Commentary Magazine


Topic: gay rights

Hobby Lobby, Religious Liberty, and the Dangers of Complacence

It’s tempting, and easy, to dismiss Democrats’ legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. Senate Democrats say as soon as today they could bring up a bill that would, as Politico terms it, “override” the high court’s ruling, which followed the course set out in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Democrats want to push this as part of the “war on women” by making shameless false claims about the court’s ruling and trashing both RFRA and the First Amendment.

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It’s tempting, and easy, to dismiss Democrats’ legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. Senate Democrats say as soon as today they could bring up a bill that would, as Politico terms it, “override” the high court’s ruling, which followed the course set out in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Democrats want to push this as part of the “war on women” by making shameless false claims about the court’s ruling and trashing both RFRA and the First Amendment.

Conservatives have been generally dismissive of the White House’s “war on women,” and for good reason. Additionally, they may be further tempted to deride the left’s response now that they’ve won a limited victory at the Supreme Court. It also requires a heroic effort to take seriously any policymaking that begins with Harry Reid including Clarence Thomas in his category of “white men” who should be ignored. Reid is railing against the Supreme Court, but he does not appear to be terribly familiar with it. (As an aside, why mention the race of the justices at all if this is an issue about gender? Because leftists can’t speak, apparently, without accusing someone of being racist.)

But this attitude would be a mistake, with regard to the Hobby Lobby pushback. To be sure, conservatives should avoid getting drawn into a fictitious debate on birth control based on completely false premises and designed not to advance policy solutions but to give Democrats yet another chance to insult the intelligence of the nation’s women and to put Christianity–and by extension, religious belief in general–on trial. After all, it’s unlikely that yet another Reid-led Democratic effort to undo basic American rights will pass the House.

And getting drawn into this debate risks giving the Democrats what they actually want: a change of subject. As the Obama presidency plummets in popularity and the corruption and abuse of power scandals keep multiplying, the Democrats want to talk about anything but the issues dragging them down.

Nonetheless, conservatives should think twice about taking the debate over this bill–not the president’s executive action, but the Senate bill on which there would presumably be debate and a vote–too lightly. What the Democrats are trying to do is build a public-policy consensus that would erode religious liberty by holding a referendum on whether America’s first freedom, and the basis for the American project, should be undone in the service of left-wing culture-war extremism.

Is it worth undermining religious freedom just so Democrats can distract the electorate from their inability to govern with a public discussion about the economics of sex? For Democrats like Harry Reid, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Basic freedoms are fine in the abstract, according to Democratic policymakers, but they often infringe on Democrats’ quest for power. So they must be subverted.

Conservatives must understand that the risk here is not actual policy, since the bill won’t pass the House. The risk is that by ceding space in the public sphere to liberal demagogues, they won’t engage the important part of this debate. Since, as I’ve written previously, opposition to religious freedom is now a partisan Democratic position, conservatives are the last line of defense. What they don’t want is for the left to own a debate that could build a public consensus against those freedoms. If conservatives won’t speak up for religious freedom, nobody will, and it will be ignored and trampled.

It’s also important because none of this takes place in a vacuum. In a very smart piece for BuzzFeed, Chris Geidner tracks the evolving fight over religious exemptions in employee non-discrimination legislation. He notes that LGBT groups and their supporters are backing away from anti-discrimination legislation they were initially inclined to support because of the religious exemptions being added. The bill will probably not be advanced in the House this year, Geidner notes, and explains why these groups are fighting about it anyway.

He gives three reasons: to shape the next version of this legislation that comes through Congress in the next session; because the groups are unnerved by the Supreme Court’s upholding of religious freedom protections in the Hobby Lobby case; and to influence President Obama’s forthcoming executive order on the issue. In other words, these groups recognize that although the Democrats’ demand for employee-sponsored drugs that may act as abortifacients has nothing to do with gay rights, in some way it has everything to do with it.

Settling law and winning public debates over religious freedom affects other laws and other debates that follow it. Just as the Supreme Court sets precedent in legal rulings, so too the passage of laws and other actions set precedent in how the public understands the issues at play and how politicians can attract support for their own legislative projects. The left has always operated with the knowledge that there’s no off-season here. They are counting on conservative exhaustion, complacence, or both. Conservatives must demonstrate neither.

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Speaking out Against Injustice

Last month I wrote a piece urging Christians to speak out against the rising persecution of gays overseas, including (but not limited to) harsh new laws that were recently passed in Nigeria.

I was glad, then, that Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Andrew Walker, Director of Policy Studies for the ERLC, wrote an article for Canon & Culture in which, while reasserting the orthodox Christian belief that sexuality is to be expressed within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman, they also wrote that they believe “laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

Governments that “single out persons for harassment and fear of their lives represent, in our view, a State that has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly. And in our view, repressive regimes that target homosexuals fall into this category.” Messrs. Moore and Walker go on to say that as Baptist Christians, “our own history has shown us what injustice can happen when a state applies the Old Testament Mosaic code … to the civil state.” And they insist the church “should stand faithful both to a biblical vision of sexuality and at the same time decry laws—whether in Africa or the Middle East or Russia—that would mistreat homosexual persons.”

Some Christians, I suppose, might have a viscerally negative reaction to what Moore and Walker are saying, though it’s hard to imagine how one could justify such a thing. To do so would be a disfigurement of the Christian faith. The more likely reaction is to ignore the issue, to let others worry about it, to assume that speaking out against the persecution of gays overseas is an implicit embrace of the gay rights agenda.

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Last month I wrote a piece urging Christians to speak out against the rising persecution of gays overseas, including (but not limited to) harsh new laws that were recently passed in Nigeria.

I was glad, then, that Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Andrew Walker, Director of Policy Studies for the ERLC, wrote an article for Canon & Culture in which, while reasserting the orthodox Christian belief that sexuality is to be expressed within the one-flesh union of the marriage of a man to a woman, they also wrote that they believe “laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”

Governments that “single out persons for harassment and fear of their lives represent, in our view, a State that has overstepped its bounds drastically and unjustly. And in our view, repressive regimes that target homosexuals fall into this category.” Messrs. Moore and Walker go on to say that as Baptist Christians, “our own history has shown us what injustice can happen when a state applies the Old Testament Mosaic code … to the civil state.” And they insist the church “should stand faithful both to a biblical vision of sexuality and at the same time decry laws—whether in Africa or the Middle East or Russia—that would mistreat homosexual persons.”

Some Christians, I suppose, might have a viscerally negative reaction to what Moore and Walker are saying, though it’s hard to imagine how one could justify such a thing. To do so would be a disfigurement of the Christian faith. The more likely reaction is to ignore the issue, to let others worry about it, to assume that speaking out against the persecution of gays overseas is an implicit embrace of the gay rights agenda.

That strikes me as wrong on many levels. And while I am very wary of saying precisely what Jesus would do and say in the 21st century, we do know what he did say and do in the first century. Jesus was drawn to those in the shadows of society – the outcast, the despised, those who were powerless, wounded, reviled, and the object of scorn. And Jesus himself was a dispenser of grace, the healer of broken lives, an agent of reconciliation.

I understand that is not all Jesus was. Nor do I have any interest in pitting moral rectitude against love and welcome or turning faith into a crude instrument to advance a political agenda. And there are countless things that can lay claim on our moral attention – from aiding homeless shelters and crisis pregnancy centers to those rescuing orphans and restoring them to families and communities, from preventing religious persecution overseas to aiding those suffering from AIDS and malaria in Africa. There are worthy organizations like Best Friends, a school based character education program for girls that begins in the sixth grade and continues until high school; and the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. And there are of course countless acts of decency and kindness that occur every day that are unpublicized and help those who are suffering and need encouragement.

