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    November 30, 2006

    Top 10 Gay TV Shows

    Posted by: Chris

    Some say Key West has gone ex-gay, what with the overwhelming number of straight cruise ships that now dock at the quirky island.  But come Jan. 1, residents and tourists there will nonetheless be treated to the first-ever broadcast gay TV channel.  David Letterman was quick to pounce on the news, and suggest some programming options:

    10. "How I Met Your Brother"
    9. "Gary's Anatomy"
    8. "Desperate Poolboys"
    7. "Everybody Loves Raymond...Especially Steve"
    6. "The King Of Queens"
    5. "Not-So-Smallville"
    4. "I Dream Of Gene"
    3. "Gays Of Our Lives"
    2. "My Name Is Earl And I Like Construction Workers"
    1. "His Deal Or No Deal"

    The marketing folks at WGAY-TV (yes, those are the call letters), were no doubt thrilled.

    Light up for World AIDS Day

    Posted by: Chris

    Lighttounite Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day, and a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the virus is still out there, still spreading, still incurable and still killing — even here in the U.S. Americans have been inundated in recent years with mostly good news about new HIV treatments, while the bad news about the spreading virus and death tolls are "global AIDS" stories, in faraway places like Africa and Asia.

    If the mainstream media — and many gay press outlets — would only pay attention, there are plenty of story threads to cover about HIV/AIDS in the U.S.:

    1. The stubbornly high rates of infection among African Americans, fueled by homophobia within black culture and the church, that keeps so many gay black men into the closet (call it "the down low" or not), putting at risk themselves and their male sex partners, girlfriends and wives. The media has sensationalized "the D.L." without ever really delving into its roots in the culture and the church — the same types of sources, of course, that keep white gay men in the closet, too.
    2. The uneven success of HIV meds, which have not cured the disease and, according to recent reserach, only extended the life expectancy — diagnosis to death — from 7 years to 24. And there's no "holiday" from HIV. The first large-scale study on taking "breaks" from HIV meds shows the risk of death doubling, even though the cause of death isn't necessarily AIDS-related. (One caveat: the study, which concludes patients should stay on a daily med regimen their whole lives, was partially funded by pharmaceutical companies.)
    3. The Bush administration's unconscionable elevation of idelogy over science in pushing "abstinence-only-until-marriage" as a viable HIV prevention strategy. Abstinence has a role to play in prevention, especially among young people who can be encouraged to delay an active sex life. As part of the ABC's— Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condoms — is a proven effective approach. But "abstinence-only-until-marriage" ignores reality and, given opposition to gay marriage, is irrelevant to the lives of young gay men, who remain a very high risk group. It's irresponsibility is second only to the Vatican's morally reprehensible opposition to condom use, even among heterosexual married couples with one spouse who is poz and one who is neg.
    4. The death of AIDS activism in the U.S. The virus wiped out a generation of gay men and the organizations they started are now largely run by non-profit professionals who no doubt care about the issue but act as if their fiduciary responsibility is to their board of directors and not to those living with the disease or at risk of being infected by it. Only a miniscule percentage of those board members are even HIV-positive. Co-opted by fat checks from the government and a decline in private donations, many HIV/AIDS groups have lost their critical voice like the ones raised above. When is the last time you saw a new, provocative, effective prevention message from an HIV/AIDS group in the U.S.? When was the last time you saw them publicly criticizing the Bush administration's response to the epidemic?

    What can you do? We all have a duty to stay informed and make sure our friends, family and those within our zone of influence, stay informed as well. Be careful that your AIDS donations go to groups that still have an effective message and responsible management.

    And finally, one small thing you can, is visit LightToUnite.org, an interesting site that allows you to read stories of those impacted by HIV and add your own. And Bristol-Myers, the big pharmaceutical that sponsors the site, will donate $1 for every person who visits. Be sure to add your own story, and make clear if the folks involved are gay. I read three-dozen accounts before coming across the first one that dealt with the issue openly, and it was a woman writing about her boyfriend's "homosexual "brother. Pretty scary in 2006, if that's all the representation we've got, but another of how the virus has mainstreamed.

    November 29, 2006

    The trans betrayal

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman_1 Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, knew his audience at the annual Creating Change conference, held just after the elections in Kansas City, Mo. Grassroots activists gather every year at the conference — dubbed Creating Chaos by those struck by the cacophony of political correctness and accusations of "privilege."

    In a self-styled "State of the Movement" address, Foreman made a pledge that betrayed more than 95 percent of his own constituents. Treating federal nondiscrimination and hate crime statutes as if they were already done deals, despite years and years of defeats, Foreman said:

    Speaking of federal legislation, I’m going to make a statement, and I want everyone here who agrees with it to stand up or raise your hand. Here’s the statement, and it's two sentences: To our transgender brothers and sisters, we will not allow a federal nondiscrimination or hate crimes bill to move forward that does not include you. You are us and we will not walk down the path to equality without you at our side.

    It's one thing to promise that "gender identity or expression" will be added to the categories to be protected in legislation to ban bias in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and the like, as well as to a federal hate crime bill. It's quite another to promise to fight our own gay rights bills if there's insufficient support for trans protections in Congress.

    That's every bit the betrayal it would have been for Martin Luther King, Jr., himself — he who said an injustice toward one is injustice toward all — to promise civil rights legislation based on race wouldn't go forward until sexual orientation could be added; or for feminist leaders to promise no protection based on gender in federal civil rights laws until sexual orientation could be included.

    But that's what NGLTF and Foreman have done, and the Human Rights Campaign has signed to the same suicide pact. I've written before about how this "trans-jacking" of gay rights legislation has the appearance of unifying our community but in fact is incredibly divisive. Not surprisingly, I've been vilified by trans activists and in many online transgender community forums.

    Beckyjuro_2 Among the more thoughtful replies came from New Jersey-based trans blogger Becky Juro — under the clever headline "Same Shit, Different Continent: Chris Crain Again…" Juro describes herself on Becky's Blog as "a columnist, a sometime radio host, an activist... and oh yes, a lesbian of transsexual experience." She invited me to appear on her radio show, which streams live online Thursdays 7 to 10 p.m. and is billed as "the LGBT Internet Radio Talk Show That Puts The 'T' First!"

    I happily accepted and will be on during the first hour, between 7 and 8, and you can listen in at Queer Music Online or TransFM. She'll be taking toll-free calls as well (877-535-4116). If you miss the show, you can catch podcasts of it here.

    Becky has asked her listeners to follow the "dinner party rule," where you don't say anything to someone that you wouldn't say if he or she was a guest at your dinner party. I love the idea of that and wish we could all follow it, especially in the anonymity of the Internet. Either way, I'm looking forward to a freewheeling dialogue that gets beyond the rhetoric into the real issues at stake here.

    November 28, 2006

    The joke's not on you, Austria

    Posted by: Chris

    BrunoUPDATE: More Bruno naughtiness, this time with straight spring breakers in Daytona Beach, follows the jump.

    Austrian tourist marketers are quaking in their jackboots about how a flaming queen named Bruno might smear the country's reputation among potential visitors. Bruno is actually Sasha Baron Cohen, whose Borat character put Kazakhstan on the map, and not in a good way.

    Universal Studios announced that Borat will be succeeded by Bruno "a gay, stupid, self- centered and Nazi-adoring Austrian, lifestyle journalist." Bruno works along the same lines as Baron Cohen's alter ego Borat Sagdiyev from "Da Ali G Show." Both show alarming dress sense, misbehave unscrupulously and provoke even more embarrassing reactions from their unsuspecting, but often not undeserving victims.

    Bruno hosts "Funkyzeit mit Brueno (Funky Time with Brueno)" on a fictional Austrian TV channel, conducts interviews on fashion, celebrities and homosexuality. Needless to say, disaster is never far behind, once Bruno starts torturing interviewees in his faux-German accent.

    If the Bruno sequel follows the lead of Borat's original, the Austrians don't have too much to worry about. In "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," the segments in Kazakhstan were over-the-top characterizations that were clearly staged with willing participants (who weren't even in Kazakhstan). It came off as a silly spoof of what we Westerners think places like Kazakhstan must be like.

    The same can't be said for the good ole U.S. of A. Cohen stayed in character as Borat and interacted with red-blooded Americans who for the most part had no idea they were part of a comedy. Borat caught many of these Americans reflecting absolutely the worst of our society: racism, sexism, wacky speaking-in-tongues church worshipers, snotty politicians and on and on.

    No word yet whether Cohen is unleashing Bruno on America, or sticking to Europe for his victims. But if this clip of Bruno from "Da Ali G Show," interviewing a Christian minister from my own hometown of Little Rock, Ark.,  is any indication, it's the Americans again who will be wincing (or should be):

    No doubt the gay version of Austrian tourist marketers — the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — will be watching Bruno's stereotyping.  I hope they keep their sense of humor. Cohen's targets are generally the proudly ignorant and prejudiced, and gay culture certainly offers some examples of that. But my guess is that, like Kazakhs, gays and Austrians will come in for some over-the-top tweaking, while the real daggers are out for red-white-and-blue bigotry.

    For more Bruno hilarity, follow the jump:

    Continue reading»

    November 27, 2006

    Hi, I'm Anderson

    Posted by: Chris

    Andersoncooper Even thousands of miles from the U.S., standing in an airport in Salvador, Brazil, poor Anderson Cooper can't cruise guys in private.  From today's Page Six gossip report in the New York Post:

    Anderson Cooper was friendly at a Brazilian airport on Friday. "Hi, I'm Anderson," he said to the "attractive" man standing next to him at the flight connection monitors in the Salvador terminal, a spy told the Post's Braden Keil. The 25ish fellow was wearing a tight T-shirt, cut-off shorts and an earring. According to our witness, the unshaven, solo-traveling CNN star chatted for 20 minutes with the stranger before the fellow had to say goodbye and board his flight to Rio.

    Anderson Cooper is among the highest profile openly closeted celebrities — by that I mean, he is unwilling to identify his sexual orientation. (Something, by the way, no straight man in history has been unwilling to do.) He is joined in those illustrious ranks by Sean Hayes (queeny "Jack" from "Will & Grace"), Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken and former New York Mayor Ed Koch.  Talk about strange bedfellows.

    But unlike those others, Anderson has at least strongly hinted that he's gay, albeit long before he was lead anchor at CNN.  Back in the late '90s, Anderson showed up at a black-tie dinner for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in New York. Before making a presentation, he joked with the audience that he was at the event "hoping to find a date."

    Looks like all these years later, despite rumors of another Latino boyfriend, he's still doing the same.

    Continue reading»

    Does fundamentalism fan the flames of violence?

    Posted by: Chris

    Fox I've heard from a number of folks in the last 24 hours that Fox News aired a news report this weekend that included a brief reference to the bashing of me and my boyfriend in Amsterdam in April 2005 by a seven young men we described as looking Morrocan. The report apparently shows the photo of me after the attack, with a broken nose and two black eyes, and puts the event in the bigger context of fundamentalist Islam clashing with tolerant Western Europe, since my boyfriend and I were beaten for holding hands in the street.

    It's more than a little ironic for Fox News to draw such broader conclusions from a gay bashing, given the conservative media outlet's simultaneous lack of interest in whether fundmentalist Christianity bears responsibility for fostering a climate of intolerance here in the United States that results in gay bashings (of much greater frequency and often of much greater ferocity). Muslim bigotry plays much better to Fox viewers, obviously, than the homegrown Christian variety.

    In reality, it's simplistic to imagine our Moroccan attackers in Amsterdam were acting on some fundamentalist religious faith. As I pointed out in a column just one week after the attack, we were attacked as we walked back to our hotel room in the wee hours on Saturday morning through a street full of holiday revelers. Our attackers were not on the corner for morning prayers.

    There are those, of course, who do engage in violence — against gays, women and other innocent targets — in the name of fundamentalist Islam. We have become so inundated with such bloody attacks over recent years that many Westerners have come to conclude that violence is inherent in the practice of fundamentalist Islam. Pope Benedict XVI outraged Muslims worldwide in September when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor for that proposition. The pope has since apologized for the remarks and distanced himself from the emperor's view, but the violent backlash in some parts of the Islamic world — like the violent reaction to the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed earlier this year — only seemed to prove the emperor's point. 

    FoxpopeIn addition to the Fox News report that mentioned our Amsterdam attack, the network is also reporting this weekend about the massive protests in Turkey over Pope Benedict's scheduled visit there next week. There's more irony here, since the 25,000 who took to the streets outraged by the pope's remarks haven't felt similarly motivated to protest on the many occasions when fundamentalists Muslims actually do engage in bloody violence against innocents in the name of Allah. Surely such jihadist claims do greater insult to Islam's reputation as a peaceful faith, and yet they almost never elicit much protest.

