“In a development that falls somewhere between ‘I can’t believe he hadn’t done this already’ and ‘My God, what a monumental prick,’ Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday removing gender identity and sexual orientation from the classes of protected Kansas government employees, which include race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”
Because what would we do without Kansas?
The critique is fairly straightforward; Luke Brinker of Salon opens with the basic review:
Confronting a $344 million budget deficit following the failure of his supply side economic experiment, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a busy man these days, further slashing education in a state that had already imposed among the largest cuts in the nation, gutting the state’s pension system, and diverting funds from vital infrastructure programs in an effort to clean up the mess his tax cuts for the wealthy created. But amid all this, the governor still has time to deal with other matters, as he demonstrated today, with a quintessentially Brownbackian assault on the civil rights of LGBT Kansans.
Steve Benen wraps it into a larger consideration of conservative “culture warriors”:
Anyone tempted to believe Republican officials are slowly giving up on their staunch opposition to gay rights received quite a wake-up call this week. Much of Alabama is defying the federal courts on marriage equality; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) are talking about amending the U.S. Constitution; and in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has decided to roll back LGBT protections for no apparent reason.
Or perhaps a more bland description, you know, like an actual news article from Jonathan Shorman for the Capital-Journal:
Then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, signed the order in 2007 prohibiting discrimination against most state employees on the basis of sexual orientation, The Associated Press reported at the time.
The order required agencies under the governor’s direct control to ensure they have programs to prevent harassment against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and people who have had surgery for sex changes. It covered 25,000 of the 41,000 state employees.
On Tuesday, Brownback issued a new executive order canceling Sebelius’ order.
“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a statement.
“Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.
In other words, equality in America should be subject to the kind will of supremacists. Just like Brownback’s deep Christian faith instructs him to usurp God’s authority on Earth. Recent generations have included in their puerile instruction from parents that the commandment about not taking God’s name in vain pertained to things like not saying, “God damn it!” or, “Jesus Christ! what was that?”
Governor Brownback reminds exactly the cost of that sinful deception; he should not take the Lord’s name in vain. Just like he pretends to supersede the U.S. Constitution, he also acts to supersede Jesus fucking Christ.
Then again, this is Kansas we’re talking about. Hateful megalomania seems epidemic in the Sunflower State.
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To the other, though, we should not be surprised. As pretty much any political observer would explain, there is nothing unusual about Brownback’s approach; he has long visibly seethed with this particular hatred. But at the same time, our lack of surprise should also specifically note that this does not take place in a vacuum. Something else has been happening, and this might well mark the first visible response.
Though it did not go completely unnoticed, lost in the noise and glamour around the State of the Union Address is the fact that Americans passed yet another small historical milepost when President Obama recognized the transgendered in his speech.
And, yes, that really is important.
This comes about a month after Attorney General Eric Holder advised the Department of Justice that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes transgendered people.
Yes, that really happened in December. Most missed it because their attention was focused on other things, namely the Sony Pictures hacking and President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba.
Those are certainly important happenings, though it is entirely possible nobody would have noticed the December memorandum from Holder to all department heads, anyway. And here’s where Brownback’s move this week starts to stand out.
Because neither did Obama’s point in the Address, nor Holder’s memo, emerge ex nihilo; while everyone was watching the president joust with Congress over midterm elections, immigration, health policy, and the rising war against Daa’ish, the White House has been quietly moving on transgender rights.
With little of the fanfare or criticism that marked his evolution into the leader Newsweek nicknamed “the first gay president,” Obama became the first chief executive to say “transgender” in a speech, to name transgender political appointees and to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers. Also in his first term, he signed hate crime legislation that became the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history.
Since then, the administration has quietly applied the power of the executive branch to make it easier for transgender people to update their passports, obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, get treatment at Veteran’s Administration facilities and seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs – just a few of the transgender-specific policy shifts of Obama’s presidency.
“He has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said of Obama, who is the only president to invite transgender children to participate in the annual Easter egg roll at the White House.
Religious conservative groups quick to criticize the president for his gay rights advocacy have been much slower to respond to the administration’s actions. The leader of the Traditional Values Coalition says there is little recourse because the changes come through executive orders and federal agencies rather than Congress.
The latest wins came this month, when the Office of Personnel Management announced that government-contracted health insurers could start covering the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for federal employees, retirees and their survivors, ending a 40-year prohibition. Two weeks earlier, a decades-old rule preventing Medicare from financing such procedures was overturned within the Department of Health and Human Services.
As Associated Press explained in June, the quietude seems intentional, with even transgender advocates such as Barbara Siperstein―the first transgendered person elected to the Democratic National Committee―saying, “It’s quiet by design”.
Andrea Lafferty, a Group President for the Traditional Values Coalition, suggested at the time that while she and her allies were concerned, “America is just overwhelmed right now”, and looked forward to November.
Despite the Republican victory in the 2014 midterm elections, the issue was not on the table, and the “step back” into the fight did not come immediately in its wake.
Right now, Republican social conservatives―the “culture warriors”, as such―find themselves in disarray; the first month of bicameral GOP majority in Congress resulted in a string of disasters, including yet another round of disgrace as conservatives hurt themselves talking about abortion and rape again. And, to be certain, the melodrama in Alabama this week is not helping the conservative image. Certes, such debacles rally the troops, but conservatives need to find something to sink their teeth into.
So why not Brownback gay and transgendered Kansans?
As fun as Brinker’s characterization is, and acknowledging that one might wonder why Brownback hasn’t gone after the Sebelius order before, the question of why now really does matter. And the leading suggestion might well be that Brownback is looking to rally the troops and bring the fight specifically to Kansas; after all, if you can’t win, make yourself legendary in losing. That latter probably isn’t fair. Brownback might well be a glory-seeking megalomaniac hatemonger, but we should not presume his political prowess indicates he is too intelligent to fall into the trap of believing he can, in fact, win. So, like the actions of Chief Justice Roy Moore in Alabama, there is an aspect of this that might simply be about building and affirming one’s own folk legend.
And if the Department of Justice decides this is the one to test, largely for its conspicuously monumental priggishness, Brownback will have brought the fight to Kansas so that he can lose in disgrace at home.
But why now? Because this might be the last chance to rally the troops, bring the fight home, and make oneself a legend. As the Supreme Court prepares to make the point it was trying to let the states settle―a pursuit only interrupted by a strange federal court decision that seemed crafted such to force the Supreme Court to get involved―the social conservatives need to rally. They … are … about … to … lose.
And all that overwhelming overload? All that quiet concern about the president’s progress on transgender rights? It might well be too late for that, too.
Which is why now. Marriage equality is about to be settled; the T in LGBT now has Department of Justice on board, and President Obama just culminated a cycle of masterful low-key politicking after a year that might go down in history as among―if not the―most significant for transgender rights in America.
And while the fight may well be over before it starts, it looks like Kansas wants in, anyway. Social conservatives must do something, lest they appear to take three strikes standing on transgender rights. And nothing can happen until you swing the bat.
Image notes: Top: Naota tugs on a rectalectric cable feeding a sex toy fashioned to look and act like his father, while Miumiu basks in the warm afternoon. Middle: That’s not Gov. Sam Brownback riding Naota’s ass, but Kamon’s corpse. It never was properly explained where Naota learned how to resurrect his father. Bottom: Miumiu, enjoying the warmth of twisted, feline humor and his proper place atop a spent, overstated sex toy.
Brinker, Luke. “Sam Brownback’s latest outrage: Governor strips LGBT state employees of non-discrimination protections”. Salon. 10 February 2015.
Benen, Steve. “Quite a week for anti-gay culture warriors”. msnbc. 11 February 2015.
Shorman, Jonathan. “Brownback rescinds executive order that offered protections on basis of sexual orientation”. The Capital-Journal. 10 February 2015.
Terkel, Amanda and Nick Wing. “Transgender Individuals Recognized For First Time Ever In A State Of The Union Speech”. The Huffington Post. 20 January 2015.
Associated Press. “Without fanfare, Obama advances transgender rights”. CBS News. 22 June 2014.