Favorite

Brantley: Gay equality now 

click to enlarge Image via Shutterstock

Thanks to court rulings and changing public sentiment, gradualism has disappeared from the vocabulary of advocates for gay equality.

That has certain adverse consequences in the darker corners of the world. Places like Arkansas.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he'd schedule a vote before Thanksgiving on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It passed the House once in 2007, but hung up in the Senate. Now advocates think they can produce the 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Until right at deadline for this column, all but two Democratic senators were sponsors of the proposal to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Just as I went to press came word that one of the two, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas also would vote for ENDA.

Pryor faces a Republican challenge from the far right, Rep. Tom Cotton, in 2014. It's an article of Republican faith that Arkansans are deeply antagonistic to gay rights, what with our constitutional and statutory bans on gay marriage. In fact, though, the latest Arkansas poll shows slightly less than a majority opposes legal recognition — marriage or civil union — for gay people. The Arkansas legislature, prodded by a lesbian lawmaker, also passed an anti-bullying bill over Religious Right opposition.

Two recent polls are even more hopeful. National polling by a Republican pollster showed that the majority of people in every state, including 61 percent in Arkansas, support workplace equality. The recent Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas found that more than 80 percent of the "very likely voters" polled said gays and lesbians should "have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?"

You wonder, of course, if they meant it.

Consider the recent firing of a teacher at Mount St. Mary Academy because she married her lesbian partner. The school's religious underpinning gave it some legal basis for punishing a woman for availing herself of the law of New Mexico to qualify for federal legal benefits. Many rose in sympathy with the women. But many did not and they made it clear that religious prerogatives had little to do with it. Several spoke angrily and loudly that homosexuality was a disorder that should be banned from a school workplace.

Even if those voices are in the minority, they are nonetheless shrill. Determined, angry voices have a disproportionate impact on nervous politicians. See the Tea Party.

The tide is changing. Marriage is legal for gays in many states. Many states and cities have non-discrimination laws. Walmart, the country's biggest employer, has had a non-discrimination policy on sexual orientation for a decade and extended it two years ago to gender identity.

The Republican Party punch list in Arkansas remains black-and-white on gay equality, no matter what Dick Cheney and his lesbian daughter might say. The haters finesse the workplace issue so as not to appear mean-spirited. Sen. John Boozman, for example, claims he's afraid ENDA might spur lawsuits against businesses.

Indeed it might, just as other laws have allowed lawsuits against businesses that discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, age, religion or disability.

Pryor's change of heart might become an issue. Cotton might presume the continuing benefits of enmity toward gay people in Arkansas.

If Pryor's vote hurts him, it won't be the first time Arkansas has been the last to be seated at the table of equality. Happily, it won't delay the arrival of a better world elsewhere.

The growing number of out gay people and their friends, co-workers and family know what they want. They want equality. And they want it now.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Mark Pryor, Tom Cotton

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Hiding Hog money

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week reported that a University of Arkansas response to an open records request shows UA officials regularly communicate with the Razorback Foundation, which supports UA athletics. Duh.
    • Dec 21, 2017
  • In black and white

    The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
  • Sex crusaders

    Some years ago, a married woman of my acquaintance confided that a locally famous physician kept squeezing her thigh under the table at a dinner party. Actually, the fellow was famous for that, too. Removing his hand hadn't worked. She'd thought about stabbing him with a fork, but hadn't wanted to make a scene.
  • Will Arkansas join the red state revolt? Part II

    Looking ahead to state Senate elections.
  • Trump's 'Actual malice'

    While his words away from cameras in the Oval Office the following morning will have a more immediate impact on the futures of DACA recipients and America's reputation around the globe, President Trump's statement on libel law in the United States last week represents a more thorough assault on the country's fundamental values through its disrespect for the rule of law and lack of understanding of the nation's history.
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Banned in 2018

    • I thought Faulkner said "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

    • on January 17, 2018
  • Re: Playing to a crowd

    • Somebody said 'WOKE' and ' Hilary Clinton was by and far the best candidate we…

    • on January 16, 2018
  • Re: Banned in 2018

    • By God, I think Bob covered every goddam one of 'em! Thanks.

    • on January 16, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation