On the editorial pages of the New York Times, novelist Silas House bemoaned homophobia in rural America. He adduces not a single instance in which a gay or lesbian person was denied service at a restaurant or accommodation at a hotel or suffered any other actual act of discrimination. Instead, the hurtful discrimination was to be found in the fact that Berea, Kentucky, near his hometown, failed to pass an ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. And it’s to be found in the conservative churches where biblical morality is still preached. The oppression comes from “constant fear of change, of difference, of losing votes.”
All this clarifies an important social fact: Supposedly bigoted America is in fact very concerned not to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and by and large it doesn’t. Which means that the “battle for equality” is almost entirely symbolic. By House’s way of thinking, the mere existence of people in society who think homosexual acts are sinful constitutes “homophobia” and therefore counts as discrimination and must be stamped out. I’m willing to wager that the city-council members in Berea sensed the totalitarian nature of this way of thinking, which may be why they decided not to pass an antidiscrimination ordinance to prevent things that aren’t actually happening.
(First Things, While We’re At It)
The more things change, the more they remain the same. For more than 20 years, my experience as a fairly vocal “oppressor” has been that everybody’s just supposed to know how horrible it is out there, or that my interlocutor knew somebody who knew somebody who was fired under putatively discriminatory circumstances, or that (in the only first-person story of actual – though I’d say it was legally tolerable – discrimination in three related public fora) someone’s roommates wanted him to move out after they snooped and found a stash of gay porn.
A subpoena was issued demanding that some pastors in Houston hand over sermons that address homosexuality, a local gay rights ordinance, or Annise Parker, the city’s openly lesbian mayor. One of the pastors commented, “This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking on the cultural issues of the day. The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”
When the story of the punitive subpoena broke, Mayor Parker expressed surprise. She did not authorize such an expansive demand for documents, she said. That’s true. Recently, Houston’s city council passed a gay rights ordinance. Some local pastors were part of an effort to put forward a petition to repeal the ordinance. A sufficient number of signatures were collected, but city officials disqualified enough of them to lower the count below the level needed to put it on November’s ballot. Petition backers litigated.
A big-time law firm took on the case to defend the city of Houston. It then used the usual shock-and-awe tactics of Big Law, which in this case meant subpoenas designed to beat the adversary into submission. Thus the insanely broad demand for all sermons, memos, and so forth that mention homosexuality, Parker, and so forth. In short, this is not a city-initiated fishing expedition. Instead, it’s a “how dare you challenge the Establishment” punch in the gut.
This, to my mind, signals a significant danger. Establishment institutions like Big Law are not politically accountable. There will be little to limit them as they apply themselves to punishing all dissent from the progressive regime of sexual liberation. Case in point: punitive political correctness at many universities leading them to revoke student-group status from Christian organizations that don’t comply with the latest “inclusive” regulations.
(First Things, While We’re At It – emphasis added)
Nothing to see here. Move along now. All the action is over at the gay-bashing party.
(Yes, I’m aware that the overreach in Houston was so bad that an outcry eventually led Houston to tell Big Law to back off.)
As I noted earlier, First Things is promoting a Pastor Pledge written in response to the redefinition of marriage by a few states and (mostly) Federal Courts. Andrew Sullivan finds the pledge sad and spiteful. First Things’ R.R. Reno replies:
Sullivan anguishes that renouncing the power to witness to government marriage is “just one more thread removed from our commonality.” Well, yes, but that thread was removed when New York redefined marriage, which must not have seemed very important to those who pushed to have marriage redefined.
Reno also echoes, hearteningly, what I suggested by way of re-examining governmental marital perks:
I’m also quite capable of debating with him about whether or not government marriage in New York should allow no-fault divorce or whether married couples (as defined by the state!) should receive preferential tax treatment to encourage more people to enter into government marriages. Perhaps we can find some common ground on these issues. I hope so.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)