Blaming the Victims (Yet Again)

This sickens me so much I’m at a loss for words:

Fifteen year-old Larry King (no relation to the CNN interviewer) was shot twice in the back of the head by his classmate Brandon McInerney while sitting in school in Oxnard, California. Now that McInerney is on trial, the boy’s legal team and the school administration are using the tried and true “he was asking for it” defense. This is totally disgusting.

According to a story in the L.A. Times today, “McInerney’s defense attorneys… acknowledge that the boy pulled the trigger but say that he was pushed to the breaking point by King’s taunts.” Yes, it’s the tried and true “gay panic defense” that preys on juries’ homophobia to get confessed killers cleared for murdering gay people. It was even used against Matthew Shepard, when one of his killers said he was driven to kill the gay college student because he hit on him.

It only gets worse from there.

I know that defense attorneys have very few avenues they can take with an obviously guilty client. But this tactic is beyond reprehensible. What they’re basically trying to argue is that, should you suffer an unwanted advance, it is perfectly right and fine to shoot a person in the head. You should be able to murder a human being and walk free just because you were briefly inconvenienced and made to feel a bit icky.

I don’t imagine they’d be arguing that women have that blanket right to murder men who come on to them. But, y’know, gays. Ew. Of course it’s all right for a straight guy to shoot a transsexual or a gay dude, because that’s a threat to manhood. Kinda like when your wife sleeps with some other dude. It’s okay to shoot ’em in the heat of passion – why not be able to shoot queers, too?

One can only hope that the jury is not so morally bereft as to buy this argument. But we need to have a conversation, a very long and unflinching conversation, about the kind of society in which arguments of this sort can even be entertained. We’re supposedly a first-world nation, and yet there are not insubstantial numbers of people who don’t see much wrong with demonizing and victimizing gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. When a little girl gets raped, an entire town rallies round the rapists, because, y’know, she wore makeup and was obviously asking for it. How dare those sorts of people lure nice, upstanding young men into performing savage acts?

Some folks, otherwise decent, may claim that the defense attorneys are only doing their job. Sure, they have to blame the victim – how else can they defend their client? I don’t know the answer to that. I know this, though: that sort of tactic is devastating to victims, survivors, and the culture at large. There’s probably nothing we can do to prevent defense attorneys from using such tactics, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them. We can speak out against them. We can tell our society that murdering a person because they made the mistake of flirting with a homophobic sociopath, that raping a girl because she wore makeup in the presence of men, is not justifiable. There are certain things you just do not do in a civilized society. There are some actions that cannot be excused on the grounds that the victim wasn’t a perfect, straight, chaste person.

This dehumanizing bullshit may be a tactic defense attorneys feel comfortable using, but society at large never should. Victims have shouldered too much of the blame. Time to pass that blame to those who have earned it: the victimizers.

Equality is Beautiful

New York State is celebrating marriage equality, and it’s beautiful.

Niagara Falls by @LanceBass

Governor Cuomo wholeheartedly declared July 24 as a day to commemorate marriage equality, which gives us even more to celebrate aside from the marriages of a lot of very happy couples.  If you really want your heart warmed, click here to see Phyllis Siegal and Connie Kopelov right after they tied the knot.  The Salt Lake Tribune has a huge gallery.  And the Digital Cuttlefish has written a poem especially for the occasion: “My Marriage is Gay Today.”  At least one hetero marriage has been changed by all this gay marrying!

By the time I, like Phyllis and Connie, am a white-haired old lady, I hope that every state has allowed same-sex couples to suffer matrimony like the rest of us get married, and that the idea that the United States once was a place where people who loved each other couldn’t marry simply because of similar genitalia is as unbelievable to the youngsters as the idea of Jim Crow and bans on interracial marriages.

I think this calls for a song.

(And yes, I’ll have Los Links up later today. I’m horribly behind, but they’re coming.)

The Limits of Tolerance

Johann Hari asks a very good question: “Can we talk about Muslim homophobia now? (h/t)”

Here’s a few portents from the East End that we have chosen to ignore. In May 2008, a 15 year old Muslim girl tells her teacher she thinks she might be gay, and the Muslim teacher in a state-funded comprehensive tells her “there are no gays round here” and she will “burn in hell” if she ever acts on it. (I know because she emailed me, suicidal and begging for help). In September 2008, a young gay man called Oliver Hemsley, is walking home from the gay pub the George and Dragon when a gang of young Muslims stabs him eight times, in the back, in the lungs, and in his spinal column. In January 2010, when the thug who did it is convicted, a gang of thirty Muslims storms the George and Dragon in revenge and violently attacks everybody there. All through, it was normal to see young men handing out leaflets outside the Whitechapel Ideas Store saying gays are “evil.” Most people accept them politely. 

These are not isolated incidents.

