Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The anti-marriage excuse-o-mat

Conservatives do love coming up with coming up with excuses for denying us the "special privilege" of equality as their old excuses are shot down. They've whined that same-sex marriage should be legalized only democratically, but now that Vermont is in the process of doing just that, Governor Douglas says that lawmakers should have devoted their effort to the economy and the state's budget deficit. In that case, should the supporters of California's Proposition 8 have done likewise? Then again, one of the core aspects of modern conservatism is having multiple mutually exclusive dogmas and picking the one that gives the desired result in any specific situation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Legislating from the bench

Now that President Obama has started making judicial appointments, it's as good a time as any to share my thoughts on the dreaded "judicial activism." While I believe in the separation of powers, I do not see how we can ever be free from such a thing. For one thing, as anyone who stayed awake during law school can tell you, it is not always possible to draw a bright line between construing the federal or state constitution and reading one's own wishes into it. The only working definition seems to be that judicial activism is any adjudication whose outcome we don't like. Moreover, courts are necessarily human institutions, not adjudicating according to some algorithm. Conservative judges have certainly been known to enagage in what would be called judicial activism if anyone else did it, often to narrow freedom rather than to expand it. Would you rather have courts that err on the side of too much freedom or too little?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wait your turn.

People who secured their civil rights before us keep telling us to wait our turn. People who follow us in that struggle keep telling us that we may not progress unless they progress at an equal rate. Is there some reason why we, and only we, have to wait our turn?

Everyone knows ....

Everyone knows that all gay men are attracted exclusively to macho jocks, except that it's also an infallible dogma that we are all attracted, just as exclusively, to twinks and pretty boys. Moreover, it's teaching necessary for salvation that we all like smooth guys, except, of course, insofar as we all like hairy men.

It is vitally important that we slavishly follow sweeping generalizations about gay men, no matter how often we contradict ourselves in the process. Otherwise, we might actually have to stop paying lip service to diversity long enough to recognize that we are already a pretty diverse community, and we certainly couldn't have that, now, could we?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't ask, don't tell?

Given that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is in the news again, I expect to see the following help-wanted ad:

ARABIC TRANSLATOR: Must be heterosexual. Some knowledge of Arabic a plus. Send CV to Mail Stop ______, the Pentagon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Republicans and smaller government

As the Bush economy collapses around us, we keep hearing about the supposed Republican obsession with smaller government. I do not recall that government shrank too much under Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II.

Just consider the main constituencies in the Republican Party. Neocons favor more American dick-waving around the world, i.e., larger government. Theocons want more control over public morality by American ayatollahs, i.e., larger government. Crony capitalists want protectionism and bailouts, i.e., larger government. Point out for me the constituency for smaller government.


I wonder how many people who describe themselves as pro-choice are pro-choice across the board. Many of them seem to take a view that is not functionally different from "my body, my right to choose; everyone else's body, my right to choose as well." Once, when a classmate in law school advocated a statist position on an issue that did not affect her personally, I asked her why she wanted to deprive those who were affected of the right to make choices over their own bodies. She was horribly upset, but she did not answer the question. I think Robert Heinlein was right about such people.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The latest transmission from The Blade to earth

In this article, a Washington Blade writer bellyaches about "a subculture that too often privileges the gay white male experience." People who write such things really ought to read their own publication now and then, or even participate in some of the local queer organizations.

Also, won't someone please tell me just what this "gay white male experience [singular]" is? Is it somehow related to the homosexual agenda that is so familiar to right-wingers and no one else?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Democracy and marriage (again)

I've seen the light. Marriage is so holy and fundamental that it must be entrusted to the will of the majority. Of course, being a consistent True Conservative, I mean not just gay marriage, but all marriage. Since it is so important for the howling mob to govern our most intimate relationships, no marriage should be valid unless the public has had nine months in which to file comments. That is a fine way to protect democracy, and you don't ... hate ... democracy ... do you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dysfunction in LGBT organizations

The Washington Blade has reported yet again on an LGBT event that combined good intentions with inept execution. Sadly, poor planning and general dysfunction are all too common in LGBT organizations. Too often, activists lose sight of where they want to go and how to get there.

Many groups have no clearly defined purpose, apart from the implicit purpose of stroking the egos of those who would rather be someone than do anything. For example, many LGBT religious ministries seem to exist only to let people play church; I do not exaggerate when I say that basic theological questions are sometimes answered with "We haven't thought that one through yet." Also, I was once involved in an LGBT political organization whose leaders kept changing their minds as to whether the organization would represent a particular position on the Nolan chart or just speak for anyone who opposed some hazily defined "Left."

Moreover, even when a group's leaders have a clearly articulated goal, they may not have thought through how to achieve it. Someone may object to solutions that have been shown to work in other contexts, for no better reason than that those solutions exceed that person's comfort level. In other words, never mind whether it works in practice; how will it look on paper? Someone else may propose a project that sounds good over cocktails until people ask, "What is it good for?" and "How shall we implement it?" Still another person may propose, and actually implement, the sort of "politics as performance art" public demonstration that alienates the very people whose sympathies we need. One activist of my acquaintance answered such objections with "Isn't it sometimes a worthwhile goal just to vent our anger?" No, it is not, nor can we afford that luxury.

Even day-to-day administrative tasks seem beyond the abilities of many LGBT organizations. We have quite a reputation for running our organizations on "gaylight savings time" and putting off major tasks until the last microsecond. One person kept reassuring me that he would be able to obtain certain materials; he ended up telling me on the morning of Pride Day that he had been unable to do so. Leaders seem particularly inept at assigning tasks; too often, the shyest person gets the pressing-the-flesh job, the busiest person gets the most time-intensive job, and, of course, the most popular person bears the onerous responsibility of showing up at the last minute to take all of the credit.

Finally, trying to address the above dysfunctions is often a waste of time. The long-term members of the organization often view it as an exclusive club and view newcomers as interlopers. Not only do they often take an NIH (not invented here) attitude to new ideas, no matter how meritorious, but they may also even answer offers to do the work with that all-purpose scathing rebuttal known as pretending not to have heard.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dating and religion

I've heard yet more talk about the propriety of dating outside of one's religion. This talk confirms my view that people use religion not as a guide to what is true, but as a marker for other things.

As an atheist, I do not make a point of agreeing with C. S. Lewis, but I do agree that religion can be infinitely important or not important at all, but that it cannot be only somewhat important. If someone genuinely believes in his religion, why should he not want a partner who shares his values with regard to that infinitely important matter, let alone a partner who will, according to the faith, join him in heaven?

The answer, of course, is that at least in our society, most people who self-identify as members of a religion do not genuinely believe in it, except insofar as they can cherry-pick from it to confirm what they wanted to believe anyway. For the most part, people use religion as a ritual of belonging - to a family, an ethnicity, a chosen tribe, or a secular cause. Just consider the people who want to post the Ten Commandments in public spaces but who cannot name them, or the people who faithfully observe certain holy days but who are effectively apatheists the rest of the year.

If we were honest, we should pay less attention to religious affiliation than we do, not more. The fact that one person goes through the motions on Ash Wednesday and the other does so on Yom Kippur should have no more significance, and arguably much less, than different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Proposition 8 and the mortgage crisis

The New York Times had an article a while back on a community in California that the mortgage crisis had hit especially hard. One interesting fact noted in the article was the number of "Yes on 8" signs. Perhaps the out-of-state churches that donated so heavily to the "Yes on 8" campaign will donate just as heavily to help those people pay their mortgages. After all, they do believe in the entire Bible, including that ever so inconvenient parable of the sheep and the goats, do they not?