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Indiana and Arkansas Retreat From Hate Laws. Florida Plows Ahead.

| April 3, 2015

The bigotry of Westboro Baptist Church followers has gone mainstream and into state legislatures. (cometstarmoon)

The bigotry of Westboro Baptist Church followers has gone mainstream and into state legislatures. (cometstarmoon)

Not long before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional, Earl Warren, the chief justice, was at the White House for a stag party. President Eisenhower didn’t know how the court would rule. He was never in favor of desegregation. He worried that Warren was, and justly so: Warren was busy convincing even the court’s crustiest segregationists to join in, for the good of the nation.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive Eisenhower had odd notions of the good of the nation. On matters of race, a Warren biographer wrote, “Eisenhower was a dunce.”

The president took Warren aside and, referring to his guests, who included some of the South’s most enthusiastic white supremacists, told the Chief Justice of the United States: “These are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.” When Warren, a Republican whom Eisenhower had appointed to the court, heard that remark, he was probably glad he’d voted for Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower never changed his mind, never endorsed the Brown decision and never spoke against segregation. That smugness in the face of history helped make desegregation so difficult to achieve for the next six years of his presidency, providing as it did aid and comfort to southern governors and senators dressing up Jim Crow in “states’ rights”’ drag. (Three years after the Brown decision, the historian Robert Caro documented, just 4,600 black children were attending integrated schools in the former Confederacy states.)

It’s the sort of attitude that that led Roy Wilkins, who headed the NAACP for 22 years, to say that “Eisenhower was a fine general and a good, decent man; but if he had fought World War II the way he fought for civil rights, we would all be speaking German today.”


The kind of outright racism Eisenhower and his friends could show and use to win elections in their day  is unthinkable today. Current-vintage bigots at least have the good graces to invent new parties and pretend to complain about things they could care less about, like health care or deficits, when they’re really saying they can’t stomach having a Negro in the White House. Tea party fraternities and sororities, when they mattered, were made up overwhelmingly of that selfish generation of boomers who have benefited from government programs more than any generation in history. They pretended to speak for small government from behind their Medicare barricades, their Social Security blankets, their mortgage deductions and their token taxes while claiming heartburn over the deficits their own indulgence for borrow-as-you-go had run up since the senility of the Reagan years.

It got old. It got to be a parody, like Sarah Palin’s death panels. Or rather, like Sarah Palin. And for a while, that’s where it ended. Palin got her gun-slinging Fox show and we got peace. There was a moment there in 2012, when an Obama second term looked inevitable and Jim Crow’s grandchildren were so desperate for Xanax that it looked as if the culture of intolerance really had turned a corner.

But then Joe Biden had to open his big mouth and endorse gay marriage, forcing Obama, who’d been as much of a dunce on that as Eisenhower was on race, to follow. Before you knew it the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional a weird federal law that had defined marriage kind of like the Inquisition defined who went to heaven and who went to hell. And before you knew it 35 states legalized gay marriage. Those include, by some miracle worth every sighting of a weeping Virgin Mary, Florida.


The bigotry of nut-jobs insulting gays at soldiers’ funerals has gone mainstream, all the way into state legislatures and the pro-family Christian lobby.


The bigots were joyous. They had a new battle to fight. All sorts of groups with the word “family” in their title saw god’s gift of a fund-raising bonanza. They got together to fight gays’ attempts to finally get a chance to form families under the law, not just under cover. There’s been nothing subtle about the orchestrated backlash, not least in Florida, where one House member, Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who has just the sort of little girls Eisenhower wanted protected from big Negroes, has suddenly become obsessed with policing bathrooms. He keeps invoking his girls as the reason, dismissing the thick tome of laws already written to deal with bathroom crimes. He’s been peddling a bill that would forbid transgender people from using public rest rooms without proof that they’ve changed their sex. Violators would be prosecuted. Businesses or public agencies that enable violations could be sued. Artiles says it’s about safety. Of course it is, but in the same way that terrorizing blacks in the South back in Eisenhower’s day was about law and order.

