Sunday, March 22, 2015

The next fronts in the USA’s ‘culture wars’

People could be forgiven for thinking that the rightwing’s “culture war” against the USA is about to end. After all, the Supreme Court is widely expected to soon strike down all the remaining bans on marriage equality in US states. However, the next front in the rightwing’s war is already open.

The map above from the Human Rights Campaign shows the 85 anti-LGBT bills introduced in 26 state legislatures (the report is available as a PDF). The report documents the staggering number of anti-LGBT bills introduced, and while some will be defeated or already have been, others have been, or are likely to be, passed. There will be more of the same next year, and every year thereafter for years to come.

The radical right religionists’ have several goals, but their legislative goal is clear and simple: Overturn all laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and they have two distinct strategies to accomplish that. One strategy is to pass state laws that forbid localities from passing human rights laws that are more protective than that state’s law. The HRC notes that some 34 million Americans live in states in which localities are more protective than their state is (this was once true in my native Illinois, where for decades various local governments protected LGBT people, but the state didn’t). Interestingly, in embracing this tactic, the radical right religionists are actually finally admitting that in states that don’t protect their LGBT people, it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against us, and they don’t even need any kind of reason or excuse to do so. This is in stark contradiction of their previous adamant declaration that a special right to discriminate was needed.

The second, higher profile, legislative strategy is to enact so called “religious freedom” laws to legalise discrimination against LGBT people—that special right to discriminate they’ve demanded ever since the tide turned in the battle for marriage equality. The radical right has always lied that discrimination isn’t their intent when, of course, it absolutely is their sole intent.

The licence to discriminate bills, as the “religious freedom” laws are more accurately known, allows the radical right to be extra harsh against LGBT people in places where it’s already legal to discriminate, something they want for ideological reasons. But their cynical branding also puts a paper-thin veil of respectability on their attempts to take away the civil and human rights of LGBT people. That veil allows the radical right to hoodwink otherwise fair-minded people (and politicians) into thinking it actually DOES have something to do with “religious freedom” when the actual intent is to enshrine anti-LGBT animus into law.

In addition to proposing anti-LGBT laws, radical right religionists are also organising themselves to “defy” the Supreme Court in unspecified ways. For example, a group of “pastors” recently heard speakers tell them to be prepared for “martyrdom” in their culture wars fight, mostly against LGBT people. This message is being repeated throughout the radical right echo chamber.

A group of far-right “Christians” says it’s organising members of the US Congress who will pledge to go to jail in defiance of the expected Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, even though Congress has nothing whatsoever to do with issuing marriage licenses in any US state. The radicals ignore that pesky detail, probably because they think such a list would have good propaganda value in their culture war (of course, it would also be good propaganda value for the radicals' mainstream adversaries…).

The defiance threat (supposedly) from members of Congress stops well short of the five year old “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” in which a veritable who’s who of far right anti-gay religious activists and hate group leaders pledged civil disobedience to actively defy laws and court orders they don’t like, including on marriage equality, which is why it was cited in a RICO lawsuit.

We’ll see all these tactics and many more in the coming years, especially the so-called “religious freedom” laws to legalise anti-LGBT discrimination, but also efforts to restrict and even repeal the civil and human rights of LGBT people, as well as attempts to enshrine bigotry against transgendered people, and even more bills attempting to advance “conversion therapy” torture.

Fortunately, in some places the radical right is meeting determined resistance. Some of their bills are being voted down, and some places are even outlawing “conversion therapy” torture of minors, all of which is good. But the radical right is persistent, extremely well-funded, and has legions of fanatical followers who will do whatever is asked of them. So, despite resistance from decent, fair-minded people, this war is far from over.

The first step in defeating the radical right’s “culture war” against the USA, and LGBT people in particular, is to shine the harsh light of day onto them, because they’re counting on us not realising what they’re up to until it’s too late. We mustn’t let them get away with that or to win—FAR too much is at stake.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

No argument on the ISSUE. The TACTICS may be in play, and I'm still pondering that. (Ponder, ponder...).