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Culture, Kansas, Politics

Taste the Rainbow

I try to be fair. I try to be balanced. I want to be these things. I will make an effort here. That said, sometimes you just have to call out bullshit like you see it, and point it out as the hypocrisy that it is. To this end, I bring you our lord and savior governor, Mr. Sam Brownback. Mr. Brownback, I do not like you. I think you are a shitty leader. I do not hide this, and I am far from ashamed of it. (What I’m getting at here is that this article is going to be pretty ranty, so fair warning.)

To that end, most folks who care are now aware that Mr. Brownback recently revoked an executive order that afforded anti-discriminatory rights to the LGBT community in Kansas, among other groups (it’s hard to miss, since it’s made it from state media, to the LA Times, CNN, and more). Let’s look at it from his end, though. The rationale used is one that doesn’t have great counterpoint, which you would think is a good thing. First, there’s the idea that we shouldn’t be carving out special interest groups when it comes to rights and privileges. This is certainly fair enough. I make this point when talking about “hate crimes.” Assault is already assault, for instance. Let the judge consider motivation when sentencing, the law itself doesn’t need to treat one different from another. But anyway, the point isn’t without merit and is pretty easy to defend on its own.

Secondly, there’s the argument that Sebelius’ use of an executive order for the protection to begin with was improper procedure. Basically, his argument is that it should be established by the legislature, not executive order. This isn’t entirely wrong. In fact, according to the Kansas constitution, the governor’s use of executive orders is basically limited to issuing reorganization plans for the purposes of best enforcing the laws of Kansas.

The supreme executive power of this state shall be vested in a governor, who shall be responsible for the enforcement of the laws of this state. Article 1, Section 3; Kansas Constitution

As with presidential executive orders, the actual usage and implementation of this power is somewhat… fuzzy. Their existence is generally due to this principle that the governor is tasked with “enforcement of the laws of this state,” and that obviously there must be a mechanism for that – the orders. They aren’t laws, so much as they are clarifications or points of emphasis. That’s the long and short of it. We can argue until the sun sets over if Sebelius’ order was lawful in that matter, then (or, for that matter, the two Brownback issued in turn). That’s not of any particular value though. Because…

Let’s just be clear, shall we? He did this because he’s a hypocritical dick. How do I know this? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

Problem #1

The only reason to ever take action on virtually anything in government is to A) fix a problem, or B) make something better. Removal of this protection does neither of these things. There was literally no one asking for this to happen because of some undue hardship created. Brownback’s rationale that it should go to the legislature is simply a red herring (which we’ll look at in a moment below). It was just one of the few trees that Brownback, who has historically been against anything supporting the LGBT community, felt he could pee on and get away with. Even if we accept that the original order may have been unlawful, on the spectrum of Problems We Have in Kansas, this is about as far down the list of importance as you can get.

Problem #2

Once again, it puts a target on Kansas’s back. We are wasting time talking about an issue that literally does zero to improve the state in any measurable fashion whatsoever. It just creates a PR shitstorm for us. You know how many articles there are out there praising us for this action? None (I’m being facetious. I’m sure there are one or two out there. I don’t care if you feel the need to correct me on this, because those are exceptions, and we all know it). In fact, we stand to be hurt by it. It makes us look backwards, old fashioned, and intolerant. Tell me, when was the last time you saw a business looking for a new home where those things were on their checklist of must have features? So the result is a net loss for the state in our social capital, which was severely lacking to begin with.

Problem #3

Fighting against LGBT rights because it’s against your religion is like fighting to ban donuts because you’re on a diet. Some Wise Guy

The underlying rationale for these kinds of actions has a fundamentally broken point of enforcement. I’m not going to go too far into this matter because someone’s feelings will get hurt (and it’s not mine), but the anti-LGBT rights crowd tends to focus on this idea that the “choice” to not be a “normal heterosexual” means they shouldn’t be afforded special “privilege” as a result. That’s fine and rational if that’s the tower your belief system comes from. But here’s the problem. You know what else is a choice? Your fucking religion, and you get “special status” protection for that. I can’t fire you if I find out you’re a dirty Lutheran, for instance. To be very clear, any other reason to justify actions against the LGBT community, like “it’s a sin,” are strictly your problem alone to get over or deal with. If the best justification you have for something is “it’s against my religion,” then that’s pretty much the first sign that you shouldn’t come near anything having to do with law. Your screwed up moral compass shouldn’t be my problem. You also might suck at your religion. Bottom line, the belief in the “choice” mode of LGBT membership only works if you’re a member of a belief system that tells you that’s the case. The rest of us are far less convinced. So maybe, just maybe, we should err on the side of protecting people, especially when you’re already enjoying the same kind of benefit for your “choice” in a certain social group.

Deal with it

Problem #4

I’m not an especially strong advocate of affirmative action. The rationale is one that would sound familiar in this debate, that it’s hard to justify advancing certain classes of people at the expense of others. But here’s the deal with that – I support a strong discussion about whether or not affirmative action policies are right for this time any more. We should always be evaluating if a policy is still doing what it was intended to do. In the case of affirmative action, it was started because it was fucking needed. It was a product of the times, one in which we saw a specific part of our society being judged unfairly and outclassed as a result. As a product of it’s time, we should always question if we still need it, because ideally there would/will come a day where the goal is achieved. Discussion of the matter also advances visibility and education about the problem. In the case of LGBT treatment, that’s where we are, at the lead-in to the problem. We’re starting to acknowledge that we, as a society, have a problem with acceptance. The reality is, these people need certain protections in the here and now, because there are places where society is unfairly against them. That doesn’t mean they will always need that protection, nor should they. And that protection should stop short of “special” advantage. But that’s a discussion for another time. We can’t, however, just act like it isn’t a problem or that it makes us too uncomfortable to admit that we need a long, hard look in the mirror.

Problem #5

Mr. Brownback is a lousy fucking hypocrite. He has, as of this writing, issued a total of 70 executive orders. Most of these are pretty much what you’d expect – reorganizations, declarations of emergencies, rewards for law enforcement, simple stuff that it’s hard to find any fault in. Except for 2015-02, which immediately followed 2015-01 (the LGBT one). Why point this out? Because as a followup to denying LGBT what he considered a “special” status, he turned around and granted “special” status to two groups – veterans and disabled people. That’s not to begrudge these groups in any way at all. But to argue that Sebelius was wrong, and then do the same exact damn thing, is just. Fucking. Amazing. Strike that, what’s actually so intensely ballsy about his move is that he didn’t create the anti-discriminatory policy against veterans and the disabled – he had to restore them because they were originally part the order that he struck out. He’s literally playing a game of Pick the Special Interest group. Qualifying the audacity of this goes beyond my ability to wordsmith, sadly.

One thing is for absolute certain though, when he says this is about the legislature and doing things properly, he’s full of shit. Completely and utterly. To follow his line of reasoning and try reconciling it against the actions he’s taken this week requires a degree of cognitive dissonance that must only be possible in Kansas. You can’t criticize a policy for something and then turn around and do the same thing without being a hypocrite of the worst kind. It makes me fucking sad, because just a few minutes of reading is needed to realize how intensely hypocritical this whole thing is. You just have to care enough to do it (and, dear reader, if you’ve made it this far, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you care. Now be sure to share this when you’re done). I wish more people would point out this bullshit, and make him answer the questions it raises. He deserves to be put on the hot-seat and held accountable for that kind of “leadership.”

(Photo Credit: CC by-nc-sa 2.0 jakerome)