Artiles’ bill is simply equating transgender people with pervs. It’s the old saw, so beloved of homophobes who don’t know their biology from their pecker but know a good marketing scheme when they hear one, that homosexuals are child molesters. Artiles—whose obsession with looking down men’s pants and up women’s skirts is the perversion he, an ex-Marine, should be concerned about here—just updated the template with transgenders. Like Negroes who all looked the same in the good old days, they’re all fags anyway in the how-to book of hate lawmakers.

Rep. Frank Artiles.

Rep. Frank Artiles.

(This being Florida, where biology class leaves a bit to be desired, I feel compelled to note that, family-friendly Catholic priests aside, the overwhelming majority of child-buggerers are heterosexual, if they’re sexual at all, as are, by definition, wife-beaters, date-rapists and deadbeat dads, all of whom nevertheless get complimentary luxury suites in the hearts of such organizations as the Florida Family Policy Council, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and of course the Family of Man.)

And Artiles’ bill is among the milder ones going around statehouses, even in Tallahassee. Just Thursday the House Judiciary Committee, by a decisive 11-4 vote, became the second committee to approve of a bill granting adoption agencies the right to discriminate against gay parents. The bill contains the words “conscience protection” in its title, which is our decades’ version of the old states’ rights’ fraud: Just as the South’s Rushmoresque bigots—Strom Thurmond, Spessard Holland, George Smathers, Harry Byrd, Richard Russell—signed their names to the Southern Manifesto’s “declaration of constitutional principles” to oppose desegregation, so now state politicians are rehashing the tactical chicanery with “conscience protection.”

Legislatures in Indiana and Arkansas passed hate laws that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay people as if it was the lunch-counter era all over again, but against gays, and under the similarly bogus cover of religious freedom. What they didn’t expect, what I guess even most liberals didn’t expect, was how swift the business world rebelled and threatened boycotts against both states, forcing both legislatures to backtrack a little. Florida so far appears immune to reason, which is not historically surprising, though for all its god-fearing citizens’ religious octane—or Disney’s exemplary church of customer service—you’d have thought it more amenable to the Golden Rule. We’re not asking for the moon here, or even the Beatitudes. Just a nudge of love-your-gay-neighbor karma. They won’t jump your bones. They’ll just be grateful.

A few years ago strange specimens from a place called Westoboro Baptist Church, from a part of Kansas that would have given Toto a conniption, were going around to soldiers’ funerals and yelling and screaming and brandishing all sorts of vile messages directed at the mourners. The Westboro nut cases (who are still at it) hate gays, Catholics and Jews and blame America’s alleged fall on all three, though their message is identical to how Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson called the 9/11 attacks retribution for America going to gay pot. And those two idiots were standard White House dinner guests.

The Supreme Court in 2011 justly defended the Westboro crazies’ right to make asses of themselves. But no one defended their message, the methods or their spelling (talk about decline). They were seen for what they are, vulgar bigots spreading vulgar hate. Unique in the annals of shout-show journalism, they managed to bring Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow together. They were condemned left, right and center.

But don’t delude yourself. Those hate laws from the Florida, Arkansas and Indiana legislatures, that Artiles guy, the “family Christian” crusaders pushing and supporting those laws—they’re no different than the Westboro Baptist Church’s hate-mongers, except in this regard: the Westboro fools never had the power to make laws. These bigots do. They’re writing them, passing them, and most disheartening of all, hearing them cheered by a disturbingly large segment of Americans and their media acolytes. And a couple of them are running for president.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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28 Responses for “Indiana and Arkansas Retreat From Hate Laws. Florida Plows Ahead.”

  1. Jan Reeger says:

    Abuse of power to abuse people. Often it makes me angry. Sometimes, I just want to cry.

  2. THE VOICE OF REASON says:

    You mention “Jim Crow’s grandchildren were desperate for Xanax,” but, in fact, Jim Crow was an epithet referring to a Negro which was used as an umbrella descriptor of those laws that established separate but equal facilities and services.

    Also, you mention the boomer generation (of which I am a member) taking advantage of government programs more than any other generation and who “pretended to speak for small government from behind their Medicare barricades, their Social Security blankets.

    This offends me.

    Unlike the welfare babies of the past two generations, I PAID for Medicare and Social Security. I don’t remember the government ever asking permission to take those taxes out of my paycheck for 40-some years. So I am benefitting from nothing other than my own hard work, stolen from me by the government, and given back to me in a trickle at the end of my life.