Few of us do this as much as we should; our energies and interests are directed elsewhere, inward rather than outward, most often toward increasing our own comfort and wealth and station in life. My point is that if we were able to free ourselves from preconceptions that sometimes distort our vision; if we were to see things not through the prism of ideology but rather through the prism of mercy and compassion; if we would begin to love as we have been loved, we would find ourselves moved to act against all sorts of suffering and injustices we now overlook. When I’ve come across such individuals in my own life — they tend to be rare — they have shown me what lives touched by grace can be like.   

We shouldn’t kid ourselves; taking concrete steps to redress injustice is far better than simply speaking out about it. But speaking out about it is better than not, which is why what Messrs. Moore and Walker have done is commendable.

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Smearing Religious Freedom’s Defenders

The verdict of national public opinion about what was universally represented as an attempt by Arizona’s legislature to authorize discrimination against gays was overwhelming. Though support for gay marriage is not yet unanimous, Americans don’t like prejudice and think laws that might legitimate bias are, by definition, wrongheaded. By vetoing Arizona’s SB1062 bill, Governor Jan Brewer was simply practicing political common sense and saving both her state (which stood to lose conventions and even an upcoming Super Bowl over the controversy) and the national Republican Party a great deal of grief over what was claimed to be a new version of Jim Crow. The “anti-gay bill” stood to become this year’s version of Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion and could have been a millstone around the necks of all conservatives even in a year in which the GOP stands to gain ground across the country.

Fresh off this almost uncontested victory, liberals like The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin are hoping to follow up on their triumph by pivoting from this controversy to ratcheting up anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will allow religious business owners to claim religious exemptions from the federal government’s demands that they pay for insurance coverage of acts that violate their religious beliefs. What has that got to do with an “anti-gay bill?” And how can liberals hope to mobilize Americans on this issue the way they did on the Arizona bill given the significant public sympathy for the religious freedom protest of companies like the Hobby Lobby chain as well as antipathy for the ObamaCare mandates?

In order to answer that question you would have had to have actually read the Arizona bill, something that few media figures, let alone the general public actually did before lambasting it. As National Review editor Rich Lowry, pointed out in an insightful Politico op-ed published last week, even a cursory glance at the bill yielded nothing to justify the universal condemnation that rained down on it from the mainstream media. But at the heart of that dustup and the one on the ObamaCare Mandate is the same question of religious liberty that got steamrollered in Arizona and is again being attacked in the Hobby Lobby case. The principle being defended here isn’t Jim Crow or any other form of prejudice but the constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.

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The verdict of national public opinion about what was universally represented as an attempt by Arizona’s legislature to authorize discrimination against gays was overwhelming. Though support for gay marriage is not yet unanimous, Americans don’t like prejudice and think laws that might legitimate bias are, by definition, wrongheaded. By vetoing Arizona’s SB1062 bill, Governor Jan Brewer was simply practicing political common sense and saving both her state (which stood to lose conventions and even an upcoming Super Bowl over the controversy) and the national Republican Party a great deal of grief over what was claimed to be a new version of Jim Crow. The “anti-gay bill” stood to become this year’s version of Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion and could have been a millstone around the necks of all conservatives even in a year in which the GOP stands to gain ground across the country.

Fresh off this almost uncontested victory, liberals like The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin are hoping to follow up on their triumph by pivoting from this controversy to ratcheting up anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will allow religious business owners to claim religious exemptions from the federal government’s demands that they pay for insurance coverage of acts that violate their religious beliefs. What has that got to do with an “anti-gay bill?” And how can liberals hope to mobilize Americans on this issue the way they did on the Arizona bill given the significant public sympathy for the religious freedom protest of companies like the Hobby Lobby chain as well as antipathy for the ObamaCare mandates?

In order to answer that question you would have had to have actually read the Arizona bill, something that few media figures, let alone the general public actually did before lambasting it. As National Review editor Rich Lowry, pointed out in an insightful Politico op-ed published last week, even a cursory glance at the bill yielded nothing to justify the universal condemnation that rained down on it from the mainstream media. But at the heart of that dustup and the one on the ObamaCare Mandate is the same question of religious liberty that got steamrollered in Arizona and is again being attacked in the Hobby Lobby case. The principle being defended here isn’t Jim Crow or any other form of prejudice but the constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.

As Lowry pointed out:

It was jarring to read the coverage of the new “anti-gay bill” passed by the Arizona Legislature and then look up the text of the instantly notorious SB 1062. The bill was roughly 998 pages shorter than much of legislation that passes in Washington, so reading it didn’t take much of a commitment. Clocking in at barely two pages, it was easy to scan for disparaging references to homosexuality, for veiled references to homosexuality, for any references to homosexuality at all.

They weren’t there. A headline from The Week declared, “There is nothing Christian about Arizona’s anti-gay bill.” It would be more accurate to say that there was nothing anti-gay about Arizona’s anti-gay bill.

The legislation consisted of minor clarifications of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA], which has been on the books for 15 years and is modeled on the federal act that passed with big bipartisan majorities in the 1990s and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

If you’ll excuse a brief, boring break from the hysteria to dwell on the text of the doomed bill, it stipulated that the word “person” in the law applies to businesses and that the protections of the law apply whether or not the government is directly a party to a proceeding (e.g., a lawsuit brought on anti-discrimination grounds).

The reason that the law was so fiercely denounced was because it opened up the possibility that a business such as florist or a baker could use the state’s version of the federal FRFA in order to back up a refusal to take part in activity that might violate their religious beliefs such as a gay wedding. The legal distinction here is a fine one. No one disputes (or at least no one should) that businesses that are a public accommodation have no right to turn away customers on the basis of their race, religion, beliefs or, their sexual orientation. But commissioning someone to create a floral arrangement or display to celebrate something they oppose is not quite the same thing as merely showing up and asking to buy flowers or bread or to sit at a lunch counter. Where exactly the law comes down on such situations is a matter of debate. You might well argue that such vendors should just accept the business or lose it to competitors. But arguing that their personal beliefs should be ignored when someone demands they participate in events that, however sympathetic, violate their beliefs, is rightly considered a bridge too far for many civil libertarians.

What happened in Arizona was that the growing support for gay marriage was used to delegitimize anyone who sought to carve out some legal space for those disagreed on religious grounds and the affair snowballed into a national furor that drowned out opposing arguments. What Toobin and other liberals would like to see is the same process apply to Hobby Lobby and other religious believers who see the ObamaCare mandate as violating their liberty by painting them as opponents of women’s rights.

The conceit of the liberal argument is to brand as intolerant those who oppose forcing religious institutions or business owners to pay for abortion drugs or contraception for their employees under the mandate. According to Toobin and the administration, those who oppose the Mandate are seeking to impose their religious views on employees and to deny them necessary services. But this is false. No one is preventing anyone from obtaining access to birth control or even an abortion drug. What the owners of Hobby Lobby and the many other plaintiffs in these cases are seeking is to not be involved in the purchase of products and services they oppose. It is the government and its liberal cheerleaders who are seeking to impose their beliefs on religious believers, not the other way around. And, unless the U.S. Supreme Court stops them by ruling in favoring of Hobby Lobby, that is exactly what they will do. One doesn’t have to oppose abortion or contraception to understand that if the government can have its way in this case, no one’s rights are safe.

