Note: On Thursday I ran out of time and posted a partial piece that was not fully edited. I regret having done so. Here is the complete, rather lengthy essay.

Stefano Gennarini

Stefano Gennarini has entered the theater of the absurd. Gennarini, who has a JD from Notre Dame, is director of legal studies at C-Fam. He doesn’t seem to have a law license in New York, where he is based. But I digress. At The Federalist (where else?) Gennarini shares a polemic titled “How Their Refusal To Tolerate Dissent Is Creating A Global Backlash Against LGBT People.” As you might guess, the intolerant are those who do not tolerate intolerance.

I, for example, am intolerant of the bigotry of neo-Nazis. Thus I am guilty of not tolerating their dissent as Mr. Gennarini would phrase it. This is an all too familiar attempt to turn bigotry into a civil form of disagreement. Bigotry and discrimination do violence to the recipients. There is nothing civil about bigotry and it cannot be re-phrased into dissent. Bigotry never represents an alternative, yet respectable, point of view.

The subtitle of Gennarini’s tirade reads:

Promoting LGBT preferences abroad is more likely to cause backlash against the very people it is intended to help, besides harming our standing in the world, as recent events show.

I confess not to know what “LGBT preferences” means. Gennarini goes on to write:

Nowhere is the obtuseness of this idealistic approach more evident than in U.S. promotion of LGBT policies abroad. Without applying any moral calculus, a realist approach to foreign affairs requires accepting that LGBT rights likely will never be accepted by all the people of the world, no matter how many millions of dollars we pour into foreign LGBT organizations.

What he doesn’t seem to get is that there is no “moral calculus.” Irrespective of religious beliefs, gay and trans people are not immoral. No one chooses to be gay or to suffer from gender dysphoria. International influence is sometimes based upon the greater societal good. We can never make excuses for advocating for civil rights.

LGBT persecution abroad generally correlates to religious zealousness. Most Islamic countries are profoundly oppressive. Yet, in this country a majority of Muslims favor LGBT rights. Indeed, several Muslim organizations filed amicus briefs in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado in support of nondiscrimination.

Spain is an alternate example. Spain is a Catholic country. Respect for the Catholic Church is written into Spain’s constitution. Nevertheless, some of Spain’s autonomous communities have recognized same-sex marriage since 1998. The entire country legalized same-sex marriage in 2005; ten years before the US and contrary to the teachings of the constitutionally elevated Catholic Church.

Gennarini gets murkier as he stresses “preferences:”

It is difficult to fathom U.S. expenditures significantly changing minds in Africa and Asia about homosexual marriage or LGBT legal preferences. But even aside from pragmatic concerns, promoting LGBT preferences abroad is more likely to cause backlash against the very people it is intended to help, besides harming our standing in the world, as recent events show.

Just because Gennarini finds it difficult to fathom (from his conservative Catholic perspective) doesn’t mean that it is byzantine or even arcane. There is no data to even suggest that US diplomatic efforts have engendered a backlash. Promoting the dignity of minority groups never tarnishes our standing in the world, even when other countries disagree. It is hard for me to fathom that Saudi Arabia will ever be a democracy. Nevertheless our promotion of democracy around the world has not damaged our international reputation, nor our relationship with the Saudi kingdom.

We are the United States of America. We stand for certain things and we are not ashamed to promote those ideals.

Gennarini states the usual bullshit hoisting himself on his own petard:

Regardless of where you stand on LGBT issues, everyone agrees human beings should be protected from violence and unjust discrimination, including when they subjectively identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise. But international coercion from the United States on LGBT issues can only lead to more violence and unjust discrimination.

“Subjectively?” He couldn’t resist posing sexual orientation and sexual identity as choices. Moreover, everyone does not agree that all human beings should be protected from violence and discrimination. “Unjust discrimination” is a troubling phrase. It suggest that there is such a thing as just discrimination against LGBT people.

Case in point is the Russian Federation including Chechnya. Violence is perpetrated against gay people at the instigation, and with the approval, of the government. The thug known as Ramzan Kadyrov does not believe — not for a second — that gay and trans people should be free from violence and discrimination. Nor does Vladimir Putin.

People who expect not to be subjected to discrimination in contravention to applicable law are always characterized as extremists:

Sadly, extreme LGBT ideologues do not accept reality. As the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case shows, their goal, domestically and globally, is to impose social acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism even on those unwilling to celebrate it. Inevitably, they are running into some roadblocks.

