US moves towards equality… slowly

I’d like to take a moment to recognise the significant step forward for equality in America with the Obama Administration no longer defending the Orwellian-named “Defense of Marriage Act” (an act which actually attacked Americans’ right to marry the consenting adult of their choice).

Fred Clark, as usual, puts it best:

This fumbling about for a nonsectarian argument is itself a reason that the antigay lobby is rapidly losing any pretense of credibility. It has become glaringly obvious that theirs is a sectarian, religious claim desperately seeking a nonsectarian excuse, meaning that whatever purported legal argument they eventually concoct will be hard for anyone to take seriously. It will be clear to all that they haven’t arrived at a conclusion based on the compelling logic of nonsectarian reasoning, but that they started out with sectarian biases for which they later latched onto dubious arguments as a mask.

Those dubious arguments — if they ever come up with any — clearly aren’t worth the expense of taxpayer money it would have taken for the Department of Justice to try to defend. Paying government attorneys to defend the indefensible in court would be a classic example of the “waste, fraud and abuse” everyone says they want to eliminate from the federal govenment.

Kudos to Holder and Obama for recognizing that and for refusing to continue playing this absurd game of pretending this is an argument between two legal, constitutional or rational viewpoints.

Congratulations to the Democrats for finally standing for something positive.

Or at least not actively standing against something positive. It’s not like the Demcorats are actually proposing a real pro-Marriage Act that removes discrimination against Americans who wish to marry: and it’s not like the present Congress would pass it if they did.

But it’s a step, a noticeable step, in the right direction.

ELSEWHERE: The extraordinarily homophobic regime of Museveni has been returned in Uganda, after a far from fair election. Whilst he did resile slightly from the recent “let’s execute the gays” legislation, he’s still spent 20 years stoking homophobia and demanding ridiculous punishments for homosexuality. Uganda is a country where newspapers “out” gays, who are then brutally murdered by psychotics.

Uganda is reported to be 84% “Christian” and its anti-gay policies were heavily influenced by the US Christian Right. Apparently if you can encourage other countries to be even nastier to gays, it makes your discrimination look mild by comparison.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands Ugandans are starving.

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14 responses to “US moves towards equality… slowly

  1. According to Ed Brayton, this is nowhere near the massive step forward that you think it is.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2011/02/obama_doj_stops_defending_doma.php

    “But the Obama administration didn’t recognize that this law should not be defended in court. It only recognized that this law should not be defended in courts in the 2nd Circuit. In the other 12 judicial circuits, they have defended, and will continue to defend, DOMA as constitutional.”

  2. Theirs is a seriously messy system.

  3. I’m all 4 gay marriage, Jeremy, and I appreciate your continued commitment to the fight 4 gay marriage and human rights in general.

    Well, almost “in general”. Your continual discrimination against the mentally ill disappoints and baffles me.

    Where is your evidence that any gay activist in Uganda was murdered by “psychotics”?

    Perhaps you mean something like “Uganda is a country where newspapers “out” gays, who are then brutally murdered by intolerant, blood-crazed, stone-age Bible bashers”, yes?

    Psychosis is a medical term that shouldn’t be confused with crazy.

    And I’m not saying that the murderers aren’t psychotic – maybe they are like the guy who went on that shooting rampage in the US recently. Just that you have no evidence that they are psychotic and that linking psychosis to violent crime often comes too easily to you.

    I hope you don’t have to one day defend a client falsely accused of murder partly on the grounds that he or she suffers from schizophrenia.

    Didn’t you listen to Electric Masada’s At the Mountains of Madness (as I recommended)?

    Amid the heavier and crazier stuff on the album there’s a couple of softer tracks that remind me of Portishead’s better work and deserve to be regarded as classics.

  4. Fair enough, but… I’d have thought that wanting to bash someone’s head in with a hammer for being gay is pretty much by definition some kind of psychosis.

    The real problem is that I used it as a pejorative, which I agree I shouldn’t have.

  5. jordanrastrick

    Fair enough, but… I’d have thought that wanting to bash someone’s head in with a hammer for being gay is pretty much by definition some kind of psychosis.

    Nah. For a start, psychosis refers only to beliefs and behaviours that are especially abnormal with respect to a person’s cultural context. For instance delusions can’t just be a serious complex of false beliefs that have a major effect on behaviour, because otherwise a fair portion of the world’s population have to be classified as quite mentally ill (given at most one of many prominent world religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism etc – can be strictly correct.)

    Don’t beat yourself up about it though. Almost no-one outside of mental health circles uses the word accurately. For instance my dad, who as a rule is exceptionally concerned with the correct use of language, uses “psychotic” to mean something like “a person whose behaviour shocks or offends me so much that I guess they must be actually crazy”. And I suffer a psychotic illness, so he has more reason than most to know better. It doesn’t really bother me, so personally I don’t make a fuss about it, although I understand perfectly why others are uncomfortable with sloppy use of the term.

  6. Splatterbottom

    Funnily enough most words have many shades of meaning and many have two or more completely different meanings. We have always had martinets who insist that words mean exactly what they say they mean – no more, no less. There is a also new breed of dictionary despots who think they own particular words and insist that others use only one meaning of the word and in some cases not use the word at all.

    All this achieves is create hurt and offence where none was intended. It should be easy enough to determine by the tenor and tone of statement whether it was intended as an affront to others. However if a determined to be insulted where none was intended then they are responsible for their own hurt feelings. The real culprits in all of this are those who get off on being offended on behalf of others.

    Sadly this is part of the inculcation of victim status in “victims”. I suppose it empowers them by giving them the right to put other people down for careless or colourful remarks, but for each one of them it also empowers a menagarie of militant morons to stroke their egos and strut their moral superiority.

    So now the mental health community has got involved in this grubby power game we have to limit our use of ‘retarded’, ‘idiot’, ‘imbecile’, ‘moron’, ‘schizophrenic’, ‘borderline’, ‘bi-polar’, ‘tourettes’, ‘nymphomania’, ‘dyslexic’, ‘ego’, ‘masochisitic’, ‘obsessive-compulsive’, ‘hallucinating’, ‘cognitive dissonance’, ‘anxiety’, ‘depressive’, ‘voyeurism’ and a host of others besides. Every time you call someone a sex addict you will be insulting Tiger Woods and everyone else who suffers from this debilitating condition.

  7. jordanrastrick

    SB, I’ll admit it shits me a bit when people presume to be offended on behalf of all of the mentally ill, especially when their lives are not especially affected by it (including in many cases the “professionally-offended” types you seem to be, err, offended by.)

    However, I don’t think careless use of words in this context is completely a non-issue.

    For example some people don’t like the use of the word “crazy” in any remotely perjorative sense; but to me that’s just a recipe for a classic euphamism treadmill, and so its pointless to try and change the usage.

    I would personally much rather non-experts use “crazy” or “insane” than “psychotic”/”schizophrenic”/”bipolar”/ “borderline”. The former are by nature vague and in common use, encompassing a wide range of meanings. The latter four are all psychiatric terms with specific clinical definitions. As I’ve said using them as generic synonyms for “crazy” doesn’t offend me, personally; but I think it contributes to poor communication and hence general public ignorance of mental health issues. Psychopaths, for instance, are not (in general) psychotic; the meanings of the terms are very different, but virtually every lay person conflates them. Which is a worry because, for instance, a serial killer is much more likely to have psychopathy than psychosis.

    I agree that langugage prescriptivism is silly, to the extent that languages are inherently dynamic systems that by nature rapidly evolve over time; demanding that they don’t do so is like commanding the tide not to come in. What needs to be defended, though, is clarity; different people using words in very different senses without realising it is a barrier to building common understanding. So lots of people, I think, expect diagnosed Schizophrenics to have sometinh like Disassociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder), because “Schizophrenia” is used by non-experts, inaccurately, to mean having lots of different minds or personalities. Such misinformation makes the lives of Schizophrenics harder.

  8. Splatterbottom

    Jordan: “Such misinformation makes the lives of Schizophrenics harder.”

    I understood that the complaint was about the use of medical terms in rather than the inapposite use of those terms.

    People now well understand that the general usage if ‘schizophrenic’ differs from the medical meaning. When someone describes government policy as schizophrenic it has a meaning that is well known and well understood to be different to the illness of that name.

    Also, I want to make it clear that people should consider the context in which they use words. Calling something cancerous would be crass in the company of a person recently diagnosed with cancer.

  9. jordanrastrick

    Also, I want to make it clear that people should consider the context in which they use words. Calling something cancerous would be crass in the company of a person recently diagnosed with cancer.

    I agree, although it can be hard to judge this kind of context. I was diagnosed a few years ago now. Could Jeremy’s use of psychotic in my “company” be considered crass? And you, for instance, have been known to make jokes of the “uoi

    When someone describes government policy as schizophrenic it has a meaning that is well known and well understood to be
    different to the illness of that name.

    It seems we disagree about facts rather than values here (which is always nice), because I don’t think such distinctions are well known or well understood.

    For instance, going back to the original comments which spawned this tangential discussions:

    Fair enough, but… I’d have thought that wanting to bash someone’s head in with a hammer for being gay is pretty much by definition some kind of psychosis.

    Jeremy is highly educated, sensitive to the dignities of the mentally ill, works in a professional context where mental illness is a substantial issue, and has written about mental health issues quite extensively.

    Yet I’d say this quote clearly demonstrates his “commonsense” understanding of the meaning of the term psychosis has clearly given him an inaccurate idea of its actual use as a technical term by mental health professsionals (just to be clear, I am of course not such a professional myself, but I do have a rather keen interest in these matters and I seriously doubt any psychiatrist would consider the described behaviour as sufficient grounds for a diagnosis of psychotic illness.)

    So the notion that the average person has a clear understanding of the colloquial usage of a word like Schizophrenia (say when referring to government policies), its “correct” usage, and the differences between them, seems a little…. well, delusional.

  10. Splatterbottom

    I can live with ‘delusional’.

  11. @SB:

    “Dictionary despots” … *titter*

    Well, there’s a phrase I’m happy to allow you to claim.

  12. narcoticmusing

    One wonders where the limit is. We see people referring to ‘rape’ of something, with a clear meaning that it is in some way violated or destroyed, not in the sense of a sexual attack. The usage of the word rape in these crass descriptions can and does hurt victims of rape, however, I dare say they undestand that it isn’t meant to in that context – and this is a word that has had a very well understood meaning, in every language, for as long as there has been language.

    It raises the whole debate about ‘forbidden’ words, such as the N word vs ‘retarded’ debate in the Palin camp in the US. I see the word retarded and think ‘someone with diminished mental capacity’ which describes many people, not just those clinically diagnosed.

  13. returnedman

    Yes, I know what you mean, narcoticmusing.

    I see the word “retarded” and I think “Sarah Palin”. Not entirely sure why.

  14. narcoticmusing

    I know we’ve gone to far when we can’t compare people to: zombies (or any other analogous undead); ninjas (vis-v-vis samurai, of course); pirates; vampires (cf zombie*); raptors; other miscellaneous mythical or past creatures; or combinations.

    *For example: time vampire = something sapping all your time – it is methodical and purposefully taking up your time – eg. setting up a new electronic device; automated call queuing systems
    time zombie = multiple meanings, but possibly something that is slow and uncoordinated. Eg. the clueless receptionist.

    Similar, I’ll grant you, but one is malevolent, draining the life from you, the other is merely shambling past (probably dragging its foot) and while it would probably harm you, cardio will save you.

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