Monday, October 13, 2014

A bigot gets schooled

The news media has long used anti-gay bigots to provide “balance” when discussing LGBT issues. This lazy practice is made all the worse by the news media never holding those bigots to account. Until now.

The clip above is from Chris Wallace’s “Fox News Sunday” programme. It features conservative Republican attorney Ted Olson, who was the co-attorney in the case that led to the end of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 as well as the case challenging Virginia’s ban of same-sex marriages.

The anti-gay bigot is hate group leader Tony Perkins of the “Family” Research [sic] Council [whatever…], who spun the same distortions, red herrings and outright lies that are his usual tactics. This time, the host stood up to him, and this time someone who is way smarter than Perkins and who actually knows what he’s talking about—Olson—was able to expose Perkins spin as utter nonsense without ever once getting personal or condescending.

The smug Perkins’ crusade against marriage equality boils down to three propositions: 1. Gay people are icky, 2. Marriage is only about making babies and raising them, 3. If gay couples can marry, then heterosexuals won’t.

Let’s rehash life in the real world yet again (again): No one gives a flying flip that Perkins hates gay people or that his organisation thinks homosexuality should be a crime. In a free society, people are entitled to hate whoever they want, no matter how stupid that hatred is, and they’re entitled to think other people are icky, even though thinking that makes them look really, really stupid. Obviously, everyone has the right to think stupid things—that is not now, nor has it ever been, an issue in this debate (engaging in or inciting violence based on that hatred is another matter entirely).

However, bigots like Tony and his gang DON’T get to impose their bigotry on others or to enshrine their hatred in law. If the people he hates so much aren’t free to live their lives in peace and with legal equality, then no one is free. Tony’s brand of theocratic authoritarianism is the very opposite of freedom.

Marriage is not about babies—how many times do we have to repeat this before they understand it? If marriage were only about making babies, then heterosexual couples who cannot or choose not to have children would be forbidden to marry. Tony and his cronies retort is that they could make babies, and their god could miraculously allow couples who can’t have children to be able to (which underscores that their argument is entirely based on religious views).

There are two things wrong with Tony’s pathetic marriage = babies line. First, as Ted Olson said, “There are thousands and tens of thousands of children in same-sex house holds. They deserve the same respect and decency that other people have that are living right next door.” Exactly so.

But if the divine miracles thing for “barren” couples was really a reason in favour of marriage, then it would be equally true for same-gender couples. If Tony's god can’t miraculously make a same-gender couple have a baby, then it isn’t a very powerful god, and I don’t think Tony and his gang would argue that. So, instead, they've conjured up a god who, quite coincidentally, of course, thinks just like they do, with all the same prejudices.

Tony and his lot always—always—say that allowing same-gender couples to assume the commitments and responsibilities of marriage will somehow destroy opposite-gender marriages—clearly the most stupid argument rightwingers have ever come up with, and they have quite a lot of pathetically stupid arguments. Ted Olson exposes that idiotic talking point as the nonsense it is by pointing out the obvious: “There’s no heterosexual couple that is going to decide to get divorced, or not to get married, or not to raise children, just because another couple next to them is treated equally and with respect and decency.” Exactly.

For me, some of Olson’s best points were refuting Tony’s claim that the recent decisions are a “back-alley type Roe v Wade decision” (the irony of the phrase apparently escaping Tony). Tony, as per usual, whined on and on about judges deciding things, and Olson schooled him: “We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights precisely because we want protections from majority rule. When the majority in a legislature or a popular vote take away rights of individuals that are protected by the Bill of Rights, then we have an independent judiciary to rectify that situation. It's happened again and again and again throughout this country's history."

Tony has never presented a single rational secular reason for opposing marriage equality, and all of his supposed arguments are, in fact, based on prejudice, religious bias or both. Still, the entire anti-gay industry is just like Tony, though some are even worse.

It was great to see someone—especially someone on Fox—standing up to Tony for a change. Until now, Tony’s transparent anti-gay bigotry has always been given a free pass, and challenges to his dopey talking points, shallow thinking or the utter nonsense of his “arguments” have been very rare and mild.

When even Fox starts to lose patience with a rightwing extremist, then the game is over. Tony just refuses to accept reality—I don’t think he is capable of doing so.

All of which means that while this was a rare rebuke for Tony, it won’t be the last time—at least, not until all 50 US states have marriage equality, and that’s not far away now.

Related: A shorter version of the video can be found on Talking Points Memo: “Fox Host, Ted Olson Gang Up On Tony Perkins In Gay Marriage Debate”.

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