Saturday, January 16, 2010

Virtual White Hoods for Anti-Gay Activists?

Linda Greenhouse recently wrote the following observation in her New York Times Opinionator piece, Into the Closet.

Has anyone noticed that now that lesbians and gay men have left the closet to assert their equal rights as citizens, their adversaries seem to be running for a closet of their own? 

As the Proposition 8 court case has shown us, there is a long history of prejudice, violence, employment discrimination, economic boycotting, etc. against America's GLBT community.   One of the witnesses on Friday, January 15 described  what happened to her as she and her spouse were handing out pamphlets opposed to Proposition 8, “Dyke. You fucking dyke. You’re going to die and go to hell.”  If that witness, Helen Zia, can take it and then come back for more in full view of the public, why can't the anti-gay activists? 

That's the way it goes in our society.  You take a stand, make your opinion known, and then accept the consequences of your own actions.  Or at least that's the way it used to be. 

Now the anti-gay activists want to be protected from the repercussions of their activities. Those who have participated in anti-gay activism claim they are afraid to accept the responsibility for their actions.  Due to that fear, they have petitioned the courts to be able to continue their dirty work in secret. 

In an idealogically split decision this week, the US Supreme Court blocked the video transmission of the Proposition 8 court case in California.  The unsigned majority decision was a rather stretched excuse to cover what the dissenting opinion states so clearly.

The majority “identifies no real harm” from televising the trial, “let alone irreparable harm to justify its issuance of this stay,” wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was joined by Sotomayor and Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “And the public interest weighs in favor of providing access to the courts.”

And sadly, that's not all. 

Not long ago, the US Supreme Court barred the distribution of Washington State public records regarding a petition for an anti-gay ballot measure.  Now they're going to take that issue up again.

As Linda Greenhouse writes on January 15, 2001,
At its private conference on Friday, the Supreme Court is due to consider whether to hear an appeal brought by an organization called Protect Marriage Washington. Under the slogan of “Preserve Marriage, Protect Children,” the group ran a successful petition drive to place on the state’s November ballot a referendum giving voters a chance to repudiate a new state law that granted enhanced benefits to couples registering as domestic partners. (The voters ended up reaffirming the new law, which took effect last month.)

UPDATE:  SCOTUS did decide to hear the case during its meeting.  Final decision expected in June. 

Under Washington’s Public Records Act, the signatures on referendum petitions are public records, available for inspection and copying. The Public Records Act, itself the product of the public initiative process, provides as its rationale that “the people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.”

Last summer, Protect Marriage Washington filed suit to bar public disclosure of the names of their 138,000 petition signers. It won an initial victory, but the Ninth Circuit ruled on the eve of the election that the names were subject to disclosure. The members of the three-judge panel observed that “referendum petition signers have not merely taken a general stance on a political issue; they have taken action that has direct legislative effect.” The court held that the public interest in disclosure outweighed the “incidental limitations” that disclosure placed on the signers’ exercise of their First Amendment right to political speech and association.

The case, Doe #1 v. Reed, No. 09-559, obviously got the Supreme Court’s attention. In October, with only Justice Stevens dissenting, the court issued a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in order to permit Protect Marriage Washington to prepare a Supreme Court appeal.
There are other instances of anti-gay activists suing to remain secret such as the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) lawsuit to keep its money-laundering activities from public scrutiny.   NOM has sued the state of Maine, claiming that its election laws are unconstitional.  

So what is NOM objecting to?  The state law requires anyone raising or spending more than $5,000 on a ballot question in Maine to disclose anyone who contributed more than $100 for that purpose.  Every other organization involved in the Maine ballot issue complied with the law without complaint.  NOM is a money-laundering scheme attempting to keep the identities of anti-gay activists secret. 

I do not find it surprising that the bigots are scurrying to hide under the rocks.  But I find it tragic that the idealogues on the US Supreme Court are working hard to provide flimsy excuses to circumvent the laws designed specifically to prevent that sort of covert activity. 

Wouldn't it be a lot simpler for SCOTUS to simply distribute some leftover white hoods?