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    October 31, 2007

    GOP cross-dressing blogo-hypocrisy

    Posted by: Chris

    Curtiscastagna "Cross-dressing state lawmaker blackmailed following late night tryst"

    With a headline like that, the scandal surrounding Washington state Rep. Richard Curtis is shaping up as a real doozie, and the gay blogosphere is well-lathered to pass on every juicy detail.  There are some interesting twists, however, that are showing the predictable pack of salivating bloggers are victims of "the big H" -- that would be hypocrisy -- themselves.

    The basic story, in case you've missed it, is this:

    State Representative Richard Curtis says he's not gay, but police reports and court records indicate the Republican lawmaker from southwestern Washington dressed up in women's lingerie and met a Medical Lake man in a local erotic video store which led to consensual sex at a downtown hotel and a threat to expose Curtis' activities publicly.

    A search warrant unsealed Tuesday morning disclosed that State Representative Richard Curtis (R - La Center) had sex in his room at the Davenport Tower with a man identified as Cody Castagna, 26, of Medical Lake, who he met at the Hollywood Erotic Boutique on Oct. 26.

    We're all given permission to revel in every salacious detail of this private, consexual sex encounter because Curtis is "anti-gay," or as Pam Spaulding put it, "very anti-gay."  What qualifies as "very anti-gay" these days is voting against Washington state's domestic partner registry and civil rights law. 

    Richardcurtisthumb So fair enough, he is opposed to gay rights, though no one has portrayed him as outspoken or in a leadership role on the subject. Votes are enough to make you "very anti-gay" in the gay blogoworld. The far bigger hypocrisy to me is that Curtis, like Larry Craig before him, is married to a woman. Hence his vulnerability to blackmail.

    Lost in all the joyous reveling in the salacious personal details of this man's private sex life is that the only reason we know anything about it is that he went to police as the victim of felony extortion. Of all the blogs I've seen, only my pal Jeremy over at Good As You makes more than a passing reference to Curtis as the victim here.  Jeremy included this "editor's note":

    In no way should the above be interpreted as an endorsement of any of the alleged extortion that has taken place against Mr. Curtis. It should be taken merely as a commentary on the nonstop hypocrisy coming out of the GOP ranks, and not on this police investigation itself.

    Thanks for that, though it's far from the norm. Dan Savage in particular has feigned shock at each additional detail he breathlessly shares on his aptly named blog "The Slog," acknowledging only in passing that the the information comes from the police report Curtis filed as the alleged victim of a serious crime.  Writes Savage:

    As if the details about anti-gay Washington State Rep. Richard (R-La Center) and his tryst with a male escort in Spokane, Washington, weren’t sordid enough, I spent the last hour wading through the 15 page police report. Holy crap! Curtis, hoping to keep this whole thing quiet, called the police himself. And when the police asked him what happened, Curtis told them everything.

    So even though Curtis is the apparent victim, Savage and company will do exactly what the blackmailer threatened and share every private sexual detail, with giddy commentary to boot.  It's true that no charges have been filed, but if you watch the video of Castagna trying to explain why he has Curtis' wallet and sent a stooge to pick up the dough, it looks pretty clean cut.

    Cody_castagna_still It's all justified, of course, because there's no crime more serious to the sex police of the left than hypocrisy. Which is why it's been very interesting to see how these same bloggers have reacted to news that Curtis enjoys wearing women's lingerie. Cross-dressers and trasvestites (those who have a sexual fetish wearing clothing of the opposite sex) are both types of transgenderism, the T in our happy GLBT community.

    One helpful link from the National Center for Transgender Equality describes cross-dressers this way:

    While the vast majority of crossdressers are ordinary heterosexual men with an additional feminine dimension, they are stereotyped by society based on a highly visible minority who crossdress for entirely different reasons. Drag queens are usually gay or bisexual males who don women’s clothes either to mock femininity and society’s stereotypes of gays, or to find sex partners.

    Sigh. Feel the love from these "ordinary heterosexual men." We are one big happy GLBT family, aren't we? Regardless, our crossdressing T's are telling us that crossdressers are often heterosexual and (presumably) married, so no hypocrisy there.   

    We should, in fact, feel kinship with Curtis since we've been reminded again and again in the ENDA debate that we are all gender transgressors of one form or another, and the Ts are so important that our own GLB rights must wait their place in line.  It's a surprise, then, to see how cross-dressing is being treated by the leftie gay blosgosphere.

    Take for example my friend Wayne Besen, who endorsed the "trans or bust" ENDA strategy and yet labels Curtis' sexual fetish as "fucked up" and "perverted":

    I'm telling you, the more they preach, the more fucked up they truly are. Conservative is just a synonym for pervert.

    Same for Pam Spaulding, who said about the blackmail victim, who she calls Richard 'Kink' Curtis: "Is there any end to the depravity of the hypocrites in the moralist GOP?"

    Dan Savage even throws in evidence mentioned in the police report that has no bearing on the case: "Lingerie, condoms, rope, stethoscopes—Rep. Curtis is a very kinky girl!"

    It's interesting to see how, in contrast, the British are handling their own gay sex blackmail scandal. I don't support the gag order British courts have employed to block release of the victim's identity. (It's unworkable, anyway.) But there is at least some sense that the crime of blackmail always involves a victim whose private life faces a great threat if information is revealed.

    The idea that we would enthusiastically finish the blackmailer's work for him, despite the information was about private, consensual conduct, just goes to show how far the politics of personal destruction have progressed.

    October 30, 2007

    Talk about your biased sample…

    Posted by: Chris

    Gay_football1 The headline from Science Daily was a real eye-grabber: "Over One-third Of Former American Football Players Had Sexual Relations With Men, Study Claims."  The magazine reports:

    In his study of homosexuality among sportsmen in the US, sociologist Dr Eric Anderson found that 19 in a sample of 47 had taken part in acts intended to sexually arouse other men, ranging from kissing to mutual masturbation and oral sex.

    But then, the fine print reads straight out of The Onion:

    The 47 men, aged 18-23, were all American Football players who previously played at the high school (secondary school) level but had failed to be picked for their university’s team and were now cheerleaders instead.

    George_bush_as_cheerleader Either the good Dr. Anderson, who hails from the University of Bath, is completely unaware of male cheerleader culture in the U.S. — George W. Bush excepted — or he was aiming to bias things from the get-go.  Nonetheless, the study's conclusions are intriguing:

    “The evidence supports my assertion that homophobia is on the rapid decline among male teamsport athletes in North America at all levels of play,” he writes in his study, entitled ‘Being masculine is not about whom you sleep with…Heterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality’ …

    “I find informants actually engage in sexual activity with other men. But this does not mean that they are gay. My informants do not feel that their same-sex sex jeopardizes their socially perceived heterosexual identities, at least within the cheerleading culture. In other words, having gay sex does not automatically make them gay in masculine peer culture.”

    Dr. Anderson may be right about declining homophobia in American sports, mirroring general cultural trends. But it's hardly justified to conclude these guys who have had sex with other men aren't gay because they are comfortably heterosexual "within the cheerleading culture."  Talk about a workplace that embraces gender non-conformity, at least among men…

    More likely, these cheerleaders in their 20s are figuring out who they are and whether they can accept being gay.  Having acted on it before graduating college, they're already ahead of me at that age.

    Next up for Dr. Anderson? I'd suggest an in-depth study on the extent of homosex among college fraternity presidents, or student body presidents, or those recent-grad fraternity employees for that matter. Three more completely unbiased peer groups. Right up there with drama majors.

    Continue reading»

    Ignorant quote of the day

    Posted by: Chris


    "I educated the whole people in my country but I could not educate my adopted daughter. I felt very regretted with her and that the lesbian case happened in family. I and my wife will send a complaint to court to deprive her of any will and property of my family. 

    "I and my wife adopted her while she was 18 days in 1988 and she used my family name from that time. She brought her girls to my house and slept together with them. We are concerned that one day her girls take bombs and poisonous materials to our house and we all will die. Who knows in advance? I have five children and one adopted daughter."
    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, on why he has initiated legal proceedings to abandon his adopted lesbian daughter

    Vol1_avengerAhh yes. The ever-present threat of lesbian terrorists sneaking bombs and poisonous materials into the houses of leading politicians. Who ever imagined that threat would reach so close to the seat of power in Cambodia?

    Good thing Hun Sen acted quickly. Otherwise the Lesbian Avengers might have operated a terrorist cell from within the happy kingdom.

    For an up to date summary of weird GLBT news, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/weird

    The scales of ENDA

    Posted by: Chris

    One thing the "trans-or-bust" crowd doesn't seem to get is that whatever arguments they make about leaving trans workers behind also works in the opposite direction only with far more force.  Let's weigh the two sides:

    Pass the compromise ENDA:

    1. Millions of GLB Americans get historic workplace protections.
    2. Trans workers, who are much smaller in number, will remain partially protected by the long-standing Price Waterhouse precedent.
    3. Full "gender identity" protection will wait until XX date, unknown, when Congress is ready to protect transgender workers.

    Or we follow the trans-or-bust route:

    1. Millions of GLB Americans are completely unprotected from workplace bias in 31 states.
    2. Trans workers, who are much smaller in number, will remain partially protected by the long-standing Price Waterhouse precedent.
    3. Full "gender identity" protection will wait until YY date, also unknown, when Congress is ready to protect transgender workers.

    No one even knows if there is much of a difference between XX date and YY date, although apparently everyone assumes that both Congress and LGBT groups will work harder to pass T rights sooner if GLB rights come along with them.  It's ridiculous to think that LGBT groups will show no interest in passing T protections after achieving LGB protections, considering more than 300 of these groups are already willing to forego GLB protections to win T protections.

    As for Congress, if there is widespread resistance to transgender rights, how will tacking them on to GLB rights advance the ball?  No one has made that case, instead focused on guilting GLB Americans into acting against their interest.

    October 29, 2007

    Ignorant quote of the day

    Posted by: Chris


    "I think if you legalize [gay marriage], you've got to legalize some other things that are pretty unsavory.  You can call me a radical, but how can you tell an aunt that she can't marry her nephew if they are really in love and sharing the bills? How can you tell them they can't get married, but something else that's unnatural can happen?"
    -- Country singer John Rich of the duo Big & Rich

    Ahh yes. The old incest bluff. Maybe John and his kin can't think of any difference between gay marriage and incestuous marriages, but I'm sure the rest of us -- including even Rich's idol Fred Thompson -- can.  Here's a tip: genetics.

    Rich goes on to boast that, "One reason why we are able to be so untethered in country music is because we have a really strong base and strong beliefs and core values."  Yeah, but what about his own reputation as a womanizer? "I'm probably somewhat of a walking dichotomy, I guess."

    Dichotomy, yes.  A few other descriptors come to mind as well.

    October 28, 2007

    'Diseased' gay men vs. ENDA?

    Posted by: Chris

    The personal attacks over ENDA just don't stop.  As regular readers of this blog know, I have been called every name in the book for agreeing with Barney Frank's compromise ENDA strategy.  I don't bring it up in a bid for sympathy.  I'm a big boy and have a decade of experience under my belt of this sort of thing.  (Actually, I should add in another seven years when I edited student publications in college and law school.)

    I bring it up because someone needs to call out trans activists for the gratuitously personal way they attack anyone who dares to disagree with the "trans or bust" strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It's especially ballsy of them (pun intended, since they are all male-to-female) considering that they are asking GLB Americans to forego employment protection for their sake.

    Monica_helms A little birdie offered the latest example -- a column being shopped around to GLBT newspapers by Atlanta trans activist Monica Helms.  Here is a choice excerpt:

    The only voices I have heard in opposition of a fully-inclusive ENDA have come from white gay men who suffer from what I call “Chris Crain Disease,” or “CCD.”  Crain, a former editor, former newspaper owner, former American resident, lead the charge early on with his infamous “Trans-jacking” articles, spawning a new industry in gay journalism called, “Blame the trannies for everything.” 

    Crain is “Patient Zero,” and the disease is spreading rapidly. It is important that those who suffer with CCD need to study history to remind them that back in the late 1980s, when most of them were in grade school or high school.

    Actually, I was in law school in the late '80s, and it's particular ironic, considering Helms is calling a gay man "diseased," that the history lesson she promises in her column concerns excluding HIV from the Americans with Disability Act when it was under debate in Congress.

    One difference, of course, between ADA and ENDA is that there was no whip count at the time showing that inclusion of HIV would kill the bill.  Also, HIV is a disability, so it would have required excluding something within the protected category.  "Sexual orientation" and "gender identity" are different categories.

    It's also ironic that in the "pitch" to editors that accompanies her column, the three publishing credits Helms mentions (Washington Blade, Southern Voice and Houston Voice) were all columns I published as exec. editor of those publications.

    For a movement that spends so much energy talking about "respectful dialogue," "education," "teaching moments," "tolerance" and the like, it's long past time that someone called out our trans sisters for the immature and disrespectful way they personally attack anyone who dares to disagree. 

    And I'm not just talking about Helms. There's Pauline Park at Logo's Visible Vote, Phyllis Randolph Frye in Texas, Rebecca Juro on Bilerico.  I could go on...

    October 27, 2007

    Has United ENDA killed ENDA?

    Posted by: Chris

    It looks like congratulations may be in order, to both the "United" ENDA coalition led by Matt Foreman and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Peter LaBarbera of the anti-gay Americans for Truth. They say politics make strange bedfellows, but who would have believed these two would hop in the sack for a quick lay?

    Mattforeman_2 D.C. newspaper The Hill is reporting that last week's "postponement" of a House vote on Barney Frank's compromise Employment Non-Discrimation Act may well be indefinite -- as in killing the bill for this Congress.  The Blade reported at the time that the delay was to give transgender supporters more time to round up votes for Tammy Baldwin's amendment that would add "gender identity" back into the bill.  Others suggested it was a short delay because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had put a higher priority on other bills.

    Peterlabarbera3_2 According to The Hill, freshman House Democrats approached Pelosi at a breakfast meeting and asked that she not allow the Baldwin amendment to come up for a vote. Their concern was that the vote was a no-win situation for them, between conservatives like LaBarbera and corporate interests opposing the bill because they are anti-gay or anti-regulations and liberals like Foreman and United ENDA who opposed any ENDA that did not include "gender identity."

    That political squeeze play was enough for the first-term Dems, and apparently Pelosi as well.  And while some claim the compromise ENDA will still get a House vote, I seriously doubt it -- given Pelosi's public commitment that trans rights supporters will get a vote on their amendment.

