Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for July, 2011

Vermont Inn No Longer Hosting Weddings

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2011

The Wildflower Inn, which is being sued for violations to Vermont’s equal accommodations law after refusing to host a wedding reception for a lesbian couple, has updated their web page. Right after the banner advertising that “The beautiful Northeast Kingdom is the perfectly place to host your meeting, conference, wedding or special event,” they add, “We are no longer hosting weddings and special events.”

Iowa’s NAACP president: civil rights for me, but not for thee

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2011

Rev. Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, is the president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP. He’s also an anti-gay activist who takes his opposition to gay equality so seriously that in last year’s gubernatorial election he endorsed Republican Bob Vander Plaats, who made opposition to equality his signature position.

Ratlif had a few choice things to say this week to a rally organized by Vander Plaats to stir up anti-gay sentiment. (Iowa Independent)

“For the few victories that the gay community is claiming,” Ratliff said, “they have won it mostly based on the hijacking of them trying to parallel themselves on the backs of the civil rights movement, here in America.”

He said their is “no parallel” of what an “insult” it was for them to compare themselves with the civil rights movement.

Ratliff, of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, said not being able to marry a person of the same gender was no where near what it’s like to be denied service in a restaurant or hotel for the color of their skin.

How sad that Ratliff has been subjected to the insult of gay people thinking that they were equal to him. But while it may make me seem uppity, perhaps Mr. Ratliff needs a history lesson.

You see it was in 1965 that the state of Iowa banned racial discrimination in service at restaurants and hotels, but it was perfectly legal to deny gay people those exact same services until four years ago.

And there are more than a few readers who could give personal testimony to experiencing exactly the same treatment to which Ratliff thinks there is “no parallel.” Except they had no recourse. It was perfectly legal.

I don’t pretend that racial discrimination is identical to anti-gay discrimination. There are differences and subtleties that are better discussed by those who have experienced both and I’ve heard good argument why either was painful than the other. Nor do I deceive myself into thinking that racism ended in Iowa in 1965. However, I do know that civil rights are those to which each person is entitled from their government without arbitrary denial and that discrimination is ugly and cruel.

And I know that anti-gay bigotry looks just like all other bigotry: the smirk which says that the most despicable and characterless of the “acceptable” race or gender or religion or orientation will always be better than you based on a scale that has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with unearned presumptions of superiority.

Yet while it is foolish and pointless to pit victims of bigotry against each other as though injustice and indignity against one is acceptable because someone else ‘had it worse’, if Ratliff’s wants to compete in the Oppression Olympics on “not being able to marry” and “being denied service in a restaurant or hotel” then he loses and the gay community takes gold. In our lifetime, we’ve known both.

Palm Springs police entrapment victims choose not to plead guilty

Timothy Kincaid

January 21st, 2011

The victims of a police sting involving homophobic slurs and entrapment techniques have rejected an offer by the Riverside County District Attorney (Desert Sun)

During Thursday’s hearing, the district attorney’s office proposed a plea agreement that would have dropped the lifetime sex offender registration requirement if the defendants pleaded guilty.

They opted, instead, to move forward with their motion to dismiss the charges.

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Earl Lee Roberts called the defense decision “ironic.”

“They’ve been screaming about (being listed as sex offenders) all along, and now we’ve offered to settle this for less than sexual registration and they want to keep going. I think that’s kind of ironic,” Roberts said.

I guess Roberts thinks that the “filthy mother-f*ckers” should be delighted that they will only have to pay a fine and have a crime on their record. But instead they are rejecting the DA’s position that “the Palm Springs Police Department did nothing wrong” when they set about to entrap gay men and wink at heterosexuals for the same conduct.

Roberts is vowing to make a show pony out of the case, bringing in witnesses to, undoubtedly, argue how disgusting the gays are. To me, this seems like a foolish plan. The judge is already troubled by the Police Chief’s homophobic comments, and isn’t likely to be amused by such efforts.

Perhaps it’s time for newly elected DA Zellerbach to step in. If this situation goes much further in this direction, he may find himself the target of an angry citizenry.

The cost of discrimination

Timothy Kincaid

January 21st, 2011

One of the claims made by some of those who oppose non-discrimination policies for ideological (rather than bigoted) reasons is that it’s a free market issue. Those who are so foolish as to discriminate lose out on the best and brightest and in the long run cannot compete in the marketplace against those who hire and promote based on ability.

