“Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at U of H tomorrow

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

One day we will get to the point where an University inviting guests to debate marriage equality will be greeted with the same scorn that an on-campus debate on women’s suffrage or whether or not African-Americans are 3/5 of a person would engender, but that day is not today. Just in time for the expected U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling on Prop. 8  tomorrow, Feb. 7, the Federalist Society and Outlaw at the University of Houston present “Defining Marriage: A Debate!” at noon in the Bates Law Building room 109.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage, will be on hand to defend the continued prohibition against marriage equality. Mitchell Katine, who served as local counsel in Lawrence v. Texas (the Supreme Court case declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional) will defend marriage as a civil right, constitutionally guaranteed by equal protection under the law.

As a bonus the first 70 attendees to arrive will receive a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich and waffle fries, because we like our civil rights debated with a side of irony.

After the jump get a sneak peak at the kind of keen logical arguments to be expected from Dr. Morse:

—  admin

‘They got ugly in their bones’

Despite another gay teen suicide, right-wingers in Tennessee want to give kids a license to bully LGBT youth under guise of religious liberty


BULLIED TO DEATH | Phillip Parker, 14, who took his own life last week due to anti-gay bullying, was the second Tennessee teen to do so in as many months.

Hardy Haberman  |  Flagging Left


My family tree’s roots spread in two directions. My father’s side of the tree spreads toward Eastern Europe and my mother’s side into the hills of Tennessee.

I mention this because having those Tennessee roots has given me a fondness for that state and its beautiful scenery and its people — most of them. Unfortunately, it also contains some of the ugliest people I’ve ever met. Not physically ugly, but deeper. As my hillbilly grandfather would say, “They got ugly in their bones.”

The people I am talking about are the strange citizens of the Volunteer State who feel it is their God-given right to verbally and physically abuse anyone they feel is worthy of their scorn. They are bullies, plain and simple, and they are doing it under the guise of religion.

As the Tennessee Legislature takes up a bill (HB 1153) to protect bullying as religious expression, comes the news of yet another teen suicide in the state. Phillip Parker, 14, of Gordonsville is the latest in a series of suicides directly related to being mercilessly bullied for being gay.

You would think the good lawmakers of Tennessee would have some sympathy for these poor children, but it seems more than one state representative sees it differently. Republican John Ragan noted the statistics showing higher suicide rates among LGBT youth and said that therefore, it had “more to do with his own proclivities and behavior than anything to do with schoolmate bullies….”
Blame the victim!

To be fair, some in the state are calling for a stop to the fatal bullying.  There is an opposing law (SB 1621) also being considered that is designed to eliminate bullying and provide “a safe and civil environment … for students to learn and achieve high academic standards.”

This law has powerful adversaries like the Family Action Council of Tennessee. This group, a branch of Focus on the Family, are the same folks who last spring tried to push through a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. These same kind folks also overturned a local ordinance in Nashville that protected LGBT workers from discrimination.

So what the heck is it with Tennessee? Well, they are not alone. Already another “license to bully” bill is moving through the Michigan Legislature. And of course here in Texas there are a whole bunch of ugly people who are incensed that we have moved a series of anti-bullying laws through the Legislature. Of course one of those groups is the Plano-based Liberty Institute, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. They are already screeching about free speech and how these laws impinge on their freedom of religion.

So my question is this. How the heck does bullying a teenager so mercilessly that he takes his own life rather than face the continued abuse constitute “religious expression”? The right wing talks about the slippery slope of offering protections to LGBT youth as “special rights,” but I seriously doubt if the shoe were on the other foot they would see it that way.

Imagine if my religion called for me to make animal sacrifices in the public square. Imagine if my religion said I should close all tattoo shops and barber shops. Imagine if my religion said the bank had to forgive all debts every 49 years. After all, those are all in the Bible along with a whole lot of other things that would seem even stranger.

No, the right wing is not worried about “special rights.” They are specifically concerned with denying rights to LGBT people. We have become the bogeymen for a generation of far-right fundamentalists who can’t seem to find anyone else to blame for their problems. These people must have someone to blame because of their warped view of religion and the “will of God.” When you try to take the Bible literally, you run into all kinds of problems, not the least of which is the need to find scapegoats. After all, why else would their lives be so difficult if it weren’t for someone standing in the way of getting their just rewards from God?

I have noted the anger of the religious right previously, and the bullying that manifests itself in our schools and playground is just the next generation of that anger acting out. Though I started by focusing on Tennessee, I assure you that the problem is everywhere and it won’t be stopped easily.

I am pretty sure nobody can change the warped attitudes some of these people have toward LGBT folk, but I do know that we can provide legal protections to assure that under the law, everyone has equal rights. If the right believes that their freedom of speech extends to bullying and abuse, then it’s time for some serious education in what it means to have a civil society. There is enough ugliness in the world without trying to create more.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Matt Barber called equality activists ‘purveyors of evil’. But yea, it probably is the SPLC that deserves scorn. Uh huh. Sure.

Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel and Associate Dean with Liberty University School of Law, is among the most incendiary Matt-Barbervoices in the “pro-family” movement. Examples: There was the time Matt said that gay male relationships constitute “one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it ‘love’”; the time Matt called President Barack Obama an anti-american enemy; the time he accused Obama and Barney Frank of being anti-religious bigots; the time he suggested there are “sinister motives” in the Obama White House; the time he agreed with TVC’s Andrea Lafferty that homosexuality is “among a litany of…sexual deviances” that include things like sex with an amputee’s stump and sexual behavior involving feces and urine; the time he likened pro-equality progressives to Fred “God Hates F*gs” Phelps; the time he referred to marriage equality advocates as “purveyors of evil“; the time he compared gay unions to marrying a house plant; the time he said Ellen Degeneres “guides her many adoring housewife fans into rebellion against God’s divine and explicit natural order”; the time he called Google “satanic” for supporting marriage equality; the time he accused gay-friendly media outlets of trying “to make the absurd appear reasonable and normal”; etc., etc.

Now, in a completely self-unaware turn, the undeniably homo-hostile Matt is jumping in to support those groups (like the Family Research Council) who the Southern Poverty Law Center has added to their latest hate groups list. Here’s a brief snip:

Of course, the tired goal of this silly meme is to associate in the public mind’s eye mainstream conservative social values with racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I’m rubber, you’re glue and all that).

Hence, beyond a self-aggrandizing liberal echo chamber, the SPLC – and by extension the greater “progressive” movement – has become largely, as it stews in its own radicalism, just another punch line.

It’s often said that the first to call the other a Nazi has lost the argument.

Congratulations, conservative America: They’re calling you a Nazi. Carry on.

BARBER: SPLC: The wolf who cried ‘hate’ [Wash Times]

Well, actually SPLC isn’t calling anyone a Nazi. But you know who totally does elicit Nazi-dom in his own rhetoric? Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association:

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.” [SOURCE]

And yet the AFA is the other newly-listed group besides FRC that Matt specifically defends in his above Wash. Times piece! Because again: Unawareness and logical inconsistency rule the far-right day. These folks love to blow smoke into the dog whistles, but they go absolutely apepoop angry when their critics listen in to their dish.

The funny thing? Matt’s Liberty Counsel group was specifically left off the SPLC’s list. They were mentioned, but not added. Does Matt really want to tempt that fate by adding more light to his litany of aggressive insults? Because we’re totally okay with that, if he does. We just wonder if the Liberty Counsel’s benefactors, present or future, really see this as smart strategy.

Good As You

—  admin

Confronting our inner bullies

If we really want to stop bullying against LGBT youth, we need to start by taking a long, hard look at ourselves and how our own histories of being bullied may have caused us to internalize homophobia that leads us to bully others in the community

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns made an impassioned plea in the “It Gets Better” video that swept YouTube and landed him on The Today Show and Ellen and others.

