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Thursday, August 25, 2016

On why the middle ground is disappearing

A few days ago, I ran across an article entitled "On LGBT equality, middle ground is disappearing".  The title is pretty self-explanatory.  The author examines the idea of LGBT equality and how it has become very polarized.  I know, from my perspective, the answer is pretty simple: the reactionary, homophobic right-wing conservatives eradicated any chance of a middle ground when they made the whole thing about religion and their faux "religious liberty".

For a long time, a lot people were willing to accept small, incremental steps towards equality, reasoning that it was better to work slowly and ensure gains.  Then came the Tea Party and the sudden rightward lurch of the Republican Party which was accompanied by ideological purity tests that ran moderate Republicans out of the party and ensured that no Republican would support anything outside of the narrow range of issues espoused by the adherents to the Tea Party.  I know this is the case because I was one of the people driven out at this time,  See my posts "On Leaving the Republican Party", "What is a RINO and how do we recognize one", or "My 2012 Election Post" (among others) for some more about that.

Then came the complete and utter nonsensical decision that is Hobby Lobby where the Supreme Court upended the well understood meaning of rights and religious liberty to assert that a certain type of company had the right to religious freedom which means that the company can encroach on the rights of its employees.  Historically, it has been recognized that one person's rights cannot be used to limit another person's rights as demonstrated by the phrase "Your rights end where my nose begins."  In other words, the Supreme Court said that a closely held company had to follow the religious beliefs of its owners and that people could have their rights (in this case access to contraception) limited.  This idea astounded and flummoxed constitutional scholars because, like Heller, the case turned ultra-conservative ideology into constitutional law.  In both cases, the so-called "originalist" justices who claimed that they would abide by the law and not their personal beliefs (in fact they argued that personal beliefs had no place in a Supreme Court decision!) used their personal political preferences to make new law.  This decision alerted people that the court could very well be activist in an alarming way, rolling back 50+ years of progress toward equality.

Then came Ogerbefell, which made same-sex marriage legal throughout the US.  This really set the reactionary right into a tailspin and set off what I see as the ultimate polarization.  The right immediately did everything they could do in order to stop gays and lesbians from getting married.  The denunciations they thundered out would have made you think that the world was coming to an end.  People like Kim Davis and Roy Moore (and oh, so many more) came crawling out of the woodwork to do what they could to hinder same-sex marriage in much the same way Governor Orval Faubus tried to hinder the integration of Little Rock High.  Kim Davis claimed that her "religious liberty" took precedence over the right to get married.  While the law has recognized for some time that there are times when government employees must set aside their personal religious ideals in order to do their jobs.  Kim Davis tried to assert the claim that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples somehow infringed on her religious beliefs (an utterly ridiculous and groundless claim) because the act of signing the certificate somehow indicated that she supported the marriage.  The problem is that no signature on an official form means that.  All the signature on the license means is that they person (or persons) involved have fulfilled all of the requirements to get that license.  Fortunately, court after court recognized her claims as groundless and dismissed them.

Then there is Roy Moore in Alabama who told the judges in the state that the Supreme Court decision in Ogerbefell didn't actually overturn all of the state laws, which is completely ridiculous.  Moore is famous for putting up the 10 Commandments and then refusing to remove them, so he was removed from the bench.  Both Moore and Davis were represented by the hate group, Liberty Counsel.  The group has dedicated itself (without much success) to ensuring that people would retain the right to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people.  Because the reactionary right has consistently tried to frame this as a religious issue where there can be no compromise, people who might have supported a compromise (myself included) have been driven away from that position.  After all, why should we continue to try and find a compromise when every one that is proposed ends up being refused?

Want more?  Look at all of the so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that have been promoted in states across the US and HB2; a blatantly discriminatory anti-trans piece of legislation; in North Carolina.  Or look at how people have tried to make it seem like everyone who is trans is somehow a predator and that giving trans women access to the correct bathroom will somehow lead to more sexual assaults.  Or look at the promotion of the hate-mongers Paul McHugh or Ryan Anderson (among others).  Every step of the way, the homophobic, reactionary right has cast this debate in apocalyptic terms that shows that (in their mind) it is impossible to compromise.  This attitude has driven a lot of people who wanted to find a middle ground away from them.

Want to know why the middle ground is disappearing?  Just look at the reactionary right for the reason.