    • Guest says:

      True, Tristam shouldn’t have painted the entire generation of Boomers as selfish, but aren’t you painting with an equally broad brush by labeling the past two generations (presumably Generations X and Y) “welfare babies”? As if not a single one of them paid into their Medicare and SS.

    • tightlines says:

      Hey Voice, you write, “I am benefitting from nothing other than my own hard work, stolen from me by the government, and given back to me in a trickle at the end of my life.”

      That’s not how those programs work. Each generation pays for the previous. Us millennials you’re bashing as “welfare babies” are paying for your retirement and medical costs, just like you paid for your parents’. And between Social Security and Medicare, today’s retirees, on average, will get back much more than they paid in.

      Here’s another fun fact for you: when boomers entered the workforce in the 1960s-1980s — when jobs were comparatively plentiful and housing, healthcare and higher education relatively cheap — you paid a smaller portion of your incomes into Social Security and Medicare than people entering the workforce today do.

      So us young’uns, who make less than you did and pay more for education, housing and healthcare, also pay more than you did into Social Security and Medicare, so that you can benefit from those programs, which might not be solvent by the time we retire.

      And of course, back when you all were telling us to clean up our rooms, your generation was simultaneously neglecting to tackle the massive mess that is the country’s healthcare system. Now we’re stuck paying obscene costs — thousands of dollars for a couple-hours’ stay in the hospital, hundreds for a pill that should be $10 — for your late-life medical care. Show a little gratitude.

    • a tiny manatee says:

      Incorrect. Your social security taxes paid for people on social security at the time. You are lucky in that the people that are paying taxes now are paying for your benefits. There’s a good chance that we who are working and paying your benefits now will not get the same treatment when we retire. Instead of whining about today’s young welfare babies, maybe you should be thankful that they’ve chosen to pay for your retirement instead of buying lobbyists to get politicians to kick all of the old welfare babies off the roster.

      • THE VOICE OF REASON says:

        Regardless of how the programs work — and yes, I have always been fully aware of that — the money was taken from me without my permission and I am merely getting back what I put in.

        As for the argument that I will get back more than I put in, that’s only fair because I SHOULD be repaid for 41 years of missed compound interest on the money that I would have had available to fund my own retirement account.

        I began working in 1968 when the combined rate was 6.4 percent and retired in November of2009. The last 20 years of my work life the rate was 14-15.3 percent. So I’ve paid the highest rates you whine about for more years — at a higher income level — than I paid the lower rates. At an average rate of, say, 10 percent, I would have paid in more than $200,000 in my lifetime. To recover ONLY the principal, I would have to collect the $1,500 a month that I get for 11 years. That means I’m working on principal for another five-plus years.

        That same $200,000 that I’ve contributed over 41 years averages out to $4878 and change a year I could have put into a retirement account or annuity. At only a 6 percent average yield, after 41 years, that’s $853,000 and change. At my current rate of $1500 per month — minus my $105 per month Medicare premium — I’d have to collect for 47 years to use up the $853,000.

        So yes, I AM INDEED, getting back the fruits of my hard work. plus interest.

  3. NortonSmitty says:

    I would like to invite all of you reading these comments to agree with me, on both the left as well as the right that there is no subject we all should be less interested in than just where another man likes to play Hide the Pee-Pee.
    And I beg you to consider that the fact that if an overly aggressive post-traumatic veteran biker like myself can show this disregard for the chosen sexual proclivities of the entire butt-fucking and cock-sucking community as it has absolutely no bearing on my own life or lifestyle, then maybe you yourself may be able to rise to my own level of enlightened tolerance of other peoples preferences.
    Thank you all for your support of my personal views. And you’re welcome for accepting my my efforts at enlightening you

    • Outsider says:

      I agree with you to a point; what these people (not sure I’ve got the same privileges with the editors as you apparently do, so I will not call them what you did) do does not affect me. However, there are some people, such as photographers, who may also be quite religious, who may be forced to take part in a wedding ceremony. They should have the ability to decline participating if it violates their religious principles and not be subject to a lawsuit. That, was the purpose of the law. As an aside, what I find incredulous is that we have all of this discussion about someone potentially being denied a cupcake for being gay, yet our federal government, the president specifically, is going out of his way to support foreign regimes that that are throwing homosexuals off rooftops simply for being gay, yet there is nary a peep from the media. Perhaps this whole flap is simply a smokescreen to divert attention from the outright extermination of homosexuals, among others being perpetrated by foreign regimes who we are supporting, and in one case actively engaging in negotiations to give them nuclear weapons.

