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Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2000 / 23 Kislev 5761

Evan Gahr

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Whose America? Here are some election results the "mainstream" press won't report -- THE INTOLERANT must be silenced. Just ask talk radio host Laura Schlessinger. Or most anyone who steadfastly refuses to bend over backwards to accommodate the gay rights movement. Still, it's easy enough to intimidate corporations into yanking advertisements from Dr. Laura's much ballyhooed TV show—or otherwise place opponents on the defensive with spurious charges of "bigotry" and "intolerance."

But in the privacy of the ballot booth last week, majorities of voters again proved unswayed by the general social opprobrium accorded anyone who dares to oppose the social sanctification of homosexuality. On Election Day, the gay rights movement's push for "tolerance" suffered some serious setbacks—rebuked by voters everywhere from Vermont to Nevada.

Ironies abound. The popular vote is a wonderful thing for Democrats in Florida. Determined to snatch a victory for Al Gore, they'll keep counting until the proper numbers are obtained—then pay homage to popular sentiment. But popular sentiment isn't always so popular with the left. The unambiguous expression of majorities of voters opposed to gay rights isn't likely to temper the cultural elite's determination to force pro-gay policies on the populace. The next time a liberal pays homage to the clear will of the people in the Florida presidential election (which, of course, actually isn't so clear) ask him what happened in Vermont and elsewhere. Is majority sentiment necessarily the final word? If the Florida election and thus the presidency should be determined by a bunch of elderly Jews who intended to vote for Gore, but got confused, then why not defer to the unambiguous wishes of the people on other matters?

Whatever happened to power to the people? Unlike free speech and equal rights for racial minorities, there is simply no constitutional basis for the social sanctification of homosexuality. (The Supreme Court in 1986 even upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy statute.) Absent a constitutional claim, isn't the whole matter best left to state legislatures? If the left digs "grassroots democracy" so much why not let local communities decide this issue? Semi-retired Stalinist Eugene Genovese, a left-leaning opponent of political correctness, has suggested as much. But, of course, those views would be heresy for doctrinaire leftists. And no wonder.

On November 7, pro-gay ballot measures were rejected by voters in three of four states. In Nebraska and Nevada, huge majority of voters favored measures to amend the state's constitution to prohibit same sex marriage. In Maine, voters narrowly defeated a measure that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. But in Oregon, where the Supreme Court has already interfered with previous attempts to contain the social sanctification of homosexuality, another measure failed. A ballot measure to bar public schools from any teachings which promote homosexuality was defeated by 51 to 49%.

Perhaps the most interesting developments—and setbacks for the gay rights movement—occurred in Vermont. The Democratic party, which aligned itself with the gay rights movements demand for "civil union" marriages, lost control of the state House of Representatives to Republicans for the first time since 1986. This was widely considered a rebuke to the Democrats' support for "civil unions."

Other election results were hardly a ringing endorsement of the Democrat's pro-gay stance. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a pro-gay Democrat, squeaked by with 50% of the votes. (Anything less would have thrown the election to the state legislature.)

How scary are scare tactics? With his party's penchant for tolerance and civility much in evidence, Gov. Dean had likened Republicans to religious fanatics, "flat tax, flat earth people who say evolution can't be taught in schools.'' And there you have it; anyone who refuses to swallow the gay agenda whole is helplessly stuck in the past. But who is really antiquated? The gay rights movement's abiding sensibility dates to the very distant past, pre-Leviticus, actually. In any event, despite the Dems' campaign of vilification, Ruth Dwyer, the GOP gubernatorial candidate and civil-union opponent, won 38% of the vote. Not bad for a woman likened to both a "bigot" and "fascist."

Anthony Pollina, the Progressive Party candidate for governor, who found civil union laws too WEAK for his pro-gay tastes, won 10 percent of the vote. Does that suggest a majority of Vermont residents seemed sympathetic to "civil unions." Polls showed a majority of Vermonters oppose civil unions. In any event, homosexuality, either practiced in the bedroom or warmly favored in the political arena, doesn't guarantee anyone electoral victory in Vermont. United States Senator Jim Jeffords, a Republican, easily defeated his gay Democrat challenger by 66 to 26 percent. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the only socialist in Congress, or at least the only official socialist in Congress, handily defeated his challenger, a transsexual Republican named Karin Kerin. She/He received just 19% of the vote compared to 70% for Sanders.

Still, the battle for the state legislature was considered by all far sides the most significant referendum on homosexuality. Throughout much of the 1990s, the Vermont State legislature passed a number of pro-gay measures. According to the Boston Phoenix, they included a hate-crimes bill, prohibition on discriminated based on sexual orientation and a measure to facilitate gay adoptions. Residents mostly shrugged. Then came "civil unions."

Acting with a green light from the state Supreme Court, the Vermont legislature passed a law which allowed "civil unions" for gay couples in the Maple state. Since the law took effect July 1 this year, more than 800 couples have said "I do."

Other Vermonters said please don't—albeit politely, and almost entirely absent the venom spewed by the other side. Nevertheless, opponents of civil marriage, or the "Take Back Vermont" movement suffered vandalism and some nasty personal attacks. The American Spectator reports that Richard Lambert, a farmer in Washington, Vermont, sold 5,000 "TAKE BACK VERMONT SIGNS—despite charges of stridency from the local paper. Others did more than charge. In South Barre, Harold Putney's "TAKE BACK VERMONT" sign was scrawled over to read 'take back your hate." When dairy farmer Carol Appleton's "Take Back Vermont" sign was stolen , she painted the modest word on the wall of her barn.

Thank G-d for the voting booth. But as future battles rage, opponents of "civil marriages" will likely remain decidedly uncivil.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


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11/07/00: Hillary's cruel blow to American pluralism
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06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
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05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
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01/06/00: Looking backwards: An anchorman's version of the 20th Century
12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2000, Evan Gahr adapted from The American Enterprise's online edition.