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2.10.03

Two depressing articles

The Nation has a good (in the sense of well-written and informative) article on how anti-gay backlash will ensure a large supply of votes for the Republicans. The article describes the party's plan to appeal to homophobia as a sort of dirty trick, used to reward and energize the far right wing. The implicit comparison is to the "Southern Strategy," in which Republican leaders give a wink and a nod to neo-confederate racists. However, one important element of the Southern Strategy is that the overtly racist views of the voters it appeals to are not shared by a large proportion of the Republican base. Whatever you think of their opposition to affirmative action or tolerance for racial profiling, the average Republican does not want to re-institute segregation.

Yet in the course of describing the magnitude of the threat, the article presents data demonstrating that the Homophobia Strategy is not a bone thrown to the extreme right wing. Around half of Americans think homosexuality is wrong and that gay marriage should not be allowed, and the proportion is even higher in certain key states. This means that the Republicans are simply representing the views of their voters. That's how democracy works. The procedure can't distinguish between despicable and laudable views, relying instead on the hope that views' despicableness will be obvious enough that not very many people will hold them. The fault lies not with the devious machinations of the GOP, but with the voters who have decided that some people shouldn't have the opportunity to form secure and loving relationships. It would be nice to see politicians exercising leadership, attempting to sway voters to a different view (as Howard Dean did), but there's only so much that can be done when the message from voters is so clear.

The other depressing article I found today informs us that abuse isn't a big deal if the person being abused is gay:

Death By Bigotry

Eddie Hartman is a murderer and a gay man. These facts would not be connected had the prosecution not mentioned Hartman’s sexual orientation repeatedly during the penalty phase of his trial for murder. This was a blatant attempt to discourage the jury from considering Hartman’s abusive childhood in sentencing. It worked. Rather than sentencing Hartman to life in prison, the jury chose to ignore mitigating factors and send him to the execution chamber.

At a hearing on an appeal of the death sentence, the district attorney, David Beard, admitted he’d waved the pink flag before the jury in a deliberate appeal to homophobia. He wanted, he said, to minimize Hartman’s history of sexual abuse, which he claimed was "different for homosexuals." But this appeal was heard by the same district court that had convicted Hartman -- and by confirming the death sentence, the court ignored the taint to justice produced by this bizarre and specious argument.

... When Hartman’s mother begged for mercy for her son because of the abuse he suffered, the prosecutor asked her, "Is your son not a homosexual?"


This is an egregious breach of professional standards for Beard. And it's a really sad commentary on the state of America that the jury agreed.

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