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Chief Mufti of Russia Urges Violence Against Gays:

The Independent (U.K.) reports on the cancellation of Russia's first planned gay pride parade; the city government refused to allow the parade, and the Independent cites outraged reactions from religious leaders as a major reason. The Russian Orthodox religious leaders are quoted as harshly condemning homosexuality, but the chief Muslim mufti goes further:

Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that -- Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."

As Andrew Sullivan points out, this isn't just some minor extremist -- Tadzhuddin is part of the Russian Muslim leadership. (Despite the Chief Mufti title, I'm not sure I can label him the chief Muslim cleric in Russia, since a quick newspaper search suggests that there are three different Muslim organizations in play there, and Tadzhuddin is the chief mufti of one; but it seems pretty clear that he's quite prominent.) Oh, and he seems like a moderate by the standards of some Muslim leaders: RTR Russia TV reported (thanks to BBC Monitoring, Feb. 10, for the pointer) that he criticized riots over the Mohammed cartoons, saying that "various ultimatums and threats are absolutely inappropriate. This is unacceptable from the point of view of Islam, the very ideology of the Koran, and even international rules, because harming innocent people is banditry." But flogging homosexuals is just fine.

Another source (Novye Izvestia -- in English, "New News" -- as reported by What The Papers Say) reports that "According to Tadzhuddin, the Prophet Muhammad taught that homosexuals should be killed, since their activities lead to the extinction of the human race." "Umar Idrisov, head of the Muslim Religious Directorate in the Nizhniy Novgorod region," is also reported to have said, "Homosexuals ought to be stoned," and not in the Bob Dylan sense, I think.

Fortunately, "Nafigulla Ashirov, co-chairman of the Mufti Council of Russia [and one of Tadzhuddin's adversaries], provided a symmetric response (recalling Tadzhuddin's unusual opinion about the cartoons) in an interview with Echo of Moscow Radio: 'I don't think we have the right to beat up or kill anyone. Such actions are unacceptable for us, since doing so would be illegal.'" Pleased to hear that you're in favor of following the law, Mr. Co-Chairman; might there also be some other reason, though, why you shouldn't beat up or kill people?

I should stress that, as best I can tell, Russian society is quite hostile to gays; the Independent article reports that "An opinion poll last year showed 43 per cent of Russians believed gay men should be incarcerated." (By comparison, a 1998 Time poll of Americans -- the most recent I could find -- reports that,when asked, "Do you think that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal or illegal?," 33% of respondents said "illegal," and even that is a less punitive position than calling for outright incarceration.) The nastiness can't be laid entirely at the feet of parts of the Russian Muslim community. But it can't be laid entirely at someone else's feet, either.

MikeWDC (mail):
As someone who grew up gay in this country not too long ago, lets not pretend "the nastiness" isn't still widespread in the United States. The express view that gay people deserve physical attacks still thrives in America's middle and high schools. "Gay bashing" is not taken metaphorically.

Of course America is a vastly better place to be a gay man or a lesbian than Russia or any Muslim country. But let's not kid ourselves: on this issue, it's a question of degree, a difference of about a decade for most of the country.
2.18.2006 3:42am
Pendulum (mail):
I hope that, eventually, the Islamists attempts to impose their ideology on the West will backfire, and Western citizens will rise up against these threats to liberalism and freedom.

It's a hope.
2.18.2006 3:48am
Cornellian (mail):
Gay people are cultural canaries. That is to say, people like that deranged Mufti never hold that kind of view in isolation, and never just pack up and go home after dealing with that one issue. People like that instead turn to their next target, whether that be Jews, or women who have jobs instead of staying at home, or people who have sex outside of marriage, or someone who just criticizes their medieval views. The goal is control of everything and gay people are just on the front line of their attack. So let's end this suicidal cultural relativism and call a backward and primitive civilization for what it is, something utterly irreconcilable with Western values. We owe the victims of regimes run by such people the opportunity to see that the West offers an alternative.
2.18.2006 6:30am
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
MikeWDC: While all of that is true, I can't emphasize enough that attitudes toward gays among young people have undegone a seismic shift in the last generation or so, and continue to do so. I'm 21 and have been openly gay since my sophomore year of high school; as I talk to older gays, even those who are only five or ten years older, I realize how different the attitudes of their peers were from the attitudes of mine. Which is not to say that everything was perfect among my cohort, but that in any discussion of homophobic attitudes among young people, it's important to remember that things are moving in the right direction (if, like me, one thinks homophobia is a Bad Thing) and pretty rapidly.

This is one reason I think the debate over gay rights in the US is, to a great extent, more about when than if; demographic churn will shift the political center of gravity on these issues, and eventually the policies. Whether that should happen is perfectly debatable, of course -- obviously, I think it should -- but I don't think there's much of an argument about whether it will happen.

I apologize if this is a bit far afield from the subject of a nutty, violent mufti in Russia, but when the subject of gay and lesbian people in high school comes up, I feel compelled to point out a trend which to which many of my elders seem oblivious.

Someone I know, in her mid-thirties, who counsels gay teenagers nationwide on a telephone help line, said there was a point a few years ago when the common complaint of "there are no gay people at my school" was replaced by "all the gay people at my school suck." This is progress.
2.18.2006 7:11am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
When did it become in fashion to call something that was subpar or inadequate "Gay"?? I don't remember it being used back in the 70s.
2.18.2006 8:15am
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
Frank: I might be wrong about this, but I think that's my generation, give or take a few years. I will say that many of the kids I knew who used "gay" as a synonym for "lame" were not necessarily homophobes. It was, for them, just the term they heard from peers, and didn't necessarily represent some deeper contempt for homosexuality or gay people. Of course, for some of them, it did, but overall I think sometimes people read a little more into that particular linguistic trend than is actually there.

If it reflected a hostility toward anything, it was toward an enforced political correctness around issues of identity politics, but kids could be hostile toward that without necessarily embracing illiberal views of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
2.18.2006 9:31am
Raw_Data (mail):
MikeWDC,
I don't think that attitudes in the USA in 1995 were similar to the attitudes evinced by this Chief Mufti today.
Or putting it another way -- if Islam in ten years is where we in the USA are today then that would be very good news indeed, Unfortunately it doesn't look likely at all.
2.18.2006 9:54am
dk35 (mail):
Kieran,

As a gay man in his mid-30's, I actually share your overall optimism. Keep in mind, though, that at this point, some areas in the US are more advanced than others. After all, in the last few years, about a dozen states have written anti-gay clauses into their state constitutions (here I refer to the marriage-related amendments).

Basically, I just wanted to put out a caveat that while some of us are now living in very englightened environments (and it sounds like you have, which is great), we should be mindful that not all gay people have it so good in this country yet. There are a lot of people (Volokh puts it at 33%, and that group probably makes up majorities in many southern/midwestern states) out there still who think we should at best be treated as second class citizens, as well as politicians, such as our current President, who like to whip up the passions of those people for their own political gain.
2.18.2006 9:55am
Shangui (mail):
I certainly remember both "gay" and "fag" being used as general negative terms typically free of their specific homosexual connotations in, if not the '70's, at least the very early 80's. I also remember almost immediately sensing this was unappropriate upon entering college in '87 and never heard either term used except with full irony in college.

As someone on the outside (i.e. not gay), I'm also stunned by how quickly attitudes have changed in many parts of the society. This is one of the few areas in which I think the mass media has actually had a very positive effect upon us. I happily agree with an earlier commentator that, for much of America, questions such as gay marriage are of the "when" not "if" variety.
2.18.2006 10:11am
Mr Diablo:
All you homos asking for special rights, it makes me sick! You can marry already! Any woman you want! You're going to destroy gender identity if you are allowed to marry and completely lead to the collapse of western civilization if you are told that what you do is ok, normal and equal.

Sorry, couldn't help myself, since I've been reading such absurd arguments against why my partner and I should not be able to marry, join the military, or be considered "normal" in the eyes of one volokh.com poster.

Thanks for the link to this Russian guy's bigotry, unfortunately for many of the frequent volokhers, they read it and say, "well, that's a little too extreme..." rather than say, "here's another example of people trying to demonize gays in order to gain power," ...sort of like that guy who was president in the early part of the 21st century.

"When" can not come soon enough.
2.18.2006 10:40am
fubar (mail):
Does this mean ol' mufti fluffti isn't going to see Brokeback Mountain? Oh my.
2.18.2006 10:43am
CEB:
Since 2000, liberals have been saying that the government is being run by the "religious right." The good news is that they're right. I believe that conservative Christians have as much influence in politics right now as they ever will, and yet our country continues to become more and more open and tolerant. If this is what it's like to live under the "American Taliban," we're in pretty good shape.
2.18.2006 10:59am
BU2L (mail):
On use of the words "gay" and "fag" as general pejorative terms:

People in my age group (I'm 26) do this all the time, not meaning it is an insult to homosexuals. Indeed, most people who say "that movie was gay," just mean "it sucked." But I'm not convinced that substituting a different meaning justifies such use. The word's negative, if sometimes playfully negative, connotation clearly stems from the fact that it generally means "homosexual." Would we be so forgiving if people instead said, "that guy is such a kike," even if they sincerely meant no offense to Jews? I doubt it.
2.18.2006 11:11am
Kurt:
Regarding the use of the word "gay" as a general pejorative in the U.S., I remember it quite clearly being used in the 70s, when I was in elementary school, no less. This was around the time of the Anita Bryant controversy, 1977 or possibly 1978. From what I observed, the kids using the term had little sense of what being gay meant or involved, but they called everyone and everything they didn't like "gay." And it certainly didn't start with them. They most likely heard it from their older brothers and sisters or their parents first.
2.18.2006 11:28am
CEB:
Glenn Reynolds puts it better than I did:

To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, theocracy is forever descending on America, but somehow it always lands somewhere else.
2.18.2006 11:28am
CEB:
Glenn Reynolds puts it better than I did:

To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, theocracy is forever descending on America, but somehow it always lands somewhere else.
2.18.2006 11:29am
dk35 (mail):
CEB:

You may have a point, but then again are you a gay person in one of the states whose constitution now explicitly discriminates against gays?
2.18.2006 11:34am
JosephSlater (mail):
The Christian right = open, tolerant government? Sure it does. That's why a public law school in my state is being sued for offering its employees domestic partnership benefits, allegedly in violation of the open, tolerant anti-gay marriage amendment. And that's why there's a push in various communties to teach forms of creationism. It's responding to straw man to say, "we're not a theocracy." We aren't, but some political movements are pushing toward it in certain areas. But hey, if you're not gay, or if your kid isn't being taught religious mythology in a science class, what do you care, right?
2.18.2006 11:36am
BU2L (mail):
Joseph, dk35,

What I really ought to get used to by now, but I can't for some reason, is the apparently complete inability of agenda-driven people to stay on a particular point. I completely agree with your criticism of the anti-gay marriage amendments and theology in schools, but...

Your disillusionment with this country's inadequate progress in the gay rights area only underscores the seriousness of the problems facing gays elsewhere. Yeah, gays here can't get married and that's wrong. Gays on Nevsky Prospect can't walk down the street in a large group without facing a serious threat of religiously motivated violence. So pardon me, but in this context, your knee-jerk attacks on the American Christian Right seem downright petty. It's an attractive boogeyman, I know, but it's as though you guys are watching a deadly earthquake on Tv, and complaining that milk in your town is too expensive...
2.18.2006 11:49am
syn4me (mail):
If you are female, not politically identifed by sexuality, try using the restroom in a gay establishment like Lips here in NYC, the choice is either the Men's Room or the Other Room.

In other words, in some gay communities I don't even exist.
2.18.2006 11:52am
John Jenkins (mail):
I don't do moral equivalency much, but I'm going to go on the record as saying "flogged in the street" > "can't marry" on the morally wrong scale.
2.18.2006 11:58am
dk35 (mail):
BU2L,

Firstly, if believing in civil rights generally makes one "agenda driven" then I guess I'm agenda driven. But, as much as you think that is the focus here, I disagree.

The difference between earthquakes and milk is one of substance. The difference between American conservative anti-gay politics, and the Mufti's anti-gay politics is one of degree. I'm physically safer in Boston walking down the street holding my boyfriend's hand then I would be in Crawford Texas. And I'd probably be more safe walking down the street holding my boyfriend's hand in Crawford Texas than I would be walking past the Mufti and his gang of followers. I'm not denying that. But that's not the point I'm making.

Finally, before you call our comments "downright petty" I guess I would ask you whether you would call it "downright petty" if your government took away your right to marry the woman of your dreams. If you say that your complaints in that respect would, in fact, be "downright petty", well then at least I'll give you points for consistency.
2.18.2006 12:00pm
CEB:
JosephSlater,
Certain groups may be pushing toward theocracy, but they are certainly fighting a losing battle. The fact that anti-gay prejudice in this country takes the form of fighting against health insurance benefits rather than calling for violence is a very positive sign. Of course there is still religious intolerance in this country, but my point is that it's much weaker than it has been in the past, and weaker than it is around the world.
dk35,
No, but if I'm not mistaken, as an atheist I am barred from public office in a handful of states.
2.18.2006 12:01pm
BU2L (mail):
dk,

I apologize if my previous posted tended to minimize the plight of gays here. What i'm trying to say is that not every issue has to be redrawn to fit into that context. If a gay man is being stoned in Russia, perhaps we could just condemn the attackers, and for once, leave the Christian Right out of it. God knows, (no pun intended), they present plenty of opportunities on their own - just scroll down to the AZ stories.
2.18.2006 12:05pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
While all of that is true, I can't emphasize enough that attitudes toward gays among young people have undegone a seismic shift in the last generation or so, and continue to do so.

Quite so. I don't doubt that a few decades ago 43% of Americans would have voted to outlaw gay sex.

As a practical illustration: when I was first practicing here (around 1977-79) I knew a public defender whose client went to prison for sodomy. With his wife, I might add. (Unlike the statute the Supremes recently struck, this one applied to heterosexual conduct as well: they were breaking up and she went to the police, and they arrested him). State supreme court upheld the conviction and he went off to the state pen. That's, what, 25 years ago?
2.18.2006 12:38pm
BU2L (mail):
Wow Dave. I don't suppose then that the sodomy law applied to both willing participants, but just the man?
2.18.2006 12:48pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Does this mean ol' mufti fluffti isn't going to see Brokeback Mountain?

Yeah, you have to wonder about anyone calling himself a "mufti" who's thundering against gays. He has issues! ;)

(Actual etymology here.)

EV's post is a reminder why Islam isn't going to catch on here. For that matter, the Dalai Lama doesn't advocate flogging gays, but he's not wild about 'em either.
2.18.2006 1:04pm
JosephSlater (mail):
BU2L:

Before you start making generalized criticisms of people, you might want to review the thread and check out who is responding to whom/what. Someone earlier in the thread said that the Christian right had not had an effect on how open and tolerant the country is, and that simply isn't true. I understand that this doesn't rise to the level of the anti-gay acts that E.V. described in the original post, and I never indicated otherwise. The conversation in this thread had drifted into the general ramifications of religion and gay rights, and I was responding to a specific claim. Do you think the person to whom I was responding had "an agenda" worth you writing to condemn?
2.18.2006 1:21pm
FXKLM:
I don't think "gay" is used as a general insult meaning subpar or inadequate. Usually it means that something is weak, effeminate, or otherwise unmanly. If a guy complains that a movie is gay, he's generally not referring to a third-rate action movie. It's far more likely that he's talking about an overemotional romance. Saying that something sucks is a generic insult, but saying that something is gay carries a much more specific meaning. It's regrettable that this usage of "gay" is offensive to homosexuals, but I think that's outweighed by its expressive value.
2.18.2006 1:41pm
JB:
Josephslater: I believe the original commenter's point was that the Christian Right is now more or less in power, yet has not been able to turn back the clock to the 1970s attitudes as it wanted to. (It's managed to stop the clock, more or less, but no more). The orignal commenter was suggesting that this is the best the Christian Right can do, and therefore it's not all that bad relative to other anti-gay forces in other countries that are more powerful.

I may be quoting the wrong comment.

In any event, if this truly is the best the Christian Right can do, then they're done. Gay Marriage is their Gettysburg. Yes, they've advanced pretty far, but they can't hold it.
2.18.2006 2:06pm
Brandonks (mail) (www):
Don't doubt that Islamic attitudes about gays are pervasive and deadly:

Sheikh Sharkhawy, a cleric at the prestigious London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, compares homosexuality to a "cancer tumour." He argues "we must burn all gays to prevent paedophilia and the spread of AIDS," and says gay people "have no hope of a spiritual life."

The Fly Over Zone has more on their position.
2.18.2006 2:22pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Sheikh Sharkhawy, a cleric at the prestigious London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, compares homosexuality to a "cancer tumour." He argues "we must burn all gays to prevent paedophilia and the spread of AIDS,"

Sounds like a clever Islamic plot to paralyze Great Britain by making it impossible to muster a quorum in the House of Commons.
2.18.2006 2:31pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Wow Dave. I don't suppose then that the sodomy law applied to both willing participants, but just the man?

I'd guess that it would have applied to both, but the wife was betting that the cops wouldn't charge her (and won the bet).

I'd guess that they had some reason to want to get the guy, altho I never asked that detail. Always possible he had a record, was suspected in other matters, and this was just a convenient way to get him out of circulation. That's just speculation on my part -- that the police would ordinarily have found an excuse not to investigate and arrest in this setting.
2.18.2006 2:36pm
jimmy:
These are some of the gayest comments I've seen in a while.
2.18.2006 2:47pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
BUL2 it is a bit more than
Your disillusionment with this country's inadequate progress in the gay rights area only underscores the seriousness of the problems facing gays elsewhere. Yeah, gays here can't get married and that's wrong. Gays on Nevsky Prospect can't walk down the street in a large group without facing a serious threat of religiously motivated violence. So pardon me, but in this context, your knee-jerk attacks on the American Christian Right seem downright petty. It's an attractive boogeyman, I know, but it's as though you guys are watching a deadly earthquake on Tv, and complaining that milk in your town is too expensive...


According to the South Carolina GOP Platform
We promote traditional, family- oriented, parent-approved sex education in our
schools that is based on Judeo- Christian principles. We affirm the rightness and
practicality of abstinence- based programs that promote postponing sexual activity until
marriage. We reject contraceptive distribution to students and school- based "health
clinics." Although we support tolerance, we do not agree that unnatural or unhealthy
sexual practices ought to be legitimized or promoted in the classroom, nor do we believe
that known practicing homosexuals should serve as teachers in public schools.


Do you think this section was added to appeal to the SC Muslims?
2.18.2006 2:49pm
CEB:
JosephSlater, BU2L, dk35, et al.,
I think we're all in broad agreement on the topic of religious intolerance in the US compared to religious intolerance in the rest of the world, and are quibbling over some (albeit important) details. My main point was that this country becomes more open and tolerant despite the somewhat strong influence that conservative Christians wield. I realize now that I may have been coming close to the "other people have it worse than you, so shut up" line of argument, which doesn't seem right. But it raises a conundrum for me: how do we address the speck in America's eye (to borrow a metaphor), while so many other countries have planks in their eyes?
2.18.2006 3:06pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
So what are the new oppressions of alternatively gendered Americans that the evil RR has invented recently? I seem to recall that marriage has been Husband &Wife restricted for quite some time. I also seem to recall that Lewd Cohabitation, Lacivious Carriage, Fornication, The Infamous Crime Against Nature, etc. were banned a while ago and have recently been unbanned.

If you're complaining, I think you should suypply some new complaints.
2.18.2006 3:49pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Can I bum a fag off of someone?
2.18.2006 3:58pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
Keep in mind, though, that at this point, some areas in the US are more advanced than others. After all, in the last few years, about a dozen states have written anti-gay clauses into their state constitutions (here I refer to the marriage-related amendments).

dk35: I agree with that, though the situation is changing pretty rapidly in the more conservative areas of the country too. I know, via the net, a lot of high school students in some very conservative areas who say they have very little trouble being out at school. And I hear this more commonly from people in such areas than I did when I was first communicating with other gay people my age around the country when I was 14 or 15. High schools in some deep-red areas of Red States have gay student groups now. One friend who graduated from a particular high school in the mid-1980's refused to believe his school could have a gay student group now, and didn't believe it until I sent him to their web site.

I'm sure there are still a lot of schools and areas where being out is brutally difficult or even dangerous, but the tide is shifting dramatically, and not just in the usual Blue States and liberal college town enclaves in Red States.
2.18.2006 4:12pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
I agree with several commenters above that the Christian Right hasn't been very effective in most of the issues they care about. I suppose they've been effective at postponing gains by the other side -- without them, you would probably have a lot more states with legal same-sex marriage today, for example -- but that's not a very meaningful victory in the long run.

I think it's worth pointing out that, while there's been a seismic shift in attitudes toward gay rights, likely to continue due to demographic churn, there has not been a similar shift away from the Christian Right's position on abortion. I don't see much evidence that there's been a big shift toward the pro-choice side, and I think my generation is divided on the issue, much as our parents' generation is.

Because of this, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Christian Right shift their emphasis back from opposing gay rights to opposing abortion once it's obvious the former is a lost cause. This may be more true now that we've seen Justice O'Connor's retirement; the Christian Right may -- correctly or not -- perceive that a post-Roe world, in which the battlefield shifts to Congress and the states, is nigh.

I'm in favor of gay rights and I'm pro-choice, but my generation's vastly more liberal attitude toward gay rights should not be perceived as indicating a vastly more liberal attitude on abortion.
2.18.2006 4:28pm
digital commuter (mail):
Eugene, youa re giving the Muslims a pass here. As Sullivan says it's a case of blackmail, pure and simple.

Remember the old saying, first they came after the Jews, then the Cartoonist, then the Gays and after that the....fill in the blank.

What is most depressing is that we are in the midst of a struggle against Islamicism and the media thinks it is not involved.

They are wrong, I hope they want be dead wrong.
2.18.2006 5:38pm
BU2L (mail):
Not to jack this thread into an unintended direction, but what I find really striking about it, is the clarity with which it shows the strain on the big tent. Republicans like me (and Arnie, and Bloomberg) are a long way from South Carolina, so to speak. I wonder why the Democrats have been so unsuccessful at driving this wedge deeper.
2.18.2006 5:43pm
Humble Law Student:
BU2L,

Is because the democrats' position isn't very attractive on a host of other issues? Maybe a wedge is being driven, but a common complaint I hear from disguntled moderate Republicans is that while they hate the direction their party is going, they dislike the Dems even more so.

Republican Motto: You'll hate us less.
2.18.2006 6:04pm
dk35 (mail):
BU2L,

That's a good question, though, since I'm a Democrat, I can't answer for you. My assumption was that so-called moderate Republicans are still of the opinion that having the Republican party in power tends to lead to more fiscal responsibility. However, given the fiscal records of the Clinton v. Bush II administrations, it's really hard for me to see how such an argument can still be sustained.

As far as "wedge issues" go, I think in modern political parlance that's just another way of talking about the Republican's "southern strategy" of getting working class religious white southern christians to vote against their economic interests by scaring them into thinking that having a pluralistic society somehow is a threat to how they live their lives. Democrats don't really think in terms of wedge issues when planning their political strategy. I suppose you could make a pragmatic argument that they should, but they tend not to think that way.

And while I concede that Arnie and Bloomberg are official members of the Republican party, they are serving at the pleasure of Democratic voters. The total failure of Arnold's initiatives showed what happenned when he tried to actually govern like a Republican, and Bloomberg doesn't even bother making any such attempts.
2.18.2006 6:33pm
Cornellian (mail):
I still wonder why no one seems to have picked up on the fact that the Christian right wants to deal with abortion by getting judges appointed who will overturn it, but same sex marriage by passing constitutional amendments. Why the difference? Why no great campaign to reverse Lawrence v. Texas (for example) analogous to the campaign to reverse Roe v. Wade? I think they realize (even if only Pat Buchanan is willing to admit it) that the gay rights battle will be lost, it's just a question of when, so the constitutional amendments are designed as a delaying action, to safeguard the status quo against the slow but inevitable transformation of public opinion.

It probably looks easier to demonize gay people in the short term than to fight abortions, but over the long term, the Christian right has a better case on abortion. A child born is a person on the day he or she is born and no one can seriously question that the child was also a person on the day prior to being born. Ergo, some type of restriction on abortion is desirable, the only question is at what point you draw that line. That's an argument you can make without any reference to the Bible, or God's will or fire and brimstone. It's a lot easier to convince people that unborn children require protection than that the government should be concerned about the sex lives of consenting adults. This doesn't mean that "life begins at conception" becomes the law. That position has neither Biblical nor historical roots, but it does mean that the case for restrictions on abortion is easier to make.

I noticed an article that Ryan Sager wrote recently after covering the CPAC conference. The young attendees he met there were mildly in favor of restricting marriage to opposite sex couples, but universally unwilling to go on any type of crusade against gay rights. It just wasn't why they got into politics. Mr. Sager has been warning the right about that generational change in viewpoint within its own ranks for some time now.


Because of this, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Christian Right shift their emphasis back from opposing gay rights to opposing abortion once it's obvious the former is a lost cause. This may be more true now that we've seen Justice O'Connor's retirement; the Christian Right may -- correctly or not -- perceive that a post-Roe world, in which the battlefield shifts to Congress and the states, is nigh.

I'm in favor of gay rights and I'm pro-choice, but my generation's vastly more liberal attitude toward gay rights should not be perceived as indicating a vastly more liberal attitude on abortion.
2.18.2006 6:38pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
Cornellian: Even the argument put forth by some, framed roughly as "well, we have nothing against gays, but we don't want gay marriage imposed by judicial fiat" seems to have an expiration date stamped on it. We aren't very far from the point where a number of states will have majorities in favor of gay marriage. How many years before you could simply pass a ballot measure legalizing gay marriage in California? I'll bet folding money the answer is a number you can count on one hand. And it's entirely possible that a ballot measure to reimpose a ban on gay marriage in Massachusetts would not survive a popular vote there.

So for now, we're arguing about judges, but eventually a state will legalize gay marriage by legislative action or by a direct vote of the people, and that will take the wind out of the judicial fiat argument (unless federal courts impose it on the whole country, which is possible, I suppose, but I wouldn't hold my breath).

So when it comes to gay rights, the Christian Right is taking on water faster than they can bail. On the other hand, they may have some good (from their perspective) opportunities on abortion. If they care roughly equally about both issues, they may realize sooner than later than opposing gay rights doesn't provide a very good policy return on the time/money/energy invested, but that applying those resources to abortion might be more fruitful.

After twelve years of Reagan and Bush, and abortion still being legal five Supreme Court appointments later, I think they got discouraged about abortion and shifted resources into the gay rights battle, thinking (incorrectly) it was a winner for them. And I agree that their tactics betray their own pessimism about the gay rights issue, so I expect to see a shift in emphasis to abortion over the next several years -- and almost immediately if any of the five justices perceived as being pro-Roe were to retire or die during the balance of President Bush's term.
2.18.2006 7:31pm
dk35 (mail):
Kieran,

Wow, you're so optimistic. Maybe I AM getting old...

I don't see CA voters passing a gay marriage ballot measure...but if a Democrat beats Arnold in 2006, I do see gay marriage winning through the legislative process. That is, if the CA supreme court doesn't legalize it first. In the meantime, I see NY or NJ courts legalizing it too. In any event, I think we just need one state (other than MA) with gay marriage before being able to officially say that the train has left the station on this issue.

In some ways, though, I think abortion is an even trickier subject for the Republicans than gay marriage is. It is true that opinion breakdown on abortion hasn't changed all that much in this generation, but it is also true that roughly 2/3 of people believe in a woman's freedom from state control over her own uterus to at least some extent (and I'm talking beyond saving her life or in cases of rape or incest). So, what result if Roe is overturned? Whither the soccer moms who vote Republican sometimes? Unlike the gay rights issue, which only a relatively small number of republicans really care passionately about, the abortion issue could create a huge divide in the Republilcan party.
2.18.2006 8:12pm
Humble Law Student:
Cornellian,

Regardless of what you may think, most Christians, while disapproving of homosexual sex, don't really feel comfortable banning what people do in their own bedrooms. That is why you don't see a concerted effort to overturn Lawrence. v. Texas.

However, marriage is a public institution, important to society at large, or it is at least viewed as such. Consequently, they seek a constitutional amendment to ward off any such SCOTUS decision on gay marriage as Roe v. Wade was to abortion. If you had a SCOTUS decision come down next month mandating SSM in all the states, you would see a very strong effort to get it overturned along with a renewed effort at a constitutional amendment.
2.18.2006 8:16pm
dk35 (mail):
Humble Law Student,

I think when you write "Christian" you mean "conservative Christians." A lot of Christians (including many Gay Christians) have no problem with gay civil rights.
2.18.2006 8:50pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
dk35: The last poll I saw on gay marriage in California was split down the middle. So once you back out of that the higher propensity of older people to vote, and whatever factor for people who don't want to seem homophobic to pollsters, we aren't all that short of the mark.

And if the courts overturned the voter-passed gay marriage recognition ban, I'm not 100% sure Schwarzenegger would veto a bill legalizing gay marriage. He certainly left himself some wiggle room on the issue. But California having trended strongly toward Democrats, even if Schwarzenegger (who's a pretty unorthodox Republican to begin with) is re-elected, the GOP is so badly beaten back in California that I'm not sure they have anyone logical on the bench to take his place in 2010. In some ways, Schwarzenegger won because the odd recall rules meant he didn't have to endure a Republican primary.

I agree that a post-Roe world would create some new challenges for the Republican Party, but I think the Christian Right is more concerned about the success of their agenda than they are about the tactical and strategic aims of the Republican Party. Given the choice between Roe being overturned with the Democrats running the government, and Roe being in place with Republicans running the government, I have little doubt they would choose the former.
2.18.2006 9:05pm
dk35 (mail):
Kieran,

It sounds like our analyses of CA politics are pretty much the same, though perhaps you have a little more faith in Arnold than I do. I will admit though that it would certainly go down as an interesting footnote in history if the first governor to sign a gay marriage bill in the US is Arnold Schwarzenegger!

I tend to agree with you about the Christian Right as well. My point was only that an overturning of Roe would set up a battle royale in the Republican party between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives. I hope it doesn't come to this though, even as a Democrat, however, because I don't think that short term political gain for the Democrats is worth the price of sacrificing women's liberties.
2.18.2006 9:46pm
James Hernandez (mail):
What I would like to know is WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE to the remarks by the Chief Mufti of Russia, by our OWN government? Should not the Bush administration be condemning the inciteful remarks which PROMISE violence against gays and lesbians in Russia? It's bad enough that we have trouble standing together to demand our rights in THIS country, but if we stand by and say nothing as violence against gays and lesbians is legitimized in OTHER countries, it won't be long before it's legitimized HERE as well.
2.19.2006 2:46am
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
dk35: Saying I'm not 100% sure he would veto a gay marriage bill -- if the California Supreme Court overturned the ballot measure -- isn't exactly a big declaration of faith on my part.

My gut suspicion is that Schwarzenegger would like the California Supreme Court to do the dirty work and mandate gay marriage. His AB 849 veto message almost comes right out and says that.
2.19.2006 6:39am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Getting back to Eugene's original post, a lot of the world today is actively anti-gay. And, to some extent, I don't see that changing. Part of what I see happening is that some non-Muslims in Russia see this as a way to split us even more from the Islamic world.

Part of this, both in the Moslem world, and elsewhere in the world, is a reaction against western, and in particular, American, culteral hegemony. Anti-homosexuality is pushed because it is one place where they can peel off traditionalists around the world by portraying the Western world as corrupt, and our acceptance of gays as prime evidencce of this corruption.

Besides a lot of inherant anti-homosexuality in Russia, I also suspect a lot of opportunism. They have a serious Muslim problem, and by portraying the Orthodox Church as being in agreement with Islam on this issue, act to potentially alleviate some of their own ethnic problems, while harming us in the Moslem world. And they have somewhat of a point - historically the Orthodox churh(es) has gotten along wih Islam much better than the Roman Catholic Church, and its Protestant progeny.
2.19.2006 9:06am
MYCHALM (mail):
The original thread was about a mufti in russia who believes all gay people should be killed, horrible yes, and no diffrent than a lot of the minds and hearts of the community i live in. i live in the south about 20 miles away from the clinton library, and yes atitudes are getting better, but i can tell you from experience, the lessons from the civil rights movements of the 60's have been taught well. we are not openly racist here, the racism/homophobia is more subtle and less honest, but it still is percieved and felt, fundies are fundies, no matter what religion, and whatever is culturally acceptable to discriminate against is open season, the gypsies of eastern eirope are a good example, talk to some people from that region, they have no problems with black people but think gypsies are dirty, lazy stupid etc. the point being any "easy target that it is felt social acceptble to hate is always going to experience discriminaion
we do have several developing gay communities here, but what example do they offer? club life (nothing against it, honestly) drag queens, and all the varying alternative cultures within the life. when i was 13/14/17/19 i didnt want to be a drag queen, or a glitter boy, those guys with all the leather who looked mean kinda scard me too. what i wanted was to find and love a boy who loved me, i got laid a lot, bcause "all gay dudes are sluts" i clubbed and partied too much because thats what gay folk do. i gave up because who i sleep with was in direct contradiction with all i feel makes me who i am (leave god outta it, im pagan so it doesnt apply here), went halfway into the closet (i married a girl who knew i was gay/bi etc.) and the reason was because what i wanted a partner who wold last a lifetime, family, a norally lived domestic life. i am not against sexuality, or the expression of it, far from it, but take my kids, they know my sexuality and dont care, but they stil use the word gay, ive watched the next generation grow up and seen nice guys (and girls) go the partycircuit route or the hookup hotline, the reason why? because no matter how much we promote gay marriage, or that we are "like everyone else" we still teach our young that to express their sexuality they must conform to a diffrent set of gender rules which frankly are in exact opposite to what we say we want which, is a normal domestic life withthe rights of straight people. i wish i could have seen more options/examples, but dont regret my choices, i guess the point i am tryng to make is yeah gay rights are important, marriage oughta be available to all, but why dont we try to find a new way to show/teach/express our uniqueness in a manner closer to the mainstream? im pretty sure there are guys like me out there who are pretty normal, they just like guys, but what choices do they have? becoming a person they do not feel is right for them? bathrooms and hookups? clubbing? and even more telling was when after 5 years of marriage i took 6 months to go see what i might have missed, i dated some, slept with too many at first, but settled down to dating a couole of guys, the first i wouldnt sleep with till we knew ech other, when it did happen it was special, we professed our affection to each othr and i sent him flowers the next day letting him know i apreciated him and our time togther. the response from him was echoed by several others, that i was nice cute etc. but i couldnt be really gay(flowers? too straight!), because i didnt buy into all parts of the life, and was happy to just be with them, so in effect i recieved just as much discrimination from gay life becaus i didnt fit their mainstram as i did in straight life.
i guess what im trying to say is why dont we focus our energy as effectively in raising our young as we did in the start of the aids era? lets work toward equal rights yes, but lets also work toward raising a generation who does not feel constrained by our own self imposed stereotypes. from my experience from being pagan, more good is done in the form of acceptance by living and teaching those who are not like us by focusing on our similarites. yeah i wouldnt wnt to live in a world without drag, pride parades (aww hel my kids rode in the first one here ever i was so proud)and the freedom gay life has, but there is room for all at this table and i feel maybe the time has come to reinforce that among our own.
2.19.2006 11:11am
JosephSlater (mail):
CEB:

I don't think we differ all that much. I get the stick vs. mote and the "stopped the clock" ideas. I don't entirely disagree, but I'm not quite as sanguine. First, sure, it's worse for gays/lesbians in some other parts of the world, but those are parts of the world the U.S. doesn't normally compare itself to in terms of human rights -- various dictatorships, theocracies, etc. Compared to more similar countries -- western Europe, Canada, etc. -- we are behind a number in terms of gay/lesbian rights, measured by things like military policy and, increasingly, the right to marry. This is because of the religious right in the U.S.

So maybe my outrage about the relative "mote" is because of what my expectations are of a modern liberal (small "l" democracy). But as to outrage about more extreme anti-gay policies in the Islamic world or elsewhere, I completely agree with James Hernandez: the Bush administration should be forcefully condemning the statements of this Russian mufti. Why do you think he's not?

Has the religious right turned back the clock, or merely stopped it for a while. Well, the Republicans thought and probably still think that pushing for laws denying rights to gays is a wonderful wedge issue. Will they lose on this issue in the long run? Probably. But in the short run, people can get hurt. For example, again, a public law school in my state of Ohio is being sued because it offers partnership health benefits, and some claim this violates the anti-gay marriage law passed last election. So the clock has gone backwards at least a bit for us.

And as to wedge issues generally, I agree with DK35.
2.19.2006 11:50am
Chris Stone:
As a data point, right now I am reading DEMOCRACY DERAILED by UC Berkeley's Stephen Fish, which I am increasingly thinking is the best book yet written about post-Yeltsin (or perhaps even post-Gorbachev) Russia. The book contains extensive discussion on the relationship between "tolerance" and democratization, and the measure used to compare levels of tolerance across countries is responses to the question "homosexuality can never be justified." Russia comes out fairly poorly on this metric.

Vostok -- eto delo tonkoe.
2.19.2006 11:37pm
ummm (mail):

Vostok -- delo tonkoe.


Beloe solntse pustyni!!!!!!
And what a delicate matter it is. Even if homophobia weren't rampant in Russia, the Russian government really has no leeway to come out against this Mufti. Although slowly (and rockily), it's finally starting to pacify Chechnya and Dagestan. It's just not smart politics to take a stand on an issue sure to aggravate the fundamentalist Muslim community.
2.21.2006 1:48am