They are, of course, at least partly right. A realistic look at civil rights advances in this country must recognize that while the moral arguments and civil protections were of monumental value, the need to compete for a skilled and loyal workforce also significantly contributed to the breakdown of color barriers.

Discrimination is an expensive luxury and in this economy it’s one that few can afford. Unless, of course, you have a monopoly or are a governmental institution like the military. Then you can spend anything you like to shore up the foolishness of firing gay translators during a shortage or sending the “soldier of the year” packing.

But discrimination still has a cost. And, as it turns out, not a cheap one. (Stars and Stripes)

Enforcing the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law cost the Defense Department nearly $200 million in administrative, recruiting and retraining costs over six years, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

According to the report, the majority of the expense came from recruiting replacements and retraining the new troops. More than a third of the discharged troops held “skills in critical occupations.” That included 23 language experts, whose training included years of language proficiency work prior to their dismissal.

But GAO researchers also estimated that the ban on openly gay troops also cost almost $8 million in administrative expenses. That includes legal work, commanders’ inquiries, pastoral counseling of servicemembers, and processing of separation paperwork.

Well, now, reversing DADT was a tremendous cost-cutting measure; Republicans and other fiscal conservatives should be delighted.

Most won’t be. They’ll bluster and argue and dispute the figures. Just like bigots who refuse to believe that employing only good ol’ boys is bad for the bottom line.

Gay kids punished more harshly

Timothy Kincaid

December 6th, 2010

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health spent years gathering information about youth. And, as a part, they looked at gay youth and how they fare. Interestingly, they found that gay kids are punished more severely than heterosexual kids for the same infractions. (WaPo)

The results showed that, for similar misconduct, gay adolescents were roughly 1.25 to 3 times more likely to be sanctioned than their straight peers.

The greatest inequalities were with girls.

The sexual-orientation disparity was greatest for girls. Girls who identified themselves as lesbian or bisexual experienced 50 percent more police stops and reported more than twice as many juvenile arrests and convictions as other teen girls in similar trouble, the study said.

Colorado school forces gay marriage supporter to change her shirt

Timothy Kincaid

November 4th, 2010

Falcon High School in Falcon, Colorado, has a student dress code:

The Board recognizes that students have a right to express themselves through dress and personal appearance; however, students shall not wear apparel that is deemed disruptive or potentially disruptive to the classroom environment or to the maintenance of a safe and orderly school.

The school even provides specifics on forbidden clothing. The first five rules relate to revealing items, but the sixth category addresses expression:

6. Any clothing, paraphernalia, grooming, jewelry, hair coloring, accessories, or body adornments that are or contain any advertisement, symbols, words, slogans, patches, or pictures that:

* Refer to drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or weapons.

* Are of a sexual nature.

* By virtue of color, arrangement, trademark, or other attribute, denote membership in gangs that advocate drug use, violence, or disruptive behavior.

* Are obscene, profane, vulgar, lewd, or legally libelous.

* Threaten the safety or welfare of any person.

* Promote any activity prohibited by the student code of conduct.

* Create a safety hazard for the student or others.

*Otherwise disrupt the teaching-learning process.

These seem clear. However, when Kate Cohn wore a shirt to school which said “[marriage is so gay]“, the principle made her remove it, insisting it was in violation to the school policy. (KKTV)

“Our district does have a dress code policy, all the students are aware of it,” said District 49 spokesperson Stephanie Meredith. According to Meredith, the school’s principal acted within the parameters of the school dress code, which gives an administrator room to decide when a line has been crossed.

“If it’s obscene, lewd, or anything that might be disruptive to the educational environment,” Meredith said, “Those are things where a judgment call might come into play.”

Cohn’s pro-gay-marriage message is not obscene or lewd. Which must mean that Principal Greg Moles Mike Carara finds this message to “disrupt the teaching-learning process.”

I wonder exactly what teaching and learning Moles Carara doesn’t want disrupted by Cohn’s support for her gay friends and family.

Omaha World-Herald creates criteria to exclude same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2010

One of the favorite tactics for those who want to exclude based on a class is to come up with a justification – a seemingly non-biased criterion – to engage in discrimination while deflecting criticism. This exorcise allows the perpetrator to simultaneously feed their animus while claiming the mantle of decency and reasonableness.

