Monday, March 19, 2007

Ten Years After Matthew Shepard

Americablog has some weighty posts on Matthew Shepard, gay rights and the federal government today, now that it's almost been 10 years since Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered merely for being gay.

Some key points:
Regardless of your position on "hate crimes" laws, there already is a federal law, and it covers race, religion and national origin. If we're going to have a federal law, shouldn't it cover everyone? ....

This is one of the two big civil rights goals of the year for the gay community, to finally get the hate crime law amended. The second big goal is to get ENDA passed so that it will no longer be legal to fire someone simply because they're gay (and yes, it's legal at the federal level and in the majority of states to do just that).

Can anyone imagine that? It's still legal to fire people because they're gay? In retrospect, perhaps we should. After all, gay people can get thrown out of the military and can't even march on St. Patty's Day. Discrimination is alive and well.


Anonymous said...

I find the left is trapped inside some circular reasoning on this issue.

One of the reasons why the muddled middle sees these laws as "special rights" is because they are actually under the misconception that gay people are already protected at law, so they must be asking for something else.

They don't know that in most of the U.S., you can be fired for being gay.

And yet, the left seems afraid to educate them. There have been kerfuffles, some famous and some behind the scenes, between those who want to advertise what is really going wrong, and those who are afraid of being too incendiary.

The end result is that the voice of certain gay media and organizations sound like a long lamentation of discrimination while others seem to speak of a completely different and totally benign world.

It's the age-old tension on the left, between the desire to do good and the fear of causing offense to anyone at any time for any reason.

Ryan Adams said...

Interesting perspective. I certainly don't have trouble educating the masses... but HRC, et al, could be another story. Let's hope they get tough on these issues over this next year, like they claim they will.

Anonymous said...

Slowly arriving news

The first comment is quite correct. I would only add a few points.

One huge thing that has changed is the science. In Seligman's What You Can Change.., the eminent psychologist examines what aspects of oneself are amenable to change by psychotherapy, psychotropics, and the like. Gender orientation and sexual orientation show very strong evidence of having biological origins, of being nearly immutable -- as opposed say to phobias and depression which can often be treated. The Right still wants to believe -- and consequently still believes -- that sexual orientation is a choice. That's why they emphatically call it a lifestyle. To them gay rights are akin to rights for people who have voluntarily chosen something immoral.

That, by way, is also the answer to those who say our Court has "legislated" a change to marriage. Instead, what has happened is that we've learned a lot more about gay people. The old prejudices were wrong.


Anonymous said...

Actually, anonymous@7:29PM, there are two things going on. One is what you mentioned, that some believe that gays already have the same rights, as a category, as people in other categories--heteros, race, creed, color, national origin, sex, etc.,

But there is another fairly large segment who view the government granting gays the same civil rights as others as tantamount to government's accepting of gay people as equal. And they cannot abide that. Those view gay people as lesser beings, and they cannot abide government recognition of equality in the civil sphere. It really is as simple as that.

And it is the latter segment, because of their noise, that gets heard by the politicians. The first segment that I described is relatively unanimated to push for equal rights for gay people. The latter segment is relatively animated to oppose them.

Regarding Matthew ten years later, Matthew was murdered in October 1998. You're 1 1/2 years early.


bostonph said...

Raj is right. People don't want legal recognition of homosexuality. It's the ugly truth behind the "no special rights" spin. At core, it allows people to support bigotry while hiding behind an "I'm not a homophobe" veil.

Here's an exquisitely weaselly example from Peter Porcupine:

I support human rights, and that includes gay people. I am a fan of equality under the law, not preference under the law.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree.

But don't overlook my point, either. A portion of the muddled middle would be horrified if they knew some of the things happening to gay people. Scandals change opinions.

Problem is, a fair number of so-called process liberals don't want to tell them. For some folks, winning approval from their opponents is more important than beating them.

Anonymous said...

Come, come. There is no such thing as a "process liberal" on the issue of equal rights for gays. "Process liberal" is a weasel word, a subterfuge, a way to make them feel good in their bigotry.

The fact is that there are many hetero liberals who are no more interested in pressing for equal rights for gays as right wingnuts. I noticed that over at the web site, where Kevin Drum pointedly admitted it. And Josh Marshall at has hinted at it. Kos over at, as well. They are obviously uncomfortable with it, and are more than willing to support anti-gay Democrats.

Just because someone is liberal, or a Democrat, does not mean that he or she is supportive of equal rights for gay people.


Anonymous said...

