Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Equal rights are family values

   Discrimination is a losing proposition. It may win in the short term, yes. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, however, "The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."

   King's words are most pertinent because of the scintillating statement made by the NAACP recently in supporting gay marriage, a few days after President Obama did the same.

  Actually, what the NAACP said was bolder than is commonly portrayed. It resoundingly denounced laws that "codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the constitutional rights" of gay, lesbian or transgendered individuals.

   What is even remotely radical about equal treatment under the law?

    It was radical before the Emancipation Proclamation, before the 19th Amendment and  women's suffrage, before the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. But not now, surely.

    Two surveys show what a losing proposition this form of discrimination is — if not now, soon.

     The first is scientific, done by Gallup, whose Values and Beliefs survey found the Republican Party increasingly marginalized based on its allegiance to hard-line positions sculpted by the religious right.

     One striking example was the finding that 82 percent of Catholics find birth control morally acceptable. Another was that 54 percent of Americans find same-sex relations morally acceptable.

     What New York Times political blogger Charles Blow found most compelling in the Gallup numbers was how political independents increasingly are turned off by the "family values" thrust of the GOP.

     "Public sentiment is slowly drifting away from the Republicans in a way that must be giving the party's long-range strategists sleepless nights," he writes.

     Possibly just as significant are the findings of Terry Cassady. He's no pollster, but a high school teacher in Burnet, deep in the heart of blushingly red-state Texas.

     Bothered by the political bastardization of the term "family values," he decided to ask his students what they believe those values to be. Surprisingly, the vast majority identified things like family togetherness and commitment — "love each other," "be open to each other," "Dad should show he loves Mom in front of the kids."

    By contrast, one of Cassady's brightest students took it upon herself to diagram "politicians' family values" based on the vibes she detects: "anti-abortion," "anti-gay rights." She stuck in "pro-education" as if to give denote lip service, then added "church" (as if to denote "for show") and "large family, and usually homeschooled,"

    Gentlemen, we — make that you — have a disconnect, between what you as politicians extol as family values and what are the true values that matter to America's young.

    See it in the "It Gets Better" campaign on YouTube aimed at boosting the self-esteem of gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals. See it in the 34,840 signatures, at last count, on the Teens Against Bullying "It Begins With Me" digital petition.

    But the bullying that should concern us doesn't just happen in school halls. It also happens in legislative halls.

    A few days ago, though the votes were there, including key Republican defections, GOP leaders in the Colorado House killed a Senate-passed bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions. Gov. John Hickenlooper promoted it aggressively. One poll showed more than 70 percent of Coloradans support civil unions. A minority of a minority blocked it. 

    Back to the bold statement by the NAACP. It was made despite pronounced ambivalence among many blacks about gay rights, and against the expected outrage which came from some black ministers.

    The thing is: Though those pastors are entitled to their beliefs, ours is not a clerical government. This is a government of laws, not on the dictates of men in cloth. That's the kind of government the founders and their kin fled.

      Sure, the standard "family values" appeals can defeat gay marriage in North Carolina and other states, but they can't win in the end, especially when the more accepting attitudes of today's young are extrapolated.

     Discrimination is for losers. Winners make history. 

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado.      

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