Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bush and gay rights

Dubya's big campaign slogan in 2000 was "compassionate conservatism." Well, in the four years since then, we've seen a lot of conservative, but not so much compassion. The Federal Marriage Amendment didn't get nearly enough votes and died in Congress a few weeks ago. Bush, not surprisingly, supported it.

"I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor's eye when they got a log in their own," he said. "I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country.

Which doesn't really say much about his position. He claims to be a tolerant person, and that an individual's sex life is his private matter, and that he supports "equal rights, but not special rights for all people."

Ann Richards was the governor of Texas when my home state's sodomy law was enacted. In her defense, the bill came to her with a veto-proof majority, so there's not really a damned thing she could do about it. When running against her for governor, Bush promised to veto any attempt to rescind the sodomy law, which specifically targeted gay sex; heterosexuals could bugger each other as much as they wanted.

In the interest of full disclosure, Bush never called for actual enforcement of the law. He claimed it was valuable as a symbol. Which makes it rather unusual in my mind. I'm not familiar with any other aspect of criminal law that exists only in a symbolic manner. I'm not clear if the $500 fine for sodomy in Texas would be accepted by the state in symbolic money, or if they would insist on the real stuff.

What I think the best part of this whole thing is that it shows exactly how unconservative the Christian ultra-Right is. They like to call themselves conservatives, but they're anything but. Rather than try to write it in my own words, I will turn things over to this excellent explanation, which sums it up better than I ever could: (emphasis mine)

[Bush] promised to veto any attempt to repeal the Texas sodomy law, which he defends as "a symbolic gesture of traditional values."

Yet Bush has never called for actual enforcement of the law.

Implicit in Bush's endorsement of the sodomy law as a mere "symbol" and "gesture" is the idea that it should not be enforced. This soft defense is disingenuous. It says to the religious right, "I share your values." It then winks at everyone else and whispers, "But I don't really mean it." It's the kind of politics that promises something with its fingers crossed behind its back. Is this compassionate conservatism in action?

"A penal law not ordinarily put in execution seems to me to be a very absurd and a very dangerous thing," Burke argued during a passionate speech urging tolerance for religious minorities. He reasoned that if the law at issue punishes a genuine evil it would be irresponsible not to administer it.

However, if its object is not the suppression of some real wrong, "then you ought not to hold even a terror to those whom you ought certainly not to punish." If it is not right to enforce the law against an offender, Burke argued, then "it is neither right nor wise to menace" him with it. "Take them which way you will," he said of unenforced criminal laws, "they are pressed with ugly alternatives."

Not that this will matter. The GOP is trying to save America from the International Godless Homosexual Conspiracy, and rhetoric like this plays directly into the closed-minded, family-values, Christian-nation-or-bust mindset that they pander to.

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