Of Gay Rights and Wrongs
The right-wing is ratcheting up its anti-gay cultural warfare. The only way for pro-rights supporters to respond is with ordinance of equal or greater value. For the millions who believe that if government should stay out of people’s wallets, it should also stay out of people’s bedrooms, there are various ways to fight fire with fire. Sometimes the LGBT community has to hit back hard — and memorably. Sometimes friendly fire does the trick all by itself.
In Virginia, a shock-and-awe reply to its new attorney general, Kenneth Cuccinelli, was certainly in order and delivered with alacrity. On March 4, Cuccinelli directed the state’s colleges and universities to rescind any policy banning antigay discrimination, suggesting only the General Assembly could pass such laws. Trouble is — as the ACLU of Virginia noted — Cuccinelli’s order flouted several U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. A firestorm brew, and yesterday, as 1,000 people protested “Down with Hate” at Virginia Commonwealth University, and as 200 people marched toward the state capitol, conservative Gov. Bob McDonnell wisely overruled Cuccinelli with his first directive. It reads, in part:
“Discrimination based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, discrimination against enumerated classes of persons set forth in the Virginia Human Rights Act or discrimination against any class of persons without a rational basis is prohibited.”
McDonnell knew Cuccinelli was on thin legal ground. He knew the power of the LGBT purse could, if wielded, signficantly hurt Virginia where it counts. In a statement released by Nicholas F. Benton, owner of the Falls Church News-Press, for example, it was argued that the AG’s stance would hamper Virginia’s bid for economic development. Efforts to “secure the relocation of major corporations like Northrup-Grumman,” Benton wrote, would remain vulnerable so long as Virginia rejected anti-discrimination policies. (Northrup-Grumman has strong anti-discrimination policies of its own.) Benton also wrote that Cuccinelli’s clear animus toward the LGBT community will audaciously “fuel a climate of intimidation and hate against minorities of all types…empowering bigots with a sense of entitlement to act out their hatred with impunity.”
McDonnell also knew what further actions could be taken against Virginia, from boycotts of its tourism industry to the fiscal targeting of any businesses that funded his campaign.
Speaking of businesses, the LGBT community should respond with thundering rocket fire to the hate-mongering of Florida state senator Stephen Precourt. He proposes to expand state tax breaks for film production — the content of those films is deemed (by him, one supposes) to be “family friendly.”
Setting aside the McCarthy-esque outrageousness of Precourt’s idea, there is recourse for the LGBT community if it becomes law: state by state, a ban on Florida-made films could be put into place. And if that sounds like a violation of the First Amendment, so are tax breaks given to films strictly on the basis of content. Let it be fought out in the courts and in public opinion.
Certainly Hollywood, whatever you think of it, would abandon Florida as a production hub — and that’s no small change, either. According to the Florida Governor’s office, film and cultural production added $17.9 billion to the state’s economy during 2007, yielding $8.5 billion in income for Florida citizens, nearly $500 million in tax revenue, and more than 100,000 jobs. If the right-wing is going to call Democratic policies “job killing,” it should make sure that its water-carriers at the local level aren’t “killing” jobs themselves.
LGBT activists, meantime, can withhold their ammunition from California state senator Roy Ashburn, a Republican whose history of antipathy toward the LGBT community has been laid bare by the man himself. Ashburn was arrested DUI on March 3 after leaving a gay nightclub in Sacramento — the ironically named Faces — and now he says he’s gay.
Alas, the married, 55-year-old father of four refuses to blame his pro-bias voting pattern on his guilty conscience. Instead, Ashburn blames the voters. “I felt my duty — and I still feel this way — is to represent my constituents, not my own point of view, not my own internal conflict,” Ashburn told conservative shock jock Inga Barks. Well, I believe that to be as reprehensible as all we’re now learning about former Congressman Eric Massa, a Democrat who is fast becoming a national symbol for the legacy of sexual self-hatred.
I mean, pardon the pun, but let’s get this straight: Ashburn felt it was morally permissible to misrepresent himself to the voters? Good thing he’s isn’t running for reelection — right or left, the electorate is done with professionally prevaricating politicians. For the foes of antigay policies, at least, Ashburn and Massa have managed to destroy themselves.