law Tuesday.
This is a great day for Washington and, in fact, the bill passed because a Republican Senator pulled his head out of his ass changed his mind, and voted for the legislation. Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, said "People don't choose this. We don't choose who we love, the heart chooses who we love... I don't believe that it is right... to say that it's acceptable to discriminate against people because of that, because of who their heart chooses to love. I can not (sic) stand with that argument."

If only the rest of his Republican brethren and cistern realized that this is what the issue is. There's no difference between gay rights legislation now and civil rights legislation in the 60s. The idea is to end discrimination against people for what they were born with -- gender, race, sexual orientation. That's all that this law is about. (Imagine the outcry if, say, an apartment owner refused to rent to a tenant who was born blind.)

This is what conservatives don't get -- or perhaps, because of internalized homophobia, pretend not to get. And so we get lame, stupid arguments from the crowd that voted against the bill. See if you can wrap your brain around the tortured logic from Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester.
"(D)iscrimination against anyone (is) unacceptable, and it's is wrong... Unfortunately the bill before us today is not the magic tool that will end discrimination in our state... In reality it takes us in the opposite direction... The bill would trample religious freedom for those who believe homosexuality is wrong... (emphasis added)
Sticking his foot further down his throat, he added, "The passage of this legislation puts us on a slippery slope towards gay marriage... The two are linked...are any of us naive enough to think the court won't take notice?"

So... discrimination is always wrong, unless I'm prejudiced against a certain group of people, that what you're saying, Danny?

Re-read that bit in italics. We can't give rights to a particular class because people who hold a certain opinion don't like it. Let's go back in time forty years and rephrase Swecker a little bit. "The bill would trample religious freedom for those who believe colored people are animals." If that statement seems hyperbolic, I can point you to at least two American religions that do believe white people are superior, and everyone else is inferior, 'cause god said so.

How, exactly does this bill directly discriminate against bigots who blame their religion? Hm. I'm not sure. It only prohibits discrimination in housing, lending and employment. So, if you've got a church and you don't allow homosexuals to join, you're not breaking the law. And, given the separation of church and state, if you're renting, loaning or hiring, those practices within the public sphere shouldn't be impacted by your religion. For two of them -- renting and hiring -- there are obvious ways around the law. Want to avoid renting to gays or lesbians without discriminating against them? Then stick the notice up on your church bulletin board, only consider your fellow parishoners. As for lending -- if you're a banker and try to drag religion into things ("I'm sorry, Mr. Greenblatt, we don't lend money to Jews"), you'll run afoul of more than just Washington state law.

As for this law leading to gay marriage -- we can only hope so. Some day (if not deep down already) the vast majority of Americans will realize that it really doesn't affect them one way or another who's allowed to marry whom. And if the average American really thought that marriage was some great sacred institution, our divorce rate wouldn't be on the north side of fifty percent.

But maybe it is time to start discriminating against religion -- at least fundamentally insane religions. Or insanely fundamentalist. They've certainly earned the right to be ignored and ridiculed. And we really need to bitchslap legislators who base their lawmaking on fairytales instead of, um, y'know -- the law. To wit, this comment from Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard -- whose daughter happens to be, um, you know... a lesbian. "I believe homosexuality is morally wrong," Oke said. "The Bible is very clear on this."

Might want to reread your bible, buddy boy. First, it's actually a muddle on homosexuality. Second, if you accept the Jesus thing, you gotta throw out the Old Testament laws, 'cause Jesus said so. Third, if you don't... well, remember this brilliant scene from The West Wing
BARTLET: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I wanted to sell my youngest daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown Sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be...? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGary, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that’s really important, because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?
Think about those questions and ask yourself this. Americans both left and right were united around the idea that the Taliban in Afghanistan had to go.

When will we come to our senses and do the same with the American Taliban?

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