John Andrist: Culling The Bogeyman From Gay Rights

“Watch out or the bogeyman will get you!” It’s a term parents in past generations commonly used to scare their children into good behavior.

More recently it’s an expression a number of us in the legislative arena have used as a synonym for “unintended consequences”.

Almost every legislative bill has a worthy intent. One of the more common reasons so many of them are killed is fear of unintended consequences.

Personally, if you ask me, I would say I never introduced a bad idea, although honestly, on second blush, I could see why some of them couldn’t work.

My lament over the years during my time in the Senate is that too many basically good ideas end up in the scrap heap, because committees opt for the easy way out in the rush of business, rather than do the hard work of fixing it.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]Just about everyone in our world of today wants to eliminate discrimination. But too many legislators found bogeymen in the bill. Instead of searching for a way to prevent unintended consequences, the committee just voted to kill.[/mks_pullquote]

Gay rights (SB2279) is one of them. Just about everyone in our world of today wants to eliminate discrimination. But too many legislators found bogeymen in the bill. Instead of searching for a way to prevent unintended consequences, the committee just voted to kill.

One fairly good way of fixing it might have been to decriminalize violations.

We did that, for instance, in our laws dealing with open meeting and open record violations.

Instead of taking alleged violators to court, we file complaints with the Attorney General. He studies the assertions and renders an opinion.

In most cases the verdict is guilty. But there is no fine or jail time. Instead he tells them to do it over and publicly spanks them. Nobody likes to get spanked in public.

Similarly, we could bring assertions of discrimination before the Attorney General or a special commission, and they could render orders for corrections or a public spanking.

There would be no trumped up charges and complicated legal trials.

Indiana ran into a buzz storm of national outrage over a similar bill simply aimed at protecting religious freedoms, then brought the bill back and worked out some fixes.

You can do that when a bill has passed, but a defeated bill is dead.

Our governor says he generally supports the principle of gay rights, and would like to have seen something pass.

Discrimination is an ugly word. We know it happens, even though the large majority of us are people of good will who don’t like to see it happen.

But it is hard to “unlearn” things we have always believed. It took nearly a century to really fix the civil rights problem that took the lives of thousands of Americans in the Civil War and we still live with a few Jim Crow remnants.

Today the vast majority of Americans have bought into the concept of providing special protections for gay persons, mostly the same rights the rest of us enjoy. In another generation the whole issue will be moot.

I don’t know of a single young person who doesn’t support it, and surprisingly most of the elders in my new environment also seem to think the time has come. But then, the aging process seems to enhance our feeling of live and let live.

Moreover, the remaining opposition seems centered in mid-life conservatives, who have a fear of those bogeymen.

Mind you, they are still good people. They just happen to have a brain that is wired a little differently — like gays — and they have more difficulty “smelling the coffee” when it comes to altering societal changes.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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