Raj, you're probably not going to agree with me here, but ---

I think Armstrong & Kos are absolutely right in Crashing the Gate that the separate parts of the progressive movement (environmental, gay rights, abortion rights, economic justice, civil rights, etc.) will advance or fail as Democrats (with a strong progressive core) advance or fail. A politics based on some sort of fight against "evil", that separates the world into "all innocent" and "guilty" is inhospitable to gay rights. That is what conservatives mostly offer us.

For me, the key point is that progressive values provide the best atmosphere and environment to make gay rights flourish. A politics based on empathy and results moves inexorably toward gay equality -- even when espoused by folks (like Edwards, say) who require some, er, education on the issue. Empathy, that central progressive value, is what has made heterosexuals everywhere less and less afraid of "teh gay".

The conservative movement understands the need for unity. They even have people like Norquist who work hard to keep them all together. Progressives tend to split all over the place. We need to fight the centrifugal forces not feed them.


Ryan Adams said...

I feel the need to inject myself in this discussion on a few points. First, I really believe that PP supports gay rights - even if it isn't to the extent I'd want. I've actually met PP in person and PP went out of his/her way to say hello (I didn't know who PP was at that point) and offer some advice on unrelated matters. If PP was homophobic, PP had a strange way of showing it.

Second, on Kos and Armstrong's Crashing the Gate... Yes, they advocate supporting candidates who aren't always extremely liberal. However, they don't advocate doing that in Boston. In fact, they were both in favor of ousting Joe Lieberman. They support them in places like Alabama, on the pretenses that even if they aren't perfect, they won't be able to support extremely conservative judges - judges who guys like so-called liberal/moderate Chaffee let on the court. Furthermore, they support the candidates in places like Alabama *because* they know they'll never get on a committee where their can make a big impact on their very conservative causes.

As a gay person, I recognize that winning means we can't have people like Lincoln Chaffee in the US Senate. They're never going to truly represent us, at least as long as they do whatever Karl Rove tells them to.

As concerned citizens, many of us being glbt citizens, we need to make sure we have an open mind. Just because someone isn't with us 100% of the way, doesn't mean they will strongly push for our equal rights. Look to guys like David and Charley on that... they pissed me off big time during the time period around the last ConCon, but have since criticized a lot of homophobic policies, etc. since then. So, while I agree that being a "process liberal" is weak, weak, weak... it doesn't mean they aren't ultimately supporters of our cause - supporters that, in the end, we can count on if it happens to get that far.

Anonymous said...

Totally right, Ryan, on Massahusetts. In fact, I forget if it was on MyDD or in CTG that I read that blue states like Massachusetts could help things out by shedding their unattractive, machine politicians and electing dynamic leaders. The idea is that we want the rest of the country to say, "We want what they have!"


Anonymous said...

supporters that, in the end, we can count on if it happens to get that far.

Be careful who you count on.

Do you have any idea how many supporters want the ballot initiative to go to a vote, so they can virtuously vote against it? It’s a lot. A lot.

Think about that position for a minute. “I want to put your civil rights at risk, so I can have a feel-good moment.” It’s a startling level of narcissism.

Republicans can always depend on other Republicans in a bar fight. But with liberals, there are always some who want to hold your hand behind your back while you get pummeled, because, well, fighting is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Bar fights

In my town, one of the stellar leaders in the fight for marriage equality is a woman, quite energetic and quite heterosexual. I likewise have a straight male colleague who is incensed and active on this issue -- in a good way.

What you say is true, though. There are lots of liberals who find fighting so very not nice, so gross. They don't want people to be mean to each other. Can't we all be polite? They're part of our coalition. We can't win elections without them, so you gotta think carefully about when you play the Giulliani-Trump video.

Republicans are not so hamstrung. They could have outfitted even more of their guys in the orange jump suits outside the Patrick household.

I think some kind of effort needs to go into convincing the nicey-nices that sometimes we're in a fight that we have a moral imperative to win. I don't know how to do that. On the site I shall not mention, I feel I've failed at every attempt to frame it properly. Gotta keep trying.


Anonymous said...

There are some interesting psychological findings about those types of liberals. I describe them in contemptuous terms--I can't help myself--so you'll have to deduce the more neutral portrait on your own:

First, they sport a nice wide yellow streak. They shy from confrontation, and engage in Olympic-level gymnastics of denial to avoid it. When confrontation is unavoidable, they blame the messenger, because they are far less afraid of their friends than of their enemies, with whom they prefer to ingratiate themselves. Don't tell them too much bad news, or they'll turn on you.

Second, as I said, they are narcissistic. It's all about them, and about how they feel about themselves. This makes them thick as pudding when it comes to listening to others. Sadly, they often need to follow their own stubborn nose until it leads them--and you--into catastrophic disaster. Then, and only then, will they change their minds and agree with you, insisting, of course, that it's all their idea.

