Saturday, March 9, 2013

Politicians and After The Fact Apologies


"The quality of mercy is not strained, 
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven 
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:"
        ~William Shakespeare....The Merchant of Venice

At least so saith the poet...

Forgiveness is an incredible force for healing as well as human progress that many often write off as a weakness. Yet, without mercy and its close cousin, forgiveness, we would fight blood feuds without end...and in my opinion the world is filled with enough examples of that. So it is with some internal conflict that I read this week that Bill Clinton is kinda-sorta non-apologizing for signing DOMA into law and urging the Supreme Court to strike it down. I mean, the man signed it into law, so I should be jumping up and down in celebration that he is going public condemning it....right?. Well, given the spate of politicians that have recently come out to support abolishing DOMA and prop 8 who previously supported enacting those laws when they were in power...my feelings about Clinton's actions are mixed and anything but poetic.


I was only barely coming to terms with myself as a gay man when then President Clinton signed DOMA into law. At the time, it passed over me with as little interest as the daily rise and fall of the stock exchange, something that really did not pop up on my radar, nor would have caused a raised eyebrow. It was just another jab at the gay community that I had come to expect as the rule rather than the exception. Little did I know then how momumentally damaging that act would end up being, snor how it would impact my life and the lives of thousands of other LGBT people across the nation. It is only in hindsight now, that I can understand this law that passed right over my head at a time when I was more concerned about making the rent.

It is that same quality of hindsight with which Bill Clinton writes of his reasons for signing DOMA and of his regret:

In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress....


...When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.

There are many people who are still very angry at President Clinton for signing DOMA into law in the first place. Moreover because he was also the man to bring us DADT. Both of these discriminatory laws were billed as stop-gap compromises to ward off the fears that gay people were gaining rights that many felt we were not entitled to. As Clinton himself admits, just the whisper that Hawaii might pass marriage equality was enough to drive conservatives...and democrats alike, into overdrive to find some way to halt such action permanently. The essence of the Presidents stated rational seems to be that he was saving us from a worse fate and that is probably true. But for all the anger that has been directed his way at being the author of DOMA....is this an apology? I don't think so. Regret in hindsight maybe, but not apology. And yet, an apology... an admission that he made a mistake, is exactly how this is being presented to us even though it is no where stated within the body of his article. "Clinton admits DOMA was discriminatory" is the take away message you will find on most news sources carrying the story.

However, a few burning questions keeps bothering me. I understand the timing of this article as we are fast approaching the beginning of oral arguments in the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8. However, why an op-ed piece in place of an amicus brief were-in his place as the author of the law, and opposing it, would possibly do more good? And still others have pointed out that Clinton actually campaigned on the fact that he signed DOMA in ads running on Christian radio.

The fact that he couldn't be bother to file a brief, and that he possibly campaigned on the fact that he enacted DOMA when it was politically advantageous to him is making this non-apology look even  more non-apologetic. A fact not lost on veteran activist David Mixner:




There is no question that President Clinton saying to the Supreme Court that DOMA should be declared unconstitutional is a major victory in the battle for LGBT full equality. He joins over 300 corporations, 130 major Republicans, over 200 members of Congress and so many more in the long list of Americans, organizations and associations who find DOMA abhorrent. Those who love justice should celebrate this latest addition to our cause. 
However, as with DADT, it is important not to rewrite history in order to make him feel better about signing it in the first place. Clinton took the wrong action in 1996 and he did it for purely political reasons. That is the truth of the matter...
...Like DADT, the President's embracing of DOMA was a political move. While he talked about his pain in signing the legislation, his team campaign team immediately created radio ads and started running them throughout the South. In those ads, they proclaimed and celebrated Clinton signing the legislation.
Political motivation being the reason for enacting DOMA to begin with, some are saying that this his recent article was also politically motivated in that it could help take some of the tarnish off the Clinton name should Hillary chose to run in the future(something I support mind you). It seems to me that old Bill is walking the well worn path of people like Ken Mehlman, Meg Whitman, or any other politician that has opposed gay rights when it suited them to do so and now...when it is becoming clear that a majority of Americans support marriage equality...spontaneously see the light. My husband Jay, in a recent video about those who have submitted amicus briefs to the Scotus, went on somewhat of a tirade about politicians who support us long after they could have used their power to help, all in order to not look like bigots in the harsh gaze of the history:


In the video, Jay is expressing some rightly held anger over the sudden reversals of some of these people who now support gay marriage since it cost's them little to do so, at which point I ask, "Well can't we just take that and run with it?" Regardless of the fair-weather-friend nature of these sudden statements of support, it does still help us.  Even David Mixner, for all his criticism of Clinton's motivations also stated, "Clintons support should be regarded as a "major victory in the battle for LGBT full equality".
And so this brings me to a question I would like to pose to all of you:
Given that an individual has done palpable damage to the gay community(for whatever reason), and now that they are out of direct power decide to issue statements of support(or come out of the closet for some)....how do we as a community respond to this?
It seems to me to be a balancing act of accepting these events for the boon that they are while also keeping a clear eye on the real reasons for their support. Ken Mehlman help craft George Bush Jr's campaign that focused on scaring the public with the specter of gay marriage...then he came out of the closet and asked to be forgiven for his past deeds under Bush. Meg Whitman came out against marriage equality during her run for Governor of California when public opinion was more evenly divided and opposing it bought her conservative clout...now she doesn't want to be remembered for those actions and has signed onto the amicus brief with the other 100+ names (that are also out of power) urging Scotus to strike down Prop 8.
It is deeply conflicting to know that when they had power, they chose to use it to hurt us...and now they are standing there, hat in hand, and asking for acceptance. At least in Ken Mehlmans case he has since used what politcal connections he has to lobby conservatives to support marriage equality. I don't think anyone can forget what they did....nor why the did it. It is hard to stand up and say, "Yay! Now you support marriage equality and now its all good!" because should the wind of public opinion change again, on which side will they be standing?
And so I am split. I believe in giving people second chances..and sometimes thirds and fourths...if I feel that they are genuine in their change of heart. Lord knows I have made enough mistakes in my life and been so grateful for the people who forgave me. I know how necessary it is. But that's the thing....you get the feeling that many of the people now asking for acceptance from us only want to erase the way that history will remember them...not because anything in them really changed or that they now agree with what they are supporting. Hence my ambivalence over Clinton's op-ed non-apology.
Why now?...after so long of staying silent on the matter? Is it great to have the author of a discriminatory law publicly oppose it?.....sure. Will it help us?....maybe. Will it have any practical effect on the Justices of the Supreme Court?...also, only a maybe. Can I stand up and cheer that he's had a change of heart?....sadly, no.
But now I open it up to you. Where is the line in which we view someone who has hurt us legally and politically as having changed...in which we can then view them as that changed person? Do you even think that Clinton is asking for a pass on his past actions and attempting to change the way history will percieve him..... or simply looking to right a very old wrong? At what point to we ever say...it's all in the past?
Until next time dear readers...

20 comments:

  1. At times I just can't stand Jay. That video just brings this frustration out of me, I've had in the past .I personally feel like he feels that anytime he says something it's like it's golden. He only hears his own opinions, and everyone else is just wrong and not worth his time. Now Bryan, I like he's a rational, nice person. Bryan is like Caroline(rhonj) and Jacqueline(rhonj) and my dad combined. And Jay is Teresa(rhonj) and my mom combined...

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    1. First time commenting here, but must butt in.

      What has Jay's (or Bryan's) personality or demeanor have to do with the questions raised in the post?

      Nothing.

      What does the comment contribute to the conversation?

      That's be nothing, again.

      Plus, it's rude to come to what is, in essence, Bryan and Jay's virtual living room to say you don't like one of, you know, your hosts.

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  2. I have to agree in that it's extremely frustrating when the politicians flip sides. I'm not sure how to feel either. I just know that when someone supports us that's one less person against us. That in it self is something to at least not be upset about even if you don't want to celebrate that. I do think that people should be given chances with caution. There are the people that are against and then decide to support us (whatever their reasons are) and as long as they aren't constantly flip flopping I think that support is support whether we agree with why they are supporting us or not. We can use all the support we can get especially from people with the power of influence and the ability to make such important decisions....and if someone like the President decides to start getting rid of DADT even if he was initially on the other side. I'd still rather have him on our side than on the other. Granted it's still annoying as hell but again better to have someone unsure or supporting for reasons we don't agree with than someone who is actively trying to cause harm and working against our community....at least that's how I think of it. Sometimes I like to see it as that they are changing the way they think. Maybe they as a person are even changing. If that's the case, maybe that's not such a bad thing that they are having doubts about being anti LGBTQ.


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  3. Bryan,
    I think you asked the right question when you asked where they might stand if public opinion changes again.

    It would have been great to have asked Supervisor Scott Wiener, in your interview, if he believes Clinton's rationalization of "do the least harm" is a valid representation of his state of mind when he signed that bill. It does smack of rewriting history but....... Clinton is a very bright man and I'd hesitate before challenging his authenticity in this matter
    (his transparency about past sexual, err, transgressions, notwithstanding).

    For my part I say we embrace all of these changes of heart and accept them on face value "with prejudice." That is, we should never forget that they are politicians and public figures and that the moral tenets of their hearts and minds are heavily influenced by their constituencies, followers or audiences.

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  4. I still have a hard time forgiving Ken Mehlman for what he did to us here in Ohio. He pushed our version of your Prop. 8 that not only forbade marriage but also civil unions here and enshrined this hate into our state constitution. He THEN to came out as a gay man!!!! Dave and I had been together 12 years at that time and I still remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach the day after the election. He now lives in a very expensive condo in Chelsea in Manhattan which was paid for by all of the money he received from the Republican party for helping reelect George Bush and for pushing this hateful agenda. Am I happy he now is fighting for marriage equality? Yes. However his actions hurt a lot of people. The state he lives in-New York now has marriage equality. So good for you Ken. You do have the ability to marry the person you love. There are others..like my partner and I that are still waiting...

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  5. @ 1rst anonymous commentor...

    You know...I have been getting really tired of the attacks on Jays personality that have come in of late. People assume from a couple of videos that they know something of Jay and then feel it's o.k. to criticize him for his opinionated nature by venting their own opinion in like manner.

    In Jays own words, he often expresses himself in the manner that he does with the purpose of sparking debate...not for everyone else to just nod their head and agree with him.

    I would ask all who comment on YouTube and this blog to feel free to address the topic presented but refrain from inappropriate personal attacks.

    The cult of personality that has been developing lately makes me profoundly uncomfortable and people need to quite with the "team bryan, team Jay" thing. He and I are one team and that is alll.

    Bryan

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    1. He's just so irrational when it comes to debating...

      ...I wouldn't even want to have an actually conversation with the man...

      He doesn't seem to be at all flexible with his opinion..

      You can be passionate about an opinion, but don't let that passion turn into to ignorance, towards other's opinion.

      And he's a freaking hypocrite, that man. Now making reference to the Jodie Foster video. He say he's not forcing anyone to come out of the closets, yet says celebrities have a responsibility to come out..like um..yea your totally not contradicting yourself..

      Jay enjoys calling people out on their crap, he's even mentioned in a comment he did... when you call him out he goes all H.A.M on you...And he feels free to insult you as well with words such as coward and more..but the moment you come back at him with something like 'your so self righteous', he has the AUDACITY, the AUDACITY , to call you out on name calling...and I'm just like o.O

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    2. Your use of the phrase "That man" certainly indicates that you have A LOT of anger over this and one has to wonder why...since you do not know Jay in real life. Who knows what understanding you guys would have come to if you were not engaging in flame war. For all your criticisms of Jay, I see you acting in just the same way...so what does that say?

      And I will NOT resurrect the dead bones of the jody foster argument. That is dead and gone as far as I am concerned.

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    3. I refer to everyone as 'that man'...
      My principals..
      My teachers..
      Women..lol not really

      My anger against Jay began....like months ago...

      It was a combination of what I felt was his disrespect, his lack of understanding, and his inability to communicate in a rational manner..
      I projected my distaste for some of the stuff he was posting on Facebook..about a certain group of people ...that made me feel offended and some what uncomfortable...and he was completely oblivious to the matter and once again I'm like o.O ..
      I don't want to go in depth..but from that point on I just like wasn't so fond about Jay...like omgosh I understood you but you didn't understand were I was coming from..like ugh..and I tried to get you to but you were trying to justify disrespecting a group of people..a handful of them did something to you not every single one..like o.O So don't go all H.A.M

      Yea, I don't know him in real life, but you can't be posting things like that..it's probably considered rude to a lot of people

      And I don't see how I was acting like Jay I was being real..and I have various references to back it up



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    4. Bryan,

      Don't let the turkey's get you down.

      Always enjoy reading your blog.

      Keep up all your good work, handsome.

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    5. Whew !!! WOW - that was intense.

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  6. I don't know I guess I am inclined to take what Clinton says about his rational somewhat at face value, I do believe that he thought that it was better then the idea of a constructional amendment that was being bounced around at the time. I also personally think that given the climate that produced DOMA and all the other state bans on gay marriage at the time I do believe that if a constitutional amendment had made it to the states to approve that it most likely would have been, and that would have been disastrous for us in the long run. I also believe that like many of the politicians that have signed such things and have now come out in support that they have had a change of hart, that as time has gone by and they have gotten to know gay people and more about our struggle that they have changed themselves. I can see it in the governor of my own state who evolved from a stance against gay marriage to being pro Domestic Partnership (civil union) to supporting full marriage equality and signing it into law.

