Maureen Walsh on Marriage Equality in Washington State

13 02 2012

At 11:30 a.m. on Monday morning, 13 February 2012, as the raindrops slide down the sides of Seattle’s skyscrapers, Washington state is expected to legalise same-sex marriage when Governor Christine Gregoire signs into law a bill passed by the state Legislature. The fight for equality in Washington has been an incremental one, starting with an anti-discrimination law (2006) and moving on to a domestic partnership law (2007), which was later expanded and approved by voters (2009), until the Legislature finally passed the marriage equality bill (2012). Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle, an openly gay man, has played an instrumental role in the process, having spent the last few years sponsoring bills to expand gay rights. But what do impassioned lawmakers have to say?

The struggle to pass the marriage equality bill has been anything but perfunctory. Thanks to the Internet and social networking, people around the world have had the chance to witness the powerful, heartfelt speeches given by Washington lawmakers who support the bill. Interestingly, some of those lawmakers are Republicans, showing that compassion for devoted same-sex couples crosses party lines and touches on core humanist principles. I think we should all acknowledge this basic common-sense empathy when it pops up in Republicans. Maureen Walsh, a Republican representative for Washington’s 16th District of Walla Walla (where yours truly happens to have some super-conservative religious relatives) proved for me that empathy crosses party lines:

This was an inspiring speech, and it’s no wonder it has more than a few Youtube commenters a little bit verklempt. But what we should note is how Walsh touches on the argumentum ad populum of gay marriage opponents, which states that a thing is good just because it is popular. She bravely and passionately communicates that a belief is good not because it is popular, but because it makes people happy. And she holds her fellow lawmakers accountable for making a rational, fair-minded decision (the way Thomas Jefferson would). Her message wouldn’t have had the same clout, though, had she not made it personal and intimate by recounting her relationship with her lesbian daughter, who, as she recalls, used to stand up for bullied children on the playground. She tells her fellow legislators,

My daughter stood up for that kid, [and] even though it wasn’t the popular thing to do, she knew it was the right thing to do. And I was never more proud of my kid than knowing she was speaking against the vocal majority on behalf of the rights of the minority. And to me, it is incumbent upon us as legislators in this state to do that. That is why we are here. And I shudder to think that if folks who have preceded us in history [had not done] that—frankly, I’m not sure I would be here as a woman. I’m not sure that other people would be here due to their race or their creed, and to me that is what’s disconcerting.

Walsh is right. A thing is not right just because it is popular; it is right because it is reasonable, and it takes a principled leader to stand up and say, “this is right, and here are the reasons why”. Would we have abolished slavery had it been put up to a popular vote? Probably not. Would we have approved women’s suffrage had it been put up to a popular vote? Probably not. Neither decision was decided by a popular public vote. There are reasons why we have lawmakers brooding over the rights of minority groups. They take it seriously.

Marriage equality has triumphed in Washington state in part because of people like Maureen Walsh, who, despite her Republican status, believes that every loyal couple deserves the equal protection of the law. Hopefully this will be expanded to include the rest of the United States and, eventually, the rest of the world. To facilitate this effort, what we shoud be doing is proving to people who are still sitting on the fence why gays and lesbians deserve these rights, and we can do this by breaking down fallacies like the appeal to popularity, the appeal to nature, the slippery slope argument, the “special rights” argument, the “homosexuality is a choice” argument, the “homosexuality is condemned in the Bible” argument, and others (many of which I refute in my blog entry “8 Reasons Why Homophobia Makes No Sense“). However, we also need to complement our appeal to reason with anecdotes about the legal and personal struggles of individual gay and lesbian couples. We need to appeal to both justice and mercy. That will change both hearts and minds.

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Ew! Faggots!

30 11 2010

It’s hilarious how pathetically hare-brained and schizophrenic Americans can be about anybody who doesn’t poke the right hole–if any hole at all. No matter what rationale you throw at them, they’ll always find something to come back at you with–demise is a slippery slope for the rabid bigot.

