Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Global Backlash Against Gay Rights - Homophobia As A Political Tool

Pulse massacre victims remembered - St. Pete Pride Parade

Later today, Donald Trump - who I refer to as Der Trumpenführer - is reportedly scheduled to sign a so-called "religious freedom" executive order.  The order has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom for all Americans but instead would grant special rights and privileges to Christian extremists - the Christofascists, if you will.  If the order is as expected, Christofascists will be granted a license to discriminate at will against LGBT individuals and possibly others who do not conform to Christofascists' religious views.   The driving force behind the effort?  Obviously, the religious based hatred of Christofascists toward anyone and/or anything that challenges their beliefs or underscores the fallibility of the Bible, a work first authored by ignorant, uneducated, unknown Bronze Age authors.  The other is the political opportunism of Republicans and reactionary politicians and autocrats who see fanning homophobia as a means to motivate Christofascist voters in America, and scapegoat minorities  to retain power in Russia, much of Africa and parts of South and Central America.  A lengthy piece in Foreign Affairs looks at  the anti-gay backlash and the poisonous religion  dogmas and political whores/autocrats who care nothing about the lives they harm so long as they remain in power.  Here are highlights:
No revolution worth its salt comes without pushback. The fight for gay rights—widely regarded as “the fastest of all civil rights movements” (over a short period of time, 20 nations have come to recognize same-sex marriage and an additional 15 now allow same-sex civil unions)—is no exception. A shooting rampage last June at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a terrorist who had expressed loathing for the LGBT community, was the deadliest assault ever on the American gay community and attests to the viciousness of this pushback. But that was only one incident. In recent years, there has been a global backlash against gay rights that runs from the United States, through many parts of the global South, to Russia and other parts of the post–Communist world.
The opposition to gay rights comes in two strains and reflects what the Pew Research Center has called “the global divide on homosexuality.” In Western Europe and the Americas, home to the world’s most democratically advanced states and the largest and most sophisticated gay rights movements, the gay backlash takes the form of a counter-revolution designed to intimidate the gay community and roll back gains in gay rights. Across Africa, the Middle East, and much of the post–Communist world, the parts of the globe where democracy, civil society, and human rights are either in short supply or struggling, the gay backlash consists of a “preemptive strike” meant to stop the gay rights movement before it can gain its footing. This involves passing legislation that criminalizes or re-criminalizes homosexuality and that bans the promotion of homosexuality. Both strains, however, serve to fuel anti-gay violence and discrimination, and have exposed the political, rather than cultural nature of the backlash. 
In Europe, there have been massive protests against same-sex marriage, especially in Catholic-majority countries. . . . The protests were for the most part peaceful, but at least one demonstration in May 2013 turned violent, forcing the police to use tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators.
Across Latin America, the gay backlash has been felt most profoundly in Brazil, where the highest court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2011. Since then, Brazilian legislators have retaliated with a plethora of anti-gay bills that call for redefining the family to exclude homosexual couples, for establishing a national day of “heterosexual pride,” and for banning “Christ-phobia,” or the desecration of Christian symbols. The ban targets the provocative floats mixing religious imagery and sexuality typical of Brazilian gay pride parades. Although these bills don’t really stand much chance of ever becoming law (for one thing, they are of dubious constitutionality), they contribute to the homophobic culture that underpins Brazil’s massive problem with gay killings.
It is in the United States, however, where, along with liberal democracy, the strongest backlash against gay rights can be found. We can count three distinct waves.  The first began immediately after the rise of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s and entailed nothing short of moral panic. Its most dramatic manifestation was country singer Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign, which succeeded in overturning an anti-discrimination ordinance enacted in Dade County, Florida, by depicting homosexuals as pedophiles. A second wave of backlash crashed in the late 1990s. Between 1998 and 2012, some 30 states enacted constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
