June 30, 2013 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Can’t take back discrimination

By The Spokesman-Review
 

With momentum clearly on the side of gay rights, some longtime opponents are scrambling to get on the right side of history. They were never for discrimination. No sir. They simply wanted to preserve marriage for one man and one woman.

This revisionist position is embodied in statements like this, from U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who said in April: “I do believe this could be solved greatly by a civil union law that would give gay people the same rights as married people. I think we can solve this problem without undermining the very basis of marital law in our country.”

Note how he draws the line at traditional marriage while positioning himself as proponent of equality. As the polls have swung in favor of gay marriage and legal rulings have torn discriminatory laws asunder, this is becoming the position of many conservatives: Give them civil unions, and call it even.

That might be persuasive in states that haven’t been through the gay marriage wars, but it falls flat in Washington state.

Before gay marriage became legal, we had the “everything but marriage” battle, which featured conservatives opposing a measure that would wipe out all discrimination based on sexual orientation. Marriage was omitted, but opposition was fierce.

Before that, the Legislature passed a law that prohibited discrimination in housing, hiring and public accommodations after three decades of futility. Marriage wasn’t in the bill, but it was still difficult to pass. To refresh your memory about those arguments, head over to Coeur d’Alene, where the city just adopted a similar anti-discrimination ordinance after a bruising battle.

Before that, municipalities passed ordinances that extended employee benefits to same-sex couples. Guess who opposed those? Many of the same people who now claim to be pro-traditional marriage but anti-discrimination.

In a 2004 op-ed, Mitt Romney wrote (italics mine): “Because of marriage’s pivotal role, nations and states have chosen to provide unique benefits and incentives to those who choose to be married. These benefits are not given to single citizens, groups of friends, or couples of the same sex. That benefits are given to married couples and not to singles or gay couples has nothing to do with discrimination; it has everything to do with building a stable new generation and nation.”

You see, it’s not discrimination; just an affirmative action program for traditional marriage.

Let’s be honest: Many conservatives see these anti-discrimination measures as falling dominoes that lead to gay marriage. But let’s not forget that they’re willing to support discrimination, if that’s what it takes. If you doubt this, keep an eye on Idaho, where Republican Party leaders have called on the Legislature to void the human rights ordinances passed by cities.

It’s only when the battle is hopeless that the olive branch of equal rights – except for marriage – is extended.

Sweet and sour. Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum has a distressing item on the priorities of the nation when it comes to government-backed loans. The interest rates for student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on Monday, because Congress and the president were unable to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the interest rate on loans to sugar processors topped out at 1.250 percent last year. It’s part of a sweet deal to protect the U.S. industry from competition. A total of three companies scooped up half the loan money, according to the Wall Street Journal, and if they can’t meet the obligation, they can pay the government back in sugar.

When students fail to pay up, the government turns sour, garnishing paychecks, intercepting tax refunds and tapping federal benefits. It will be easier for failed developer Marshall Chesrown to discharge his $72 million in debt through bankruptcy.

Students can always console themselves with sweets, though the prices are higher than they ought to be, thanks to perverse, protectionist priorities.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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