Wyoming boasts a number of thoughtful and erudite commentators on the Liberal side. You can find some of the on my right sidebar under WY Progressives: Rodger McDaniel, Jeran Artery and Meg Lanker-Simons. There are others, too. Jack Pugh writes and occasional column for our local paper, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. He wrote a terrific op-ed in yesterday's WTE focused on the recent legislative debates over a proposed domestic partnerships bill. Since the WTE has a very hinky and incomplete web site, Rodger reprinted the column on Facebook. Here's Jack's column:
Martin Luther King, Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Charles K. Steele founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. It became the driving force in the civil rights movement. Its principal tactic was non-violent civil disobedience. “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline”, said Dr. King.
I thought of that when I read Laramie County Republican Representative Lynn Hutchings’ crude, brutish, and ignorant comments about homosexuals in her testimony against the Domestic Partnership bill.
Rep. Hutchings is an African-American. It is always breathtaking to encounter raw, naked bigotry from someone whose race has endured so much of it.
Describing homosexuals as dirty, diseased and dangerous, Rep. Hutchings told the committee that sexuality has no genetic basis, and that sexual orientation is a choice that can be changed “through the help of others”.
She went on to express offense at comparing the struggle for full citizenship rights for homosexuals to the black struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.
I sent Rep. Hutchings an email asking her some questions about her comments. I didn’t expect an answer, and didn’t get one.
I asked for her source for the statement “science does not have evidence of a genetic involvement in sexuality”.
I asked her about her understanding of sexuality as it relates to gender.
I asked her if her homophobia was religion based.
I asked her what her experience in civil rights activism was.
And I asked her this: were the principles and philosophy that fueled the civil rights movement limited to the movement or were they universal in scope?
When ten percent of a species shows a particular trait, as humans do with homosexuality, biologists want to know why. In 1993 Dean Hamer and Simon LeVay published scientific papers in which they offered evidence of a genetic trigger that they said was a biological basis for homosexuality. Other scientists over the next few years supported their findings. Still others have challenged them.
Debate among biologists and geneticists about the biological origins of homosexuality continues and the question is not scientifically settled.
Many, if not most, psychologists and psychiatrists assume that homosexuality has a biological basis, and is not a choice based on environment or nurture. Testimony from people subjected to the “help of others” cited by Rep. Hutchings has revealed an ugly form of psychological brutality, and has led to these practices being outlawed in California.
It was the denial of the civil rights comparison that interested me most.
Rep. Hutchings wasn’t around when the civil rights movement started and she was a little child when the great events of the movement unfolded. She is one of those lucky ones who never had to run the personal risk of fighting for her rights. Others did that for her.
That good fortune carries with it a responsibility, however, and that is to understand the nature of the freedom that was fought for, to forever nurture it, and to include everyone in its embrace.
When Rep. Hutchings denies full citizenship rights to homosexuals she betrays the sacrifices of those who preached and marched and were beaten and sometimes killed in the name of those rights.
She betrays the courage of the four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, whose lonely sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter became a national symbol of injustice.
She betrays the courage and the memory of the Freedom Riders, who endured insult and beatings as they rode their buses across the South to witness against racism.
She betrays the memory of the civil rights workers, black and white, murdered and buried in an earthen dam in Mississippi because they were registering blacks to vote.
She betrays the sacrifice of James Reeb of Casper, Wyoming, a Unitarian minister serving in Boston, who was beaten to death with steel pipes by racist thugs at the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.
She betrays the courage and conviction of all those, black and white, who linked arms and stood with each other as brothers and sisters and demanded justice from their country.
And she betrays Martin Luther King’s vision that all of us, no matter who we are, will know the dignity of the Free. That is what the civil rights movement was about for those of us who joined it, and it is what the movement for civil rights for our homosexual brothers and sisters is about.
Rep. Hutchings and others like her have won the day for now. But they are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the future and the wrong side of a vast moral question.
Just as racial discrimination was beaten, so this discrimination shall be beaten. The wall will be taken down, one brick at a time if necessary, but it will come down.