Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Indiana constitutional same-sex marriage ban 2: "Rep. Ed Clere, gay marriage and various rights to life."

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

The following was published on October 27, 2010. Ed Clere (Republican) was running for re-election to his District 72 seat against Democrat challenger Shane Gibson, a race Clere won.

From this point forward, the Clere Channel Network has pointed to Clere's stance opposing the constitutional same-sex marriage ban as proof of pragmatic, technocratic and centrist instincts, even as his record indicated a steady adherence to the GOP's far-right bottom line.

Clere's "opposition" to the constitutional same-sex marriage ban, first as it pertained to a GOP pledge of fidelity (below), and later when the initial roll was called in 2011, consistently has been delineated by the representative and his cadre using an ever-expanding series of extraneous reasons, none of which address the moral and ethical parameters of the same-sex marriage issue itself. Meanwhile, eschewing technocratic aloofness, Clere has actively embraced another sticky ethical/moral issue by eagerly seeking to appease anti-abortion crusaders.

For this reason, I've taken it upon myself, in the absence of a newspaper that gives a damn, to ask the obvious question:

Why one and not the other?


REWIND: Rep. Ed Clere, gay marriage and various rights to life.

More than once during the past two years, it has been suggested by State Representative Ed Clere's (R-72) supporters that I might gauge the veracity of his political self-description (as a non-ideological public servant for all his constituents, not merely the ruling party) at least in part by his ongoing, principled refusal to sign a pledge of support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

I am perfectly willing to do so, with a necessary caveat.

As next week’s election draws near, much has been written and gossiped about Rep. Clere’s and the author’s seeming inability to “agree to disagree” on political matters. Much of what has been said is incorrect or conveniently omits facts, but that’s the way it sometimes goes in a small town. It also is both sad and fully emblematic of the willfully spiteful times in which we’re living.

Recognizing this, I have edited and re-edited this essay so as to phrase it in as non-confrontational a way as possible, given my predilection for polemics, and while at the same time not ducking issues that are very important to me – whether I’m a constituent, taxpayer, citizen, voter or any other label one cares to affix.

I’ve asked myself this question: If I had no prior personal experience with Rep. Clere, no back story, and no history … if I did not know him at all, except as a name in the newspaper … would I still write this essay the same way? The answer being “yes,” it is then safe to proceed.

Accordingly, whither Rep. Clere’s refusal to sign a pledge of support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage?

Given the famously virulent theocratic fascism practiced by numerous of his House GOP contemporaries, Rep. Clere’s stance surely has made political life slightly difficult (in his relations with them), and his refusal is commendable (for his constituents) insofar as the considerable surface demerits of a demeaning and divisive pledge are concerned.

Good for him, but only as far as it goes, and there’s the rub, because it needs to go further.

Pending clarification and elaboration, mere refusal to sign the pledge doesn’t necessarily indicate support for the notion of marriage irrespective of sexual orientation as a human right, which I, and many others, support. After reading Rep. Clere’s explanation of his pledge position, as recently proffered in the Courier-Journal’s campaign capsule, it seems legitimate to examine this under-reported aspect of the campaign a bit more closely.

If one is to judge solely by Rep. Clere’s comments about the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment as presented in this article, his position appears to consciously sidestep the concise issue of record: Gay marriage as a pillar of fundamental civil rights in a modern, enlightened civil society.

Instead, Rep. Clere seems unwilling to address the larger issues of fundamental civil rights that preface the very subject of gay marriage. He offers a stolid, utilitarian explanation for his refusal to sign the pledge: There must be legislative prioritization, and the truly important matters up for discussion rightly usurp those secondary topics that might “distract” legislators.

Speaking only for myself, I must emphatically disagree. Human rights never should be considered secondary. Not now, not ever.

I find it difficult to abide such triage when it comes to basic rights and freedoms. I find it hard to accept that the civil rights and human dignity of real, living, breathing people must be postponed indefinitely while we confuse property tax rates with freedom. I’m willing to concede that there are arguments to be made for and against gay marriage rights, but I cannot endorse deferring the discussion. Not now, not ever.

What’s more, amid the prevailing claim that legislative imperatives about the economy trump social concerns, the rights of which I speak surely are something that money cannot buy – not now, not ever.

I believe that without constant vigilance in regard to civil rights and personal freedoms, the whole historic American experiment is reduced to a form of base capitalist greed supposedly blessed by one or the other unverifiable God.

And so, shall we patiently wait just a bit longer for human rights to be magnanimously bestowed by one’s undistracted betters?

I’m sorry, but no. A cursory review of American history reveals just how scandalously long these cynical waiting periods can last, and the lengths to which injustice can endure, when the struggle is deemed insufficiently “focused” by the leadership class, and when it doesn’t suit the fashion tastes and comfort levels of a privileged society, precisely the one not afflicted on a constant, grinding, daily basis by dehumanizing discrimination.

Mythology aside, this is America’s most shameful legacy, and indeed, when it comes to distraction, institutionalized discrimination often has been, and remains, buttressed by the sort of intolerant Christian religion widely practiced in the Hoosier state, which is why the rigorous separation of church doctrine from the secular state is the single best solution to the problem.

And yet, unfortunately, I digress. All apologies.

In fairness, Indiana Republicans keen to avoid considerations of civil rights and personal freedoms in this context have a sizeable legion of allies across the aisle in the form of Indiana Democrats, who generally aren't Democrats, and who are fond of introducing themselves with the self-emasculating disclaimer, “But I’m conservative, too.” Indiana Democrats have not distinguished themselves to any appreciable extent on this issue.

To be honest, the Dems have been cowering knaves, too, and such is the faux, damning “bounty” of alikeness that we reap by having a grand total of two major parties to comprise a dysfunctional political system – and no real choice at all offered by either.

Straight up: It is not my aim to unduly attack or smear Rep. Clere, because as I’m endeavoring to make clear, the looming specter of a discriminatory gay marriage amendment clearly discredits both parties, and exposes persistent educational inadequacies and pitiful superstition among the general populace.

I will observe, however, that Rep. Clere, who seeks always to present himself as a technocrat and non-partisan policy wonk, is openly willing to take a clearer stand on another controversial social issue, one frequently and lamentably purloined by the type of wild-eyed ideologues that he surely is not: Witness his recent “Right to Life” snail mailing.

In the mailer, perhaps the first such political missive financed by Rep. Clere’s campaign itself, as opposed to the steady stream of mercenary slimings from monied interests elsewhere (and, regrettably, coming from both “sides), we learn that he intends to speak for the unborn, and accordingly, has been endorsed by Indiana Right to Life.

It would seem, then, that gay marriage rights are subservient to the economy, but a public commitment to what plainly is an anti-abortion stance is not subservient to the economy.

As such, it is my sincere hope that somewhere down the line, after various legislative prioritizing is finished (if ever), Rep. Clere forthrightly and succinctly states his position on the legal right of women to have an abortion. Rep. Clere is sworn to uphold the law, and I have absolutely no qualms that he will, except that upholding an existing law is hardly the same thing as refraining from support for efforts to change it.

When, as in the case of Rep. Clere’s rationale for not signing the gay marriage pledge, he displays a preference for touting seeming compromise, but to the convenient exclusion of the crux of the issue at hand, then I’m compelled to ask aloud those questions that might have otherwise remained silent.

I’ll reiterate: Civil rights and personal freedoms do not have the slightest thing to do with money, taxes, the state of the economy, what’s showing at the multiplex, or one’s personal religious beliefs.

Human rights and individual dignities are not negotiable conditions to be expediently deferred until we’re all wealthier, happier, saved, or recovered from our raging prejudicial demons thanks to pyschotherapy.

Rather, civil rights and personal freedoms must be established and maintained before all the rest, simply because they preface all the rest.

It's possible that Rep. Clere might actually agree with me on this point. If so, it is my earnest hope that he supports a woman’s right to choose, and permits his view on gay marriage to evolve from the safety of the breach he currently occupies to a place more pro-active in nature. I fully support trashing the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, and I am for enacting the right of gays to marry, secularly, without the interference of organized religion ... and politics.

Here’s the link to Weidenbener’s C-J piece, and the relevant passage.

... If Republicans win the House, lawmakers likely will face another vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. When the GOP controlled the House and Senate in 2005, the proposal passed.

But a constitutional amendment must pass two separately elected legislatures to be put on the ballot for ratification. When Democrats took control of the House, Speaker Pat Bauer of South Bend said it was unnecessary because Indiana already had a law banning same-sex marriage and the issue never came to a vote of the full chamber.

The issue is not part of the House Republican agenda, but caucus leader Brian Bosma of Indianapolis said he wouldn't block a marriage amendment proposal if it was introduced.

Unlike many Republicans, Clere has not signed a pledge promising to vote for the constitutional amendment.

“I believe in marriage. I support marriage. I am married,” Clere said. “But we have a lot on our agenda and I think we have to make sure we keep the focus on protecting Hoosier families first and foremost by passing a responsible balanced budget and a lot of the other items on the caucus agenda.”

The marriage amendment could distract from that work, he said.

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