The dominoes keep falling in the U.S., as this month courts ruled in favor of marriage equality in New Mexico and Utah (!!). Until this decision, New Mexico was the only state that had no law either permitting or prohibiting same-sex marriage, creating a legal ambiguity that the state’s highest court has now resolved.
But it’s the shock decision in Utah that could be far more significant in the long run. In that case, a federal judge struck down an anti-gay amendment to the state constitution, ruling that it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that any federal court has explicitly found it unconstitutional to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. If that ruling holds up on appeal, it will have nationwide implications. (State officials in Utah asked for an emergency stay on the decision, which has yet to be granted; meanwhile, same-sex couples are swarming the offices of state clerks.)
And while it’s hardly in the same league as these court decisions, there’s also this story about Phil Robertson, the star of a reality show called Duck Dynasty, who was suspended after he made hateful anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ. (Though it seems to have gotten less attention, he also said in that same interview that black people in the South were happier under Jim Crow laws. Is anyone surprised that anti-gay bigotry and condescending racism are so often found together?)
Conservative outrage-mongers were predictably outraged, crying about how this violates Robertson’s FREEZE PEACH!, even though, as many people pointed out, there’s no First Amendment right to have your own reality show. You’d think more right-wingers would recognize that this is how the free market works: if a corporation hires someone who expresses sentiments offensive to their customers and sponsors, they can respond by pulling their support, and that corporation can respond by firing the person they don’t want associated with their brand.
But as I wrote earlier this year on AlterNet, as bigoted fundamentalists lose one battle after another in the U.S., they’re turning their efforts abroad, where they often find a more receptive audience. And this season, they’ve had one big victory: the nation of Uganda has suddenly and unexpectedly passed a draconian anti-gay bill – the so-called Kill the Gays bill – that’s been brewing for over four years (I first wrote about it in December 2009).
The final version of the law punishes Ugandan gay people with “only” life imprisonment, rather than execution, as if that’s an improvement. It also requires people to turn in their gay friends and relatives on pain of being imprisoned themselves – a horrible dilemma for the few brave people in the country, like the Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Mark Kiyimba, who’ve been sheltering LGBT people against an overwhelming tide of murderous homophobia.
Predictably, bigoted American evangelicals are ecstatic. Just as they applauded and cheered Vladimir Putin’s violent crackdown on gay rights in Russia, they’re happy to witness a climate of fear and brutal totalitarianism descend on a country, just so long as they think it’s aimed at the right people. In this case it’s even less of a surprise, since several of them played crucial roles in drafting the Ugandan bill in the first place.
This is a dynamic we’ve seen repeatedly in the past few years: gay people are pushing for the right to get married and peacefully refusing to support businesses that promote hateful speech, while at the same time, right-wing Christians are clapping and cheering at the thought of gay people being thrown in prison and executed. The outrageous hypocrisy is that those same Christians then turn around and claim that they’re the victims of unfair discrimination!