    My own view is that fundamentalist faiths of all stripes are directly responsible for a great deal of violence in the world and indirectly responsible for an even greater amount. When fundamentalist leaders aren't explicitly condoning violence — something fundamentalist Muslim leaders do today to a much greater degree, obviously, than their Christian counterparts — they are fostering a culture of intolerance and giving aid, comfort and religious support to all kinds of bigotry.

    The point can be overstated. The greatest violence of the 20th century was committed in the name of nonreligious ideology, whether Hitler's facism or Stalin's communism. But since religious leaders claim to offer a path to peace, the violence committed in their name is an even greater perversion. We would go a long way toward building a culture that is truly tolerant and open when we can see such perversions from within the Western-Christian world with the same clarity we condemn it within Islam.

    November 26, 2006

    A uniter, not a divider

    Posted by: Chris

    Arnoldmeetthepress I've never been a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I was impressed at his message on "Meet the Press" this morning. His tone was bipartisan, centrist and unifying.

    He cast himself as fiscally conservative, socially moderate and environmentally progressive — obviously a good fit for California but also a refreshingly different approach than taken by President Bush and most of the Republicans currently aiming to succeed him: John McCain, Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback. Rudy Giuliani should be taking notes.

    This country has been bitterly divided since at least the fight over Bill Clinton's impeachment, and certainly since the 2000 presidential election. President Bush had a unique opportunity after 9/11 to bring the country back together but instead chose to leverage it as a political opportunity to push a sharply divisive agenda, at home and abroad.

    Of course partisans at both ends of the ideological spectrum relish the divide and champion the candidates who show the most promise for destroying the enemy. But most Americans in the middle will respond to a unifying message, from whichever political party. A fiscal conservative, social moderate, environmental progressive could come from either party, and could make a strong case for the presidency in 2008.

    Hard-hearted Brownback

    Posted by: Chris

    Americans got a glimpse of the hard-hearted face of right-wing conservatism this morning when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who's prepping for an '08 presidential run, was pressed about blocking one of President Bush's judicial nominees for the sin of attending the lesbian commitment ceremony of her next-door neighbor.

       

    This is the true face of right-wing conservatism, treating gay couples much as their forbears in the '50s and '60s treated interracial couples. It may play to the evangelical Christians within the GOP, but it turns off most Americans, including most Republicans.

    Most Americans aren't ready for gay marriage, but they don't want to exclude gays, including gay couples, from their lives. Conservatives are overplaying their hand on the issue, as Brownback shows here when he tries to convert Neff's attendance at a private religious ceremony as some sort of tacit approval of civil legal status for gay couples.

       

    Some background from an AP report:

    Neff’s status has been in limbo since [September], when Brownback placed his procedural hold — using a technique that allows a lone senator to stall a nomination. Brownback wanted to know whether there was anything illegal or improper about the 2002 ceremony in Massachusetts and how Neff’s actions might shape her judicial philosophy.

    In an Oct. 12 letter to Brownback that was released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Neff said a minister presided over the ceremony and she insisted her attendance would not affect her ability to act fairly as a federal judge.

    “The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect,” Neff wrote.

    She said her family had lived next door to one of the women, Mary Curtin, for more than two decades and considers Curtin part of the extended family.

    “When Mary and her partner, Karen Adelman, asked me to participate in their commitment ceremony by delivering a homily, it was not different from being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives,” Neff wrote.

    Neff declined to answer Brownback’s questions on whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage or civil unions, saying it would be improper to address questions that might come before her as a federal judge.

    Brownback no doubt wasn't expecting his private play to social conservatives, which has gotten almost no media coverage, even in the gay press, to get the kind of national exposure it got this morning, and you can sense his unease at having to defend himself in a forum that includes a broader cross-section of Americans.

    Gay groups and Democrats should seize on the Neff nomination in a public way to put social conservatives like Brownback on the defensive on the issue.

    November 25, 2006

    In the news…

    Posted by: Chris

    • Tomcavanaugh Benshenkman The National Hockey League and one of its teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have approved the use of their logos in an upcoming movie called "Breakfast with Scot," a "thoughtful comedy" about the relationship between a former player and the his partner, the team's lawyer, whose lives are turned upside down when they become guardians for "a budding queen of an 11-year-old boy." Tom Cavanagh ("Ed," "Scrubs") and Ben Shenkman ("Just Like Heaven," "Angels in America") star in the production, which begins filming in Toronto next month.
    • Atlanta is among the cities leading the way in attracting 25 to 34 year-olds, a demographic that will be especially key as the Baby Boomers retire, removing two people from the workforce for every new young entrant. Among the key factors in Atlanta's success, along with plentiful jobs, is a diverse and open culture, including large international and gay communities. Of course the biggest losers — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia — also have large gay communities.
    • Gaelgarciabernal Latino heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal signed an open letter in support of Mexico City's civil unions law. Among the other 50 signatories was Diego Luna, Bernal's co-star in "Y Tu Mama También." "The vote for the civil-unions law was a vote in favor of liberty, social equality and the strength of civil society," the artists wrote.
    • Don't expect much from the new Congress as far as putting the reins on pork. The Democrats set to control spending decisions are every bit as committed to the status quo of "earmarks" as their GOP predecessors. Two of the worst offenders, Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Ala.) have promised to continue scratching each other's backs to ensure a disproportionate share of federal funds. “I had a chat with Senator Stevens before the election,” Mr. Inouye said. "We pledged to each other that no matter what happens, we will continue with our tested system of bipartisanship," Inouye told his hometown paper, "We've been doing this for the past 25 years, and it’s worked."

    'Don't Ask, Don't Mind'

    Posted by: Chris

    Cbs4The U.S. Army has been spread so thin by President Bush's ill-conceived, even more ill-executed war
    in Iraq that now we find ourselves literally unable to commit significant additional forces to the fight without compromising our national security. Democrats join Republicans in shooting down proposals to reinstate the draft as a way to boost troop numbers — and more equitably distribute the war's sacrifice.

    That puts enormous pressure on military recruiters to find a way to enlist anyone still willing to walk into their offices despite the ongoing carnage in Iraq. They're using all sorts of creative ways to meet recruiting goals: raising the age limit from 40 to 42 — great, now I'm eligible to enlist — lowering aptitude test minimums, and issuing "moral waivers" that admit even those with serious criminal records, drug convictions and gang-banging backgrounds.

    Of course there'll be no "moral waivers" for gay recruits. Being gay isn't a bar to military service, but gay recruits are not allowed to "tell" and the recruiters aren't allowed to "ask." But in practice, desperate times call for desperate measures, and many recruiters are apparently willing to overlook a little homosexuality on the way to meeting recruiting goals.

    Cbs41CBS-4 in Denver conducted an undercover investigation that revealed the practice:

    A CBS-4 Investigation into recruiting by the United States Army found recruiters telling potential soldiers that it wasn't a problem if they were gay. The recruiters told people showing interest in being a soldier to keep their homosexuality to themselves.

    Military policy states that if a potential service member discloses that he or she is gay, they are supposed to be immediately disqualified. … CBS4's undercover investigation found more than one Army recruiter who was willing to look the other way when a potential solider said they were homosexual.

    Be sure to check out video of the report to see how the recruiters react to a potential enlistee coming out, laughing about how they'll "forget you said that" and it "won't be a problem."

    The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has always been based on fundamental hypocrisies: that gays can serve but only if straight soldiers don't know who they are; that somehow the privacy of straight soldiers would be compromised if they knew which of their comrades is gay; that gay soldiers are dismissed for "homosexual conduct" for "telling," even if that's all they do.

    Now we learn a whole new layer of hypocrisy: Recruiters will overlook known gay enlistees so long as they keep quiet about being gay after joining up.

    "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" don't work, and even provides straight service members who don't want to serve with an easy way out of the military. No one really believes that all of the 9,500 discharged under the policy since 1993 are actually gay. In fact, the Pentagon has defended increases in discharges in recent years by admitting many are straight soldiers pulling a "Klinger from M*A*S*H" — faking gay to get out. Then there are the desperately-needed Arab linguist specialists discharged under the policy.

    John McCain reaffirmed just last week how happy he is with the policy, but momentum will grow in the new Democratic Congress to revisit it. In a time of war, we don't have a person to waste.

    (Hat tip: Steve Rails, SLDN)

    November 24, 2006

    Leaving America behind

    Posted by: Chris

    The "land of the free" fell another step behind the largest Roman Catholic country in the world on Wednesday when Brazil's lower house passed a law adding gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to the country's hate crime law, which currently covers race, color, ethnicity and religion. (My description of this good news comes with the caveat that I did my best to translate it from Portuguese.)

    Up till now, most of the gay rights advances in Brazil have been from judicial rulings, making the legislative action this week all the more important. The legislative success follows closely on the heels of a ruling by a judge in São Paulo granting a second-parent adoption to the partner of a gay father. Brazil already recognizes a type of common law marriage for gay couples, and extends to them immigration rights, among other benefits.

    And the country's AIDS prevention efforts have been recognized as groundbreaking by most international public health groups, though the U.S. withdrew $40 million in funding because the country's safe-sex campaign to prostitutes was insufficiently condemnatory.

    As the Democrats take full control of the U.S. Congress for the first time in more than a decade, the minimum we should expect is passage of a hate crime law and employment non-discrimination, both backed by overwhelming majorities of the American public. The global gay rights movement has made, and is making, great strides toward basic equality. It's long past time for the U.S. to do the same.

    Making family

    Posted by: Chris

    I got a few reminders over the holiday yesterday about how we gay men make our own families, whether or not we're in relationships. I spent the day in Washington, thousands of miles from my partner in Brazil. Although Thanksgiving of course has no special meaning for him, he sent me a sweet online card and we talked several times by Internet telephone (we give thanks to Skype!).

    During one stretch of afternoon, I drifted off into a daydream, one I've had many times before, of him  here with me, maybe smuggled in my suitcase. I know how silly that sounds, but the subconscious takes its own course.

    LongtimecompanionI was reminded of that fantasy later, as I watched the closing scene from "Longtime Companion." I found the film on my TiVo, recorded a year earlier, and had decided to see it (for the first time).

    Released in 1990, "Longtime Companion" was one of the first "AIDS movies," and it effectively drew you back to the fear and loss that filled the decade of the 1980s for gay men. At the end, when the original group of seven friends has dwindled to three, they imagine what it would be like if a cure for the virus was discovered, and they could celebrate with all their lost friends. As silly as it sounds, it is a devastating scene. I defy you to watch it without tears.

    These men created a family of friends, boyfriends and partners — longtime companions, as the New York Times deigned to refer to them in obituaries — and they stuck by each other as blood families do. Some were still supported by blood relatives, others were turned away, but as the character Willy (Campbell Scott) describes in a memorial service for his friend David (Bruce Davison), their friendship circles were welcoming and unshakeable.

    AIDS is still with us, of course, and still kills. I learned this month that Dennis Vercher, the longtime editor of the Dallas Voice, recently passed away from complications from the virus. He was only 53. But even without the trauma of weekly memorial services, there's still evidence of how we make our families. I counted a half-dozen "orphan" dinners for Thanksgiving yesterday, just among the folks I know. These meals are usually hosted by a close set of friends that then widen their net, inviting anyone and everyone unable or not wanting to return home to see family for the holiday.

    With so many lost to AIDS and the advent of new drugs, the disease and a united response to it are not so ingrained into the consciousness of those who came out in the last five to 10 years. That's a good thing, of course, because no generation should have to endure such horror, whether from epidemic or war. But these wonderful "orphan meals" on Thanksgiving and Christmas are a welcome reminder of how much we gain from our opening up our circle of friends, our chosen families, to the larger community.

    November 22, 2006

    In the news…

    Posted by: Chris

    • Connecticut Lawyers for eight gay couples in Connecticut have filed a brief with the state supreme court, challenging the constitutionality of the state's Vermont-style civil union law, passed after the  couples originally sued in 2004. Lawyers for the couples are arguing that passage of the civil union law only proves the state knows gay couples should be treated equally, and only opening up marriage truly accomplishes that. Even if the arguments are valid, they may sandbag efforts elsewhere to pass civil union laws, if legislators worry such measures will be used to then sue in courts for marriage. Again a case of good law making for a bad result for gay couples.
    • Barbarawalters Barbara Walters has declared the Kelly Ripa-Rosie O'Donnell-Clay Aiken feud officially over: On Wednesday’s "The View," Walters said, "Rosie O'Donnell is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. And so is our friend Kelly Ripa. And Rosie and Kelly talked yesterday after the show. Rosie and Clay Aiken have talked. And all is well with the world, and all is well with them."
    • The Bush Justice Department is defending in court the Child Online Protection Act, signed by Clinton in 1998, that threatens fines and prison times for Web publishers who fail to block material "harmful to minors." The ACLU challenged the suit, along with Salon.com and Philadelphia Gay News, because software filters are overbroad and often block non-graphic sites on subjects like gay rights and sexual health. A federal judge heard closing arguments in the trial on Monday after four weeks of testimony.
    • A judge in São Paulo, Brazil, has ordered the government to permit a gay man to be the second parent on the birth certificate of his partner's daughter. The court-ordered second-parent adoptions is the latest court ruling expanding gay rights in the world's most populous Roman Catholic country. No doubt Pope Benedict XVI, set to visit Brazil soon, will not be pleased.

