Apr 302008
 
This entry is part 1 of 35 in the series Gay Marriage

This is the final in the series analyzing the debate between John Stemberger and Nadine Smith at the Orlando Tiger Bay club luncheon. This debate was held on March 27, 2008. This will analyze the Question and Answer section, and the closing comments by Smith and Stemberger.

As noted in a comment on a previous article in the series, “Studies of places that have a high “creativity quotient, which attract talented young people to move to these places, show that acceptance of LGBT folks is high on the list of criteria that these young folks look for, when they consider moving.” In light of that, the first question from the audience concerns the fact that fully one-half of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits. The questioner points out that they probably don’t do this to pay more for insurance, but to attract talent. His question is, won’t this make it more difficult for Florida to attract talented people?

Stemberger dismissively responds saying, “We’re going to define marriage as being between a man and a woman…this is nothing new. We’re just taking the statute and putting it in the Constitution to protect it from activist judges. Nothings going to change…”

Stemberger then refuses to answer the question about whether or not this amendment would make civil unions unconstitutional, saying he’s already answered the question, but that it depends on the definition of civil union. He falls back on the idea that so long as only a small group of rights are granted, the Amendment would have no impact…again, saying it’s OK for gay people to have a few rights…just not all the straight people have. Once again, Stemberger makes it a zero sum game. If you get the same rights, somehow I lose mine.

Smith responds to the question by stating the obvious, that Civil Unions will be prohibited. She goes on to say that she does not want people to go to the poles and vote based on fear, but based respect for all families. That was a good point to get in. She hits Stemberger on the zero sum fear he’s trying to espouse by reminding people that you do nothing to protect your own marriage by taking away the rights of other people.

In response to a question about why add the Amendment now, Stemberger goes on the defensive about those darned activist judges again, and points out that in several states they have struck down marriage laws, and that it’s only a matter of time before they do it here in Florida. He then makes an idiotic remark about Republican Governor Crist, calling him Governor “live and let live.” Probably not a good thing to attack a well liked Republican Governor.

The next question is about eliminating the language “or substantial equivalent thereof.” Stemberger responds with the lawyerly response that it’s a hypothetical that’s not before us. (Stemberger is a personal injury attorney which says something.) He goes on to make the ridiculous claim that the phrase was included to make the amendment “crystal clear” because they didn’t want, “fuzzy language.” Only a Republican would talk like that. Stemberger talks about the opposition using the language to create scare tactics to throw at people. It occurs to me that he’s the one using the “scare” language. He talks constantly about activist judges, and about protecting children. Those are scare tactics and code words.

In his closing comments, Stemberger using a familiar tactic, picking out one phrase by one person and hanging around the neck of all gay people. In this case, he talks about comments by Rosie O’Donnell in an interview some years ago. He goes so far as to say, “We can learn a lot from Rosie.” He talks about O’Donnell making a comment about her lack of a mother compared with her son’s lack of a father, and claims it to be self-centered and uses it to say that this elevates an adults desires above the welfare of children…again, trotting the old the saw of protecting children from the horrible gay people. He attempts to make some sort of high-minded ethereal statement at the end that just results in laughter from the audience.

Smith finishes strong and gets extended applause from the audience.

An article reporting on the debate in the Orlando Sentinel said:

If I had to make a prediction, the folks pushing for a gay-marriage ban will either change their techniques or simply stop trying to make their case in person before this campaign is over — because their effort to do so today in Orlando fell pretty darn flat. […]

[…] in today’s performance, he sounded more angry and ineffective. Rather than staying focused on the amendment he’s championing, he called Smith’s arguments “pathetic.” He tried to scare the crowd with the potential of gay-friendly decisions by “activist judges” and “Governor Live-and-let-live” (his name for Charlie Crist). And when looking for an anecdote of a gay person, Stemberger threw out comments from Rosie O’Donnell as a rationale for why Floridians should rally behind him.

Given the general conservative nature of the Tiger Bay club attendees, I’d say this doesn’t bode well. Let’s hope the people of Florida are better than this.

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  3 Responses to “Florida Amendment 2-The Great Debate Part IV”

Comments (3)
  1. John, thanks for linking this posting to my comment about how attitudes towards LGBT folks affect decisions of creative young people to move to a new community.

    The research I’m citing re: the “creativity quotient” was done by Richard Florida in his book The Creative Class. Florida notes that as we move to a postmodern economic and social pattern worldwide–away from industrialism–many creative young folks who once lived in areas dominated by industry will uproot themselves, looking for new kinds of employment.

    He sees these folks as the wave of the future, since they help move their new communities to a viable postmodern social and economic way of doing business. Floria’s analysis notes that we can’t continue doing business as in the past, if we expect to be economically viable and attract creative new people to our communities. We can’t go along the same path, because the kinds of jobs that sustained modern economy don’t exist in a postmodern world.

    The shift to postmodernity requires that young people be technologically astute, capable of dealing with all kinds of people (with diversity of all kinds), capable of understanding the intricate connections that shape the postmodern world, and capable of adapting quickly to sudden economic and social changes.

    Studies show that young people with those traits don’t move to communities that are homophobic–whether they themselves are gay or not. They recognize that homophobia is part of a whole set of attitudes that hold a community in the past, and don’t let it move forward.

    These same studies show that creative, talented, bright young folks are moving to areas around the country that welcome diversity, that have a high percentage of jobs in creative and high-tech sectors, that preserve the environment and have green spaces surrounding the city, and that welcome gay and lesbian people.

    Communities and states that promote homophobia are shooting themselves in the foot culturally, economically, and in terms of having a viable future, if Richard Florida is right.

  2. John, I apologize for hogging space on your blog today, but I wanted to mention the events that transpired at the United Methodist General Conference yesterday, as an example of the dynamic between creative adaptability and intransigent allegiance to outmoded social patterns.

    News reports I have read today (in the Lakeland Ledger, for instance), note that, in a General Conference gathering presided over by Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker, the UMC church chose to “hold the line” on homosexuality.

    In fact, it chose, after a rancorous debate, to accept a minority report on the Methodist teaching about homosexuality that makes that teaching even more rigid than it previous was–adding a statement about heterosexual marriage as the only acceptable form of marriage.

    A blog report by Will J. Green on the blog “Religion Is a Queer Thing” suggests that Bishop Whitaker did not allow substantive debate to take place, re: the two proposals before the Conference. Instead, if this report is correct, he allowed the debate time to be eaten up until he permitted Rev. Eddie Fox, a longtime opponent of attempts to bring UMC teaching on homosexuality into creative dialogue with postmodern culture, to preach a firebrand sermon calling on Methodists to hold the line.

    The implication I gather from this blog report is that the continued dominance of the UMC by conservative white Southern males is running the risk of making the UMC irrelevant to young people who understand what is happening to the world in the shift to postmodernity.

    If Bishop Whitaker represents the view of mainstream Christians in Florida towards their gay and lesbian neighbors, then Florida may have difficulty attracting creative young folks in the future. On the other hand, according to the Ledger, 10 of the 26 Florida delegates to General Conference stood up in protest following the anti-gay vote, so it seems there is a diversity of thought among Methodists in Florida about these issues–though that diversity may not be well represented by the current UMC bishop of Florida.

  3. Bill, you are more than welcome to enhance the discourse on this humble blog.

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