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Home / Articles / Views / /  Boulder's twisted ACLU
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Wednesday, October 10,2001

Boulder's twisted ACLU

By
Chaining a queer to a fence and killing him is unlawful. Hating a queer is not. It's a huge distinction in a nation that values free thought. Unfortunately, it's a distinction that escapes the Boulder County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, because its true agenda isn't the defense of civil liberties. Instead, the ACLU seems determined only to uphold popular sentiment and be loved by those in power.

In Boulder, civil liberties are never safe. Petty city and county politicians are always more than happy to take them away in their collective zeal to wield power over the public.

We have laws against "fighting words," that give the controllers a handle on free speech. We have laws against reasonable forms of discrimination by private citizens, such as the law that would preclude a Jewish landlord from turning down a prospective tenant who wears a Swastika. We have a county government that delights in trouncing private property rights, working every possible angle to evade the law.

Part of the reason for this circus of government abuse is simple: Boulder County has a laughable, pathetic chapter of the ACLU. It's a social club, in which good Liberal Democrats-walking lockstep with the popular socio-political whims of the moment-get together to pat each other on the back.

"They're politically correct, mindless nitwits who are ignorant of the law," says Carla Selby, former chairwoman of the local ACLU.

Year after year the local ACLU clowns make fools of themselves and this community. Before discussing the latest embarrassment, however, let's examine something the ACLU just happens to be doing right.

Recently the ACLU asked city officials to consider changing city code so that domestic partners would be considered "related." They want this action so that families headed by queer couples are treated the same as families headed by traditional husbands and wives.

As it stands, no more than three unrelated adults may live in a house and heterosexual husbands and wives are considered related. But two men who consider themselves married-or committed-count as "unrelated." Same with two committed women. Therefore, a heterosexual couple could have two unrelated roommates and a queer couple could have only one. Or, two heterosexual couples could share a home, but not two queer couples.

Clearly, the city discriminates against queers. I've written that at least a dozen times in recent years, and finally the ACLU gets it. The city has no business determining which adult partnerships are legitimate and which are not. Religious institutions and private citizens may have their opinions, and citizens may discriminate in their private lives. But city hall-a government of blunt force-should treat all adult couples the same. Especially in Boulder, which has gone out of its way to recognize non-traditional couples by establishing a domestic partnership registry.

So in rare form, Boulder ACLU has stumbled upon a legitimate civil liberties crusade in which government-using force of law-is discriminating against a group of adults. Congratulations are in order, but it's probably dumb luck.

Now the bad news. Simultaneously, the ACLU has launched a campaign that once again highlights its membership's lack of understanding of civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. They understand the popularity of defending queers, but haven't a clue about the spirit of the laws of our land.

The same ACLU that wants the city to treat queer and heterosexual couples with equality has asked the Boulder Valley School District to boldly discriminate against local Boy Scout troops. It wants the school district to charge the Boy Scouts higher rent, only because the ACLU doesn't like the values of the national Boy Scouts organization. The ACLU dislikes the fact that the Boy Scouts exclude openly gay scouts and scout leaders. So raise the rent when Boy Scouts use the facilities, is the demand of the ACLU to school district officials.

Wow. How's that for defense of civil liberties? The ACLU asks a government entity-based solely on a private organization's values-to openly discriminate by hitting the offending organization in the wallet.

Like an array of other private organizations, the Boy Scouts rent space from the school district for meetings. They pay the same amount of rent as other organizations that have agreed to provide services to the school district as part of the contract. It's called payment-in-kind, a simple concept used throughout the economy.

"They help with litter pickup, they help with overall maintenance of school facilities, and they perform a variety of other tasks that benefit the school district," says School Board President Stan Garnett.

It's an arrangement no different than a tenant who rents a home, agreeing to stain the deck in return for reduced rent. Now, suppose the tenant who has agreed to stain the deck is gay. Could the reduced rent somehow be viewed as a landlord "subsidy" of the tenant's gay lifestyle? No. The values and lifestyle of the tenant are irrelevant to this contract, which is tit for tat: reduced rent in return for services. Period.

Yet the ACLU claims that the school district is "subsidizing" the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts. The school district has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Therefore, argues ACLU Chairman Barry Satlow, the Boy Scouts activities cannot be "for the benefit of the School District."

Bull Pucky. By Satlow's logic, someone who disagrees with the gay lifestyle and picks up trash on the school grounds has not benefited the school in a lawful manner. To be consistent, he should tell the school district to reduce the pay of any janitor who doesn't embrace popular views about homosexuality.

Talk about a discriminatory mindset. The ACLU would favor allowing one group to pay lower rent, in return for picking up trash, because nothing in its organizational philosophy offends the ACLU. Another group would pay more rent because of its philosophy.

What next, Barry Satlow? Political re-education for any Boy Scouts who wish to pick up debris on public turf?

Garnett wishes the Boy Scouts wouldn't discriminate against queers, yet he doesn't believe the district in any way subsidizes the Boy Scouts. He finds the discriminatory practices of the Boy Scouts "repugnant." For the record, so do I. It makes no sense why a law-abiding gay man, committed to the welfare of boys, cannot serve as a scout master.

But it's irrelevant to the district's rental agreement with the scouts. Any first-year law student would know this.

In a letter to Garnett, Satlow says organizations with "unpopular views," such as the Boy Scouts or the "Ku Klux Klan," are entitled to use public facilities but they should pay full rent.

Again, why is the philosophy of any organization, even the KKK, relevant to a rental agreement with a government? It's unlawful for anyone to drag a black man behind a truck, as KKK members have been known to do. They can't do it, or plan it, on school grounds or anywhere else because it's illegal. But KKK members are allowed to hate blacks, and to meet in public. And the school district, unlike a private landlord, should not discriminate against them for their putrid philosophy. Doing so violates the law.

But ACLU leaders have it backwards. They support Boulder's housing code, which precludes a private landlord from discriminating against a prospective tenant for philosophical reasons. Yet the they advocate having a government landlord-the school district-discriminate against citizens based upon their values.

That's a twist of law and logic-one that advocates truly repugnant, anti-American, irresponsible mind control by people in power.

Send letters to the editor to: letters@boulderweekly.com. Fax: 303-494-2585. Snail mail: Boulder Weekly Letters, 690 S. Lashley Lane, Boulder, CO 80305. Contact Wayne Laugesen at Wayne@Laugesen.com.

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