A third wave arrived in 2013 in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1997 law that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. A virtual tsunami of legislation intended to undermine LGBT rights has ensued: 254 anti-gay bills have been introduced, 20 of which have become law. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could in theory limit LGBT rights were introduced, a steep increase from previous years. The bulk of these laws are justified as measures to protect religious freedom. The passage of bills of this kind has increased by at least 50 percent every year between 2013 and 2015.
Russia’s “gay propaganda law,” enacted in 2013, has also earned its share of infamy. It punishes anyone who promotes homosexuality with jail time and fines. So broadly written is the law that, in principle, it outlaws pride parades; public displays of affection by same-sex couples; gay newspapers and magazines; gay-themed literature, television, and films; and symbols of the LGBT community, such as the rainbow flag. Even an admission of homosexuality, unless the admission is made in order to denounce homosexuality, can be considered illegal.
Darker still is the picture across Central Asia and the Middle East, where the gay backlash has unleashed a nasty wave of anti-gay violence. Since March, more than 100 gay and bisexual men have been reported tortured, held in camps, and killed in the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of Chechnya. For several years now, the world has been horrified by the ghastly antics of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), which has been beheading gays and throwing them from rooftops in the territories that it controls. . . .
What is causing the global gay rights backlash is less clear, since societal acceptance of homosexuality in most countries has never been higher. A popular sociological explanation is that increasing visibility makes LGBT people an easier target for anti-gay rights activists. . . . Although this visibility has had a positive effect, leading to greater acceptance of the gay community, the normalization has also galvanized staunch opponents. As Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The New York Times, “As the majority of society becomes more tolerant of LGBT people, some of those who are opposed to them become more radical.” 
Another popular explanation is the enduring strength of homophobia, which flows from the cultural heterosexism embedded in most religions. Public polls show that societal acceptance of homosexuality is intimately linked to levels of social and economic development and rates of religiosity. The higher the religiosity, the lower the acceptance rate of homosexuality, and vice versa.
Decidedly less noted, and therefore less understood, are the political roots of the gay backlash. By openly embracing anti-gay violence and extremely homophobic legislation, many autocratic regimes across the world are doing what such regimes have done for centuries to groups as varied as Jews, heretics, and various ethnic minorities: scapegoating a socially despised minority as a way to consolidate power, to justify conservative policies, and to distract from other issues.
The governments of Egypt and Iran, for example, employ anti-gay violence in a way that is strikingly similar to the way terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, use violence. Beheading and hanging gays is as much about punishing individuals as it is about intimidating a community or an entire group of people. Russia’s “war on gays” is more a reflection of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to crack down on civil and political liberties than it is an expression of homophobia in Russian culture. Before Putin’s rise, Russia had decriminalized homosexual activity immediately following the fall of Communism.
Although homophobia in Africa is often seen as an “ancient hatred,” its history is surprisingly short. A study by Human Rights Watch revealed that roughly half of the world’s remaining anti-sodomy laws are holdovers from British colonial rule. . . . Leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe discovered that they could score political gains by condemning homosexuals and demonizing homosexuality as a “Western perversion.”
Politicians in the West, but especially in the United States, have also found that exploiting hostility toward homosexuality can score them political points, especially around election time. . . . Karl Rowe, the architect of George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, put same-sex marriage referenda in as many states as possible for the sole purpose of mobilizing so-called value voters. That year, 11 state anti-gay marriage referenda were put to the voters, including in the very important swing state of Ohio.
U.S. President Donald Trump, despite his pledge at the 2016 GOP National Convention to protect LGBT Americans from violence and discrimination, ran on a platform described by gay Republicans as the GOP’s “most anti-LGBT platform” in the party’s 162-year history. . . . While these anti-gay stances no longer have the popular political appeal that they once had, they still serve the useful purpose of keeping social conservatives within the GOP’s fold.
If there is a silver lining to the gay backlash, it is that the backlash is forcing the international community to confront the issue of anti-gay violence and discrimination. . . . faster and more effective change could come if the international community took a stronger stance against those regimes inclined to use gays as a political scapegoat and to employ homophobia as a political tool.

No comments: