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Joe Biden’s Moral Imagination

The view from the Obama Administration: [1]

Vice President Joe Biden said transgender discrimination is “the civil rights issue of our time” during a visit to a Florida field office on Tuesday, according to pool reports.

That’s something. The current administration is not in the least concerned about preserving unborn life, even under a “safe, legal, and rare” regime, but the vice-president says there is no more urgent civil rights concern than protecting transgenders from discrimination. I look forward to the Letter From the Birmingham Jail produced by the Civil Rights Movement Of Our Time. Meanwhile, Biden has given both liberal and conservative voters a timely reminder of the priorities of this Democratic administration. If you like this kind of thing, vote Obama, for more of the same. If not, not. For me, this is another indication of how religious liberty is likely to fare under Obama and the judges he appoints, in the face of gay civil rights claims.

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105 Comments To "Joe Biden’s Moral Imagination"

#1 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 4, 2012 @ 10:39 am

Siarlys,

As always, you offer a cogent and sincere perspective, certainly not lacking the compassion I fail to find in some others on this topic. For the record, I routinely look my LGBT friends in the eyes and ask (perhaps not in so many words) “Why are you braying like an ass and shooting yourself in the feet, when you should be finding real and effective rhetoric right there in front of your nose?”

This is an emotional issue, and I don’t denigrate the strong feelings involved. My own feelings are via sympathy, having no personal stake nor having anyone familially close to me in “harm’s way”. What I do see is through the filter of my personal sense of what is ethical. Fairness is a concept I know very well does not live in government laws and regulations. I spent 14 years immersed in government regulations as an insurance professional.

So, all that said, I assure you — despite my possibly ambiguous tone in prior posts — that I am not tip-toeing around the sex part. I am actually stomping on it with hobnailed boots, because I honestly believe it to be irrelevant to the law. Every law, extent or repealed, having to do with sexual conduct (rape is violence using sex, not an act of sexual conduct) is primarily based in religious morality. Sex for money was a modern invention when monotheists decided that the sacred sex of Pagan temple prostitutes needed to be preserved in some way (yeah, that was very sarcastic, and latter-day Pagans were already going in that direction). Other than that, please name one law against sodomy, oral sex, BDSM or other consensual practice that has any basis solely in the valid concerns of a secular community. Please notice that I do exclude incest, bestiality and similar practices from that list, for reasons that should not need to be stated.

My main point: If you can at least stipulate the irrelevancy of sex, then what remains is wholly about secular property and mutual responsibility… and the list of aspects is shortened by only a very small number of issues.

I found the higher profile story example of the POA issue, and the Wikipedia article with good links is here: [2]

It was a lesbian couple. The link gives the details, and this quote from the judge’s dismissal of the subsequent lawsuit is telling: [the hospital] exhibited a lack of compassion and was unbecoming of a renowned trauma center like Ryder. Unfortunately, no relief is available for these failures based on the allegations plead in the amended complaint. A woman died, her partner and children were denied any knowledge of her condition let alone access to her physically because [a] social worker told Langbehn she was in an “anti-gay city and state”.

I get the morally righteous opposition to homosexuality. The vast majority of such people are not evil, not in the least. However, I do believe that their compassion is flawed if they find it impossible to put themselves in Langbehn’s shoes via this perfect analogy: How would you, man or woman, face the death of your spouse, woman or man, because the hospital demands that you go home and get your marriage license first?

I can stipulate every other argument, but that sort of hostility has no place in the society in which I want to live, and if it means stomping with those hobnailed boots on some religious beliefs, I’m ready. 🙁

#2 Comment By Geoff Guth On November 4, 2012 @ 11:27 am

On the topic of discriminating florists, I agree, yes…if I were ever in the position of getting married, I’d prefer to go to someone who either generally supports the idea or, more likely, doesn’t greatly care. There’s a large, competitive floral industry (and b&b industry, etc., etc.) with many companies actively competing for gay dollars. That’s largely why I consider most of the religious discrimination argument to be mostly moot. Gay people quite naturally are drawn to spend their money with businesses that are friendly to them. If a hostile interaction with a business owner does come up, the logical solution is to find another business, even if there is a legal right to the public accommodation.

In other words, common sense usually trumps everything else.

But I don’t want to see public accommodations laws go away entirely. Why? Well what happens if you have the only game in town? What if the one gas station decides they don’t want to serve you? Or the one grocery store? Or the one doctor? Should these businesses be entitled to discriminate against groups they don’t like? Now, you’re getting into serious harm: social ostracism, financial loss, perhaps even loss of life.

It’s worth remembering that these anti-discrimination laws were put in place for a reason: prejudiced business owners were causing real, serious harm to categories of people. A florist or a b&b may be a frivolous thing but many other accommodations aren’t.

We’ve seen one major case of this from Catholic institutions. The Catholic Church has pulled out of offering adoptions in states where there is even the suggestion that they might place kids with same-gendered parents. Is it so difficult to believe that they might decide to extend this policy to other areas? Perhaps they won’t admit gay people into their hospitals for instance. That’s my worry when it comes to religious liberty.

I was being kind of flippant when I said they want a religious right to be an a–hole. That’s true, but the underlying desire is the right to hold and exercise power over other people by virtue of their position. It’s funny that Mr. Dreher was complaining about employees in France regarding customers as clients rather than patrons. But that’s precisely the right he wants employees and business owners to have here in America when he advocates for this sort of religious protection.

#3 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 4, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Franklin, if you stipulate to the irrelevance of sex, then we may as well stipulate to the irrelevance of having any marriage laws at all. They would have no purpose or meaning whatsoever.

Either that, or “marriage” is a bundle of benefits that each man or woman comes into when they turn 18, with or without a partner, male or female, platonic or otherwise.

I believe Geoff is just about right on public accommodation laws. Being denied public accommodations can hurt you. Being denied gas at the last station for 100 miles can stand you in the middle of nowhere. None of this has anything to do with sexual conduct, except a room with a bed, and if they don’t ask some customers, they shouldn’t ask any customers. Public accommodations are PUBLIC accommodations. If you don’t want to serve the general public, don’t go into the accommodations business.

But some lines of business are a bit less public and a bit more personal than others. And, some gay would-be customers, unlike Geoff, are more interested in rubbing the noses of people who don’t approve than in going places where they are appreciated.

The answer to the hospital in the “anti-gay city and state” is “Who said anything about ‘gay’? I’m talking about a signed and duly notarized power of attorney. How dare you add sexual insinuations to a straightforward legal document?”

#4 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 4, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

Siarlys, we are clearly at cross-purposes here. And I don’t know how to take your “answer to the hospital.” Was it sarcasm, or did you ignore the clear implication that the hospital verbally took the legally binding POA and shoved it down Langbehn’s throat? Shrug. Either way, I sorta expected you to take that story a bit more seriously than seems true at this point.

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 4, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

If being “at cross-purposes” means neither of us has convinced the other to abandon long-held, thoughtfully developed, positions, of course we are.

My thoughts on the hospital are similar to my thoughts about the photographer in New Mexico who was blasted by some local administrative agency with some title like “Human Rights Commission.” People who are too easily intimidated come whining about how the big bad thought police are in control and there is nothing we can do.

If I were that photographer, I would have smiled and told them “See you in court.” If I were the partner with the POA, I would have said exactly what I recommended, and then I would have gone IMMEDIATELY to court for an injunction, making NO MENTION of sexuality, just the existence of a valid POA, and dared the hospital to raise sexuality as an issue.

People are far too unready to get up on their hind legs and fight this sort of nonsense. In some cases, I suspect people would rather be victims with a woeful tale to tell than victors who will be somewhat sooner forgotten.