Ryan Anderson on Anti-Gay Discrimination: The Contradictions Continue

I had a long, intense twitter exchange with Ryan Anderson! I have to thank Michelangelo Signorile — he started the conversation and I jumped in. I used it as a chance to ask Ryan about his views on religious freedom, racial discrimination, and anti-gay discrimination — a contradictory mess that he and his colleagues have failed to sort into a coherent argument.

Let me recap their dilemma and the resulting incoherence. They oppose discrimination laws protecting gays, but they can’t appear anti-gay, because policy motivated by animus is vulnerable to a court challenge. Instead they speak of “religious freedom” and the principle that no one should have to serve a customer in violation of their beliefs. However, they don’t apply this principle when it comes to race; that would make them pariahs to the mainstream public. They explain this away by saying racism is wrong, but this leaves them open to the charge that they only want to protect the religious freedom of those they agree with, a position they fiercely reject.

It’s a logical swamp.

In our twitter exchange Ryan tried a different justification: that religious liberty is not an absolute right, but must be weighed against other measures of the common good. He directed me to his statement:

Legislators should enact commonsense religious liberty protections that would prevent the imposition of substantial burdens on sincere religious beliefs unless the government proves that imposing such a burden is necessary to advance a compelling government interest (and does so by the least intrusive or restrictive means).

Such religious liberty protections would not justify blanket discrimination, as some wrongly claim. For example, one does not hear of any sincere religious beliefs that would lead a pharmacist to refuse to dispense antibiotics to any patients. Furthermore, it has long been recognized that the government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public health by combating communicable diseases.

That’s reasonable. But it presents Ryan with a couple problems. First, it contradicts what he wrote elsewhere:

Indeed, a regime of free association, free contracts, free speech, and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage…

Private actors should be free to make reasonable judgments and distinctions — including reasonable moral judgments and distinctions — in their economic activities. Not every florist need provide wedding arrangements for every ceremony. Not every photographer need capture every first kiss.

There’s nothing in that piece about balancing religious freedom against the common good. I do understand that free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage is more bumper-sticker-catchy than: free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage, except for when it shouldn’t, and sometimes it shouldn’t, though sometimes it should, and it, well, it — it depends on a bunch of factors that I won’t go into now.

Except that Ryan isn’t writing for bumper stickers. He’s making a lengthy argument, one that doesn’t align with his other writings.

A second problem is that he merely begs the question, Why does the “common good” override religious liberty when it comes to discrimination based on race but not when based on sexual orientation?

That’s a tricky question. You can’t answer, Because gays are bad! — that lands you in the animus trap, with your law overturned in the court. Instead, Ryan sent me to this:

Today’s debates about religious liberty and marriage are profoundly different [from debates about interracial marriage]. First, as argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is a reasonable position; bans on interracial marriage were not. Second, as also argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is witnessed to repeatedly in the Bible; prohibitions on interracial marriage were not.

But these two points are irrelevant, of course, even according to Ryan’s own standards. As he wrote in this piece:

The right to religious freedom is for everyone, not just for those with the “right” beliefs.

So it doesn’t matter whether your racist religious views are reasonable or Biblically sound, because religious freedom is also for the wrong. It’s for everyone.

But things really go awry with his next point:

Third, to be argued below, while interracial marriage bans were clearly part of a wider system of oppression, beliefs about marriage as the union of male and female are not.

But it’s not “argued below.” Or rather, he does argue the point about interracial marriage bans, but never establishes the part about same-sex marriage. Probably because he can’t — probably because it isn’t true.

Our history of blacklisting, imprisonment, official exclusion from federal employment, and lobotomization obviously indicate a history of oppression. Granted, excluding same-sex couples from marriage was not originally a tool of that system; it was the result. Gays were seen as such sick and twisted perverts that few thought about giving us marriage rights. Still, it was part of that system, and it did indeed become a tool of oppression with DOMA and the various state constitutional amendments designed to “protect” marriage from those who don’t deserve it and to express moral disapproval of us deviants.

Frankly, it’s astonishing that Ryan attempts this argument — and that he doesn’t even make a token effort to justify it.

So now we’re back where we started. Ryan still hasn’t explained why religious liberty requires that bakers be free to turn away same-sex couples but not interracial couples, even if their religion condemns them. His reasoning is still an incoherent mess. All he’s done is add yet another layer of contradiction.

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Press Release of the Day

As a blogger I get some weird, random press releases, but this one, well, read it:

Below, please find the product announcement for the one and only Step And Go. Call it a “poop stool,” a “sit-and-shit,” whatever you want – we promise you the thing works and to that end, would be happy to send one for you to review.

The owners of the company are pretty unique – they actually encourage a little mocking of their own product. They know this is a hard one for people to…. Digest.

So please let us know when and where to send product! We look forward to hearing from you soon.

It’s from a real PR company. What do you think? You folks want to see a review?

UPDATE: It appears to be this.

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BAD ANALOGIES: Gay Marriage is Like 2 + 2 = 5

Anti-gays hate the word homophobia, but we need it for those times when someone’s reaction to homosexuality makes them take leave of their senses, lose their ability to think clearly, and fail at creating coherent arguments. These are signs of a debilitating psychological disorder in play, and it’s fair to call it out as such.

ben-carson-one-nation-200x200For instance, conservative darling Ben Carson is a brilliant man. He’s the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. In 1987 he successfully separated conjoined twins who were joined at the back of the head, in a pioneering 22-hour surgery.  The man is extraordinarily gifted.

Within in his field.

At the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, though, he gave a socially conservative speech that launched him into right-wing prominence, and he’s touted now a possible presidential contender in 2016. He wants to end political correctness and replace it with civil discourse. And he’s unhappy with people who say, “Carson is a homophobe because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman.” He tries to explain why they’re wrong, using a “helpful analogy” that mostly confirms his inability to think clearly when it comes to teh gays.

It’s sort of like a new group of mathematicians that come along, and they say 2+2=5. And the traditionalists say, ‘No, it’s 4, it’s always been 4, it always will be 4.’ And the new ones say, ‘No, we insist that it’s 5.’ So, that the traditionalists say, ‘I’ll tell you what, for you it can can be five; we’re keeping it as 4.’ And then, the new ones say, ‘No, no, it has to be 5 for you, and if it’s not, then you’re a mathosaur or a mathophobe. And basically, that’s the situation we find ourselves in.

Now, these are carefully considered remarks offered in a friendly setting. Nevertheless, there is so very, very much wrong with this analogy.

First, we have a term for mathematicians rely on “tradition” to explain why 2+2=4; we call them not mathematicians. Just as we’d refer to deep thinkers who rely on tradition to oppose same-sex marriage as not deep thinkers. Turns out it’s surprisingly complex to prove 2+2=4, but tradition is not the way to do it.

Second, this business about, “I’ll tell you what, for you it can can be five; we’re keeping it as 4,” is exactly wrong. We’re the ones saying, “I’ll tell you what, some marriages can be a man and a woman, and others can be a woman and a woman or a man and a man.” And they’re the ones saying, “No, no, it has to be a man and a woman, and if you disagree then you’re a name-calling anti-Christian homofascist.”

Finally, of course, we’re not saying that 2+2=5. I don’t want to get too literal, but an analogy ought to at least feel like the thing it’s analogizing.  Look at the structure of  2+2=4. It’s about two things coming together to form a unit. That’s an obvious analogy for marriage, and because we’re saying our marriages are real and genuine marriages, we’re saying that our marriages add up to 4 just like Carson’s does.

Which leads to my suggestion for how to counter his analogy — because let’s face it, you don’t want to lecture for three or four paragraphs to make your point. Instead you can just reply:

We’re not saying 2+2=5. We’re saying 2+2=4. And so does 1+3. And 3+1. Different combinations can add up to 4, just like different combinations can add up to marriage. Saying only a man and a woman can create a marriage is like saying only 2+2 can equal 4.

And I think that’s the best way of dealing with these bad analogies. Take them over, make them better, and turn them against the speaker’s original point. There’s something very satisfying about that.

This is fun. I’m working up something on Same-sex marriage is like a square circle, and if you’ve come across any other bad analogies you want to examine, put them in the comments (with a link, if you can).

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Social Conservatives on Anti-Gay Discrimination: Incoherent or Just Cowardly?

Gays present mainstream social conservatives with a great dilemma, because they try to hold such contradictory positions. For instance

  • They want to oppose laws outlawing anti-gay discrimination by using the rhetoric of liberty, so they don’t look like obvious anti-gay bigots (we’re talking mainstream so-cons, of course).


  • They want to avoid the PR disaster of looking like they oppose laws outlawing racial discrimination.

But this trips them up, because to achieve the first goal, they often don’t talk about gays at all. They use code words like religious freedom and freedom of association. But that makes them run afoul of their second goal, as I recently summarized in this graphic:
cant have both

You can see this conflict in Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation. Now that NOM is nominal force in the culture wars (thanks, Richard Rush!), I pay them less attention and focus it more on Ryan, who represents an influential conservative think tank and edits an intellectual mouthpiece, The Public Discourse.

Ryan has tripped up on this contradiction before, and recently he’s just made it worse. To refresh your memory, Ryan tweeted a while back that you have no right to have anyone bake you a wedding cake.”  

Someone reasonably asked, “Bakeries aren’t able to turn away interracial couples. Why is anti-gay discrimination more acceptable?” And Ryan answered, “racism is wrong. Marriage has nothing to do with keeping the races apart. Marriage is about uniting male and female.”

The problem is that many racists would disagree, and disagree on religious grounds. This forces one to conclude that Ryan is only concerned with freedom for religious beliefs that he approves of, which isn’t religious freedom at all, but a theocracy with Ryan in charge.

Lately, he’s had to alter his message. He wrote a long, long post on 6 steps for moving forward in the battle against our rights; step 2 is “Defend our form of government and our liberties.” He starts with the familiar refrain:    Read more…

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Regnerus Shoots His Own Foot

Mark Regnerus has gotten a lot of flack lately for publicly criticizing a positive Australian report on same-sex parenting, a classic example of the pot calling the kettle incompetent. Hidden in his critique, though, is a little nugget that deserves more attention.

Midway through, Regnerus flogs his notions about the instability of same-sex couples, but then tries to substantiate them by linking to research that proves him wrong — and in doing so, brings to light a study that we should all have bookmarked.

So…thanks, Mark!

A bit of background. We lambasted Regnerus, of course, for presenting his famous study as research into same-sex parenting even though he did not specify outcomes for kids raised by same-sex parents, mostly because he hardly studied any kids raised by same-sex parents. His defense was that grown-up kids like that are hard to find because families like that seem to be unstable, and then he turned this alleged instability into further criticism of same-sex parenting.

He pushes this theme again in his recent critique:

Children fare better in an environment of household stability. In the NFSS, stability was largely absent when an adult child reported a parental same-sex relationship. Hence, their life experiences were (on average) notably more challenging than those of their peers with married mothers and fathers. Some critics felt this was an “unfair” comparison. But if social reality is unfair, there’s not much that any sociologist can do about that.

And also:

But will same-sex parents’ relationships be more or less stable in the future? On the one hand, we know that same-sex relationships in general—across multiple datasets—remain more fragile than opposite-sex ones (and to be fair, no group is performing all that well).

That link is in his original, and with that link we strike gold.    Read more…

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Giving NOM's March4Marriage the Attention It Deserves

It seems like we ought to talk about NOM’s March4Marriage, but watching the live feed for just a few minutes was enough to show nothing of substance was going on. Really, the only appropriate response is mockery, which I engaged in via Twitter throughout the event. So if you want a sober and judicious analysis of the event, read no further. But if you’d rather read the reaction it deserves, then please continue.

First, a response to all the rhetoric of “freedom” and “limited government.”

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone took the stage to praise himself and others for being so gosh-darned nice.

Then he invoked early Christians in Rome, who were scapegoated when disasters occurred, and who cared for plague victims when no one else would, even if the victims weren’t Christian.

Cordileone was followed soon by another man of the cloth.

Later, a representative from Concerned Women for America said something ridiculous.

John Eastman, NOM’s Chairman of the Board, came onstage, so flushed and shrill he seemed about 3 decibels from a heart attack. He quickly demonstrated why he’s such a horrifically bad lawyer. This, really, is so awful it deserves some background. Eastman declared:

Two months ago Justice Kennedy authored an opinion when he says the courts should never take content — controversial issues away from the voters in this country. And that’s absolutely right. The last time the Court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply. He said if we let the Court be the final word, we cease to be our own rulers, having given to that extent practically, er, resigned our government into the hands of the Supreme Court. That’s not what we stand for.

I imagine he thought he was being clever by invoking our nation’s most shameful Court decision. But when you look at what Eastman said right before that about voters, a more shocking conclusion emerges.

It’s like they should never have taken the training wheels off his mind. But the sad truth is that this is where their complaints about activists judges actually lead.

Speaking of those judges, Huckabee closed the rally by (unintentionally) painting the funniest image of the day.

At least it was nice of them to end on something fun.