  4. a tine manatee says:

    Hm. Maybe Florida should embrace its inherent racism and turn it into a business. We could market our state to various hate groups as a place where their meetings won’t be troubled by pesky homosexuals, black people, or mexicans. We could be like the US version of Argentina, where old racists, homophobes, and libertarians can come and enjoy a free market unfettered by environmental regulation without the fear of persecution for their beliefs and with the knowledge that they can shoot a colored person dead for just about any reason at all and not be imprisoned for it.

  5. Jack Jeffe says:

    Another great article! When are the people of Florida going to wake up and stop voting for idiots like Rep Articles. He gives Florida a bad image.

  6. ted bundy says:

    they are not hate laws they simply believe that gays are immoral..PERIOD

    • THE VOICE OF REASON says:

      But, Ted Bundy, they ARE hate laws. Because they try to criminalize that immorality. As Smitty says, it’s none of our business how another man chooses to play Hide the Salami. God will sort that out when the time comes. It’s not up to us.

      • Outsider says:

        Nowhere in these laws did I see anything that called for criminal penalties for being gay, so your contention that these laws are attempting to criminalize homosexuality is an outright falsehood.

    • Ron says:

      Gee, Ted… that sounds kind of hateful to me.

    • Nancy N. says:

      The Bible also says its immoral to let people starve…why no rush to criminalize that?

      • a tiny manatee says:

        The bible also says to not eat any fat, you can’t attend church within 33 days of having a boy or within 66 days of having a girl, you can’t have tattoos, and you can’t work on the sabbath.

        • THE VOICE OF REASON says:

          Manatee: The embargo on eating fat was given during the 40 years of wandering through the desert in a message intended specifically for those people. Digesting fat takes more energy than digesting lean meat and God knew those people would need their energy to survive the trek. Thus the embargo on eating fat.

  7. Sherry E says:

    Another excellent article Pierre!

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all could use only the “loving”,” inclusive”, “forgiving” tenants of ALL religious teachings as a moral compass for our lives and for creating a system of justice that treats EVERY human being EXACTLY the same. . . regardless of what goes on in their bedroom, the color of their skin, their income, their gender, their language, their cultural heritage, etc. etc.?

    It is the “rules” of men, injected into religious tomes, that seek to- and have been successful in- controlling/dividing us and pitting us against ourselves. . . often in horrific ways. And, therefore, ironically against the core “positive, loving” belief system itself.

    Using any religious words or rules to act in an “unloving” and discriminatory way against ANY other human being should be recognized to be against the teachings of any loving creator or higher spiritual entity. Therefore, creating laws based on any “negative”, “divisive”, “unloving”, “unforgiving”, “unaccepting” religious rules should be considered offensive to the creator/higher spiritual entity, and unacceptable to our species.

  8. tightlines says:

    Pierre,
    From someone in the demographic group targeted by these pending laws: Thanks for speaking out. With anti-gay and anti-transgender legislation proposed around the country, reading the news lately has sometimes been a discouraging reminder of how many people still can’t stand us, despite the success of gay marriage in the courts. A column like this calling out the bigots and defending our rights, especially on a local news site with the broad audience of FlaglerLive, means a lot.

  9. confidential says:

    We should start changing Tallahassee and the bigotry there right now on Tuesday 4/7 by casting our ballots for two good family men southern Democrats; David Cox and Adam Morley! The GOP money backed candidates and legislators is what is wrong right now. Help for change on Tuesday 7.

  10. Sherry E says:

    Words from some of our founding leaders on religion. . . this from the dailykos.com:

    Nobody can deny the fact that Christianity has played a huge role in our history. From the first Thanksgiving to the ideas of Jesus Christ that are embroidered in our culture today, Christianity and the Bible is responsible a big part of our heritage.

    However, many conservatives will take this fact way out of context. They’ll think that you have to be a Christian to be patriotic, which is simply not true. Following the more secular teachings of Jesus Christ (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for.

    I don’t want to waste my time listing all these obscurant far-right arguments, so instead I’ll list the facts straight from our forefathers.

    “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
    – George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)

    “In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
    – Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)

    “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
    – Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791)

    “Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
    – Roger Sherman, Congress (1789)

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
    – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1758)

    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people build a wall of separation between Church & State.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)

    “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)

    “Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”
    – James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)

    “There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
    – George Washington, address to Congress (1790)

    “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
    – James Madison, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1785)

  11. Betty says:

    First, religious freedom should be enjoyed by all. Second, because of the amount of religious freedom we already enjoy, there are a plethora of religious views followed in this country. Third, due to the vastly different beliefs in this country, religion must not in any way be intertwined with governmental laws or decisions. Fourth, hiding behind religious convictions to single out a group isn’t heathy for this country or any of the people in it, including those who support it. Simply put, no one wants to be singled out in society and made to feel less than their fellow man. While I understand the plight of being fearful of things perhaps one doesn’t agree with or understand, I think the religious freedom act is a road going to a backwards dead end.

  12. Lancer says:

    Tolerance versus Acceptance.

    I believe in Freedom. This country was, indeed, founded by those who wished to worship in their own way. The founders also maintained that no specific religion be state sponsored, as Catholicism was in Europe. There is not a separation of church and state. In fact, to spout that nonsense displays wanton ignorance: A religious person would be moved to make decisions based on their beliefs. The left uses this “separation of church and state” fallacy to undermine the elections of Christian minded candidates all the time. That’s interesting because they were in a frenzy, not so long ago, when JFK, a catholic, had to fight the accusation that, if he were elected, the pope would be in control of our government!

    That said, the left does have a point that many decisions, in the past, were made based on the belief, for example, that homosexuality is morally wrong. In a free country, an individual has the right to do things you may not agree with, as long as their choice does not infringe on your rights…which are inalienable and come from the creator, NOT government. Therefore, homosexuals are welcome to live their lives without threat of prosecution from the government. There is the, of course, the double edge of that sword, which the left isn’t too keen or sharp to understand as well…

    There are a great, great many for whom homosexuality will never be accepted. They have no problems tolerating homosexuality. They have no problems with wanting homosexuals to be able to live their lives without fear or threat and wish them only peace and happiness. However, they will NEVER accept homosexuality. They see it as immoral and don’t wish to run in their circles. There is nothing wrong with that attitude, we do it all the time: We want our kids to hang with “good kids”. We want to, naturally, hang with people with whom we have common beliefs systems. Many of these people have businesses…and THAT is the reason this law was written.

    There are several people who have lost their businesses in the “free” United States because they were sued for not wanting to provide services to homosexual weddings because of this. It’s a shame because the homosexuals who are engaging in these suits are now doing exactly what they accused others of doing to them!

    The ones shouting that this law is “hate” speech have, undoubtedly, accepted homosexuality as a norm, as something one is born with. That is simply not a quantifiable fact. For them tolerance is not enough…there must be ACCEPTANCE! If need be, it must be mandated by law! That is wrong as well.

    Tolerance, yes, tolerance is the most needed concept in a free country. Tolerance by all. As long as your inalienable rights are not infringed upon…enjoy your life and let others enjoy theirs. As there is freedom of association by individuals, there is also freedom of disassociation by individuals.

    Also, I believe the big government promoted and grown by the lefts boomers is an abysmal travesty. They have written checks on the backs of their kids and grand kids. I also don’t care if this “offends” you, personally. It is a fiscal fact. Not understanding the Ponzi scheme of social security and allowing that, and other, unfunded liabilities along with continuing to grow a failed entitlement program will have dire consequences. But, the boomers have nothing to worry about! They took advantage of the greatest prosperity in our country’s history to revel in the concept of the failed socialist agenda and make it harder for future generations to obtain individual success and personal wealth.

    • Kathryn says:

      These gays don’t want to just be understood and not harassed, they want to be–dare I say it–treated like ACTUAL human beings regardless of their sexual orientation? Oh, the humanity!

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