Why Do People Pay Andrew Sullivan to Talk, Again?

Andrew Sullivan, leading contender for Most Deranged Blogger in America, has apparently decided conspiracy-mongering over the sex lives of conservative women wasn’t interesting enough, so now he’s taken it upon himself to uncover the truth behind rumors that Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan might be a lesbian, and what the White House’s reaction to the rumors means for the struggle for gay rights:

Apparently unsatisfied with what seemed to be a clear denial from the White House that Kagan was gay, Sullivan asked, “Is Obama actually going to use a Supreme Court nominee to advance the cause of the closet (as well as kill any court imposition of marriage equality)? And can we have a clear, factual statement as to the truth?”

But they did give a clear, factual statement. And Sullivan’s Atlantic colleague Marc Ambinder has reported that close friends of Kagan say she’s straight; Ambinder tells The Daily Beast he has since received a similarly definitive answer from White House officials. Sullivan offers no new evidence to suggest the White House answer is wrong. In his first post on the issue, Sullivan wrote that further questions are fair game because “we have been told by many that she is gay”—without ever disclosing who the “many” might be and whether or not they are credible sources.”

When pressed, Serious Andrew’s line changes to:

Sullivan said that as a blogger, “my job is to think out loud. It is not my job to report stories.” As for information on Kagan’s orientation, “one need have no ‘evidence’ beside the fact that she is single and seems to be lacking in any emotional or relationship history to ask a question not about her private life but about her public identity.”

But Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, told The Daily Beast that Sullivan’s failure to provide any clear evidence that Kagan’s sexuality was in question raised major ethical concerns by pushing unsourced rumors into the mainstream press.

“It’s slimy locution here in that he writes ‘We have been told by many that she is gay,'” Gitlin said. “And what would constitute evidence? If someone shows up and says ‘I slept with Elena Kagan when we were in college,’ so what? I see nothing but slime down the slippery slope because accusers are a dime a dozen.”

Sullivan’s response?

“Gitlin’s remarks are so baldly homophobic, I’m a little taken aback.” (Gitlin stressed that rumors surrounding Kagan should not be viewed as a negative if true.)

“Since when is it ‘slime’ to ask someone a simple positive question about his or her orientation?” Sullivan added. “Since when is asking someone about her orientation an ‘accusation’? Is being gay something one is ‘accused’ of? And Gitlin’s blanket assumption that being gay means who you ‘sleep with’ is reductionist bigotry. Being gay is a core part of someone’s emotional identity and personal biography.”

Valiant though Greg Gutfeld’s above attempt may be, it’s no longer possible to truly parody Andrew Sullivan.  The man does it himself.

I don’t much care whether or not Kagan is gay; I care about the fact that, as a leftist, she’d be the antithesis of everything a good justice should be.

An Open Letter to the Family Research Council

To Whom It May Concern,

I have always been an admirer of the Family Research Council’s work in support of the right to life, true marriage, religious liberty, and other traditional American values.  For years, I have also worked towards those goals in my community and on my weblog.  I fought fiercely for Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment in 2006.  Like most conservatives, I have often been slandered as a bigot because I oppose same-sex marriage, civil unions, and gay adoption.

I say this so that, when I express how shocked, offended and betrayed I felt upon seeing the conduct of one of your spokesmen recently, you understand my full meaning.

FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg recently appeared on MSNBC to discuss the issue of gay soldiers serving openly in the US military with Chris Matthews.  The segment ended with the following exchange:

MATTHEWS: Do you think we should outlaw gay behavior?

SPRIGG: Well, I – I think certainly it’s defensible.

MATTHEWS: I’m just asking you, should we outlaw gay behavior?

SPRIGG: I think the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided.  I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.

MATTHEWS: So we should outlaw gay behavior.

SPRIGG: Uh, yes.

When I saw the headlines announcing, “Family Research Council Spokesman Advocates Criminalizing Homosexuality,” I was certain they had to be lies, more out-of-context distortions of honorable conservative beliefs.  But for once, the Left appears to be correct.

Both as a matter of moral principle and of political common sense, Mr. Sprigg’s comments are indefensible.  Our Founding Fathers clearly wanted American to be guided by a firm sense of morality, and believed that Judeo-Christian religious values were essential to the continued survival of a republic.  But they also established the principle of limited government, authorized only to do a certain number of things and dedicated to preserving individual liberty.