The problem liberals face in seeking to demonize persons of faith who oppose the ObamaCare Mandate is that, unlike Arizona’s SB1062, the public is already well aware of its intrusive nature and the assault on individual rights it represents. Opponents of RFRA were able to buy the Arizona bill under a mountain of obfuscation, innuendo and disinformation. Liberals should forget about being able to play the same game in defense of a position that seeks to restrict religious freedom for the sake of a vast expansion of government power that a majority of Americans already oppose.

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Gay or Liberal? Don’t Even Ask

The gay-advocacy group GLAAD portrays itself as a voice in the LGBT community that “promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.” In the March issue of our magazine James Kirchick discussed the LGBT community’s inability to see past politics in order to do what is best for those who they claim to represent: LGBT individuals. As if on cue, GLAAD were all too willing to prove his point with two recent stunts that show the group to be nothing more than a front for liberals’ favorite pastimes: hating Fox News and promoting flawed heroes like Bill Clinton.  

Last week GLAAD made news and garnered applause from liberal groups like Media Matters when it loudly uninvited future guests with the Fox News network from its events. It soon came out, however, that the group banned Fox News attendees after two of the network’s anchors were invited to and attended their most recent media awards dinner. Hilariously, TVNewser obtained a copy of an email from the director of creative development at GLAAD buttering up a Fox News employee, asking for financial sponsorship of the awards event beforehand. It seems that GLAAD was more than happy to take a principled stand against Fox–but only after they had invited their anchors and quietly asked the network for cash. If GLAAD were really interested in garnering better coverage for LGBT issues and individuals from Fox, publicly humiliating two supporters, one of whom was on the “NY Host Committee” for the event, this was not how to do it. GLAAD’s objective was merely intended to cause a splash among liberals who care more about taking down Fox News, rather than their stated mission of growing their movement’s ranks.

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The gay-advocacy group GLAAD portrays itself as a voice in the LGBT community that “promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.” In the March issue of our magazine James Kirchick discussed the LGBT community’s inability to see past politics in order to do what is best for those who they claim to represent: LGBT individuals. As if on cue, GLAAD were all too willing to prove his point with two recent stunts that show the group to be nothing more than a front for liberals’ favorite pastimes: hating Fox News and promoting flawed heroes like Bill Clinton.  

Last week GLAAD made news and garnered applause from liberal groups like Media Matters when it loudly uninvited future guests with the Fox News network from its events. It soon came out, however, that the group banned Fox News attendees after two of the network’s anchors were invited to and attended their most recent media awards dinner. Hilariously, TVNewser obtained a copy of an email from the director of creative development at GLAAD buttering up a Fox News employee, asking for financial sponsorship of the awards event beforehand. It seems that GLAAD was more than happy to take a principled stand against Fox–but only after they had invited their anchors and quietly asked the network for cash. If GLAAD were really interested in garnering better coverage for LGBT issues and individuals from Fox, publicly humiliating two supporters, one of whom was on the “NY Host Committee” for the event, this was not how to do it. GLAAD’s objective was merely intended to cause a splash among liberals who care more about taking down Fox News, rather than their stated mission of growing their movement’s ranks.

This week GLAAD followed their Fox News announcement with another, far more transparently partisan, one. The group has decided to honor former President Bill Clinton, the signature on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), for its “Advocate for Change award.” The group’s strategic giving officer, Wilson Cruz, told Politico that “leaders and allies like President Clinton are critical to moving our march for equality forward.” What President Clinton has accomplished for the “march for equality” besides repudiating a bill he himself signed into law after leaving office is unclear. There is no indication that the group has extended any sort of similar award to Republican Senators Olympia Snowe, Mark Kirk or Rob Portman, all of whom have, while still in office, made public statements in support of gay marriage. It’s far more politically risky for a Republican to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, yet three sitting Senators have chosen to do so in the last several weeks.

For Democrats like Hillary Clinton and President Obama, reversing their previously held positions on the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman has now become politically necessary both for fundraising and for youth support. It would behoove those at GLAAD to support Republican politicians like Snowe, Kirk and Portman who are in a far more precarious position, at risk of alienating a large portion of their party’s base. Democrats don’t need any of the reinforcement that an award from GLAAD would provide, though Republicans wavering on announcing a change of heart could be swayed by a sincere attempt by GLAAD to support their announcement. If GLAAD were really interested in more sitting politicians coming out in support of their message, this political calculus would be taken into account while deciding who should receive an award from the group.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back on Obama’s Gay Marriage “Evolution”

One of the most memorable moments for many liberal activists from Monday’s inauguration came with President Obama’s remarks on gay rights. Obama made two references to gay rights during his speech; the first mention (Stonewall) came juxtaposed with mention of Seneca Falls and Selma, locations famous for advances in women’s rights and civil rights, respectively. Obama’s second mention was far more overt:

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

Quietly yesterday, however, Obama press secretary Jay Carney tempered those remarks. The Washington Examiner reports:

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One of the most memorable moments for many liberal activists from Monday’s inauguration came with President Obama’s remarks on gay rights. Obama made two references to gay rights during his speech; the first mention (Stonewall) came juxtaposed with mention of Seneca Falls and Selma, locations famous for advances in women’s rights and civil rights, respectively. Obama’s second mention was far more overt:

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

Quietly yesterday, however, Obama press secretary Jay Carney tempered those remarks. The Washington Examiner reports:

The White House reaffirmed the president’s position that the issue should be decided by the states, rather than the federal government.

“The president believes that it’s an issue that should be addressed by the States,” Carney asserted at the White House Press Briefing today when asked by a reporter about the issue.

Before the election (and before Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage became complete) I expressed doubts about the depth of Obama’s dedication to the cause off of which he has fundraised heavily. As the situation for gays across the world in Egypt, Iran, and Libya (to name a few) continues to deteriorate, President Obama’s dedication to the cause of gay rights seems to only extend to giving lip service to vague promises of “equality” in the U.S. without any tangible policy advancements or proposals attached to them. While it may cost Obama too much political capital to move gay marriage to the forefront of his agenda, if Obama were truly dedicated to the cause of gay rights, perhaps his focus, even if it’s just in the form of talk, should extend to the human rights abuses suffered by gays worldwide.

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Administration Abandoning Hagel

Politico’s Mike Allen reported on “Morning Joe” today that Chuck Hagel’s potential defense secretary nomination is on the rocks, after the administration realized there is “not a natural constituency for him.” Don’t ask why it took them that long to figure that one out:

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Politico’s Mike Allen reported on “Morning Joe” today that Chuck Hagel’s potential defense secretary nomination is on the rocks, after the administration realized there is “not a natural constituency for him.” Don’t ask why it took them that long to figure that one out:

Allen names Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy as the new top two possibilities. Hagel supporters will blame the collapse of his bid on the Israel lobby because it’s an easy target, but it almost seemed like the White House was more concerned with the backlash from the gay community and liberal supporters. The only time Hagel responded to criticism was when the Human Rights Campaign denounced his controversial 1998 comments about a gay diplomat. But he never acknowledged or apologized for his “Jewish lobby” remark, or his refusal to sign a letter condemning anti-Semitism. 

Speaking of which, the Log Cabin Republicans published a full-page ad in the New York Times this morning opposing Hagel’s nomination and calling him “Bad on Gay Rights. Bad on Iran. Bad on Israel.” The White House may have thought it could deal with the Israel and Iran criticism, since it gets that all the time anyway. But when Republican groups start criticizing a potential Obama nominee for having a bad record on gay rights, that’s not a position the administration wants to be in.

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Gay Rights Groups Complicate Left’s Narrative of Hagel As Victim

Although opposition to the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has formed along a diverse group of issues, the left has chosen to focus on pro-Israel groups. Hagel opposes all serious efforts to stop Iran. He prefers engagement with terrorist groups. And he believes members of Congress cower in fear of an all-powerful “Jewish lobby.” It is this last part that Hagel’s defenders have focused on, in large part because many of them also believe in an all-powerful “Jewish lobby” that controls the public discourse on Israel by setting and enforcing ground rules.

That such paranoid ignorance prevails in leftist media should not surprise. Yet it is often the case that those who accuse the right of obsession with Israel are projecting; as Pejman Yousefzadeh noted recently, “Israeli Lobby” conspiracy theorist Stephen Walt suggested that sticking it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters in the U.S. would be reason enough to nominate Hagel. Yet the attempts to silence pro-Israel opposition to Hagel by portraying it as disloyal and immoral aren’t working, in large part because concerned citizens petitioning the government is a basic part of American democracy. And that democratic inclination is now being practiced by gay rights groups who are criticizing Hagel as well. Will the leftist conspiracy theorists accuse gay rights advocates of the same nefarious subversion of democracy and treason with which they label pro-Israel groups? One surely hopes not.

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Although opposition to the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has formed along a diverse group of issues, the left has chosen to focus on pro-Israel groups. Hagel opposes all serious efforts to stop Iran. He prefers engagement with terrorist groups. And he believes members of Congress cower in fear of an all-powerful “Jewish lobby.” It is this last part that Hagel’s defenders have focused on, in large part because many of them also believe in an all-powerful “Jewish lobby” that controls the public discourse on Israel by setting and enforcing ground rules.

That such paranoid ignorance prevails in leftist media should not surprise. Yet it is often the case that those who accuse the right of obsession with Israel are projecting; as Pejman Yousefzadeh noted recently, “Israeli Lobby” conspiracy theorist Stephen Walt suggested that sticking it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters in the U.S. would be reason enough to nominate Hagel. Yet the attempts to silence pro-Israel opposition to Hagel by portraying it as disloyal and immoral aren’t working, in large part because concerned citizens petitioning the government is a basic part of American democracy. And that democratic inclination is now being practiced by gay rights groups who are criticizing Hagel as well. Will the leftist conspiracy theorists accuse gay rights advocates of the same nefarious subversion of democracy and treason with which they label pro-Israel groups? One surely hopes not.

The New York Times reports on the latest Hagel controversy:

The new round of criticism is focused on comments Mr. Hagel made in an interview about James C. Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist nominated by President Bill Clinton to be ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997.

Mr. Hagel, a Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was approached by his fellow Nebraskan in the Senate, Bob Kerrey, on behalf of Mr. Hormel, whose nomination was being held up by conservative Republicans.

Mr. Hagel did not oppose the nomination when Mr. Hormel came before the panel. But he later spoke out against it, saying that an “openly, aggressively gay” man should not represent the United States.

“They are representing America,” Mr. Hagel said in an interview with The Omaha World-Herald. “They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.”

You can understand why gay rights groups aren’t happy about this quote and are cooling on Hagel. First of all, his comments are flatly insulting and tinged with a bigoted view of gay Americans. Hagel apparently believes, in his own words, that “it is an inhibiting factor to be gay” for someone who wants to represent American values and standards. His modification, that Hormel was “aggressively gay,” suggests he thinks gay men and women should somehow be less so in the company of others, lest they reveal what Hagel clearly believes to be a personal defect.

Additionally, if Hagel is nominated and confirmed to run the Pentagon, he’ll have to oversee the implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which barred gay soldiers from serving openly in the military. Hagel has been on record in the past opposing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And gay rights advocates consider this a crucial moment for gay integration in the military, when they will be allowed to serve openly, and are concerned about the bigotry that might be expressed toward such soldiers–bigotry Hagel has publicly espoused.

Will the left now complain about some “gay lobby” silencing the administration and directing policy from the shadows? Probably not. Additionally, there’s another wrinkle for those who pretend to be concerned about corrupting influences on the president: members of the gay community were major contributors to and fundraisers for the Obama campaign. As the Washington Post reports, the Obama White House feels the need to mollify Hagel’s gay critics:

The rising concerns bubbled to the surface even after phone calls to gay rights activists in recent days from senior White House aides, including top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. The aides told the activists that any Pentagon nominee would “live up to the principles” on gay rights established by Obama, according to several people familiar with the conversations.

Gay people proved to be among Obama’s most generous campaign donors and enthusiastic backers in this year’s reelection campaign, particularly after he decided to express his support for same-sex marriage.

Is this democracy in action or kowtowing to powerful puppet masters? Walt and the others in his camp seem to think it’s the latter. But they’re wrong. This is democracy in action, and it’s the vehicle through which the American people, in greater numbers by the day, are telling the president that it’s Hagel and his poisonous views that shouldn’t be “representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards” at home and abroad.

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Liberal Intolerance Strikes Chick-fil-A

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: The American Left and the self-described liberals who inhabit it are open-minded, inclusive and tolerant. As we’ve come to learn, however, that tolerance only extends to those who agree with their worldview.

The latest conservative in liberals’ crosshairs is Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy. An interview with the Baptist Press has caused a firestorm after Cathy stated he was “guilty as charged” in his company’s support of the traditional family.

For these remarks, boycott campaigns have raged across the internet as outraged liberals call the company and its president “hate mongers,” “bigots” and other, unpublishable, epithets. Many liberals have stated they will no longer “support” Chick-fil-A, perhaps under the mistaken impression that it is a charity, not a restaurant, a business that doesn’t need supporting, but patronizing.

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If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: The American Left and the self-described liberals who inhabit it are open-minded, inclusive and tolerant. As we’ve come to learn, however, that tolerance only extends to those who agree with their worldview.

The latest conservative in liberals’ crosshairs is Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy. An interview with the Baptist Press has caused a firestorm after Cathy stated he was “guilty as charged” in his company’s support of the traditional family.

For these remarks, boycott campaigns have raged across the internet as outraged liberals call the company and its president “hate mongers,” “bigots” and other, unpublishable, epithets. Many liberals have stated they will no longer “support” Chick-fil-A, perhaps under the mistaken impression that it is a charity, not a restaurant, a business that doesn’t need supporting, but patronizing.

Cathy’s remarks have been portrayed as “anti-gay” when in fact they are merely pro-traditional family. People can disagree with an action, position or lifestyle without being “anti-” something. Those who are pro-life aren’t anti-woman, those who are pro-family aren’t anti-gay, and those believe in the importance of hard work and dedication are not anti-poor.

The Left’s view on Cathy’s remarks show just how intolerant and sophomoric their ideology really is. Not only do they have no problem with Ben & Jerry‘s publicly and vocally supporting a position on gay rights, they laud their public stance. They “support” that company because its owners and founders follow the straight and narrow on what is “politically correct.” Others that deviate feel the wrath, as Chick-fil-A is now experiencing.

To my personal disappointment, the company has apparently buckled and released a statement that it will no longer become involved in partisan disputes, even though the company itself never did. It was the Left who involved the company in the dispute, and did so only because its president was “wrong,” according to their social views. Companies like Ben & Jerry’s have never, rightfully so, been terrorized by the Right for holding an opinion differing from their own. Some (like myself) have personally chosen not to buy their product, but a wholesale boycott was never issued in response to the personal views of its founders.

Many on the Right and Left continue to express disappointment about the polarization of American politics during the last several years, but it’s actions such as these that tear Americans apart. The campaign built to destroy Chick-fil-A has made patronizing what is, apparently, a very tasty chicken restaurant, into a political statement. There are enough things in our world that are controlled by political animosity. Chicken nuggets shouldn’t be one of them.

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One Man’s Role in Gay Rights Shift

Wherever one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, having the president of the United States endorse the concept is a major achievement for the gay rights movement. And it didn’t happen by accident.

The shift in the public’s attitudes toward gay marriage, and the subsequent alteration of the political landscape, is arguably the most significant we’ve seen in the last quarter-century. And among the people who are most responsible for this moment is Jonathan Rauch, a former columnist for National Journal and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

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Wherever one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, having the president of the United States endorse the concept is a major achievement for the gay rights movement. And it didn’t happen by accident.

The shift in the public’s attitudes toward gay marriage, and the subsequent alteration of the political landscape, is arguably the most significant we’ve seen in the last quarter-century. And among the people who are most responsible for this moment is Jonathan Rauch, a former columnist for National Journal and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

I first met Jonathan in 1994, at a lunch with William Bennett. We wanted to meet Rauch because of his book Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government. The three of us talked about that book – but Rauch also made the case for why homosexuality is no threat to family or conservatism. A short time later he published a Wall Street Journal op-ed on that matter – and he later wrote articles (see here), books (see here), and op-eds (see here and here) making the case for same-sex marriage.

There are three elements to Rauch’s work worth highlighting. The first is the ingenuity of the argument. His great insight, which he shared with Andrew Sullivan (another extremely significant figure in the fight for gay marriage), was to recast the goals of the gay rights movement away from sexual libertinism toward conservatism, from radicalism toward traditionalism. Same-sex marriage, this argument goes, would bond gays into committed, stable relationships and promote monogamy. The gay rights agenda went from being an assault on the institution to an effort to become part of it.

The second thing to note in Rauch’s work is the rigor of his arguments. Anyone who has read Rauch knows he takes the case against same-sex marriage and examines the premises and empirical statements with tremendous care. His goal is to use reason to show why gay marriage will preserve and protect society’s most essential institution. Beyond that, though, Rauch habitually describes the views of those with whom he disagrees in honest, fair-minded terms.

The third thing about Rauch is his tone, which is consistently measured, civil, and respectful. In a debate in which ugly things have been said on all sides, Rauch has never in my experience attacked the motivations of his opponents. He gives the benefit of the doubt even to his critics. That is not only an impressive human quality; it’s also extremely helpful when you start out with a position in which you need to persuade large number of people who disagree with you.

I should add that I’m not in full agreement with Jonathan on gay marriage, even though his arguments have shifted my thinking in important respects. And he and I had our policy differences during the Bush years. But every time we discussed them, either in person or via e-mail, I was struck by his integrity and open-mindedness. That I’ve come to admire him is no secret. Which is why, on a day that was extremely meaningful to gay Americans, I couldn’t help but think about Rauch’s crucial role in all that has unfolded in the last few years.

 

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Operation Demonize Romney: High School Edition

A general rule of thumb is that when you run for president you’ve got to expect every moment of your life will come under scrutiny. Of course, that hasn’t always applied to Barack Obama, as questions even about his associations as an adult politician have been widely interpreted as a form of racism. But if your name is Mitt Romney, the other rules apply, as any reader of today’s edition of the Washington Post will discover when they take a look at a nearly 5,500 word feature–a fine-tooth comb examination of the Republican candidate’s high school career which includes a single incident in which he is alleged to have played a rough prank on a schoolmate.

The story of Romney and others giving a kid a forced haircut doesn’t reflect well on him. But considering it took place 47 years ago when the future businessman and politician was a teenager living at a boarding school in which such hijinks were obviously far from rare, it hardly rises to the level of a major scandal. Nor, considering the other evidence in the article which points to Romney being more of a dorky, do-gooding hard worker than the school bully, you’ve got to wonder why the Post bothered to devote so much space to a story that is clearly framed so as to portray him as such as well as a social climbing prig. That is especially true because — correct me if I’m wrong dear readers — I don’t recall any massive stories in major media outlets like this in 2008 seeking to dig up dirt on Obama’s time at the Punahou School, the elite Hawaii private prep where the current president hung out as a teenager. Some outlets may have recycled stories that Obama told about his past but frankly, I don’t recall anything but hagiographic coverage of the first African-American presidential nominee. But as Romney should have learned by now, being the first Mormon presidential nominee has been treated as a license for prejudicial writing by mainstream newspapers–not the kind of kid glove treatment Obama received.

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A general rule of thumb is that when you run for president you’ve got to expect every moment of your life will come under scrutiny. Of course, that hasn’t always applied to Barack Obama, as questions even about his associations as an adult politician have been widely interpreted as a form of racism. But if your name is Mitt Romney, the other rules apply, as any reader of today’s edition of the Washington Post will discover when they take a look at a nearly 5,500 word feature–a fine-tooth comb examination of the Republican candidate’s high school career which includes a single incident in which he is alleged to have played a rough prank on a schoolmate.

The story of Romney and others giving a kid a forced haircut doesn’t reflect well on him. But considering it took place 47 years ago when the future businessman and politician was a teenager living at a boarding school in which such hijinks were obviously far from rare, it hardly rises to the level of a major scandal. Nor, considering the other evidence in the article which points to Romney being more of a dorky, do-gooding hard worker than the school bully, you’ve got to wonder why the Post bothered to devote so much space to a story that is clearly framed so as to portray him as such as well as a social climbing prig. That is especially true because — correct me if I’m wrong dear readers — I don’t recall any massive stories in major media outlets like this in 2008 seeking to dig up dirt on Obama’s time at the Punahou School, the elite Hawaii private prep where the current president hung out as a teenager. Some outlets may have recycled stories that Obama told about his past but frankly, I don’t recall anything but hagiographic coverage of the first African-American presidential nominee. But as Romney should have learned by now, being the first Mormon presidential nominee has been treated as a license for prejudicial writing by mainstream newspapers–not the kind of kid glove treatment Obama received.

The idea of running this sort of muckraking feature about non-criminal activity during the teenage years of a future leader is itself questionable. But it bears pointing out that some of the details included in the story work against the narrative that intends to paint a dark portrait of a man who is well-known to be a straight arrow with no skeletons in his closet.

One is the fact that the five fellow Cranbrook School alums who dished to the Post’s Jason Horowitz about the haircut incident are not fans of their former classmate’s politics. Horowitz says they “lean Democratic.” One is described as someone who has abandoned a former allegiance to the GOP. The reporter’s claim that politics did not color their recollections cannot be taken seriously. Nor can the timing of the piece (which came out the day after President Obama endorsed gay marriage), be dismissed, as the clear intent of the piece is to imply that Romney harassed the subject of the prank because he was gay.

There are also elements of the story that could have painted the future GOP standard-bearer in a positive light but were ignored. Though Horowitz attempts with little evidence to describe Romney as a class-conscious snob, he downplays Romney’s status as a religious minority and his clear affinity for members of other minority groups. In one incident described in great depth, Romney is helping to mop floors at the school (not exactly the stuff of privilege) when he is challenged about his faith. Horowitz closes the account by quoting the student who was bullying him about being Mormon with calling his defense of his religion as “a cop out.”