The Pentagon recently released a report stating that 70% of U.S. military personnel and their spouses believe allowing gays to serve openly in the United States military would be beneficial, would make no difference, or would pose only a negligible risk. Finally, once and for all, the Pentagon accedes to the body of scholarly research presented by the American Psychological Association which reflects a consensus that gays aren’t bad for the military:

1) Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention (Belkin, 2003; Belkin & Bateman, 2003; Herek, Jobe, & Carney, 1996; MacCoun, 1996; National Defense Research Institute, 1993).

2) Comparative data from foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments show that when lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly there is no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness (Belkin & McNichol, 2000–2001; Gade, Segal, & Johnson, 1996; Koegel, 1996).

3) When openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces (Cammermeyer v. Aspin, 1994; Watkins v. United States Army, 1989/1990), there has been no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness.

4) The U.S. military is capable of integrating members of groups historically excluded from its ranks, as demonstrated by its success in reducing both racial and gender discrimination (Binkin & Bach, 1977; Binkin, Eitelberg, Schexnider, & Smith, 1982; Kauth & Landis, 1996; Landis, Hope, & Day, 1984; Thomas & Thomas, 1996).

But, really, who cares what those scrupulous, scientific-minded experts think? They’re only experts, after all. I mean, who do they think they are, telling us about things which we know nothing about, and which they know scores more about? By no means is it a form of reverse snobbery to downplay knowledge and glorify redneck anti-intellectualism. Oh, no.

I think it’s pretty clear among rational people that DADT is a ridiculous relic of a benighted past, and that the United States is an embarrassment to other industrialized nations for preserving a policy (in several Courts of Appeal) which even Israel long ago threw out. Yes. Israel–where people get bombed in the street and drag queens get abducted by their families and beaten black and blue by their male relatives for three days straight before they are able to escape and call the authorities. However, the type of fascism hatched by 19th-century thinkers such as Hegel and mastered by 20th-century drones such as Germany’s National Socialists is adept at pulling virtually any chimera out of its butthole. The usurious Jews are the cause of our economic inflation and poverty, not the reparations due France as stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles. It is the homosexuals who threaten our unit cohesion, not a recalcitrant or belligerent attitude. Besides, it’s not as though homosexuals spend their lives conforming in order to survive.

You see, truth and reason are less palatable when one’s appetite is better sated by the raucous noise of charismatic crying and the saccharine bray of teary-eyed sophistries.

The argument supporting DADT can be said to take one or more of the following forms, and these are just as easily disproved in the accompanying textual interpolations. (Shockingly, all of the following arguments were also provided me by a homosexual servicemember, who appeared almost schizophrenically self-defeating about his sexuality.)

1) “Most military personnel do not wish for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military”.

Yes they do. The Pentagon report provided above indicates that most personnel and their spouses either do think gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, or they don’t care. Besides, military authorities are not obliged to seek the permission of their subordinates when making policy. For example, drill sergeants do not ask their subordinates, “Do you want to do a push-up?”, let alone, “Do you want to work alongside women and black people?”

2) “Gay people shouldn’t be professing their sexuality in the military anyway. The military is about conformity–everybody is the same whether they are male or female, black or white, or gay or straight.”

First, gays do not have to profess their sexuality to be kicked out of the military for it. We already know that military authorities consciously seek out homosexuals by conducting investigations into the private lives of suspected cock-gobblers (which effectively violates the terms of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell anyway by “asking”).

Second, if a person’s sexuality doesn’t matter in the military because everyone is treated as the same anyway, then it shouldn’t matter to military authorities whether a person is openly gay. By simply stating that sexuality is irrelevant in the military, one only contradicts one’s own anti-gay position by admitting that it doesn’t matter.

Third, homosexuals are masters of disguise–they have to do it to survive.

Fourth, even if homosexuality were a choice, so is religious faith, yet one could not expel a servicemember for openly professing a religious faith, thus, just as one would be unable to expel a servicemember for professing a religious faith,  one would be unable to expel a servicemember for professing a sexual preference. They would both be choices, and both would be professed, no?

3) “Americans are different from Europeans, Canadians, Israelis, etc., so they shouldn’t be expected to follow the same ethic of equality.”

This is perhaps the stupidest argument I have ever encountered in support of DADT. This argument consists of an informal logical fallacy of the following type: “A is different from B, therefore A should not be like B”. This is a fallacy because it is a non sequitur. If A is different from B, it does not follow that A shouldn’t be like B, because the term “is different” does not equate with “should be different”. That Americans do not value equality as much as, say, the French does not mean that Americans shouldn’t value equality as much as the French. Indeed, if anything, the whole body of thought and reasoning supporting the principle of social equality suggests that Americans should emulate the Europeans, Canadians, etc.

Besides, if Americans are less tolerant than Canadians and western Europeans, don’t you think the problem is with the intolerance itself, and not the attempts to eradicate it? Re-affirming the military’s endemic prejudice rather than nipping the problem in the bud and holding the military accountable is kind of like dealing with bullying by telling the victim of the bullying to be less of a sissy rather than telling the bully to stop bullying. The bullying victim should be allowed to be a sissy without being bullied for it; similarly, homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military without being kicked out for it. So don’t punish the homosexual for preferring members of the same sex–punish the homophobe for being homophobic. And, no, they aren’t allowed to use “religious freedom” as an excuse for their behaviour any more than they would be allowed to use “religious freedom” to excuse slavery or stoning adulteresses to death, for we know that such “freedoms” also constitute grave violations of freedom.

Compare the above image from a 2001 (really, it’s from 2001) anti-homosexual military manual (called Dignity and Respect) with the 1950s anti-homosexual propaganda at the beginning of this post. What I want to know is, where is the poster on appropriate heterosexual conduct? What about assaults against women, which are probably a bigger problem? (It’s probably out there–but is it pegged as a “heterosexual” threat?) Apparently, in the eyes of the military, homosexuals are more sexually “disrespectful” than heterosexuals, even though the vast majority of rapists are heterosexual males. All gay men want to do is suck each other’s dicks and have some neat butt-sex. Hardly a threat to women. If the military viewed heterosexuals as being every bit as capable of sexual misconduct as homosexuals, there would be no need to publish content geared specifically towards homosexual misconduct. Once again, we see how easy it is for individuals possessing below-average IQs to confuse the concept of “homosexuality” with that of “sexual perversion”.

Maybe the intent of that particular page in the manual was to say, “Look, we have to kick them out for being gay, but we have to show them dignity and respect in doing so.” But that is like asking a death-row inmate what flavour of ice-cream they would like for their last meal. How is it showing a person dignity and respect by kicking them out of the military for being gay? Discharging an individual in a “respectful” manner doesn’t change the fact that the action of the discharge itself is still demeaning, so trying to be nice about the way you do something mean is just pretentious and contradictory.

I just don’t understand why this is such a big hairy deal for a country that constantly brags, day in and day out–and they won’t let you tell them otherwise, or you’ll be pegged as unpatriotic–that it is “the best country on earth” or the “land of the free” or “blessed” by God (what a joke). First, if God is to bless America, it is because it needs it, not because it deserves it, given how much it has lagged behind other countries in terms of human rights and standard of living; second, it isn’t the “land of the free” when citizens aren’t free to serve in the military because they’re attracted to people of the same sex (or marry each other for that matter); third, it isn’t the best country on earth. It might have been in, like, 1781, but now that honour probably belongs to Sweden or Finland. If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. And that means getting over your irrational, childish fear of two men licking each other or two women caressing each other’s breasts, looking at the evidence (which overwhelmingly supports repeal), and doing what other countries have done, because the title “God’s Gift to Earth” isn’t heritable–you have to earn it (and even then, you’d still sound like a vainglorious douchebag). You have to take your head out of your arschloch, admit you have mistakes, take others as examples, and change yourself accordingly before you will deserve that title.