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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Angels in America

Judith and Samuel Peabody
. . . is the title of today's must-read Frank Rich column in the NYT.  Which is remarkable for two things:  first, his recounting of the story of Judith Peabody, socialite and early champion of the AIDS crisis, who died last week.  Read more about her wonderful life in the NYT's obituary article.  Thanks so much, Judith - I'm sure there's many stars in your crown.

The Rich article also has some very pertinent remarks on the Perry case and Judge Walker that you ought to check out.  Excerpt:
There has already been an attempt to discredit Walker, who has never publicly discussed his sexual orientation but has been widely reported to be gay. The notion that a judge’s sexuality, gay or not, might disqualify him from ruling on marriage is as absurd as saying Clarence Thomas can’t rule on cases involving African-Americans. By this standard, the only qualified judge to rule on marital rights would be a eunuch. No less ridiculous has been the attempt to dismiss Walker as a liberal “activist judge.” Walker was another Reagan nominee to the federal bench, recommended by his attorney general, Edwin Meese (an opponent of same-sex marriage and, now, of Walker), in a December 1987 memo residing at the Reagan library. It took nearly two years and a renomination by the first President George Bush for Walker to gain Senate approval over opposition from Teddy Kennedy, the N.A.A.C.P., La Raza, the National Organization for Women and the many gay groups who deemed his record in private practice too conservative.

The attacks on Walker have fizzled fast. With rare exceptions from the hysterical fringe — Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich — most political leaders have either remained silent about the Prop 8 decision (the Republican National Committee) or punted (the Obama White House). Over at Fox News, Ted Olson silenced the states’-rights argument in favor of Prop 8 last weekend by asking Chris Wallace: “Would you like Fox’s right to a free press put up to a vote and say, well, if five states have approved it, let’s wait till the other 45 states do?” (No answer was forthcoming.)

Most of those who do argue for denying marriage equality to gay couples are now careful to say that they really, really like gay people. This, like the states’-rights argument, is a replay of the battle over black civil rights. Eric Foner, the pre-eminent historian of Reconstruction, recalled last week via e-mail how Strom Thurmond would argue in the early 1960s “that segregation benefited blacks and whites and had nothing to do with racism” — as if inequality were O.K. as long as segregationists pushing separate-but-equal “compromises” claimed their motives were pure.
What I Say:  The other day a famous gay blogger slimed a less-famous but well-respected conservative gay journalist as a "quisling" - for the mere reason that Maggie Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage used a quote from the latter as part of a statement against same-sex marriage; in the excerpt they quoted he was favoring civil unions as a more winnable achievement.

Which ignores the fact that this writer has written numerous articles, and an entire book for that matter, arguing the case for gay marriage.  And in fact did marry his partner earlier this year in D. C.  So, far from being a traitor to our cause, he is indeed working on the same team - with us, not against us.  Having read his blog articles many times in the past, I believe this conservative blogger is making the case for achieving a solid, permanent goal of equal marriage rather than a Pyrrhic victory that will remain questioned and unsettled in the public mind for years to come, like Roe v. Wade.

Which is a legitimate concern, and a worthy subject for discussion and debate; and while your Head Trucker wants to see equal marriage the law of the land in this country as quick as we can get it, I also admire greatly anyone who can make a clear, cogent case for something in impeccable English, based on logical reasoning and a command of all the relevant facts.  It's important to consider carefully who is and who is not the enemy.  As Frank Rich makes clear in his column, Walker's nomination was fiercely opposed by gay groups at the time - but supposing they had succeeded in blocking his appointment to the bench?  Where would we be today with the Perry case, under some other judge, eh?

Of course, even reasonable people with a fine command of facts, logic, and language can still disagree on ways and means to a worthwhile goal - and what seems best at one moment in history may be found later to have been an honestly mistaken view; that's the whole idea subsumed in the concept of freedom of speech, which is the very bedrock of our frame of government and democratic society:  the lifeblood of our body politic.  Disagree if you like with someone's conclusions, but disagree with respect for the other guy's character, if not his point of view.

If you are going to claim American values, it's important to live them yourself.  Otherwise, you are morally on the same level with the enemies of individual liberty.  You want freedom for yourself, you must want it for others as well - or you are simply being a self-centered hypocrite. Acting the part of a nasty brat.

Which is what your mama and daddy were trying to get across to you when they made you share your cookies with the other kids, and not wolf down the whole box all by yourself, ya know?

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 04: Prop 8 supporter Mark Wassberg (L) argues with Prop 8 opponent Ron Weaver as they wait to hear the ruling on Prop 8 outside of the Philip Burton Federal building August 4, 2010 in San Francisco, California. US District Judge Vaughn Walker announced his ruling to overturn Prop 8 finding it unconstitutional. The voter approved measure denies same-sex couples the right to marry in the State of California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


Mareczku said...

Very thoughtful comments here. Excellent.

Russ Manley said...

Thanks, Mark.

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