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Ignorance as a tool for persuasion

Now that the Equal Rights Amendment is back in the news, I’ve read two long articles from conservatives decrying how terrible it is. Neither article provided the amendment’s actual text, which is only THREE SENTENCES LONG! Take a clue, folks: If ignorance is your best tool for persuasion, you’re simply admitting you’re wrong.

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Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism

What should we call perpetrators of hate crimes? “Hate criminals” hasn’t caught on. “Perpetrator of a hate crimes” is a mouthful. So what’s an alternative?

I vote for “terrorist.” Or, if you prefer, “domestic terrorist.” It’s blunt. And it has  legal justification.

I’ve spent too much time on message boards correcting our opponents’ understanding of hate crime legislation and explaining that bias crimes don’t just affect the immediate victim, but intimidate victimize an entire class of people. I’ve had the best luck with anti-gay conservatives by laying out a scenario where someone is targeting elderly women on their way home from church. A pattern like that, or even a single attack backed up with some graffiti, could intimidate a whole community of elderly women from attending services. That expanded group of victims is why hate crime legislation — which doesn’t actually make anything illegal — is justified in giving heavier penalties to traditional crimes when they’re committed out of bias.

That’s where domestic terrorism comes in. It has a legal definition in the US:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

(A) applies. (C) applies. And (B)(i) is exactly what we’ve been talking about. (The “or” at the end of (ii) indicates that any of those subbullets are sufficient.)

This works for the man who tried to burn down a bar full of gay patrons — even if, mind-bogglingly, he’s been charged with neither a hate crime or terrorism. And it works for those vandalize homes with graffiti saying, “You are not welcome here,” and “We cannot coexist with Third World scum.”

“Terrorist” (or, as W would say, “trrrrrist”) is a word conservatives love. But just as they’ve co-opted much of our language, I feel comfortable doing the same to them. Every time one of our opponents makes a mocking comment about hate crimes, I’ll have no trouble doubling down and calling these “perpetrators” exactly the name they deserve. Terrorists they are, and terrorists they should be called.

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Please, please, PLEASE -- be my straight best friend!

The Public Discourse is a publication of the Witherspoon Institute (which financed Regnerus) and it has an odd pattern of inviting gay authors to talk about how much it sucks to be gay. These articles are accidentally revealing — I mean, brutal self-portraits if you read between the lines.

For instance, Doug Mainwaring is a gay dad who makes it clear he shouldn’t be a dad at all. Robert Oscar Lopez is an opponent of same-sex parenting who reveals he doesn’t understand same-sex parenting. And now Richard G. Evans is a celibate gay Catholic who inadvertently tells us how awful that celibate life is.

His article explains that he desperately needs Godly straight folk to befriend him.

I returned to the Church after thirty-five years away and was finally confirmed at age fifty. That night, I suppose I expected to be walking on both air and water. Stepping inside my empty apartment and realizing that I could either order take-out or not eat at all was too much for me. I felt forsaken by God, family, and friends, even though I knew that no one intentionally abandoned me. Especially not God! Still, the pain was there and acutely real.

Those who are blessed enough to be married and have families of their own can sometimes forget that those of us called to be celibate and permanently single still have a great need to connect with “family,” particularly on holidays and holy days. This applies to single people from many backgrounds: the widowed, priests, and, of course, those with SSA [same-sex attraction].

In other words, I deliberately cut myself off from intimacy and chose a community that says I’m afflicted with a tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil. So obviously I’ll need to explain that I might get lonely. I need you to help me battle that, and believe it or not, it might even benefit you!

Although there are many exceptions, men from SSA backgrounds are probably less likely to have ever changed the oil in a car or excelled at traditionally masculine sports such as football. They may prefer to listen to classical music or jazz rather than rock or rap and enjoy a nice glass of wine rather than a bottle of beer. It’s not unlikely that we clean our homes better than you do, and we might even be gourmet cooks…

No offense intended, but some of you could actually learn a few things from us in these areas!

I may indeed be able to show you better ways of organizing tchotchkes and slicing fresh mango. But beware! An openly gay man might also teach you the benefits of nonconformity, independent thinking, and being true to yourself, so be ready to change the subject if that comes up.

Meanwhile, you have something to offer me!

But we can also learn from you. For example, I was pathetic at pretty much all sports as a child. I do not mean this as an indictment of him, but if my father had ever pulled me into the backyard to throw a baseball with me, or if he had ever taken me fishing, I would have been so thrilled that I probably would have announced it in “show and tell.” I also might have learned enough grace and skill to avoid being made the brunt of many cruel “sissy” jokes and being continually picked last on every team.