So, that's the picture. I'm filling in a little color from neighbors I've had in very liberal environments. But it's based on very real, and very discouraging, research data.

Anonymous said...

I hope you havn't left that other site which shall not be named. If you have, you will be dearly missed.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:20 pm person:

I shudder. Yes, you are onto something. They can be awfully narcissistic. I notice the "easier to be angry at your friends" thing, too. The trouble I see though is that we need to figure out a way of overcoming this. Well, short of getting an advanced degree in flattery.

Have you ever been to an art museum with someone much more comfortable shopping than looking? Your companion will quickly glance at things, say what s/he likes, doesn't like, and what would look good in the rec room.

I think the nicey-nices treat politics similarly. They're consumers of politicians. ("Oh, she's too calculating." "His positions still need work." "Boring!") Liberals who fight just don't match the china set. Instead of thinking of real world consequences, they tend to think of their political choices as a kind of self-expression.

I'm not sure about any of this yet, but it's a problem that troubles me. I wish there were a more successful and reliable approach than the mere application of boot to butt. That's why I try to frame it neutrally.

Not very successful at being neutral today, I guess.


Anonymous said...

@10:15 pm

Well, I received my first warning by email from a moderator, titled Final Warning. Whatever my sin was, it's hard to imagine it was that egregious. I have sort of baited one of them, I suppose. I'm also confused as I don't know what the prior warnings were. I'm trying to decide if I should respond to the email, or take it as a message that it's time to be part of something new.

Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate them a lot.


Anonymous said...

Instead of thinking of real world consequences, they tend to think of their political choices as a kind of self-expression.

Brilliantly accurate. We will see this psychological profile in full bloom come the ConCon.

By the way, I wandered over to peruse your peccadillos. There are tons of ad hominem posts, and even ad hominem diaries, but, of course, they are all from Republicans. Which seems to be what they want.

You know, one can still have a hidden agenda, but on the Internet, it doesn't stay hidden very long.

Ryan Adams said...

KBusch - you were talking about finding a solution to the problem of having too many of these liberals that are afraid of the fight and will turn on friends. It was your 10:26 comment, among others.

During the last ConCon, I was very vocal in disagreeing with these types during the ConCon over the Health Care Amendment (they thought that somehow the gay marriage amendment was blocking their amendment... sillies). Anyway, I went hand over foot to try to come to some sort of agreement with one of their 2-3 leaders - and we finally did. Only, come the ConCon, they just completely ignored everything and even went as far as having sent an amicus brief on the side of Mitt Romney. It was then I decided I was done with those kinds of people.

The only way to win is to win in spite of them. Show them that their style of politics is anethema to any kind of legilsative success. It was the attitude that kept Democrats in the shadows for decades and it shall be our attitude no more.

I'm quite convinced we need to shove our progressive might down their throats and get legislative priorities all of us agree with passed. Then, when they see how wrong they were, they'll have no choice but to change and a new mainstream attitude will emerge.

I know this is harsh, but every time I've reached out it's come back in my face 10 fold - and I consider myself someone who's good at getting everyone to get along. It's harsh, but we've tried for decades the other way and it just hasn't worked.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan,

Me, I'm all for progressive might, but there just are not enough progressives never mind fighting ones. I think there's a difference between how we play with the nicey-nice liberals whom we want to vote early and often and the triangulating liberals in office who are too easily scared.

In the case of office holders, don't we want to make them indebted to us -- even if we aren't a majority of their constituents? That, by the way, is why it was hard for me to contribute to the DCCC but much easier to use ActBlue pages from pugnacious Liberals. I want them to know exactly what kind of support they are getting.

When polls ask about ideological affiliation, don't liberals get about 20% and conservatives the high 30s? If I remember correctly, conservatives are the majority of Republicans, but the majority of Democrats does not self-identify as liberal. Boy do we want to change that, but that is the current state of the battlefield. (You probably know this stuff much better than I do.)

We have years of infuriation ahead.

who can well believe you are good at getting everyone to get along

bostonph said...


I think it's slightly more complex than that. In my experience is the majority in this state tend towards "social liberal, fiscal conservative." If that weren't the case, Mitt wouldn't be in such hot water now. He's an astute businessman and clearly felt that he needed the appearance of being e.g. gay friendly to get elected, back then.

I moved here from Texas going on 17 years ago. The really odd thing in this state is the collection of Democrats who appear to be in the party just because there's almost no way to get elected as a Republican. Tom Finneran is an excellent example. Where I came from, he's a moderate to right Republican.

The real problem is the Democrats have come to take the support of the gay community for granted. BMG is a classic example. As I've said before, you're more likely to get a warning for dissing a Republican there than for slamming gays.