    Thanks be to Foreman, LaBarbera and their allies, workplace rights for thousands upon thousands of GLB Americans may now be stalled indefinitely, and historic gay civil rights legislation will not receive its first-ever House floor vote.  All because transgender activists and their P.C. allies couldn't accept anything other than the same for them, despite their much shorter lobbying history.

    If ENDA is dead, the blood is on all their hands, and I hope history doesn't allow those on either end of the spectrum to clean it off easily.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights

    October 26, 2007

    A non-scandal's dying growls

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamamcclurkinsidden The mathematics of race and sexual orientation, cleverly illustrated by blogger Jasmyne Cannick.

    The Barack Obama "ex-gay" gospel scandal apparently grew legs to growl another day or three.  But the how's are particularly eyeroll-inducing:

    • Black lesbian blogger Jasmyne Cannick flipped a gasket at Obama's decision to invite a gay pastor to participate in the same South Carolina campaign tour that will include "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin.  "What the hell were Obama’s people thinking when they invited a white openly gay minister to open for his South Carolina gospel concert with Donnie McClurkin?" wrote Cannick. 

      Let me get this straight:  White Americans should entrust a black man with the nation's highest office, to take responsibility for an enormous range of problems that impac their lives, but African-Americans can't hear from a white gay minister about anything relating to civil rights.  Smell the irony.

    • HRC was quick to react to suggestions by Cannick and others that it helped Obama come up with the  idea of including Rev. Andy Sidden. Not true, swears HRC, once again trying to sit the fence and satisfying no one.  HRC's blogger even offers up a couple of helpful black gay pastors Obama could have called upon.  He fails to mention, however, whether either minister actually supports Obama, which would seem to be an important criteria toward inclusion -- though not as important as race, apparently.

    • A South Carolina gay rights group isn't missing its piece of the action, and is planning a vigil outside the concert on Sunday. We queers just can't help but shoot ourselves in both feet, whether it's opposing historic gay rights legislation or holding vigils to protest a candidate that has the best positions on gay rights than anyone ever with a serious shot at the White House.  I don't just blame the clueless purists who run our activist groups.  I blame all of us, for ceding the game to them in the first place.

    • The gay blogosphere, which has played this controversy like a violin, continues apace.  The first words in a post on the topic yesterday by the sassy folks over at Queerty referred to Obama as "the pandering presidential candidate."  OK class, time to open our dictionaries. A candidate who "panders" is one who shifts in the wind, telling and doing exactly what each constituent group wants. Obama has stuck by his guns throughout this whole thing, risking alienating both gays and blacks (and the black gays who are member of both groups). 

    • Last but not least, the inevitable anonymous source has come out of the woodwork and claimed, without any evidence or corroboration, that he had a three-year "friends with benefits" relationship with "ex-gay" McClurkin from 2001-04, which just happens to be during the height of the gospel singer's "gay cure" rhetoric.  I won't link to the blog posts because I deplore the way these nameless, faceless voices arise, with no corroboration, to (purport to) tell incredibly private details about a public figure's sex life. The politics of personal destruction claims yet another victim, however deserving he might seem.

    That last phenomenon, which we witnessed most recently in the Larry Craig drama, was the subject of a column I wrote a few weeks back, about how the "sex police" on the Left feed on this sort of despicable, invasive and uneverifiable information. I never posted it in any form here on the blog, so I'll link to it for those who are interested.

    Lost in all the P.C. posturing -- and I don't use that term lightly -- is the way Obama has taken a clueless staff decision to invite McClurkin in the first place and turned it into common ground for two seemingly incompatible constituencies: gays and conservative black Christians.  In a letter released by his campaign today, the two groups put it plainly:

    In the midst of division, we hope and believe that this is a moment to bring together communities that have been divided for far too long. A few things are clear.

    First, Pastor McClurkin believes and has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful and offensive to many Americans, most especially to gay Americans.  This cannot and should not be denied. At the same time, a great many African Americans share Pastor McClurkin’s beliefs.  This also cannot be ignored.

    Finally, we believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together. Not at arms length.  Not in a war of words with press and pundits.  Only together.

    When was the last time conservative black pastors joined gay religious leaders for a statement like this?  I argued earlier this week that this flap has only reaffirmed Obama's unique ability to construct the kind of big tent that could not only win elections, but effect real change. It's a point echoed in the letter:

    In gatherings of LGBT Americans and African Americans of faith, Obama has stated that all individuals should be afforded full civil rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that homophobia must be eradicated in every corner of our nation.  If we are to end homophobia and secure full civil rights for gay Americans, then we need an advocate within the Black community like Barack Obama.

    At the same time, while Obama has said that he "strongly disagrees" with Pastor McClurkin's comments, he will not exclude from his campaign the many Americans including many in the African American community who believe the same as Pastor McClurkin.

    We believe that Barack Obama is constructing a tent big enough for LGBT Americans who know that their sexual orientation is an innate and treasured part of their being, and for African American ministers and citizens who believe that their religion prevents them from fully embracing their gay brothers and sisters.  And if we are to confront our shared challenges we have to join together, build on common ground, and engage in a civil dialogue even when we disagree.

    All I can say is amen to that.  One warning, however:  I haven't confirmed the racial identity of the letter's 16 signatories, so we'll have to wait to hear whether enough rings have been kissed for it to past blogo-muster.

    For a complete gay news summary on the Democratic presidential primary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary

    For a complete news summary of interest to black gay men and lesbians, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/black

    October 25, 2007

    Obama's ex-gay sideshow semi-resolved

    Posted by: Chris

    The on-going flap over the inclusion of an "ex-gay" black gospel singer on Barack Obama's campaign tour
    through South Carolina is following a well-worn path toward the absurd. In some ways, the controversy stirred up over Donne McClurkin's role in the tour is the blogosphere at its worst.

    One blogger plays "gotcha" by blowing out of proportion a campaign f*up by distorting facts to make it appear as if the candidate himself hand-selected McClurkin with an eye toward repeating the Bush-Rove wedge politics at the expense of homosexuals.  Never mind that there's (a) no evidence Obama himself even knew McClurkin was either ex-gay or picked to join the tour, and (b) wedge politics, especially at the expense of gays, run completely counter to everything the candidate has said and (practically) every position he's taken.

    But once the blogo-beast has been let out of his cage, he must be fed -- enter other bloggers (John Aravosis, Perez Hilton ("Dear Barack, this sucks hardcore!"), Joe.My.God. and more) and gay rights groups (Truth Wins Out, the Human Rights Campaign) -- demanding the candidate bend to their will, while failing to take any sort of nuanced look at the situation. Why consider the big picture when there's outrage to be tapped?

    In addition to issuing a statement that calls out McClurkin and other black conservatives on their homophobia -- not something you hear a candidate say too often about his own supporters -- Obama has now gone one step further, inviting an openly gay South Carolina minister to join the tour. 

    But did that satisfy? No, of course not. The controversy still had legs, and Aravosis was among the first to pile on, making a silly KKK analogy that he's way too smart to be making:

    How many gays balances one bigot, Senator? One, two, three, three-fifths? That's just not the way it works in civil rights, Senator. You don't get to be a bigot so long as you suck up to the gays too. … Would you let a klansman or a white supremacist, or a Holocaust denier, on stage so long as you invited a rabbi and a black minister too? I somehow doubt it. You'd do the right thing and kick the bigot out of your little show.

    Let's see, bigot, klansman, white supremacist, Holocaust denier, and even a sly three-fifths reference to slavery. I think we've got all our bases covered, although somehow me forgot to bring Hitler into it somehow.  Comparing McClurkin to this trite parade of horribles is not just wishful thinking, it's apples and oranges.

    The debate over gay rights and the nature of homosexuality, including the role religion plays in response to same-sex desires, is in a completely different place today than views about race and the Holocaust. We don't do ourselves any favors by demanding that candidates for national office pretend with us that those who oppose gay rights should be excluded from the mainstream of society the way we do racists.  That's not the world today, and it's unfair and unrealistic to expect Barack Obama to pretend that it is.

    Then from black gay bloggers like Keith Boykin comes disappointment that Andy Sidden, the out gay pastor in South Carolina, is white. It's passing strange to me why a black candidate who needs white support to win the presidency can only use black supporters to court black constituents, but such is the balkanized state of identity politics today.

    "Obama won't win any new black votes by getting a white gay guy to speak at a black event," writes Boykin, another very smart guy who like Aravosis ought to know better.  Jasmyne Cannick has been pressing Obama to sit down with black gay leaders, in what reads a bit like a personal power play.

    Speaking of personal power plays, HRC's Joe Solmonese spoke to Obama by phone yesterday, "expressed to him our community’s disappointment," as if he could credibly speak for such a constituency, especially after stage-managing the story from the sidelines in an amateur "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" way.

    It's painful to watch how easily the movement can be sidelined by such sideshows like this or Bill Richardson's "choice" flub from the Logo debate, when the presidential race holds real issues of much greater importance.

    October 24, 2007

    HRC hauls water for HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryjoe Just when you think the Human Rights Campaign couldn't do anything more to sully its credibility, Joe Solmonese manages to find yet another way. Hot on the heels of Barack Obama's "ex-gay" gospel singer flap, HRC has decided to haul water for "the other HRC" -- Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and make sure the story has legs.

    D.C. newspaper The Hill is reporting that HRC is threatening Obama's campaign with "a public demand if Obama did not immediately cancel" his campaign's "Embrace the Change" gospel tour through South Carolina.  Scheduled to appear at the event is Donnie McClurkin, a popular black gospel singer who claims he was "cured" of homosexuality through prayer.

    Never mind that Obama isn't even appearing at the event, or that influential conservative black Christians like McClurkin and Mary Mary are supporting a candidate with the strongest gay rights record ever with a serious shot at the White House.  For Solmonese and the other HRC flaks jockeying for resume opportunities in a Hillary White House, those details are irrelevant.

    Of course by going public with the "threat" -- The Hill story cites unnamed sources -- HRC has already inflicted the damage before the Obama campaign even decides what to do.  It's the kind of dirty politics that Mr. Hillary Clinton has always practiced, so no surprise there.

    Fortunately for Obama, HRC (the group)'s credibility is already completely shot in the Democratic primary.  We have known for a long time now that "the fix was in" at HRC for the other HRC.  It's about time the whole thing came out of the closet.

    October 23, 2007

    Bush semi-threatens ENDA veto

    Posted by: Chris

    BushadvisersUPDATE: At the end of the post.

    This week's ENDA news began with a warning from fringe anti-gay leader Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth that White House staffers not only were advising President Bush to sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, they were actually bragging about their involvement in crafting the bill's religious exemption.

    The idea that White House staffers worked surreptitiously with openly gay Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank to improve the language of historic gay (and possibly transgender) rights legislation was, well, about as credible as everything else that comes out of Peter LaBarbera's mouth. But that didn't stop gay Democrat blogger John Aravosis from falling for it, in a post that begins "Time for some crow," and brags that he predicted Bush would not veto ENDA.

    The method to LaBarbera's madness, rather than speaking the "Truth" about anything, was to rally the conservative chorus to call on the White House to take a position on ENDA, since it was expected to come up for a House vote on Wednesday.  The White House responded today with a watered-down veto threat (of the same type it issued over the hate crime bill), that says, "The bill raises concerns on constitutional and policy grounds, and if H.R. 3685 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

    First and foremost, it is politically very telling that the White House never mentions any opposition to the bill's primary purpose, protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The president's advisers read the polls and know that the core justification for ENDA is embraced by wide majorities, including among Republicans.

    (The veto threat also makes no mention of the transgender issue, which I've already heard some claim as proof it's not such political deadweight, but H.R. 3685 (Barney's compromise ENDA bill) doesn't include any mention of "gender identity," so there was no basis to raise the issue in the veto threat.)

    Ironically, given LaBarbera's wild claim about White House collaboration on ENDA's religious exemption, the veto "threat" cites that very exemption as the bill's primary problem:

    H.R. 3685 is inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion as codified by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  The Act prohibits the Federal Government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion except for compelling reasons, and then only in the least restrictive manner possible.  H.R. 3685 does not meet this standard.  For instance, schools that are owned by or directed toward a particular religion are exempted by the bill; but those that emphasize religious principles broadly will find their religious liberties burdened by H.R. 3685.

    The claim is overwrought, given that Barney's revised compromise ENDA actually broadened the religious exemption to include those schools "owned by or directed toward a particular religion."  To also include schools that "emphasize religious principles broadly" would lead to litigation over the importance of religion in a school's operation.  That's exactly the sort of judicial "entanglement" in religion that courts have made clear for decades that the First Amendment does not allow.

    The veto threat lists three other justifications:

    1. "H.R. 3685’s authorization of Federal civil damage actions against State  entities, which may violate States’ immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
      Since when has this White House been concerned about whether a statute "may violate" the Constitution? Regardless, this provision even if unconstitutional is not central to the bill and would be struck down by the courts, leaving the rest operational.
    2. "The bill turns on imprecise and subjective terms that would make interpretation, compliance, and enforcement extremely difficult.  For instance, the bill establishes liability for acting on 'perceived' sexual orientation, or 'association' with individuals of a particular sexual orientation.
      State gay rights bills have long include "perceived" sexual orientation, which simply closes a loophole that would allow employers to force fired workers from proving they are, in fact, gay, lesbian or bisexual (or straight in cases of anti-hetero bias).  I'm aware of no bruising litigation over the meaning of that term, much less "association," which is included in dozens of statutes.
    3. "Provisions of this bill purport to give Federal statutory significance to same-sex marriage rights under State law. These provisions conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.  The Administration strongly opposes any attempt to weaken this law, which is vital to defending the sanctity of marriage.
      Silliness.  The bill's only mention of marriage prevents employers in states where gays cannot marry from using "eligibility to marry" as a pretext for anti-gay discrimination.  To be honest, I have never understood the need for this particular provision, since even gays are "eligible to marry" so long as their spouse is of the opposite sex.  If I were Barney, I would ditch it.

    Hours after the veto threat, House Democratic leaders said they were postponing an ENDA vote, not because of the White House but either because they were still counting up support for Tammy Baldwin's transgender amendment or because Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts a higher priority on voting for a health insurance bill the president has actually already vetoed.

    Either way, the delay is a reminder that Democratic Party leaders have a limited attention span on our issues, and now that Pelosi has taken home her HRC profiles in courage award, she's on to the next constituency group.

    I continue to believe there is a strong likelihood the president will not veto either the (trans-inclusive) hate crimes bill or ENDA (so long as it's not trans-inclusive), should either reach his desk -- whether solo or attached to some larger piece of legislation.  The veto threat was an easy political move to satisfy conservative rabble rousers, and in ENDA's case seemed a direct response to the LaBarbera rally cry.

    Of course, the United ENDA trans-first'ers still have a chance to beat President Bush's advisers to the punch, and derail historic gay rights legislation because it doesn't also expressly protect transsexuals, cross-dressers and transvestites as well.  If they succeed, whether in the House or by scaring the Senate away from the legislation, the president will owe them a debt of gratitude.

    UPDATE:  Dale Carpenter, who has weighed in before with insightful legal analysis of the transg-ENDA flap, offers a more thorough legal analysis of the excuses used by the White House to threaten a veto of the the compromise ENDA.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights

    Big tents go both ways…

    Posted by: Chris

    2007_10_22_barack_obama_mcclurkin_3 OK, it's a vaguely sexual mixed metaphor, but it sums up my view about the mini-flap that blew up in Barack Obama's face over the last few days. Here's the gist of it, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun:

    A gospel concert tour organized by the Barack Obama campaign on behalf of the candidate is stirring controversy among some gay activists. The three-day tour through early-voting South Carolina starts this Friday and finishes Sunday with a concert that includes Grammy Award-winning Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin, who has provoked controversy among gay activists for his views that homosexuality can be "overcome."

    The Huffington Post's Earl Ofari Hutchinson has stoked the controversy on the web with a post that argues featuring McClurkin in a campaign-backed concert series amounts to an "ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania" that he calls "shameless and reprehensible."

    McClurkin, who is also a Pentecostal minister, has been a prominent advocate of the view that homosexuality is a lifestyle and that gays can will themselves to heterosexual behavior. McClurkin has said he struggled with homosexual "demons" for 20 years--which he attributes to molestation as a child by male relatives--but is now straight.

    Marymary Actually, the problems run a bit deeper than a single ex-gay gospel singer. Two other acts on the tour have anti-gay histories. Jasmyne Cannick has the background on Mary Mary:

    And sister’s Mary Mary made it crystal clear earlier this yeat in an interview with Vibe Magazine how they felt about gays.  When asked how they felt about homosexuality and having a gay following they likened gays to prostitutes and murderers.

    “I feel how God feels about it, um… but I still love them. You know what I mean? I don't agree with the lifestyle, but I love them. They can come to the concert; I'm going to hug them just like I hug everybody else. They have issues and need somebody to encourage them like everybody else - just like the murderer, just like the one full of pride, just like the prostitute, everybody needs God.

    Pity that.  Victor Calderone's remix of "Shackes (Praise Him)" is one of my faves.

    And Rod 2.0 offers a few kernels about another act on Obama's "gay bash tour," Hezekiah Walker:

    Hezekiah Walker is a minister of the Pentecostal faith, traditionally inhospitable to gays, and, heads a Brooklyn mega-church well-known for its anti-gay views. Walker was also the subject of an unfounded gay rumor that has become urban legend.

    Taken together, the inclusion of these three acts screams of poor advance work and a candidate not well-served by his staff. But that doesn't justify Hutchison's hysterical HuffPo reaction, pinning the decision for their inclusion on Obama himself, and alleging he did so as a strategic move to "masterfully tap into homophobic sentiment" the way George Bush did in 2000.  Even without knowing either either man, I can say with full confidence that Barack Obama is no George Bush, and Hutchison only makes himself look silly to suggest it.

    For example, Obama has issued a statement that Bush and Rove would never dream of issuing:

    "I have clearly stated my belief that gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts of our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country.

    I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin's views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division."

    Perhaps I'm under Obama's spell, but that statement pretty much settles the matter for me.  The gay rights (oops, lgbT) movement has insisted for as long as I can remember that the Republican Party should be a "big tent" with room for gays and our allies, as well as those who are pro-choice and progressive on other social issues. Shouldn't the same be true for the Democrats, especially in the case of a presidential race.

    If Barack Obama has somehow convinced an "ex-gay" gospel singer and his anti-gay allies to campaign on his behalf, despite being the strongest candidate on gay rights with a shot at the White House, then I say more power to him. Obama has proven time and again that he is willing to stand up for gay rights to conservatives, including those he needs within the black church.

    Wayne_besen2_large_2 I've got nothing but respect for activist and author (and friend) Wayne Besen, whose group Truth Wins Out has called on Obama to drop McClurkin from the South Carolina tour:

    "We strongly urge Obama to part ways with this divisive preacher who is clearly singing a different tune than the stated message of the campaign," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "We can only hope that Obama is unaware of McClurkin's anti-gay history and will swiftly condemn such intolerance. Real leadership includes standing up to those who drive wedges between the American people."

    I can understand why Wayne, who has dedicated years to fighting the "ex-gay" myth, would draw the line at McClurkin.  (Notably, he makes no issue about Mary Mary or Hezekiah.)

    To me, the McClurkin gig is a sideshow to what the candidate himself actually thinks and believes. Wayne is certainly right that McClukin is "divisive" in a way that doesn't fit Obama's "new politics," but if he can unite deeply conservative gay foes like McClurkin and the other two acts behind the most pro-gay candidate we've ever seen with a serious shot at the White House, I say Amen!

    What do you think? Cast your vote in the Vizu Poll in the right column…

    For a complete gay news summary on the Democratic presidential primary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary

    For a complete news summary of interest to black gay men and lesbians, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/black


    October 21, 2007

    Next stop, Buenos Aires

    Posted by: Chris

    300pxargentinabanderap2080016 Score another win for immigration law over your's truly and my partner. After spending part of 2006 and most of 2007 so far in Rio and then São Paulo, Brazil, we've been evicted yet again and this time my partner will be forced to go ex-pat for us to stay together.

    That's because this time the problem isn't the immigration laws of the United States, though they still prohibit me from sponsoring my partner for residence back home.  The problem this time is Brazilian immigration law.  You see my tourist visa is about to expire for this year and after much wringing of hands with fellow ex-pats, Brazilian friends and some knowledgeable lawyers, we have decided not to risk my overstaying.

    That decision came several weeks ago, and was followed by a somewhat scattered search for options, which eventually narrowed down to two: Buenos Aires or Cape Town, South Africa. The choices are not as crazy as they sound.

    Like many of my fellow gay Americans in binational relationships, I am applying along with my partner to become "landed immigrants" in Canada, which will recognize our relationship even in the visa application. But since we're not married, we have to prove one year of cohabitation. That's doable, since we have lived together since September 2006, when I left Washington and moved to Rio. But it's complicated, involved and carries a somewhat greater risk of rejection.

    Aside from our immigration issue, we would love to marry after almost three years together, but (as I've explained before) only five countries in the world marry gay couples: Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. The three European countries all limit marriage to residents, and while Canada does not, getting a Canadian tourist visa for my partner is almost as difficult as getting one to visit the U.S.  That leaves South Africa, which marries non-residents and (like all of Europe including the U.K.) accepts Brazilian tourists without a special visa.

    We received some wonderful assistance from a network of gay friends in Cape Town, even though they weren't even our friends -- they were on loan from a very dear friend back in Washington.  But when we added up the expense of getting there and living there, we decided to stay closer to "home" in Buenos Aires.

    200410buenosairesobelisconocturno Buenos Aires is hardly a back-up option, even if we can't marry there. I spent a day there at the end of my first trip to South America in February 2005.  (It was supposed to be a week, but I met Anderson and extended my stay in Rio every day until I had only one left.)  It is a beautiful city, very European, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, clean, safe and one of the few places the dollar still has any value. (It's dropped below 1.80 Brazilian reais for the first time since 2000; it was almost R$3 per dollar my first trip here.)

    Several kind folk, including fellow bloggers Kevin (Club Whirled) and Rex Wockner have also leant me their friend network, as have several of our Brazilian friends. I'm sure they will help us acclimate and get to know our new home, if only for three months.  In January, we can return again to Brazil.

    I will leave Brazil, even temporarily, with a heavy heart.  I love this country, even with all of its problems, and I especially love its people.  And having finally semi-mastered Portuguese, it's back to the Spanish drawing board for me.  Hopefully the three-year assault by Portuguese hasn't undone all the Spanish I learned back in school.

    I am writing about this move with optimism because it is the way that Anderson and I are approaching it.  Our lives remain in a semi-constant state of upheaval, and yet another move will be a jolt to the system.  But like many "love exiles," we are practically old pros at this now.

    I also remain hopeful that someday in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. government will join 20 other countries in allowing gay Americans the same right that straight Americans have to sponsor a partner for residence -- just as our government already allows non-Americans to do when the come to work temporarily in the U.S.

    Whether change comes through passage of the Uniting American Families Act or through repealing the half of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, it can't come soon enough for us and so many others.

    For a complete news summary on gay immigration issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/immigration

    For a complete news summary on gay Latino issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/latino

    October 20, 2007

    Barney back Baldwin on trans-inclusion

    Posted by: Chris

    Once again, Barney Frank hits all the right notes on the compromise ENDA controversy.  Even though he championed the strategy of introducing a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that does not include "gender identity" as a protected category, Barney has come out strongly in support of Tammy Baldwin's ENDA "solution" -- an amendment on the floor that adds gender identity back in.

    Here's what Barney said in a press release that went out yesterday:

    The decision to offer such an amendment came out of a Caucus which Chairman George Miller held of the Democratic Members of the Education and Labor Committee.  After some discussion, it became clear that offering such an amendment would offer us the best chance to achieve Speaker Pelosi's goal of adopting in the House the most inclusive ENDA bill for which majority support existed.

    I argued in favor of transgender inclusion when I testified on the original legislation on September 5, but many of us believed that sending the full inclusive bill to the floor would open the door to a series of demagogic procedural moves that would have endangered our chances of a passing any bill at all.  The discussion held by the Democratic Members of the Education and Labor Committee, Congresswoman Baldwin and myself resulted in this approach and I believe it meets the goal of giving people the opportunity to support a fully inclusive bill while avoiding the potential parliamentary death traps that would otherwise have resulted.

    I will on the floor of the House be repeating essentially the arguments in favor of transgender inclusion which I made in the September 5 hearing, because we will now be able to do that in a procedural setting that allows us to maximize support for an inclusive bill without endangering our chances of getting any bill at all.

    So trans-or-bust ENDA supporters get their floor vote on "gender identity" as a protected category, though I shudder to think the turn the debate will take when it comes to discussing cross-dressing teachers. Maybe that's what we need to air out the bigotry on the anti-trans side.

    Of course I doubt it will satisfy the trans-or-bust'ers, even though they're getting their floor vote only six months after being included in the ENDA, when it took gay rights supporters thirty years to reach this point.

    October 19, 2007

    Whose side are they on?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrc_11_logo The following note of disrespect brought to you courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign. In a press statement acknowledging the historic House committee vote yesterday in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HRC said the following:

    Today the U.S. House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce Committee voted 21-27 to report H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act providing workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation, out of committee and onto the floor of the House for a full vote expected next week.

    It's subtle, but the dig at GLB rights is there -- in how the vote was portrayed, "21-27," as if the good guys lost.  Keep in mind that for more than a decade now, passing ENDA (in pretty much exactly the compromise form offered this week by Barney Frank) was the signature goal of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Umpteen-hundred black-tie dinners focused on ENDA as the most achievable federal civil rights goal for our movement. Now, after tens of millions of dollars collected toward that goal, the U.S. House has for the first time had a vote on the bill, and it was despite HRC not because of it. 

    And in betrayal of those tens of millions collected to achieve ENDA, HRC spits out a press release that counts the votes as if passing ENDA were a failure. This is the upside-down, politically correct, trans-jacked state we find our movement.

    (The sideways-HRC symbol reflects that the movement is now split in two, with the glbT groups placing a higher priority for transgender rights than for achievable workplace protections for GLB Americans.)

    Lambda Legal's political response

    Posted by: Chris

    22_07_loving_ann_24 (Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson, pictured with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Photo courtesy Bay Area Reporter)

    I would like to thank Jon Davidson, the Legal Director of Lambda Legal, for taking the time to respond to my post about his organization's claim that a trans-free Employment Non-Discrimination Act will not protect gay workers well either. 

    Lambda Legal is almost alone among the leading national gay groups in engaging in dialogue with those of us who favor the ENDA compromise offered by Barney Frank, and they deserve great credit for doing so. One would hope that any group claiming to represent GLBT interests would commit to dialogue with their constituents, but it remains a relative rarity. (Another notable exception is Immigration Equality, which unlike the Human Rights Campaign and almost every other national GLBT group, allows comments on its official blog.)

    Jon posted his response in a comment to that post, but I'd like to re-publish it here and offer my own thoughts. Here's what Jon wrote:

    Given that Congressman Frank has stated that he does not expect the Senate even to consider any version of ENDA this year and, that even if the Senate did and passed such a bill, he doubts President Bush would sign it into law -- the real question before us all is what is the best way to move forward toward the next time Congress will consider such legislation. We believe that that way is not in the politics of division -- pitting lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals against transgender people, as some have sought to do.

    There would be a conflict of interest in doing that, just like there would be if a law sought to protect lesbians but not gay men. But standing up for transgender people does not harm lesbians, gay men and bisexuals -- and therefore creates no conflict -- because (as Congressman Frank himself admits) no bill is being prevented from becoming law this year by doing so. Instead of continuing to fight one another, we all need to work for passage by the next Congress of the strongest bill we can get.

    We believe that a bill that prohibits discriminaton against transgender people and that also best protects lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals by not only barring sexual orientation discrimination but also codifying Price Waterhouse and putting into statutory language a ban on discriminating against those perceived not to conform to sexual stereotypes is the best way of doing that. That is why we are supporting Congressmember Tammy Baldwin's proposed amendment to H.R. 3685, being considered on the House floor next week.

    Nothing you or other critics have said belies that a law banning both discrimination based on gender identity and expression and discrimination based on sexual orientation is a stronger law than one that only bans sexual orientation discrimination. The premise that the interests of transgender people need to be sacrificed now to get a "gay rights only" bill later has not been shown.

    If, as hoped, we have a more LGBT-friendly Congress and administration after the next election, we think we will be able to get a law passed that protects transgender people and better protects gay people, if we hold together, put the necessary resources into working for it, and not act like this is a zero sum game.  -- Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director, Lambda Legal

    It's interesting that this response is mostly political, rather than legal, and relies entirely on alleged admissions by Barney Frank about the prospects of the gay-specific ENDA.  Barney is by no means the only prognosticator of such things, and the Washington Post (itself known to be rather informed) reported just yesterday that,  "As it now stands, the more limited bill is expected to narrowly clear the House next week, at which point the Senate will likely move forward."