The question of whether society should formally endorse homosexual behavior via civil marriage is fundamentally different from the question of whether or not homosexuals are human beings equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or whether or not it is just for any level of government to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults.  Indeed, one can even recognize that Lawrence was an instance of judicial overreach without supporting the merits of the statute in dispute.

As a Christian, an American, and a conservative, I am appalled that it would ever cross any of my leaders’ minds to advocate such an un-American policy as criminalizing gay behavior.  Not only would such beliefs constitute genuine persecution of American citizens, but they would set the stage for a dangerous expansion of governmental power over individual liberty.

Regarding political common sense, it is baffling to me that, given the Left’s long-standing history of demonizing believers in traditional values, a prominent, experienced conservative spokesman such as Mr. Sprigg would not instantly recognize Matthews’ question as a trap and know enough not to take the bait.  Liberals and gay activists have wasted no time in seizing upon his comments not just to condemn Peter Sprigg, but to condemn all of us.  It is bad enough that defenders of true marriage routinely have to deal with false charges of bigotry and extremism; the last thing any of us needs is a true one.

Naturally, I would appreciate an explanation from Mr. Sprigg as to just what he meant, if he misspoke, but his comments seem clear enough that I have a hard time imagining that he did not understand the question, or that he meant something other than what he said.  Mr. Sprigg’s reckless and un-conservative remarks have harmed the battle for true marriage, and they threaten to tarnish all of the good work the Family Research Council has done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.  It pains me to say it, but I see only one way for the FRC to preserve—and, indeed, to deserve—its credibility: Peter Sprigg should be relieved of his duties with the organization, effective immediately.  Thank you for your time.

Calvin Freiburger

(Update: cross-posted at NewsReal.)

Stupid Things People Say About Conservatives

Unlike the Reporter’s distinguished clientele, Jay Morris’s response to my civil unions editorial manages to remain calm and address things I’ve actually written.  Still, our Harvey Milk fan’s attempts to show I am “disgruntled” and “didn’t really do any research” fall flat:

Unfortunately, Mr. Freiburger apparently has not reviewed what is required in Wisconsin to obtain a “marriage license,” including the facts that: (a) once applied for, the license only has a 6 day waiting period before being effective; and (b) that only one person need reside in Wisconsin for at least 30 days.  Thus, the “scant” requirement to obtain Domestic Partnership benefits in Wisconsin far exceeds the requirements to obtain a marriage license and more benefits than provided by the Domestic Partnership laws.

I fail to see the relevance here.  I’m not claiming these new civil unions are easier or harder to qualify for than civil marriage; I’m saying exactly what my original point sounded like: it will be easy to scam these civil unions.  Dane County Clerk Bob Ohlsen, while not predicting fraud, recently said, “even for those who already get benefits for their partner through their employer, there is a huge advantage to applying to the registry.”  You could say that people can scam civil marriage, too, but the reality is that it is much more common for non-romantically-involved people of the same sex to live together than those of opposite sexes.  In any event, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Morris for not devoting a larger share of my 600-word limit to a side issue.

Even when debates with liberals aren’t vicious and juvenile, they can carry a distinct air of surrealism—Mr. Morris strangely claims that my comments about “the so-called rights gay couples are allegedly denied” show that I “neglected to review Wisconsin law at all,” since the marriage amendment “includes a ban on any relationship between same-sex couples that is ‘similar to’ marriage.”  Perhaps our friend shouldn’t be so quick to cast stones over insufficient research, inasmuch as he apparently didn’t even read the piece he’s rebutting in full—in which I discuss the “2006 Marriage Protection Amendment, which prohibits the state from recognizing ‘a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.’”

Mr. Morris attempts to prove the amendment threatens gays by quoting Wisconsin’s former (disgraced) Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.  What he doesn’t mention: after the election, the AG was singing a different tune from what she said as a Democrat candidate:

In one of her last official acts, outgoing Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager has declared that Wisconsin’s recently enacted constitutional ban on same-sex marriage does not prohibit public or private employers from providing domestic partner benefits.  In a six-page opinion released Wednesday, Lautenschlager also told Madison City Attorney Michael May that the constitutional amendment does not strike down anti-discrimination protections for domestic partners.  Lautenschlager wrote that “it can reasonably be inferred” from the language of the amendment “that neither the Legislature nor the people intended to invalidate domestic partnerships when they adopted this provision.”

Also intolerable to our friend is the fact that gay couples seeking to arrange benefits themselves via wills and power of attorney pay much more than the cost of a marriage license.  First, I still maintain that, while full replication of everything civil marriage offers may be impossible, gay couples still have access to far more than the gay lobby, such as the lying charlatans of Fair Wisconsin, would have you believe.

