Friday, November 7, 2008

Gay Marriage and DPI

I've been away from this blog for a few months, mostly because it's been nice to have a break from thinking about DPI and homophobia. But of course, that hasn't mean that things haven't been going on. Some kids from 2008 GSE contacted me about starting GSAs in their schools; one student was denied by their high school, despite the fact the school has other non-curricular clubs. Other kids have had more luck and I was happy to run into some of their GSA's at Pride this year. And I am looking forward to speaking to some student groups next semester.

And perhaps most importantly, Focus on the Family, the group that funds the Alliance Defense Fund, led the charge to add state constiutional amendments banning gay marriage in Arizona, California, and Florida. Prop 8 in California is particularly an interesting turn because homosexuals could be married in California previously.

What this means is that we have allowed an individual's right granted to them by a state to be determined by a majority decision, not the decision of the state's court system. Of course, ADF and FotF are both always bent out of shape about "activist" judges and see these votes as the will of people, as if that should be what determines what rights people should have.

But of course, we don't determine human rights or civil rights by popular decision. Women and blacks didn't get the right to vote by popular acclaim; schools weren't desegregated by a majority vote; we didn't legalize mixed race marriages through the "will of the people." In fact, it is the job of state and federal judges to determine rights and responsibilites of citizens not through a majority or based on what a certain religous group might think, but based on an understanding of the Constitution or other appropriate documents and translate it into law if necessary. We strictly don't ask churches to determine what state laws should be.

In fact, the great shortcomings of the courts have been when they don't interpret a legal document but act as if all possible meanings and definitions were carved in stone the day they were written. See the Dred Scott case (which the evangelical conservative right equates to Roe vs. Wade interestingly) where the Supreme Court decided blacks couldn't have rights of citizenship because they weren't part of the "We" when "We the People" was written.

So what does all of this have to do with DPI and Governor's School? FotF and DPI argue that if enough people are homophobic, they should be allowed to enact homophobic policies or set homophobic laws. They detest when courts, judges, or administrators, who are specifically there to set policies and make laws, follow stated values or guidelines instead of putting everything up to a vote. So in California, where marriage was thought to "be a fundamental right of free men" when anti-miscegination laws were overturned, it doesn't matter that queers are "free men", just that there are a lot of homophobes.

And the DPI has of course allowed this kind of majority opinion hate to overrule the stated values of Governor's School. GS doesn't promise to teach what the largest or loudest number of people want GS to teach; GS states it will set a curriculum based on an "exploration of the latest ideas in various disciplines". (Really-it's right there on the front page of the website.) But when the ADF says GS can't teach anything containing the word sexuality, they have no legal or rational grounds to stand on. What they threaten GS with is a lawsuit that GS will lose in the court of public opinion. And DPI is scared of this and responds to stay out of a public discussion.

Homophobia is wrong. It doesn't matter how many people are homophobic. It doesn't matter that Barack Obama is homophobic when he speaks out against gay marriage. (At least he admits that there may be a possibility that he is bigoted and short-sighted.) It doesn't matter that there are homophobic laws in place. Homophobia is still morally wrong. And it violates the 14th Amendment.

Homophobia is wrong for GS too. If human sexuality is a latest idea in a discipline, then it can be taught at GS. It doesn't matter that the ADF or the Carolina Family Council or any other group doesn't like it; they aren't academic groups and don't determine the curriculum for NC state schools. And it doesn't matter how many homophobes they can rally to write or call. It doesn't make homophobia right. And pretending that it does, is and of itself, homophobic.

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