Obamalution

The most important civil rights issue of our time is whether gay folks will continue to be treated like freaks.

And now, at last, we have Barack Obama on the side of the angels of liberty, as he declared his evolution complete:

I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Coming on the heels of the anti-gay vote in North Carolina, I particularly admire—in fact I’m all gushy about it—the President’s admission that his evolving thinking has culminated in an affirmation of complete same-sex rights, which is essentially an affirmation of American constitutional liberty.

Would that he had made such a statement before that horrendous, last-cultural-gasp vote, in North Carolina, so we could see how it might have altered the numbers a bit.

Yet there it was, a historic and courageous statement that many critics didn’t think Mr. Obama would make at this time. Many thought he wouldn’t dare come out for homosexual equality before the election. Too much was at stake. The country isn’t quite ready for it.

But he did it, and “it” is not without political danger.  It will most certainly energize the Iron Age blowhards on the religious right, who will triple their efforts to unseat the homo-loving reprobate in the White’s House.Sign - gay-rights photo

However, no matter what happens this November, even if Barack Obama is burned by the last flickering embers of white religious angst, even if conservative Christians rage against the dying of the white light and muster one final victory on behalf of bigotry, make no mistake about it: homosexuals will one day become—in every state in this union—equal citizens under the law.

And Barack Obama’s decision to fully embrace homosexuals as free and equal citizens has advanced that eventuation.  Not only that, it will have an immediate definite cultural impact: it will, no doubt, exacerbate the cultural piety-anxiety that many white conservative Christians already suffer from, but, more important, it will have a positive effect on the black community, many of whom have resisted the idea that all people—even those compelled by nature to love and desire other folks of the same sex—deserve to be treated as, well, Americans.

16 Comments

  1. King Beauregard

     /  May 10, 2012

    As I understand it, black churches took to opposing homosexuality as part of their own quest for respectability via orthodoxy — in other words, they felt they had to toe the line if they were going to be taken seriously. Mind you, some preachers have been sharp enough to cross the line because they see the ramifications of letting the majority dictate the rights of a minority:

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    • King Beau,

      Thanks for posting Reverend Barber’s address. I saw part of it on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show the other night. The distinction he makes about the North Carolina vote being about contracting civil rights is unassailable.

      Duane

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  2. It did take political courage for the president to do this, but the style with which he did it deserves admiration as well. In his lengthy and unscripted interview with an ABC News reporter Obama gently laid out the thought process he went through in arriving at his decision, including how young people, including his own daughters, are more accepting that being gay is a normal variation in how things are. I submit that nobody listening to him could doubt the sincerity of his reasoning. His feelings were sincere, heartfelt and thoroughly moral. And speaking of moral, he was on target in pointing out how the Golden Rule, something present in virtually all religions, trumps all the rest.

    To people who feel that being gay is unnatural I offer these lines I found near the end of evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson’s book, “The Social Conquest of Earth”. Speaking for science, he said this (emphasis, mine):

    “A second example of dogmatic ethics gone wrong for lack of knowledge is homophobia. . . . Committed homosexuality, with the preference appearing in childhood, is heritable. This means the trait is not always fixed, but part of the greater likelihood of a person’s developing into a homosexual is prescribed by genes that differ from those that lead to heterosexuality. It has further turned out that heredity-influenced homosexuality occurs in populations worldwide too frequently to be due to mutations alone. Population geneticists use a rule of thumb to account for abundance at this level: if a trait cannot be due solely to random mutations, and yet it lowers or eliminates reproduction in those who have it, then the trait must be favored by natural selection working on a target of some other kind. For example, a low dose of homosexual-tending genes may give competitive advantages to a practicing heterosexual. Or, homosexuality may give advantages to the group by special talents, unusual qualities of personality, and the specialized roles and professions it generates. There is abundant evidence that such is the case in both preliterate and modern societies. Either way, societies are mistaken to disapprove of homosexuality because gays have different sexual preferences and reproduce less. Their presence should be valued instead for what they contribute constructively to human diversity. A society that condemns homosexuality harms itself.

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    • Jim,

      Wow. I have always wondered about that aspect of homosexuality (its evolutionary persistence despite non-reproduction) and that short paragraph does a better job of explaining it than I have ever seen. And it seems to nicely summarize Wilson’s thesis, no?

      Thanks for posting that remarkable paragraph.

      Duane

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      • King Beauregard

         /  May 10, 2012

        Evolution is tricky, and homosexuality may simply be a side effect of something else. Here’s an interesting video on silver foxes and domestication of canidae:

        They provided an (un)natural selection pressure towards docility, and ended up with floppy eared foxes. It’s a random interconnection between two traits, certainly nothing you would have linked by plan or design, but evolution has this habit of unpredictability.

        Then there’s the observation that, the more older brothers you have, the more likely to be gay you are:

        http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2120218&page=1#.T6vkcVuKgZc

        I guess where I’m going with this is: claiming that there must be an evolutionary advantage to homosexuality is A) still far from proven, and B) a double-edged sword, in that if we’re championing gay rights because of a hypothetical evolutionary advantage, what happens tomorrow if we discover there is no advantage or even a disadvantage?

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        • King B,

          I actually saw that fascinating program. Thanks for posting it.

          By the way, Wilson actually uses the phrase “homosexuality may give” and doesn’t actually make any definite claims about the advantages of homosexuality that I can see, except at the end:

          Their presence should be valued instead for what they contribute constructively to human diversity.

          That argument seems unassailable to me, even though I know what you mean by the double-edged sword. In fact, that argument need not even be couched in terms of biological evolution at all. Sociologically speaking, it is incontrovertible that homosexuals “contribute constructively to human diversity,” and I see little or no danger in making that argument.

          Funny thing, but I have thought about this argument in terms of the value or lack thereof of religious belief. On balance, do religious memes help or hurt us? Do they “contribute constructively to human diversity” or do they tend to be destructive?

          I almost always focus on the negative aspects of religious belief, mostly of the fundamentalist variety, which I believe needs to be peacefully eradicated through ridicule, etc. A new comment from Jim Wheeler (quoting E. O. Wilson) makes it clear why:

          A good first step toward the liberation of humanity from the oppressive forms of tribalism would be to repudiate, respectfully, the claims of those in power who say they speak for God, are a special representative of God, or have exclusive knowledge of God’s divine will.

          But that comment only addresses dogmatic forms of religion. There are milder forms of religion (some of it on display here in Joplin via the many church volunteers here to help clean up and rebuild) that obviously do much good. But I can’t help but think that these milder forms in some important way make the world safe for the dogmatic, fundamentalist, destructive kinds of religious belief.

          In any case, I can’t figure it out for myself and I don’t know if it is possible to figure it out, in terms of the “constructive” contribution of religious belief as a whole, but, again, I don’t think homosexuality is, or ever will be found to be, an ambiguous case like religion.

          Sorry to ramble on.

          Duane

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  3. I’ve lived in North Carolina for more than 30 years, and I’m deeply saddened by what our state did on Tuesday. It is shameful.
    I have wondered why the government should have anything to do with marriage, which, it seems to me, is a religious institution. Why not allow civil unions to any adults who want to be united, and leave marriage to the churches. I don’t know the legal implications of this, but it just seems to me that if the government allowed any adults — gay, straight, whatever — to enjoy the benefits (and headaches!) of a civil union, then those who also want a religious ceremony, a marriage, can go to church for that.
    I think maybe the public, maybe NC voters, would have been more generous, less swayed by their Bible-quoting church leaders, if the amendment had been described as “Ban gay civil unions” instead of Ban gay marriage. I think the majority would have defeated the amendment if it had been described that way.
    I’m rambling here – don’t seem quite able to get this in focus. Maybe I should try to think this thorough and write it up on my blog.
    Good post, Duane.
    H.

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    • Helen,

      Your suggestion is perfectly in line with the very popular (among evangelicals) Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis. He believed that marriage, in the sense of the solemn moral commitment before God, was best left for the clergy to administer. The other part–the legal obligations–should be the province of the state, as the state is the enforcer of contracts. Thus, civil unions would be governed by the state–and a state official would certify the contract–and anyone wishing to have the sanction of the church would seek out a preacher in addition to the registration with the state.

      In other words, the church’s involvement would only be ceremonial and preachers would hold no legal status. That’s the way it ought to be.

      Duane

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    • @ Helen & Duane,

      I find it interesting not to hear anyone talking about the financial aspects of same-sex marriage. The joint filing of tax returns, federal and often state can amount to a noticeable savings. Why does government do that, and why hasn’t it been part of the discussion?

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      • I wish I knew, Jim. I watch a lot of television and read the papers, but I have only heard it mentioned once or twice in passing.

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  4. Sedate Me

     /  May 12, 2012

    Sure, a President came out and said he’s in favour of gay marriage. However, aside from the symbolism, I really don’t see this as particularly meaningful.

    He isn’t going to anything about it. He’s going to leave it up to states like North Carolina to decide the issue.

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    • That’s a fair point. But it also overlooks the magnitude of even just having a POTUS say it. That is very important, as all the publicity surrounding it demonstrates (as well as the general enthusiasm in the gay community). In terms of cultural evolution, America moves quite slowly, but relatively speaking, Obama’s admission can be thought of as “punctuated equilibria.”

      Duane

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      • Sedate Me

         /  May 17, 2012

        Hailing from Canada, perhaps I’m a bit spoiled.

        Our transition began in 1967, then Minister of Justice and future longtime Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau said while decriminalizing a lot of bedroom behaviours “The state has NO business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

        Gay marriage and gays in the military has been Canadian law for so long, hell, I have to look it up

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Canada#Same-sex_marriage

        And apart from a tiny percentage of whack jobs, nobody much gives a shit. If anything, they are people who spend too much time watching American politics and that’s kept the issue alive to them.

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    • King Beauregard

       /  May 16, 2012

      You know what pisses me off? “Progressives” could have won the day in North Carolina if they’d just turned out and voted. At a certain point I’m tempted to say that we DESERVE to be led by evolutionary throwbacks because we don’t perform even the most simple of civic duties that democracy demands of us.

      A 75% Progressive turnout would have defeated NC Amendment 1; while that would be a huge turnout in any election, I can’t think of any issue that would be more “red meat” to “Progressives” than this one. And still, overall turnout in NC was only 34%, with conservative voters having made the biggest push to the polls … which is to say, “Progressives” showed up in numbers somewhere below 34%. Even if 75% would be an unachievable turnout rate (though I don’t see why it would be if these people had more to offer to their alleged principles than lip service), it still would have been nice to show that “Progressives” will put up a good fight.

      I can show my math if anyone really wants to see it.

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  5. Patricia Minute

     /  May 13, 2012

    This move by Obama is more than symbolic. More and more people are in favor of giving homosexuals their equal rights. Coming from the president is huge. It may not seem like that right now, but watch what happens. Already, over 55% of Americans agree with the president. The younger generations are progressive minded. This majority will soar to 75% in the next decade as narrow-minded people become a definite minority.

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    • Patricia,

      I”m not sure “narrow-minded people” will ever become a “definite minority,” because folks will find a way to be narrow minded about something else.

      Duane

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