By now, you likely have already heard about the controversy regarding the South Carolina lawmakers punishing colleges for assigning two gay-themed books to students.
The new state budget deducts $70,000 collectively from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina-Upstate. The amount adds up to the how much the two colleges spent on the two books.
Rep. Garry Smith is leading the charge because he claims the books, “Fun Home” and “Out Loud: Rainbow Radio,” do not represent South Carolina community values.
He and other supporters claim, in particular, that “Fun Home” is pornographic.
I am calling bull to Rep. Smith’s charges.
I haven’t read “Fun Home,” but I did contribute to the latter book, “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” and there is nothing pornographic in it. The two books do have a similarity, however. They talk freely about the LGBT community.
Smith and his allies claim that they are merely protecting students from pornography, but I have a serious problem believing this.
Situations like this have played out so many times that we know the score. Smith and supporters apparently took offense to the colleges requiring students to read these books, so they scoured one of the books, in this case “Fun Home,” for what seems like a few “dirty passages” and, without taking note of the context of the passages, have based their entire case on them.
If you don’t know what I’m getting at, then the following tweet from an S.C. religious right group, the Palmetto Family Council, should give you some indication:
Rep Garry Smith stands up for families and wins in SC House today-Here is the vote board on Rep. Garry Smith's… http://t.co/q336rPUoIY
— Palmetto Family (@palmettofamily) March 10, 2014
The group was celebrating the passage of the budget via the House of Representatives, including the $70,000 deduction. But its gloating is much more extensive if you look past the surface.
This isn’t about protecting students or community values. Rather, it’s about what Smith originally claimed before he began pushing the more politically advantageous angle of stopping the spread of pornography, i.e the supposed “indoctrination of students into the so-called homosexual agenda.” (Cue the spooky and dramatic music).
Here’s the rub of the situation: Smith (and others) seem to have a bee in their bonnets that these books actually recognize and acknowledge LGBT individuals, and especially same-sex families. And these books don’t condemn them either.
Certainly, Smith and his allies can’t have that. It would ruin the message so many so-called Christians have attempted to cultivate to the LGBT community in this state.And that message is:
You don’t exist like regular people do. Know your place. Be what we tell you to be and be public when we tell you to. And don’t count on us ever telling you to be public. You have no self-determination because we will define you. And above all, don’t act like taxpaying citizens who are raising families. What do you think you are? Normal?
But consider this:
According the Williams Institute analysis of 2010 data, 7,214 same-sex couples are living in South Carolina, representing 4.0 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. According to another group, the Movement Advancement Project, 19 percent of same-sex couples are raising children.
Smith claims to be protecting South Carolina’s “community values,” but he should be aware that no one asked him to. And certainly no one asked him to send a negative message to a segment of the state’s citizens using the false argument of protecting students.
And while folks like him and the Palmetto Family Council may freely fool themselves when they talk about “values” and “family,” the vast majority of the rest of us aren’t fooled.
We have enough common sense to recognize desperate, petty acts when we see them.