Tag Archives: marriage equality

Chick-fil-A and the Five Habits of Highly Vexing People

Many of us who grew up in the South (Yes, I am a Southern dyke! Hence my grace and sophistication!) grew up eating Chick-fil-A. And if you grew up with it, you probably already knew at least one of the following facts: it’s a family-owned business founded by devout Southern Baptist S. Truett Cathy; it’s closed on Sundays; and its statement of corporate purpose begins, “To glorify God…” Knowing this, you may not have been shocked to hear Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s fundamentalist Christian views on marriage equality.

The really important thing about the controversy, of course, is how much it has irritated me. The Chick-fil-A discussions have thus far included five of my least favorite elements of national conversations. They are, in no particular order:

1. Wealthy white dudes saying smug things.

via walkenvnorris.wordpress.com

Honest to God, it feels like this happens every single time there’s a national controversy.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Cathy: When a Baptist Press reporter asks if you support the “traditional family,” don’t give a cute answer like “guilty as charged.” Sure, you’re among friends. But that glib, unoriginal phrase will be published online, and it will be quoted, blogged about, tweeted, and mocked all across the internet because you’re president of an iconic, multi-million dollar corporation in 2012.

Similarly, unless you have unmediated access to the mind of God, please don’t say this:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him [sic] and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Seriously, Dan. To anyone outside your very specific social circle, this sounds whackadoo.

2. [Group of People] seizing opportunity to turn this conversation into conversation about [Thing Group of People Doesn’t Like].

via imagemacros.wordpress.com

In college, there was usually one person per course who sought to turn every class discussion to his or her own area of interest or expertise. The conservation biology student who always brought New Testament discussions back to climate change. The Amnesty International president who always brought Social Psychology classes back to the U.S. government’s human rights abuses in Latin America. It got reallll specific, dykes! And old. It’s a pet peeve of mine: I like people to stay on topic.

The topic, in this case: Chick-fil-A, a major fast food restaurant chain, has made donations to anti-gay organizations, including an actual hate group and the major ex-gay operation, and its president has made anti-marriage equality statements couched in doomsday biblical terms. This has struck a nerve because marriage equality is a huge deal right now. And marriage equality is a huge deal right now largely because it resonates with a lot of different kinds of people with a wide range of positions on other issues.

For example, it is possible to ascribe to a worldview according to which opposition to marriage equality is intrinsically linked with all forms of domination and exploitation, including the farming, frying, sandwiching, and eating of chickens. From this standpoint, it makes sense to say gay activists in particular shouldn’t home in on a handful of offensive remarks or donations, but should condemn the vast array of sins endemic to the fast food industry. It is indeed possible to make a smart and thoughtful argument for this position. But it’s a mistake to assume all gays or allies will see the web of connections so obvious from your perspective.

More than that, though, it’s a mistake to insult those who don’t share your perspective. This, unfortunately, seems to be happening even in otherwise thoughtful and interesting arguments. You may object to cruel factory farm conditions. You may object to eating meat, period. You may object to fast food, greasy food, fried food, not-local food, or unhealthy food. You may object to styrofoam cups and plastic utensils. You may object to religious business models, conservative evangelical Christianity, or capitalism. These are legitimate concerns shared by lots of people. And if they’re your concerns, probably you weren’t eating at Chick-fil-A, anyway.

But some gays are Republicans, moderates, evangelicals, businesspeople, fast food restaurant employees, Southerners, and chicken-eaters. It is a nice thing, I think, that different kinds of people agree Cathy’s comments were homophobic and Chick-fil-A’s donations troubling. And it’s classier not to insult people who are taking a stand to support you.

3. False equivalences from the Mushy Middle.

Familiar with the term, “false equivalence?” It’s sort of like “two sides to every story” taken to an extreme: not only are there “two sides” to consider, but those sides are assumed to be about equally right or wrong. False equivalence is everywhere, dykes. Goes like this:

“Political Party A says the sky is red. Political Party B says the sky is blue. Therefore, since they must both be equally wrong, and the truth must be somewhere in the middle, the sky must be purple.”

This is a logical fallacy. It is especially common on Op-Ed pages (looking at you, David Brooks!) but, as Paul Krugman has observed before, is all too prevalent in journalism, generally.

And it seems to be all over Facebook these days. Over at State of Formation, Mary Ann Kaiser addresses one false equivalence common to pro-Chick-fil-A Facebook comments–the idea that LGBT folks are “bullying” Chick-fil-A in response to being bullied. She writes:

“A lot of the support comes from the notion that Chick-fil-A is being bullied by the LGBT community. There is a feeling that they are being attacked for holding ‘Christian values’ and that the queer response to Chick-fil-A’s ‘opinion’ is limiting free speech.”

