Mad Scientists of the Laboratories of Democracy: Rep. Sharon Brown Edition

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When I started writing a series of posts themed “Mad Scientists of the Laboratories of Democracy” I had no idea what a frightening, depressing task I’d started.  I was interested in the process by which so many unsuitable, unqualified candidates had infiltrated our national political scene.  You know what I mean—people who believe rape can’t result in pregnancy; people who admit to a tendency toward witchcraft; people who push ideas like “self-deportation.”

So I decided to take a look at the Farm Teams, out in the states, where many of our leaders get their start, just to get a feel for how they roll at that level.  And it’s truly scary.  So far, I feel that I’ve uncovered a lot of borderline personalities and outright sociopaths in the state legislatures. 

In a spirit of fairness, I set a pretty high bar, I’m not interested in sniffing out the gaffe-prone or “hot mic” victims.  We all make mistakes.  I’m most interested in the demonstrably extremist, incompetent, clueless repeat offender.  And, truth be told, I really didn’t expect to find that many.  Boy, was I wrong.

My interest now has evolved to “Do people really vote for these misfits?” or “does their hair not ignite until after they’re in office?”  Also, what are the qualifications for holding state offices?  And, finally, who votes in state-level elections? a broad cross-section of a state’s residents? or a handful of hard-core, old-school political patrons with vested interests?  Are state representatives elected to office by attrition and voter indifference?

My concern lies mostly in the fact that this is important because, ultimately, these people are making the actual laws that we live by.  And, some of those are real doozies.

Take for example, the law that one Rep. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) introduced into the Washington State Legislature, last week: SB 5927.  It proposes that businesses be allowed to openly discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, if they feel that their religious beliefs are “unburdened” by doing so, to wit:

Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization’s freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual’s or entity owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience.

This subsection does not apply to the denial of services to individuals recognized as a protected class under federal law applicable to the state as of the effective date of this section. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.

Rep. Sharon Brown, proud author of said bill, is representative for the district that includes Arlene’s Flowers, a business facing two lawsuits because it refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.  [Please feel free to boycott, Evergreen Staters]

Hate-monger Extraordinaire, Scott Lively, claims that the nondiscrimination protections Arlene’s violated are tantamount to Nazi homofascism.  In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, let’s let Lively define it, himself:

Homofascism is a form of extreme left-wing radicalism which attempts to establish rigid totalitarian controls over public discussions and policies addressing sexual morality, and to punish or suppress all disapproval of homosexuality and related sexual behaviors.

Rep. Brown tends to agree:

There’s a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law.

Well, Rep. Brown, there’s a “glaring” reason for that “glaring lack of protection” and we high school graduates call it the Establishment Clause.

As is so often the case, Rep. Brown (and every other Republican in the minority caucus who supported the bill) might not have thought this all the way through to implementation. 

For example:  One Washington state resident, Jay Castro, was pretty upset by the news and called his representative, Mike Hewitt (R-Walla Walla) to get the lowdown.  When Castro posed a few hypotheticals to a Hewwitt aide, like:

What are rural gays supposed to do if the only gas station or grocery store for miles won’t sell them gas and food?

The aide responded with a well-reasoned conservative reply:

Well, gay people can just grow their own food.

SNAP!!

There’s also the problem of identifying the gay customers that burden one’s religious beliefs.  Arlene’s Flowers is in the process of identifying lots of gay customers (and their friends and families) that they didn’t even know they served, via the magic of boycott.

But what about other retailers who’d like to have a boycott with their own name on it?  Actually, why reinvent the wheel? why not take a page out of another famous homophobe’s playbook—one already proven to be quite effective at making one’s religious and/or political “burdens” stand out?


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Those big, grayish triangles? they were pink, in real life.  And, us gayz have already shown an attachment to them.  Just make them mandatory!


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The good news is that this piece of legislative batshit is going nowhere.  Republicans are a minority in Washington State and besides, seven years ago, Washington State Republicans gave the electorate a chance to vote on selective discrimination of this sort and, guess what? Washington State voters decided they don’t want to discriminate.  So do your best, sad revenants of pre-civil rights days gone by.  Society has moved on and is no longer taken in by your quasi-religious hogwash.

