The Actual Victims of Discrimination

The dominoes keep falling in the U.S., as this month courts ruled in favor of marriage equality in New Mexico and Utah (!!). Until this decision, New Mexico was the only state that had no law either permitting or prohibiting same-sex marriage, creating a legal ambiguity that the state’s highest court has now resolved.

But it’s the shock decision in Utah that could be far more significant in the long run. In that case, a federal judge struck down an anti-gay amendment to the state constitution, ruling that it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that any federal court has explicitly found it unconstitutional to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. If that ruling holds up on appeal, it will have nationwide implications. (State officials in Utah asked for an emergency stay on the decision, which has yet to be granted; meanwhile, same-sex couples are swarming the offices of state clerks.)

And while it’s hardly in the same league as these court decisions, there’s also this story about Phil Robertson, the star of a reality show called Duck Dynasty, who was suspended after he made hateful anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ. (Though it seems to have gotten less attention, he also said in that same interview that black people in the South were happier under Jim Crow laws. Is anyone surprised that anti-gay bigotry and condescending racism are so often found together?)

Conservative outrage-mongers were predictably outraged, crying about how this violates Robertson’s FREEZE PEACH!, even though, as many people pointed out, there’s no First Amendment right to have your own reality show. You’d think more right-wingers would recognize that this is how the free market works: if a corporation hires someone who expresses sentiments offensive to their customers and sponsors, they can respond by pulling their support, and that corporation can respond by firing the person they don’t want associated with their brand.

But as I wrote earlier this year on AlterNet, as bigoted fundamentalists lose one battle after another in the U.S., they’re turning their efforts abroad, where they often find a more receptive audience. And this season, they’ve had one big victory: the nation of Uganda has suddenly and unexpectedly passed a draconian anti-gay bill – the so-called Kill the Gays bill – that’s been brewing for over four years (I first wrote about it in December 2009).

The final version of the law punishes Ugandan gay people with “only” life imprisonment, rather than execution, as if that’s an improvement. It also requires people to turn in their gay friends and relatives on pain of being imprisoned themselves – a horrible dilemma for the few brave people in the country, like the Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Mark Kiyimba, who’ve been sheltering LGBT people against an overwhelming tide of murderous homophobia.

Predictably, bigoted American evangelicals are ecstatic. Just as they applauded and cheered Vladimir Putin’s violent crackdown on gay rights in Russia, they’re happy to witness a climate of fear and brutal totalitarianism descend on a country, just so long as they think it’s aimed at the right people. In this case it’s even less of a surprise, since several of them played crucial roles in drafting the Ugandan bill in the first place.

This is a dynamic we’ve seen repeatedly in the past few years: gay people are pushing for the right to get married and peacefully refusing to support businesses that promote hateful speech, while at the same time, right-wing Christians are clapping and cheering at the thought of gay people being thrown in prison and executed. The outrageous hypocrisy is that those same Christians then turn around and claim that they’re the victims of unfair discrimination!

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • L.Long

    There is NO such thing as a MODERATE abrahamic religion.
    They are either hateful bigoted control freaks that want a theocracy with them in charge, or they are sheeple that enable the 1st group to exist and continue.
    Yes many say well they are nice people who are better than their religion, well the word for that is hypocritical bigots. i.e. Here in NC they had a vote for gay marriage, these nice people who are better than their religion voted and said ‘Fuck the gays.’ Now tell me is this the action of nice people or hypocritical bigots??
    And as the secularists win more small victories the harder they will push back and fight harder.
    Now all that being said the anti-gay thing is NOT really religious; oh the use their BS buyBull as a excuse but then why are adultery not stoned as gays are? (stone is figurative). I think it is because so many think gay is icky, also because so many fundies probably are gay and can’t deal with that – this may also go back to religious guilt.
    I have NO sympathy for the xtians, they have NO idea of what persecution is and so have to invent it, and we must keep pushing against the tide of ignorance and stupid superstition.

  • Kenny

    > This is the first time, to my knowledge, that any federal court has
    > explicitly found it unconstitutional to deny marriage rights to same-
    > sex couples. If that ruling holds up on appeal…

    I’m confused – hasn’t this already been settled by SCOTUS?

  • Erika

    No — the CA Prop 9 ruling, which I’m guessing is what you’re thinking of, was pretty narrow: (to vastly over summarize) that decision ruled that having granted gays right to marry, it was unconstitutional to pass an amendment to remove that right. This decision has the potential to say that such amendments themselves are unconstitutional, whether or not previous rights were granted.

  • DavidMHart

    I think it’s more that the US supreme court has decided that the federal government cannot deny federal marriage benefits to people who are legally married under state law (whether or not that state allows same-sex marriage), which is not quite the same thing. Maybe someone better clued up can correct me though.

  • Adam Lee

    Yes, that’s correct. The court struck down DOMA with a federalism argument. They conspicuously avoided addressing the equal-protection argument, which is what the Utah ruling relies on.

  • Michael

    I thought that a federal judge ruled Proposition 2 was unconstitutional?

    It’s hilarious to see people who, in one breath, champion corporations rights to fire anyone for anything (except if they have a contract that prohibits it, perhaps) turn around to cry outrage when it goes against them. I’m sure we can all imagine how, if an actor had made disparaging remarks about their religion, they would instead be demanding he be fired, with no concern over whether this violated his free speech rights. This selective outrage is just sickening.

  • 92JazzQueen .

    Or people would be supporting the fact that they were stepping up the tyranny of religious thinking.

  • J-D

    Are you sure that no Christians in North Carolina voted in favour of same-sex marriage (that is, against the ban)? Not even one? That’s not the way I’d bet.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    The senseless violence in Uganda and Russia scares me, and I’m not even gay (not to trivialize the fear which gay people have lived under anywhere)! The terror which a religious populist will resort to just so he can ply his evil trade IS terrorism, and it makes me agree 100% with Sam Harris’s position on religious tolerance, which I understand is not a very tolerant one for the religious. How else can the thinking world community protect the innocent from religious violence?

    The countries which are now driving out those who practice such insanity would be irresponsible for not punishing it’s citizens who are known to stir up such violence in other countries. First, the following truth needs to be legally applied and enforced at home: that it is not protected free speech to motivate a mob, nor a government to violence (including capital punishment for any non-violent crime (and this is NOT to advocate any capital punishment), no more so than is any other crime covered under the Riot Act! It would crimininalize most importantly the public support for legislated judiciary violence involved in the anti-gay laws which are likely to return in the future. Such evil laws are likely to return to the US because the people in Christian hate-groups cannot be stopped from making more little Christians (it’s a holy directive, missionary position and all), they won’t die out so long as we are unwilling to to become equally genocidal (oh, Lord, I sure hope not), and the more they see their influence take hold in other powerful countries, the more they will again be encouraged to rally their hatred here. This may be slowed down a bit if we do another thing which world responsibility dictates – we should impose heavy sanctions (to include at very least passport revocation and jail time) against any citizens who go to other countries to saddle them with such violence. Make it a crime for an American citizen to speak for violence at home AND abroad!

  • Jason Wexler

    That’s not quite right either. Firstly the law was Prop 8, and the SCOTUS didn’t strike it down, it ruled that the initiative sponsors didn’t have a right to be defendant-intervenors and appeal the case to higher courts when the government of California accepted the District Court ruling. As Adam says below the SCOTUS did rule in the Windsor case on very limited federalism grounds that the Federal Government can’t refuse to recognize a marriage that is legal in the jurisdiction where the married people live, because the federal government has no jurisdiction over marriage.

    That said given Justice Kennedys tendency to be consistent, I suspect he won’t find there is an equal protection violation which would invalidate state level bans, I do however suspect that he will find that not recognizing out of state marriages violates the Full Faith and Credit clause.

  • L.Long

    So in that case we have hypocrites that do not follow the supposed holey book which contains the supposed holey word of their supposed gawd. So they don’t live according to the commands of their gawd that will send them to hell, so this makes them better how???

  • Shawn

    The most entertaining part for me is that in his dissent in the DOMA case, Scalia pointed out in his usual acid-tongued fashion that the Court was being disingenuous to an extent by limiting the scope of its opinion and that following the majority’s logic left no basis for concluding that any state had the ability to prevent same-sex marriage (he stated similar sentiments in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in even more vitriolic fashion).
    Of course, he considered that a bad thing, but the Utah district judge quoted heavily from Scalia’s dissents in those cases in supporting his conclusion that the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, in fact, did not leave any basis for the states to prevent same-sex marriage. Who says trolling is just for the Internet? [For the record, I actually agree with Scalia that the Court was being unnecessarily coy about actually following the implications of their reasoning in Lawrence and Windsor, but unlike Scalia I believe that the majority's reasoning is correct.]

  • J-D

    I didn’t say it did make them better. I’m saying that it makes your earlier statement inaccurate.

    I am confident that there are no holy books that contain instructions about how to vote in North Carolina legislative plebiscites, so that would be another statement of yours that is inaccurate.

    Since you bring the subject up, however, I think voting against a ban on same-sex marriage is better than voting for a ban on same-sex marriage, and I still think it’s the better choice even when it’s made by people who think they’ll be sent to Hell by God for doing it. Maybe even more so. There is no God; but if people who think there is decide to do what’s right even if they think it’s not what God wants, it seems to me they deserve credit for that.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    I cannot agree that there is no such thing as a “moderate” religion, and even less that they are all either “sheeple” or fundies. Moderate christian churches are more a social hub for people of common family traditions to meet and socialize at, quite often the religious element of it is of ritual, if not an afterthought, and most of these people are are more intellectually independent than gullible – they would definitely NOT jump like sheep if the wrong preacher came in and tried to goad them onto a rally bus. I really don’t want to sound condescending, but a large number (possibly a majority of church sects depending on regional demographics) have even welcomed gays and women to serve as church officers, and certainly no Catholic parish which has a large number of smart people in it has done everything according to Papal orders in recent decades.

    You are far more likely to find “sheeple” over at the fundie preacher’s tent. This is where the least educated, and the “recovering” drug addicts and drunks hang out (half of their preachers are no better, and often worse in that department).

    I saw Christianity in all it’s inane variations in tow of parents who didn’t fear hellfire, but just could not accept the truth as we understand it that all christian (as are all religious) doctrines are lies. When the Catholic church of their parents’ generation got too crusty and insulting for them, they did their sectarian wandering, and I learned what the whole business was about. In the end they chose their own ideas which comforted them, but SHEEPLE would not ever have had the balls to walk out on the Pope!

    I DO understand the point that you are trying to make – however, I believe it is important to address the issue accurately. Powerful religious organizations DO sire extremist factions, and what’s worse is their failure to publicly denounce them. Moderate religion IS harmful because it has millions of people not understanding the harm when important secular barriers are violated in schools and other elements of society. Because they have the same core beliefs as people who harass gays, women, and intellectuals, they are much less inclined to notice, much less oppose such violence. But let’s not give ANY religious sect ammo for calling us ignorant – MODERATE RELIGION DOES EXIST, BUT NO RELIGION IS HARMLESS!