Where the fuck does this guy get off assigning motives to us? It is a way of restating a prejudice to make it seem less offensive. “I don’t hate gay people but they should not impose upon me an obligation to socially accept them.” It is hubris to suggest that we care whether or not Gennarini (or anyone else) accepts or approves of us. Approval is neither solicited nor required.

Expecting routine service in public accommodations isn’t asking anyone to “celebrate” or even accept anything. That is the mindless regurgitation of ADF rhetoric. It is the simple exchange of goods and services for money. Gennarini is wed to the belief that I am “objectively disordered.” That is a belief from faith. Science does not agree with Mr. Gennarini. Science is based on evidence.

Suppose that someone, for religious reasons, does not approve of an African-American man marrying a white woman. Does that license discrimination in public accommodations? Suppose it is a Jewish man marrying a Christian woman? The predicate for disapproval is clearly religious belief. Discriminating against LGBT people should be no more acceptable than discrimination based on race or religion. There is no logical reason why that should not be the case.

I sense more than a small measure of approval of the repression described in following on the part by Gennarini:

The Human Rights Campaign is enraged that Egypt may enact a law that punishes waving the rainbow flag or otherwise promoting LGBT behavior. Yet Egypt is just the latest example in a global streak of laws and enforcement actions to chastise sodomy, homosexual lewdness, and LGBT advocacy, as the Washington Post reported last fall.

“Sodomy” is a religious term and pejorative. The display of a rainbow flag is not lewd and LGBT advocacy is desperately needed in that part of the world. According to the Washington Post:

As of this Tuesday, at least 20 people in Egypt had received prison sentences ranging from six months to six years, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told our Cairo bureau chief, Sudarsan Raghavan. Four people were sentenced to three years each, and rights groups say some have already been beaten and forced to undergo anal examinations.

Of the 20, some were arrested for waving rainbow flags at a concert, others for Facebook posts supporting the LGBT community, and some were tracked down by police on gay dating apps and chatrooms.

In the final analysis, people are being hunted, tortured and imprisoned for having a sexual orientation that some ignorant followers of a religion do not approve of. Religion does not excuse persecution. Similar thinking led to some of my European ancestors literally going up in smoke starting in the late 1930s. Where is Gennarini’s outrage?

Gennarini continues:

African countries, Russia and ex-Soviet nations, as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and other Asian nations with significant Muslim populations, have all responded to increased pressure about LGBT policies during the Obama administration with punitive laws, policies to protect children from homosexual propaganda, and even police crackdowns on LGBT establishments and social circles.

What he is saying makes no sense whatsoever. First of all, he is offering speculation about causation as fact. Moreover, most of those draconian laws were in effect long before President Obama took office. If anything, they are responding to the increasing demands of LGBT people to be treated humanely. That is a natural evolution amid fundamentalist Islam. It is probably unrelated to U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, repeating the term “homosexual propaganda” without a modifier (such as what, according to them, is propaganda), suggests that Gennarini concurs with these repressive regimes.

In Russia, for example, anything suggesting people being gay is a societal norm (a demonstrable fact) is propaganda. Anything suggesting that same-sex relationships are normal is propaganda. This is based on religious disapproval coupled with the idiotic and false notion that the sexual orientation of children can be influenced by others.

Apparently it is our fault that these folks are ignorant and repressive bigots:

Although socially traditional, most of the countries where the backlash is hardest were never hotbeds of anti-gay sentiment, or especially dangerous for individuals who led an LGBT double life. They became so as a result of the relentless international pressure on LGBT issues from the U.S. State Department during the Obama administration, United Nations (UN) bureaucrats, the European Union, huge corporations, and LGBT groups backed by billionaires and western governments.

First of all, Gennarini cannot provide evidence of causation which he states as fact. The United States should never apologize for championing human rights around the world. Gennarini wants everyone to ignore LGBT rights. He does not want the Catholic Church’s bigotry based on nothing more than superstition to be challenged. There exists no legitimate reason to disapprove of LGBT people. Disapproval of LGBT people based on ignorance is unacceptable.

Some LGBT advocates want to blame this crackdown on U.S. evangelicals who “export homophobia.” But this is simply false. Not only is U.S. evangelical influence abroad grossly exaggerated, the backlash is visceral and from the grassroots.

Some of this is attributable to evangelicals. That’s a fact. Some of this is attributable to the Catholic Church. That, too, is a fact. The Church is the largest centralized organization promoting the entirely false assertion that gay people are “objectively disordered.” Ideas like that justify persecution.

Every time the pope makes idiotic statements from ignorance about “transgender ideology,” the ignorance is being promoted — to Catholics and also to non-Catholics. Fundamentalist Islam is clearly responsible for a huge measure of the repression. Seventh century religious dogma should not be the basis for 21st century public policy, but it is. The United States has a responsibility, along with the United Nations and most of the industrialized world, to promote certain values.

In simplest terms there are two types of people in the world when it comes to LGBT people:

  1. Those who believe that sexual orientation and sexual identity are a choice and;
  2. Those who believe that sexual orientation and sexual identity are involuntary (which conforms to medicine and science).

Whether, due to religion or other influences, people are in the first category, they are likely to disapprove of LGBT people and become willing persecutors. The latter folks are more likely to be accepting. The United States should promote medical, scientific and social truths. Not doing so makes us complicit in the mistreatment of a minority group.

Gennarini states the obvious:

Christianity and Islam, and even Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism to some extent, just to name the most populous of world religions, do not look upon homosexuality favorably and are unlikely to ever change on this matter …

Religious opprobrium does not mean that it is correct. While religions remain static, adherents can change just as most liturgical Protestants in this country and the UK have changed. One way or another we are all selective observers of religion. It is no longer politically correct to murder insolent children or brides who are not virgins. Why, then, are ancient texts relative to sexuality so compelling? The Taliban is an example of somewhat non-selective observation. They want a seventh century society which seems moronic to me.

Under Obama’s presidency, LGBT policies seemed to became <sic> the highest priority of the U.S. State Department. We have pressured countries to stop opposing LGBT policies at the United Nations. We have boasted of twisting diplomats’ arms to get them to back off defending their laws and social norms, sacrificing other U.S. foreign policy priorities and further widening the democratic deficit at the UN.

Hopefully we would do the same thing if any other minority was being persecuted. Just because something is a “social norm” doesn’t make it right.

Most egregiously, during the Obama years the United States asked repeatedly to scrap the part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights about the family as “natural and fundamental group unit of society” in U.N. documents. The reason is simple. Under this standard, international law does not recognize homosexual relations as capable of constituting a family.

Rather than scrap, we are interested in the recognition of families headed by same-sex couples in international law. That represents a glaring reality irrespective of the fact that the Church disapproves of gay people.

Next comes a subheading that is not followed by any relevant text (although this guy is painfully verbose):

The Institutional Costs of LGBT Advocacy.

Apparently the cost is some disagreement at the United Nations with regard to the humanity of LGBT people. The same thing is true regarding our advocacy for Israel in a sharper, more energetic and unyielding divide. The simple fact that some countries persecute LGBT people doesn’t make it right.

At the heart of the Holocaust, long before Hitler took power, was the religious teaching that Jews murdered Christ and are evil. This over-simplifies the anti-Semitism that existed prior to World War I and the Church has made amends. Yet history teaches us that there is a very real danger when a minority group is considered sub-human and that is precisely the case around the world. All it takes is a demagogue to leverage an existing prejudice to political power. Men like Ramzan Kadyrov have already demonstrated how dangerous they are.

Eventually, we get to this after, Gennarini claims that we should “cut our losses:”

The State Department should not be peddling LGBT fantasies as legitimate foreign policy. It should severely dial back the LGBT pressure and reset on more attainable and less controversial goals. All-out LGBT diplomacy was always a losing proposition. It should have never happened. Cleaning up this mess will require significant changes.

Human rights is never an illegitimate element of foreign policy and it is not a fantasy to suggest that countries should treat their LGBT citizens humanely. Nor is it controversial — despite Gennarini’s own religious beliefs. LGBT people deserve to be a protected minority. There does not exist a coherent argument otherwise. I for one do not believe that any human rights advocacy is a “losing proposition.” Gennarini sees it that way because he disapproves of LGBT people. There is no mess to be cleaned up regardless of how inconvenient it is for some of the faithful.

I cannot end this lengthy essay without pointing out that the United States is not entirely a shining example. Until LGBT citizens are a protected class under federal civil rights laws we are a discriminatory nation; at least in part. There are many organizations promoting bigotry for religious reasons. The Church is one of those. Then there are those 53 hate groups, a list that I think is incomplete.

I think back to the many arguments that Robert P. George advanced to deter marriage equality. For religious reasons a very smart man was intellectually dishonest; advancing theory as fact. None of those theories has ever become true and none of them ever will. In the final analysis, George was irrational in the true sense of the word. Religion can cause people to become irrational if it substitutes dogma for reason and factual analysis. We have much work to do, here and abroad if we truly live up to the ideal of the United States of America.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.