Monday, March 30, 2015

Welcome to Indiana - Turn Your Clocks Back 60 Years

The State of Indiana is a quirky place.   One of the state's better known eccentricities is the fact that different counties used to have  different time zones.   Up until 2006, some parts of Indiana observed daylight savings time, and others did not.

Then there is  the state of affairs in Gary, IN.  One of Indiana's better known cities.   Made famous in  Meredith Wilson's classic American musical "The Music Man",  singing about Gary, Indiana  gave a very young Ron Howard his first moment of stardom in the 1962 movie adaptation.

 Fast forward to 2102, Gary Indiana has become the subject of Russian Television  (RT) documentaries on urban blight,  and the failure of the American economic model, and by extension  , the  American Dream. Even going so far as to draw comparisons between Gary, Indiana  and  the ghost town around the  Chernobyl nuclear accident evacuation zone.

A place that proudly extols its social conservatism, Indiana has a "abstinence based " approach to sex education, and education on HIV prevention is practically non-existent, with the reason being Indiana Conservatives say,  HIV is a "gay disease". So it should come as no shock that Indiana, this past week,  had to declare a public health emergency, due to a massive spike HIV infections in one county. The increase stems from intravenous drug users sharing contaminated needles. Indiana's Republican Governor, Mike Pence, a long time opponent of HIV Prevention and education programs like needle exchanges, suddenly reversed that position when he found his state staring an epidemic in the face.

One might think,  that with all these challenges on his plate, Governor Pence would have enough to keep himself  busy.   Apparently not.   

You see, many conservatives inside the national Republican Party  loooovvveee Mike Pence, and  they reallllyyyyy want him to run for President in 2016.    They see him as one of the few Republican Governors who hasn't yet completely destroyed his own state.   He is a clear social conservative,  he is a strong opponent of women's rights to control their own reproductive health,  he clearly is against "the gays", he has a college degree and great Presidential  candidate hair!

So like many GOP Governors who are toying with the idea of challenging Jeb Bush's long march to the Republican Presidential nomination,  Pence knows he needed to throw those same social conservatives a bone to chew on, to keep his name on their "dark horse / dream candidate" wish lists.

Sadly for Pence,  Indiana doesn't have any cases of voter fraud he could  use to pass new laws to prevent African-Americans and Latinos from voting.  So he needed a different crisis.   One that would give  conservatives even more reason to rally to  the dream of Mike Pence as their standard bearer.   Unlike Michigan,  Indiana doesn't have a lot of Muslims, so  the "Islamo-facist" boogey-man wasn't going to work, so who's left?   

Social conservatives have felt rather bruised and battered over the past few months.   The remarkable advance of marriage equality  across the US, in conjunction with the expected US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage nationwide, later this Spring,  has given the anti-LGBT conservative right wing  little cause for joy  lately.

Yet some states have  flirted with an idea of how to strike back at the advance of LGBT rights.  It is ironically, not a new  tactic.   Back 60 years ago,  states opposed to ending racial segregation used this same argument in their bids to halt the advance of civil rights for people of color.    The argument of  "Religious Liberty."

It is the claim that  If you don't let people  discriminate against certain groups  in public accommodation,  it is  a violation of freedom of religion.  Because  their  religion says those certain groups  are icky, and going to hell

Mike Pence's flip flop on needle exchange is potentially a big problem for him politically with social conservatives.   He desperately needs something he can point at to shore up his now slightly damaged right wing bona fides.    Oh, wait...that's right,  Just attack the Gays!  But call it protecting religious liberty.
 
It is something of a tradition for Republican Governors with Presidential ambitions, to at some point throw their own states under the bus.  Meaning they will invariably do things that will clearly harm their own states economically,  but will potentially woo conservative GOP primary voters  or campaign donors elsewhere.    Be it  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attack on Unions,   New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's sweetheart-deal of a  get away with pollution-free card for Exxon,   or,  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's... well entire record.

As the backlash against Indiana has grown, the usual suspects have slithered out from underneath their rocks to claim that Indiana is being "bullied by intolerant liberals".   And that  this  law is not about denying rights but protecting the rights of "people and families of faith".  Saying this new law in Indiana is not about discrimination against LGBT people is such an obvious lie as, to be laughable.   It is no different  from states  in the 1950's and 60's who claimed racial discrimination was a protected religious belief.  

(hat tip to Matt Baume over at HuffPost).

In 1946, Mississippi Governor Theodore Bilbo wrote, "[p]urity of race is a gift of God ... And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed."

One of Bilbo's gubernatorial successors added that "the good Lord was the original segregationist."
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court went even further: "[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures."

Lambda Legal breaks down the lies coming from Gov. Pence
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Governor Pence continues to deceive the public about this deeply flawed law. Let's clarify a few things.

Gov. Pence myth: SB 101 is just like Illinois law that then-State Senator Obama voted to support.

Truth: Gov. Pence fails to point out that Illinois has robust non-discrimination clauses in its state Human Rights Act that specifically protect LGBT people. Indiana does not. This matters because those seeking to discriminate in Indiana may claim that the lack of a state wide law barring sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination means that there is no compelling state interest in enforcing local ordinances providing such protections.

Gov. Pence myth: This law only reinforces established law in Indiana.

Truth: The language in SB 101 is so broadly written that someone can sue even without their religious beliefs having actually been burdened simply by claiming that is 'likely' to happen.

Gov. Pence myth: SB101 is just like federal law that President Clinton signed 20 years ago.

Truth: SB 101 is substantially broader than the federal law. The federal RFRA can only be invoked against government action. SB 101 goes much further, inviting discrimination by allowing religious beliefs to be raised as a defense in lawsuits and administrative proceedings brought by workers, tenants and customers who have suffered discrimination. In addition, SB 101 makes it easier to claim a burden on religious freedom than the federal RFRA by defining the 'exercise of religion' as 'any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.'

"If Governor Pence meant it when he said that SB101 isn't intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people, then why were amendments designed to make that explicit repeatedly rejected during the legislative process? If he truly means what he says, then he and the legislature should work together to add this language: 'This chapter does not establish or eliminate a defence to a claim under any federal, state or local law protecting civil rights or preventing discrimination.' And the Indiana government should include gay and transgender people within Indiana's protections from discrimination."

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SB101  It is unconstitutional, and un-American.    It will do nothing but wreak economic damage on the State of Indiana  and for what?  A thinly veiled attempt to keep the social conservative love affair with Mike Pence alive.

The debate over the Indiana law has clearly shown one thing.   Right wing social conservatives truly believe the United States Constitution only applies to them.   

They see equal treatment under the law for people they don't like, as discrimination against them.     Think about that for moment.  These are people who think that  if anyone different from them is  given the same rights, not more rights, not different rights, not special rights.  Just the exact same rights as they have, that is somehow an attack on them.

Funny enough there is a word  in the dictionary that means exactly that...

bigot: noun big·ot \ˈbi-gət\  : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
 

1 comment:

biki said...

I grew up in Indiana, and it was full of bible thumpers then. There were several kids who weren't allowed to come over to my house because my mother was divorced! For a short time period we lived in southern part of the state and there were whispers about cross burnings, this was in the late '70s. More or less its Alabama of the north, its just as racists, just as addicted to the bible and controlled by religious right wing GOP's.