Right Wing Bigotry

Michael J. Totten condemns a unanimous vote by the commissioners
of Rhea County, Tennessee to “introduce legislation amending Tennessee’s criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.”

How, exactly, do these people expect to implement this law should it ever come to pass? Would there be a central database somewhere that keeps track of all the gay names? Would property be confiscated?

What, I might ask, would conservatives think if Berkeley tried to pull a stunt like this to keep Christians out?

This is worse, actually, than mere bigotry. This is the sort of religious control freakery I expect to see in Iran.

Clearly, such a law has no chance of passing; this is a political stunt by local lawmakers that one guesses would be quite popular in an ultra-conservative community.

I’m not quite sure what it is that “crimes against nature” entails. Such a law would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutionally vague and, in light of last term’s ruling against the Texas sodomy law, would certainly be ruled unconstitutional on privacy grounds as well. But I’d note that, as recently as 1986, the Supreme Court held sodomy laws to be within the power of localities.

I agree with Michael that this proposed legislation is bigoted and think it’s horrible public policy for a variety of reasons. But I don’t think it’s comparable in any way to the fundamentalist regime in Iran. A law in Berkeley to keep Christians out would obviously be a violation of the Establishment Clause. But Christians–and atheists, for that matter–have a perfect right to seek to pass legislation regulating conduct that violates their mores, regardless of whether they’re religiously motivated. Religious people have as much right to try to shape public policy as labor unions, trial lawyers, corporations, and other interest groups.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Many states have “crimes against nature” laws, it is a common term.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’m noticing that, to find an actual, honest-to-goodness example of bigotry against gays, we have to go to a county commission meeting somewhere in Tennessee — where the home legislator lives in a town named Wartburg.

    As for “crimes against nature,” I suppose this would include levitation, time travel and moving faster than the speed of light?

  3. Kevin,

    That was a pretty funny comment. Lots of people get fired from their jobs for being gay.

    I suppose that doesn’t count.

  4. Lots of people are denied access to their children because they are gay.

    Lots of people, even those with all the documentation in order, get denied access to their partners accounts or hospital visitation, because they are gay and some judge doesn’t think of them as a family with a valid claim.

    I can’t give my husband my property when I die without him having to pay a plethora of tax on it – because I am gay.

    And, if he dies, even though we have everything signed and sealed, his parents could make a claim for his property. And they could easily win in Georgia – where judges wouldn’t be very sympathetic to a couple of homos shacking up.

    But I suppose all those examples would escape you too. You don’t know about these things, because they don’t get reported widely. All you need to do is go to a couple gay news sites like the Advocate, PlanetOut, or 365gay.com to see these kinds of things happening all the time.

    But if all you do is read the mainstream press or NewsMax, then, no, you won’t see examples of discrimination – except the “wild and whacky” stuff happening in Rhea county that people think is funny.

  5. CGHill says:

    Rhea County comes by this sort of thing more or less naturally; it was the site of the Scopes trial in 1925. (John T. Scopes, you’ll remember, was convicted of teaching evolution in a Dayton school; presumably the place hasn’t evolved any in the past seventy-nine years.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, local communities don’t have the right to pass their own laws and regulations. They should have to pander to the miniscule number of people who call themselves “gay” and don’t live in their community. Let’s force our views on them, which we know are correct, and if they don’t like it, let’s shoot them!

  7. Anonymous says:

    > Lots of people get fired from their jobs for
    > being gay.

    How does your employer know your sexual orientation? Does he read minds? Follow you home and see who you date?

    The only way someone KNOWS your sexual orientation, whether you like people of the same sex, barn animals, or hamsters, is if you tell them or make a big deal of it. And if you want to work for someone who has views that are anathema to you, should that be your problem or theirs? Aren’t there plenty of companies out there that not only don’t disciminate, but provide benefits to “partners” (Disney and lots of others).

    But hey, like the comment above, this is about forcing your viewpoint on others.

  8. McGehee says:

    Lots of people get fired from their jobs for being gay.

    I keep hearing that it’s true. I never seem to hear of any actual cases though.

  9. Kevin,

    That’s because you are selective in what ou read. How many gay publications do you read regularly?

  10. In theory, not being fired for being gay sounds hard to do if you aren’t a “flamer.” In practice, it might be pretty easy, especially if you’re a guy. In my estimation, straight men talk about women/sex about every five minutes. Those who don’t join in are bound to be pegged as “stiffs.” Or queers.

    The finding-out part is actually pretty easy. The what-do-once-you-know could (should) be harder.