Perhaps the most egregious examples of this were the “literacy tests” used to deny African Americans the right to vote. Blacks in the South weren’t denied the ability to vote due to skin color, you see, just ignorance. All justified and righteous. Except, of course, they weren’t applied fairly and were nothing more than a cover, an excuse, to give a pretense of reasonableness to blatant racism and violation of the 14th Amendment.

And while the civil rights movement ended race-based “literacy tests” in the 60′s, this way of thinking certainly lingers today. And we certainly see a lot of it directed towards gay people and same-sex couples.

One of the more common – and more stupid – arguments against marriage equality is a variation on the theme: “Everyone has the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex.”

This actually isn’t true (marriages in which one partner is gay are presumed to be fraudulent in a number of legal situations), but that’s beside the point. A rule which is designed to exclude based on specific attributes of the group excluded, is discriminatory on its face. As Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “a tax on yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.”

Now enter Terry Kroeger, the oh-so-clever publisher of the Omaha World-Herald.

Jeff and Heidi Wilke were delighted that their daughter was to be married and wanted their friends and neighbors to share in their joy. So they contacted the paper, only to be informed by Kroeger, the papers publisher, that he wouldn’t print same-sex wedding announcements.

The Wilke’s weren’t too pleased and so they used the power of the internet – and Facebook – to inform the world. I was but one of undoubtedly thousands who dropped Kroeger a little note expressing our disappointment.

So now Kroeger has back-tracked. He’s made an announcement which, at first glace, seems like he’s found social awareness and a conscience and is doing the right thing. In fact, the New York Times ran a headline Omaha Paper to Print Same-Sex Wedding Announcements in which Kroeger plays the martyr.

“What has transpired over recent days has included some reasoned discussions with us about our practices, but mostly it has been a stream of vitriol against The World-Herald,” said the publisher, Terry Kroeger. “This news organization is not guilty of hating gays and lesbians. Should we have seen this issue more clearly? Probably. Have we been too slow in reacting to this matter? Maybe. But hateful? Never.”

And yet the Wilke’s shouldn’t get too excited. Kroeger won’t be printing their announcement. Because the Omaha World-Herald has a new criteria, one designed to exclude most same-sex couples who would request notice in Omaha while pretending to be balanced and fair.

The “Celebrations” page of the Omaha World-Herald has provided a place to buy space to celebrate weddings, engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. It will continue to be just that. Celebrations announcements regarding legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage will be welcomed, regardless of the genders of the couple. We will not run announcements regarding commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions, again regardless of gender.

Some will criticize this action because they would prefer that same-sex announcements not appear in their newspaper. Others will say it doesn’t go far enough. Our sense is that this change will provide for a public “celebration” of important milestones in the lives of people who take the significant steps toward legally sanctioned marriage. Iowa and four other states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. We will publish Celebrations announcements of marriages from those jurisdictions.

You see, only marriage is an “important milestone” and in Omaha marriage is denied to same-sex couples. It isn’t that they are gay, you see, just not legally sanctioned. All justified and righteous. It isn’t Kroeger that is discriminatory, just the voters.

And because Kristin Wilke and Jessica Kitzman are going to wed in Minnesota instead of Iowa, well then his problem is solved. Kroeger can keep the lesbians out of his paper and give a pretense of reasonableness to justify his discrimination.

But sorry Omaha World-Herald. Sorry Terry Kroeger. You may have dodged the bullet today. But history will be no kinder to you that it is to all the others who came before you who have sought to justify their bias by bogus “tests.”

What the “Illinois professor fired for giving Catholic teaching on homosexuality” really said

Timothy Kincaid

July 12th, 2010

Dr. Kenneth Howell was fired by the University of Illinois when a student complained that Howell, who taught a course in Catholic theology, actually preached to his students instead of instructing them and made statements that consisted of hate-speech. Anti-gay activists are crying martyr.

The Catholic News Agency describes Howell’s comments this way:

Howell said he taught the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality. He summed it up by saying, “A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong.”

Gosh, that doesn’t seem so bad. That’s just a fact based statement about the teachings of the church, one that I or anyone else might make.

But – not to challenge the integrity of the good folk at the Catholic News Agency, of course – but in his email of instruction to all of his students, Howell also said a good deal more.