Johann brings up the point that because Muslims are so frequently targets of bigotry, harassment and violence themselves, there’s an understandable reluctance to speak out against their less-admirable acts.  It’s easy to get yourself branded Islamophobic for pointing out that Islam isn’t necessarily a religion of peace, and that strict adherence to Islam leads to despicable acts.  But, as Johann says,

It’s patronizing – and authentically racist – to treat Muslims as if they are children, or animals, who can only react to their oppression by jeering at or attacking people who have done them no harm, and who they object to because of a book written in the sixth century. Muslims are human beings who can choose not to this. The vast majority, of course, do not attack anyone. But they should go further. They should choose instead to see us as equal human beings, who live and love just like them, and do not deserve scorn and prejudice.

Giving people a pass to be bigoted, damaging jerks just because they’re a member of a despised minority doesn’t do any sector of society any good.  It normalizes dangerous behavior.  It doesn’t confront the intolerance before it gets wildly out of control.  And it only feeds cycles of oppression.  No one – not even atheists – are saying Muslims have to give up their religion.  But we expect Christians and Jews and members of other faiths to respect gay folks, even if they do think gays are icky.  It’s ridiculous to give homophobia a pass out of some misguided sense of fairness.  It’s not fair.  It’s not fair to Muslim people who are lesbians or gays or bisexuals or transgendered.  It’s not fair to those Muslims who might discover that their religion can accommodate gays just fine.  And it’s not fair to the wider community, LGBT and allies, who are sick to death of seeing people get harassed, hurt and killed because of the way they love.

There are limits to tolerance.  We can tolerate people of other faiths.  We can’t tolerate actual harm they do for the greater glory of God. Let’s do talk about Muslim homophobia, just as we talk about homophobia in all its many disgusting forms.  Let’s not stay silent about issues that are so critically important.

Prop 8: It’s Only a Setback

You’ve probably already seen the news: California’s Supreme Court upheld Prop 8. They’ve tossed the ball back to our side of the court, practically begging us to score:

The court’s majority concluded “that if there is to be a change to the state constitutional rule embodied in that measure, it must ‘find its expression at the ballot box.’”

That means those of us who support same-sex couples’ right to get married have a job o’ work ahead of us:

In response to the court’s decision, the Courage Campaign will hit the California airwaves in the next 72 hours with a 60-second TV ad version of “Fidelity”—the heartbreaking online video viewed by more than 1.2 million people, making it the most-watched video ever in the history of California politics.

We are launching this provocative new TV ad in the spirit of Harvey Milk’s call to “come out, come out wherever you are” and proudly tell the stories of the people most affected by the passage of Prop 8—in moving images set to the beat of Regina Spektor’s beautiful song.

More than 700,000 Courage Campaign members are ready to restore marriage equality to California. Will you help us get to “1 Million for Marriage Equality”? Watch our powerful new 60-second “Fidelity” TV ad and sign the pledge.

If you like TV ad, please contribute to put it on the air in Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Let’s get it done. We can’t have California falling too far behind Iowa, now, can we?

Seriously? This is The Case Against Gay Marriage?

Isaac Chotiner at TNR‘s The Plank tears apart an article arguing against gay marriage that is so egregiously stupid, so delusional, and so incoherent that one would be tempted to believe we’ve been Poe’d. Alas, that is not the case. Sam Schulman appears to believe his own schlock.

A sampling:


As part of the “kinship system,” marriage has, according to Schulman, four effects. The first is too poorly presented to be summarized coherently or cogently. The second has to do with, yes, incest:

Incest prohibition and other kinship rules that dictate one’s few permissible and many impermissible sweethearts are part of traditional marriage. Gay marriage is blissfully free of these constraints. There is no particular reason to ban sexual intercourse between brothers, a father and a son of consenting age, or mother and daughter…A same-sex marriage fails utterly to create forbidden relationships.

[snip]

Uh huh. Schulman goes on to fret about children losing their “status as nonsexual beings” once all the gays are allowed to marry. He also informs the reader that he has been married three times.

Shortly thereafter, Isaac unloads with both barrels. This is all to the good. It gives me time to look up a good therapist for poor Schulman. He desperately needs one.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Steve Benen. Sorry it’s empty, Steve – I spilled it when I read the article.)

Methinks It’s Time to Repeal DADT

In case no one noticed, we’re in the midst of two fucking wars, here. The military’s so desperate they’re letting convicted criminals serve. But they’re still enforcing DADT – WTF?

Rachel Maddow’s introduction of the segment on Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach last night told a rather remarkable story.

“[Fehrenbach is] an F-15 fighter pilot, 18-year veteran of the United States Air Force,” Rachel explained. “On Sept. 11, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was picked to be part of the initial alert crew immediately after the 9/11 attacks. The following years, in 2002, he deployed to Kuwait, where he flew combat missions over Afghanistan, attacking Taliban and al Qaeda targets. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach deployed there, flying combat missions in support of mission Iraqi Freedom.

“Over the span of his career, he has flown 88 combat missions, including missions that were the longest mission sorties in the history of his squadron. He’s logged more than 2,000 flying hours, nearly 1,500 fighting hours, 400 combat hours. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is also highly decorated — he’s received nine air medals, including one for heroism. After 18 years of active duty in the Air Force, this experienced, decorated fighter pilot says he is ready and willing to deploy again. He’s ready to do what his country and the United States Air Force ask of him.”

Except, Fehrenbach will no longer able to serve, because the Air Force is kicking him out of the military because he’s gay. This genuine American war hero, who’s put his life on the line over and over again, and who the U.S. government has invested $25 million in training, is two years from retirement. Instead of thanking him for his extraordinary service, the country he’s served with honor and distinction is firing him for his sexual orientation.

Just once, I wanted to hear someone explain why the United States is stronger, safer, and more secure with Lt. Col. Fehrenbach out of the military.

So do I.

*crickets*

So if we’re not safer, can we just get the fuck on with repealing this bloody stupid law? Why are we coddling a handful of homophobes? Tell them to grow the fuck up or get the fuck out. And while we’re waiting for the repeal, Obama’s got plenty of options for end-runs around this bullshit. Steve’s got a short rundown at the above link.

It’s not like soldiers like Fehrenbach have to be drummed out. It’s time for Obama to stop pretending there’s no alternative.

Please Put a Gay or Lesbian on the Supreme Court

I want to watch wingnut heads explode:

Following up on an earlier item, at least one high-profile Republican senator announced he doesn’t want to see President Obama nominate a gay American for the Supreme Court.

[C]onservative leaders have warned the nomination of a gay or lesbian justice could complicate Obama’s effort to confirm a replacement for Souter, and another Republican senator on Wednesday warned a gay nominee would be too polarizing.

“I know the administration is being pushed, but I think it would be a bridge too far right now,” said GOP Chief Deputy Whip John Thune. “It seems to me this first pick is going to be a kind of important one, and my hope is that he’ll play it a little more down the middle. A lot of people would react very negatively.”

I don’t expect much from Thune, but I have to wonder if he realizes how incredibly ridiculous this is.

[snip]

Indeed, the president, Thune says, should “play it a little more down the middle.” What if the nominee is both gay and well within the judicial mainstream? Why would any thinking person assume that a gay nominee is necessarily someone on the ideological fringe?

The problem with Steve’s question is at follows: he asked about thinking people. You see the flaw there.

I hope a supremely qualified moderate gay or lesbian gets nominated for the bench. I would love to see the rabid right explain how their opposition has nothing to do with homophobia. That would be awesome.

10% of American States Legalize Same-Sex Marriage; 99.999% of Cons Have Hysterical Fits

If you’re a lesbian or gay person attempting to avoid a lifetime commitment, it’s time to cross Maine off your list of States That Excuse You From Getting Married. And you shouldn’t make any plans for moving to New Hampshire, either. At this rate, soon no state will be safe, aside from the bastions of bigotry in the deep South and Utah. As Cujo says, it’s starting to look a little avalanchy out there.

The Cons, of course, couldn’t be less happy.

Here’s Michael Steele, who’s all for states’ rights so long as they don’t involve giving gay people rights:

After the RNC said he wouldn’t be issuing a statement on Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage today, RNC Chairman Michael Steele is in fact condemning the decision, a position that puts him at odds with Maine’s moderate Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of whom said today the decision should be left to the states.

The RNC emails over this statement from Steele:

“Our party platform articulates our opposition to gay marriage and civil unions, positions shared by many Americans. I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman and strongly disagree with Maine’s decision to legalize gay marriage.”

Earlier today, Collins said on MSNBC that the decision is best “decided at the state level.” And Snowe’s office put out a statement citing her support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which leaves it to individual states to “make their own determinations on this very personal issue.”

Mmm, smell that hypocrisy! The only two people in the party who actually believe the Cons’ rhetoric about states’ rights are the two who get skewered for being too librul. How long before Limbaugh screams for the heads of Collins and Snowe, do you think?

In the meantime, a Con from Utah thinks he’s got the right to tell D.C. how to conduct its affairs:

Yesterday, the DC Council overwhelmingly approved a bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, by a vote of 12 to 1. It is the latest victory for LGBT rights, coming just days after the state legislatures in New Hampshire and Maine approved gay marriage, after Vermont became the fourth state to make gay marriage legal last month.

Marriage equality in the nation’s capitol, however, is too much for freshman Rep. John Chaffetz (R-UT), who is refusing to let the issue “go softly into the night“:

Some things are worth fighting for, and this is one of them,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), the ranking Republican on a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the District. “It’s not something I can let go softly into the night. … I recognize the Democrats are in the majority, but I represent the majority of Americans on this issue.”

The City Desk noted Chaffetz’s Twitter explanation for why he would use Congress to intervene: “Why am I involved? Congress is set up to oversee the affairs of D.C. I am one of the Members of the relevant committee.”

Dylan Thomas called. He wants bigoted fucktards to stop quoting his poetry.

As far as representing the majority of Americans… eh. That’s debatable:

I don’t think the majority of Americans are such anti-gay fuckwits that they care passionately whether D.C. recognizes same-sex marriages or not. Quite the opposite, I’d say. And there might be a little bit of irritation at seeing the democratic process subverted by irrational homophobes. Just sayin’.

As for the anti-same-sex marriage zealots who were counting on Carrie Prejean to come to traditional marriage’s rescue… well, there’s a slight problem with her purity.

It’s not looking good for the crusaders, is it?