Horowitz is also not interested in the fact that a girl Romney dated was a Jew, the daughter of Max Fisher, a wealthy man and ardent supporter of Israel who raised money for Romney’s father’s political campaigns. If Romney was as big a jerk as the Post would like us to believe, doesn’t it also say something that he did not succumb to the religious prejudices that were just as prevalent in that era in a private Christian school setting as anti-Semitism?

Horowitz strains to portray the victim of the haircut incident as a gay man who was scarred for life by a teenage jerk who grew up to be famous. But he does little to show that what happened was anything more than the usual rough and tumble of life in a claustrophobic boarding school. Nor when one considers all of the contrary evidence that seeps into the story about Romney’s character does he prove anything more than Romney played pranks whenever he got the chance and was nothing more than a high-spirited kid who spent most of his time following the straight and narrow path of virtue.

No doubt Romney grew up a lot after his days at Cranbrook. Of course, the same can be said for any former teenager. Rare is the adult who will not look back at isolated incidents in their childhood without cringing. Subjecting anyone’s high school career to the sort of scrutiny that is rightly applied to government service is absurd, but that’s what happens when you run for president these days. Except, of course, if your name is Barack Hussein Obama.

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L’Affaire Grenell

This afternoon, a frenzy erupted when the incoming Romney campaign spokesman on foreign affairs, Richard Grenell, quit before he started. Grenell is openly gay, and a fierce advocate for his views on marriage. The Romney campaign claims it all but begged him not to quit, but Grenell was evidently rattled by attacks from the Right on his fitness for his post.

Among those attacking him was Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute. Franck published his views on National Review Online, and they are nothing short of appalling. Franck says Grenell’s being gay should not disqualify him from working for Romney, nor should his support for same-sex marriage. But he reveals his disingenuousness when he writes this: “Grenell has made a particular crusade of the marriage issue, with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment. And when the Obama State Department is already moving to elevate the gay-rights agenda to a higher plane than religious freedom in the foreign policy of the United States, it is reasonable to wonder whether Grenell, after taking such a prominent place in the Romney campaign’s foreign-policy shop, would be in line for an influential State posting where he could pursue his passion for that same agenda.”

Actually, it is not at all reasonable.

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This afternoon, a frenzy erupted when the incoming Romney campaign spokesman on foreign affairs, Richard Grenell, quit before he started. Grenell is openly gay, and a fierce advocate for his views on marriage. The Romney campaign claims it all but begged him not to quit, but Grenell was evidently rattled by attacks from the Right on his fitness for his post.

Among those attacking him was Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute. Franck published his views on National Review Online, and they are nothing short of appalling. Franck says Grenell’s being gay should not disqualify him from working for Romney, nor should his support for same-sex marriage. But he reveals his disingenuousness when he writes this: “Grenell has made a particular crusade of the marriage issue, with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment. And when the Obama State Department is already moving to elevate the gay-rights agenda to a higher plane than religious freedom in the foreign policy of the United States, it is reasonable to wonder whether Grenell, after taking such a prominent place in the Romney campaign’s foreign-policy shop, would be in line for an influential State posting where he could pursue his passion for that same agenda.”

Actually, it is not at all reasonable.

Put aside the preposterous non sequitur of Obama’s privileging gay rights over religious freedom, which has nothing to do with what Romney would do in office. Grenell might be in line for such a State Department posting or he might not. It is conceivable such a posting would somehow touch on gay issues, but it might not. The election is not for months. Romney has to win before there are posts to be filled. And assuming Romney won, Grenell’s views on any subject in the fantasy post Franck imagines would be secondary to the policy of the United States government Grenell would be tasked with carrying out. That is true of any political appointee in the president’s service.

To suggest Grenell would do otherwise is to do him—a man Franck does not know—an incredible disservice, and suggests bad faith on Franck’s part, not on Grenell’s. Franck does not wish a gay activist to serve in the Romney campaign or the U.S. government. Others like him don’t either. That is the true purpose of his opposition, and such disingenuousness should be called out and opposed.

I don’t know what kind of spokesman Grenell would have made for Romney—he got into immediate trouble for deleting hundreds of tweets over the past few years featuring intemperate though often witty remarks about liberals and Leftists, and evidently got a lot of reporters angry during his tenure as a press guy at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. But he wasn’t my hire, he was the Romney campaign’s, and they liked what they heard. I’m sure they checked with Grenell’s former boss, my friend John Bolton, whose conservative bona fides is irreproachable.

People are suggesting this will be bad for Romney because it will hurt him with the gay community. But the professional gay-rights movement and its leadership will already come after Romney in relation to his Mormon beliefs and the church’s role in the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which forbade gay marriage in the Golden State before a court overturned it. Those folks do not constitute a constituency that would ever support Romney.

The question is whether it will hurt Romney with others. Since it seems clear the Romney campaign did not push Grenell out but rather that Grenell decided he didn’t need the grief he was getting from Franck and others, it will be hard to charge the candidate with bigotry in this specific case. I imagine the same issues that will motivate people to vote for Romney rather than for Obama will be in play for homosexuals as well.

As for Franck and whoever else may have led Grenell to throw in the towel, they have perversely made it less likely they will be heard with favor by those who are working hard to oust the administration that Franck rightly says has been so hostile to religious freedom issues—an ouster Franck and his colleagues have made a tiny bit more difficult with their shenanigans, and shame on them for it.

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Social Conservative Smacked Down on CNN

A rare kudos to CNN’s Kyra Phillips, who highlights another absurdity in the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s recent attack on Mitt Romney’s national security spokesman. Any true conservative must be a fan of Ambassador John Bolton, right? And, as we know, Fischer has claimed no real conservative could possibly hire a gay spokesman, right? Well, as it turns out:

PHILLIPS: Did you think John Bolton did a good job when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? […]

FISCHER: He did a great job.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Grenell was his spokesperson….Bryan, I just thought that was interesting, you thought Bolton did a great job, and Grenell was his spokesperson.

FISCHER: Well, the point here is that personnel is policy. Everybody in D.C. says that. Personnel is policy. When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.

Unfortunately Phillips’ logical fallacy didn’t cause Fischer to short-circuit like a robot, but you can watch him attempt to defend his untenable argument here.

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A rare kudos to CNN’s Kyra Phillips, who highlights another absurdity in the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s recent attack on Mitt Romney’s national security spokesman. Any true conservative must be a fan of Ambassador John Bolton, right? And, as we know, Fischer has claimed no real conservative could possibly hire a gay spokesman, right? Well, as it turns out:

PHILLIPS: Did you think John Bolton did a good job when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? […]

FISCHER: He did a great job.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Grenell was his spokesperson….Bryan, I just thought that was interesting, you thought Bolton did a great job, and Grenell was his spokesperson.

FISCHER: Well, the point here is that personnel is policy. Everybody in D.C. says that. Personnel is policy. When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.

Unfortunately Phillips’ logical fallacy didn’t cause Fischer to short-circuit like a robot, but you can watch him attempt to defend his untenable argument here.

Fischer isn’t the only social conservative who has criticized Romney for hiring Richard Grenell, and it’s worth wondering why this didn’t bother anyone when Grenell was working for Bolton. Is it simply because Romney’s in a more prominent position, and Grenell’s personal life was never really in the news before? If that’s the case, maybe these critics should realize that their concerns aren’t grounded in reality.

