John M. Becker

Hatred and Bigotry: It's All They Have Left

Filed By John M. Becker | September 21, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: animus, Brian Brown, gay marriage, hatred, homophobia, marriage equality, Richard Posner, same-sex marriage

Last month I had the privilege of traveling to Chicago to hear oral arguments at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the federal cases challenging marriage discrimination in Indiana and my home state of Wisconsin. It was my first time inside a federal courtroom, and as most readers will probably know, what transpired that day was nothing short of remarkable: a three-judge panel led by Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, utterly shredded the anti-gay arguments put forth by attorneys from both states. It was perhaps marriage equality's best day in court to date (other than DOMA Decision Day in 2013, of course).

Indiana's argument, in a nutshell, was that the state needs to regulate marriage - and exclude same-sex couples from it - because marriage is designed to "nudge" straight couples into staying together in the case of unintended pregnancy. Yes, you read that right: after months of preparation and thousands of taxpayer dollars spent, the best defense Indiana's lawyers could come up with was that of heterosexual irresponsibility - that "with opposite-sex couples, there is very little thought given during the sexual act sometimes to whether babies may be a consequence."

scales_justice.jpgUnsurprisingly, Posner was having none of it. He slammed Indiana's argument as "ridiculous" and "absurd," noting that same-sex couples in states like Indiana and Wisconsin are already raising children, and that those children are demonstrably harmed by the fact that their parents can't get legally married. "What's on the other side of this scale outweighing these costs?" he asked. "Is there any empirical basis for anything you've said?" The state was unable to provide a real answer.

Wisconsin's defense of its marriage discrimination amendment, argued by Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson, was equally pathetic. That state claimed that marriage equality might "devalue the institution of marriage and make fewer people likely to enter into it." Posner called shenanigans, asking Samuelson exactly how the state thought that would happen. The lawyer responded that he hadn't expected that question, so he'd have to brief Posner about it later because he wasn't prepared to argue it now. "How can you brief it when you don't know anything about it?," Posner replied. Translation: don't waste your time.

But for me, the highlight of the morning was when Samuelson tried to argue that Wisconsin's marriage discrimination amendment should be preserved for the sake of tradition. Posner nearly laughed him out of court, calling the state's claim "feeble" and asking whether it had anything better. When Samuelson replied that the tradition of excluding same-sex couples from marriage was based on "experience," the judge corrected him: "It's based on hate, isn't it? ...You don't think there's a history of rather savage discrimination against homosexuals in the United States and the rest of the world?"

In the court's unanimous opinion - released a mere nine days later - Posner came back to that point, writing that laws banning gay and lesbian couples from marriage "suggests animus."

He's right, of course: after literally decades of trying, opponents of marriage equality have never been able to come up with documented proof - supported by hard data and credible research - that same-sex marriage harms... well... anyone. When they're forced to defend their beliefs in open court, the curtain is pulled back and those views are exposed for exactly what they are: hateful. When you strip all their hyperinflated, doom-and-gloom hysteria away, hatred is all our opponents have left.

But you don't have to take my word for it - or even Judge Posner's, for that matter - just look at the shift within the anti-equality movement. As more and more Americans embrace LGBT rights and reject our opponents' toxic homophobia here at home, groups like the paradoxically-named National Organization for Marriage are shifting their focus and exporting their hatred abroad. In doing so, they're getting into bed with some of the nastiest and vilest bigots in the world - people like Scott Lively, the American evangelist who stoked the fires of homophobia in Uganda (leading to the passage of that country's infamous "jail the gays" law); and Yelena Mizulina, the co-author of Russia's draconian ban on so-called "gay propaganda."

brian-brown-hate-conference-photo.jpgAnd they're going far beyond marriage: an international anti-gay conference held in Moscow earlier this month and attended by NOM and other U.S.-based anti-gay groups called for the passage of more Russia-style "gay propaganda" bans all around the world, as well as additional "scientific studies" into the (non-existent) harms of same-sex parenting.

This is what hatred looks like, folks. It may be all that our opponents have left, but it doesn't mean they're going to give up the fight anytime soon. And as long as they continue fighting, we must keep fighting back.

Originally published by the South Florida Gay News.

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