Understanding Gay Rights Anger: On Low Hanging Fruit

There is this perception amongst those who wish to act favor the Democratic Party leader that the gay rights debate is solely about wealthy white gay men who are impatient or want to assimilate. This stereotypes ignores the reality.

First, let me start by pointing out what this is really about. This is about a checklist of things that the Democrats said they were going to do once in office, and many of which, have not been done. Many of them are fairly easy to do, but are, nevertheless, not being done.

This issue is not simply, therefore, about marriage equality or Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Although, to me, all is the same on the front of these issues because they are all at base about animus toward gay people.

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Gay Rights ver. 2009

Yesterday held important votes for gay rights--a true bellwether of social progress in our nation.  While it was a mixed night, a larger view says we are on the path toward greater social justice.  So, the results (with a positive spin):

  1.  nearly half of Maine voters approved gay MARRIAGE
  2.  WA voters appear to have approved strong domestic partnership benefits
  3.  over 60% of voter in Kalamazoo, MI supported an anti-discrimination ordinance

Imagine reading these headlines 10 years ago?  Remember that it took 70 years for women to get the right to vote--from Seneca Falls (1848) to 19th Amendment (1920).  So, albeit not as fully or as quickly as GLBT Americans deserve, progress is happening.

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Kalamazoo Voters Overwhelmingly Support GLBT Rights

It's not as contentious an issue as marriage equality, but the good guys (and gals) won the battle for an anti-discrimination policy in Kalamazoo, MI.

Final vote tallies:
YES: 7671
NO: 4731

I haven't crunched the turnout numbers, but at a glance it looks to be around 10-15% higher than normal in an odd-year election. For details, please dig:

http://www.electionmagic.com/results/mi/ K39results/K3900104007.htm

Update [2009-11-4 18:49:10 by lucky monkey]: Turnout in Kalamazoo was 12,572 -- 148% of cast ballots in 2007, which was 8,489. This translates to approximately 23% of the total number of registered voters (55,351) for 2009. Turnout in 2007 was approximately 16.6% (out of 50,969 registered voters).

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[UPDATED] Homophobic Murder in Tel Aviv

A different kind of terrorist atrocity hit Tel Aviv Saturday night. In Israel's most liberal and gay-friendly city, and also by some measures its largest, a gunman dressed in black entered the basement room of a gay and lesbian center where a support group of young people, ages 14-21, was meeting with facilitators.  He pulled a pistol and opened fire.  Nir Katz, 26, one of the facilitators, and Liz Troubishi, 17, were murdered.  15 others were injured, 10 hospitalized, 2 in critical condition.  The gunman remains at large.  A variety of articles provide more information at www.haaretz.com, including condemnations by both Netanyahu and Livni, leaders of the two largest political parties, and background that reveals this as a radical escalation of anti-gay violence here.    

Most assume that the perpetrator acted with a religious motive.  And indeed, the ultra-orthodox have become more actively hateful in recent years.  What I find astonishing about this is that despite the widely interpreted biblical prohibition on male-male anal sex, Rabbinic Judaism actually contains a legal mechanism that would not just enable, but mandate acceptance of homosexuality.  According to a principle called pikuah nefesh, any commandment, excluding prohibitions on murder, idolatry, and adultery, is superseded if a human life is potentially at stake.  Given what we know about the relationship between the closet--self-imposed and as a function of overt social repression--and suicide and murder, it seems to me that this biblical prohibition, which does not even hold for all gays or for any lesbians, should be considered null and void.  

Such a principle of reverence for human life, pikuah nefesh should guide the ethos of a state that calls itself "Jewish." Instead, it has been relegated to a parodic flexibility and inconsistency by those who claim to be the standard bearers of Torah Judaism.  Steven Spielberg's holo-kitch flick, Schindler's List, at least popularized the Talmudic maxim that one who saves a single life is like one who has saved a universe entire.  Following the concept that all humans are created in God's image found in the creations myths in Genesis, Rabbinic Judaism has always considered murder to be the gravest desecration of God's holy name.

Demonstrations have been announced.  I would love to see hate crimes legislation brought to the floor of the Knesset, if only to force the leaders of religious parties to take public responsibility for the incitement that has destroyed the young lives of Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi and so hideously and blasphemously desecrated the holy name of the God they claim to represent.

Update [2009-8-4 2:45:9 by Strummerson]: No, they haven't caught the murderer yet.  But this response from Yoel Marcus sums up much of what I tried to say here and places it effectively in both a historical and broader social context.

The bloodbath in a gay-lesbian club, shocking and upsetting though it was, is merely a part, or perhaps a result, of the general violence into which this country is descending. Hatred or intolerance for others' opinions leads to them dying by violence. There is a chilling similarity between what happened on Nahmani Street in Tel Aviv and what Yigal Amir did years ago.


For generations, Jews were considered a people that sanctified nonviolence in interhuman relations and lived by the the "law of the land." Our ancestors relied on God, but the modern-day Orthodox place less reliance on Him; they have fewer expectations of their prayers being answered. Instead - and it makes no difference whether we are talking about the Zionist ultra-Orthodox people from the illegal West Bank outposts or the non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox ones from the Mea She'arim outpost - they do exactly as they please. A time traveler from the past would ask himself: These are Jews? http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1105067.html

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El Paso is for lovers, unless you're gay

Even with all the progress we've made, it's sometimes shocking and disheartening how far we have to go.

In Texas, two gay men were thrown out of a restaurant for kissing. Straight couples kiss in restaurants all the time, and people either don't notice or think it's cute or charming.

Unfortunately for the men and their three friends, All American International Security guards on duty at the restaurant did not find it charming. The guards told all five men to leave the restaurant, and harassed them with hateful slurs while the men waited for the police to arrive to clear up the problem.

They were smart to call the police, since the El Paso City Council approved an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses which serve the general public. So it's pretty straightforward -- they call the cops, the cops enforce the city ordinance, the security guards look like jerks and that's the end. Right?

Not quite. When the police arrived, they told the couple and their friends that they could be cited for "homosexual conduct" -- a law that was determined to be unconstitutional in 2003.

This kind of hateful intolerance for fellow human beings -- not to mention flagrant disregard for the law -- is absolutely unacceptable. We cannot let this slip by unnoticed. If we don't demand higher standards from law enforcement and this private security company, this behavior will persist.

You can send an email to CEO of All American International Security here, asking them to fire the guards involved in this incident. You can email the Mayor of El Paso here, asking him to conduct a full investigation into the El Paso Police Department's disregard for city ordinances designed to prevent discrimination.

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