Tuesday, June 14, 2011

West Bend board OKs Gay-Straight Alliance. Finally.

The re-vote offers a few interesting insights into the West Bend school board, one I had not expected:

1) It would be easy to say that the threat of a big lawsuit, one they were sure to lose, forced the school board to do "the right thing" -- but that would be incorrect. Forget about them doing "the right thing". The truth is it took the threat of a lawsuit to force the school board to do the legal thing. This suggests that, when religious intolerance is elected to positions of power, we can't count on such officials even to do what's legal, much less what's right.

2) Three Zealots on the board (Stepanski, Weigand, and it turns out Williams) voted NO anyway. They apparently succumbed to vanity and placed their amateur opinions ahead of the legal advice provided from 2 different law firms. The law is clear and yet Mr. Weigand, who seems to operate under the impression that his Googled-up understanding of the law is superior to the legal experts advising the district, urged the board to spend whatever it took to take this case to the Supreme Court. When he was asked where the money would come from for this wild goose chase, Mr. Williams bounced into the conversation, like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh, insisting that he'd found lots and lots of money in the shrinking district budget to pay for legal fees.

Legal fees yes. Kindergarten teachers, apparently not.

In fact, Mr. William's reasons for voting against giving the GSA equal club status got weirder and weirder the longer he talked. As far as any of us in the audience could tell, and I polled a few people afterwards to make sure I had this right, his complaint came down to the distraction caused by students wearing tape over their mouths during the Day of Silence protest. Apparently this is not a problem when it comes to students using the same technique to protest abortions. But none of these points are even relevant to the legal quicksand the board's original NO vote landed them in. It's all just distracting smoke and mirrors. The only issue was whether or not the board's vote had put the district -- and district tax payers -- on the wrong side of the law. The answer to that is a crystal clear YES.

In revote, West Bend board OKs Gay-Straight Alliance - JSOnline

West Bend - The West Bend School Board voted Monday to sanction a Gay-Straight Alliance student club at East and West high schools, rescinding an earlier decision to deny the group.
By a 4-3 vote the seven-member board reversed a decision in May to deny club status to the group, which would have prevented it from using the schools' public address system, posting club-related information at the schools, using the schools' equipment and resources, raising funds for club activities and inclusion in the schools' yearbooks.

It is worth quoting Tom Paine's Common Sense here, as it has clearly escaped the attention of the board members who, despite the advice of TWO law firms, voted in violation of the law and, thus, satisfied their conceit rather their duty.

There is a reason why the US Constitution is grounded in what's reasonable for everyone, rather than on the moral values of a few; it's this: moral virtue can't be used to rule people.  As our 3 No-voting board members illustrate, personal morality is always susceptible to overwhelming, personal desires.

Here's Tom:
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue. [my emphasis]
The proof of defective moral virtue? Dave Weigand, Tim Stepanksi, and Bart Williams coughed up fur balls of indignation and self-certainty which they allowed to stand in for the kind of rational and deliberate consideration their positions require -- by law.

That leaves me with a final, and surprising observation:

3) Board member Randy Marquardt, a conservative Christian who's personal views should have required him to have voted with the Zealots, took the time to carefully research the Equal Access Act (he noted, quite correctly, that it was originally put in place to guarantee the rights of conservative, in fact Christian, student groups to be recognized as clubs), he seems to have taken the time to chew over and digest the uncompromising legal situation the district found itself in and, then, he placed his public duty above his personal moral preferences and voted to grant club status to the GSA.

What might well be missed in the flurry of noise surrounding this vote is the courage it took for Mr. Marquardt to set aside his personal beliefs in order to fulfill his public duty. While many of us will continue to spar with Mr. Marquardt's political and religious opinions when they appear in school board debates, no one can dispute his character. His vote throws the presence, and absence, of civic duty on the school board into sharp, and unambiguous 4-to-3 relief.


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