Saturday, November 7, 2015

Because it worked

News from last Tuesday's election

Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, Tea Party darlings, were expelled by the Michigan House in September for bizarre scheme that included extortion to cover up adultery. Both ran for the seats they were just thrown out of. Gamrat got 9% of the vote in her district, Courser got 4% in his. Bye!

Jackie Biskupski, lesbian, beat out the incumbent the become mayor of – Salt Lake City. Derek Kitchen was a lead plaintiff in the case that challenged the same-sex marriage ban in Utah. They won in December 2013, though the ruling was stayed until the Supremes refused to hear the case 10 months later. Kitchen has now been elected to the Salk Lake City Council.

Matt Bevin, Republican, won the race for governor of Kentucky. He beat out one of our allies, AG Jack Conway who had refused to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Bevin replaced another ally, Steve Beshear, who declared marriage licenses legal when Kim Davis tried to make them invalid. Bevin did it by linking the decline of coal in Kentucky to Obama and by being best buds with Davis. So, the first order of business for Bevin? Kynect was one of the more successful state exchanges created under Obama's Affordable Care Act. It brought health insurance to lots (millions?) of people in the state. Bevin says the state can't afford it. Sounds like a lot of other GOP governors. So, yeah, Bevin convinced the poor of the state (and it is poor people in coal country) to vote against their own medical and economic interests.

HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was defeated by 61%. This was the local ordinance that would have given the nation's 4th largest city protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. It also specified how complaints were to be handled, which would be important even if there were state and national anti-discrimination laws (which there aren't).

The opposition to the bill was quite effective in rebranding the bill as allowing men to come into women's bathrooms and molest them. That is the only thing mentioned in their ads. Never mind that there is much more to the bill than transgender rights. Never mind that there are already laws to punish those who molest women. Never mind that there are no documented cases of men entering women's bathrooms to molest them. All irrelevant. The anti-gay crowd will continue to pursue the "bathroom panic" idea as more cities and states try to pass anti-discrimination laws to protect us, and they'll do it because it worked.

And until we figure out to combat that idea, it will work again and again.

On the way home from working at my Dad's house on Thursday evening I listened to On Point on Michigan Radio. The hour was a discussion of HERO's failure. I didn't listen to the whole thing because I became quite annoyed with guest Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (a name I'm sure is intentionally vague about its political goals). He kept pushing a "compromise" – make sure there are family or genderless bathrooms available for the transgender people. He refuses to see how demeaning that is. Besides, not every building has a genderless bathroom. The other two guests on the show did provide good background and insight. Part of what they (and other news sources) said is that those promoting HERO didn't address the one thing their opponents said, didn't talk about the economic benefits of the ordinance, brought in outsiders (Hillary, Sally Field) to give a limp endorsement in a city and state that doesn't like to be told what to do, and didn't put in the work of a grassroots campaign that reached into the black and Latino neighborhoods.

I mentioned a few reasons why the bathroom panic idea is not logical. Dan Savage has another. Because our opponents insist a transgender woman is a man in a dress, they're really talking about straight men. And apparently these straight men can't get enough images of women washing hands, in spite of the vast resources of the internet. "So the haters won yesterday by convincing a majority of voters in Houston that straight people suck."

I mentioned our opponents will use bathroom panic many more times. Yeah, there are lots of cities and states that want to pass LGBT protections, because Congress has no intention of doing it at the federal level any time soon. And bathroom panic will be used in each of these battles.

But, according the Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast, the real battle will be the 227 city ordinances providing more protections for us than their state laws do. These are the blue dots in red states – Austin, Boise, Cincinnati, Key West, Laramie, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and so on. I could mention a few in Michigan: Ann Arbor, East Lansing, and about 30 others. This is where the bathroom panic will be used. Again and again. Until we figure out how to neutralize it.

There is hope. We figured out how to neutralize the nasty arguments around same-sex marriage and started winning in places like Maine and Minnesota.

After the defeat of HERO Texas Governor Greg Abbot (R) said "Voters in Houston showed values still matter..." That sent Melissa McEwan of Shakesville into writing a stirring rebuttal. "I have values too." Everybody has values. So enough about claiming that because you have values, yours are the only ones that exist. Better to look at the quality of those values.

Here's some of McEwen's values: Safety of queer and trans people. Equality and justice for marginalized people. Separation of church and state. Science being taught in schools. Universal healthcare. A robust social safety net. And a faith in humankind, even if that faith is frequently not borne out.

As for that last one McEwen notes that many religious people have a faith in God, but not in humans. When that is the case they want to legislate morality because they don't have faith that people will make good decisions – they don't even have faith in themselves.

So enough of this talk of values – which is usually a cloak for bigotry.

I'm now getting a bit beyond the original idea of this post. But McEwen linked to one of her posts from 2011 and that has some interesting and related ideas. This was written after a GOP debate leading up to the 2012 election. In that debate Newt Gingrich (remember him?) explicitly linked moral judgment with faith in God.

McEwen soundly rejects that idea and uses her own life journey as an example. Her big complaint with her former religion is that it was very good in teaching her how to believe in God. But it told her nothing good about how to relate to other humans. And taught her lots of things she now sees as bad.

Her religion had taught her to categorize people – sinners, saints – us, them. It talked about loving one another, but didn't talk about how to recover when she had hurt someone. It said God's forgiveness was enough, but didn't teach how to be reconciled to someone else.

Things she learned after giving up religion: how to apologize, accept criticism, make amends, examine privilege, and avoid being judgmental. To have compassion and create connection. She's definitely a values voter.

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