If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay. But notice too that if a ten year old agrees to a sexual act with a 40 year old, such an act would also be moral if even it is illegal under the current law. Notice too that our concern is with morality, not law. So by the consent criterion, we would have to admit certain cases as moral which we presently would not approve of. The case of the 10 and 40 year olds might be excluded by adding a modification like “informed consent.” Then as long as both parties agree with sufficient knowledge, the act would be morally okay. A little reflection would show, I think, that “informed consent” might be more difficult to apply in practice than in theory. But another problem would be where to draw the line between moral and immoral acts using only informed consent. For example, if a dog consents to engage in a sexual act with its human master, such an act would also be moral according to the consent criterion. If this impresses you as far-fetched, the point is not whether it might occur but by what criterion we could say that it is wrong. I don’t think that it would be wrong according to the consent criterion.

Interesting. I don’t think it is official Catholic theology to equate homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality. But, as a position of logic, that might not be beyond the pale.

But what else did he have to say?

But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. Consent is important but there is more than consent needed.

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the “woman” while the other acts as the “man.” In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don’t want to be too graphic so I won’t go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.

I know this doesn’t answer all the questions in many of your minds. All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don’t arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

Oh… so this isn’t just Catholic theory he was teaching. It was his own personal beliefs, not – he says – based on his religion, but universally observably true. Based on what he imagines a sexual relationship between two men to be and on what “a physician” told him (something he calls “extensive research into homosexuality”). And, as his students are “not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter,” they should just accept his own beliefs as their own.

I’ll let you decide whether you think that this was an offense worthy of firing.

CORRECTION:

Kenneth Howell was an Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies. He wasn’t fired but his contract was not renewed.

I’ll let you decide whether you think that this was an offense worthy of being denied a renewed contract.

NBC’s Today Show reverses: gay couples can enter marriage contest

Timothy Kincaid

July 8th, 2010

The ‘gotta be hetero‘ rules for Today Show’s “Modern Wedding” have been lifted.

From GLAAD

This afternoon NBC and the Today Show did just that. Following a meeting between GLAAD and NBC executives, NBC announced that after listening to community concerns it will open the contest to same-sex couples and extend the submission deadline until Monday, July 12. Couples now have until then to apply. Finalists will be announced later this year and the wedding takes place live on the Today Show this October.

NBC: no gay couples allowed

Timothy Kincaid

July 6th, 2010

NBC’s Today Show is hosting a wedding competition which it has titled “Modern Love,” but this competition is anything but modern.

The official eligibility requirements are:

Each applicant must: (1) be part of a couple submitting an application; (2) be at least twenty-one (21) years of age as of July 9th, 2010; (3) have become engaged to be married prior to July 9th, 2010; (4) be a permanent, legal resident of the United States and must have a valid United States passport; (5) not be subject to any travel restrictions and must agree to obtain the requisite immunizations (for the honeymoon), if necessary; (6) be of good moral character; (7) have never been convicted of a crime of any nature (other than moving violations of a misdemeanor type that did not involve personal injury, drugs or alcohol), and (8) have nothing in their background that would be an embarrassment to NBC News or TODAY (as determined by TODAY, in its sole discretion); and (9) not be an elected official or currently running for any political office (local, state or federal).

Oh, and it goes without saying, the couple must be heterosexual.

NBC provided the following fascinating justification for this policy to GLAAD:

“For the TODAY show wedding, the couple must be able to be legally married in New York, which is where the wedding will take place.”

Which has about the same validity as saying that Jews need not apply because they’re using a Catholic Church for the ceremony. If your venue is discriminatory, change the venue.

Or if they absolutely must be in New York, allow the couple to cross the border into Connecticut for a courthouse legality before performing the ceremony and celebration in New York, which would then recognize their out of state legal document. That could even be a fascinating bit of drama for NBC to illustrate the extra burden on gay couples in the Big Apple.

As GLAAD notes, NBC is not in the business of handing out marriage licenses. Their only role in the matter is to provide the ceremony, and that they could do for gay couples as easily as straight.

The Today Show is awarding a wedding celebration, not a marriage license. If a same-sex couple won the contest, producers and the winning couple could easily work together to ensure that the couple properly obtained and complied with the requirements of a marriage license in one of the license-conferring jurisdictions. The full wedding celebration would then take place on the Today Show.

NBC’s explanation rings hollow. A likelier reason is that NBC is afraid that homophobes would protest and call them liberal media activists. So they’ll just exclude gay people to avoid all of the hassle.

And besides, this is all about the celebration of heterosexual wedded bliss and who wants that marred by The Gays?

(hat tip: Jeremy at Good_As_You who first noted the exclusion)

Court rules that law school need not recognize anti-gay Christian group

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

June 28th, 2010

From the Chronicle

An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won’t let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group’s “discriminatory practices.”

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” as being inconsistent with that faith.

I have mixed feelings about this decision, partly because the SCOTUS agreed with the Ninth Circuit that

The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups—all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable.

In reading the decision, we must keep in mind that this is not a ruling on CLS’ policies, but on whether Hastings’ policies are constitutional.

On the one hand, I strongly object to the gay students at Hastings having to pay student fees which are in turn funneled to an organization that excludes them from membership. I am troubled by the growing sense of entitlement which many anti-gay religious groups seem to be adopting from which they demand that society not only follow the rules of their sect but be required to fund them as well.

And this decision confirms the right of a school – even a public school – to establish and uphold non-discrimination policies. An opposite ruling might lead to assumptions that schools cannot make any restrictions on anti-gay discrimination.

But, on the other hand, I fear that broad interpretation may lead to an inability for any organization to control its own identity.

Would, for example, the Clara Foltz Feminist Association be subject to a take-over by religious conservatives who can then vote that the club take positions which oppose reproductive rights and assert that a woman is to be subject to her husband? Could the Hastings Jewish Law Students Association become the missionary arm of Jews for Jesus – or of the Scientologists, for that matter? Can the new motto of the Environmental Law Society become “Drill, baby, drill”.

While this may seem unlikely, it is not unheard-of for a student organization to be hijacked for petty school politics, or even as a lark. The court, however, did not think that such concerns were reasonable.

CLS also assails the reasonableness of the all-comers policy in light of the RSO forum’s function by forecasting that the policy will facilitate hostile takeovers; if organizations must open their arms to all, CLS contends, saboteurs will infiltrate groups to subvert their mission and message. This supposition strikes us as more hypothetical than real.

Students tend to self-sort and presumably will not endeavor en masse to join—let alone seek leadership positions in—groups pursuing missions wholly at odds with their personal beliefs. And if a rogue
student intent on sabotaging an organization’s objectives nevertheless attempted a takeover, the members of that group would not likely elect her as an officer.

I have personal experience which contradicts the court’s assumption. And Justice Alito’s dissent does not find the idea to be nonsensical.

But from a practical perspective, the greatest impact of this decision will be limited to those religious campus organizations who eject, reject, or limit gay students. The national Christian Legal Society will have to choose to go off-campus at many law schools (those with non-discrimination policies) or to revise its policies.

But other organizations may be immediately impacted as well, if to a lesser extent. As I recall, my fraternity required that its members believe in God, though that was interpreted broadly, could be “acknowledged symbolically”, and seemed to have no measurable influence on daily life. But it would seem that this “religious belief” requirement could also be a reason for exclusion of this group from meeting on campus or having recognition of any form.

Although in minority, Alito argued that a policy demanding that all organizations ‘accept all comers’ (whether or not selectively enforced) places a great burden on those who meet based on commonly shared religious beliefs, regardless of where they exist on the religious spectrum.

There are religious groups that cannot in good conscience agree in their bylaws that they will admit persons who do not share their faith, and for these groups, the consequence of an accept-all-comers policy is marginalization.

But, other than its immediate impact on this one Christian group and other similar groups, the court’s decision may also tell us a few more things than simply what is allowable school policy. And while I have some concerns about the court’s interpretation of freedom of speech and association, they are countered by concerns about compulsory fees being withheld and distributed to organizations that some students cannot join. So, for me, the most interesting aspects of this case can be found in the way in which justices view gay people.

1. This decision may give us clues as to whether the court is sympathetic to religious exclusion of gay people from society. In this match up of non-discrimination policies v. the religious liberty to exclude gay people, the court chose not to let religious belief trump orientation.

2. The case was closely decided, 5-4. Justice Ginsberg wrote the decision and was joined by Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor. The dissent was written by Alito and joined by Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas.

Much of Alito’s objection focused on the distinction between whether Hastings’ refusal to offer Registered Student Organization status was based in an “accept all comers” principle or a Non-Discrimination Policy. He asserted that (irrespective of stipulation) at the time of rejection the school did indeed “permi[t] political, social, and cultural student organizations to select officers and members who are dedicated to a particular set of ideals or beliefs” and only decided that this was an “accept all comers” policy after the fact.

