Thursday, March 18, 2004

I read an Associated Press article that a county in Tennessee wants to pass an ordinance banning gays from living there. But it's not just any county, it's the one that was at the center of the notorious 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial.

"We need to keep them out of here," said a county commissioner of gays, apparently under the impression that it's still 1925.

When I first read this story, it seemed so ludicrous I could only laugh. I rolled my eyes and figured it was merely a few Christian extremists just adopting the same tactics as their Islamist theocratic breathren.

When northern Nigerian states use the pretext of Sharia law to send women back to the 13th century, most Americans are rightly outraged. And though Christianity is the predominant religion in the United States, most Americans would probably be disgusted to learn that an American jurisdiction was trying to ban law-abiding citizens from living there. A majority of Americans may call themselves Christian, but the intolerant kind are certainly in the minority. At least nationwide.

It's one thing for people to be bigoted. You can hope individuals change but you can't really force them. It's another thing to legally mandate bigotry, like segregation did. Except as bad as the Jim Crow laws were, they didn't actually ban blacks from living in southern states. (That some African-American organizations are angered that gays are trying to "usurp" civil rights language, as though such principles are the exclusive property of blacks, may be a future entry)

Monkey County's efforts are really the sexual orientation equivalent of ethnic cleansing.

Imagine if the ayatollahs tried to ban Christians from living in Iran. Imagine the furor that would provoke in the national media. But if Monkey County's proposed gay ban were more widely covered, I'm sure it would be apologized away as a "backlash to the gay marriage controversy."

But I'm sure the courts won't do anything if the ban is passed. Because after all, the courts should never interfere with the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives, no matter how unconstitutional the action.

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