August 30, 2007
Nothing Worse than Being Queer
Republican Senators have already begun to call for the resignation of Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) after he pled guilty to disorderly conduct in order to settle a charge involving alleged sexual activity in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis airport. This is an important indication that the obsession with lesbian/gay identity that the dissent identified in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 200 (1986) (Blackmun dissenting), continues to motivate many public officials, especially Republicans.
Craig's alleged sin is so severe that the mere allegation of it alone is sufficient to produce calls for his resignation from other Republicans. Many of these are undoubtedly the same Republicans who have resolutely defended Alberto Gonzalez throughout the scandal involving the politicized firing of U.S. Attorneys. Repeated allegations of abuse of legal authority by the Attorney General is not enough to overcome the partisan loyalties of the Republican leadership, but make one gesture to an undercover cop in a men's room, and it's all over.
This is paranoid heterosexual supremacy (if you'll forgive the redundancy) in action. The result is a warping effect on the law.
During my LGBT legal issues course this fall, I will have my students read Elizabeth Erin Bosquet, Contextualizing and Analyzing Alabama’s Approach to Gay and Lesbian Custody Rights, 51 Ala. L. Rev. 1625 (2000). Bosquet begins the article by reporting on Ex parte D.W.W., 717 So. 2d 793 (Ala. 1998), where the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the trial court's grant of custody of two children to their father.
According to the trial court, the father had a history of serious alcohol abuse and violence. He had threatened to kill the mother, the children, and others. He had put his infant son into a clothes dryer, totalled his car while his 23-month-old daughter was riding in the car wearing no safety belt, and returned the children from visits with flea bites and scabies. Bosquet at 1625-26; see also, D.W.W., 717 So. 2d at 797-98 (Kennedy dissenting, listing 11 items from the trial record indicating father's lack of responsibility and of parenting skills).
What does a mother have to do in order to be a worse parent than this father? Enter a lesbian relationship.
According to the Alabama Supreme Court, "Even without this evidence that the children have been adversely affected by their mother's relationship, the trial court would have been justified in restricting R.W.'s visitation, in order to limit the children's exposure to their mother's lesbian lifestyle. When a noncustodial parent is involved in a continuing homosexual relationship, restrictions on that parent's visitation rights have been widely held to be proper. Carroll J. Miller, Annotation, Visitation Rights of Homosexual or Lesbian Parent, 36 A.L.R. 4th 997 (1985)." D.W.W., 717 So. 2d at 796.
In 1999, a soldier named Barry Winchell died in his sleep at Fort Campbell Army base when one of his fellow soldiers bludgeoned him to death with a baseball bat. The trauma surgeon in Nashville who tried to save Winchell's life told me that his brains were literally lying on the table next to his head when she got to him. Why did Winchell's attacker bludgeon him to death? Because Winchell was known to be dating a transgender person in Nashville, and Winchell had bested him in a fist fight the night before, and the attacker wasn't going to let any faggot get away with kicking his ass.
By all accounts, Winchell was an outstanding soldier with considerable promise for a military career. His attacker almost didn't become a soldier at all because of arrests before he enlisted.
Given the current exclusion of openly lesbian/gay persons from the U.S. military, one must infer that persons with arrest records are necessarily better soldiers than any openly lesbian or gay person.
These are only the obvious examples that I can come up with off the top of my head. Anyone who would make some sense out of bizarre legal and policy choices involving sexual orientation must begin by understanding the principle that, for many judges and legislators, literally nothing could be worse than being lesbian/gay, and anyone who admits to such identity is therefore a choice target for all manner of discrimination.
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Well, there have been a couple of openly gay Republican House members who managed to get re-elected and have the support of even their very homophobic party's leadership: Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin (1981-97, the only GOP House member to vote against DOMA) and Jim Kolbe of Arizona (1985-2007).
One wonders whether there would be calls from Republicans for Craig's resignation if Idaho had a Democratic governor who could appoint a member of his or her party to the Senate seat.
Posted by: Richard | Aug 30, 2007 2:01:16 PM