Alito noted that many organizations limited members to those who agree with their positions (e.g. the pro-life group, the Democratic Caucus) and at least one had race-based restrictions (La Raza). They were required to change these provisions only after CLS was rejected for membership, illustrating that “that Hastings had no accept-all-comers policy until this litigation was well under way.”

3. The court contrasted this decision from that which allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude members.

CLS may exclude any person for any reason if it forgoes the benefits of official recognition. The expressive-association precedents on which CLS relies [as opposed to limited public forum], in contrast, involved regulations that compelled a group to include unwanted members, with no choice to opt out. See, e.g., Dale, 530 U. S., at 648 (regulation “forc[ed] [the Boy Scouts] to accept members it [did] not desire”

Application of the less-restrictive limited-public-forum analysis better accounts for the fact that Hastings, through its RSO program, is dangling the carrot of subsidy, not wielding the stick of prohibition.

This would suggest that cities who wish to limit their public subsidies to only those organizations that do not discriminate are free to do so. Indeed, this seems to directly contradict the decision of the jury in Philadelphia.

In his rebuttal, Alito found this case to be exactly similar to Dale in that the policy forces organizations to accept members with whom it does not wish to associate. He dismissed the funding possibilities as inconsequential and only a small part of the case.

4. The court confirmed its position that attempts to differentiate between behavior and identity (in religious terms, “love the sinner, hate the sin”) as distinctions without difference:

To bring the RSO program within CLS’s view of the Constitution’s limits, CLS proposes that Hastings permit exclusion because of belief but forbid discrimination due to status. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 18. But that proposal would impose on Hastings a daunting labor. How should the Law School go about determining whether a student organization cloaked prohibited status exclusion in belief-based garb? If a hypothetical Male-Superiority Club barred a female student from running for its presidency, for example, how could the Law School tell whether the group rejected her bid because of her sex or because, by seeking to lead the club, she manifested a lack of belief in its fundamental philosophy?

This case itself is instructive in this regard. CLS contends that it does not exclude individuals because of sexual orientation, but rather “on the basis of a conjunction of conduct and the belief that the conduct is not wrong.” Brief for Petitioner 35–36 (emphasis deleted). Our decisions have declined to distinguish between status and conduct in this context. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 575 (2003) (“When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination.” (emphasis added)); id., at 583 (O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment) (“While it is true that the law applies only to conduct, the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual. Under such circumstances, [the] law is targeted at more than conduct. It is instead directed toward gay persons as a class.”); cf. Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, 506 U. S. 263, 270 (1993) (“A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.”).

Here, interestingly, Alito dismisses the majority’s logic as “because it is easier to enforce.” He does seem to accept distinction between identity and behavior, but not in a way which argues that gay people are only “folks who engage in certain behavior.” Rather, he seems to agree that gay people, as such, exist but that they, like Muslims, Atheists, and those Christians who believe significantly different doctrines than those of CLS, should be able to be excluded by a club which is based on certain shared religious beliefs.

In fact, while Alito questioned (in a footnote) what might possibly be meant by religious status (as opposed to religious belief) in terms of immutable characteristics, he seems to have no question about what sexual orientation status may mean. Nor does the dissent suggest that orientation is mutable or inconsequential.

While it may be premature and reaching to draw such a conclusion, it appears that the court seems to be in agreement that sexual orientation is a matter of people and not a matter of behavior.

5. The dissent was not homophobic. Indeed, Alito seemed far less interested in why CLS was excluding members than he was in their right to do so without being marginalized based on their viewpoint. His was a freedom of expression argument rather than an upholding of morals and standards argument.

As Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia did not write separate dissents, we cannot know their motivations. However, this is in tone far from that of Scalia in Lawrence v. Texas, and to me hints as a certain mellowing that may be occurring on the conservative end of the bench. Or, at least, I hope that is what it suggests.

6. And finally, the justices illustrate that legal findings need not be boring or dry. Stevens, in his concurring opinion, gets points for the best quote:

“In the dissent’s view, by refusing to grant CLS an exemption from the Nondiscrimination Policy, Hastings violated CLS’s rights, for by proscribing unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion, the policy discriminates unlawfully on the basis of religion.”

