Friday, March 27, 2015

Which do they despise more -- the gays or public schools?

It's sometimes hard for me to tell, but events this week did clarify things somewhat.  From Austin yesterday, under the headline "Open Season on Public Schools During Voucher Debate":

Like an obstinate weed that just won’t die, the debate over school vouchers returned to the Capitol for the 11th straight legislative session on Thursday.

With former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and GOP mega-donor James Leininger on hand to testify in front of dozens of adamant voucher supporters, the hearing took on a carnival-like atmosphere at times.

Some voucher advocates, including Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), used Thursday’s hearing on a pair of school voucher bills to rail about the state of public schools.

“Today we have a monstrosity, a monopoly,” Campbell said. “It’s called public school.”

Not quite as goofy as Debbie Riddle's "pit of hell" remarks a few years ago, but the supply of conservative shrieking hyperbole is getting used up, after all.  Even Texas Freedom Network gets hate mail from these kinds of Christians.  There's some pushback, thankfully...

Pastor Kyle Henderson of First Baptist Church in Athens testified that voucher proponent’s attacks on public schools and teachers bothered him.

“I am stunned by the disdain expressed to public school teachers in this room,” Henderson said.

Joanna Sanchez, University of Texas education policy researcher and policy fellow for Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), says that studies on vouchers and student outcomes don’t suggest they can improve student achievement on a large scale.

“The empirical evidence shows that vouchers lead to increased sorting of students by socioeconomic status, and does not support the claim that vouchers help disadvantaged children” Sanchez told the Observer.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) voiced perhaps the most vehement opposition to the bills.

“Isn’t this just a money grab by non-public schools?” Garca asked.

Carol Morgan called the proceedings "nine hours of the good, the bad, and the ugly".

But the assault on public education still pales in comparison to the full court press against all things LGBT.  There are some ups and downs as always; Ken Paxton went federal judge shopping and found another bargain, while Rep. Cecil Bell's legislation to penalize local officials for issuing marriage licenses might get gutted by the invisible hand of the free market.  The most significant developments, however, came not from Texas but out of Indiana.  For the summary, Mahablog.

(Yesterday) Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law that allows “any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.” It’s understood that the purpose of this is to give homophobe business owners license to discriminate against LGBT customers.

The Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) had already told Pence that if he signed the bill, the Disciples would cancel their next convention in Indianapolis and find another city.

Indianapolis is hosting the men's college basketball Final Four weekend after this one, and the NCAA did not pump-fake its response.

"The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement issued immediately after Pence signed the law. "We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.

"We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” the statement continued. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

Translation: no more Final Fours in Indy after next weekend.  Boom and thud.

Salesforce Marketing Group, Eli Lilly (headquarters in Indianapolis), and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce also have expressed opposition to the bill.

Yeah.  About Salesforce.

Here’s what their CEO stated: “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination. We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in IN based on our employee’s & customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.”

Salesforce is only a $4bn company, but it is an up-and-coming heavyweight in the tech industry. Having such a high-profile announcement from such a powerful player so quickly was a big surprise. Even if no one else openly joins them, their absence from trade shows, user groups and other activities is going to reverberate, creating pressure on other companies and hurting Indiana businesses.

Flanked by powerhouse Chicago on one side and the booming tech center of Columbus on the other, Indiana is a state that already struggles to compete in this lucrative, well-paid field. It is difficult to develop and retain technical talent and well-paid jobs there in the wake of a collapsed manufacturing base. Becoming a pioneer in discrimination is unlikely to help.

This is a Republican saying these things.

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect in Republican circles over the political value of gay-baiting. The environment changed very fast, and Republicans are not known for their speed of adaptation. Picking on gay people is no longer a winning political tactic. Even Jan Brewer recognizes this. Can we just accept this and move on?

As for the “religious exemptions,” you can’t possibly be serious. We’ve been here before. If the ability to persecute gay people is a central tenet of your religious faith, then your religious faith sucks. We all bear a Constitutional duty to preserve the basic rights of religions that suck, but only up to the point that your religion starts ruining other people’s lives. If you want to hold a job that serves the general public you will be expected not to act like an asshole, even if you think your religion commands it. Be an asshole in private where your right to be an asshole remains sacred.

Once more from the sportswriter Dan Wetzel at Yahoo.

The tide has turned. The young and more enlightened are rising up, which is why laws like this won't last 10 years; maybe not even five. This is the last gasp of open discrimination.

Soon enough everyone supporting these ideals of discrimination will be incredibly humiliated they ever did so, the way old timers hang their heads when asked about how they thought a segregated lunch counter for third graders was a just idea. Most will pretend they didn't agree with it in the first place. Shame will cause everyone to run from it.


Mike Pence isn't even a creative, trend-setting bigot. He's just a dense follower. Indiana is the 20th state with some kind of similar law – the kind that would never be allowed against any other group of humans. It's long past time they answer for it too.

This is the era where civil rights victories for gays and lesbians are sweeping the country; next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to make legalized gay marriage the law of the land.

So use the momentum to right past wrongs. Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, wherever else you want to do this, it's true the rest of America may not be able to change the law – time and young people will do that for you.

National organizations such as the NCAA and NFL sure can say that if you're not willing to do business with all of our customers, then we'll go and do business where they will.

After all, the best counter to these religious freedom measures has come from an Oklahoma representative named Emily Virgin.

She introduced an amendment in her state that would require a business that will refuses service to certain individuals to "post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person's religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race."
Essentially, it tells everyone your intentions, who you are and what you are about. That way the gay couple looking for a florist knows not to go inside … and the rest of the public who think you're an idiot can go find another florist, too.

Then the religious freedom florist will cling to a dwindling customer base until it goes out of business.

 The invisible hand of the free market just got a little more visible.

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