    The new face of Republicans

    Posted by: Chris

    Melmartinez President Bush is backing Florida Sen. Mel Martinez to be the new head of the Republican Party, replacing Ken Mehlman, who announced after this month's disastrous midterm elections that he's leaving the GOP to return to private life. The move to Martinez, who isn't expected to run the party day to day, is seen as a play for Latino voters, who turned away from the GOP this year after gains in previous elections.

    Martinez is an ironic choice for the GOP, which regularly lashes out against affirmative action and tokenism, considering he will be the Latino leader of a party that has tried to make political hay out of punitive changes to this country's immigration  laws. Martinez does, however, back the president's guest worker program, along with an unrealistic plan to fence the U.S.-Mexican border.

    Some gay activists and bloggers cheered the departure of Mehlman, a Karl Rove protege, because they believe he is a closeted gay man who nonetheless implemented Rove's strategy of using gay marriage as a wedge issue in President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. Don't expect more compassionate conservatism from Martinez, however. He's well versed in the use of mercernary closet cases.

    Fordhamkirk_2 In fact Martinez, who received a perfect "0" on the current Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard and strongly backs a federal marriage amendment — had two closeted gay men on staff for his infamously anti-gay Senate campaign two years ago: Kirk Fordham (pictured), Martinez's finance director, made headlines this fall as the former staff chief for Mark Foley who tried to bribe ABC into not reporting the page scandal; and John Dowless, the former head of the Florida Christian Coalition who once suggested Gay Days at Disney put children at the theme park at risk of sexual predators. Dowless has a particularly long and checkered career in gay-baiting.

    I've known Fordham for years and met Dowless in 2004 at an Orlando, Fla., gay bar — a conversation in which I identified myself as the editor of the Washington Blade, the nation's largest gay newspaper. Dowless nonetheless talked at length with me and a friend about his career in politics and his struggle with his sexual orientation.  I chose to "out" him in a story published in July 2004 in the Express Gay News, a gay paper in Fort Lauderdale I oversaw at the time.

    As noted, the 2004 Martinez campaign, with Fordham and Dowless on board, was infamously anti-gay, including ads erroneously identifying his GOP primary opponent as "the new darling of homosexual extremists" because he backed hate crimes legislation. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush even publically called on Martinez to back off after his campaign aired a radio ad adio that compared life in a country with same-sex marriage to life under Fidel Castro, "a totalitarian dictator who had no respect for the traditional values of family and faith." Martinez is originally from Cuba.

    I remember Fordham trying to convince me back in '04 that Martinez was "a good guy" and only using the gay issue because he had to. I'm sure Mehlman said the same thing about Rove and Bush. In fact, Martinez's worst gay-baiting tactics in '04 were credited to none other than Rove himself. The selection of Martinez to replace Mehlman should be a reminder that outing — of Dowless in '04 or Mehlman in '06 — isn't much of a gay rights strategy. 

    It's also a reminder that the GOP is showing no signs of rediscovering the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan, the "kinder, gentler" conservatism of George H.W. Bush, or even the compassionate conservativism W. promised in 2000. Martinez, like Rove and Mehlman, represents the dark, harsh, heartless conservatism the country rejected in 2006.

    Shut up, Clay and Kelly

    Posted by: Chris

    Tori Spelling riffs off the Clay Aiken-Kelly Ripa spat at the American Music Awards. If only it took…

    Also, an intrepid YouTube user catches Ripa with her foot in her mouth — well, actually, her hand on someone else's…

    And finally, an even more intrepid Citizen reader points out that, at the very end of this vid clip of Kelly Ripa calling into "The View," when a guest co-host playfully illustrates her point about "boundaries" by  grabbing Rosie's boob, Rosie responds just as playfully. With a grin she says, barely audibly, "One more time, c'mon…"

    Romney the Right-Winger

    Posted by: Chris

    Romneymitt You wouldn't think John McCain left much daylight on his right when he reiterated last Sunday his opposition to marriage and just about every other form of legal recognition or civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Well, the intrepid governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, found some.

    In an interview with the D.C. Examiner this week, Romney declared that in a presidential race pitting him against McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, only one can claim Bush's mantle.
    "I'm a conservative Republican, there's no question about that," said Romney. "I'm in a different place than the other two."

    Romney was seizing on the one part of McCain's anti-gay screed that wasn't completely punitive; the Arizona senator called himself a "federalist" who wanted to leave both gay marriage and abortion to the states to decide. That means McCain opposes a federal marriage amendment, and Romney smelled blood in the water:

    “That’s his position, and in my opinion, it’s disingenuous,” said Romney. “Look, if somebody says they’re in favor of gay marriage, I respect that view. If someone says — like I do — that I oppose same–sex marriage, I respect that view. But those who try and pretend to have it both ways, I find it to be disingenuous.”

    What's disingenuous isn't McCain's opposition to a federal amendment on federalist grounds, but Romney's claim that McCain is trying to "pretend to have it both ways." What's further disingenuous is Romney's current effort to distance himself from his more moderate past, which had been every bit the political necessity then, to be elected GOP governor of such a blue state, as being conservative is now in the coming Republican primaries.

    When he ran for governor in 2002, he sought and received the endorsement of Log Cabin Republicans and promised not to change the state's abortion laws. The next year, Romney criticized the landmark Massachusetts court ruling on marriage and tried to overturn it. But he nonetheless acknowledged that the state "must provide basic civil rights" for gay couples.

    He'll be regretting those words in the coming months, no doubt, as he "tries to pretend to have it both ways" with conservative Protestants suspicious of his membership (and leadership) in the Mormon church. From another report in the Examiner:

    Rev. Jerry Falwell, an evangelical who founded the Moral Majority, said he expects Christian conservatives will focus more on Romney's personal morality and his current views than his past statements or his faith.

    "We're not trying to find a Sunday school teacher in chief; we're trying to find a commander in chief," said Falwell, who traveled to Massachusetts last month to meet with Romney. Also attending the meeting were Franklin Graham, Gary Bauer, Lou Sheldon, Richard Land and other conservative social and religious leaders.

    "Where he goes to church will not be a factor; how he lives his life will be," said Falwell.

    The battle between Romney and McCain over who can be more conservative plays to the advantage of Giuliani, because the farther to the right the other two go, the more space there is in the middle for him. And with Romney and McCain splitting the right-wing vote, Giuliani's odds improve. In fact, given Giuliani's unquestionable credentials on terrorism, the primaries could offer GOP primary voters an opportunity to decide which is more important: national security or personal morality.

    November 21, 2006

    Israel recognizes gay marriages

    Posted by: Chris

    Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the government to recognize civil marriage licenses issued by other countries to gay couples. The landmark ruling doesn't mean that gay couples can marry in Israel, since even civil marriage licenses there are controlled by religious authorities, but it does mean full marriage rights for Israeli gay couples married abroad:

    Moshe Negbi, a legal expert, said the court's decision is mostly symbolic because gay couples in Israel already had many of the rights of heterosexual partnerships. The significant changes are that they will now get the same tax breaks as a married couple and be able to adopt children, Negbi said. Israeli law stipulates a couple must be married to adopt a child.

    "The marriages of same-sex couples who marry in places like Canada where the law recognizes such marriages, will also be recognized in Israel, and they will be registered as married here," Negbi said.

    Civil marriages cannot be performed in Israel because of the rabbinate's monopoly on family law. But couples married in civil ceremonies abroad have all the rights of a married couple, and their marriages are registered here. The court uses the term "register" instead of "recognition" to avoid religious criticism of the ruling, Negbi said.

    The ruling drew predictably sharp reaction from orthodox Jewish leaders.:

    "We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here," said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker.

    "I assume that every sane person in the state of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is ... the destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel," Gafni told Israel's Army Radio.

    Opposition to gay rights is one of the few issues that actually unites Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders in the Middle East, so the court ruling is an important civil rights victory over all three. How ironic that a country that lets religious leaders control marriage entirely now offers dramatically greater recognition for same-sex couples than the supposedly secular U.S. government. Apparently it's easier to separate synagogue and state than it is churches — not to mention mosques.

    Kelly vs. Clay and Rosie

    Posted by: Chris

    Who would have thought that Kelly Ripa, Clay Aiken and Rosie O'Donnell would be locked in a three-way feud over homophobia, sexism and manners? It all started last Friday, when Aiken filled in for Regis on "Live with Regis & Kelly."

    Apparently the chemistry between Ripa and Aiken wasn't so great, and the closeted "Idol" alum crossed the line when he playfully put his hand over Ripa's mouth as she tried to ask a question. Ripa was visibly upset, and after telling Clay that was a "no-no" exclaimed, "I don't know where that hand has been!" My first reaction to seeing the video on AOL was that the line was a slam at Clay being gay — well, openly closeted. Apparently, Rosie agreed, and said so on "The View":

    Then Kelly Ripa called in, and in between professions of adoration, she and Rosie went at it over whether Ripa's comment was anti-gay.  Kelly's explanation? It's cold and flu season and as a mother she was worried about catching something, since Clay had shaken hands with people in the audience. Give me a break:

    The irony here is that everyone assumes, without really addressing it, that Clay is gay. Kelly claims it was actually sexist for Clay to put his hand over her mouth, something she claims he would never have done to Regis or a male co-host.

    Yes, it's silly, but it's one of those minor blow-ups that offers a window into the culture. Viewing the actual clip of Kelly's reaction, I'm still with Rosie on this one. Probably most encouraging, though, is how matter-of-fact the gay angle is covered, including Rosie's comfort level discussing it — are you watching, Ellen? What a long way daytime talk has come since Rosie's closet days just a few short years ago.

    November 20, 2006

    Will '08 Be Revenge of the Johns?

    Posted by: Chris

    Edwardskerry No doubt feeling vindicated by the "thumping" the Republicans received in the midterm elections, both halves of the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004 said this week they are actively considering White House runs in 2008.

    The "botched joke" brouhaha probably killed Kerry's chances, along with a sense that he ran a poor, velcro-coated campaign in 2004.

    But none of that muck stuck to his teflon-coated running-mate John Edwards. The former North Carolina senator told AP today that he will decide "in the next weeks and months" whether to run and, in the meantime, encouraged another senator with only one term under his belt to jump in the race.

    "I hope [Barack Obama] runs. I think he should run," Edwards told the Associated Press. "This is such an important job that I would urge anybody who can make a serious contribution to the campaign and the dialogue — either in our party or the other party — to run."

    "America ought to have a choice among the best possible people to be president of the United States. And I trust the judgment of the voters."

    If Obama and Edwards do run and are joined by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who just won re-election after her first term in the Senate, then the three leading Democrats will present a young, fresh-faced alternative to  John McCain, 70, and Rudy Giuliani,  62.  All three Democrats have about the same positions on gay issues, though Hillary's track record is longer and Edwards badly fumbled the marriage issue in '04, backing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act signed by Bill Clinton in 1996.

    It would be especially interesting to see Hillary square off against Edwards, who is in some ways a poor-man's version of her husband in 1992, except lighter on experience and intellectual heft. I wasn't impressed by Edwards '04 campaign and his attempt since then to ingratiate himself to organized labor makes his trial lawyer background look even more like an old Democrat than the shiny new variety.

    In the news…

    Posted by: Chris

    • Romneymitttb John McCain isn't the only Republican shoring up his anti-gay conservative bona fides in anticipation of a 2008 presidential run. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a rally outside the State House in Boston yesterday that he plans to sue the legislature to force a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage onto the '08 ballot. Lawmakers blocked a petition earlier this month by recessing a Constitutional Convention until Jan. 2 of next year. Lost on Romney and his cheering rally was the juicy irony that he is now asking the so-called activist justices on the state's highest court to overrule the democratically-elected legislature. The state's constitution contains no guarantee that the people can vote on petitions, mind you, but Romney will ask them to read between the lines.
    • The 4,000 churches in the North Carolina Baptist State Convention voted last week to kick out churches that won't kick out gay parishioners. The vote was aimed at 16 heretical Baptist churches in the state that are affiliated with the more moderate Alliance of Baptists. The policy to ban the churches that don't ban isn't really new, but it gives the state convention the authority to "investigate" member churches suspected of gay-friendliness. Billy Oxendine, pastor at Faithful Calvary Baptist Church, praised the new policy, even as he butchered English. "The Lord speaks against [homosexuality]. Two men lying together is an abomination," he said. "It's something they choose to do. God don't make no gay people to be filthy and nasty. He ain't a part of that."
    • Williamsrobbie2Speaking of filthy and nasty, naughty straight boy Robbie Williams is still denying rumors that he's gay, but he allows that he'd consider a same-sex abomination under the right circumstances. "I wouldn't enjoy it but I could do it under pain of death, or if it meant saving a baby bunny from being burned alive," he told the Daily Mirror. Hasenpfeffer, anyone? All in all, it's still women for Robbie. "A great set of tits and a slappable arse are the must-haves for me."