WV Couple Denied Apartment

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2010

Rayetta Darby and Erika Johnson, a lesbian couple in the Huntington, WV area, were denied an apartment by their prospective landlord because they are gay. The reporters investigating this story discover that West Virginia and 29 other states don’t have any laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and neither does the federal Fair Housing Act.

“It’s terrible. It’s terrible we even need such a law,” said Bill Dotson, executive director of Huntington Housing Authority. You can only prevent people from renting if they have a bad payment history or if they they’re bad neighbors or don’t take care of their property,” Dotson said. “If a landlord refuses to rent to them for any reason other than those, it’s heavily frowned upon.” But, the fact that there’s no law preventing such behavior in West Virginia is deeply disturbing to Darby.

Wal-Mart bans gay couple for NOT shoplifting

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2009

walmartNot every confrontation that a gay person experiences in their life is based on their orientation. But sometimes it is very difficult to see any other possible explanation.

Take the experience that Joe Paolucci, Thomas Hitchcock, and their special need twins had recently with Wal-Mart.

Employees at the Niles, MI Wal-Mart store accused Paolucci of shoplifting some Bic lighters. Although he produced the receipt, they refused to back down, insisting that the two men go to a “detention room”. The employees, using vulgarities and hostility, frightened their special needs kids. (South Bend Tribune)

Paolucci said that while he and Hitchcock were attempting to calm down the boys, the employees ordered them to enter a “detention room” for questioning. Fearful of what might happen behind closed doors, he and Hitchcock refused to enter and asked to speak to a manager.

“Some guy came up and said, ‘I’m the manager,’ then turned around and left,” Hitchcock said.

Paolucci said he and Hitchcock then asked store personnel to call police. Within minutes, deputies from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department’s Niles Township Patrol arrived, pleasing Paolucci who said he thought a few questions and a review of the store’s videotapes and computer records would quickly resolve the matter.

He said he was shocked when he was immediately handcuffed, without a question being asked, and placed in the back seat of a squad car. Hitchcock wasn’t handcuffed but also was placed in the back seat of a second squad car.

The twins, despite the protests of Paolucci and Hitchcock, were turned over to the store’s security personnel, who took them into the “detention room” or what police referred to as a security room.

A review of the security tapes proved that Paolucci and Hitchcock had done no wrong. So the store management profusely apologized and expressed their remose, right? No. They did not.

The two said they expected an apology and were surprised once again when personnel from the store walked up to the squad cars with the twins and read from a statement that Paolucci and Hitchcock had been banned by the store chain for life. Rather than shoplifting, the reason they were given was “being uncooperative.”

By the time they were read the statement, Paolucci and Hitchcock said, the twins had told them that the security staff had allegedly threatened them in the security room and had made disparaging remarks about Paolucci and Hitchcock’s lifestyle. Paolucci and Hitchcock said they asked police to take statements from the boys but the officers refused, telling the couple they’d have to contact Child Protective Services.

Wal-Mart even refused to replace frozen items that had now thawed due to their unprovoked misuse of their customers. Nor did the situation end at the harassment of the couple at the store.

Paolucci said the boys have suffered a type of post-traumatic stress disorder since the experience. Both wet their beds, although one has stopped, and both have had nightmares about one security employee in particular, he said.

“They’re terrified, horrified. We’ve had to change their medication twice,” he said.

And what does Wal-Mart corporate have to say?

Paolucci and Hitchcock e-mailed The Tribune a copy of a letter from a law firm representing Wal-Mart seeking 10 times the retail price of the items the store still claims were shoplifted by Paolucci. The letter states the matter will be dropped if Paolucci submits the $158.40 payment.

Now this is not the first time that Wal-Mart has been perceived as hostile to gay Americans. In 2007, HRC advised against giving our business to Wal-Mart, and just in April of this year, the CEO signed his name to a petition to ban gay couples from adopting.

Wal-Mart doesn’t care about my opinion. And there’s little I can do to impact their decision to treat gay customers with hostility.

But perhaps there are those, even in Niles, MI, who will decide that this situation is just one too many. That they cannot give their custom to bad neighbors. That it may be worth an extra nickle and a further drive to frequent the stores that do not abuse customers solely because they “disapprove of their lifestyle” and who admit it and apologize when they are wrong.

All I can do is spread the word.

Because She Needed It

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2009

When Peter Vidala told a co-worker that “her lifestyle is deviant”, it was because she needed to be told. She needed to hear that Vidala was intolerant of her.