Second, I again reiterate my point that many of these benefits “were created to aid couples raising children on just one parent’s income, and are thus irrelevant to gay couples (as well as to dual-income straight couples).”  To be completely honest, I think it would be interesting to do a full review of civil marriage in America and reassess every benefit, and see which should be preserved, which should be changed to apply only to single-income couples or couples with children, and which should be done away with entirely.  So I hope you’ll excuse me for not feeling guilty for denying gay couples some provisions I don’t necessarily believe straight couples need either.

Third, as I’ve also said time and time again, it’s certainly possible to change laws and streamline processes for achieving these things in amendment-compatible ways.  A few years back, Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson endorsed just such a measure in Colorado.  I note that Dobson hasn’t received much goodwill from the gay Left for his efforts.

Jay has one last complaint about my “so-called article” (what does that even mean?  Guess I spoke too soon about maturity…): “the rule of law is always up for debate – particularly when the law violates other laws, like equal protection clauses of the primary source, The United States Constitution.”

I’m still trying to decide whether or not this is a weak attempt to dodge my point, or if Jay is really this obtuse.  His so-called analysis (see how dumb that sounds?) appears to confuse “laws” with the principle of “the rule of law.”  The former means any given law on the books, be it a constitutional provision, act of a legislature, or duly-enacted referendum.  Of course these are “always up for debate;” I never suggested otherwise.  The latter is the principle that the process by which we make and change laws is something to be respected, that we (to quote myself again, since Jay apparently missed it the first time) “cannot pick and choose which of its provisions to enforce and which to violate, no matter what they may personally think about them.”  Don’t like a law?  Get it repealed.  But as an American, living under the protection of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, you have no moral right to simply ignore what it says.  That goes double for those in public office, like Governor Jim Doyle, who swear [PDF link] “to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, and faithfully to discharge the duties of their respective offices to the best of their ability.”

No matter how much I despise abortion and wish to see it banned, I don’t want such a ban to come via the Supreme Court.  Because I respect and value the rule of law.

However draconian limitations on how close to Planned Parenthoods pro-lifers can protest may be, you won’t see me violate them.  Because I respect and value the rule of law.

Regardless of what I may think of any given tax—because I think it unjust, excessive, or I disapprove of the purpose for which it is raising funds—I would never dodge it.  Because I respect and value the rule of law.

Jay Morris gave it the good old college try, and delivered a response a cut above most of my critics.  But as we see, that’s still not saying much.

Undermining Constitutionalism in the Name of Fairness

Thanks to false stereotypes about social conservatives peddled by so-called agents of “tolerance,” I’m sure many liberals expect us to explode into flames over the insertion of same-sex domestic partnerships into the state budget, as if bigotry were our motivation.  Sadly, they’ll have to settle for reasoned argument and serious concerns instead.

With its requirement that participants live together for a scant 30 days to qualify, the measure is begging to be scammed by any two people sharing a residence, not just gay couples.  But that’s not why Wisconsin should be offended.

Many of the so-called rights gay couples are allegedly denied, such as hospital visitation and power-of-attorney related issues, are either already available to gays, easily achievable without creating new government relationship statuses, or were created to aid couples raising children on just one parent’s income, and are thus irrelevant to gay couples (as well as to dual-income straight couples).  But that’s not why Wisconsin should be offended, either.

Wisconsin should be offended because this action was unconstitutional, and the Democratic lawmakers and governor who enacted it, knew it.  It violates the democratically-enacted 2006 Marriage Protection Amendment, which prohibits the state from recognizing “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals” (the WI Constitution has no “Unless We Really, Really Want To” clause).

Governor Jim Doyle and Democrat apologists claim that, since these new unions have only 43 of civil marriage’s 200-plus benefits, they are not “substantially” similar to marriage and thus constitutional.  Nevertheless, every politician in Madison knows the clear intent of the law—to keep Wisconsin from creating same-sex marriage by another name.

There are many important considerations in the debate over same-sex marriage and civil unions: equality, the best interests of children, religious liberty, and more.  Exploring them could exhaust many Reporter pages, but one principle should never be up for debate in a constitutional republic like America: the rule of law.

Free societies have constitutions to limit what governments can do to their people.  We have an amendment process for when we decide our constitution needs to be changed, but unless and until it is amended, a constitution is the law of the land.  The entire concept of a constitution is that government officials cannot pick and choose which of its provisions to enforce and which to violate, no matter what they may personally think about them.

