David Kato Slain

Since I’ve been talking about civil discourse, I think I really need to talk about the tragic death of David Kato.  David Kato was an LGBT activist in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and where a bill was introduced in 2009 suggesting the death penalty for anyone convicted of committing homosexual acts.  Much of the international community made a stand against it, and the evangelicals from America,  like Scott Lively and Rick Warren, who had pushed a very strong anti-homosexual agenda in Uganda got a lot of negative press attention because of it.

A tabloid in Uganda called “Rolling Stone” (no relation) published Kato’s picture along with other suspected homosexuals with a tagline that read “Hang Them”.  Kato and a few other’s pictured led a successful lawsuit against the magazine, but only a few weeks after that victory Kato was bludgeoned to death in his home.

Some of the LGBT activists are placing the blame on the American evangelicals for stirring up the hatred originally, some are blaming the magazine, and many are blaming Uganda for being religiously intolerant.  I can only say that this is the danger of talking about gay people as though they aren’t human.

I cannot help but see some similarities between the “Hang Them” tagline and the rifle sites on Sarah Palin’s target list.  Both Giffords and Kato noted that that rhetoric was going to lead to violence against them.  At what point does violent rhetoric become the equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre?  I’m not sure, myself.  It’s difficult, these things are so upsetting it’s almost impossible to find the rational response to them. 

The Long Road to a Final Opinion on Prop 8

Yesterday was the presentation of the case to the 9th circuit.  Now, it’s not the full 9th circuit, which means that whatever these three judges decide, they may well have to reconvene with the rest of the 9th circuit if whoever loses this round decides to appeal.  It’s sort of a weird situation but it appears that, whatever they rule, the loser can then appeal either to the full 9th or to the Supreme Court.  If they appeal to the full 9th, they will probably then appeal to the Supreme Court anyway.  It all feels a bit futile when you know that it’s going to get appealed all the way up.

The three judges on the panel are, from most liberal to most conservative, Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Hawkins and Randy Smith.  Both Reinhardt and Hawkins seemed to agree with Judge Walker’s logic, while Smith seemed to be a bit more on the fence.  Even he, a fairly conservative republican, had a hard time with the idea that California had given a right and then taken it away — this led to one of the better lines of the day, in which a judge asked if it would be OK for California voters to reinstitute segregation.  Smith did, however, think that promoting procreation and a biological mom and dad family environment was a reasonable rational basis for excluding homosexuals from the instituion.

His biggest problem with the prosecutorial case came with the question of standing.  For those not following, the official defendants named in the case refused to defend the law, so several other people joined the lawsuit as Defendant Intervenors.  The DI aren’t people who would normally even be allowed to participate, but because no one was defending Prop 8 in California, they were allowed to join the case.  The question now is whether they are qualified to be DIs in a federal court.

The answer basically appears to be no, especially since SCOTUS has been tightening restrictions on who can be a DI in federal court over the last couple of decades.  The problem Judge Smith has, and I actually agree with him here, is that California has a process that says that the Governor cannot veto something voted on by the people and that, by refusing to defend Prop 8, he’s nullifying what the people want.

So, I don’t think that any of the DI actually deserve standing, but in the absence of an official Defendant, I feel like to respect the legislative process in California, it might be necessary for the 9th court to recognize the DIs in this case.

I posted a flow chart yesterday that explains exactly how convoluted all of this is, but if the 9th Court determines that the DI don’t have standing, and SCOTUS agrees, then Walker’s ruling stands and gay marriage is legal in CA.  If it’s determined that the DI do have standing, then it’s a much longer road to a final opinion, but there’s a chance that that opinion will legalize gay marriage nationwide.

By a longer road, I mean a wait for the 3 judges to rule on the constitutionality of Prop 8, then an optional wait for the full 9th court to rule on it, then a wait on SCOTUS to see if 4 judges want to have a hearing, and then finally a wait for SCOTUS to make a final ruling.

Now, in terms of argument, it has never been clearer that the DI simply don’t have one that goes beyond “gay people can have children, but they can’t do it accidentally and, even though there are no fertility requirements on straight people, we think that calling an institution marriage promotes responsible child-rearing, and we don’t think encouraging gays to responsibly procreate is something that marriage should do because they do it anyway.”  And, revealingly, the judges asked how wide a ruling that agreed with Walker would have to be — in other words, if they agree that Prop 8 isn’t constitutional, do they then have to say that gay marriage is a right in their jurisdiction?  Olson wiggled a bit, saying that that’s what he’s asking for without trying to bind their hands.

Being able to watch this all on live video just underlined how bad the lawyers on the DI side are and how good Boies and Olson are.  I know that sounds like a biased opinion, but even ignoring the strength of argument, the DI lawyers stuttered, stammered, and weaseled their way through their arguments, only to be repeatedly called on it by the judges who threw out such gems as:

“Is there anything  in the record to indicatate that she has any authority whatsoever?”

“You’re repeating yourself now.”

“If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know.”

It was painful, but since it was televised, I really hope that some people who weren’t as familiar with the trial got the chance to see just how illogical the DI position is and how eloquent, intelligent and prepared the prosecution is.  If you get the opportunity, I urge you to watch it, I will probably watch it again myself.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA_vFjjd3yM

The DI also continue to shoot themselves in the foot by saying things like “the word is the institution,” which just underlines that even if gays had access to everything but the word, they wouldn’t have access to the institution itself.  I’ll let Therese Stewart end this, because she is amazing(paraphrase from here):

If the word is the institution, then the argument is just that gays and lesbians would “stain” the institution. The fact that Prop 8 is symbolic, it makes the insult obvious. This is classification for its own sake, and it violates the equal protection clause. Taking these components together, it infers animus.

If we only passed Prop 8 to show that same-sex couples aren’t as good, or as worthy as other couples, then isn’t the equal protection argument plain to see? It reveals the naked schoolyard taunting aspect of Prop 8. Nah-nanny-boo boo, you aren’t as good as me. And frankly, nanny-boo-boo isn’t a valid use of state authority.

9th Court of Appeals: Prop 8

Oral arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, aka the Prop 8 trial, will be held before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today at 1 pm EST, 10 am, PST.

Set C-SPAN to stun and get ready for an all out brawl, 9th court style.

http://www.afer.org/follow-the-case/

Towleroad hosts a live chat and special coverage during and immediately following the hearing. Featuring Richard Socarides, Attorney and White House adviser under President Bill Clinton and bloggers Andy Towle and Corey Johnson.”

Or watch it live, online: https://www.calchannel.com/channel/live/4

And hopefully I’ll post my reax sometime today, though who knows when for sure…

Bishop Gene Robinson to Retire Early

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate gay bishop of the Episcopal Church is going to retire early because of the non-stop death threats he continues to get from Christians.

You know, there are always calls for Muslims to speak up against terrorism, but I’d like some Christians to publicly come out supporting the Bishop and denouncing the people sending him death threats. You want to complain that there aren’t enough moderate muslim voices? Then show me some moderate Christian ones.

Gene Robinson is an incredibly decent human being who is being terrorized because people who believe almost exactly the same thing he does, don’t like who he loves. Things like this make me find the appeal of Christianity completely incomprehensible.

And for those of you who say that that is not the behavior of a True Christian, I’d like to point you to the No True Scotsman fallacy as well as Leviticus. For those of you who think the appropriate way to deal with someone you don’t like is to threaten to murder them, you need help.

For the Christians who don’t particularly like the death threats but are glad that they’ve gotten this homosexual to step down, your tacit support is the moral equivalent of approving of Al Qaeda and Imams calling for death threats. You don’t have to agree with his lifestyle, but you should be at the front of the crowd denouncing the people using terrorism to get their(your) way.

Coming Out Day

Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day for LGBTQ, tomorrow is National Atheist Coming Out Day.  I have a lot of admiration for the reasoning behind these days — the more people realize that they know people who are different from them, the less different those people are going to seem.  If you’ve never met an open atheist, you probably think atheists are weird creatures who all talk like Christopher Hitchens (I wish!), but when you realize someone you already know and like is an atheist, it makes you rethink your prejudices.

That being said, I don’t like Coming Out Days, on a personal level, even though I completely agree with the political agenda and logic behind it.  That’s because I’m not a big fan of labels.

It’s a little easier with atheism, because I have a very clear idea of where I stand philosophically, and there are a dozen terms I could use for myself, though they don’t always make me feel totally at home.  Skeptic, atheist, agnostic, nonbeliever, nonreligious, antitheist, freethinker, bright, rationalist, skeptic.  None of those is inaccurate, but it always feels so reductive.

It is much, much harder for me when it comes to LGBT Coming Out Day.  There’s a little box the HRC (don’t get me started) asks you to fill out to describe yourself: are you a straight ally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer?  And I don’t really think of myself as any of those.  I don’t really think sexuality is one of those things that is very binary, and the idea that I have to reduce it to something that can be described in one word is just impossible.

