Friday, March 30, 2007

Queer Penguin

By Sam Butler
29/03/2007 2:17:39 AM
Immoral acts
The morality of queer sexuality is officially under the spotlight in the US, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Peter Pace, recently articulating his belief that 'homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral', while defending the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy for queer folk serving in the military.
This policy is an important distinguishing focal point for Republican and Democrat presidential frontrunners leading up to next year's election. While Republican Sen. John McCain believes it is 'successful and should be maintained', Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton has announced she'll overturn the very policy her husband introduced in 1994 should she win office. Sen. Barack Obama similarly supports gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces.
Unfortunately, both senators have fumbled when questioned on their own personal views of the morality of homosexuality. When Clinton was asked directly by ABC News, she replied: 'I am going to leave that to others to conclude.' Obama, meanwhile, refused to articulate his position, saying only that Pace should not be expressing personal opinions on the subject.
In her defence, Clinton clarified her response, later saying point blank: 'I do not believe homosexuality is immoral.' But you have to wonder why she was incapable of expressing this opinion the first time round. New York academic Kenneth Sherrill suggested that both Clinton and Obama were 'afraid of backlash. If you look at the polling data, you find a fairly large percentage of Americans think homosexuality is wrong even though they support equal rights'.
Unfortunately, the strangehold of the Rancid Religious Right on the US is such that even relative moderates almost immediately need to qualify any expressions of support for queer people and same-sex couples, or baulk at condemning voters for holding homophobic beliefs. Imagine how much greater the outrage would have been, for example, if Clinton had left 'to others to conclude' whether or not African-Americans were immoral or inherently prone to crime. While she eventually did the right thing expressing a proper personal opinion, it says a lot that the instinctive reaction from such a shrewd political animal as she is, was to implicitly condone, rather than condemn outright homophobic prejudice.
Not that Australian politicians are much better. John Howard especially is a master of dog-whistling and suggesting by stealth that Australians are perfectly entitled to hold sexist, racist or homophobic prejudices, even though he may claim he personally does not. It's a trademark of any canny politician to vindicate voters' right to think and act however they want, no matter how inappropriate, rather than lead by example.
This, in fact, is genuine immorality.

Sam Butler:

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