Meanwhile, it is my fervent wish that I never see the names “Sharon Brown” or “Mike Hewitt” on a national ballot.  A few of us know that they’re bigoted, clueless, nincompoops, but not everyone will know that.  Here’s hoping that their political careers are short, lackluster and confined to the Laboratories of Democracy.

Posted by Bette Noir on 04/29/13 at 11:48 AM • Permalink

Categories: LGBTPoliticsNutters

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Republicans aren’t *quite* as much a minority here as you might think.  In the State Senate, we have 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans.  However, two “Democrats” bolted from their party and allied with the Republicans to form the “Majority Coalition Caucus”  For their troubles, they were named the President Pro Tempore (Tim Sheldon) and Majority Leader (Rodney Tom).

Since then, the stuff coming out of the Washington State Senate is just as wingbatty and nutty as you would expect.

And yes, Sharon Brown and Mike Hewitt are part of the “Majority Coalition Caucus”

Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization’s freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual’s or entity owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience.

Imagine the howls of outrage should a Muslim grocery store clerk refuse to sell someone a package of pork chops.

@Patrick McKinnion thanks for the perspective from the “front lines.” 

Guess I got an incomplete impression from my Bellingham in-laws.  They’re sort of “old hippies” and they, and their friends are about as liberal as it gets.

Like we say here, in Pennsylvania:  “Well, it’s pretty damn big state.”

@Bette Noir - Western Washington, particularly around Seattle metro - is pretty damn blue.  However, a good chunk of Eastern Washington and some of the more rural counties are baboon-ass red.

Another prize is Washington State Senator Don Benton (R-Vancouver).  Re-elected last year by a margin of less than 100 votes, Don Benton is one of the people working to sink the planned Columbia River Crossing project to replace the almost 100-year old bottleneck bridge on I-5 between Portland and Vancouver. 

The federal government has already allocated the money.  The State of Oregon has 450 million to match what Washington State had planned.  The bridge is a major problem for people in Vancouver that commute to work in Portland.

And Don Benton wants to cancel the whole thing unless the bridge is redesigned to leave out light rail.  (The current plan would have a spur of Portland’s MAX system coming up to Vancouver).    When it’s pointed out that more and more people are getting frustrated at the bridge bottlenecks, his response was that if people in Vancouver got too tired of the commute, they would just quit their Portland jobs and find another job in Vancouver.  (which currently is running about 10% unemployment).

Oh, Don Benton also happens to be the Washington State Chairman for ALEC…......

@Pat McK may I please, please, please have your permission to use “baboon-ass red?”

Also, some of the hairiest conservative brainstorms are ALEC-inspired.  God knows they fill an urgent need, many of their subscribers couldn’t write a bill to save their lives.  ALEC is like the Cliff Notes of governance.

Bette Noir - Sure, be my guest :)

Lord knows we have our share of wingnuts here in MN, Michele with one L is only the most famous. Thank god we had Dayton to veto their shit for two years before the electorate came to their senses and put Democratic majorities in the legislature. Now to undo the damage TPaw wrought.

@S not to worry! MN’s record still stands, intact.  From out here, it’s looking more and more like the one-L wonder is running out of gas and could vaporize into a mere bad dream.

What’s the view from inside the belly of the beast?

All this makes me so happy that the last election returned the democrats to majority power in both houses of the legislature (Colorado).  We have a governor of the same party, so we are actually getting things done here, like civil unions and gun control; both are things that the rethugs used to get apoplectic about - HAH!  Full marriage equality was my preferred choice, but we are, after all, the place that Focus on the Family calls home, so in. your. face. FotF! 

Yesterday the bill to reduce college tuition for undocumented kids was signed.  It isn’t perfect, these kids will still pay more than in-state tuition but at least it is half of out of state.  I would have preferred in-state for everyone but after the many years of the rethugs being in charge our higher education system hardly gets ANY state funding at all, so tuition has skyrocketed.

Get rid of the obstructionist mouthbreathers and you can actually get some good stuff done; we need this to happen on the national level in 2014.

. . . we need this to happen on the national level in 2014.

Oh boy, do we EVAH!!

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