I grew up in the gay community, I’ve always felt at home with the LGBT community in general.  Except, there’s a little voice in the back of my head, so quiet as to be easily missed, that says “They think you’re straight.  They think you’re a breeder.  They think you aren’t one of them.”  I don’t identify as straight, partially because I grew up hearing straight people not spoken very highly of, and partially because I find women attractive — I find people attractive based mostly on their personality and things that aren’t strictly based on their genitals.  I know, that’s a radical thought — but, realistically, I don’t see myself in a relationship with a woman.  It could happen, but I don’t think it will.  Therefore, do I really want to call myself bisexual and have to deal with everyone saying that it’s either for attention or a stage on the way to gayness?  That’s a fight I’m just not interested in fighting, because it’s almost never going to come up.

So, what then for the people on Coming Out Day who are like me?  Who don’t have a label they understand as related to them?  Shouldn’t I feel included in the movement?  What about those people who are agnostics who really aren’t comfortable Coming Out as Atheists, shouldn’t they feel included too?  Greta Christina posted about how the Atheist movement should really be working hard to include agnostics and secularists (secular ally?) because we’ve seen what happens in the gay community when you exclude bisexuals, and I think that’s true.

I hope there will be a day when the stigma is no longer attached to being atheist or gay, and I know coming out is incredibly important on that front, I just wish the price wasn’t having to reduce yourself to a label, to have to assume the responsibility of making a whole group look good, and to have people assume your entire identity is your sexuality or nonbelief.  But I think there will be a day when Coming Out Day is completely pointless, because no one cares.

Richard Dawkins Welcomes Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity.

He’s an enemy of children, whose bodies he’s allowed to be raped and whose minds he’s encouraged to be infected with guilt. It’s embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving child bodies from rapists than with saving priestly souls from hell. And most concerned with saving the longterm reputation of the church itself.

He’s an enemy of gay people. Bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews before 1962.

He’s an enemy of women, barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties.

He’s an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.

He’s an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families they cannot feed and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty which sits ill beside the obscene wealth of the Vatican.

He’s an enemy of science. Obstructing vital stem cell research on grounds, not of true morality, but on pre-scientific superstition.

Ratzinger is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly dissing Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void,” while at the same time shamelessly trying to poach Anglican vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood.

Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, Ratzinger is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made Catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation, and authority. His authority.

Why do atheists always have to mock religion?

I was asked this question, sincerely, by a relatively new convert to fundie christianity who had been, throughout the evening, talking an awful lot about church and god and such.  I had gotten bored of that and, over the course of about 10 seconds, referred to the xtian god as an invisible friend, sky daddy, and had finally gone too far by calling Mohammed “Mo”.

He lashed out, very frustrated that I didn’t take the religion thing very seriously, after all I took atheism seriously, right?

I mock religion for the same reason I mock Twilight, though at least Twilight fans generally have the good sense to realize that the book they obsess over is fiction.  It’s very difficult not to make fun of someone with bad taste or who believes something that is obviously very silly, especially when the undertone of your every day life is that there’s something wrong with you for not believing.  And sometimes it’s just fun to make fun of something that is a sacred cow, because why on earth should I have to respect your sacred cows?  I just don’t see why I have to respect your belief that you’re better than everyone else because an invisible man in the sky wrote it down in a self-contradicting book.

I said it was the same as making fun of an adult who still believed in Santa Claus, but he claimed he wouldn’t do that.  I don’t really think the average believer wouldn’t mock someone who believed in Santa at the age of 30, and as believers don’t refrain from mocking other belief systems, I’m going to feel pretty safe in that assumption.

Religion makes factual claims about the physical world, and to be a fundamentalist of any stripe requires ceding your thought process over to something that is demonstrably false.  If you’re going to be a touchy-feely deistic type of believer who doesn’t fund the evil things religion does, then fine, but don’t ask me to respect you for brainwashing children, destroying civil rights, and being responsible for the creation of Christian Rock.

I’m not sure to what degree the average religious believer is willing to “take responsibility” for the religious doctrines they believe, the religious institutions they are members of and support financially, or the religious leaders they follow and thereby give power and authority to. I can’t begin to count how often I’ve seen religious believers disparage civil rights protections for gays on the argument that homosexuality is “chosen” without recognizing that religion is far more like a “chosen” set of behaviors than it is like an inherent characteristic like race or sex.

People say they adopt certain moral positions because it’s what their god wants and thus disclaim any responsibility for either the moral position or any of its consequences. People vote in certain ways because of what religious leaders tell them about the meaning of scripture and/or the will of their god and thus try to avoid personal responsibility for what the government does in their name.

NY Mag says we won

No second source confirming yet: According to a source who has seen the 136-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Walker has ruled Proposition 8, the California voter-approved ban on gay marriage, unconstitutional under both the due-process and equal-protection clauses.