    While I don't think that their changing negates that votes and actions that they have taken in the past, I do think that we should should support them and celebrate their support. With the only reservation being if it is something that is all of a sudden and if it is something that they are know to flip flop on. Although in this particular case I do believe what Clinton has to say. That is just my two cents though.

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  7. Hi Jay and Brian! I like both of you! I've been watching your youtube channel for a few years now and I can't say how much of an inspiration you two have been for me. I don't think there's anything wrong with being opinionated, in fact, stating your opinion is a really good way of starting a dialogue. Dialogue is a very good thing.

    That being said, I don't really agree with Jay on this particular issue. I think it's a good thing that people are switching sides on gay issues. Many people who are or were against gay marriage were just socialized to be against it. A lot of people worked very hard, including yourselves obviously, to bring the real lives of gay people into public life in an attempt to educate people. The fact that these efforts have begun to change people's opinions and stances on gay issues is a sign that this effort to educate is working.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that you should be proud every time some politician endorces same-sex marriage, because that means what you have been trying to do all these years is working.

    Anyway, that's my two cents : )

    Cheers

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  8. I used to be addicted to men, but 7 years ago Jesus set me FREE! (YouTube video)I made the switch from being married to my first wife by ditching her and our 2 sons to go into the gay life-choice. Today I am FREE, DELIVERED and married to a beautiful woman of God. I won't go back! ALL HAIL KING JESUS!!!

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    1. Greg you ditching your wife and kids was your choice had nothing to do with being gay. Being a jerk and a bad father has nothing to do with being gay. I was born gay and I follow the teachings of Jesus and never once did he condem homosexuality. He did condem Divorce at least 22 times. Not sure why you feel the need to come here to express your new Life-Choice because being gay or straight is a sexuality how you live your life is your choice. I just hope you treat this new wife better then you did the first one.

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  9. Hey Greg..I feel bad that you hate your sexual orientation that you were born with and that God gave to you. I don't hate myself because I have red hair. I suppose I could dye it black but the roots will always be red..well..I should not say that..the whole thing is turning gray. So yes..I suppose you could pretend to be something else but I am sorry my friend..your sexual orientation will remain with you until you go to the grave.

    Addicted to men? Huh? You obviously never found the right guy. Trust me..they are out there. My partner and I have been together for 22 years and yours truly is a very LUCKY man!

    A few years ago Jay made a vid on Jay and Bryan's YouTube channel called "For you Gary." I suggest you go back and watch it. Garry is now a good friend. He came out a couple years ago at age 52. He was married with 4 adult children. He was miserable..depressed... so unhappy and nearly suicidal from living a lie in a toxic closet. He has been transformed. He met someone on Match.com from his own rural town in rural PA. Those two guys are having a blast from either tending their HUGE garden..collecting maple syrup or making their own homemade wine.

    I wish you the best..I really do. Life is way too short. I hope you let go of the phony shame you have put on yourself. But..I have to say that if a gay man married my heterosexual sister just to make it all "look right" I would have to kick his ass!
    Take care,
    Jim
    PS.. Why is such a stellar now heterosexual male reading AND commenting on a website called "Gay Family Values?"

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  10. As a community around Bryan and jay we are,by joining, obligating ourselves (to a point) to supporting them as a couple; after all they together are the magick that unites us here and on YouTube. While we are by their invitation free to be silly (ie: the team Bryan v team jay) remember it is silly regardless of any sense of ownership we have as part of their celebrity.

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  11. Too many times we forget that apologies merely ask forgiveness, they do not inherently counter any consequence of the act we are being forgiven for. They do allow the parties to move forward free of the burdens of the act at issue.
    Mercy allows us to act with the greatest kindness but again it should not be used as an excuse to relieve anyone of all consequence, it should be used to allow us to do the most useful and kindest consequence. In my humble opinion anyway.

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  12. And now, on topic myself.

    I tend to believe that Clinton himself believed those rationales to justify the signing of DOMA and DADT. Whether or not he, in his heart of hearts, hoped for a time, in his own lifetime, where marriage equality was not only possible for likely to pass, no one but he can know for sure.

    However, that? That's not an apology in any way, shape or form. It's, at best, a justification for his actions in order to better explain/support his current position.

    Is it better than having him openly in favor of one-man-one-woman? Yes. Do I think he would change his tune again if public opinion on marriage equality suddenly turned the other way? Oddly enough, I don't. For what it may be worth, I think this time he'll stick with it.

    ~ ~ * ~ ~

    Personal note: I found your blog via Daniel's youtube video where he reads his letter to Justice Roberts. I am moved and impressed by your family. Thank you for sharing your lives (and your opinions!) with us.

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