This entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. Today's entry is going to cover civil rights, and if you know anything about the Republican Party, particularly the Texas Republican Party, you can guess that this is going to be a long entry. And I'm not even going to get into abortion, as I'm saving that for an entry all its own.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Laws- We oppose government regulations that coerce business owners and employees to violate their own consciences, beliefs, and principles.
I'll admit, this is a grey area. Private citizens and private enterprise should have as much freedom as is practical. The problem, as the old saying goes, is that your right to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Complete and total freedom is how smart alec children protest when they get in trouble for misbehaving, while most adults (of all political persuasions) recognize that freedom is balanced against harming others. So, while nearly everyone recognizes that you don't have the freedom to take someone else's property (theft), while you do have the feedom to hurt their feelings by insulting them, non-discrimination laws fall somewhere in between.
I tend to fall on the side in support of non-discrimination laws. If discrimination weren't such a widespread problem, then it probably wouldn't be an issue that had to be addressed through legislation. But because discrimination is so widespread, there are large groups of society being held back or harmed for no reason other than their gender, race, or some other characteristics that they have no control over, and so the government should step in, as per the mandate in the Constitution, to "promote the general Welfare".
I don't mean to imply that this discrimination is the overt discrimination of years past (well, not completely years past, but at least less common now), but implicit discrimination still has significant effects. Here's a blog entry on Pharyngula that lists the results of several studies where matched resumes were sent out, changing just a few variables between them - for example white sounding vs. black sounding names, males vs. females, listing gay campus organizations on one resume but not the other, etc. In all cases, when all other qualifications were the same, white heterosexual males were found to get more callbacks, be rated higher by potential employers, or receive offers for higher starting salaries, and all by significant margins. Here's an article from the Guardian, 'Resume whitening' doubles callbacks for minority job candidates, study finds, describing, as the headline says, that black and Asian Americans received twice as many callbacks when they removed any information from their resumes that indicated their ethnicity. Discrimination is still a major problem in the U.S., with women and minority groups facing significant obstacles.
Business Right to Choose- We support a business owner's right to conduct their business as they see fit.
Well, business owners already can conduct their businesses as they see fit, so long as they're not breaking any laws. This just seems like an attempted excuse to let owners break existing laws (e.g. non-discrimination laws), or not fulfill their obligations to their employees (e.g. health insurance, as in the case of Hobby Lobby).
Voter Registration- We support restoring integrity to the voter registration rolls and reducing voter fraud. We support the repeal of all motor voter laws, re-registering voters every four years, requiring photo ID of all registrants, proof of residency and citizenship, along with voter registration application, retention of the 30-day registration deadline, and requiring that a list of certified deaths be provided to the Secretary of State in order that the names of deceased voters be removed from the list of registered voters.
I've actually got an entry in the works that's nearly complete, with lots of references to support it, which I'll link to from here as soon as it's done. To quote what will be the conclusion, "studies don't find voter fraud to be a big issue, and the majority of the few cases that do occur wouldn't be stopped by voter ID laws. Leaked documents, unguarded statements, and other examples make it clear that many Republican politicians intentionally mean to disenfranchise certain voters with these laws. And the actual measured effect is that these Republican led voter ID laws have reduced voter turnout, especially among minorities and others more likely to vote Democratic, with the reduced turnout dwarfing the number of fraud cases they were meant to stop. As one judge in Wisconsin put it, the "strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease." Finally, a majority of Democrats are in favor of voter ID laws and other reforms to guarantee election integrity, as long as they're implemented properly and fairly, and not used as a tool to disenfranchise voters and try to swing elections in favor of the Republicans."
Here are a few of the articles supporting those conclusions:
- New York Times - The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth
- New York Times - Some Republicans Acknowledge Leveraging Voter ID Laws for Political Gain
- Washington Post - Voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee dropped 2012 turnout by over 100,000 votes
...We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.
It's a quibble, but come on Texas Republicans, demonstrate that you actually have some knowledge of the issues you're criticizing. It's the Voting Rights Act, not the Voter Rights Act.
I guess it's not surprising to see one of the states that's violated the Voter Rights Act so many times want to see it repealed, so that there's no opposition to their imposing onerous standards and obstacles to disenfranchise certain voters. In fact, it was this very act that was used for striking down Texas's recent overly strict voter ID laws (Federal Court Rules Texas' ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act).
Family and Defense of Marriage- We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between one natural man and one natural woman.
- We support withholding jurisdiction from the federal courts in cases involving family law, especially any changes in the definition of marriage.
- We shall not recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse, including granting benefits by political subdivisions.
- We urge the legislature to rescind no-fault divorce laws and support covenant marriage.
You can have whatever religious beliefs you want, and you can follow them in your personal life, and you can join a church that shares those same beliefs, and you can even try to influence the church on their official stance on certain issues. But you can't use those religious beliefs to make laws that apply to everybody, since not everybody shares the same beliefs as you.
As far as the government is concerned, marriage is a strictly secular contract between two people, and religion has nothing to do with it. Marriage may be religious to you, which is why you can go get married in a church, but other people have the freedom to get married by a Justice of the Peace without any religious overtones.
And in their efforts to enforce their bigotry, the Republicans here have introduced more problematic language, trying to limit marriage between just 'natural' men and women. Now, it's probably clear that they're trying to keep transgender and transsexual individuals from getting married, but there are also people with developmental abnormalities who don't fit neatly into 'natural man' or 'natural woman' categories. The Republican language would seem to outlaw them from getting married at all.
Finally, as I discussed more in a previous entry, what's with Texas Republicans trying to destroy the checks and balances system of the federal government, by removing certain issues from the courts' jurisdiction.
Overturning Obergefell v. Hodges- We believe this decision, overturning the Texas law prohibiting same sex marriage in Texas, has no basis in the Constitution and should be reversed, returning jurisdiction over the definition of marriage to the states. The Governor and other elected officials of the state of Texas should assert our Tenth Amendment right and reject the Supreme Court ruling.
Well, unfortunately for the Texas Republicans, there's this thing called the Fourteenth Amendment, that does in fact give the Supreme Court jursidiction to overturn state laws that "abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" or "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" or "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". So when you try to pass laws that deny gay people the same privileges as heterosexual people, you're violating the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Supreme Court can strike down those laws.
And I've covered this before, but states have no right to reject Supreme Court decisions, and it's just absurd to see that type of language in the platform.
Homosexuality- Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.
This plank is almost uniformly awful. Homosexuality is NOT a chosen behavior*. You don't get to force your religious beliefs on other citizens who don't share those beliefs. You don't get to force public policy to enshrine your bigotry. And you don't get to ignore the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.
The only part that's not awful is the last sentence, as long as you take it as written and don't read too much into it. However, if they have in mind a situation like that of Kim Davis or others who act on their opposition to actually cause harm, then there should be penalties.
* - Frankly, whether or not homosexuality is a chosen behavior should make no difference concerning laws. Whatever two consenting adults want to do is their choice. It's just frustrating to see the Texas Republicans make such an erroneous statement. How can anybody come up with effective laws if they're not based in reality? (Plus I know that for me when I was still religious, recognizing that homosexuality wasn't a choice did make a big difference in how I saw it.)
Counseling and Therapy- No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to sexual orientation change efforts for self-motivated youth and adults.
This is slightly less bad than similar passages from previous platforms, but still pretty bad. Here's an informative article from the Human Rights Campaign, The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. Quoting a report by the American Psychological Association, they stated, "that the 'results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE.' In addition, the task force found that 'there are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom.' " So, there's no sound evidence that this 'therapy' even works, and no conclusive evidence on the risks, although as stated later in the article, there are "anecdotal claims of psychological harm". I have no legal objection to adults who want to put themselves through such treatments (even if on moral grounds I would implore them not to), but it's simply irresponsible to allow minors to be subjected to such unknown risks.
Gender Identity- We urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals' use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.
Do these Republicans really want Texas to end up like North Carolina, facing boycotts and economic fallout from their bigoted bathroom bill (North Carolina Starts To Face Real Economic Consequences For Anti-LGBT Law (Updated))?
And that's just the selfish pragmatic view without thinking about the human side of it. The North Carolina bill is causing real hardship to transgender people. Here's an article, What it's like to live under North Carolina's bathroom law if you're transgender. There's no easy choice for a transgender person. If, for example, they're biologically female but identify as male, then that means the only legal bathroom for them is the ladies room. So, as a man, in order to use a public restroom, they have to walk into the ladies room, making for an extremely awkward situation. Or, they could break the law and use the mens room. Or, as a lot of transgender people are doing, they can be very careful about how much fluid they drink so that they won't have to use a restroom in public. That's just insane, to put that type of pressure on citizens just to use the bathroom.
And who in the hell in a public restroom is inspecting other visitors to see what their biological sex is, anyway? That would be disturbing.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities- Local, state, or federal laws, regulations, or policies that limit parental rights in the rearing of both biological and adopted children shall not be enacted. Parents have the God given right and responsibility to direct and guide their children's moral education.
This gets into some grey areas of rights vs. responsibilities, but I see raising a child as primarily a responsibility, and not so much a right. Children are not property. Parents don't own them. Children are their own individuals, citizens of this nation, and entitled to all the same protections as other citizens - moreso, in fact, since they're too young to protect themselves. Parents usually are the best ones to raise their own children, but this isn't unquestionable, and doesn't grant the parents carte blanche. As long as parents are acting in the best interests of the children, they should continue to raise them. But when parents' actions go against the child's best interests, then it is the duty of the government to protect those children, up to and including taking the children away from the parents in the most extreme cases. And invoking religion is not an excuse to get around these responsibilities.
We oppose any government agency from forcing faith-based adoption or foster care organizations to place children with same-sex couples.
Well, if the faith-based organization is receiving taxpayer funds, then it needs to represent all taxpayers, same-sex couples included. That shouldn't be controversial at all. And while I think it would be immoral for a completely privately funded organization to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, I can see there being more debate on that.
Gambling- We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling.
"Liberty! Freedom! Individual rights! Unless it's an issue I disagree with personally, in which case it should be banned." Why should we stop adults from spending their money how they want? Talk about a nanny state.
Women in Combat- We oppose the use of women in military combat units.
I would agree that standards should not be changed to accomodate women in combat units, but if a woman wants to risk her own life to defend this nation, and is just as qualified as male counterparts, why shouldn't she be allowed to? Of course, on average men have more muscle mass and all that entails, but that's only on average, and there's a lot of variation between individuals of both sexes. I know that when I go to the gym, there are a few women there who would definitely beat me in any type of fitness test. Really, it seems like such a no-brainer to me to allow qualified women with a desire to do so to enter combat units, that there's not much else that needs to be said. So, I'll just link to this article from Mother Jones, Soldiers Blow Up 5 Myths About Women in Combat.
Gender Norming in the Military- We oppose gender norming in the military.
Well, there's gender norming, then there's gender norming. As I already wrote up above, I don't think standards for combat units should be changed just to make it easier for more women to pass the standards. I expect women to always be a minority in combat units because of this. But I've also read a few articles decrying the evils of gender norming, such as this one, The Disaster of 'Gender Norming' Ground Combat, which although it raises some legitimate points, also had a problem with this statement from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, "If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it, the burden is then on the service to come and explain to the secretary, 'Why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?' "
Let me pause to tell a short anecdote. I have a friend in the Air Force who's one of the most fit guys I know. He's been over to my house for pool parties, and it's pretty obvious that he's in very good shape (it's almost embarassing the way my sisters-in-law ogle him). But he's a big guy - not fat at all, just a large frame. And the Air Force has a hard and fast upper limit on waist size - 39", while my friend is normally a bit bigger than that. So, every time he came up for his PT test, he had to go on a crash diet AND wear a rubber suit to sweat off as much water as he could prior to getting his waist measured. It was unhealthy, and it was completely ludicrous to think that he wasn't fit enough the rest of the year when his waist was bigger than 39", but that was the standard.
The point is, some standards in the military are arbitrary and not really reflective of what's needed for effective soldiers. So, even if women not being able to pass certain standards is just the impetus to make military leaders re-examine some of those standards, that's not such a bad thing, even if some critics are going to try to deride it as gender norming. And for the standards that really do need to be what they've always been, then by all means keep them the same.
So, there were lots of planks pushing back against many of the gains that the civil rights movement has achieved, which I guess isn't so surprising coming from Texas Republicans, even if it is disappointing and frustrating. What should be more surprising coming from the platform of a major party is how much of the content was factually wrong, illegal, or unconstitutional. You shouldn't expect that type of nonsense in a party platform. But, given the direction the Republican Party has been going, and given that I've read the platform for several years now, I can't say that I was really all that shocked.