As Kaiser points out, though, it’s not just about Cathy’s opinion. Chick-fil-A is “actively supporting groups which are working against the civil rights and emotional well-being of queer people.” And the multi-million dollar corporation isn’t being bullied, either, as that would be “like David trying to bully Goliath.” Finally, Kaiser notes, the LGBT backlash does not infringe on Dan Cathy’s freedom of speech. “Chick-fil-A can keep their values. They can say whatever they like and no one can legally do a thing about it. But as citizens, we can also choose to boycott, to protest, and to criticize their financial support of organizations which are dangerous to us.”

Personally, I haven’t read much strong support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook. But nearly every wall conversation I’ve seen on the subject has included some expression of soft support, like, “Well, I don’t like what he said, but all these anti-Chick-fil-A people are just as bad.” Or, “Okay, but judging Cathy for his religious beliefs is just as bad as judging gay people for being gay.”

This is bad logic masquerading as fair-mindedness. Being fair-minded requires us to listen in good faith to people who disagree with us, and to address thoughtful criticisms and concerns; it does not require us to treat all arguments as equivalent.

4. Liberals grandstanding about “values.”

via chicagotribune.com

Sometimes liberals–eager to challenge that flag-burning libertine stereotype–get too excited about using “values” language. And when they do, there’s often a not-so-subtle undercurrent of, “See, Republicans! We’re using your stuff for our liberal purposes! ZING.”

For example, Rahm Emanuel’s statement that, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.” Alderman Joe Moreno’s unconstitutional attempt to keep Chick-fil-A out of his Northwest Side ward. Mayor Menino’s now softened/retracted assertion that he “will do everything [he] can” to keep Chick-fil-A out of Boston.

Makes me cringe, yall.

First, it’s grandstanding for political points, plain and simple, and there’s no substance to it. An elected official can’t deny someone a business license just because that person expresses an offensive opinion or donates to odious organizations.

Second, the “values” language is too self-conscious and triumphal. As Sarah Posner put it: “Can I say that I hate…when Democrats try to throw that ‘values’ language back in face of conservatives? Conservatives don’t own the ‘values’ conversation–we know, we know!”

Finally, it feeds into the victim narrative of groups like the National Organization for Marriage. The idea that, if gay people get equal rights and social acceptance, the conservative Christians who don’t like gay people and don’t accept same-sex marriage will be silenced and oppressed. It’s a ridiculous claim based on the idea that anyone who questions your privilege is oppressing you. I think it’s better not to indulge Maggie Gallagher’s martyrdom fantasies, don’t you?

This brings us to:

5. Conservatives whining about “tolerance.”

via autostraddle

This, actually, is worse than liberals grandstanding about “values,” because (a) it happens more often, and (b) I have a liberal gay bias! Yep! But it’s similar in that it throws “tolerance” language back at liberals. Here’s the argument:

“Liberals are always talking about tolerance, but they’re intolerant of people who oppose same-sex marriage.”

There are some problems with this claim. First, there’s an element of false equivalence, no? The suggestion seems to be that if you demand tolerance of same-sex relationships, you should also demand tolerance of the intolerance of same-sex relationships. That if you are a tolerant person, you ought to tolerate members of an oppressed minority group as well as that group’s most active oppressors. Because…being gay is about as right or wrong as being anti-gay? It’s a false equivalence. And it conflates tolerance with total moral relativism.

Second, it suggests that tolerance is the defining feature of liberalism. That liberals advocate for LGBT equality because we believe in tolerating absolutely anything. Wow, I bet we could unpack that assumption all the day long, don’t you think? But I shan’t.

Because the point, really, is that the LGBT rights movement is not only, or even primarily, about tolerance. Maybe it used to be. I mean, when homosexuality was considered a mental illness; when people commonly claimed AIDS was divine punishment for being gay; even when state level anti-sodomy laws were in effect; then, sure, tolerance probably sounded good. But tolerance really is the bare minimum. And in 2012, thanks to previous generations who fought for tolerance and basic dignity, we can work for something more. A major piece of that “something more” is marriage equality.

Marriage equality is not about tolerating something icky because tolerance is the supreme liberal virtue. It’s about social justice, compassion, and equality. Liberal “intolerance”–that is, criticism–of anti-gay comments and contributions is not the damning evidence of left-wing hypocrisy the Christian right would have you think it is.

Over to you, dykes! Thoughts?

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Vatican Condemns Jesus’ Silence On Abortion, Homosexuality

Following a rigorous historical investigation of Jesus Christ and a careful analysis of the Gospel narratives, the Vatican has released a report criticizing Jesus for focusing on poverty and social justice while remaining silent on abortion and homosexuality, calling his silence on these issues “grave and a matter of serious concern.”

The report, released on Wednesday, acknowledges that Jesus never explicitly contradicted Church teaching on either issue. Nonetheless, officials argue, the Son of God’s failure to address these questions at all “seriously undermines our attempts to present opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage as central to the Gospel.”

“We have been trying, for several years now, to make vociferous, blood-spitting opposition to gay marriage a litmus test for Catholicism,” Vatican officials write. “While we of course admire Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized, his teachings on sexual ethics are almost totally limited to his sayings against adultery and his qualified opposition to divorce and remarriage.”

A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which released the Vatican report on its website, conceded that Jesus’ silence on abortion, like his silence on homosexuality, does not necessarily mean Christ supported it. “But,” he said, “it’s not really clear that Christ opposed it, either. On an issue this difficult and complicated, it would be really nice to have a pat answer–no doubts, no nuance, no exceptions. Would it have killed him to give us one? Would it?”

Jesus could not be reached for comment.


The Death Rattle of the Anti-Gay Movement?

As we reported in exhaustive detail late Friday night, the New York state senate voted 33-29 to legalize marriage equality. Governor Cuomo has signed the bill. In fewer than 30 days, same-gender couples will be able to marry legally in New York state.

Once the law goes into effect, the number of people living in states with marriage equality will double. Yes, dykes: double. Moreover, dykelets, New York is the largest state to achieve marriage equality through the legislative process.

But that ain’t all!

No, ladies, that ain’t all. Because it’s not just about size, right? (A wink and a nod to our straight lady readers.) The symbolism of it seems to be pretty damn powerful. People have predicted that this may be a tipping point in the battle for LGBT equality.

Some unusual things happened this time. For one, the state legislature, not the courts, made marriage equality law; for another, four Republicans broke ranks and voted for same-gender marriage; and for another, the bishops and the National Organization for Marriage pulled out all the stops and still didn’t win. This is especially significant in New York, where the bishops have traditionally exerted a strong influence on state politics. Oh, also, this battle the Catholic bishops lost was spearheaded by Catholic laypeople.

As Jamie L. Manson writes in the National Catholic Reporter, the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York represents a big, public, and ugly defeat of the NY bishops by Catholic laity. Catholics in elected office were key players in the fight for marriage equality: Andrew Cuomo, Daniel O’Donnell, Joseph Alesi, and Tom Duane among them. And as we learned from the Public Religion Research Institute’s report this year, the Catholics like the gays and also they would like us to have rights.

The bishops are not happy about this. Bishops don’t like being disobeyed, but they really, really don’t like being publicly defied. And now, they and their conservative supporters are freaking out. No, really.

A senior adviser to the Vatican, Prof. Edward Peters, wants Andrew Cuomo investigated by the Catholic Church and denied communion for his support for marriage equality, in the hopes that this punishment might “serve as an example” to other politicians considering support for same-sex marriage.

Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, in a not rare burst of hyperbole, called marriage equality “another ‘nail in the coffin’ of marriage,” and asked Catholics in his diocese “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.”

The National Organization for Marriage, which I would never have accused of being moderate, reasonable, or respectful in its rhetoric anyway, has some unusually strong feelings about this. See, for example, NOM’s website as of the last few days. In white letters across a red and black graphic that looks like it was plagiarized from “Dateline,” the message reads: “Help us Defeat the New York Senators That Betrayed Marriage.”

Now, NOM has a multi-million dollar budget, and I personally would have hoped that one of the interns might have had the gumption to point out, as politely as possible, that the sentence really ought to read, “Help Us Defeat the New York Senators Who Betrayed Marriage.” But no matter. The point is, they’re pledging $2,000,000 to send those marriage-betrayin’ sonsabitches home. So there!

Finally, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who used his official blog to make the infamous North Korea comparison, posted a link last night to a National Review article by George Weigel, in which Archbishop Dolan himself is cited, and in which Weigel argues that marriage equality legislation is not only not libertarian, but actually represents the use of “coercive state power,” not unlike that used to impose racial segregation.

No, you’re not reading The Onion. That is indeed his argument.

After he or she finishes being offended by Weigel’s attempt to pit sexual minorities and racial minorities against each other with a hierarchy of oppression, the reader is left to wonder how Weigel imagines the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Brown v. Board of Education took effect. Weigel doesn’t go into that. He writes simply, “Once the American people came to see that [segregation], however hallowed by custom (and prejudice), [was], in fact, unnatural and not obvious, the law was changed.” No mention of who changed it, how, or in spite of what resistance. No mention of necessary government action to address inequality. Not important! The gays are like the segregationists! Done!

It is also worth noting that Weigel characterizes the movement for marriage equality as an expression of “the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality,” and writes that the “viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan” stands as “yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.”

Why do I bore you with this information, you ask? Because it’s crazy. It’s extreme. It’s over the top. It’s undignified.

And it’s encouraging.

We are not hearing the thoughtful–or even emotional–objections of people who think they’ve still got a fighting chance. We are witnessing, rather, the full-on, kicking and screaming temper tantrums of people who recognize that marriage equality in New York is a tipping point in the debate to which some of them have dedicated their careers, and on which some of them have built their public profiles.

We are witnessing, I think and I hope, the beginnings of the loud, teary, vindictive death rattle of the anti-equality movement.


Live in Sin No More, New York Ladygays! NY Senate Approves Marriage Equality, 33-29

After long deliberations that had me thinking that New York would see flake-outs of the variety that killed marriage equality in Maryland this year, four Republicans jumped on the gaymo wagon and passed the same-gender marriage bill.

Rent a tux, buy a ring, and enjoy the awkwardness of having to choose amongst your many lesbian photographer friends–marriage equality is coming to New York.


The Folksy-Industrial Complex

Marriage equality seems like a real possibility in New York, with only one more vote needed in the State Senate. The bill has stalled, however, as religious leaders call for more “carve-outs.” I’m hopeful, but it’s far from certain that the bill will pass. Recall that marriage equality looked almost inevitable in Maryland earlier this year, too, until some highly bizarre last-minute flake-outs from a handful of Democrats shelved the bill till the next legislative session.

Ultimately, the Maryland Catholic Conference–through no lack of time, money, or lobbying on its part–played a smaller role than socially conservative preachers from some black churches in Prince George’s County in derailing same-gender marriage legislation in Maryland. But the MCC was, as state Catholic conferences always are, a major player in the fight against marriage equality. And the institutional Church is an even bigger player, it seems, in New York.

Yes, some conservative Protestant and Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York are fighting marriage equality, too, but the loudest and folksiest voice has been that of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, recently-elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and down-home, Midwestern back-slapper extraordinaire.

Let me tell you what I hate, ladies. Let me tell you what I have no time for. I have no time for the use of a folksy, chortling, beer swilling, man-of-the-people act to make one’s political or religious severity more palatable. I don’t like it when Sarah Palin does it. I don’t like it when Mike Huckabee does it. And I for damn sure don’t like it when Timothy Dolan does it. It gives me the creeps, and it insults my intelligence. The only thing more offensive than the charade itself is the underlying assumption that people are buying it.

Beyond making right-wing severity easier to swallow, though, the good ole boy act provides a cover for intellectual dishonesty. It lets politicians (and you don’t get to be Archbishop, much less president of the USCCB, without being a politician) put forth disingenuous arguments and still seem like decent, honest guys. It lets them advance disparaging and discredited stereotypes about groups of people–in this case, the gays–without seeming mean-spirited. Because, gee, they’re not trying to hurt anybody. They’re just good, simple, traditional folks.

I like examples, dykes. Allow me to share a few.

From the May 13, 2011 post on the official blog of the Archbishop of New York:

We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage.  The definition of marriage is a given:  it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.

History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so.  The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.

In case you missed it, the Archbishop–heir to the 2,000-year-old Catholic intellectual tradition–just appealed to “gumption” as a source of moral authority in his argument against a piece of proposed legislation. Is this the way we honor the legacy of St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Catherine of Sienna, and Erasmus?

Okay.

I should also mention that, a couple of paragraphs later, Archbishop Dolan characterizes marriage equality legislation as “Orwellian social engineering.” He uses that term about as appropriately as Sarah Palin did.

It’s been over a month since his post on gumption and Orwell. On June 14, he posted once again on marriage.

Oh boy.

“The stampede is on,” his post begins. I won’t go through and discuss the whole thing–Mary Hunt nailed it today in her post for Religion Dispatches. But there’s one paragraph in particular that I must share. Apparently unsatisfied with the extent of his earlier hyperbole, the Archbishop writes:

Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea.  In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law.  There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.

Yes, dykes. The effort to expand the legal definition of marriage in New York state through the democratic legislative process, in a way that is supported by public opinion, is equivalent to the “communiqués” sent out by the totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship of North Korea.

The Archbishop does not possess a subtle or scholarly mind. His arguments are at best, weak, and at worse, deliberately misleading. And while his cringe-inducing Regular Joe persona indicates to me that he does not wish to be mistaken for an intellectual, it is equally clear to me that Timothy Dolan is not stupid.

He just thinks you are.