BTW, I, too, am done over there (I posted as HUH). I don't need more smug in my life.

Anonymous said...

Triangulators are not limited exclusively to elected office. Plenty of them occupy positions of influence inside progressive movements.

Also, I think you're oversimplifying the voting picture. Winning is not a matter of assembling a coalition of people who label themselves Progressives, Moderates and Triangulators. The labels don't matter at all. While relatively few Americans call themselves liberal, an overwhelming majority come down on the progressive side of the issues. The key to winning is building a brand promise around those issues, and then delivering on it.

Triangulators don't assist in that process; they harm it.

P.S. For some odd reason, I can no longer sign my posts. The word verification is producing multiple hiccups.

Anonymous said...


You're right that this is a simplification. You're right that if it were issues only, progressives would clean up. You're right as well that the Mass. Democratic Party includes people who'd be Republicans elsewhere.

Life would be better, though, if more Democrats self-identified as liberals or progressives and put their shoulders behind pushing that brand.


Ryan Adams said...

It's a long process, but not one that's over issues. The vast majority of Americans hold liberal positions on things like the environment, choice, education, health care, etc. The only major liberal position that isn't in the majority right now is gay marriage - and survey after survey, poll result after poll result has shown that's going to change sooner rather than later.

What seperates progressives from liberals & the democratic party in general isn't the issues, but political philosophy. However, it wasn't always that case either. A lot of it has to do with a backlash from the protest movements spurred from the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War. However, that's already changing as we speak. There was no real "progressive movement" 10 years ago, now we're able to defeat Joe Lieberman in primaries. Progressives, 10 years ago, were used to being pushed around and often didn't even vote - they "checked out." Again, that's all changing too.

You really can't say the progressive movement is about political stances: just look at two of our biggest winners in 06: Jim Webb and Jon Tester. Neither Webb nor Tester are particularly liberal, they're just a different breed of politician. One that I welcome. One that will alter the status-quo politicians we have in D.C. today (heck, look at how Webb and Bush got off to start - and compare that to the House's tepid calls for Iraq withdrawal).

Anonymous said...


I notice you distinguish, Ryan, between liberals and progressives. If I read you correctly, you are kind of using "liberal" in a more European way where it vaguely means center-left. Or perhaps you mean a left-wing person, probably a Democrat, who suffers from a partisanship deficiency.

Did I guess right?


Anonymous said...


I really think the thing that has changed is that the set of ideas in Moulitas' and Armstrong's book Crashing the Gates have gained wider acceptance, i.e., that partisanship, even Democratic partisanship, will help progressive causes. In the book, they point to a very interesting article called "The Death of Environmentalism" which talks about how environmentalists, who think of their issues as being non-partisan or above partisanship, have lost a lot of ground. Related to that has been the remarkable rise in Republican partisanship and conservative unity. It took from 1994 to 2004 for the different parts of the center-left to realize that we'd all better stop just pursuing our separate concerns or we were all going to lose.

I think that accounts not just for some of us supporting Tester and Webb, but -- even more suprising -- supporting Ford against Corker in Tennessee and Rendell against Santorum in Pennsylvania.

Your comment on the backlash against the Civil Rights movement is certainly very true: in the South, it's particularly true.


bostonph said...


Sorry, to re-open this, but a conversation with a friend from the Cape last night set me thinking.

First, I really believe that PP supports gay rights - even if it isn't to the extent I'd want. I've actually met PP in person and PP went out of his/her way to say hello (I didn't know who PP was at that point) and offer some advice on unrelated matters. If PP was homophobic, PP had a strange way of showing it.

First, I don't think PP is homophobic in the sense of wanting us all imprisoned (ala Republican Rock Radio). I'm also sure she was perfectly pleasant in person; she is, after all, a politician. I just don't think she supports gay rights in any meaningful way.

Her phrasing is typical of non-supporters from both sides, just more typical of the post-Weld MA Republican party. It's basically all statements of the form "I support gay rights, BUT"

In PP's case, the BUTs go:

- but not any legislation prohibiting discrimation based on sexual orientation (e.g. in housing)

- but not at the expense of my tax base

- but other issues are much more important to me (enough so that she's endorsed Mitt Romney)

- but I wish I didn't have to know about them. See her PP blog post "the love that won't shut up about itself):

- but I wish I didn't have their issues weren't part of the gubernatorial debate. See her PP blog post "No More Sex":

Like Romney, she's an astute enough politician to realize that you need to appear at least somewhat gay friendly to win in this state. I still wouldn't want her at my back in a bar fight. In fairness, I wouldn't want a good number of the people calling themselves Democrats in this state, either.

On the other hand, she gets cred for pissing off this wing nut (Aaron Malloy, that is):

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