    There's also no guarantee of a Bush veto.  He has threatened to veto the (trans-inclusive) hate crime law, and even on that measure conservatives are very worried.  There's been no veto threat against ENDA, and the president's anti-gay rhetoric to date has revolved almost entirely around the marriage issue.  My own bet is that he would not veto either hate crimes or ENDA.

    What's more, whether ENDA gets a vote in the Senate depends on the lobbying efforts of our activist groups. If the "United ENDA" groups would spend half the time lobbying Congress for gay rights as they do lobbying for transgender rights, they could pressure Senate leaders to bring ENDA up for a vote.

    The real reason the fight over trans-inclusion is so severe in the House is that trans activists and their allies know that there is no chance the Senate will agree to "gender identity" as a protected category in ENDA. So their only shot is to get it through the House and then hope House and Senate leaders agree to include it in the final version that goes back for a final vote.

    Jon is correct that ENDA would be a "stronger law" if it codifies the Price Waterhouse decision; there's no question about that. But he did not respond to my central point: that the historic effect of writing gay rights protections into federal civil rights law, both in the workplace and symbolically throughout U.S. society, is far more profound than the marginal benefit that would come in protecting ENDA against the potential of being interpreted too narrowly by some federal courts. 

    And, as I explained in detail, that "potential" is exaggerated by Lambda, given that Price Waterhouse is a long-standing Supreme Court precedent and ENDA would actually close (not open) the loophole that has plagued gender non-conforming gay plaintiffs who have sued under Title VII.

    Finally, I can't help being struck by Jon's almost Orwellian suggestion that, "We believe that that way is not in the politics of division -- pitting lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals against transgender people, as some have sought to do." Just who is practicing "the politics of division" here? 

    Is it those of us who are fully in favor of transgender rights but advocate following in the long tradition of incremental progress in civil rights?  Or is it United ENDA and its backers, including Lambda Legal, who are saying to GLB Americans that their basic workplace protections, which they sought for 30 years, must now wait for another group, T Americans, who were just added to ENDA for the first time six months ago?

    No one forced these glbT groups into a trans-or-bust strategy.  Some of us have been warning for years now that when this strategy actually came into play, it would rip wide open the tensions within our community. The politics of division are on the other side of this debate, and they always have been.

    Lambda Legal's ENDA filibuster

    Posted by: Chris

    OK, it's not really fair to call it a filibuster, even though it runs to more than 4,300 words. But considering Barney Frank took to the floor of the House and spoke for almost twice as many words, and I've written easily as many on this here blog, it's fair to conclude the ENDA controversy is a complex and wordy one.

    Dale Carpenter posted yesterday an excellent and extensive response to Lambda's latest ENDA pronouncement, and my own response is somewhat wordy as well.  But if you want to, skip to the end because there's a critical, big-picture point here that appears to have been totally lost on my friends at Lambda Legal and their United ENDA allies.

    Lambda latest statement on the new (which is really the old and original) trans-free Employment Non-Discrimination Act is rather revelatory.  The nation's preeminent gay legal organization backs away from its earlier analysis of ENDA, which exaggerated the importance of a single New York employment suit to argue that a trans-free ENDA will offer weak protection for gay workers as well. Now that case is called a "sideshow."  Agreed.

    Lambda had used the New York case to bootstrap the argument that gay workers need "gender identity" as a protected category in ENDA or otherwise employers will argue that they acted based on the employee's gender non-conformity (he's swishy or she's butch), rather than because of sexual orientation (he's a fag or she's a dyke).

    That claim led to a sharp rebuke from gay law professor Dale Carpenter (and here on this blog), since the New York case (Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble) just didn't support Lambda's proposition. In fact, as both Carpenter and I have explained at length, the Supreme Court ruled way back in 1988 in the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins that Title VII already prohibits employers from using sex stereotypes against workers.

    In response, Lambda Legal offers up a primer to employment discrimination cases, reminding us that many workers can't find lawyers to take their cases, or can't afford a retainer, or their lawyer isn't knowledgeable, or they settle before a court issues a decision, or that decision isn't publicly reported. All that background is intended to explain why there isn't a single court case illustrating the risk that Lambda Legal says justifies opposing a gay-specific ENDA, the very same ENDA that Lambda Legal lobbied aggressively in favor of for a decade.

    An alternative explanation doesn't require four pages of explanation: There are no reported cases because the risk is largely illusory, or certainly exaggerated, and that's why it has yet to come up in all those states that have employment discrimination laws that protect gays but not transgender workers.

    In similar fashion, Lambda claims that the 1988 Supreme Court case hasn't always been followed: "Unfortunately, not all courts have yet accepted the majority view that Price Waterhouse means that discrimination based on gender nonconformity is barred by Title VII."  Not a single case is cited to support that assertion.

    With a paucity of examples -- as in, none -- of employers wriggling out of gay employment discrimination suits, Lambda Legal has been forced to alter its strategy, and admits as much:

    [The] concern [about passing a trans-free ENDA] is based not so much on the rulings in particular published opinions addressing state law sexual orientation employment discrimination statutes, but instead arises principally from our knowledge of what has happened in employment discrimination cases generally, particularly in the federal courts that would decide cases that would be brought in the future under any version of ENDA that may be enacted.

    In support, Lambda offers a broader critique of recent federal civil rights precedents, highlighting the ways that Republican-appointed federal judges have read race, gender, disability, age and other workplace protections narrowly.  The point?

    What concerns us is that, in employment discrimination cases brought under a version of ENDA that might be enacted in the future, a similarly overly restrictive view of that law’s scope might be adopted by at least some courts if that version of ENDA has language prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity and expression.

    So it's better to go forward with no protection out of concern some federal judges somewhere might interpret ENDA narrowly.  Does Lambda Legal really believe many federal courts will get away with relieving employers of responsibility for firing effeminate gay male or butch lesbian workers, when we'd have on the books not just Title VII and Price Waterhouse, but the compromise ENDA, too? 

    It's just way too strained an argument, especially to justify canning the trans-free ENDA that is poised to pass the House, leaving completely vulnerable gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans who live in the 31 states that lack workplace protection based on "sexual orientation.

    I have suggested before that Lambda Legal's analysis of the gay-specific ENDA looked suspiciously like it was crafted backward from the conclusion, and the new statement also practically admits as much.

    As an organization whose mission includes advancing the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people (as well as those with HIV), Lambda Legal seeks to protect the interests of all those we exist to serve, and not to advance the goals of some of our clients and community members at the expense of the others we represent. That is a duty most lawyers do their best to meet whenever they simultaneously represent multiple clients.

    That's a rather extraordinary admission, especially coming from lawyers. Lambda Legal is essentially admitting a "conflict of interest" between its GLB consituents on the one hand, and its T constituents on the other. Usually when lawyers realize there is a conflict of interest between their clients, they either advise one or the other client to seek other counsel, or they ask the client to "waive" the conflict and keep the same lawyers.

    Of course, GLB Americans never got the chance to "waive" the conflict of interest between their own workplace rights and those of T Americans, and as Lambda goes to pains to say, any organization that represents the entire GLBT "community" faces the same conflict Lambda does.  What Lambda doesn't adequately explain is why that conflict ought to be resolved by catering to the interest of the Ts, even though they represent less than 1 percent of the combined GLBT population.

    And that, my GLBT friends, is why I have said that not just ENDA but the whole movement has been effectively "trans-jacked," now that our leading organizations believe they cannot work for the incremental progress of the GLBs, unless there is simultaneous progress for the Ts.

    (*Here's the critical, big picture point -- for those of you skipping to the end*):

    What's most remarkable to me about Lambda Legal's analysis is how these talented lawyers have apparently lost sight of the forest due to all that time spent down in the trees of employment discrimination and civil rights litigation. There's little doubt they're correct that encasing the Price Waterhouse ruling into law, in the form of a trans-inclusive ENDA, would improve protection at the margins for gay workers who don't fit gender stereotypes.

    But whatever vulnerabilities remain for gay workers if the gay-specific ENDA is enacted into law would be overwhelmed in exponential fashion by the beneficial societal impact of having protection for gay workers written into federal law.  For the first time in American history, the full force of federal civil rights protection would be extended to gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. That sends an incredibly powerful message not just to employers, but to all Americans, that mistreatment of gays in every area of life is wrong.

    In the American workplace, the vast majority of employers will take proactive steps to ensure they steer clear of infringing on ENDA, since litigation costs money for both sides.  That means taking extra-seriously the concerns of GLB workers. For all of that laundry list of reasons why employment discrimination cases never get brought or won, there are exponentially more employers who would respond to the compromise ENDA by working with their employees to create a better, gay-friendlier workplace. 

    Of course not all employers will respond that way, but you need only look at the revolutionary impact of race, gender, age and disability discrimination laws to see the tidal wave effect even a compromise ENDA would achieve.  Weighing Lambda Legal's exaggerated vulnerabilites up against this enormous social impact, the question of whether to push the ENDA compromise is a no-brainer for all who haven't been conflicted out of looking at the question objectively.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights

    October 18, 2007

    Ignorant quote of the day

    Posted by: Chris

    "We won't support ENDA until all Americans are included."
    -- Christopher Anders, the senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union

    This is the best lawyer the ACLU has on the Hill? 

    Christopher, ENDA does include everyone.  By outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, the bill covers gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual Americans from workplace bias.

    Presumably Anders was referring to transgender workers, but the last time I checked, they were either gay, lesbian, bi or straight as well.

    The ENDA-Kucinich victory strategy

    Posted by: Chris

    Denniskucinichforum The gay-specific, trans-free version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the House Education & Labor Committee today by a vote of 27-21.

    It was the first time ENDA had ever been voted on in the House since its introduction way back in 1994, and according to committee chair George Miller (D-Calif.), it was even the first time ENDA or is predecessor gay civil rights bills had ever come up for a vote in the House, since their introduction way back in 1974.

    Still, some expected that first House vote to go the extra mile and include workplace protection for transsexuals, cross-dressers and other transgender workers. And while most politicians are used to the political realities of compromise and incremental progress, there are those in Congress who are as idealistic and (accordingly) ineffective as the "United ENDA" groups that have demanded a "trans-or-bust" strategy.

    I'm talking about Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who has also mounted (for the second time) a vanity run for the presidency. It's only too telling that Kucinich was one of the few gay rights supporters who actually voted with Republicans against real-world workplace protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans -- because it did not also protect transgender workers.

    There's your ally and symbolic champion, United ENDA:  a completely ineffective congressman whose presidential candidacy is a total joke. May your cause enjoy a greater likelihood of success than his.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    Gay ENDA gets House panel vote today

    Posted by: Chris

    As the gay-specific version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act comes up for a vote today before the House Education & Labor Committee, there are a few nuggets from a story in this morning's Washington Post over the ongoing trans-or-bust controversy:

    As it now stands, the more limited bill is expected to narrowly clear the House next week, at which point the Senate will likely move forward.

    Barneywapo That's contrary to the latest conventional wisdom I've heard among the trans-or-bust nay-sayers, who've said (and I believed) that the Senate won't vote on ENDA after the mess it made in the House this past month. (I'm inclined to believe almost anyone who'll suggest that Democrats will stall long-promised gay rights bills; I would be delighted to be proved wrong. Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, anyone?)

    [Barney] Frank [originally] added the transgender language [to ENDA] because he believes that discrimination against people based on gender identity is real and serious. Then he was informed by Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) that Democrats on the committee were balking.

    Again contrary to earlier reports, which suggested the problem was a lack of votes in the House overall; perhaps it was both.

    Historically speaking, civil rights protections tend to expand very slowly and group by group. Never before has the political climate been as hospitable to gays and lesbians as it has been since the Democrats won control of the House and Senate in November.

    Are you reading, H. Alexander Robinson? Civil rights progress proceeds group by group and, I would add, protection by protection.  Even Lambda Legal fell guilty to claiming sexual orientation and gender identity are ultimately inseparable, when in fact they are (and should be) different categories.

    "The speaker's and Representative Frank's legislative path for action on ENDA, while not our choice, follows the path of other civil rights and business regulatory legislation," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Still up on the fence, playing to both sides while fully acknowledging only one, HRC tries to wiggle way its through and only succeeds in disappointing almost everyone. The fact is that ENDA will pass the House despite HRC and other lgbT groups, not because of them. How ironic after all those years in which this very same gay-specific ENDA was HRC's central legislative goal.

    If [the House] committee approves ENDA as expected today, the plan is to bring the bill to the House floor next week. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Frank's co-author on the original bill, said at that point she would offer an amendment to restore the transgender protections. Many Democrats worry that Baldwin's amendment will suffer a fate potentially worse than omission: sweeping defeat.

    So much for worries by some commenters to this blog that Republicans will back trans-inclusion as an ENDA poison pill.  More than likely, trans rights backers and their lgbT allies will see just how close they came to wrecking historic workplace protections for GBL Americans based on very wishful thinking that transgender inclusion lies just around the political corner.

    Chatroom target = hate crime?

    Posted by: Chris

    Given all the emotion surrounding Michael Sandy's tragic death, it can be difficult to accept that the case is really a square peg trying to fit into the round "hate crime" hole.  But an example from today's headlines will illustrate the point.

    Boykin1_2 Police in Miami-Dade are concerned about a rash of crimes similar to what happened to Sandy, where the bad guys use telephone and online chatrooms to choose their prey, then rob or even kill them when they meet up for sex.

    The Miami Herald reports of the cold-blooded killing of a gay south Florida man that is even worse than Sandy's robbery-gone-bad, in which the promising black gay designer was killed when he fled the defendants and ran onto a nearby highway, where he was struck and killed.

    In April, 19-year-old Darnell Boykin, pictured, climbed into the car of a homeless advocate named Albert Merritt, 41, outside a Little Haiti church. The two had met through a popular telephone chat line.

    Moments later, Merritt was shot dead. Boykin stole his Nextel phone and sold it, police say. Soon, Boykin was charged with murder.

    It doesn't even matter if Boykin is straight or not, since Anthony Fortunato, one of those responsible for Michael Sandy's defense, tried that route.  Under broadly written hate crime laws like the one on the books in New York, all that matters is that Boykin and Fortunato  purposefully targeted their victims on a gay chatline.  To the extent there is a substantive difference between the two crimes, Boykin's was actually worse since he pulled the trigger, while Sandy's perpetrators put him in a situation where he was life was in danger and was ultimately taken.

    In any event, there is no evidence either was a true hate crime, motivated by hatred of gay people.

    October 17, 2007

    Baldwin offers ENDA 'solution'

    Posted by: Chris

    Baldwinbig110700 Lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has come up with a "solution" to the ongoing drama surrounding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  She will offer an amendment to the gay-specific version when it reaches the House floor next week to add "gender identity" back in as a protected category.