Yes, if I can pull myself away from the gym and you can get your ass off the couch, you can teach me to throw a ball. And if the author’s right, after I convince you to hang out with gay men, you can teach me how to deal with guys who have to be convinced to hang out with gay men. Win-win!

I could learn other things from you, as well. Like how it feels to have a loving, committed relationship with another human being. Because my religion made me give that up. But, hey, a baseball lesson would be nice, too.

If you want to be my friend, though, I’ll need some things from you.

First, let us be emotional and share our thoughts and feelings with you. No, I do not need to pour my heart out constantly—but I sometimes do. You, I hope, have a wife with whom you can do so. I do not. I am your perpetually single next-door neighbor—the one who is not ever going to be otherwise.

See, we’re not so different. You have someone who wants to hear your thoughts and feelings, and I can have somebody to plead with (that’s you!) to listen to mine, as long as I don’t do it too much. You don’t even actually have to listen. All I ask is that you grunt every so often as you change your oil while drinking a beer and playing the rap music.

Now of course I’ll fall in love with you, but it’s no biggie.

What would you do if a woman seemed to expect more from you than you could give her? You would, I hope, be very gentle with her, state your position, and be clear that you do not reject her as a person even though you reject her advances.

I would contend that, with another male who is committed to chastity, it is even easier, not harder, to deal with such a situation. First of all, we already know that the “crush” is a transient thing and cannot go anywhere. We are acutely aware of this, trust me.

See, a woman might stalk you, but I’m too pathetic and hopeless for that. I mean, if I weren’t aware I’m such a loser, it might be a problem. But I’m acutely aware of this, trust me. And I’ll be ever, ever, ever so grateful that you put up with me even though I’m, well, me.

So like us—love us—and do not ignore us even if you have had to give us the painful truth that we need to ease off a little. But remain available. It will mean the world to us if you do.

Now, as for next steps…

So how do you begin? Start by knocking off the “gay” or “faggot” jokes. Most of them are not funny anyway, and you may be telling them in front of someone who has a secret you never dreamed of and hurting that person immensely. You may be even preventing that person from ever telling you about his or her struggles.

Sure, some of those “gay” or “faggot” jokes are hilarious, but most of them are not. So please stop. Because there’s nothing a celibate gay wants more than a straight man who’s just sworn off fag jokes. And I bet there’s nothing a straight man who’s just sworn off fag jokes wants more than a celibate gay telling him about his struggles.

One last bit of cautionary advice:

We do not need you to “fix” us. We are working on that already, or we should be. But you are, by virtue of your manhood, part of the solution.

Indeed — your manhood truly is the solution to my celibacy. And really, that’s all I want.

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Marriage Equality, Bigotry...and Don Sterling

A great deal of opposition to marriage equality is based on anti-gay bigotry. I’ve read it, experienced it, documented it and called it out, again and again and again. Homophobia, like racism, anti-Semitism, and a host of other toxic bigotries, is a derangement, a flaw of judgment and character, quite enough to make us question a person’s ability (and suitability) to lead.

That’s never been in doubt for me. What I have doubted, though, is whether opposition to same-sex marriage always and automatically marks one as an anti-gay bigot. Some have argued, forcefully, that it does. As one commenter wrote:

Opposition to marriage equality doesn’t exist in a person for no reason. You can’t get to “I oppose equality” if you don’t first see gays as bad or inferior. They may not all hate us, but they most certainly all think they’re superior to us or that we’re bad in some way.

If my CEO thought gays to be bad or inferior, I’d want him removed, and I could make a strong case to a Board of Directors that he should be removed. But I don’t see the connection the commenter made. Many people don’t ever get to “I oppose equality.” Our opponents struggle to make sure they don’t think of it in those terms, shifting instead to, “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” It’s not a question of whether gays are good or bad. It’s a question of what their religion tells them about marriage.

In 2012, Gallup reported that 47% of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage gave the Bible or religion as their main reason (while only 12% of people with “no religious identity” opposed marriage equality). Barack Obama used this justification for a while. In The Audacity of Hope, he attributes his opposition to his religious beliefs and then weasels around to describe how bad he feels about it when talking to a lesbian, never bothering to explain why his religious beliefs should be enforced on everyone by rule of law.    Read more…

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