Sometimes the sirens of the social right say so much about a certain subject that their words circle around and bite them in the posterior.
Such was the case the other day when a spokesperson for Focus on the Family was asked about a bill to extend anti-discrimination, anti-harassment protections in public schools to homosexuals and transgendered students.
It's something already afforded women and minorities under federal law. Based on the actions of campus goons and a few educators who should be in another field, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., seeks to extend protections to gay, lesbian and transgendered students.
Asked about this by the Denver Post, Focus on the Family's Candi Cushman, talked around the matter in a way that should have caught the eye of anyone who supports gay rights.
She said that law should focus on bullying itself, and not on any particular group. Then she said, "The emphasis should be on the wrong action of the bullies, not why they did it or what their perceived thoughts were." Cushman will blanch to hear it parsed, but she just expressed the bottom line, the essence, of gay rights, a term her organization roundly and routinely derides.
"Emphasis should be on the action" . . . not "perceived thoughts."
The whole of the quest for gay rights is that a person's sexual orientation should have no bearing on his or her employability in whatever field he or she seeks. The only thing that should matter is how he or she does the job. Teacher. Pastor. Soldier. Next-door neighbor. Son. Daughter. Spouse. Parent. Foster parent.
That's right, Ms. Cushman. You said it.
It has considerable pertinence this week as Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, followed up on the words of Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in saying an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the military would be the "right thing to do."
Sen. John McCain, reversing a previous stance, said he opposes such a change, while saying he is "enormously proud of, and thankful for, every American who choose to put on the uniform."
Does that include the 13,000 people cut loose from the service since 1994 under "don't ask, don't tell"?
Retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, one of Mullen's predecessors chairing the Joint Chiefs, said his own opinion has swung with those of servicemen and women now in the field.
Writing in the New York Times, he cites a poll of 500 returning combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, three-quarters of whom say they are comfortable interacting with gay cohorts. Yes, times are changing. To the credit of new generations of people who serve, a new tolerance is overwhelming the abominable attitudes that for so long have marginalized some of America's best — whatever the job.
Once again — and kudos, Focus on the Family, for saying it so well — it's all about actions, not thoughts or predilections. Does someone's libido interfere with the task at hand? If it does, whether it's hetero or otherwise, we have a workplace problem. Otherwise, how a person is wired sexually is not of your concern.
As for the bill promoted by Polis, who is openly gay and represents Colorado's District 2, this is akin to hate- crime laws that logically extend protection to people based on sexual orientation. Why? Because we know the proclivity of goons to prey on people simply because of what they are.
That's right, what they are, the crime of being them.
It's something the religious right cannot stand to acknowledge. While it talks about its own ranks being oppressed for its beliefs— some stretch — it uses its enormous political power to goad government to oppress others.
John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.