On the courts, the Confederate flag and Jennicet Gutiérrez

Another day in June, another day we have yet to hear back from the Supreme Court about its decision in Obergefell v Hodges, the case that may well legalize same-sex marriage across the United States.

But another court released its decision in a case of considerable significance to LGBT rights earlier this week that warrants a look. A Sacramento County judge ruled on Tuesday that California’s proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act” — with its demand “that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head” — is patently unconstitutional and that California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris need not officially circulate the summary for the proposed Act so that it could begin gathering signatures.

I was baffled by the response across the media that Kamala Harris’ request of relief from her duty to issue and circulate proposed ballot initiatives wouldn’t make it through the courts. Writing for the Atlantic, Russell Berman cited unnamed “legal experts” who said that “Harris has no other choice but to process McLaughlin’s proposal.” When I wrote about it then, I felt so incredulous that I had to delete the lines of snark and expletives that I had typed up in response.

It seemed like an open and shut case of incitement, unbecoming of the First Amendment’s protection.

California AG Kamala Harris

California AG Kamala Harris

That was exactly what Susan Talamantes Eggman — chair of the California LGBT Caucus — was quoted as saying in the Sacramento Bee: “This measure was unconstitutional, and was itself speech inciting violence, and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment.” Kamala Harris, for her part, said it loud and clear: “this is not about whether we like something or not, or whether we simply find it offensive or troubling. In this case, we are talking about a proposal that literally is calling for violence.”

I was concerned then, as now, that this ballot initiative was far more serious and represented something far darker than a “long-shot,” “kooky” or even “offensive” idea, as Russell Berman called it. In a state and country as a whole in which right-wing terror remains a largely unacknowledged but increasingly serious threat, these suggestions cannot be ignored.

Last week, of course, America woke up to some degree about the reality of far-right extremism in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina as mainstream news outlets acknowledged the shooter’s white supremacist beliefs. Meanwhile, this same week, another black church in North Carolina burned down in an apparent arson. These attacks may or may not have been related. But evidently, both were motivated by hate. In order to fight it, we have to stick together.

We should be glad, for example, that people from all corners are calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from public places and state emblems all over the South. It’s well worth remembering, as Jeet Heer points out, that the symbol was actually resurrected in the 50’s and 60’s as a symbolic backlash to the burgeoning civil rights movement.

In explaining why he thought taking the Confederate flag down is both important and necessary, Heer switched his argument over to describing why the yearly ritual of gay pride is so important.

It follows that taking down the Confederate flag is about removing a symbol that has for decades stood as an incitement to violence against black people most specifically.

This is an important argument. Yet, as with California’s proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act,” many have rushed to the Confederate flag’s defense in the name of the First Amendment, daring to invoke its name in vain.

I assume most people reading this will get why California’s Attorney General should not have to issue and circulate a ballot measure demanding all gay people be shot in the head. I assume most people reading this will, likewise, understand why Confederate imagery must be removed from the emblems, flags, and public places of the South.

So I am wondering how our readers responded to the story of how a trans Latinx activist interrupted President Obama last night at the White House Pride reception. Demanding an end to the detention and imprisonment of all LGBTQ immigrants from deportation centers, Jennicet Gutiérrez shouted at the President — who has deported more immigrants than any President in US history — while attendees of the reception shhhhh’d and booed her.

Violence against trans people, and trans people of color in particular, is epidemic.  There were 1,359 instances of violence against LGBTQ people in 2014 alone, and that violence disproportionately affected trans people. So, though I’m not surprised Ms. Gutiérrez was escorted out, what does alarm me is the overwhelming lack of self-awareness and solidarity on display in this video.

I couldn’t say it any better than Carloz Maza put it on Twitter last night:

Maza later even tweeted a brief but excellent history lesson:


James Neimeister is a freelance writer from Ohio. His interests include: Russia, Ukraine, education, technology, and "cyberspace."

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  • TruthNotReligion

    This proposed initiative is an attempt to impose certain verses from the Bible …

    onto the legal system of the State of California.

    = just another reason why religious crap should be kept away from the law.

    Bible-believers will feel “offended” and “persecuted” and “oppressed” by the above, but … that’s uhhhhhhhhh . . . JUST … TOO … BAD.

  • Bill_Perdue

    How is it possible to be rude to the man who ensured the passage of Prop 8, who’s the force behind TPP, or to the man who ordered the racist murders of 6 Arab Americans, or to the man who destroyed the lives of two million plus immigrant workers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6K9dS9wl7U

  • Don’t fall into the right-wing “free speech” trap: Free speech under the Constitution is about government constraints on expression. Biker Bob isn’t the government, and so is not bound by those limits.

  • Strictly speaking, it’s not his house — it’s ours. We’re just letting him use it for a while.

    On the other side of that, those who engage in disruptive behavior, no matter how noble the cause, need to spend more time thinking about consequences. In this case, Ms. Gutierrez may have gotten a message across, but I doubt that it was the message she wanted to send.

  • goulo

    It is good to see some action finally happening about removing government endorsement of the Confederate flag.

    But the action seems in many cases to be hysterical overreaction as online stores are indiscriminately mass-purging products with the flag, apparently unable to distinguish between racist “Take back the White House” type bumper stickers on one hand and historical/educational materials like historical board wargames and magazines and educational software etc which are actually about the historical Civil War, not about modern racial politics or glorifying the mythic Old South / Lost Cause / etc. E.g. http://www.ultimategeneral.com/blog/our-game-has-been-removed-from-appstore “We receive a lot of letters of gratitude from American teachers who use
    our game in history curriculum to let kids experience one of the most
    important battles in American history from the Commander’s perspective.” but Apple decided this historical educational strategy game was hateful because users see the Confederate flag while learning about the battle of Gettysburg.

    One edition of Richard Borg’s 2000 award-winning historical boardgame Battle Cry (about the Civil War) was similarly removed by Amazon because the cover battle scene included flags of both sides, but has apparently been restored, so perhaps cooler heads will prevail after the initial purging frenzy…

    The internet seems to amplify these kinds of frenzies.

  • If I’m in your house, on your invitation, does that give me the right to act in a disruptive way, no matter what cause I’m doing it for?

  • jasmine amoret

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    You Can Look It Out This Link…..

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  • jasmine amoret

    ✜☯✔⁂✜⁂✔☯✜ you think John `s blog is flabbergasting… yesterday I bought a gorgeous Mitsubishi Evo since getting a cheque for $4484 this-past/4 weeks and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . with-out a doubt this is the easiest-job Ive ever had . I started this 8-months ago and almost immediately was bringin in more than $82, p/h .

    You Can Look It Out This Link…..

    ➬➬ http://www.NetWork/OnlineMoney/ForEver.com

    ❢~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~▐Click▐~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~❢

  • Clark Magnuson

    Do they still have bikers? The Hells Angels does not accept blacks or gays.

  • nicho

    Obama has always dissed anyone who didn’t kiss his ass.

  • 2karmanot

    Exactly so……the martyrdom is so tending now.

  • 2_rdy_2_berninate

    I didn’t expect anyone to join in with her, but I was pretty actually shocked by the booing and shhh’ing. Plus, Obama saying “Shame on you” to a trans activist during Pride?! Not a good look, imho.

  • Don Chandler

    It’s just using and abusing the california initiative system for rhetoric…heinous rhetoric…shameless republicans.

    On this trans activist, there comes a time when our rhetoric does more damage than good. On blogs, the right wingers that hate transgender people or the LGBT community as a whole jumped all over the issue. They love dissent among liberals. Ofc, it was just one voice but it got blown up by the press.

    Another one, I read today that Hillary is not going to any pride events this year. That is fine by me. But someone on the right will blow it out of proportion.

    Another one, with the confederate flag in tatters, several blogs were calling for the gay flag to be brought down because it’s a symbol of hatred towards religion…they never tire of this kind of rhetoric…it rallies the haters.

  • dcinsider

    This is a misguided post. This woman’s behavior was just plain rude. Add to it that many people in that room were honored to have been invited to celebrate the joy of the accomplishments of gays and lesbians on the eve of perhaps our single greatest accomplishment.

    Enter angry trans-activist.

    Using an occasion set aside for celebration, she chose instead, in a juvenile and obnoxious manner, to make the event about her. She was selfish, self-absorbed, rude, and obnoxious.

    Accordingly, the merits of whatever in the hell she was complaining about were lost on everyone in the room, and on many of us who have since heard her bombastic nonsense excuses for her behavior.

    That event is a very special one for the gays and lesbians who are invited to it. To disrupt the event, even if you feel strongly about your position, is to denigrate the accomplishments of the many people in that room, and indeed of all of us who have fought so hard to get us where we are today. And it is to ignore the accomplishments of this President who has done so much for gays and lesbians in America.

    So your expectation that we should have joined her in heckling our President at this event in some show of solidarity is absurd and naive. She was way out of line, and had I been standing next to her, she would have had a cocktail in her face.

  • nicho

    If you want to defend the right to free speech under the Constitution, perform a little experiment. This coming Saturday night, seek out the local biker bar. Wait until about 1 a.m. and pick the biggest baddest, drunkest biker in there. Tell him he’s an asshole and that you just saw his mother and his girlfriend turning tricks in the parking lot for a dollar. You will be defending your god-given right to free speech. Badass Biker Bob will be wrong, wrong, wrong to grind you into paste on the barroom floor. But he will. Then, come back and we’ll have a chat about free speech.

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