(In)Tolerant

In 2012, many names of those who contributed money to California’s Prop 8 campaign – the law proposed to make newly-legalized gay marriage illegal again in the state – was publicized. Many people were called upon by angry LGBT groups to answer for their support. Not surprisingly (at least to me), many of the people who contributed were also Democrats who voted for Barack Obama. I’m sure nobody remembers the fact that the vacationer-in-chief staunchly supported DOMA during his first campaign in order to attract the Democrat voters who are against gay marriage,

One of the names on that list two years ago was Brendan Eich. At the time he was the CTO of Mozilla, the company that built popular free internet browser Firefox. Last month he was hired as Mozilla’s CEO. Almost as soon as he achieved the highest position in the company he helped found, the fact that he had donated $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign was trotted out by bitter gay activists again. OKcupid got involved by asking their users to log onto their website using any browser other than Firefox. The message was sent: Eich is an anti-gay hatemonger, and we need to ruin him!

Just a few days ago, Eich was pressured to resign as Mozilla CEO. He apologized for having hurt anyone but the apology mattered none.

Before I get into my issues here, know that I am fully aware that this is not a matter of First Amendment rights. Nothing that happened is a violation of Eich’s rights. Everyone involved was exercising their rights to free speech. That is not what is wrong here.

What is wrong is this episode is setting a dangerous new precedent. This is the new face of the mob mentality that has begun to take over in American politics. Lists of political donations and firearms license holders are being published in the press by so-called journalists who feel they have an obligation to shine a light on a perceived wrong in society. The fallout is things like this – people being singled out, their lives torn apart because one small group decided that they were doing something they felt was wrong.

It is no secret that I don’t have much love for Arizona representative Kyrsten Sinema. Whereas I once had a couple of things to agree with her on, thanks to her followers I cannot even hold onto that anymore. A couple of years ago, I engaged several of her most ardent followers in a “debate” (I do use that word rather lightly) about Second Amendment rights and whether human beings have a natural right to defend themselves. As is always the case with hard-left liberals, it was very heated on their end with a lot of name-calling and almost no factual offerings while I tried to be rational and reasonable. One of them started taking the personal information on my Facebook page and posting it on the thread, making fun of me for it. Then it came out that I’m an EMT working in a 911 system in their areas.

Oh, that was it. Multiple people had absolute meltdowns. How could I possibly believe we have a right to carry guns when I’m responsible for treating people who have been shot? How could I believe that we should defend ourselves when I see the consequences of those beliefs on the streets? Here’s a sampling of the comments made:

“Your license to practice as an EMT should be revoked! You are violent and angry and I hate you and everything you stand for!”

“I’m going to write a letter to the state health department about you, Mel Maguire! You’re a disgrace to your profession and you should never be allowed to help people ever again!”

“If you ever come to my house, I won’t let you in! Don’t you ever answer my 911 call!”

And these are some of the nicer comments made. Kyrsten never deleted anyone’s comments, never stood up for me as a public servant, and never bothered to tell people to dial it down. Her silence said a lot about where her stance was. I didn’t have the heart to tell any of these people that the overwhelming majority of police, fire, and EMS workers are on the right side of the political spectrum. Their reactive comments, though, honestly scared me. They still scare me – now more so thanks to what was done to Brendan Eich. Nobody deserves to lose their livelihood simply because a few disagree with their politics.

If a small but vocal group of angry people can end a man’s career with the company he founded based on a technology he wrote (JavaScript), it does not bode well for the rest of society. That anger can and will be turned on others. It is magnified many times over when those in power do nothing to calm that sentiment. Don’t hold your breath for a phone call from President Obama apologizing for the hate that Eich experienced. Don’t plan on a DOJ investigation into whether his civil rights were violated. The press has said little about the fact that Eich’s professional image was irreparably damaged by this episode.

His donation and personal beliefs about marriage are not anti-gay. He simply doesn’t believe in gay marriage. That does not equate to hatred, and I’m tired of hearing people make that parallel. We can’t get the press to call out Al Sharpton for his blatant and wanton racism, but you can be damn sure they’ll attack anyone who is not 100% supportive of gay everything.

Eich’s personal beliefs were never brought into his workplace. He never refused to hire gay people. In fact, Mozilla has gay-friendly workplace policies as far as I know. If he never brought his personal ideas into his office, then nobody else should have. The way he was forced out of his own company, you’d think he’d been caught on camera drowning puppies or something. He wasn’t a member of the KKK. He just doesn’t believe in gay marriage. I fail to understand why that is grounds for a smear campaign aimed at destroying him both personally and professionally.

Just because the First Amendment allows you to do that to a person does not make it right. The fact that you don’t agree with him doesn’t make him intolerant and you a saint. Every single person who allowed this or supported it should be deeply ashamed. You are the living proof that those who scream for others to be more tolerant are the most intolerant among us.

DOMA Has Fallen

As expected, the Supreme Court has handed the decision over California’s Prop 8 back to the lower courts (all of which held that it was Unconstitutional). Now gay marriage will resume in CA. What SCOTUS didn’t do, as many gay liberals had hoped they would, was declare all gay marriage laws Unconstitutional, throwing the doors wide open for gay marriage everywhere, regardless of state laws and in violation of state’s rights.

What they DID do, however, was strike down DOMA. That is a consolation we can definitely live with.

What does that mean? It means that the federal government cannot legally deny benefits to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal. It also means that states where gay marriage is banned cannot continue to deny the benefits of married couples to those same-sex families. SCOTUS declared DOMA to be a violation of both equal treatment/due process (Fifth Amendment) and the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section I of the Constitution). In short, the federal government cannot pass a law that singles out gay couples to be denied certain benefits, and the states must honor any contract made in another state – which, in this case, would be gay marriage.

Now I’m just waiting for the Full Faith and Credit Clause to be applied to my paramedic license and my CCW. But that’s another issue.

The fact that SCOTUS didn’t hand down a ruling that immediately legalizes gay marriage in every corner of the Republic is not something to get upset about. They did what they were supposed to do – they interpreted the laws being challenged under the scope of the Constitution and ruled accordingly. They left the state issue to the state in question and handled the federal issue before them. DOMA is no more. That is something to celebrate.

I think I might actually take my nose out of my books for once and go out this weekend.

What it means for Equal Marriage Arizona is that the movement goes forward with efforts to bring marriage equality to Arizona. Having already taken the wind out of Cathy Herrod’s sails, Equal Marriage Arizona happily released to the public their intent to immediately begin collecting signatures to put the measure on the ballot next year. Warren Meyer said, “The US Supreme Court said today that the states can decide this issue for themselves, and this legitimizes our Equal Marriage Arizona efforts, allows Arizona voters the chance to guarantee the freedom to marry and guarantee religious freedoms. We’re confident the Arizona voters are ready to say YES to both of these interrelated freedoms.”

Erin Ogletree Simpson continued the sentiment: “Petitions will be printed today and our volunteer efforts will start tomorrow. People can get a petition by calling us at 480-625-8620. Whether you’re straight or gay, conservative like I am, or liberal this is an effort we all can embrace – an effort for guaranteed freedom to marry and a guarantee for religious freedom. The Supreme Court said it’s up to us, so now it’s up to all of us.”

If you’re in Arizona, it’s time to start work. Everywhere else…smile!

A Time For Equality

When I was born, being openly gay was only acceptable in certain parts of San Francisco. Even in the Castro, police would harass known gay people. Everywhere else? Forget it. New York City wasn’t even partially as progressive as San Francisco was. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

With the collapse of Nazi Germany (the third installation of which I will post tomorrow), a gay-rights movement sprang up in Europe, the UK, and the US. I think it may have been spurred on by the revelation that the Nazis had targeted homosexuals for extermination along with the Jews. The original movement gained a surprising amount of steam considering the conservative social sensibilities of the time. In 1966 LAPD officers raided Compton’s Cafeteria to arrest men dressed as women and a riot broke out – the drag queens and transgendered patrons destroyed the place. The next day, they went back to the cafe and smashed the newly-replaced plate-glass windows again (because, you know, destruction is the only way to get your point across when you’ve barely attempted to talk). In 1969, NYPD officers raided the Stonewall Inn, one of many mafia-owned gay bars.

Maybe I should explain here what laws were like in America at the time. Even in places that are now known as firmly leftist – Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco – there were decency laws. Some were targeted specifically towards those who identified as G, L, B, or T – in fact, it was illegal to knowingly run a bar or restaurant geared toward homosexuals. Men were not allowed to wear women’s clothing and women were not allowed to be too masculine. Laws for women were specific enough in some areas that in New York, for instance, a woman was required to wear at least three pieces of feminine clothing. Anyone caught in violation of public decency laws was subject to immediate arrest. Police harassment was commonplace. The First Amendment did not carry the same weight that it carries now; you were allowed to speak freely and express yourself, but if you ran afoul of the morality laws you no longer had those rights.

Nobody can accuse me of not knowing or understanding gay history.

Mafia crime families knew that clubs catering to gay patrons were cash cows waiting to be exploited, so they opened the first regular gay bars in Greenwich Village. They overcharged for drinks and watered down the booze, but they also paid off the police to make raids on their establishments less frequent. On June 28, 1969, four NYPD officers barged in to raid the club. Patrons began to refuse to produce IDs, so the officers decided everyone was going to jail. Male officers frisking lesbians all but sexually assaulted them. The few who were released assembled a crowd outside, even gathering passing pedestrians to witness what was going on. Finally, a lesbian being dragged out was beaten for complaining that she was uncomfortable – she called to the crowd that had gathered, at least 150 strong, to “do something!” They did. A mob of around 500 or so gravitated to the area within minutes and construction materials, particularly boards and bricks, ended up being used. Police officers had to barricade themselves inside the bar they’d raided to protect themselves. Rioters then tried to light the bar on fire, even tore a parking meter out of the ground to break the door down. Riots continued for at least five days, with multiple fires being set.

The riots were bound to happen, but Stonewall was too extreme. Much like the Black Panthers on the heels of Dr. King’s assassination, the Stonewall rioters did more to damage the cause of gay rights than they did justice. It is a good thing that gay rights organizations began to sprout nationwide, but what was the cost? Much of America began to fight back in subtler ways. It would be another thirty years before gay rights movements would be acceptable in any form. Decency laws are still on the books in some areas, merely being ignored because it’s too time-consuming for police to enforce them. Sodomy laws were already on the books in some states, but many – including my home state of Texas – enacted them in the years following Stonewall, not to be overturned for 40 years.

I explained that so I can explain this: I don’t think that a Supreme Court ruling striking down all state-level gay marriage bans or even DOMA is going to be a positive thing for gay rights. I think it would, yet again, set our cause back significantly.

The arguments being made by social conservatives about gay marriage right now are so ridiculous in many cases that I’m having a hard time keeping a straight face as I listen to them. The sanctity of marriage? Really? We have a divorce rate soaring well above 60% and they want to prattle about the sanctity of an institution that the overwhelming majority of our society abuses at an alarming rate? There’s the argument that gay couples cannot procreate. Out of curiosity, does anyone have the latest figures on married couples who either actively refuse to have children or simply can’t have children? Do we now expect all married couples to produce a child for their marriage to be valid? Yeah, I didn’t think so. My personal favorite so far is the argument that children being raised in gay homes are more prone to being ostracized – more simply, bullied. I’m sorry, but how is that my fault? Is it not YOUR prejudices that teach your children to treat other people that way? If you know your kid is being a jerk, it’s up to you to correct their behavior. It’s not my issue and I won’t be disrespected because you’re too prejudiced and lazy to do the right thing. Your religious misgivings about my sexual orientation do not deserve recognition in the law of the land any more than Sharia does.

At the same time, history has proven that gray areas like this (yes, it is a gray area, whether we like it or not – we can’t yet be classified as a race and subcultures do not count) draw intense backlash when the courts issue broad rulings too quickly. As evidence, I present Proposition 8. After the California State Supreme Court made gay marriage legal in the state, the backlash was swift and severe. Prop 8 gained popularity among far more than conservatives in the state. California voters gave Obama a resounding victory – the same people who voted for him also voted yes on Prop 8, making gay marriage illegal once again and proving that opposition to gay marriage crosses political ideologies and is not confined merely to the GOP. Why? Californians of all stripes and party affiliations were saying that the courts, comprised of judges who are not elected, are not the final authority on what the people are willing to accept. Enough liberals in California were not yet prepared to allow gay marriage that the half-hearted, snarky anti-Prop 8 campaign was doomed to failure.

And the gay left is still blaming conservatives. Forget looking inward to figure out how we can change our message, we want someone to blame.

Our society has come a hell of a long way since that late summer raid in 1969. Despite those leaps forward, the gay left is acting as if marriage equality is a life-and-death struggle. We’re not being persecuted by government agencies. We’re not being hounded by the police anymore. I’m not going to be tossed in the clink because I have short hair and my clothing couldn’t be remotely considered feminine. The argument has now turned from ending oppression to government-sanctioned happiness, and really, I don’t need the government to give me a blessing or any special privileges – I’d still love my girlfriend with wild abandon and not give a damn who sees me holding her hand or kissing her in public.

We need to learn that there is a time for all things. Not all forms of equality are going to happen overnight, and my greatest fear is that the Supreme Court would hand down a ruling that would throw the gates open for gay marriage just so society’s pendulum can begin to swing the other way and we’ll end up with hard-line social conservatives at the helm that will undo so much of what we’ve accomplished. It can happen. It has happened before. Now that the real struggle is over, we need to back off a little bit and work on winning hearts and minds.