No matter how unfair or oppressive you believe the marriage amendment to be, I ask you to heed this warning: if you allow our leaders to get away with ignoring the constitution on one issue, you are, in effect, endorsing the principle that any constitutional provision may be ignored if a leader claims he has a good enough reason.  That’s a terrifying prospect, and precisely what our Founding Fathers sought to prevent.

Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that “reverence for the laws” should “become the political religion of the nation,” a basic principle that should unite us all and preserve our liberties.  Jim Doyle and the lawmakers in Madison who allowed this to pass have made clear how little regard they have for the rule of law, and have demonstrated they are unfit to hold the offices with which we have entrusted them.

Why Sotomayor Is Wrong for the Court, & What the GOP Should Do About It

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is exactly the kind of person you don’t want on the Supreme Court.  Her infamous (and recurrent) “hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” is a clear sign that she sees issues and situations through a racial, identity-politics prism.  Her comment that the US Court of Appeals “is where policy is made” speaks for itself.  Apologists have tried to explain these statements away as if they were detached, self-evident observations about the way things are, not the way she wants them to be.  But that won’t do—we already have examples of both ideas polluting her judicial analysis.

She opposes capital punishment on the grounds that it “is associated with evident racism in our society” and once claimed that, after reviewing “the current literature of the past two years, no publications have been found that challenge the evidence and the rationale presented in opposition to the death penalty.”  She has complained that her 1998 appellate confirmation was delayed due to racism: “I was dealt with on the basis of stereotypes . . . and it was painful . . . and not based on my record…I got a label because I was Hispanic and a woman and [therefore] I had to be liberal.” However, her racial sensitivity doesn’t extend to white and Hispanic firefighters denied promotions on the basis of their race.  She looks at the phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” and somehow concludes that “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.”  She acknowledges that her judicial analysis is influenced in part by “foreign law and the international community.”

In America’s system of checks and balances, the purpose of the judicial branch is “to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws,” as Hamilton writes in Federalist 78.  He goes on to write that judges are to have an “inflexible and uniform adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals.”  The duty of a judge is to discern the plain meaning and original intent of the law.  Opinions regarding what the law should be—preferences for which policies to adopt and which to repeal—are for the elected representatives of the people to debate and enact.  Why would we even dream of giving policymaking power to unelected magistrates with lifetime offices?

Anyone familiar with the Framers’ thinking, from Federalist 10 to Washington’s Farewell Address, can attest to their belief in the importance of national unity and pursuing the common interest, and in the dangers of factional division along regional, ethnic, cultural, or religious lines.  The idea that it’s even legitimate, much less desirable, for a judge to view legal matters through any sort of racial or identity-politics prism would have been utterly alien to them.  The law is what it is, regardless of its observer, and the mark of a great judge is the ability to look beyond one’s personal baggage and prejudices to seek the truth.

Sonia Sotomayor fails this test, and her nomination doesn’t speak well of the judicial philosophy of the president who nominated her (especially considering that Obama once taught constitutional law).  As a matter of principle, her nomination ought to be opposed—but thanks to the Republican moderation mentality, that’s another can of worms.  The standard reaction to Sotomayor’s known failings by Republicans making the cable news rounds seems to be, “it’s troubling, but let’s see what she has to say during the hearings.”  Translation: “Yeah, we know it looks bad, but we don’t want to make any commitments because we’re scared that we might alienate the Hispanic vote further” (because pandering to liberal Hispanics worked out so well last year).

This is absurd.  Cowardly failure to draw clear distinctions between themselves and the Democrats got Republicans into this mess, and it’s not going to get them out of it.  The idea that whatever Sotomayor says during her job interview should carry more weight than her record is ridiculous.  And I don’t understand the idea that an opposition to this Supreme Court nominee will somehow deplete the “ammo” Republicans will need to battle the next nominee, or the idea that this battle is less important, since she’s just filling a seat that was occupied by another liberal anyway, and fighting isn’t ultimately going to keep her off the court.

Regardless of whether or not Sotomayor becomes a Justice, Republicans need to loudly oppose her nomination, for two reasons.  First, the base cannot be expected to keep fighting for Republicans if Republicans cannot be expected to fight for them.  Second, a fight over Sotomayor’s failings is an opportunity to bring attention to the underlying constitutional issues and principles at stake, which you cannot expect unconvinced Americans to adopt if you only mention them in passing during campaign season.  We always hear about the need to have a “national discussion” over this or that issue.  Well, here’s your chance.  Discuss.