When discrimination is a religious virtue and civil equality an �anti-religious� attack
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 17, 2006, 11:46

Mention �gay� and �civil rights� in the same sentence, and some people�s hackles go up. Yet most, if not all, of those same people have no problem acknowledging -- and protecting -- the �civil rights� of every other minority. So what�s the difference?

In a 2004 AsianWeek article opposing equal civil rights for gays and lesbians, Rev. Raymond Kwong argued, �We are sympathetic to true minorities. Gays and lesbians are not a genuine minority.� By most estimates, the GLBT community represents about 2-4 percent of the U.S. population. That would certainly seem to qualify as a �minority,� at least according to a standard definition of the term: �a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment; a group having less then the number of votes necessary for control.�

As for �subjected to differential treatment,� University of Chicago historian George Chauncey documented that in his 2004 book Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today�s Debate Over Gay Equality. Homosexuals were barred from government jobs by an executive order issued by President Dwight Eisenhower. They were also routinely barred from other forms of employment, as well as housing. During the height of the McCarthy hearings, more homosexuals were �weeded out� than Communists.

Gays were barred from many taverns and restaurants, barred from public assembly, and barred from using the U.S. Postal Service to send newsletters. Homosexuals had no freedom of speech and could be arrested on simple �suspicion� -- behaviors such as �gesturing with limp wrists,� walking �with a sway to the hips,� or �wearing tight fitting trousers� -- and sent to mental hospitals until �cured,� despite claims by prison doctors that such a thing was impossible. Homosexuals and homosexual themes were barred in films by the Hays Code and from the Broadway stage by �padlock laws.�

Those who are currently demeaning, denigrating and fighting to keep homosexuals marginalized and who use their faith-based rhetoric to inspire others to make young gay men and women targets for violence -- �Homophobic Bullying Drives Teen To Suicide,� �In Harm�s Way,� �Schools Remain Unsafe For Gay Students,� �Anti-gay bullying under investigation: Harassment may have played role in South Florida school violence case,� �Gay, Lesbian, & Bi Teens: Students & Schools� -- focus exclusively on what is arguably the most private part of anyone�s life, sexuality. Would it be fair to define heterosexuals� rights and base judgments of their value, equality and contributions to society solely on their sexuality?

Of course not. Nor is it legitimate to define homosexuals� rights and base judgments of their value, equality and contributions to society solely on their sexuality. Heterosexual or homosexual, all American citizens should be accorded the same civil equality.

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. made some pertinent comments in �A reminder that debate is about real people�:

 . . . since Richard Nixon�s infamous �Southern strategy� of the late �60s, his party has sought, won and retained power largely by encouraging voters to ignore and deny the humanity of people who were not like them.

In Nixon�s era, it was blacks. In Ronald Reagan�s era, it was blacks. And yes, in George H.W. Bush�s era -- call for Willie Horton -- it was blacks again. Bush the younger has added a new wrinkle: gays. Indeed, the Grand Old Party has some Middle Americans so afeared that gays are coming to take their children away that one imagines the poor folks hunkered down with a shotgun, ready to shoot at the first sight of a rainbow bumper sticker.

Marginalized minorities make convenient villains and scapegoats precisely because they are so easy to demonize and objectify. When �gay� is just a concept, or �black� only an abstract, it becomes easier to justify grotesque mistreatment . . .

We�re dealing with human beings, he [Mr. Bush] says. For the record, we always were.

Every minority has had to fight for its legal rights and civil equality. A citation in the Oxford English Dictionary�s definition of �minority� is as relevant today as when the word was new to American politics:

1837 U. S. Mag. & Democratic Rev. Oct. 3 Though we go for the republican principle of the supremacy of the will of the majority, we acknowledge, in general, a strong sympathy with minorities, and consider that their rights have a high moral claim on the respect and justice of majorities.

�A high moral claim on the respect and justice of majorities.� How ironic that feigned �morality� and overt disrespect are the primary weapons -- indeed, the only weapons -- those who oppose civil equality for the GLBT minority deploy to thwart the American promise of �liberty and justice for all.� In such campaigns against civil equality for the GLBT minority, Oscar Wilde�s definition of �morality� is appropriate, although Aldous Huxley�s may be more to the point:

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike. � Oscar Wilde

Morality is always the product of terror; its chains and strait-waistcoats are fashioned by those who dare not trust others, because they dare not trust themselves, to walk in liberty. � Aldous Huxley

Trust. Can anyone trust those who advocate denying civil equality to fellow citizens?

A May 1 Associated Press article by Steve Lawrence illustrated the point:

SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Sheila Kuehl says a key aspect of history is missing from school textbooks -- the contributions that homosexuals have made to California and the nation.

Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, has introduced a bill that would fill that void by requiring textbooks and other social science materials to discuss contributions that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people have made to the state and nation�s economy, politics and society.

The bill also would prohibit textbooks from criticizing people because of their sexual orientation. Current law sets that standard for discussions of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender and disabilities. [italics added]

Mr. Lawrence also reported on a group strongly opposed to the legislation, a group notorious for its efforts to marginalize gays and lesbians even further and deny them any form of respect or civil equality:

Benjamin Lopez, a lobbyist for the Traditional Values Coalition [TVC], an Anaheim-based group that views homosexuality as an abomination, doesn�t dispute the fact that gays have been discriminated against and have made contributions to American society.

But he contends Kuehl�s bill amounts to �social engineering and social indoctrination.�

�You�re talking about elevating a practice, a lifestyle, and putting it on par with the struggles of blacks, women and (other) minorities,� he said. �As a minority myself, that�s tremendously offensive.� [italics added]

Mr. Lopez�s feigned �morality� and �not-a-minority� arguments are as transparent as his specious reasoning. Although there is not yet absolute proof that sexual orientation has a genetic and/or neurophysiological basis, evidence is clearly mounting. That aside, apparently Mr. Lopez is unaware that one�s �religion� is, without question, chosen.

People can choose to be whatever religion they want and can choose to �practice� it as a �lifestyle� with varying degrees of intensity. Lopez and his organization are among the first in line to defend the civil rights and civil equality of those practicing religious choices and expressions, as long as those choices and expressions are in accord with TVC�s parochial socio-political dogma, that is.

Mr. Lopez and the TVC vigorously campaign to have �approved� Christians� contributions to American society not only noted but underscored in textbooks and every other venue. Yet TVC�s political lobbyist claimed acknowledging the contributions of gays and lesbians would be �social engineering and social indoctrination.�

How hypocritical. How irrational. But Lopez did even better than that in relation to what Huxley said about �morality� and �trust.�

The TVC lobbyist agreed that gays have been discriminated against and have made significant, important contributions to American society, but found acknowledging that history �tremendously offensive.� How could anyone trust -- much less respect -- the judgment or reasoning of a member of a minority who fights to keep another minority repressed and excluded?

Not surprisingly, a recent report issued by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute documented that legislators with low ratings on gay and lesbian equality issues also received low ratings from organizations that promote the rights of people of color, including the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The rhetoric of America�s premier homophobe Lou Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition were duly cited in the report. Why is made clearer every day.

On May 2, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, fired off a letter to the president of CBS television. The TVC headline read �CBS & ANTI-CHRISTIAN GLAAD TEAMING UP: GAY & LESBIAN GROUP OFTEN ATTACKS CHRISTIAN BELIEVERS.�

As usual, Sheldon accepts only those �Christians� who agree with his fanatical dogma and ignores all the other Christians who don�t sign on to his pathological campaigns against civil equality for gays and lesbians, many of whom are themselves practicing Christians.

GLAAD is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination. What CBS and GLAAD produced was a public service spot against discrimination. But Abramoff beneficiaryLucky Louie� didn�t see it that way.

�Broadcasting GLAAD�s message to your audience can hardly be called �a public service.� It is more an affront to the overwhelming majority of religious Americans whom GLAAD regularly calls �hateful,�� Rev. Louis P. Sheldon wrote in a letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves.

No one personifies �hateful� more definitively than Rev. Louis P. Sheldon: the man who after the 9/11 terrorist attacks argued against giving aid to the surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships, many of whom had children, and the man who suggested rounding up gays and HIV+ people -- presumably that would include children -- and putting them in concentration camps he euphemistically called �cities of refuge.�

What other motives did Sheldon have for writing to CBS?

At the very least, I believe CBS should apply an equal time standard to this sort of activity. My organization, the Traditional Values Coalition, would be willing to discuss some sort of message which would provide the balance lacking from GLAAD�s anti-religious attacks.

Seems Lou was just looking for some free publicity to spew more of his vile bile. His �anti-religious� comment is pathetic, but typical. Apparently Sheldon believes civil discrimination is a �Christian� virtue and �civil equality� an �anti-religious� attack. Even conservatives have questioned Sheldon�s �ethics� and �motives.� Others also saw TVC�s attack on CBS-GLAAD as just another ploy:

Fade in: An advocacy group with an eye toward grabbing newspaper headlines is using a television commercial as its latest target. This time, the culprit in the ongoing war against �traditional American values� is -- cue the organ music -- a soap opera.

With melodrama reminiscent of the television genre it is taking on, the Traditional Values Coalition denounced as �propaganda� a public service announcement that aired at the end of the May 9 episode of the long-running soap opera �As the World Turns.�

Sheldon and the TVC were, of course, outraged:

In spite of receiving more than 3,000 emails from TVC supporters who used our CapWiz email service, CBS ignored their concerns and ran its Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) public service announcement on �As The World Turns� on May 9.

The text of the PSA was designed to promote the acceptance of homosexuality for teenagers. Those opposed to homosexual sodomy were subtly linked to intolerance, prejudice and violent behavior. The PSA said: �Every day people face rejection, prejudice and violence . . . But you can make a difference. Send a message of support and acceptance. Be an ally and a friend. Go to�

A whole �3,000 emails.� Seems Lou�s brand of bigotry is loosing its punch as more and more Americans wake up and realize �Every day [gay] people face rejection, prejudice and violence,� not only at the hands of religious fanatics in America, but worldwide:

Iraqi police �killed 14-year-old boy for being homosexual�

Human rights groups have condemned the �barbaric� murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay.

Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq�s most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Ali Hili, the co-ordinator of a group of exiled Iraqi gay men who monitor homophobic attacks inside Iraq, said the fatwa had instigated a �witch-hunt of lesbian and gay Iraqis, including violent beatings, kidnappings and assassinations.�

�Young Ahmed was a victim of poverty,� he said. �He was summarily executed, apparently by fundamentalist elements in the Iraqi police.�

History is replete with those who thought they alone knew how everyone should be and live, and what should govern �civil equality.� They always failed in their campaigns of discrimination and bigotry.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor