The Nuns used to say that doing the right thing was its own reward. If they were indeed right it is a good thing, as in this political climate there have been very few rewards for doing the right or just thing. Specifically I am talking about the Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court.
Back in April of 2009 the Supreme Court found that the ban on gay marriage, which had been enacted by the legislature, was unconstitutional. This opened the way for full marriage rights for gay citizens in the Hawkeye State. It also set the rabid anti-equality forces into overdrive mode.
For their troubles three of the Justices, including the Chief Justice were voted out of office this November. More than $650,000 was spent in an effort to unseat three of the Justices. The Iowa system of merit appointments and then retention votes allows the voters to oust a Justice by voting not to retain them, once every 8 years. In the history of the this system there has never been a vote to not retain a Justice before this cycle.
The funders of this effort were the usual suspects of the intolerant Right. Having found a way they could game the system they did just that. The campaign against the Justices did not focus on their overall work, but merely this one decision. Lots of misinformation was floated about (the SOP for anti-equality groups) the major point being that they were overturning the constitution of the State, which was completely false.
However the forces of hate are never satisfied. Since the entire seven member court was not up for a retention vote the next step for the haters has been to talk about impeachment in the Republican controlled legislature. I think this is probably a bridge too far, as it is really hard to show that making a decision, even an unpopular one, is what judges are supposed to do. There is no crime in finding that the constitution of your state says no discrimination and that banning marriage on a basis of bias is not a legitimate exercise of power.
We will see if the legislature in Iowa is dumb enough to try to do this, but I think that is shows an interesting progression in the fight against full civil rights for gay citizens. Way back in the mists of time, they had the field all to themselves. Even those of us that grew up with gay cousins or knew gay co-workers did not feel like we could really stop this discrimination. The myths about homosexuals were epic and pervasive. The stereotypes were everywhere and there were no counter examples.
Do you remember when it was a big deal that Ellen DeGeneres’ character came out as gay on her TV show? It was the first time there was a lead character who was gay on TV. It quickly cost her the show, though long term karmic justice took care of her with a solid career and one of the most gorgeous women in the world as her girlfriend (Maybe the Nuns were wrong?).
Over time we had more cultural exposure with shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Will and Grace. As America became more exposed to the idea that gay folks were just like everyone else, the public view began to change. Sadly this also matched a ramping up by the forces of intolerance which had victory after victory at the ballot box.
For a while it was good to be anti-equality activist, lots of money and consistent wins at the ballot box. However the cultural weight has shifted over time and things that were easy 20 years ago are being overturned. The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is on the horizon. It is no longer law that we have to discharge citizens from the military because of their sexual orientation. The younger generation is looking at those over forty who think it is a big deal who someone is attracted to like they have two heads. The courts are consistently finding that depriving someone of a fundamental right like marriage or open service to their country is not supportable by any reasonable standard.
As the losses mount expect the haters to show their true insane colors. Now that DADT is on its way out (none too soon!) they are spoiling for another fight, this time about showers. Yeah you read that right, they are going to try to say that showering with someone who might find you sexually attractive is somehow damaging to morale or some such silliness. It is a desperate attempt to keep the idea of segregating gay citizens alive in the military.
This combined with bandying about of impeachment for Justices who ruled within the law is the kind of lunacy we will see from the haters. It has never mattered to them if what they say about gay citizens is true, they have claimed (falsely) that most pedophiles are gay, they have claimed (falsely again) that gay families lead to worse outcomes for children, they have even claimed (completely falsely) that gay soldiers if allowed to serve would molest their squad mates in their sleep.
Truth not being a consideration, facts being irrelevant if they undercut their position have left the haters without a rudder. Anything is possible and any out come that goes against them must be the result of a conspiracy or miscarriage of justice. Anyone who does the right thing and stands up for the core values of this nation, equality under the law, must be crushed or punished so that no one else will be temped to do the right thing again.
This authoritarian impulse is all over the Right, but it is particularly strong in social conservatives. These are the folks who President Obama famously said “were holding on to their guns and Bibles”. Now they will be hanging on to the mythos of “the Gays” and their agenda as it is chipped away.
All in all it is a good thing. These folks becoming more and more desperate shows that they see the writing on the wall as well as the rest of us. There will come a time in the medium future that the idea of keeping two people who love each other from marrying will be as alien as using leaches to cure disease. Unfortunately we will have to suffer through the death throws of their bigoted movement before we see that day.
I think that the Nuns might have been right. There are costs to doing the right thing, whatever that is, and if it is something as important as equality you are not very likely to be thanked for doing it at the time. The reward has to be the action itself, the small glow of knowing you put up a fight for the things that make your nation better, even if you get nothing but trouble for doing so.
The floor is yours.