Sunday, April 14, 2013

Contrasts in the news

Two news stories highlight the difference between the LGBT victims of discrimination and our adversaries who pretend to be victims for political advantage. Realty trumps pretence every time.

In the US state of Missouri, a gay man was arrested and removed from the hospital bedside of his husband after the patient’s blood family objected to the gay man making medical decisions. It’s a long and twisted story, and one I didn’t want to comment on until more information was available. Fortunately, Think Progress has published an account of the entire series of events.

The important points in the story are this: The two gay men were joined in civil union, but civil unions are not recognised under Missouri law, so the two gave each other medical power of attorney, and executed what legal documents they could to approximate the rights of marriage. Keep in mind that the rightwing often tells same gender couples that they should do this instead of receiving any kind of formal legal recognition of their relationship.

The hospital appears to have violated federal rules for dealing with a situation in which blood family challenges the legal right of a same gender partner to make medical decisions, as John Aravosis noted on AMERICAblog when he discussed the conflicting statements made by the hospital. It isn’t yet clear whether the hospital’s actions were motivated by anti-gay animus, mere ignorance of the law, or some combination, but at the very least it seems the hospital staff inappropriately sided with the blood family.

This incident shows how useless a ream of legal papers can be when a same gender relationship has no legal standing. Back in 2009, I wrote about another case of a same-gender partner being excluded from a partner’s hospital bedside (and a follow up a year later). Three years ago, President Obama issued orders that were designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

So, the Missouri incident shows how nothing short of marriage matters in ensuring that same gender couples are treated equally. There are 1100 federal benefits that only married couples receive, but it seems to me that being able to at one’s partner’s bedside in a hospital is pretty high up the list for anyone.

Contrast this with the phony story out of Washington State. After marriage equality was enacted in that state, a gay couple went to the florist they’d used for years to get flowers for their wedding. The florist refused, citing her religious beliefs. Then this past week, Washington’s state Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, took the unusual step of filing suit against the florist for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law. Now the couple, represented by the ACLU, may also sue.

As you can imagine, the radical right (including here in New Zealand) are citing this as an example of what will happen with marriage equality—but there’s one HUGE problem: They’re lying.

The actions of the florist were illegal before marriage equality was enacted in the state: As a business serving the general public, they can’t refuse to serve someone because they’re gay or because they have different religious beliefs, for that matter. The state’s anti-gay group acknowledged this, declaring that the state’s anti-discrimination law’s protection of LGBT people "was bad then and is bad now”. Nice people, eh?

This isn’t the first time the radical right has lied like this. EVERY case of supposed “anti-Christian” “persecution” has turned out to be a religionist having violated anti-discrimination laws that were already in place before marriage equality. The radical right wants people to think that far-right religionists will somehow face new legal sanctions for defying anti-discrimination laws, but the fact is, NOTHING has changed: What was illegal before remains illegal, and nothing new was added.

The bottom line, then, is that in the Missouri case we see the real, painful consequences of the lack of marriage equality, a situation potentially faced by LGBT people in most of the US. On the other we see a “fauxrage” by the radical right, pretending some sort of new “discrimination” when, in fact, they’re merely whining about having to obey existing anti-discrimination laws. The real victims here—the only victims here—are LGBT people, and the radical right knows it. For them to claim otherwise is just more spin—and lies.

The image accompanying this post is from Wikimedia Commons and has been released into the public domain.

No comments: