As we noted before the election, Lance Berkman cut some ads in favor of an ultimately successful campaign to defeat an anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston which would prohibit bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of cities have such ordinances.
Opponents of the ordinance had a number of legal and procedural objections to it based on how it was passed, its breadth and no small amount of political intrigue surrounding it over the previous couple of years, but the main rhetoric of the campaign didn’t focus on such things, probably because such things are complicated.
Rather, opponents latched on to the gender identity provision and centered their campaign around the notion that it would allow men to claim to be women, enter women’s restrooms and attack everyone’s wives and daughters. Really, that was the campaign. And that was the substance of the ads that Berkman cut. Such claims, by the way, are entirely fabricated as there have been zero reported cases of transgender people attacking people in bathrooms, locker rooms and the like. Rather than questions of legislative breadth or overreach, it was basically about vilifying transgender people and fear-mongering.
Following the defeat of the ordinance, Berkman gave an interview about it and about the feedback he received for his participation in the campaign, which he calls “digital persecution.” He went on:
To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry.
Lance Berkman was raised and trained to hit baseballs, not be an expert on theories of government so I don’t expect him to be a deft student of political theory. However even a basic understanding of civil society makes it clear that the “everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it” thing is what most people call “freedom” and “liberty” and the limits we place on that as a society are “unless they harm others.”
Berkman probably does know that much actually, as the ads he cut all attempted — quite desperately — to point out a harm (i.e. the safety of women and children) that he felt outweighed the freedoms involved (i.e. the right of people to assert a gender identity, have it recognized and to use public facilities like any other human being). Of course it’s a 100% invented harm, the likes of which have never been reported anywhere. But hey, better err on the paranoid side than to dare engage in such dastardly things as “tolerance.”
Beyond that, I think it’s safe to say that as a rich and famous person who is of the dominant race, gender and sexual orientation in our country and as a member of the majority religion in every place he’s ever lived, Lance Berkman has not suffered anything approaching “persecution” in his life, digital or otherwise. What he has experienced is what political scientists call “criticism,” and for that no one sheds any tears. Especially when the basis for such criticism is so very well-founded.