It seems more likely that the attacks on Grenell are based on a still-lingering anti-Romney undercurrent in the conservative movement. Fischer has made his disapproval of Romney’s religion clear in the past, which may explain his oddly vocal attack on Romney’s hiring decision.

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Romney’s New Spokesman Under Attack

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer seems like the type of person who enjoys the attention that comes with saying offensive and outrageously stupid things. He was able to milk plenty of that out of his swipe at Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith last fall, and now he’s back in the spotlight after writing a disgraceful column attacking Romney’s new national security spokesman, who is gay:

Gov. Mitt Romney stepped on a landmine by appointing Richard Grenell, an out, loud and proud homosexual, to be his spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues. …

Since, as the saying goes in D.C., personnel is policy, this means Gov. Romney has some ‘splaining to do. This clearly is a deliberate and intentional act on his part, since he was well aware of Mr. Grenell’s sexual proclivities and knew it would be problematic for social conservatives. It’s certainly not possible that there are no other potential spokesmen available, men who are experts in foreign policy and who at the same time honor the institution of natural marriage in their personal lives. …

If the Secret Service scandal teaches us one thing, it is this: a man’s private sexual conduct matters when we’re talking about public office.

Given the propensity for members of the homosexual community to engage in frequent and anonymous sexual encounters, the risk to national security of having a homosexual in a high-ranking position with access to secret information is obvious.

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The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer seems like the type of person who enjoys the attention that comes with saying offensive and outrageously stupid things. He was able to milk plenty of that out of his swipe at Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith last fall, and now he’s back in the spotlight after writing a disgraceful column attacking Romney’s new national security spokesman, who is gay:

Gov. Mitt Romney stepped on a landmine by appointing Richard Grenell, an out, loud and proud homosexual, to be his spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues. …

Since, as the saying goes in D.C., personnel is policy, this means Gov. Romney has some ‘splaining to do. This clearly is a deliberate and intentional act on his part, since he was well aware of Mr. Grenell’s sexual proclivities and knew it would be problematic for social conservatives. It’s certainly not possible that there are no other potential spokesmen available, men who are experts in foreign policy and who at the same time honor the institution of natural marriage in their personal lives. …

If the Secret Service scandal teaches us one thing, it is this: a man’s private sexual conduct matters when we’re talking about public office.

Given the propensity for members of the homosexual community to engage in frequent and anonymous sexual encounters, the risk to national security of having a homosexual in a high-ranking position with access to secret information is obvious.

It continues on like that for awhile. Fischer must be thrilled that his over-the-top grossness has landed him in the news once again, so it’s probably not worth paying him too much attention. Plus, Jen Rubin has already written a great takedown of his argument at Right Turn.

But I do hope that more conservatives come out in defense of Grenell. He seems like a strong addition to Romney’s team, with encouraging positions on human rights issues and Iran (based on a review of some of his recent columns). It is one thing to disagree with gay marriage, as both President Obama and Mitt Romney do. Bigotry and support for discriminatory hiring practices are a completely different story, and should be condemned by conservatives.

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Pinkwashing? Gay Rights Shows the Difference Between Israel and Palestinians

Some people don’t want to talk about gay rights in the Middle East. The left calls it “pinkwashing” and treats it as irrelevant to any analysis of the region. But it remains a fascinating window into two societies. As the Times of Israel reports, gay Palestinian Arabs are flocking to supposedly repressive Israel. In the West Bank and Gaza, they face persecution and death. In Israel, they find freedom.

Palestinian gays not only can’t come out at home. If they want to meet as a group, the only place they can go is Tel Aviv, where as the Times of Israel notes, a monthly gathering called the Palestinian Queer Party convenes. That’s because the repressive Muslim culture that predominates in the territories considers gays to be anathemas while Israel is a liberal democracy where, despite deep differences between various elements of society, people can live and do as they please. Though the “Israel is apartheid” crowd is at pains to stifle discussion of the gay angle to the Middle East conflict, it actually tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two societies and why hopes for peace need to wait until Palestinians embrace freedom for their own people as well as coexistence with Jews.

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Some people don’t want to talk about gay rights in the Middle East. The left calls it “pinkwashing” and treats it as irrelevant to any analysis of the region. But it remains a fascinating window into two societies. As the Times of Israel reports, gay Palestinian Arabs are flocking to supposedly repressive Israel. In the West Bank and Gaza, they face persecution and death. In Israel, they find freedom.

Palestinian gays not only can’t come out at home. If they want to meet as a group, the only place they can go is Tel Aviv, where as the Times of Israel notes, a monthly gathering called the Palestinian Queer Party convenes. That’s because the repressive Muslim culture that predominates in the territories considers gays to be anathemas while Israel is a liberal democracy where, despite deep differences between various elements of society, people can live and do as they please. Though the “Israel is apartheid” crowd is at pains to stifle discussion of the gay angle to the Middle East conflict, it actually tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two societies and why hopes for peace need to wait until Palestinians embrace freedom for their own people as well as coexistence with Jews.

The stories in the Times of Israel piece don’t speak to the national conflict between Arabs and Jews. But they do speak volumes about one of the main points Israel’s defenders harp on: the fact that it is the region’s only true democracy. What the Palestinians have created for themselves in their independent state in all but name in Gaza and their autonomous government in the West Bank are two more places on the globe where human rights are not respected and violence rules.

The connection between the violence the ruling Palestinian groups use on their own people is not unrelated to the violence they attempt to inflict on the Israelis. The absence of political freedom makes peace with Israel a difficult proposition under the best of circumstances. But the influence of radical Islamist ideology, even in the West Bank that is supposedly more liberal than Hamas-ruled Gaza, makes it even more unlikely. That’s why the ability of the Islamist clerics and their supporters to terrorize gays is an indicator of a lack of desire for peace.

Israel is a free country, something you wouldn’t know if your only view of the Jewish state was delivered to you by mainstream media coverage. The anti-Israel crowd can call mentions of gay rights “pinkwashing.” But all that means is that they don’t wish to acknowledge the difference between Israeli and Palestinian cultures.

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Mormon Church Shifting on Gay Rights?

This CNN story seems a little too perfectly-timed, like it’s part of some sort of Mormon church rebranding campaign. The church’s image is still heavily associated with the 2008 Prop. 8 campaign in California, and even though many Republicans oppose gay marriage, it’s not helpful for the Mormons to be tied to such a politically-charged issue at a time when it’s about to be under a lot of election-season media scrutiny:

Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.

A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons…is seeing an uptick in popularity.

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

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This CNN story seems a little too perfectly-timed, like it’s part of some sort of Mormon church rebranding campaign. The church’s image is still heavily associated with the 2008 Prop. 8 campaign in California, and even though many Republicans oppose gay marriage, it’s not helpful for the Mormons to be tied to such a politically-charged issue at a time when it’s about to be under a lot of election-season media scrutiny:

Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.

A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons…is seeing an uptick in popularity.

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

CNN cites a “This Gets Better” video created by Brigham Young University students, and the selection of an openly gay Mormon for a church leadership position as indications of this new softening position on the gay community. Perhaps these are signs of change, but then again, stories like this seem to rebut the entire notion altogether. While the Mormon church may be toning down its official involvement in the gay marriage debate, its members don’t seem likely to anytime soon.

As much as the Obama campaign claims it won’t make Romney’s faith an issue, the Mormon religion will still be under a media microscope for at least the next seven months. Anything the church can do to untangle itself from hot-button cultural issues is a good thing for it and Mitt Romney.

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Obama, Friend of the Gays Only at Fundraisers?

Last year, at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign (a lobbying organization for LGBT Americans) President Obama said: 

“We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be commander-in-chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”

Despite these remarks, Obama has remained silent on his position on gay marriage, claiming that it is still “evolving.”
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Last year, at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign (a lobbying organization for LGBT Americans) President Obama said: 

“We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be commander-in-chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”

Despite these remarks, Obama has remained silent on his position on gay marriage, claiming that it is still “evolving.”

Two months ago, Obama cashed in on good will in the gay community, making more than $1.4 million at a fundraiser held at the home of two D.C.-area lesbians. At the fundraiser, he reportedly “promised to ‘keep on pushing’ for equal rights but did not discuss gay marriage.” U.S. News reported that the president remarked, 

“The work that we’ve done with the LGBT community, I think, is just profoundly American,” Obama said. “You should be judged on the merits. That’s at the heart of the American dream. That’s how you should be judged, not by what you look like, not by how you worship, not by where you come from, not by who you love.”

Eight weeks later, it seems the president doesn’t really care about gay Americans being judged on their merits as employees of the federal government. As Alana discussed earlier, the New York Times reports that the president has refused to sign a new executive order banning discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Statements from the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress made clear that the gay community’s disappointment is palpable enough to be aired publicly.

While Obama has touted his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” it appears that he is only willing to fight for the right of LGBT Americans to fight and die for their country, not work for it. The president’s refusal to support same-sex marriage has plagued his relationship with the far Left, which apparently held the hope that Obama wasn’t the politician he has shown himself to be. Inexplicably, his silence on human rights abuses against gays worldwide hasn’t been a source of trouble for an Obama campaign relying heavily on gay donor support. This latest refusal to take a stand for “gay rights” outside of fundraisers could (and should) seriously impact the president’s appeal to a far Left base that campaigned and fundraised heavily for him during the 2008 cycle.

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Obama Punts on Gay Rights Order

President Obama, who recently vowed to bypass the Washington gridlock by churning out executive orders, has suddenly decided he can wait for Congress to do its job, at least when it comes to controversial laws that he’d prefer not to make unilateral decisions on. The New York Times reports:

President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.

The executive order, which activists said had support from the Labor and Justice Departments, would have applied to gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Current law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and legislation to do so, which Mr. Obama endorses, lacks sufficient votes in Congress.

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President Obama, who recently vowed to bypass the Washington gridlock by churning out executive orders, has suddenly decided he can wait for Congress to do its job, at least when it comes to controversial laws that he’d prefer not to make unilateral decisions on. The New York Times reports:

President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.

The executive order, which activists said had support from the Labor and Justice Departments, would have applied to gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Current law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and legislation to do so, which Mr. Obama endorses, lacks sufficient votes in Congress.

According to Think Progress, which reportedly had a representative at the meeting, the administration “will instead study whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees require employment protections.” Fair enough, although you would think Obama would have already considered that before promising gay activists he would institute an anti-discrimination policy for federal contractors during his 2008 campaign. Or maybe he could have ordered such a study at any point during the last three years of his presidency.

Politico’s Byron Tau reports on the White House’s next plan of action:

The White House now says they will try to work on congressional legislation instead. Such legislation is not likely a top priority in a GOP controlled House.

So the White House wants to punt this off to Congress, where the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will either a.) continue to sit idle until after the November election, or b.) be used as political fodder for some partisan throw down over gay rights, and then go back to sitting idle until after the November election.

Just last month, Obama gave this statement to the Advocate: “I also support an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But a lot of work remains, and we cannot wait for Congress to act.”

How can he reconcile that with his latest decision to wait for Congress to act? He can’t. But then, he doesn’t have to. Apparently, his campaign isn’t particularly concerned with losing the gay rights activist vote to Mitt Romney.

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Pro-Gay WH Ensures Anti-Gay Haven

In December, the Obama administration announced a global gay-rights push. Officials declared gay rights to be human rights and issued a memo saying the treatment of gays abroad would be considered when assessing U.S. foreign aid. Gay-rights activists (and progressives, generally) swooned. I didn’t.

In a Contentions post, I noted that the initiative allowed Obama to shirk America’s unique role in actually securing human rights around the world, while earning praise from identity-politics activists. The administration’s failure (and disinclination) to maintain an American presence in Iraq after 2012 meant that anti-gay barbarians such as al-Qaeda and Iranian proxies would stay behind and prey upon Iraq’s homosexuals without fear of American influence.  If Obama really wanted to protect gay rights from history’s most vicious anti-gay forces, I wrote, he’d keep America in Iraq (and Afghanistan) instead of issuing memos and giving speeches. And if the progressives singing his praises really felt that gay rights were human rights they’d have been more inclined to support George W. Bush’s freedom agenda and less eager to cut and run in our wars abroad. How tragic to have been proven so right so soon.

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In December, the Obama administration announced a global gay-rights push. Officials declared gay rights to be human rights and issued a memo saying the treatment of gays abroad would be considered when assessing U.S. foreign aid. Gay-rights activists (and progressives, generally) swooned. I didn’t.

In a Contentions post, I noted that the initiative allowed Obama to shirk America’s unique role in actually securing human rights around the world, while earning praise from identity-politics activists. The administration’s failure (and disinclination) to maintain an American presence in Iraq after 2012 meant that anti-gay barbarians such as al-Qaeda and Iranian proxies would stay behind and prey upon Iraq’s homosexuals without fear of American influence.  If Obama really wanted to protect gay rights from history’s most vicious anti-gay forces, I wrote, he’d keep America in Iraq (and Afghanistan) instead of issuing memos and giving speeches. And if the progressives singing his praises really felt that gay rights were human rights they’d have been more inclined to support George W. Bush’s freedom agenda and less eager to cut and run in our wars abroad. How tragic to have been proven so right so soon.

Here’s the lede from a story in Sunday’s New York Times: “A recent spate of killings and intimidation aimed at gay Iraqis and teenagers who dress in brash Western fashions is sending waves of fear through Iraq’s secular circles while casting doubt on the government’s will to protect some of its most vulnerable citizens.” I share that doubt. Without the U.S. there to keep the eroding Iraq democracy on course, we’re likely to see a lot more such attacks. The following paragraph should inspire acute shame in those who praised our leaving Iraq at the end of last year:

Human rights advocates say the threats and violence are aimed at gay men and at teenagers who style themselves in a uniquely Iraqi collage of hipster, punk, emo and goth fashions. The look, shorthanded here as “emo,” has flourished on Baghdad’s streets as an emblem of greater social freedom as society has begun to bloom after years of warfare. But it has drawn scorn and outrage from some religious conservatives, and is often conflated with being gay.

Imagine. Americans fought and died in a hellish Iraq just long enough to inspire a hopeful flirtation with freedom. Then we left a nearly quelled Iraq in time to ensure such freedom couldn’t be realized. What self-respecting person of conscience dare call this an Obama success?

As the Times notes, “Advocates have blamed Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr for past anti-gay killings and assaults.” That would be one of the Iranian proxies I warned about in my other blog post.

The Times reports that “young men in tight T-shirts and skinny jeans are being beaten to death with cement blocks and dumped in the streets.” Pity. But we’ve got some lovely memos and fine speeches on hand should anyone need to feel better about it all.

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