A Note on an Abomination

"Governor Mike Pence Is an Abomination" ― Headline from Marc Leandro of The Huffington Post, 31 March 2015, in reference to the Indiana Republican signing into law a Religious Freedom Act intended to enshrine discrimination in state law.

There really is a reason for Marc Leandro’s headline, “Governor Mike Pence Is an Abomination”.

The situation in Indiana is upsetting for a lot of reasons. First among them is the overt discrimination against LGBT individuals the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as currently written, will protect under the law. And a close second is the utter venality displayed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

In the photograph taken of Pence at the bill’s private signing ceremony, he is surrounded by various religious figures, and some activists well known to the LGBT community in Indiana. Micah Clark, standing behind and to the left of the governor, has claimed publicly that homosexuality is a “disorder” that can be treated. Curt Smith, directly behind the governor, has equated gayness with bestiality and helped to write the bill the governor was signing. Eric Miller, to the right, was the man behind a flyer claiming falsely that if same-sex marriage was allowed in Indiana, religious figures might be imprisoned for preaching against homosexuality.

Again, this was a closed ceremony, and one has to presume that the governor had knowledge of who would be there. These are people that the governor is close to, who in at least one case helped to write the bill, and in two other cases have taken public stances against LGBT individuals. I take that back — publicly they might state that they love “the homosexuals” but hate their “sin”, a distinction as infuriating as it is dunderheaded.

This goes back at least a quarter of a century. Or, it was on already on fire when I arrived.

That is to say, the ballot box fights of the early nineties that really did kick off the current arc of the Gay Fray, this sort of talk was commonplace. And that is the thing; all these years later, the conservative rhetoric hasn’t changed a bit. And over the years they have thrown all pretense of dignity to the rubbish tip; indeed, amid the various comparisons to bestiality, necrophilia, and child molestation it became evident that for this troupe the idea of consent was irrelevant to sexual behavior, and these ideas have even reached federal benches. Oregon brought us Lon Mabon and his wife, Bonnie, and the Oregon Citzens’ Alliance. It brought us Phillip Ramsdell, an OCA figure who used the state voters’ guide to educate Oregonians on ideas like rimjobs and watersports, with quasi-clinical graphic details intended to shock, and all amid a bizarre pretense that heterosexuals didn’t do these things, and needed to be told what the dirty, perverted queers were up to.

No, really, it was something else.

Good times, I would love to say, but we remember Brian Mock and Hattie Mae Cohen. 26 September 1992. We will not forget.

And those days also brought us the one and only Scott Lively. How is it this man still has relevance today? True, marriage equality would not be poised to celebrate its final American victory without him, but, you know, there are plenty who came before who cannot be here to celebrate with us. And, yes, these are among the people we blame.

Colorado Amendment 2 came from the Christian supremacist hive in and around Colorado Fifth Congressional District, that is, Colorado Springs and environs. While Oregon Measure 9 failed, Colorado Amendment 2 passed, and in addition to any number of crackpot supremacist organizations also brought us Romer v. Evans and a subsequent generation of whining about a phantom menace of liberal judicial activism.

And in 2015, Gov. Mike Pence (R) chose to stand with Indiana’s supremacist cadre.

These laws have no chance of accomplishing what they hope, except perhaps in small tantrums before being dismantled by the Court. And part of the problem with Mr. Pence’s awful, clodhopping response to the inevitable firestorm is that he finds himself claiming that the law is not about what it is ostensibly about. As the day of reckoning drew nigh, tales of an Indiana bakery made the social media rounds. A similar bill in Georgia is even worse, possibly giving license to domestic violence in the guise of “Christian discipline” and other such excuses, but as Jay Michaelson explains, the trends are clear:

The national movement to pass these laws is well-funded and well-coordinated; most of the laws are written by the same handful of conservative legal hacks in Washington, working for organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, both of which have had a hand in the Georgia bill.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said in an interview with The Daily Beast that “in the last two years, there have been 35 bills introduced around the country to establish or expand a RFRA. And there have been over 80 bills filed that specifically allow for discrimination against gay and trans communities” ....

.... Ironically, says Graham, Georgia doesn’t have that many protections for LGBT people in the first place.

“This is a preemptive strike against the LGBT community,” he says. “If this bill is not intended to allow discrimination, why were its sponsors so adamant about refusing to say so?”

And when we stop to think about the idea that Mike Bowers is publicly speaking out against the Georgia bill as a bridge too far?

It was a little over a year ago that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a “religious freedom” bill similar to Indiana’s. At no point was there any pretense that this was about anything other than fending off gay rights.

All the signs were there, yet Pence is claiming some sort of naïveté. To the one, it reminds of the occasion Sen. Cory Gardner tried explaining his sponsorship of a “personhood” bill intended to outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception by saying it wasn’t a personhood bill, despite what his private-sector sponsors claimed. To the other, Colorado voters elected Mr. Gardner, anyway, and gave his House seat to a former prosecutor who used his law enforcement office to aid and abet a confessed rapist. Never mind.

Or, to the beeblebrox, we might also point out that in addition to being cruel, Mr. Pence is pretending such stupidity as to possibly sink his chance at a presidential run. And for what? A law that cannot stand, cannot accomplish what its sponsors intend but Mr. Pence is too frightened to admit? This is leadership? For Indiana? For Republicans? In what Universe?

Mike Pence, 2010.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/AP)And all to make certain that folks in the Hoosier State can dress their supremacism in piety.

Futility for the sake of hatred. Cruelty as a virtue.

Middle America.

Family values.

Governor Mike Pence.


Image note: Top―The headline for Marc Leandro’s opinion blog entry at Huffington Post. Bottom―Mike Pence, 2010. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/AP)

Leandro, Marc. “Governor Mike Pence Is an Abomination”. The Huffington Post. 31 March 2015.

“Anti-queer Crimes: A few examples of anti-gay violence and victimization during 1992”. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. n.d.

Parker, Jameson. “American Pastor Who Helped Uganda Create ‘Kill The Gays’ Law Will Be Tried For Crimes Against Humanity”. Addicting Info. 8 December 2014.

Supreme Court of the United States. Romer v. Evans. 1996.

Michaelson, Jay. “Georgia Bill Helps Wife Beaters”. The Daily Beast. 13 March 2015.

Beinart, Peter. “Why Jan Brewer Vetoed Arizona’s ‘Anti-Gay’ Bill”. The Atlantic. 28 February 2014.

Benen, Steve. “A window closes on Cory Gardner”. msnbc. 22 September 2014.

—————. “Mike Pence’s contradictory assurances”. msnbc. 1 April 2015.

Wren, Adam. “The Week Mike Pence’s 2016 Dreams Crumbled”. Politico. 1 April 2015.

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