Wednesday, March 10, 2010


One of the stories that been in the news is the DUI arrest of California State Senator Roy Ashburn, a consistent opponent of gay marriage, as he departed a gay bar with a male companion. Ashburn has subsequently acknowledged in the media that he's gay, saying that he votes as he does in order to reflect the wishes of his constituents and declining to give his personal opinions on the issue. Much hay has been made over this, as one would expect, since it provides another embarrassing example of conservative hypocrisy on sexual matters.

It's an interesting little story, but as hypocrisy goes a secretly gay politician hostile to gay marriage rights is bush league. Mr. Ashburn apparently thinks that people of his own sexual orientation should be denied some of the legal rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, but so far as I am aware he does not advocate the criminalization of homosexual acts or relationships. (It should also be pointed out that it is unlikely but nevertheless possible that Ashburn is acting from his genuine convictions in opposing gay marriage. It's not as if holding an opinion atypical for a group you're a member of is some sort of superpower that only straight guys can wield.)

Put simply, his stated opinions political opinions do not imply that he himself is a social menace, and that we'd be better off if he spent some time in prison. Not all politicians reach that lofty standard.

President Barack Obama is an admitted past user of illegal drugs, namely cocaine and marijuana. Barack Obama is also firmly opposed to drug legalization. One could go up to State Senator Ashburn and ask, "Do you really think the country is made a better place by the fact that you aren't allowed to marry someone of the sex you're romantically interested in?" That's a stinging question.

But one could go approach President Obama and ask, "Do you think it would have been good for the country if you had been yanked out of school and sent to prison when you were a young man? In what ways do you believe America has been harmed by your ability to attend and graduate from high school and college without the interference of criminal prosecution, prison time, or a criminal record?

"In your memoir Dreams From My Father, you describe your youthful drug use as an attempt to shut out painful questions and feelings about your own identity. However, today you're a husband and father, enormously successful in your chosen career and ambitions, and free of addictions to drugs or alcohol. If you had spent more time locked in close proximity with violent criminals, and perhaps been raped a few times- or a few dozen times, or a few hundred times- in your early years, do you believe you would be a happier, healthier, and more productive member of society today? In what ways has your rehabilitation been harmed or hindered by missing out on this experience?

"Do you mourn the fact that justice, as you conceive it, was not done? Should we?"

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