His words brought tears to my eyes, not just because of his sincerity and candor, but because of my memories of being bullied as a teenager. I suspect almost all LGBT people of my age ran their own gauntlet of bullies, who for whatever reason decided that they were different enough to deserve taunting, scorn or physical abuse.
It says a lot about those of us who survived and not all of it is good.

For some, the words of the bullies sank in and colored how we feel about ourselves. It is a matter of conditioning. If someone calls you a disparaging name long enough, you begin to identify with that name.

Even though we rationally know it’s not true, somewhere inside we retain that taunt and it becomes part of who we are. That’s why when LGBT people reclaimed the word “queer” it was so empowering.

Unfortunately, that kind of consciousness-raising takes a good deal of maturity. For many teens, that maturity never happens. They become so beaten down with the taunts and jeers and abuse that they opt for a permanent solution — suicide.

Those of us who were lucky enough to survive still carry the wounds, and they manifest themselves in self-destructive ways.

Internalized homophobia, brought on by bullying, spawns a myriad of problems, some subtle and some overt. I am no psychologist, but I would bet a good portion of the rampant alcoholism and drug abuse in the LGBT community stems from self-hatred and internalized homophobia.

The greater issue is that bullying is not just a schoolyard problem. It is pervasive in our society, from grade school right up to the workplace, church and even the highest halls of government.

Every time a politician uses “gay marriage” to drum up fear in a campaign speech, it is just an extension of the schoolyard bullying. Every time a preacher condemns LGBT people from the pulpit, it is just another extension of bullying. Every time a comedian or other public figure uses the term “gay” as a synonym for “lame” or “bad,” it is a subtle form of bullying — and it is unacceptable.

So how do we stop the bullies? It’s not going to be easy. It will take the same kind of concerted and ongoing effort that made using the “N” word unacceptable. It will take the same kind of ongoing and constant work that has made the language of sexism unacceptable in the workplace, schools and society at large.
It will not be easy. We will be derided as being overly “politically correct” and face some stiff resistance. But we must make the effort.

Otherwise the bullying will continue and perhaps become worse.

So what do we do? My suggestion is to start with our own behavior.

Every time we start to deride someone for being too nelly, or dressing too flamboyantly or looking too butch, we need to stop and ask where that voice is coming from.

Most likely it comes from the inner bully that lives inside us. Our own internalized homophobia expresses itself in catty remarks and snide comments. It is a dirty little queer secret that we all sometimes share.

When we become flustered by someone’s gender identity, most likely it is because we have succumbed to the bullying of the hetero-normative society in which we live. That means anyone who doesn’t conform to the heterosexual model, who doesn’t conform to some archetype of female or male throws a monkey wrench into our reasoning.

We listen to that voice inside us that says, “He or she is different from what I expect, therefore I should ridicule them.” It’s our inner bully speaking and it harms not only us but our community as well.

OK, I know this all sounds a bit Kumbaya and idealistic, and quite frankly it is. Idealism is something that is often the punch line of jokes, but without it we are just fumbling along hoping things will get better. Without a goal, an ideal, we will end up lost, and like those lost souls who end up as the schoolyard bullies, we will do more harm than good.

Beginning with our own lives, we can stop the root causes of bullying. Then we can begin to change it wherever we find it in our community and the greater community as well.

My parents used to tell me that the bullies who taunted me were cowards. Though it did little to comfort then, I now see they were right. Bullies pick on the weak, the different kids and those less likely to fight back.

They do it to feel more important, or to prove themselves to their peers, but inside they do it because they are scared. They fear kids who are different, who don’t fit their adolescent world view.

For some reason they feel the need to dominate someone to prove themselves and rather than excel at something important, to actually achieve something they can be proud of, they take the easy way, the coward’s way.

So next time you hear a politician or preacher or comedian make a snide remark about LGBT people, remind them of their cowardice. Write them, call them and let them know you find their remarks distasteful and unacceptable.

It’s a small step, but with enough people taking a stand, things will change.

As the old folk song says, “Freedom’s name is mighty sweet … keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas