[Marxism] Re: Right-wing fundamentalism and imperialism in the U.S.(was Re: gay oppression)

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Tue Apr 27 20:57:14 MDT 2004


José Pérez writes:

"Right wing Christian fundamentalism" --for lack of a better term-- is
what the capitalists have to work with, and they are stuck with it. And
for that reason, yes, I believe gay liberation does present a very real
and significant "counter hegemonic" threat to the U.S. ruling class, and
most especially in the ideological domain.

Comment:

I don't think the dominant ideology of the US ruling class can be summed
up as "rightwing Christian fundamentalism", although religion certainly
plays an important role in official discourse. The USA is riddled with
ideological and legal contradictions and conflicting values: it puts
separation of church and state in the first article of its Constitution,
yet inscribes "In God We Trust" on its currency. Most Americans worship
their flag and their bibles, but they are also imbued with a deep-rooted
ideology of liberal individualism.

Even in these reactionary times, there have been signs of a shift in
official attitudes toward gay oppression, to a large degree because it
is not inherent in capitalism and does not pose a fundamental threat to
bourgeois hegemony, and partly because it so blatantly conflicts with
the liberal principle of equality under the law.

I profess no expertise in US law but it seems to me, as an outsider,
that regional particularisms (e.g. the especially strong influence of
Christian fundamentalism in some states, particularly in the South)
reflects and has been reinforced by a concept of "state's rights"; for
example, the individual states have their own criminal and penal codes,
while in most federal systems - including those like Canada with major
internal national questions (Quebec) - criminal laws are the sole
jurisdiction of the federal state. This is important in the case of gay
oppression, because homosexuality is so closely identify with sex acts,
and the main legal basis for discrimination against gays is the sodomy
laws. Until 1961, all 50 states outlawed sodomy. (In Canada, sodomy laws
were wiped out in the late 1960s, with a single Act of Parliament; the
prime minister famously declared, "The state has no business in the
bedrooms of the nation.")

As recently as 1986, the US Supreme Court upheld the right of the states
to outlaw homosexual sodomy (Bowers v. Hardwick, a case originating in
José's home state, Georgia, as it happens).

But just last year, the Supremes ruled 6-3 that Texas' ban on gay sex
was unconstitutional (Lawrence v. Texas). The majority ruled that the
due-process clause in the Constitution gives gays "the full right to
engage in private conduct without government intervention". The ruling
effectively invalidated the anti-sodomy laws of the 13 states that still
prohibited homosexual acts. In this case due process trumped state's
rights - but that was the legal pretext for the change. I think it
reflected a significant shift in both public opinion and official
ideology.

The trends are contradictory. Only a handful of states have actually
legislated anti-discrimination protection of gays and lesbians. But just
recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex
marriage, and there are moves in that direction in a number of other
states.

So the USA may not be that radically out of sync with trends in other
late capitalist countries. In any event, these developments don't
sustain the thesis that the U.S. ruling class is indelibly committed to
gay oppression as a mainstay of its rule. In fact, outlawing adverse
discrimination against homosexuals may well reinforce its ideological
hegemony with wide layers of the American population, because such
discrimination is, I suspect, increasingly inconsistent with public
opinion. And gay marriage, while redefining the family institution, is
not exactly a frontal attack on all those sacrosanct "family values" so
cherished in official ideology.

Of course, ending gay oppression entails much more than wiping out
repressive laws. But ending discrimination in legal status is a big step
in that direction. We shouldn't underestimate its impact.

Richard Fidler





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