“I see, like all real Christians, homosexuals as people who, like me, are sinners and need to be told the truth in a loving way,” he said. “In this situation, I took issue with the behavior. I think it’s lunacy to call that type of behavior marriage in any kind of form. I had to express that I’m intolerant of that behavior. It’s a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin kind of deal.”

Just like the wife who argues back and need a good punch in the face, or the infant who won’t stop crying and needs to be shaken, this lesbian needed to know that he hated her sin.

Brookstone, the employer, decided that Vidala’s weeks-old employment needed to come to an end. And, naturally, Fox News and other conservative voices are shocked! that he was “unjustly fired”.

Naturally,Vidala trotted on over to the lovely folks at MASSresistence, the same folks who brought us the distortions about the Wirthlins and Parkers, to make a video. So we can expect to see this story (or some unrecognizable version of it) to start popping up in anti-gay advertising around the country. Here’s Peter’s tale:

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He sees “that type of behavior” (her engagement) as immoral. He believes that controversial issues (her engagement) have no place in the workplace, particularly in Boston. And he is entitled to never have to be exposed in the workplace to ideas that contadict his opinions. To exist as a lesbian – and not keep it a secret – is to harass Vidala. And he was only expressing his offense when they retaliated against him. Unfairly.

In other words, his opinions should override your life. He is not only authorized but obligated to condemn your “behavior” while you should be disallowed from sharing your life on the same terms as your heterosexual coworkers within his hearing. And your mere statement of a fact, your engagement, is nothing but an “opinion” to which he should be allowed to counter.

Vidala clearly feels entitled. He clearly believes that his Christianity (to which he constantly refers) gives him rights and priveleges that should be denied to you. And his “Christian beliefs” outweigh anyone else’s beliefs, rights, or space. But, remember, it’s for your own good. You need to be told.

The anti-gay activist will champion Vidala, just as they do anyone who is “martyred to the homosexual agenda.” He will be Example A of what will happen if your state allows gay citizens to have the same rights as heterosexual citizens: religious freedom will suffer!!

But they will not be telling the truth; Vidala did not suffer for his beliefs.

Peter Vidala was not fired because he disapproved of homosexuality; rather, he was fired because couldn’t care less about the best interests of his employer. He selfishly decided that he didn’t have to be civil at work, he simply had to tell his superior that her life was deviant and immoral. It’s his Christian duty.

And, besides, why should he be punished? She needed it, you know.

Officer Responsible For Anti-Gay Harassment To Retire Early

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2009
Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint

Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint

The Navy announced yesterday that the chief petty officer responsible for sexually provocative hazings of junior sailors in Bahrain will be forced to retire in January, two years earlier than planned. He will also receive a letter of censure from the Secretary of the Navy, which the Virginia Pilot describes as “the harshest administrative action that can be taken against a sailor.”

Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, opted to cancel Toussaint’s final years of service. Roughead “found that the incidents were not in keeping with Navy values and standards and violated the Navy’s longstanding prohibition against hazing,” according to Smith. “Our sailors are to be treated with dignity and respect in a healthy and positive working environment.”

One victim, former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha, said he was subjected to repeated slurs about his sexuality after he refused to have sex with female prostitutes.

Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Hogan submitted detailed notes about Toussaint’s abuse during more than two years under his command. Hogan told the Navy lawyer who originally handled the case that Toussaint routinely made inappropriate comments about and inquiries into sailors’ sex lives, and threatened to revoke sailors’ dog-handling credentials if they crossed him.

Hogan also described Toussaint’s directing the filming of training videos that required some sailors to act out lesbian love scenes, others to simulate gay male sex and one to have rubber balls thrown at his crotch, all in a guise of running the dogs – trained to sniff out explosives – through various “real life” scenarios.

Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha

Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha

With this move, Toussaint avoids a court martial. Joseph Rocha reacts:

“A lot of us are disappointed in that Toussaint won’t see his day at a military court martial,” Rocha said. “But overall, I commend the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy for a wanting to look further into this, to see how widespread the corruption was.”

An unnamed commanding officer originally decided to handle the situation by issuing Toussaint a nonpunitive letter of reprimand. Rocha, who is gay went on to officer training, but left the Navy with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder over the harassment. Later, he met a reporter with Youth Radio and told his story. Youth Radio broadcast a powerful series of investigative reports into the incidents, many of which were picked up on National Public Radio.

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