    November 19, 2006

    The Rudy Option

    Posted by: Chris

    As John McCain's Straight Talk Express lurches off the right shoulder on the road to White House, moderate and liberatarian Republicans — not to mention independents and conservative Democrats — will no doubt be casting around for other '08 options. Someone they can trust in the war on terror and who advocates a limited role for government in the economy and their bedrooms. So what about Rudy?

    Rudynytimes Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, viewed by many as a hero after 9/11, took the first steps last week toward organizing a 2008 presidential run. And some top political strategists offered some unsolicited advice via the New York Times. They predictably pumped up Giuliani's credentials fighting crime and rebuilding New York, but their most interesting thoughts came on how McCain should deal with his "liberal social views" on abortion and gay rights.

    Here's the gist of what they said:

    • Mary Matalin, the saner half of the Carville household, cautioning against following McCain's lead: "On liberal social positions: carefully evolve, but don’t be a phony. Social conservatives are conviction voters. And social moderates will reject political opportunism. Indicate your respect for conservative convictions and try to 'refine' your own. A late-life reversal on late-term abortion is entirely plausible and mandatory. Try to keep focus on constitutionalist judges."
    • Clinton adviser Paul Begala, giving what could only be considered poison pill advice: "You can’t switch on everything. So surrender to the far right on one issue: abortion. But the only way to do it is whole hog. Use your trump card: 9/11. Tell them the death you saw that day gave you a greater appreciation for the sanctity of life. You’re Saul on the road to Damascus. Praise the Lord and pass the delegates."
    • ABC News political director Mark Halperin, offering what journalists forever long for in a politician (authenticity): "Giuliani would seem to have two choices — try to back off of his previously held liberal positions on social issues, or confront the party by arguing that his conservative record on crime, taxes and national security should be sufficient for a party serious about being a big enough tent to win national elections. Giuliani watchers say they have no doubt that if he runs, he would pursue the latter course."
    • GOP consultant Rich Galen, suggesting a reverse John Kerry, a run to the center: "As to Rudy’s positions on social issues, I would interview the staff who ran Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign. California Republicans are decidedly conservative. Notwithstanding Arnold’s very moderate stance on most social and environmental issues, he got (according to one exit poll) 91 percent of the G.O.P. vote. That tells me Republicans want to win much more than they want to lose on the point of an ideological sword.

    All in all, Galen's suggestion offers the best hope for Giuliani. If Republican primary voters are chastened enough by the disastrous midterm election this month, then a credible conservative on national security, crime and fiscal conservative might appear the safer option.

    The conventional wisdom is that the extremes control the primaries but history belies that conclusion. The reality is that the real money and votes usually go to whoever is viewed as most electable. That's how Kerry beat Dean in '04, Gore beat Bradley in '00, and Bob Dole beat more conservative options in '96. True, McCain was viewed as more centrist than George W. Bush in '00, but the junior Bush's pedigree and charisma (yeah, it's hard to remember when the aww shucks routine worked), made the difference, rather than his more conservative credentials.

    Giuliani and Schwarzenegger offer a way back to power for Republicans with the potential for a more stable "big tent." Fiscal conservatives have long been in uneasy alliance with social conservatives, and many of the latter will nonetheless respond to a robust leader in a time of war (on terror, not Iraq, as Galen points out: "The overwhelming advantage Rudy has over every other candidate is he has not held public office over the course of the Bush administration.")

    Giuliani's unique ability to appeal to the red-staters' red-white-and-blue patriotism could overcome their desire to legislate their moral beliefs.

    McCain the social conservative

    Posted by: Chris

    Abc_tw_mccain2_0611119_nr When John McCain faced off against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential primaries, a lot of gay Republican money and support went to the Arizona senator. On gay rights issues, the two Republicans were pretty much alike, but McCain was more open to dialogue and at least agreed to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans. Bush, on the other hand, refused to sit down with Log Cabin, while (in)famously declaring himself "a uniter and not a divider."

    Six years later, as McCain gears up for a certain presidential bid in 2008, his opposition to any form of gay rights has clearly hardened, part of his general strategy of ingratiating himself with conservative Christians who helped sink his 2000 run. Today on ABC's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos came right out of the box in the first few minutes of the interview with a series of questions on gay rights. And while McCain talked about his opposition to "discrimination," his positions were clear:

    • Against gay marriage and (unlike suggestions from President Bush) civil unions
    • Against domestic partnerships or any form of legal recognition for gay couples
    • Against reconsideration, much less repeal, of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
    • Against basic employment non-discrimination legislation

    The only bright spot was on a federal marriage amendment. While McCain didn't address the issue specifically, he said that as "a federalist" he believed social issues like gay marriage (and abortion) should be decided by the states.

    Follow the jump for videoclips of McCain's "This Week" appearance:

    Continue reading»

    November 18, 2006

    Someone didn't get the memo

    Posted by: Chris

    Joe_bioWhat does it say when the politicians are actually out in front of gay "activists" on our issues?

    Joe Solmonese, the Democrat-first, gay-second leader of the Human Rights Campaign, is already tamping down expectations on the new Democratic leaders of Congress, promising that issues like repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" needn't be addressed anytime soon. From today's Washington Post:

    Solmonese indicated that leading gay-rights groups will be patient with the new Democratic leadership, not pushing to have their issues be at the very top of the 2007 agenda.

    "What we've got is a new and respectful Congress that's open to our community, to learning the specifics of our issues," he said. "To stress right now — 'This is what we want and this is when we want it' — would be premature."

    Democratic leaders need to "learn the specifics of our issues"? If HRC hasn't spent the last six years in the political wildnerness educating their Democratic friends about basics like workplace protection, hate crimes and gays in the military, then what in good god have they been doing?  Decorating their fancy Washington, D.C., offices and taping self-promotional programs for XM Satellite Radio?

    Gayjoinu Thankfully, Democratic Congressman Martin Meehan apparently didn't get Solmonese's go-slow memo. Meehan, who expects to be named to chair a House Armed Services subcommittee, said yesterday he plans to hold hearings early next year on whether to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and allow gays to serve openly.

    It should embarrass HRC and Solmonese that Democrats are actually out in front on gay rights issues like this. Can anyone imagine a similar scenario from conservative Christian activists? Unfortunately for the gay rights movement, Solmonese is a lifelong Democratic party activist who shows no signs of recognition that he no longer works at an organization that puts party ahead of principle.

    For the first time on HRC's most recent congressional scorecard, members are no longer given any credit for adopting non-discrimination policies. That was an issue on which Republicans tended to do better and eliminating it skewed the scores toward Dems. It also contributes to an even more hostile climate for gays working on the Hill for Republicans. These gay staffers, while caught up in the Mark Foley scandal, often have a strong moderating impact on their members.

    What's more, HRC abandoned its promise to moderates and backed Democratic challengers against two GOP incumbents who were endorsed by Log Cabin. Rep. Deborah Pryce in Ohio managed to fend off her gay-baiting Democratic opponent, but  Rep. Michael Fitzgerald of Bucks County, Pa., lost his seat by less than 2,000 votes. That's two fewer GOP moderates to check the anti-gay conservatives in House leadership.

    Strategic blunders like this may please gay Democratic activists, but without these moderates and gay GOP staffers, the gay rights movement is all the more dependent on the Democrats. That's not a winning strategy for gays, though it's certainly good for Howard Dean. Just which side is Solmonese on?

    For Crist's sake

    Posted by: Chris

    Charliecrist Poor Charlie Crist. Only days after bucking the anti-GOP tide and winning the governor's race in Florida, he faces a mini-rebellion from the religious right. And worse yet, the issue is homosexuality — particular awkward for Crist since he was dogged during the campaign by rumors that he's a closet case.

    The Florida Family Association is up in arms because the GOP-controlled Senate committee reviewing Crist's top appointments has prepared a questionnaire that asks, among other things, whether applicants have ever been accuse of "workplace misconduct," including sexual harassment or job discrimination based on race, age, gender or sexual orientation.

    That prompted an email alert from the FFA:

    "Did the Republicans learn anything from this past election about the consequences of turning their backs on the conservative base?" David Caton, the association's executive director, asked in the message. "Based on this new pro-homosexual proposal, they have not."

    The group's message included a sample e-mail that members could send to Pruitt, stating, "Creating criteria that allows candidates for employment to be excluded from working in the governor's administration because homosexual extremists filed a complaint against them is insulting to social conservatives."

    The message speaks volumes about gay rights opponents. Their allies in Congress and state houses may argue that workplace protections will saddle businesses with frivolous claims, but their real goal is to block legitimate complaints — allowing employers to refuse work or fire people simply because they're gay.

    Lousheldon_1 As momentum builds to push federal workplace protection for gays in the new Democratic Congress, conservative Christians are making similar noises. From today's Washington Post:

    Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, asserted that the gay-rights bills likely to advance next year will infringe on the rights of those who condemn homosexuality.

    "All Americans must be prepared to endure serious threats to their freedom of speech, their right to make employment decisions as business owners, and their religious freedom in the business world," Sheldon said.

    A full-fledged, public debate on workplace protection is not only winable — public support is between two-thirds and three-quarters, according to repeated opinion surveys — but will also show the true colors of the religious right. Their priority isn't the protection of the family, but a mean-spirited effort to make life more difficult for gay and lesbian Americans.

    November 17, 2006

    HIV's death sentence commuted

    Posted by: Chris

    When I came out in 1992, a diagnosis of HIV was a death sentence.  In those very dark years, there was no drug "cocktail" and the gay papers will chock full of sometimes dozens of obituaries each week — men in the 30s and 40s, struck down in their prime.  At the time, with so many dying and turning positive, I remember imagining that I would probably live another 10 to 15 years before the virus would catch up with me and kill me, too.

    Tcellshiv Now an American can expect to live on average 24 years from the time he learns he's been infected with HIV, according to new research. That's a dramatic increase from 7-10 years from diagnosis to death in the '90s. The new drugs have a new pricetag, of course, as the average cost of care has skyrocketed to $25,200 per year, or more than $600,000 over a lifetime.  That explains why the longer life expectancy is good news limited to First World countries and those with health insurance, public or private.

    But despite the upbeat tone from researchers, my reaction was negative shock. We have become so accustomed to thinking of HIV as a manageable, chronic condition that we forget it's still a killer.  In fact, the new drugs aren't a cure and can be lethal themselves.  Despite all the advances, someone diagnosed with HIV is still likely to die of complications associated with the virus or the meds they're taking to fight it. A 21-year-old who learns he has HIV can expect to die in his mid-40s. That's a message that's not getting out there.

    Under George W. Bush, HIV prevention has morphed from a public campaign on safer sex to an emphasis on abstinence and making HIV testing routine and universal.  Both policy corrections were needed, although abstinence taught as anything more than a way to delay sex for teens can and does backfire.  But universal testing, as nervous as it's made HIV/AIDS groups, is critical to stopping the virus.  People who know they're infected are not only more likely to start treatment, but they're more likely to have safe sex, or limit their unsafe sex to other poz people, and that should slow the spread.

    Even still, today's "good" news is a reminder that there's still a place for powerful public campaigns that remind people that HIV is out there, and it's still deadly.  The Europeans have always done a better job on that.

    Thousands quit smoking every year because they're afraid of dying early from lung cancer.  Unsafe sex can have the same consequence, with a much shorter fuse and a world of complications along the way.  Twenty-four years is great, but it's not a cure.

    November 16, 2006

    Take that, Eminem!

    Posted by: Chris

    He's white, he raps and he's a big ole queen. Cazwell takes the homoerotic split-personality of Eminem Slim Shady and crosses line the line that the more famous white rapper is always dancing around.

    Yeah it's a bit K-Fed cheesy, and more than a little bit raunchy, but it's also a lot of fun — if nothing else but to see one our bruthas throwin down.

    Cazwell_1 From an interview this week with the Charlotte Observer:

    Q. What do you think about being called the gay rapper? I don't think of myself as the gay rapper. Some people say that, but that makes it sound like there's only one.

    Q. Who's your favorite rapper? Biggie Smalls is most definitely my favorite and the greatest influence. I love Missy (Elliott) so much. She's a huge inspiration. She did it with her brain. She's so creative. She's so self-made.

    Q. Do you consider yourself to be a hip-hop artist? I don't see myself as hip-hop. I don't live the hip-hop lifestyle. If you're gay, you really can't roll with a hip-hop crew. I accept that. Rather than try to fit into the hip-hop mold, I try to do what I want to do. If I lived my life by the rules of hip-hop, then I couldn't be out. I'd rather create my own sound and space. …

    Q. Anyone ever tell you that you look like Eminem? No. I get Justin Timberlake.

    Twenty years and counting

    Posted by: Chris

    USA Today recently published a letter from a reader in New Hampshire angry that she might be forced to live apart from her British husband for as long as six months while his visa application is processed. David Fridlund, an American living in Los Angeles, wrote this cautionary and chilling reply:

    I read with interest a letter from a New Hampshire reader who describes her tough ordeal of legally obtaining a green card for her British husband ("Frustration builds along citizenship path," Voices of Immigration, Nov. 7).

    Though I agree that it is unacceptable for people to have to wait up to six months or more for documentation to which they are legally entitled, at least this couple has legal rights. Contrast their situation with mine. I am American, and my partner of 20 years is from Hong Kong. Our difference: We are gay.

    The federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other type of committed gay relationship along the path to citizenship. Fortunately, my partner has a sister who is a naturalized citizen, and she submitted an application on his behalf to enter as a family member.

    The estimated waiting period at the time of application was seven years, a reality of about 11 years. During that time, I gave up my career in the USA and moved to Hong Kong until my partner changed his career and decided to attend a professional school in America under a student visa.

    When that visa expired, we were forced to leave the USA again. After seven years of successfully building careers in Hong Kong, we received notice from U.S. immigration officials that the green card application was approved, and that we had six months to give up everything once again and return to America. Last month, after our fourth forced move across the Pacific, years after his green card was approved and more than 17 years after his application was first filed, my partner took his oath of citizenship.

    Finally, we are in a position to decide for ourselves where we choose to live without a government making that decision for us.

    We chose to follow the rules. If I had been a citizen of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, we could have settled in any of those countries long ago and been contributing to their economies. Like the reader from New Hampshire, I, too, am infuriated at the process. But I am more infuriated at our government's refusal to recognize the value of all loving relationships.

    No other inequality toward gay Americans in U.S. law is more cruel than the lack of recognition for same-sex couples. No other law coldly states that a gay American must choose between his country and his partner, while accommodating a straight American in the same situation — albeit after ridiculous bureaucratic delays.

    The Uniting American Families Act would redress that injustice, but will the new Democratic Congress consider including it in the upcoming debate on immigration reform?

    Something about Mary…

    Posted by: Chris

    2006111554 Analysts like my conservative friend Maggie Gallagher are crediting the active involvement of the Catholic Church with playing a key role in passing state ballot measure banning gay couples from marrying — and often other forms of legal recognition as well.

    It's easy to assume right-wing Catholic Church leaders are the saner set among the religious right since they tend to leave it to the Falwells and Robertsons of the world to blame hurricanes and terrorist attacks on the queers.

    Then we get reminders like this one of how much company the Protestant televangelists have on the deep end. The Vatican's envoy to the U .S. participated in a ceremony this week renewing the consecration of the United States of America "to the protection of its patroness, the Immaculate Conception." Why do such a thing?

    During the 1720s, the bubonic plague was rampant in Marseille, France. After an estimated 50,000 of 90,000 people died of the plague in a period of several months, the city’s archbishop consecrated Marseille to the sacred heart of Jesus. The plague reportedly ended without the use of any vaccinations or other medical treatments.

    “These consecrations have proven to be strong link with the sacred heart or blessed mother. In such cases, the sacred heart of Jesus and the blessed mother have given a special protection and care to those countries that were consecrated to them,” said Father Andrew Apostoli.

    And here's the kicker. What threats does the U.S. need protection from? Terrorists? Yes, of course, but a familar sexual minority also makes the list:

    “Outside the nation, there is growing threat of violence, terrorism, war and even the possibility of a nuclear war,” he said. “Recent events of testing of nuclear weapons in North Korea and the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran make the midnight of nuclear war a frightening possibility.”

    “Inside the country, we see the rising of secularism, which is suffocating moral and religious values,” Father Apostoli said. He pointed to “the spread of the culture of death, by abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia … the destruction of the Christian value of family … the promotion of gay lifestyle, especially the acceptance of homosexual unions to be recognized as marriage … the spread of pornography, couples living together without the benefit of marriage and increasing divorce.”

    Politics, he said, “alone cannot solve these problems” and military action would lead only to mutual destruction. “We are left with one choice,” the priest said. “Our Lady gave that in her very first apparition in Fatima, May 13, 1917. She said, ‘I am the only one who can help you!’ I believe that.”

    It was bad enough to learn from Falwell and Robertson that God and his son Jesus are against us, but apparently we've riled Jesus' omm Mary as well. What's a queer gotta do to get on the good side of this family?

    November 15, 2006

    He's baaaaack…

    Posted by: Chris

    Trentlott The return of Trent Lott will be accompanied by lots of ink about his famous 100th birthday toast to Strom Thurmond:

    I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.”

    But will Americans also be reminded what Trent Lott said about gay Americans four years earlier, on Armstrong Williams' conservative talk show? Asked by Williams if homosexuality is a sin, Lott famously replied:

    Yes, it is. In America right now there's an element that wants to make that alternative lifestyle acceptable. You still love that person and you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol, … others have a sex addiction or are kleptomaniacs. There are all kinds of problems and addictions and difficulties and experiences of this kind that are wrong. But you should try to work with that person to learn to control that problem.

    Alcoholics, sex addicts, kleptomaniacs, and the gays. Is this the new, big tent Republican Party?

    Santorum's slippery slope

    Posted by: Chris

    Santorumsmile_1 The new guidelines on sexuality issued today by the U.S. Catholic bishops echo back to the memorable warning cry we received some moons ago from one of their proudest parishioners: Rick Santorum, the conservative Catholic senator run out of office by Pennsylvania voters last week. Remember what Santorum said in April 2003, just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the nation's sodomy laws?:

    If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.

    That slippery slope, Santorum argued, could take us to some pretty bizarre places:

    That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality…

    (The AP reporter's reaction, by the way, was priceless: "I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about 'man on dog' with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.")

    Lost in the hoopla about Santorum's grotesque analogy was the real gist of what he was saying.  Guarantee people a right to engage in private consensual sex, he argued, and you're headed down a "slippery slope."

    The far more likely scenario, actually, was that Santorum's slippery slope would head in the opposite direction. Legalizing sodomy hasn't led to condoning beastiality. But if Santorum and his allies in the Catholic Church hierarchy had their way, society would regulate all sorts of other private, consensual conduct: sodomy, including heterosexual oral and anal sex, sex outside of marriage and contraception.

    Today's new guidelines from the Catholic bishop underscore that radically reactionary agenda. In the same breath the bishops condemn gay sex, they remind heterosexual married couples that artificial contraception is contrary to church teaching as well:

    The contraception document, "Married Love and the Gift of Life," … strongly supports natural family planning, saying it "enables couples to cooperate with the body as God designed it," adding that contraception introduces "a false note" that disturbs marital intimacy and contributes to a decline in society's respect for marriage and for life.

    The bishops make no distinction between the sins of gay sex and hetero use of contraception, and that's the real slippery slope here. In the real world, U.S. Catholics use contraception at about the same rate (96%) as non-Catholics, and they should understand that Santorum and his ilk would just as soon ban "the pill" as they would sodomy. In his famous "man on dog" interview, Santorum in fact decried how the slippery slope to "man on dog" began with the 1965 Griswold decision, when the Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law that prohibited the sale of contraception.

    Of course there's no real threat of news laws criminalizing premarital sex and contraception, but if straight Americans could imagine that scenario, maybe they'd be less likely to support the Catholic Church allies who focus their sexual prudery instead on us low-hanging fruit.

    'Striving to be saints'

    Posted by: Chris

    Cardinalgeorge Chicago's Cardinal Francis George confesses the near-impossibility that gay Catholics can follow church guidance released today that requires them to lead an entirely celibate life:

    Cardinal George acknowledged that gay Catholics called to chastity face a difficult sacrifice. He commended gay Catholics who try to live a life of celibacy.
     
    "They are not only striving to be chaste they are striving to be saints," he said.

    Brings to mind the old Billy Joel classic "Only the Good Die Young": "I'd rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints"!

    Hoist by their petards

    Posted by: Chris

    Bishops There's some sad, even tragic, justice to how certain religious leaders fall victim to the traps they set for their followers. First there was Ted Haggard, the Colorado evangelist who tried to follow church teaching on homosexuality, married a woman and raised a family, but wound up doing crystal meth and using the services of a male prostitute, perhaps for as long as three years.

    This week's new guidance for gay parishioners, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is another classic example. Unlike their fundamentalist Protestant brethren, the Catholic bishops acknowledge homosexuality as at least an "inclination" and do not suggest gays should go into therapy to "overcome" it and become heterosexual. Instead, they condemn gays to a life of celibacy:

    The guidelines emphasized the church's position that homosexuality is "disordered" and called on gays and lesbians to avoid sex. … The [guidelines] encourage counseling and support groups to guide gay Catholics toward a chaste life.

    Putting aside the cruelty of the church teaching some of its parishioners that they must live a life devoid of romantic and sexual companionship — a basic human need — Catholic leaders are incredibly reckless to urge a lifestyle on its parishioners when they're well aware the impact celibacy has had on their own ranks.

    In fact, at the same meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, several hundred thousand dollars was allocated to John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study "the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse of minors." Shouldn't the bishops wait until they have more information on whether attempted celibacy is a factor in clergy sexual abuse before they urge the same on gay Catholics worldwide?

    November 14, 2006

    Will Dems pick power over principle?

    Posted by: Chris

    Within hours of realizing they'd lost control of Congress in last week's elections, Republicans were talking about returning to their true principles.

    The party that came to power 12 years ago promising limited government had, under a Republican president, gotten into bed with sleazy lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and gone on a spending spree, racking up huge deficits.

    Worse yet, the party of so-called family values instead was home to a predatory closet case who trolled the Capitol for congressional pages. Once GOP leaders learned what Mark Foley was up to, they valued protecting his congressional seat over protecting the teens who work in Washington.

    As one conservative Richard Viguerie  put it, "When Tom DeLay and his bunch first ran, they campaigned against the cesspool in Washington. After a while they looked around and said, 'Hey, this isn't a cesspool, it's a hot tub.'"

    Because power became more important than policy, the Republicans failed to deliver for their core constituency — conservative Christian supporters — giving their issues lip service rather than legislation. Karl Rove and company called them crazy in private, and by the time they finally got around to voting on a federal marriage amendment, the family values crowd could see through the charade.

    So the so-called "values voters" credited with keeping George Bush in office two years ago weren't so willing to vote Republican this time around. Exit polls showed the Democrats did better than they have in years with evangelical Protestants and even beat out the GOP with Catholic voters.

    No one's saying the religious right has been born again Democrat, but when they could see their Republican champions were really just chumps, their loyalty crumbled and they acted more like other (rational, sane) voters and cast their ballots based on other (more important) issues than what's going on in their neighbor's bedroom — like, for example, the wayward war in Iraq.

    So after 12 years in the wilderness, it's the Democrats' turn again, and we'll learn soon enough whether power is more important than principle for them as well. Nancy Pelosi, the new House speaker, has announced a modest agenda for her "first 100 hours" in office that includes a minimum wage hike and congressional ethics reform.

    Among social causes, only stem cell research made the "Six in '06" pledge for the Democrats' first priority. No one expected gay rights legislation to make that list, especially Democrats who remember how gays in the military ended Bill Clinton's  honeymoon within weeks after he took office back in 1993.

    But we still should be watching for early signs of whether the Democrats decide they were elected to advance an agenda or only advance an agenda they think will get them re-elected. If the first week is is any indication, the forecast could be for stormy weather ahead.

    Legendary Democrat power broker James Carville is promoting Harold Ford, Jr., the Tennessee congressman who lost his bid for a Senate seat, to replace Howard Dean as the head of the party. Ford is young, African American and incredibly charismatic, and talks more about loving Jesus than Jerry Falwell does.

    To Carville, that means he's a star fund-raiser who can talk about "faith and values." Never mind that Ford's faith and values mean he takes positions earning dismal marks on the Human Rights Campaign's congressional scorecard, including support for federal and state amendments to ban gays from marrying.

    Meanwhile, Pelosi's first bold decision since becoming speaker-elect was to back another intra-party rebellion, this one by Iraq-war opponent John Murtha to be the next House majority leader instead of Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the heir apparent for the position.

    Murtha makes Ford look like a liberal, and not only has a rotten record on gay rights, but is anti-choice and anti-gun control. Hoyer, on the other hand, is pro-choice, pro-gun control and scored perfect 100's from HRC the last three sessions of Congress.

    Even if the Dems don't lurch to the right with the likes of Ford and Murtha, HRC and other gay groups should keep the pressure on Democrats to remember the principles supposedly behind the party. Two gay rights bills — employment non-discrimination and hate crimes — already enjoy overwhelming public support. Getting them both through Congress and onto George Bush's desk should be a no-brainer, and happen sooner rather than later.

    And if the party really wants to prove itself to its core constituencies, it should remember during the coming debate on immigration reform that gay Americans have no rights, right now, to keep their loved ones in this country. Enacting the Uniting American Families Act, which has bipartisan and growing support, would speak volumes to voters that the Democrats aren't Republicans in sheep's clothing.

    Wedding bells in South Africa

    Posted by: Chris

    How is it a country on the "the backward continent" has managed to figure out the marriage issue before the land of the free and the home of the brave? South Africa today enacted legislation that allows all couples, gay and straight, the option of marrying or entering into civil partnerhips.

    By a vote of 230-41, South Africa joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada as the countries where gay couples truly have all the same relationship rights as straight couples. (The U.K. has gone the Vermont route, offering "civil partnerships" to gay couples while keeping "marriage" for the straights.) And South Africa, which is the only country in the world to have written equality for gays explicitly into its constitution, has gone one step further: By offering all couples the option of marriage or civil partnerships, they've threaded the needle of the "M-word" issue that has so many heterosexuals so flummoxed.

    Way back in 2000, when then-Gov. Howard Dean signed the first-ever civil union legislation in Vermont, I wrote that civil unions provided a nice way out of the marriage issue. Government should get out of the marrying business entirely, I wrote then, and instead offer civil unions to couples gay and straight alike.

    Looking back, it's unrealistic to think straight couples would give up civil marriage so that gay couples could be treated equally, so perhaps the South African compromise was the way to go. Memo to legislators in New Jersey: the South Africans acted in response to a high court ruling much like the one your court issued last month.

    UPDATE: It turns out the legislation, which was forced by a court opinion much like the one in Massachusetts back in 2003, must still pass two more hurdles before becoming law: the Council of Provinces must vote for it and President Thabo Mbeki must sign it. Both are expected, however, because the ruling African National Congress strongly backs the measure.

    November 13, 2006

    Father doesn't always know best

    Posted by: Chris

    Pixneuhaus I was surprised how much there is to agree with what Father Richard John Neuhaus, a leading Catholic conservative, had to say about Ted Haggard's hypocrisy and how the public likely reacted to it. Writes Neuhaus:

    In tones of adolescent rage and petulance, which is the characteristic gay voice, commentator after commentator has accused Haggard of hypocrisy, insisting that what he claims to see as his sin is, in fact, his true self, and demanding that he embrace his sin as his authentic identity. At the core of such commentary is an adamantly binary view of sexuality—one is either straight or gay, all the way. This completely ignores findings otherwise celebrated by proponents of sexual liberation, such as Kinsey’s scale of 1 to 5 in heterosexual/ homosexual orientation.

    I can't disagree that much of what passes for gay commentary, especially in the blogosphere, is about as thoughtful and provocative as a Rush Limbaugh tirade, detailing every salacious fact of the Haggard story with childish glee. Neuhaus is also right to call the P.C. police on the assumptions about Haggard's sexual orientation. If the evangelist is bisexual, then his marriage isn't the sham most gay folks have assumed it to be, and "lusting in his heart" for men (and other women) is a betrayal of his marital vows, at least according to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and Jimmy Carter in Playboy.

    Another oddity is that gay and gay-friendly commentators assume that any publicity involving homosexuality—whether Ted Haggard or the Florida congressman who flirted with male pages—works to the benefit of their cause. This strikes me as highly doubtful. A congressional predator or Haggard’s liaisons with a male prostitute hardly enhances the public image of gayness. Of course, there are adult men who prey on girls and there are plenty of female prostitutes. But most Americans live in a heterosexual world where such deviance is recognized as deviance. Almost all the people they know do not prey on girls or patronize prostitutes. But what they do know about the gay world? Largely the sleaze that comes to the surface in public scandals.

    I've actually assumed the opposite in both cases, and I agree that when famous people are discovered to be gay in the midst of sleazy scandals like these, or James McGreevey's, it slimes the reputation of gay folks generally.

    Unfortunately, by wallowing in Haggard's hypocrisy, just for the sheer joy of it, gay commentators only emphasize the sleaze factor for mainstream Americans and miss the opportunity to make a much more important claim than that some televangelists are hypocrites. As I pointed out before, the real moral of the Haggard story isn't about personal hypocrisy, but the cold-hearted arrogance of conservative Christian leaders who refuse despite the mounting evidence to see the wrecked lives (like Haggard's and McGreevey's and their families') that result from their misguided teachings about homosexuality.

    Neuhaus personifies that mean-spirited stay-the-course commitment to condemnation, dismissing the Castro and Greenwich Village as "not America," and concluding:

    What most Americans know about being gay is distinctively unattractive and, in their view, morally repugnant. Gay advocates deceive themselves in thinking that the more people know about homosexuality the more they will approve of it.

    Of course every public opinion poll ever completed on the subject suggests the contrary, as a reader to Andrew Sullivan's blog points out. Now if we can stop chortling over Haggard's hypocrisy long enough, maybe we could point that out.

    (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

    Hell Hath No Fury

    Posted by: Chris

    A thoughtful op-ed from yesterday's Washington Post looks behind the McGreevey, Foley, Haggard scandals and identifies how religious intolerance lies underneath all three:

    Our condemnatory attitudes began in the latter part of the Middle Ages. Until then the Christian church in Western Europe, and thus the general culture, had largely tolerated or ignored homosexual acts. But everything changed when Thomas Aquinas and other religious writers labeled not only homosexual acts but all non-procreative sexual behavior "unnatural." The Roman Catholic Church continues to promote this idea today.

    Not a remarkable revelation itself, but it comes from a United Methodist minister, who takes her own faith to task for advertising "open hearts, open minds, open doors" even as it closed all three to gay parishioners and their families. As a former Methodist myself, I feel her pain. But there's even one more twist to the column, as this particular Methodist minister knows of what she speaks:

    I was married to a closeted gay man for 15 years, and we had three children before the truth of his sexual orientation emerged. The emotional devastation of that revelation and our subsequent divorce has been profound for me, my children, my former husband, our extended family and our friends.

    It's way beyond time to hear from "the scorned women" who are the "collateral damage" behind the conservative religious teaching that gay people should treat their sexual orientation as a temptation to be overcome, and marry someone of the opposite sex.

    Gaylehaggard_1 Unfortunately so many, including Ted Haggard's wife, are too invested in their failed ideology to see what's best for them and their children, not to mention their closeted spouse. On the same day Haggard admitted to his church he was a "deceiver," here's what Mrs. Haggard said in her statement to the congregation:

    A letter from Gayle Haggard was addressed to the women of the church. She professed her commitment to her marriage and the church's teachings.

    "For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case," she wrote, drawing one of the morning's few laughs. "My test has begun; watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful."

    It's certainly understandable that even those wives and husbands who come to understand the societal forces that pressured their gay spouse into heterosexual marriage aren't the first to champion gay acceptance and equality. But Rev. Ermalou Roller, the author of the WaPo piece, offers a powerful explanation for why they should:

    Broken relationships with[in my own] family have been largely, if not totally, healed. But many people are not as fortunate. They, and our society at large, miss out on the fullness of life that is tragically denied to so many because the rest of us don't want to deal fairly and fully with such a difficult and embarrassing subject. Families are torn apart, careers ruined, gifts and graces underutilized, and lives destroyed. Thus, ironically, the anguish that gays and lesbians suffer because of their rejection isn't visited just upon them, as horrible as that is. It affects us all.

    Amen, sister Ermalou!

    November 12, 2006

    What's the Frequency, John?

    Posted by: Chris

    Count me as one more disillusioned John McCain fan. He is the REM of politics: I liked his early stuff, but when he tried too hard to be commercial, he lost his soul.

    First McCain kissed up to Jerry Falwell, whom he'd called an "agent of intolerance" back in 2000. He even gave the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University, despite school policy there to expel students who date within their gender. In 2000, McCain's "Straight Talk Express" slammed George W. Bush for speaking at Bob Jones University, which expelled students for dating outside their race.

    Mccainmeet_1Now in addition to changing his tune, he's turned tone deaf. If today's "Meet the Press" appearance was any indication, he certainly did not get the message from voters last Tuesday. Tim Russert asked, "What did you hear from the voters on Tuesday?" McCain responded by saying voters were upset that Republicans had strayed from promises of fiscal conservatism and become immersed in scandal. Certainly true and the issues where McCain still impresses the most.

    But when McCain got around to mentioning the war, which voters in fact listed as most important, you would think it was denial, and not the Tigris and Euphrates, that run through Baghdad:

    The Iraq war obviously is very frustrating. I know we’re going to talk more about that, but there’s—very frustrating to the American people. But I would submit, if they were all against the Iraq war that you probably would not have seen my friend Joe Lieberman, who I’m sure will talk about it, re-elected.

    Actually, his friend Joe Lieberman was almost un-seated by a first-time candidate, who beat the former veep nominee in the Democratic Party primary, almost solely because of the war. Both McCain and Lieberman were vocal supporters of the war, haven't recounted those positions, and neither offers a realistic exit strategy.

    On Iraq, the "Meet The Press" transcripts almost write themselvesl. Over and over to mind-numbing repitition, Iraq War supporters, and many Democratic critics, have gone on the Sunday morning talk shows to say that "the next 60 days, " or "the next three months," or "the next [fill in the blank]" will be absolutely critical, and will determine the outcome of the war. First it was the Iraqi draft constitution, then the elections, then the formation of a government, then the efforts to build an Iraqi security force. Now, four years later — longer than it took for the U.S. to beat both the Japanese and the Germans in World War II — the violence is escalating and there's no end in sight, or even signs of major progress.

    McCain's answer? Send in more troops. If this man hadn't been a prisoner during the Vietnam War you would think he was unfamiliar with it, as much as he persists in thinking victory at this point is achievable militarily, as opposed to politically. In Iraq as in Vietnam, the people have made clear, through the ongoing insurgence and unwillingness to come together in one government, that they do not want the solution we are imposing on them. And yet the idea of involving Iraq's neighbors to achieve a political solution is, to McCain, almost an afterthought:

    And by the way, I think the Baker Commission is going to recommend a area-wide conference, which is fine with me. But there’s no Rosetta Stone here, there’s no magic formula for success.

    If McCain has been this wrong, for this long, about something so important, than he ought to be disqualifying himself for the higher office he seeks. In 2004, a lot of us held our noses and voted for John Kerry because he was better on social issues and because the Bush team had been so divisive and had run the war so incompentently. But John Kerry had voted wrong on both Iraq Wars and never offered a viable exit strategy, relying instead on a "Bush-lite" approach that was mind-numbing in complexity. McCain is offering more of the same and as if to put an exclamation point on it, backs the John Bolton nomination to the U.N., even though the man personifies the arrogant, divisive Bush foreign policy that has discredited the U.S. with our allies and embolded our enemies.

    Whether McCain shares the famed Bush aversion to introspection or he can't politically question a war and keep conservatives on his side for the GOP primaries, he's playing with fire, not just politics.
    Memo to McCain (and Hillary and others who backed this wrong-headed, poorly run war): There are certain issues — war and peace and civil rights, to name two — that you can't triangulate your way to the White House on, not if we the people and the media are doing our job.

    Two out of three ain't bad…

    Posted by: Chris

    Three would-be presidential runs hit brick walls the last few weeks, and good riddance to two of the three casualties, although the third one will be sorely missed.

    Georgeallen_1 Republican George Felix Allen expected to coast to re-election as a U.S. senator from Virginia, positioning him for a White House run in two years. Then came his "macaca" moment, his bizarre reaction to learning he has Jewish family heritage, and all those stories about him being a big ole racist.

    Even if he'd squeaked by last week, his presidential ambitions were toast. Having lost, the best he's hoping for is perhaps a return to the Virginia gubernatorial mansion. Considering his born-again adherence to an anti-gay line after early Senate years as GOP moderate, he won't be missed. Here's hoping his coterie of gay staffers choose their champion more wisely next time.

    Johnkerry John Forbes Kerry, the Democratic nominee in '04, had been making lots of noises about running again in '08, despite his abysmal campaign two years ago in a race he should have won. Then a week before the election, he botched a joke about the president and came off sounding like he was insulting the intelligence of our troops in Iraq. The Republicans had a field day, and although it didn't stick to Democrats generally, it reminded everyone why this velcro candidate isn't electable.

    No big loss for gay Americans; although Kerry has a generally strong gay rights record, he completely blew it on marriage. Like the other major Dems, Kerry opposes a federal marriage amendment and backs civil unions rather than marriage, but he went the next step and also backed state constitutional amendments banning gays from marrying in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Two years later, the Democratic National Committee is calling such ballot measures "hate-filled," and yet Kerry hasn't renounced his support for them. Nice work to be on the wrong side of history so fast.

    Russfeingold Then today came the sad news that Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has ruled out a presidential run. A staunch oponent of the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, Feingold was well-positioned to be the go-to progressive candidate in 2008. He is also one of a handful of senators, and the only likely presidential candidate, who backs full marriage equality. But he announced in a letter on his PAC website that with the Dems back in control of the Senate, he wants to concentrate his efforts there.

    So where does that leave gays and our supporters for 2008? The likely field of Democrats is much like the one two years ago.  Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack and Bill Richardson should all be fairly progressive on basic gay rights issues, though all the money and excitement will likely get lapped up by superstars Barack and Hillary, if they run.

    Johnmccain732728 On the Republican side, John McCain's candidacy looks even stronger with the repudiation of the right in last week's election. For a Republican he has been moderate on gay issues, though that says more about his party than it does McCain. His HRC scores over the last four sessions of Congress (17, 14, 25, 33) reflect his opposition to a federal marriage amendment and his office non-discrimination policy. On every other gay and HIV issue charted by HRC, McCain's been on the other side.

    Losing Allen from the field means one fewer attempt at faking "compassionate conservativism," and Kerry's ineptitude won't be missed either. But Feingold, who would have pushed the Democrats to be true to their party's principles on a whole host of issues, including marriage, is a real loss. Will a new progressive emerge?

    November 11, 2006

    With Dems like these...

    Posted by: Chris

    …who needs Republicans?

    Harold Ford to lead the party?
    Haroldpissed_1 * HRC Score 108th Congress: 44
    * HRC Score 109th Congress: 25
    Backs federal marriage amendment, and punitive state constitutional amendment banning gay couples from marrying.

    John Murtha for House Majority Leader?
    Murtha_1 * HRC Score 107th Congress: 33
    * HRC Score 108th Congress: 17
    * HRC Score 109th Congress: 63
    Has refused to co-sponsor even Employment Non-Discrimination or hate crimes legislation; opposes abortion rights.

    *=Human Rights Campaign score on gay and HIV/AIDS issues.

    Thank God for Barney, pushing instead for Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer (HRC scores: 100, 100, 88)

    The Boy From Ipanema

    Posted by: Chris

    (A quick note — I've never been too comfortable writing about my own life; in a decade as an editor I wrote maybe a dozen columns that were personal. But that's supposed to be one of the liberating things about blogging, so forgive me the indulgence.)

    Euheart_1 OK, so he's from Belém, not Ipanema. But Ipanema is where we met, and that's where he is now. As for me — just three days back in Washington and the distance is already beginning to take its toll. 

    At the risk of throwing a pity party for one, can I ask why this has to be so difficult? Despite annoying claims from self-help authors and Bible-thumpers, there's no manual for life, and even less so for relationships. Then throw in some uniquely modern problems that my own relationship struggles with.

    The whole idea of long-term, committed same-gender relationships tried en masse is an entirely novel concept. And rather than be embraced for trying to settle into stable households, many of our (former) friends, family, and fellow citizens condemn us for it.

    The idea of commitment has no doubt come more naturally to the lesbians than us gay men. Credit the horrific HIV pandemic with helping so many to finally see the advantages of hearth and home over being a ho, and then doubly credit growing acceptance and coming out at an early age with improving our odds for success.

    Just as new and unique is the long-distance relationship, at least tried by so many, enabled by cheap long distance and discount air carriers. The last five years have really revolutionized things; the Internet and new technology have made national borders seem as irrelevant to the heart as crossing a state line. I like the take from my friends at Love Exile, a group of gay Americans forced to live abroad to be with their non-American partners:

    The world is getting smaller and smaller; more and more people travel the world, where they make friends and meet lovers who sometimes become partners.

    That's what happened for me and the Boy in Ipanema. And so far so good — actually, so wonderful — almost two years later. But as anyone with long-distance history can tell you, there comes a point — that fish-or-cut-bait point — when growing as a couple means finding a way to be together for more than just visits, whatever the duration.

    We forestalled that inevitability for a long time, thanks be to Skype! Even so far apart, we chat online throughout the day and talk by Internet telephone every night. With the latest Skype version, we're even able to see and talk live, in real-time by webcam.

    Still, decision-time arrived and I never gave serious thought to anything but relocation. Bringing him to the U.S. is impossible with our incredibly restrictive immigration laws, and I'm not even talking about the anti-gay ones. My American friends are amazed to learn he's never once visited me here, or been to the U.S., or even spent more than a weekend in an English-speaking country. But such is life in post-9/11, xenophobic America. (Don't tell me immigration would be such a hot-button issue if Canadians were sneaking across the border instead of Spanish-speaking, dark-skinned Latinos.)

    Of course, if we were a straight couple, those immigration woes would magically disappear. U.S. law requires only that we've met a single time for a "fiancé visa" allowing a visit here to marry, with permanent residence (green card) to follow. There's even an exception for that single requirement if we could prove economic hardship or a cultural background that frowns on husband-wife face-time pre-nuptial.

    Not so for gay relationships, where becoming involved with an American can actually make it more difficult for the non-American to get a visa, even as a tourist, because our government suspects the foreign lover won't go home before the time expires.

    So here we are, almost two years later. Still together despite the usual relationship throes, completely different backgrounds, a huge initial language barrier and even a brutal beating by seven thugs for holding hands in the street. Back in Washington, I hope to quickly sell my condo and my car and most of my possessions, so I can get back to Rio and Ipanema Boy.

    Win This week, I allowed myself the quick fantasy of the new Democratic-controlled Congress slipping gay partnership rights into the coming immigration reforms. Thinking about that prospect tonight, I remembered how Democrats reacted when they gave Republicans a "thumping" in another midterm election, way back in 1974. (OK, so I was a precocious 9-year-old political junkie.)

    Nim "W.I.N." buttons made popular by President Ford to "Whip Inflation Now," got turned upside down by his Democratic opponents: "N.I.M.," they said, "No Immediate Miracles."

    November 10, 2006

    The South Falls Again

    Posted by: Chris

    Confederate_flagno When my liberal Yankee friends laugh dismissively at my backward, redneck region, I enjoy reminding them that the South has produced not only their sworn enemies, like George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott — but some of their most prized leaders, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore. In fact, Democrats haven't elected a president from outside the South since JFK, and when the South went Republican "red" in the '80s and '90s, so too did Congress.

    Now comes a report from the Washington Post that the rising South within the GOP may have pushed the party too far to the right for those in the Midwest, especially. This week's election effectively ended the South's regional rule over Congress:

    Of the 28 House seats that Democrats picked up in the midterm elections, 10 were in the Northeast and 10 more were in the Midwest. They added five seats in the South and three in the West.

    The results produced a historic shift in the balance of regional power in Congress. The majority party in the House is now the minority party among Southern states for the first time since the 83rd Congress in 1953-1954. The same holds for the new Democratic-controlled Senate, except for a brief period in the 1980s.

    Being Southern is a central part of my identity, as it is for most native sons and daughters, but I welcome the waning influence nationally of our politicians. Their track record throughout American history, at least on social issues, is backward and mean-spirited.

    Even though the social conservatism of the Republicans' Southern leaders may have cost the party control of Congress, they may nonetheless wield greater influence in the GOP, further marginalizing the party. Many of the Republicans who lost their seats were moderates and liberals, including nearly half the members of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a caucus of moderate GOP members.

    Some of my gay Republican friends, like Cyd Zeigler over at Dooryard, are hoping the Republicans see the election as a repudiation of the party's right-wing. But the loss of so many moderates in swing districts leaves the GOP congressional caucus more firmly in conservative hands. Still, if they're smart, they will focus their "return to Republican roots" on the fiscal conservatism  and robust foreign policy of Ronald Reagan, as the folks at Gay Patriot hope, rather than the divisive social conservativism of Karl Rove.

    The Democrats, on the other hand, are much more likely to move to the center. They know they owe their slim congressional majorities to a lot of first-term (i.e., vulnerable) members from swing districts, many of whom are moderate or even conservative on social issues:

    "We have to constantly remind everybody that members-elect have about 24 hours to celebrate, and then they are targets," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). "They have to defend their seats, and they cannot do that unless they have performed for their constituents," who are not as liberal as many of the party's activists.

    Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said: "If you look at the folks who were elected around the country, we were contesting swing districts. By definition, candidates in swing districts lean to the middle. They ran in districts that clearly had Republicans" in large numbers.

    If conservatives solidify their hold on the GOP and moderates are ascendent among Democrats, then the ironic outcome of Tuesday's election would be a weakened position for liberals, including those who support gay rights legislation. Reaction among Democrats like those from Tauscher and Hoyer are typical, already warning progressives not to expect anything dramatic as long as Bush is in the White House and their control of Congress is so tenuous.

    Progressives' best bet would be to focus party attention on the Iraq War, while picking a few  less controversial bones to throw to the liberal base in the Northeast. Employment non-discrimination and hate crime laws would be two natural options.

    In other news…

    Posted by: Chris

    • In Jerusalem, seJerusalem_prideveral thousand gay men and lesbians defied threats of violence and participated in the city's gay pride event. Organizers had planned a march, but after threats of violence from ultra-Orthodox Jews, they negotiated with police to hold the event inside a stadium. Even still, some 3,000 police were on hand to protect the 4,000 gays and their supporters. The right-wing Jews (Judaists?) called on police to scrap the event entirely, a demand that was backed by the Vatican and fundamentalist Muslims. (Photo via AFP)
    • New_jersey In New Jersey, a Democrat has introduced legislation that would open up civil marriage to gay couples but make clear that no religion would be required to perform them. The measure faces long odds: It's opposed by the Democrats who lead both state houses, as well as Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Polls show voters leaning in favor of civil unions in response to the Supreme Court's decision there last month. Civil unions are backed 56-34%; marriage is opposed 41-50%.
    • Legislators in South Africa, facing a constitutional court order demanding equal rights for gay and straight couples, is now weighing a measure that would avoid the "M" question entirely, adopting civil unions for all couples. The new approach represents a defeat for conservative elements within the ruling African National Congress who wanted to block marriage for gay couples by amending the country's constitution, which is the first ever to explicitly guarantee equal rights based on sexual orientation.
    • CalderonMeanwhile in Mexico City, the local assembly is adopting "civil unions" for gay couples, backed by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and opposed by the National Action Party of President Vincente Fox and President-Elect Felipe Calderon (pictured). It's not clear whether those unions carry all the same rights as marriage, as they do in Vermont and Connecticut, or whether they are really domestic partnerships, with limited legal recognition. Elsewhere in Latin America, legal recognition for gay couples has been adopted in Buenos Aires and the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grade do Sul. Similar measures have been debated in the national legislatures of Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia, and has been introduced in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.

    New values for voters

    Posted by: Chris

    Jesus More evidence that the divisive agenda pushed by social conservatives may be less appealing now to the religious, "values voters" than a broader agenda that includes the environment and social justice issues. This from the Wall Street Journal:

    Exit polls suggest that Democrats made significant gains among several religious demographic groups, including both Catholics and evangelical Protestants. While the party's 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry won barely 20% of white evangelicals, for example, almost 30% voted Democratic this year. Democrats won the backing of 55% of Catholics this year, compared with 47% in 2004.

    Two years ago, conservative religious groups claimed credit for putting President Bush over the top in his tough re-election battle, and were rewarded with two conservative Supreme Court justices. Now, however, much of their political agenda and even a measure of their strength have crumbled with the loss of Republican control in the House, and probably in the Senate. …

    Democrats and their allies were touting the changes, saying they point to religious voters' growing concerns about the environment and social justice as well as traditional family values. If the theory holds, it could fundamentally reform the electoral landscape, particularly at the presidential level, Democrats believe. "When you look at...evangelical and these values-first voters, we made inroads there that probably even surprised Republicans," said party chairman Howard Dean. …

    They also pointed to an organized effort, particularly in Ohio, to address religious voters' concerns about social issues, such as ameliorating the effects of globalization. "It appears people are thinking more complexly about the issues," said Sister Simone Campbell, national coordinator of Network, a national Catholic social-justice lobby on Capitol Hill.

    In fact, there were independent signs that social concerns were catching fire with voters. Ballot initiatives across the country to raise the minimum wage were approved by lopsided margins. Environmentalists helped secure the defeat of Rep. Richard Pombo (R., Calif.), a friend to oil and mining interests. …

    Democrats and liberal activists held out hope that the changes evident in Tuesday's results, particularly those affecting religious voters, could translate into lasting gains. They predicted that wedge issues such as gay marriage would become less potent weapons for Republicans in the future, and that Democrats could attract enough white voters to prevail in future presidential elections.

    One reason the marriage issue is losing potency is that it's been pounded into submission in the states where it is most effective for Republicans as a wedge issue: 45 states either have statutes banning gay marriage or statutes and constitutional amendments. Having used belts and suspenders, how can they still claim gay marriage might leave us caught with our pants down?

    A wedge turns into a wedgie?

    Posted by: Chris

    If "Man Bites Dog" is the kind of reversal that turns an ordinary canine-human encounter into front-page news, then "My Dogma Got Run Over By My Karma" should have the same ironic-twist, headline-grabbing effect. That may be exactly what happened George Allen on Tuesday.

    Georgeallen A once-moderate Republican who backed hate crime laws that included "sexual orientation," and opposed as unnecessary a federal marriage amendment, Allen decided to run to the right for his '06 re-election — not because the race was expected to be close so much as he wanted to warm up social conservatives who will be influential in the GOP presidential primaries of 2008. So despite a large coterie of longtime gay staffers, Allen saddled up his horse and galloped hard to the right.

    He reversed himself on hate crimes and a federal marriage amendment and began stumping on behalf of Virginia's uniquely cruel ballot measure on gay marriage. The Marshall-Newman Amendment wrote into Thomas Jefferson's state constitution a ban on not just marriage for same-sex couples, but civil unions, domestic partnerships and any and all other recognition for unmarried couples. The ban is so broadly written that it even calls into question private contracts entered into by unmarried couples, gay and straight.

    The amendment passed but rather than wedge the gay issue to a strong re-election and a White House run, Allen may have given himself a career-ending wedgie. The Falls Church News Press reports:

    An analysis of the voting pattern Tuesday in Virginia suggests that the so-called “marriage amendment” on the ballot as Question 1 might have cost U.S. Senator George Allen the election. If true, it would mark an ironic twist, the backfiring of an effort Republicans hoped would spur a stronger turnout for their incumbent. It would also be consolation for opponents to the Constitutional ban on gay marriage, which passed by a 57% to 43% margin statewide.

    It seems the well-funded effort to block the marriage amendment, though ultimately unsuccessful, did spur a lot more progressive voters to the polls than normal in Northern Virginia and the state's university towns:

    In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, the “No” vote on Question 1 prevailed with 77% of the total, the highest percentage in the state. University towns of Lexington, Williamsburg and Fredericksburg also voted against the measure, indicating a trend among younger voters statewide.

    In Northern Virginia, the “No” votes prevailed by 73.81% in Arlington, 70.5% in Alexandria, 69.17% in the City of Falls Church, 54.17% in Fairfax County and 52.91% in Fairfax City. They also prevailed in Norfolk, Richmond and Petersburg.

    Since Allen lost by less than 8,000 votes those additional progressive voters, turned out by a $1 million lobby against the gay marriage amendment, most likely provided more than opposition to unseat Allen.

    The even bigger irony, of course, is that Allen's loss in Virginia cost the Republicans control of the Senate, meaning now Karl Rove and George W. Bush will ultimately pay the price for the wedge that backfired into a wedgie.

     

    November 09, 2006

    Ken Mehlman's gerbil wheel

    Posted by: Chris

    Mehlman Surely he didn't put it exactly this way:

    CNN's John King just reported that Ken Mehlman will be leaving as chair of the Republican National Committee (i.e., head of the Republican party) by the end of the year. Apparently Kenny's just tuckered out. According to King, "He's been on the gerbil wheel, as one of his close friends put it, for well in excess of six years now and he's tired."

    I just heard King report it again on Lou Dobbs' show, but sans the gerbil reference. Perhaps Mehlman is simply exhausted from six years of cynical wedging gay Americans, but the timing will definitely raise eyebrows. So will Bill Maher go forward with his plans for outing Mehlman on Friday?

    Victory in Massachusetts!

    Posted by: Chris

    Delegates to the Constitutional Convention Massachusetts have just voted 109-87 to recess the "ConCon" until Jan. 2, 2007, the last day of the current legislative session. That means the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the only state we have it is, for the time being, dead in the water.

    Victory By voting a recess, rather than an adjournment, delegates effectively blocked outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney (R) from calling the ConCon back into session. The procedural vote, by a simple majority, accomplished what a vote on the amendment itself could not. It would have taken 151 out of 200 votes to kill the amendment on a direct vote.

    Expect lots of braying from conservatives about how democracy has been short-changed because delegates didn't vote directly on the amendment and voters are being deprived of a ballot measure. Of course, these are the same folks who complain that "judicial activists" unfairly steal the marriage issue from "democratically-elected legislators" — who, incidentally, are the ones who just agreed to this procedural motion.

    (Photo via Bay Windows Blog)

    Kneeling at the altar of hypocrisy

    Posted by: Chris

    If it's true as Andrew Sullivan blogs today that the Vatican's lead defamer on the incompatibility of homosexuality and the priesthood may himself be guilty of abusive sexual exploits with a 23-year-old male seminarian, then step aside, Ted Haggard. You've been out-hypocritized.

    Anatrella Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, explained the new Vatican ban on even celibate gay seminarians thusly:

    Homosexuals are not in the adequate position to marry, to adopt children and to accede to deaconate and priesthood (only men in coherence with their masculine identity are able to receive the sacrament…

    And thusly:

    On a more theological level, Anatrella argues that gay priests cannot effectively incarnate a "spousal tie" between God and the church, nor the "spiritual paternity" a priest is supposed to exhibit.

    And now stands accused in a French lawsuit thusly:

    According to the complaint, filed on 30 October in Paris, a French ex-seminarian named Daniel Lamarca said that, while being treated by Anatrella in 1987, he had sexual relations with the cleric, who Lamarca went to in the hope of "curing" him of his homosexuality. The patient was 23 at the time and spoke of "bodily work" therapy sessions with Anatrella that, according to the accuser, would progress into sex.

    At least Haggard's prostitute was a willing participant and not the alleged victim of a horrible abuse of authority. Here's hoping the mainstream media will pick up this story and give it it's due.

    Ken Mehlman's re-censored re-outing

    Posted by: Chris

    Mahercnn Bill Maher told Larry King on CNN last night that Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman is gay, but you wouldn't know it from the edited re-broadcast and transcript from the interview.

    You can see both the original interview and the edited version on Huffington Post here. This was the original exchange, mostly censored in the re-broadcast and transcript:

    Maher:  A lot of the chiefs of staff, the people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party, are gay. I don't want to mention names, but I will Friday night...
    King:  You will Friday night?
    Maher:  Well, there's a couple of big people who I think everyone in Washington knows who run the Republican...
    King:  You will name them?
    Maher:  Well, I wouldn't be the first. I'd get sued if I was the first. Ken Mehlman. OK, there's one I think people have talked about. I don't think he's denied it when he's been, people have suggested, he doesn't say...
    King:  I never heard that. I'm walking around in a fog. I never... Ken Mehlman? I never heard that. But the question is...
    Maher:  Maybe you don't go to the same bathhouse I do, Larry.

    This isn't the first time a major news network has censored references to Mehlman's sexual orientation. MSNBC did it back in January.

    MehlmankenAll this hyper-sensitivity around sexual orientation is really just slipshod journalism. On the one hand, Maher wasn't really "outing" Mehlman with actual evidence that he's gay; he was talking about the rumor. CNN runs entire programs filled with pure rumor about public figures, including about their sexual orientation. So why the special rule for political figures? Mehlman isn't married to a woman, and doesn't date women publicly, so how could saying he's gay be defamatory, even if it's not true? 

    Maher isn't correct, hwoever, when he claims Mehlman has never denied the rumor. In the last few months, after repeatedly refusing to answer the question, Mehlman has been denying he's gay with a quip that the rumor's done a number on his dating life. (This harkens back to Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager, Donna Brazile, another closet case, who told the Washington Post, "If I had a personal life, I'd have a sexual orientation.")

    I know Ken from law school and have been accused of spiking a story outing him when I was editor the Washington Blade. The charge is ridiculous, and I categorically denied in an editorial at the time. I do not have any personal information about whether Ken is gay. I was very deep in the closet during law school, and if Ken is gay, he was as well.

    As I've written before, the sexual orientation of public figures is fair game, even if their private sex life is not. Ken Mehlman is a big boy, and should be able to withstand the scrutiny, especially given how he and his mentor Karl Rove used gay marriage as a wedge issue in 2004 and (much less effectively) this year.

    Daily Kos blogger Mike Stark had it right back in January. It's the censorship, stupid!

    The real vote on marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Just two days after the midterm elections, a vote today on marriage will be much more important than the ones held in eight states that had ballot measures on the topic Tuesday. Legislators in Massachusetts are convening a Constitutional Convention today and the main topic is whether to approve a petition to put a gay marriage constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot.

    Map_massachusetts The byzantine rules on amending the state's constitution require that only 50 of the 200 delegates to the "ConCon"  — which includes legislators from both state houses — back putting the marriage ban on the ballot. The petition would have to survive a similar vote next year.

    Both sides acknowledge that gay marriage opponents probably have the 50 votes they need — and perhaps close to 60 — to support the petition, but now comes word that leaders of the state House and Senate may prevent the issue from even coming up for a vote.

    House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi (D), who backs gay marriage, plans to push for a vote to adjourn the ConCon or at least recess it until the new, more Democratic legislature takes office in January. A simple majority of 101 is needed to recess or adjourn, and either outcome would kill the petition, blocking it from the '08 ballot

    Travaglini The wildcard has been Senate President Robert E. Travaglini (D), a gay marriage foe, who will preside over the convention. In a surprise twist, he told the Boston Globe yesterday that he will entertain a motion to recess or adjourn, even before a vote can be taken on the marriage amendment. Outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican with his eye on an '08 White House run, was predictably apoplectic, charging that "failure to vote is a violation of the oath of office we all take to uphold the constitution." Gov.-elect Deval Patrick, a Democrat who won landslide election, is a strong gay marriage backer put plans to stay out of today's battle.

    For the latest on what happens at the ConCon, stay tuned here or visit the real-time blog from the convention on the website for Bay Windows, Boston's gay and lesbian newspaper.

    The verdict on 'values voters'

    Posted by: Chris

    Santorumconcedes_2

    It was a rough Election Day for so-called "values voters." Their party of choice was thrown out of power in both houses of Congress in what all the exit polls indicate was a strong repudiation of their president. Their most vocal supporter in the Senate, Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, was trounced by almost 20 points.

    For the first time, voters rejected a statewide gay marriage ban, and in the red state of Arizona, at that. In two other red states, South Dakota (52-48%) and Virginia (57-43%), the vote was much closer than the 70-30 lopsided margin of years past. In South Dakota, voters roundly rejected an abortion ban. A majority of Virginia voters said in an exit poll that they support either marriage or its near-equivalent, civil unions, for gay couples.

    Voters in Colorado only narrowly (56-44%) passed a marriage ban and even more narrowly (47-53%) rejected a broad domestic partnership referendum. Only in South Carolina, Idaho and Tennessee, where the marriage ban measures weren't seriously contested, did they pass by the margin they have in the past.

    Still, the Christianist conservatives are in denial. Stanley Kurtz proves denial is a river running through the National Review Online:

    So voters everywhere still see marriage as the union of a man and a woman. They are more closely divided on the matter of civil unions and domestic partnerships, yet lean against these as well.

    Actually, the exit poll in Virginia and others nationally show a clear majority back marriage or civil unions for gay couples.

    Despite all the evidence, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council claimed the Republican repudiation was still a mandate from values voters, though he had to morph them into the "integrity voters":

    The message is that values are not just something you talk about at election time; values should guide public policies and personal conduct. This should be a clear message to both parties that values voters vote values, not party. Their focus is not on party politics, but rather on government guided by core values.

    As a "Fox in Socks" rhyme, Perkins is quite lyrical. As a post-election analysis, Perkins' take has the weight of a "Fox in Socks" rhyme. The GOP pushed their "values" issues in Congress, including a federal marriage amendment, and it only compounded their basic problem. The corruption issue did, in fact, hurt the Republicans, but the wound was made deeper by the hypocrisy it laid bare in their leadership.

    The Republicans lost Congress despite a strong economy because voters were angry about Iraq and the direction the GOP was taking the country, stubbornly focused on divisive social issues instead of the issues that mattered to the voters.

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