Academic journal article Afterimage

Faultlines: Homophobic Innovation in Gay Rights, Special Rights

Academic journal article Afterimage

Faultlines: Homophobic Innovation in Gay Rights, Special Rights

Article excerpt

Civil rights may be thought of in a broad sense as all those rights necessary to participate fully in society - the rights that make citizenship operative. Civil rights are the birthright of democracy, not an added enhancement to citizenship.

- Renee DeLapp(1)

Any lingering doubts about the Conservative revolution underway in this country ought to have been erased in the seismic rearrangement of our political landscape that resulted from the 1994 mid-term congressional and gubernatorial elections. Republicans are standing tall, but the sound and the fury of their triumph is supplied by the Religious Right, a growing countercultural movement to which over 15 million born-again American Christians pledge allegiance. The Religious Right's leaders, increasingly influenced by the militant theocratic ideology of Christian Reconstructionism,(2) have embarked on a quest to subdue our secular government at every level, subordinate it to Biblical law, and establish a Christian nation as the kingdom of God on earth, in preparation for the second coming of Christ. Sounds preposterous, doesn't it? But the Religious Right has made giant strides toward this goal. Having chosen the previously moribund Republican Party as its earthly vessel out of practical necessity, religious Conservatives aligned closely with the Christian Coalition, a political juggernaut run by the extreme rightist Marion "Pat" Robertson,(3) now dominate in 18 states. The November 1994 elections were thus a chilling testament to the Religious Right's extraordinary effectiveness in mobilizing disciplined Christian voters to elect Christian candidates. According to People for the American Way more than 60% of the 600 candidates fielded by the Religious Right won their races, with Christian Conservatives reported as casting fully one third of the vote nationwide.(4)

Although these developments have attracted widespread attention only over the past two years - basically starting with the apocalyptic televised spectacle of the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston where Robertson and other Religious Right potentates held center stage - their foundations have been painstakingly laid, with little fanfare, over the past 20.(5) To properly contextualize the following paper, it is necessary to bear in mind the history of this period, with its convergence of three discrete social trajectories: the ascendancy of the Religious Right and its alter ego, the New Right; the expanded deindustrialization and globalization of the American economy; and the steadily worsening economic disenfranchisement of enormous sectors of the populace and a concomitant social polarization. Without this context, we cannot begin to make sense of how lesbians and gay men, as a distinct social category, have become the object of a concerted political assault of epic proportions. In the past several years, the Religious Right has renewed efforts first undertaken in the late 1970s to repeal existing protections against discrimination toward lesbians and gay men, and to put in their place constitutional or statutory revisions aimed at keeping such protections permanently in abeyance.(6) In the absence of any federal civil rights laws that specifically protect lesbians and gay men, the only legal defense lesbians and gay men have against homophobic discrimination is a patchwork of local and state laws and judicial rulings; it is this patchwork that the Religious Right is intent upon dismantling. Their vehicle is the initiative, a process of citizen petitioning for the placement of a question (referendum) onto a ballot, which has also, not incidentally, been historically abused by majorities of voters to the detriment of people of color and the poor.(7)

Many people are now familiar with the statewide initiative campaigns waged in 1992 for the failed Ballot Measure 9, sponsored by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and its successful counterpart, Amendment 2, sponsored by Colorado for Family Values. …

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