    It's a clever strategy, though I'm surprised to see the groups calling themselves "United ENDA" -- talk about your misnomers -- buy into it. But it does allow them a House floor vote on trans-inclusion into ENDA so that they can guage the support the provision has and record the votes of those they will need to lobby in the future for transgender protection. Certainly no problem with that.

    The open question -- though it's not really open for the glbT groups  -- is what Baldwin and the "United ENDA" groups will do if (when) the transgender amendment fails. So long as Baldwin and the more liberal members of the House don't try to tank the gay-specific ENDA, then Baldwin's "solution" really is that, and she should be congratulated for offering it.

    A hate crime minus the hate

    Posted by: Chris

    Lost in all the headlines about whether to include transgender protection in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a brewing debate over the scope of the other gay rights law set to pass Congress: the federal hate crime law. Only the debate isn't over whether to include "gender identity"; it's already included in the version of the Matthew Shepard Act that has passed the House and the Senate.

    Amd_michaelsandy1 Until now, conservatives have opposed the Shepard Act based on the completely erroneous notion that somehow it would criminalize anti-gay speech or anti-gay sermons. They know full well that there is a specific provision that outlaws the use of any evidence of a defendant’s speech or beliefs unrelated to the offense itself.

    Hate crime laws can be difficult to reign in, however, as a jury in Brooklyn found out last week, when two young men were convinced of manslaughter and an anti-gay hate crime, even though jurors were convinced they weren’t homophobes.

    John Fox and Anthony Fortunato were prosecuted for the tragic death of Michael Sandy, a promising black gay designer (pictured). They had lured Sandy on a gay chatroom with the promise of meeting Fox to smoke marijuana and have sex. When Sandy showed, he realized it was a trap and ran onto a nearby freeway, where he was struck and killed by an oncoming car.

    Jurors didn’t break a sweat over whether the two were guilty of manslaughter, but they were deeply troubled about the hate crime charge.  That's because the judge had ruled back in August that under New York state's hate crime law, it wasn't necessary to prove that the defendants were motivated by hatred toward gay people. The prosecution only had to establish that Sandy had been targeted because he is gay.
    Even so, the defense gave it their best shot.

    Fortunato Fortunato's lawyer took the bigger gambit, having his client admit to being gay with the hope of convincing the jurors that he couldn't have been motivated by hatred toward gays since he was one himself.

    It almost worked. The jurors convicted Fortunato of the hate crime enhancement but were apparently very disturbed by the judge's ruling back in August. The jury foreman even said he and others wept while casting their votes because they felt compelled to do so even though they disagreed with the scope of the law.

    That's pretty powerful stuff, and it should give us pause about whether hate crime laws should be applied beyond the core type of offense they're intended to prevent. Hate crime laws are really a form of anti-terror legislation. Crimes motivated by hatred against a particular group have the same effect, after all, as terrorist acts: they send a message to the target group that they should be scared for their safety.

    But the Michael Sandy case and others where the victim is targeted simply for being gay aren’t intended to terrorize gays. They aren’t even motivated by some sort of anti-gay bias, unlike gay men targeted for robbery as they leave bars based on a belief they are weak and easy marks, or men targeted while cruising for sex in public parks because it’s assumed they'll be too embarrassed to report the crime.

    In the Sandy case, the defendants presumably thought that it was simply chose to lure a gay man to meet them in a public place with the promise of sex, something they just as easily could have tried with a straight man if any of them had been women. But if they had gone that route, seeking out a man in a hetero chatroom, would they have similarly been guilty of a hate crime, since they would have targeted him because he is heterosexual?

    All three types of cases go beyond the scope of what hate crime laws really should target: crimes motivated by hatred of the targeted group, but at least the gay bar and park cruiser examples involve anti-gay bias.

    Fortunately, the Matthew Shepard Act appears to be more narrowly crafted that the New York hate crime law. I say "appears" because hate crimes are defined one way in one part of the statute and another way in another part.

    The New York law defines a hate crime as "intentionally selecting" the victim "because of a belief or perception regarding" the sexual orientation of the person. The Shepard Act, on the other hand, requires the crime be "motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived" sexual orientation of the victim.

    So crimes motivated by hatred toward gays are covered by both statutes, and the gay bar and park cruising examples are covered under both laws. But the Sandy case, at least as I read the statutes, would not be a hate crime as defined by federal law.  As horrible and tragic as Michael Sandy's death was, that is the correct result. It's bad enough to prosecute a hate crime minus the hate, but to go after a bias crime minus even the bias goes way too far.

    I would limit hate crime laws even more, to require proof that the victim was targeted not simply because of his sexual orientation, or even based on prejudice against his sexual orientation, but based on hatred of the gay people. It's those violent crimes, motivated by hatred of gay people, that are intended to send a larger message of intimidation and terror to gay people generally, and which therefore deserve federal involvement and a heavier sentence.

    For complete coverage of the Michael Sandy trial and hate crimes generally, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    For complete coverage of black GLBT stories, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/black

    For complete coverage of GLBT-related crimes stories, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch/crime

    October 16, 2007

    Another ENDA analogy…

    Posted by: Chris

    …this one from Barney Frank himself.

    Barney We've talked often on this blog about how the trans-or-bust strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is almost without precedent or analogy, certainly within the civil rights sphere. This comes despite claims by black gay leader H. Alexander Robinson to the contrary.

    Now Barney Frank, who has championed the gay ENDA compromise, offers his own analogy, to the federal and state equal rights amendments, which expressly excluded gays:

    There were efforts in the seventies … to explicitly include in equal rights amendments language that protected people against discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is, the amendments – federal and various state versions – prohibited discrimination based on sex, and people sought to add sexual orientation. I and others opposed that because we knew at the time that it would defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

    It's worth noting here that there is as close a connection (or lack thereof) between discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, on the one hand, as there is between discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the other.  All those arguments about how being gay is defiance of gender stereotypes, all those claims that Title VII really ought to cover male workers fired for being a "fag" and female workers for being too "butch" are in play here.

    But gay groups chose not to attempt to leverage their way into the ERA, as Barney points out:

    That is, as a gay man, along with virtually all of the gay and lesbian groups, I opposed inclusion of explicit protection for gay and lesbian people in equal rights amendments because it would have jeopardized the passage of the amendment. Of course at the federal level the amendment was never ratified, but it was ratified in Massachusetts and in several other places, and the relevant point is that it was ratified to protect women against discrimination based on their gender with the explicit approval of gays and lesbians that we be left out, because we thought that protecting people against a very significant form of discrimination was worth doing, even though it didn’t protect everybody.

    Nice fit for an analogy, if you ask me.

    Those with an open mind interested in a more thorough explanation of Barney Frank's views on the ENDA debate should take a look at his (very) extended remarks on the subject in a speech on the House floor.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    ENDA moves forward trans-free

    Posted by: Chris

    Clock_new The clock has run out on a transgender-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. House leaders met with gay and trans groups on Friday to let them know that the votes still aren't there to pass ENDA with "gender identity" included as a protected category. As a result, ENDA will move forward with only "sexual orientation," though Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a vote on transg-ENDA "the minute" the votes were there for it.

    It's amusing to see how the Human Rights Campaign is spinning the decision as "a victory" for its strategy of pushing only for ENDA if it includes trans rights.  Their take is that by doing so, Pelosi made an ""unprecedented commitment" to "fast-track" transg-ENDA:

    The Human Rights Campaign has collaborated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to craft a solution to the controversy surrounding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Today, in a meeting with HRC and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups, Speaker Pelosi took an unprecedented step and committed to giving H.R. 2015, the fully-inclusive version of the bill, a floor vote in the House once enough support for it to pass has been secured.

    A "solution"?  Exactly how so?  I don't blame Joe Solmonese for claiming victory even when it's clear that his trans-or-bust ENDA strategy has failed, but it doesn't do his or HRC's credibility much good. Even less surprisingly, Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality is lining up with other T(glb) groups in opposition to workplace protection for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.  The Blade reports:

    Keisling said her organization would stand among the groups that continue to oppose the amended version of ENDA introduced by gay Rep. Barney Frank.

    She said that bill, known as House Resolution 3685, lacked the support of “a single LGBT or other civil rights organization,” and was inferior to the trans-inclusive version, House Resolution 2015.

    “I can’t stress enough how we are focusing on passing 2015,” she said. “The truth is we feel the strategy around 3685 is bad strategy. We think it’s been handled badly, we think it is harmful and we oppose it.”

    No one has said whether the weeks of intensive lobbying for a trans-inclusive ENDA resulted in any additional votes for the measure, much less the 70 to 80 it was lacking in the House alone. Rather than accept that failure, Matt Foreman of the National (gay & lesbian) Task Force has reasserted his group's opposition to protection for gay, lesbian and bisexual employees:

    Matt Foreman, the Task Force’s executive director, said he disagreed with the approach and would “do everything possible” to change the legislative course.

    “It simply makes no sense,” he said in a statement. “If the goal is moving an ENDA that protects all of us, passing a flawed, gay-only bill utterly undermines that objective.

    “The notion that the House of Representatives will be willing to revisit a different ENDA before the end of the calendar year — when it has been unwilling or unable to take up a single pro-gay matter over the last 34 years — is more than implausible.

    "We will do everything possible to convince members to end this misguided course of action.”

    Meanwhile, Solmonese's "solution" is stay up on his indefensible tightrope, opposing gay-specific ENDA without calling on House members to vote against it.  The Blade again:

    Solmonese said HRC strongly supports a trans-inclusive ENDA and does not support the gay-only version of the  bill.

    But he said HRC would not call on members of Congress to vote against the gay-only bill, suggesting that to do so would jeopardize the organization’s longstanding relationship with members of Congress who have supported gay rights.

    The fact that Solmonese and HRC have shown the 1/1000th of 1 percent gumption to oppose gay ENDA without calling on members to vote against it -- whatever that really means -- is something at least.

    Keisling's quote is truly telling. That she and everyone (except Matt Foreman) acknowledges a raging debate among GLB Americans over this ENDA strategy and yet not a single lgbT group has sided with those of us who support going forward with the gay-specific version speaks volumes about the disconnect between the "leadership" of our movement and the constituents they supposedly represent.

    Truly incredible is that if the gay-specific version passes the House, it will be despite the movement's leaders, not because of them. And if it fails, then it will truly be on their conscience.

    Next, expect Harry Reid and Democrats in the Senate to steer a wide course to avoid even a vote on the gay-only version because of the political quicksand they've witnessed on the House side.  Solmonese, of course, will defend Democratic inaction, and Foreman will declare his own victory, having killed workplace protection for GLB Americans, even as it was posed to pass a Democratic-controlled Congress for the first time.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    October 13, 2007

    Your vote counts

    Posted by: Chris

    I've always been skeptical about online polls, especially when those with a special interest campaign to have like-minded fellows overload the voting. But they do provide an interesting snapshot of what people are thinking and, when you vote, it can force you off the fence on an issue that tugs at you from different directions.

    That's why I've enjoyed adding Vizu Polls to this blog and to Gay News Watch.  One of the more interesting polls, which is still live now, asks how you feel about the Barney Frank/ENDA controversy.  I posted about the interim results a few days ago.

    The poll also got the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carolyn Lockhead, who reported yesterday that our poll "showed about one-third supporting Frank, one-third supporting gay rights leaders and a third saying sexual orientation and gender identity should not be lumped together."

    So your vote does count in other ways too, influencing the national debate about an issue that has badly divided gay and lesbian Americans.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    October 11, 2007

    Sticks and stones, Pauline

    Posted by: Chris

    What is it about transgender activists that makes them, almost without exception, incapable of disagreeing without wagging a polished fingernail your direction, throwing out silly accusations of "transgenderphobia"?  Please tell me we GLBs aren't so quick to pull the "phobe" trigger when we get our hackles up.

    I7a6f969719274788a2560a465d917433 For example, transgender activist Pauline Park, from her perch over on Logo's Visible Vote '08 Forum, can't manage to disagree with me about the "trans or bust" strategy on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without calling me a "transphobe" and suggesting I'm some sort of gay Nazi stormtrooper.  After managing to quote only about half of one sentence from a post I wrote on the subject, she hones in on my conclusion that the strategy of making gays wait until trans folk can be protected as well is "downright immoral." 

    In response, she asks:

    Why is it immoral to insist on protecting everyone in our community, including the most vulnerable? Is it not obvious even to a transphobe like Crain that transgendered people are even more vulnerable to discrimination than non-transgendered lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people?

    (Funny how I'm the phobe even though she's doing all the name-calling.) Well Pauline, there are all sorts of morality, not just each-according-to-her-need, as you advocate here with regard to the relative vulnerability of GLBs and Ts. Another view of morality would favor incremental progress for the sake of protecting some in the interim, rather than leaving everyone "vulnerable" until some date to be named later. 

    Yet another would aim to protect the largest possible number from discrimination.  While hard LGBT numbers are difficult to come by, in 10 years in the LGBT media I've never seen any estimate of the size of the T as anything greater than 1% of the LGBT.  It's "downright immoral" for 99% to be left "vulnerable" because doing so (arguably) would hasten the date when the remaining 1% can be protected.  (Of course, a huge swath of T -- the vast majority, I've been told by trans activists -- don't even self-identify as LGBT, so they are simply along for the ride.)

    "Andoni," a regular reader and commenter on this blog, has offered yet another moral example for Ms. Park, if she's listening, from the field of medicine where he has made a long and successful career. When a cure comes along that can benefit a significant number of afflicted, Andoni points out, it is unthinkable to hold it back simply because not all will see immediate improvement. You could take the analogy even further, since a cure for some might siphon away resources from research to manufacturing, thereby slowing the pace of progress for those still unprotected. Even still, it would be "downright immoral" to keep the cure locked away.

    Maybe Pauline Park would disagree with every one of these moral viewpoints, but we don't know since responding in a substantive way isn't nearly so much fun as calling me "gay uber alles."  Go Pauline, snap-snap-SNAP!

    Uber_alles (I'm "uber alles," apparently, because I'm a "relatively priviliged, U.S.-born, upper middle class gay white man." She must keep an identity-politics pocket calculator handy for tallying up my various alleged life advantages. Interestingly enough, according to Pauline's website profile, after being orphaned in Korea she was raised in the U.S., later receiving her master's from the London School of Economics and studying German in Berlin and Regensburg.  Ich bin ein privileged Berliner as well, eh Pauline?

    Still, let me get this straight. Ms. Park would dismiss the snobbish views of "relatively priviliged, U.S.-born, upper middle class gay white men." Is she referring to the same "relatively priviliged, U.S.-born, upper middle class gay white men"  who overwhelmingly founded and funded those 100 some-odd LGBT organizations that have now signed on to withhold protection for their own so as to protect her and her fellow travelers?  Selfish white gay Nazi bastards!)

    Amusingly enough, Pauline also accuses me of "getting my facts wrong" for suggesting ENDA had been "trans-jacked," because, she points out, it was introduced with "gender identity" included waaaay back in April.  Talk about your short-term memory.  ENDA had been "gay-only" ever since 1994; this year was the first time "gender identity" was included.

    And that wasn't even my point, anyway.  ENDA wasn't "trans-jacked" when "gender identity" was introduced as part of the bill, although I continue to believe that over-eager misstep inevitably led us to the canyon divide we face as a movement today. No, Pauline, the "trans-jacking" occurred when 100-some-odd LGBT groups dared to oppose historic workplace protection for GLB Americans, the same ENDA they had supported for a decade.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender


    Posted by: Chris

    Regular readers will notice a few changes to the blog today, some subtle but the primary difference is the addition of several new advertisements from the Gay Ad Network.  Mark Elderkin, the founder of Gay.com, launched the Gay Ad Network in August to pool together the premium gay media websites and blogs -- there's an incomplete list in the graphic below this post -- to reach a higher grade of corporate advertiser than the member websites could on their own:

    "Independent web publishers have been successful in creating great quality content and attracting loyal and passionate audiences, but they have been less effective in attracting national advertisers due to their limited individual size," said Elderkin. "By developing content-rich marketing programs that span our aggregated audience, we can provide unique marketing vehicles for our advertising partners."

    I am delighted that Gay News Watch and this blog have both been accepted into the network.  Initially you'll see public service announcements in the ad slots I've set up for the Gay Ad Network, but eventually somebody will love me enough to pay for the honor of getting your attention.

    I am wary, of course, of cluttering up the site with too many ads or detracting from your experience as a reader. But as my partner and I continue on our international journey -- we're both soon to be expats, but more on that in a few days' time -- some revenue driplets will make a difference.

    And as I said just a few days ago when celebrating my first blog birthday, thank you very much for your support. 


    For a complete news summary on gay media, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/gaymedia

    October 10, 2007

    Meanwhile back at the DNC…

    Posted by: Chris

    While Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi are herding cats on whether to include "gender identity" in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Democratic National Committee has agreed to court-ordered mediation in the plain-old garden variety anti-gay discrimination suit filed by Donald Hitchcock, the party's former gay liaison.

    Hitchcockyandura The lawsuit brought by Hitchcock (which you can read in full in the jump to this post) is fairly straightforward stuff.  He had received uniformly positive work reviews until his partner, longtime Democratic consultant and fundraiser Paul Yandura, began publicly criticizing Howard Dean and the DNC for failing to use party resources to fight dozens of state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. (That's Hitchcock pictured on the left and Yandura on the right during happier times, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.)

    Rather than treat Hitchcock and his partner as two separate individuals, as the Democrats do generally with couples and certainly have with power-heteros James Carville and Mary Matalin, Dean and the Dems are alleged to have told Hitchcock that things would go very poorly for him if Yandura didn't clam up.

    If the allegations are true, then it is beyond despicable for a party that claims to value gay Americans to leverage a relationship like that for political advantage -- much less to silence a party critic.  Then again, Howard Dean has a long history of bristling at us impetulant gays who dare question the pace of progress or the secret strategies of The Governor Who Gave You Civil Unions. (The real story behind Dean's passive role in that historic Vermont achievement has rarely been told.)

    Retaliation of the type that Hitchcock alleges seems par for the course for the petty pol Howard Dean turned out to be, having crushed so many high hopes from the heady early days of his 2004 presidential run.  As much as I support the ENDA compromise engineered by Barney, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership, it all rings a bit hollow when you peek behind the wizard's curtain and see the sausage factory behind.  (Talk about your mixed metaphors.)

    For a complete news summary of the Hitchcock suit, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demssuedbygayliaison

    Continue reading»

    One nonscientific survey…

    Posted by: Chris

    Readers of this blog and Gay News Watch are pretty much split three ways on the question of whether to follow Barney Frank's strategy of splitting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act into two versions, one covering sexual orientation and the other gender identity. 

    Vizubarney_enda Exactly tied for first are the primary positions in the debate: favoring trans rights but agreeing with Barney to split ENDA if necessary for passage (36.4%) and insisting on a bill that covers both gays and trans folks (36.4%).  Another third practically (27.3%) believes that sexual orientation and gender identity are different enough that they belong in separate legislation anyway.

    Without interviewing that last third of the survey participants, we can't know exactly what they were thinking.  But I would bet their thoughts were along the lines of my post yesterday, believing that sexual orientation and gender identity are not nearly so bound up together as the "LGBT" groupthink would have us believe.

    As an aside, I am bothered as a journalist and as a gay man by the rampant misuse of "LGBT" or "GLBT" (or "TBLG" as some trans activists are fond of using).  The acronym suffices to explain organizations and the like whose mission includes all for groups.  But it gets used in all manner of lazy, inappropriate fashion, especially "LGBT marriage" (no such thing) or "LGBT person" (ditto).   OK, off the soapbox.

    Back to the survey -- online polls are unscientific, of course, and readers of this blog may skew conservative, but these results still provide an interesting snapshot of the disunity wrought by the "trans or bust" strategy for ENDA foisted upon us by the national lgbT groups.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    October 09, 2007

    Transg-ENDA and passing privilege

    Posted by: Chris

    Much of the debate over whether to move forward with compromise workplace protection based on sexual orientation and not gender identity has seemed to pit the GLBs versus the Ts.

    Either transgender Americans are protected by including “gender identity” as a protected category in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or some 150 GLBT groups have vowed to oppose employment protection based solely on “sexual orientation.”

    In reality, that Sophie’s Choice hasn’t really set the GLBs against the Ts. It has instead split the GLBs wide open. And there is an undercurrent to the debate that hasn’t been dealt with out in the open; a long-simmering tension between “straight-acting” gay men and lesbians and those GLBs who are gender non-conforming.

    Just the term “straight-acting” raises the hackles of many gays, and for understandable reason. Call it what you will, but there has always been an uneasy coexistence among masculine and effeminate gay men; and to a lesser extent, between “lipstick lesbians” and their “butch” counterparts.

    Spend five minutes in a gay bar, online chatroom, or even perusing personal ads, and the cleavage couldn’t be clearer.

    Transgender folks have a better name for it; they call it “passing privilege.” Some gay men and lesbians can “pass” as heterosexual, choosing when and with whom to come out.  Many of these “straight-acting” gays, and I count myself in their number although I completely reject the term, are often enthusiastically embraced by heterosexuals because we seem “normal” except for being gay.

    For many femme gay guys and more masculine lesbians, there is less choice about whether people know because “passing” isn’t really an option, or requires living in another type of closet that they refuse to accept. Acceptance can be a much tougher road because they must deal not only with homosexuality as an issue, but the discomfort many have with gender non-conformity, or with non-conformity in general.

    That’s why it’s called passing “privilege.” And to hear those who oppose a gay-only ENDA compromise, a central purpose of the legislation even before “gender identity” was added has always been to protect gender non-conformity in the workplace, rather than simply prevent sexual orientation from being a basis for firings or demotions.

    They point out that to your average bigot, a male coworker can be a “faggot” based entirely on mannerism, without any intel about his actual sexual orientation. The same applies to butch women, of course.

    You can hear that refrain in the more passionate commentary from those who object to removing transgender protection from ENDA. We are all gender non-conformists, they say, because men are supposed to be attracted to women, and vice versa. If you defy those roles, then you also defy the expectation of your gender.

    Lambda Legal has even converted that emotional connection into a legal one, arguing that without “gender identity” in ENDA, employers will have a huge loophole to claim a worker was fired or demoted because he was effeminate or she was masculine – not because he or she is gay.

    The good news about the “gay-only” ENDA compromise, if you’re willing to hear it, is that there is no such loophole. Perhaps those of us with “passing privilege” can see that more clearly because we aren’t bound up in some emotional way with trans folk as fellow gender transgressors. (This is a sentiment, by the way, shared by most transsexuals and cross-dressers, many of whom adamantly identify as heterosexual and are actually offended by the suggestion that they are part of some “LGBT community.”)

    Like many other GLBs, I reject completely the idea that being gay makes me a gender non-conformist. For us, the hardest part about accepting our sexual orientation can be shedding the misconception that being gay makes us less of a man or a woman.

    Many transsexuals and cross-dressers, on the other hand, have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, a mental illness that involves a complete disconnect between their biological and intellectual genders. Other trans folk reject the whole notion of gender and express themselves in a way that defies the male-female dichotomy.

    That is certainly their right, but having integrated my sexual orientation into my personality, I don’t feel one bit of inconsistency between being gay and being a man. I know many lesbians who feel the same way about their gender. For us, the entire notion of sexual orientation revolves around maintaining the male-female distinction. How else can I have same-sex attraction, unless I am a man attracted to other men?

    I can already hear the accusations to the contrary, but none of this means those of us with “passing privilege” don’t oppose transphobia. I strongly favor employment protection for the Ts, just not if it means waiting even more years to protect GLB workers.

    But maybe because I don’t self-identify as a gender transgressor, I can see the very clear legal and practical difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

    I can see clearly, for example, that gender non-conforming workers are already protected by Title VII, which the Supreme Court ruled way back in 1989 prohibits employers from relying on gender stereotypes. The real “loophole” since then has been for GLB workers, not the Ts, since courts have uniformly refused to apply that Supreme Court precedent when the gender non-conforming employee is gay.

    Barney’s compromise “gay-only” ENDA, imperfect as it is, would close that loophole once and for all, protecting workers based on their “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. The effeminate male demeaned in the factory as a “faggot” could sue, even if his bigoted boss has no idea whether he’s actually gay.

    A “gay-only” ENDA should not divide the GLBs, at least not on the question of whether it would protect all of us, “passing privilege” or otherwise. That’s why Lambda Legal lobbied for a gay-only ENDA for more than a decade, and that’s why there’s not a single reported case of a GLB worker losing a discrimination suit under a state or local “gay-only” discrimination law because he or she was gender non-conforming.

    Gay Americans have fought for basic federal civil rights protections for more than 30 years, and have lobbied for a “gay-only” ENDA for more than a decade. The unfortunate political reality is that only a “gay-only” ENDA has a chance of passing right now, and it is this “trans or bust” strategy adopted by the gender non-conforming GLBs who run our civil rights groups that is responsible for reopening old, old wounds.

    Rallying around a Barney’s ENDA compromise offers an opportunity to reunite us and pass historic legislation.

    October 08, 2007

    Gay papers weigh in on ENDA

    Posted by: Chris

    Gay newspaper editorials this past week reflect the divide among GLBs generally on whether to adopt a "trans or bust" strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The vigorous debate on LGBT editorial pages further puts the lie to Matt Foreman's claims of "unity" on the subject, and also offers a convenient way to drill down to the core issues here.

    Bayareareporter The Bay Area Reporter published a harshly worded editorial taking to task "two stalwarts of our community" -- Barney Frank and the Human Rights campaign -- for their ENDA positions. The editorial chastised HRC for its "inexplicable and inexcusable" silence during much of the debate over ENDA, which HRC has defended as necessary to "staying in the game" with Barney Frank and other Congressional leaders. (As if Barney Frank would refuse HRC's phone calls if they publicly opposed him.)

    HRC has managed to alienate many on both sides of the ENDA issue, while no doubt remaining popular with those who want to ride the fence on ENDA until they can see how it all comes out in the end. After "heartbreaking" and "wrenching" internal debate -- one can imagine the hand-wringing -- Joe Solmonese has described HRC's position as "unequivocally" in support of trans-inclusive ENDA and opposed to gay-specific ENDA. 

    That said, Solmonese does equivocate on what HRC do if Barney and Nancy Pelosi go forward with a gay-specific version. When push comes to shove, HRC will apparently abandon its "unequivocal" position and will not actively oppose a gay-specific version.

    The BAR editorial closes by noting:

    What's amazing to us is that Frank and HRC are blind to the fact that the gutted ENDA bill weakens workplace protections for all members of the LGBT community, not just those who are transgender. By removing gender expression, the bill leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians and gay men, who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or a woman should look and act, according to a preliminary analysis by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

    I hope the good journalists at BAR will not accept without scrutiny Lambda Legal's analysis on this point, simply because it fits the publication's editorial position.  Dale Carpenter and I both have challenged, and in my view overcome, Lambda Legal's ENDA argument (which Lambda Legal failed to make for more than a decade while the gay-specific ENDA was pending in Congress and dozens of states and local government were passing gay-specific civil rights bills).

    Windycitytimes Tracy Baim, the publisher and editor of the Windy City Times, also weighed in strongly against Barney's ENDA strategy:

    The activists should look to Illinois for an example of a “no compromise” plan that succeeded. Our state bill included sexual orientation and gender identity, and it is now the law of the Land of Lincoln.

    Rep. Frank’s rationale for these maneuvers sounds good on paper, but does not represent the reality for our community. We cannot ever justify exclusion as a course of action. To sever a significant part of our community would be wrong. If it takes losing “T” to get our rights, none of us should want those rights.

    I don't think it's fair to compare passing something through Congress to getting it through the Illinois state legislature, given that Illinois is decidedly more red blue than the rest of the country.

    The second point Tracy makes is a head-scratcher to me. Not because I don't understand it, but because I don't see why she doesn't understand the converse: The real immorality is to make the gay Americans who work in the 31 states that unlike hers don't have workplace protections wait until Congress and the president are ready to protect a vastly smaller number of transgender workers as well.  Such a strategy is virtually unprecedented in the history of civil rights law.

    Southernvoice On that point, my respected former colleague Laura Douglas Brown at Southern Voice in Atlanta makes a humdinger of a point. In an editorial that stopped just short of outright supporting Barney's strategy, Laura responds to the bigger civil rights picture:

    In a telephone news conference held Tuesday by the coalition, H. Alexander Robinson, director of the National Black Justice Coalition, cited the example of the fight for full equality for African Americans. He said that those rights often came incrementally, but argued that, "the rights that were extended … were extended to everyone."

    "We waited for voting rights. We waited for housing rights," he said.

    In reality, however, voting rights weren't extended to "everyone." The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave voting rights to black men — a move that outraged suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony, who had also been ardent abolitionists and refused to support the male-only amendment. The resulting controversy split the movement for women's suffrage and perhaps contributed to the years of delay before women — white and black — finally gained the right to vote in 1920.

    Should black men have had to wait another 50 years to get their right to vote, until the country was ready to pass suffrage for women, too? Or would women's suffrage have come sooner if it remained linked to votes for black men?

    Is it more selfish for gay people to abandon trans people, or for trans people to demand that gay, lesbian and bisexual people wait for job protections — maybe for decades — until they can be included too?

    Exactly. No one celebrates the fact that progress has to be incremental, but it is an inevitability accepted by almost everyone, including those of us waiting in foreign countries for Congress to address our issue: immigration rights for binational gay couples.

    Baywindows Finally, Susan Ryan-Vollmar at Bay Windows (in Boston) has some finger-wagging for those like her counterpart at the Bay Area Reporter who insist on ideological purity at the expense of practicality:

    Claiming that Frank has betrayed the trans community, as some are now doing (Los Angeles Times sportswriter Christine Daniels wrote this week that he was engaged in a strategy to “throw the transfolk overboard”) is breathtakingly ignorant of the facts.

    The targeting of the Human Rights Campaign for its failure to align itself with the LGBT organizations that have promised to work to defeat a non-inclusive ENDA is equally ignorant of reality. Who can seriously expect the nation’s largest organization working to pass legislation on our behalf to refuse to work with Pelosi and Frank?

    This petulant insistence on purity, principle and perfection is a hallmark not just of the LGBT community, but of American politics in general. Just look at James Dobson’s and the Christian right’s demands that the Republican Congress take up an overly broad Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when a much narrower provision that would have allowed for civil unions stood a much better chance of passage.

    Not that I’m comparing progressive LGBT activists with the Christian right. After all, the Christian right is capable of delivering votes, huge sums of money to candidates and hundreds of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers when an issue is deemed important enough to warrant it. Progressive activists? Not so much.

    It's noteworthy that all four of these editorialists are lesbians -- assuming the BAR's Cynthia Laird wrote that paper's unsigned editorial. It goes to show that no part of our community is free from the division wrought by this wrongheaded and short-sighted strategy.  Someone should remind Matt Foreman.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    October 07, 2007

    Happy blog birthday to me

    Posted by: Chris

    212999819_3fbedbf1d1 Amidst all the hullabaloo this week over ENDA and such, I missed marking the one-year birthday of this here blog, which commenced Oct. 3, 2006. 

    I knew even before I decided to leave the Washington Blade and move to Brazil that I would start my own blog.  I had been along with my close friend and colleague Steve Koval the primary blogger for the Blade Blog ever since it debuted in August 2004.  Even still, I launched Citizen Crain in a hurry, only a couple of weeks after I left the Blade, because the Mark Foley scandal was enveloping Washington, and it killed me to stay silent, when I had been covering Foley for years.

    Despite those years writing for the Blade Blog, having my own was an adjustment for me, after a decade of writing 1,000-word editorials week in and week out.  I appreciate those of you who wade through my longer posts. It was also an adjustment to write without pre-publication feedback.  I made some early mistakes, and was taken to the woodshed (thankfully in private) by my friend Andrew Sullivan for what he saw as my campaign to villify Jeff Trandahl, the chief House clerk who oversaw the page program.

    Trandahl and Kirk Fordham, who both found themselves in the white hot glare of press scrutiny based on someone else's odious conduct, are both good people who deserved better, including from me.  I continue to believe that I raised important questions about how the closeted and semi-closeted gay Republicans on the Hill dealt with "the Foley problem," but I no doubt fell guilty to assuming the worst in the way I asked the questions.

    Since that scandal, I've reveled in the freedom to opine on whatever subject, without worrying how my view might impact a larger institution, like the Blade , Southern Voice and the other gay papers I edited. (Some would say I didn't worry so much about that before, but in fact I did.)  Because a blog is so personal, it was personally very gratifying that so many of you have visited over the first year.

    I appreciate the early links and support since from Andrew and the guys over at Gay Patriot, North Dallas Thirty and The Malcontent.  I've always felt more accepted by gay conservatives, perhaps because of my own Republican past or because they "get" my criticisms of "gay-friendly" Democrats.  But the truth be told, I am much more comfortable as an independent and except in local D.C. votes I haven't pulled the lever for more than a handful of Republicans in more than a decade.  When I watch the news, I generally view positive developments for Democrats as positive for me, and the contrary with Republicans.

    Conservativesoul_2I'm not sure exactly how to label myself, although "progressive" probably fits the best. Reading Andrew's book "The Conservative Soul," I was struck by just how hard he was working to reclaim the conservative name, even as those who self-identify as such had moved leagues away ideologically.  I long ago gave up that fight, and maintain a very optimistic view about the march of human progress in all things.

    Some commenters on this blog and elsewhere have accused me of sucking up to Andrew or trying to be his twin.  I'll plead innocent to both.  I disagree with him regularly, including on very big things like the Iraq war, which I opposed from the outset.  At the same time, I will freely acknowledge here what I have never told him personally: I have been an ardent admirer of his work and the way he has lived his life since his days at the New Republic.  I am one of many who have been greatly influenced by the example he sets, and I am happy to say so.

    Hooperr I also want to give special thanks to a couple of bloggers who helped me out in simply figuring out the medium.  At the top of that list is Jeremy Hooper (pictured), who blogs over at Good As You (G-A-Y).  He has endured with cheerful patience my endless questions about the inner-workings of Typepad and HTML.  He was so kindly and gentlemanly, in fact, that I had assumed he was some elderly retired gent sharing niblets of what he knew about the world of the Net. You could've knocked me over with a feather when I saw his photo recently -- "Que gato!" as they say down here in Brazil.

    Marcoscara Speaking of Brazil, I'm grateful for the small but incredible network of gay bloggers opened up to me by my move here.  At the top of that list are two of my very best friends here in São Paulo: Marcos (Carioca Virtual) (pictured) and my fellow gringo Kevin (Club Whirled), who like me left behind the Beltway life for the love of a Brasileiro. 

    I enjoyed a very blogger moment just last weekend when the three of us adopted-Paulistas (as natives of São Paulo are called) were at a birthday party here for a friend from Belo Horizante when we were joined by Juliano, the popular blogger over at Made In Brazil -- a must-read English language blog for all things gay, Brazilian and fashionista.  (Juliano, like Jeremy, is a very pleasant surprise to the eyes in person.  Not all bloggers are the stereotypical scruffy, underwear clad slobs). 

    More thanks go to Augusto, a Brasileiro living in Canada with his U.S. boyfriend, who commiserates with me about America's discriminatory immigration policy. Augusto's must-read gay-sensitive film reviews are over at Queer Beacon.  And although he's Colombian and not Brazilian, Andrés Duque (Blabbeando) has been a lifeline for gay news from Latin America, and a wonderful supporter along the way.

    But the Brazilian most responsible for this blog is my partner Anderson, who has come to accept that I'm glued to my MacBook at all hours, even when the beaches of Ipanema were calling our names from just three blocks away.  His love and support have meant everything to me.

    And last but certainly not least, thank you.  I am grateful that you take the time to visit, whether or not you agree with anything I have to say.  Thank you as well for all your comments, on the blog and by email as well.  I hope you will join in the debate here.  We'll all be the better for it.

    More transg-ENDA disconnect

    Posted by: Chris

    Who do you believe?  Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

    “In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way and said once and for all that we will leave no part of it behind.”

    Or the San Francisco Chronicle's Readers' Platform on "transgender rights and wrongs":


    Here is a sample of the more than 230 comments - reflecting a vigorous debate in the gay, lesbian and transgender communities - registered on SFGate by 6 p.m. Tuesday. To see all the comments, go to sfgate.com/ZBAG

    Agree or disagree on strategy, principle or otherwise, it's time for Matt Foreman to stop lying about a "unified movement" on whether to go with his "trans or bust" strategy on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    Feel free to tell him yourself

    October 06, 2007

    Poking holes in Lambda's ENDA claim

    Posted by: Chris

    I haven't always agreed with gay law professor and columnist Dale Carpenter, but he does a fantastic job of in this post for the Volokh Conspiracy piercing the case made by Lambda Legal that keeping gender identity in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is necessary not just to protect the Ts, but to protect gender non-conforming GLBs as well.

    Carpenter_2 His analysis confirms what I have written before about how it's very unlikely that passage of a gay-specific ENDA would allow employers to argue that gay-specific ENDA doesn't protect a gay man was fired for being effeminate, rather than for being gay.

    That's because, as I've written before (here and here), the Supreme Court has already made clear that gender stereotyping is prohibited by Title VII. Dale puts it this way:

    As a factual matter, it would be passing strange to see such a case, since almost every instance of discrimination for gender nonconformity is accompanied by direct and explicit evidence of anti-gay discrimination (e.g., calling an effeminate man a "fag"). It would not be hard for a court or jury, and certainly would not be hard for Lambda's skilled lawyers, to pierce the pretext that the employer was not really engaged in anti-gay discrimination and thus violating the "weak" version of ENDA.

    That's especially the case after that U.S. Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which prohibited gender stereotyping.  That case has been used successfully by transsexuals claiming job discrimination.  Gays, on the other hand, have been specifically written out of Title VII.  Carpenter again:

    [After the Price Waterhouse decision,] if a heterosexual plaintiff claims gender stereotyping, she has a claim. But if an “avowed homosexual” plaintiff claims gender stereotyping, courts get very suspicious that it’s an attempt to sneak sexual orientation protection into Title VII under the guise of interpretation.

    If a gay-specific ENDA passes, then courts will no longer after to worry whether a case alleging gender non-conformity is "blurring" into a gay case. Both types of employer conduct would be prohibited under federal law: gender non-conformity under Title VII and Price Waterhouse; "sexual orientation" by ENDA.  End of concern.

    Jon_davidson I had an interesting and thought-provoking conversation yesterday with Jon Davidson, the legal director of Lambda Legal, about just these issues.  As I've written before, I give Lambda a lot of credit for adding substance to the very emotional, high-volume debate about this ENDA strategy.

    But I would agree with Dale Carpenter's conclusion that Lambda Legal appears in this instance to have started with its political, moral, etc. conclusion to fight for trans inclusion, and worked backward as advocates for the best arguments to get GLBs to go along. 

    Or, as Barney Frank put it so memorably, "The problem [with Lambda Legal] is they are great at trying to write a bill to make it stronger, but they’re rarely are helpful to us in getting the votes to get it through."

    On this point, Davidson argues that ENDA has no chance of passage, with or without transgender protections, because the votes aren't there in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, much less President Bush's veto.  I don't accept any of those assumptions, about the Senate or the president if the bill is gay-specific, but they are dead-on correct if transgender rights are included.

    Even if Davidson is correct and this argument is mostly symbolic because ENDA's real chance of passage is after the next election, it is still of enormous importance.  If the "trans or bust" side succeeds in forcing Barney to stick to a failed ENDA strategy this time around, it will be that much more difficult the next time.

    Down 'n' dirty with the GOP

    Posted by: Chris

    Artcraigap_2 While the rest of us were fighting this week about transgender rights and such, the Larry Craig scandal descended from the absurd to… er… whatever is one level worse than that. 

    It was disappointing if not unexpected that the judge refused the Idaho senator' attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. There was the expected finger-wagging that Craig, of all people, should have known what he was doing when he pleaded guilty in the first place: "The defendant, a career politician with a college education, is of at least above-average intelligence. He knew what he was saying, reading and signing."

    I like the dig at Craig's intelligence. Nicely done. I don't disagree with the judge, but it was a crimped ruling.  Accepting for the sake of argument the problems with the constitutionality of Craig's arrest, then the police were counting on exactly the external pressures Craig caved to (actually multiplied in his case) to preclude him against the defendant asserting his own constitutional rights.  If you care about civil liberties, then Craig's loss this week was also a lost opportunity to strike a very public blow against police abuse.

    Medium_joey_difatta Contrast, if you will, Larry Craig's arrest with the near-arrest of another toe-tapping Republican exposed this week, this one out of Louisiana.  St. Bernard Parish Councilman Joey DiFatta, 53, dropped out of the Louisiana state Senate race after it was revealed that he had been questioned by police twice on mall restroom lewdness charges. (No word on whether DiFatta is married; does anyone know?)

    In the first incident, another restroom user physically held DiFatta for police after he caught the GOP pol peeping through a gloryhole to watch him pee.  The man later dropped charges.  The second incident, however, involved an undercover cop and would serve a nice instruction manual for the cops in the Minneapolis airport who nabbed Craig.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:

    Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men's bathroom at Dillard's at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.

    The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy's stall and tapped the deputy's foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.

    The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy's leg, the report states.

    The detective asked DiFatta, "What do you want?" according to the report, and he replied, "I want to play with you."

    DiFatta also used a hand signal to indicate that he wanted to engage in sex and used language that indicated the same, according to the report. Conley, who is now the Kenner city attorney, confirmed the report's authenticity Thursday.

    The incident did not culminate in an arrest because the deputy in the bathroom with DiFatta terminated the investigation after several children entered the bathroom, the report states. Conley noted in the report that DiFatta appeared well-versed and comfortable with the routine.

    Conley wrote that had the investigation been allowed to continue, it likely would have concluded in DiFatta's arrest on obscenity charges, including a possible attempted crime against nature.

    The civil libertarian in me is still troubled somewhat by the cop's responsive toe-tapping.  If the concern with this sort of behavior is to protect those for whom it's unwanted, then the test ought to be whether DiFatta continues to pursue without any thumbs-up (metaphorically speaking) in response.

    Still, the police officer here followed all the rules and was waiting for unambiguous communication far beyond anything Larry Craig did.  Note that even, "I want to play with you," wasn't enough.  Interestingly, the undercover cop Sgt. Conley is now the city attorney of Kenner, La.  Perhaps that's why he was so careful.

    (Yet another Republican with a wide restroom stance lost his lunch this week in Tallahassee, Fla.)

    Meanwhile back in Idaho, or actually Washington, Larry Craig has taken Barney Frank's advice and will not resign his seat. Good for him. It will be much more entertaining to have him there and watch the Republicans twist and turn in distinguishing between Craig's misdemeanor offense and that other Louisiana Republican's admission to using the services of prostitutes.

    Mikejonesmassage Speaking of prostitutes, Ted Haggard's former escort Mike Jones apparently has a few ticks left on his 15 minutes of fame. In an interview with a Palm Springs radio station, he alleged in coy fashion that he had also serviced Larry Craig:

    While promoting his new book during a radio interview with KNWQ-AM in Palm Springs this week, Mike Jones hesitated from making the allegation on the air. Management for the radio station says Jones told them he would reveal something about Idaho Senator Larry Craig on the "Bulldog Bill Feingold Show."

    While he hesitated doing so on the air, a NewsChannel 3 camera was rolling when he made the accusation during a commercial break. Feingold asked whether the senator had seen Jones in a hotel room. Jones responded, "No, he came to see me." Jones then added, "His travel records to Denver have been documented. That's what I wanted to say."

    I believe him, especially since he told gay blogger Joe.My.God the same story when the Haggard scandal first broke. Jones was apparently waiting to see if Craig would resign and decided to go public when the Idaho Republican reneged on that decision.

    It will be curious to see if the mainstream press follows the Jones lead now that Craig is staying in office.  Craig has vehemently denied Jones' accusation and, unlike in the Haggard case, Jones has no smoking gun phone messages.  But if Jones can recall dates and the press can cross-reference trips by Craig to Denver, then watch out…

    As much as the blogosphere and late-night comics would revel in yet another chapter in Craig's hypocrisy, I hope at least some of us will remember that it really doesn't help our cause.

    For a complete and up-to-date news summary about the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig

    October 05, 2007

    What a thoughtless Australian transsexual lesbian

    Posted by: Chris

    What was Grace Adams thinking? Before she transitioned from male to female, she married her partner, and once completing the transition succeeded in changing her passport designation from male to female. As a result, she and her spouse are effectively Australia's first same-sex couple.

    Aussielesbiancouple My first inclination was to congratulate Grace on a job well done, turning the system against itself and using the intricacies of gender law to strike a blow for all of us! 

    Then, I remembered.  "None of us is free until all of us is free." And it's "immoral" for some of us, including Grace, to enjoy a civil right, like marriage for same-sex couples, until all of us can.

    So instead of congratulations, I'll have to say, Shame on you, Grace.  Shame on you for fighting for your own civil rights instead of thinking of mine first!

    No time for wink-wink, nudge-nudge

    Posted by: Chris

    Mittromneylcradcitcra I received an interesting reaction from Robbie over at The Malcontent to my post yesterday on the Log Cabin Republican's new attack ad on Mitt Romney, in which I took the gay GOP group to task for highlighting flip-flops on abortion and gun control but not gay rights.

    Robbie wrote:

    I think you're slightly misreading the intent of the ad. It isn't merely about flip-flopping. It's about saying, "Romney is not a true conservative in his heart. This is all pandering during an election."

    Abortion and gun control issues are ways of noting his suspect conservative credentials, but an organization like LCR isn't going to say, "He used to be for gay rights. That's how unconservative he really is." For fairly obvious reasons.

    He went on to suggest that LCR put out another ad specific to gay issues, but my first reaction was that an ad on gay issues ought to have been the first one Log Cabin puts out. After all, it is my gay conservative friends who (correctly, I think) bellow most loudly when the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force weighs in (ridiculously) on the Iraq war and other issues that are about seven football fields away from their mission. So why is Log Cabin producing ads about abortion and gun control?

    If Robbie is right, and it's a quite subtle but interesting take on the ad's point, then why is LCR setting itself up as the arbiter of "true conservatives," demanding that candidates maintain an orthodox anti-abortion, anti-gun control position throughout their political lives?  Shouldn't LCR be promoting a big-tent party that has room for those who are pro-choice, pro-gun control and (ahem!) pro-gay?

    Moreover, the subtlety of Robbie's take will no doubt be lost on the vast majority of those who see the ad, who will miss the irony primarily because they don't know who LCR is, and will think Romney is being attacked for being a closet liberal, which the ad's sponsors presumably think is bad for the party. Why would Log Cabin promote the idea that social liberals are bad for the party? Talk about shooting yourself in the political foot!

    Tafel2 For those who do know who Log Cabin is, the ad reinforces the notion that gay Republicans are reticent to advocate for their own equality. Even for them, it is the issue that dare not speak its name.  Now more than ever, LCR needs leadership that can give a full-throated defense of gay rights and call flip-floppers like Mitt Romney to task the way Rich Tafel, the group's founding executive director did.

    Just look at how Tafel has responded to Romney's candidacy.  In a New York Times article about Romney's "evolution" on gay rights, there is this snippit:

    Rich Tafel, who was the executive director of [Log Cabin Republicans] at the time, said he was stunned by what he described as the contrast between how Mr. Romney came across in their meeting and how he appeared on the campaign trail now.

    “I’ve never seen anybody change like this,” he said. “It really does concern me.”

    And in another New York Times article:

    “He couldn’t have been more kind and interested in understanding gay rights,” said Rich Tafel, who was executive director of Log Cabin’s national organization at the time. “He struck me as a business person who just wanted to understand this issue, and he wanted to communicate that he wasn’t antigay at all.”

    And for Newsweek:

    Romney was influenced by Rich Tafel, then the executive director of the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans. At a three-hour meeting early in the '94 campaign, Tafel tells NEWSWEEK, he suggested that Romney be even more supportive of gay rights than Kennedy. Romney did so, writing letters and talking publicly about his support for selected gay issues.

    This is the story only Log Cabin can tell properly in first person, and it ought to be doing so, and loudly. This is no time for wink-wink, nudge-nudge…

    October 04, 2007

    T is to GLB as mascara is to…

    Posted by: Chris

    Dragqueeneyelashes Crack open those SAT brain cells because a few useful analogies help illustrate why it's so wrong -- politically, logically and morally -- for gay Americans to be saddled with a "trans or bust" strategy for passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    Robingavinnewsome_2 First off, Robin Tyler, the respected longtime lesbian activist (comedian and tour organizer) who headed up the 1987 and 2000 marches on Washington, offered up one in an email to me based on her own relationships with transgender friends:

    I support full transgender rights.  However, when I have been invited to legal weddings of some of my transgender friends, not one of them has said, "We will not get married until Diane and you and other same sex couples can get married."  They did not sacrifice on the alter of political correctness, the state and federal benefits of marriage.  And yet, with regard to ENDA, the lesbian and gay community is expected to do so, leaving millions and millions of us in the majority of states, once again, unprotected.

    Even Brad and Angelina and Charlize Theron and her boyfriend have pledged not to marry until we can, but none of us would dream of forcing transgender couples who can marry today to wait until we can as well.

    The trans-ENDA debate is also raging over at Immigration Equality's blog, where Ben Gardent -- a frequent commenter to this blog -- came up with a fantastic analogy that shows why IE should never have signed on to the Task Force letter with 100 signatory groups opposing gay-specific ENDA.

    Even though the leaders in Congress on immigration reform -- including leading Democrats and gay former Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) -- refused to include the Uniting American Families Act to comprehensive immigration reform. UAFA would extend to gay Americans the same right to sponsor non-American partners for residence as straight Americans have.

    Immigration Equality nonetheless was an enthusiastic coalition partner for immigration reform because it was good coalition politics and breaking the logjam on immigration reform was important to bringing UAFA up to the plate.  Gay immigration rights supporters also recognized the reality that more work needed (and still needs) to be done to build political support for UAFA.

    GENDA is to ENDA as UAFA is to comprehensive immigration reform in this analogy.  (GENDA is Barney Frank's cleverly named version of ENDA covering only "gender identity.")  Transgender rights supporters are actually even ahead of gay immigration rights backers, since they got GENDA included in ENDA until Barney and House Democrats realized the votes weren't there.  (Though I'm not at all convinced there's any more support for transsexual workplace rights than there is for gay and lesbian Americans who want to sponsor foreign partners.)

    Regardless, rather than be good coalition partners, transgender activists focused instead on guilting and leveraging their gay group allies to hold off on any legislation until gender identity can be passed as well.  That sort of demand is not only political suicide, as Barney has pointed out, but downright immoral, just as it would have been coming from gays in the immigration debate (even though more of us would be helped by UAFA than trans folks by GENDA).

    Finally, my friend Don George -- another regular commenter here (ask him for his alias) and over on IE's blog -- makes one more analogy, this one to the Vermont gays who agreed to civil unions as a compromise when that state's court told the legislature in 1999 to pick between civil unions and marriage:

    Had the Vermont folks told their legislature “no” to the civil unions compromise…. that they would hold out for marriage, would we be better off now than we are? Has the precedent been set for civil unions as a cop out and it makes the road to marriage equality so much harder?

    I think there's no question the Vermont folks make the right call, though I'm not suggesting compromise is always the right option. At least where Vermont and civil unions were concerned, it was all about whether they had built the political support for the issue at hand: legal recognition of gay relationships.

    In this case, even though it’s clear that political support has been there for years for employment protection based on sexual orientation, gay Americans are being told that they now must wait an indefinite additional time until support is there for transsexuals, transvestites and cross-dressers and the like.

    The ad with the missing flip-flop

    Posted by: Chris

    I have been accused, and fairly so, of too often seeing the glass as half-empty. Hell -- if the glass is only short 1/100th, I've found myself completely exorcised about that missing sip.  So perhaps I should just be thankful that the Log Cabin Republicans have awoken from their loooooong slumber since the departure of Patrick Guerriero as executive director more than a year ago.

    Today Log Cabin released a television ad to be aired in Iowa and on national cable that does a devastating job of using Mitt Romney's own words to show what a politically craven flip-flopper he is.  Take a look at the ad, and then tell me if you notice anything, er, missing…

    Abortion? Check.  Roe v. Wade? Check. Gun control? Check. No return to Reagan-Bush? Check. Massachusetts values? Check.

    Romneylcrletter_2 But what about the gays? What about the letter (click to enlarge) that candidate Mitt Romney sent to these very same Log Cabin Republicans during his 1994 challenge to Sen. Ted Kennedy? Romney famously wrote, "For some voters, it might be enough to simply match my opponent’s record in this area. But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will."

    Romneyprideflyer What about that hot-pink Happy Pride! flyer distributed by the Romney for governor campaign?

    Or even some choice quotes from Romney's response to a questionnaire from the Boston gay paper Bay Windows just five short years ago, in which Romney compares the gay rights movement to Martin Luther King and the necessity of protecting Roe v. Wade:

    BW: When did you become aware that civil rights for gays and lesbians was an issue?

    MR: At a very young age, my parents taught me important lessons about tolerance and respect. I have carried these lessons with me throughout my life and will bring them with me if I am fortunate enough to be elected governor. My dad, George Romney, was a three-term governor of Michigan. He walked the streets of Detroit with Martin Luther King in support of civil rights. And my mother, Lenore, ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970 and advocated a woman's right to choose when abortion was still a crime, before the days of Roe vs. Wade. If elected Governor of Massachusetts, I will not tolerate discrimination of any form in Massachusetts.

    For the life of me I can't figure out why Log Cabin would miss the opportunity to let voters know about Romney's previously big gay flip-flop. Not only would it have reinforced the point the ad makes on abortion and gun control, but it reminds Republicans that many GOP politicians support gay rights. Perhaps LCR-ers find it anathema to compare gay rights to abortion and gun control.  Who knows?

    I've never agreed with criticism of Log Cabin or gay Republicans generally as self-loathing or still wounded from years in the closet.  But for many gays, the ad with the missing flip-flop will only reinforce those notions.

    October 03, 2007

    Stop lying, Matt Foreman!

    Posted by: Chris

    One interesting side point to the ENDA-transgender debate is how out of touch those who "lead" the movement are with the actual GLB folks they represent.  (The T's are clearly on their side.)

    Matt Foreman, the leader of those demanding a trans-or-bust version of ENDA, has publicly claimed, "In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way and said once and for all that we will leave no part of it behind."  In a statement today he claims, "Never before have we seen our movement so galvanized and so united in an effort to make sure no part of our community is left behind. This is unprecedented."

    These are lies.  There's simply no other word for them.  He knows very well that there is a great debate raging among GLBs about which strategy to adopt.  Foreman's characterization is a flat out lie intended to silence half the debate.

    Foreman's statement is only accurate when it describes how the leaders of most GLBT organizations have responded.  (It by no means includes all groups, by the way.  The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Servicemember Legal Defense Network and Log Cabin Republicans aren't on the list, just to name the first three that came to mine for me.)

    In the insulated, politically correct world where these "leaders" operate, sacrificing our rights to score ideological points is a no-brainer. That's why, in the letter from 90 (now more than 100) gay groups gathered together by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force claims, "The undersigned represent the vast and celebrated diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in this country."

    Back in the real world, GLB folks are actually very split on the question.  Almost half (38.1%) believe that gay and trans protections are different enough that they should be in separate bills anyway.  That's even further than I would take things.  Another 14.3% agree with Barney Frank that if the votes for trans-inclusive ENDA aren't there, then it makes the most political sense to go forward with a gay-specific version.  Finally, less than half (47.6%) agree with the "trans or bust" strategy urged by the Task Force and others.

    On all sorts of blogs and gay web sites, the debate rages, and GLBs take all sorts of views.  You can characterize that debate a number of different ways, but to claim as Foreman has that "the community" or "the movement" is "unified" is a lie -- a disingenuous lie intended to bully people into silence.

    But we will not be silenced. We will continue to speak out and, as appears necessary, ignore our marginalized LGBT groups and speak directly to politicians like Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin who remember that the goal here is to pass what is achievable.

    As Barney Frank is quoted as saying  in a story by Lisa Keen:

    “The question facing [the LGBT community and its supporters] is whether we should pass up the chance to adopt a very good bill because it has one major gap,” said Frank, in the statement. Frank said that public education and lobbying on gender identity was “much less far along” than that on sexual orientation discrimination.

    Frank criticized what he said was “an unwillingness on the part of many, including leaders in the transgender community” to acknowledge that “there is more resistance to protection for people who are transgender than for people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual.” …

    While LGBT leaders told Frank they would prefer to not go forward with ENDA at all, rather than delete gender identity, Frank said that would be “a disaster -- politically, morally and strategically.”

    “[I]nsistence on achieving everything at once,” said Frank, “would be a prescription for achieving nothing ever.”

    It's truly ironic that these "leaders" portray their trans or bust strategy as one of unity when it is the single most divisive step taken in the recent history of the movement.

    A more thoughtful Jena 6 response

    Posted by: Chris

    I promised in an earlier post to publish a more thoughtful response I received to my Jena 6 posts, considering all the noise with so little light that we've seen on the subject.  The response comes from Darryl! L.C. Moch, who despite the unusual first name (that exclamation point is no typo) is a longtime black gay activist from Atlanta (and now Washington) whose views I definitely respect.

    I've posted all of his email, which he's given me permission to publish, in the jump to this post.  But I'll respond to the gist of each point.

    • First you trivialize the need for the "gay" community to be actively involved with the issues at heart with the black community.  It is more than back scratching it is about building a stronger more diverse movement.

    Guilty as charged.  The post wasn't intended to be my overall view on the Jena 6, and a number of folks who took me to task for not telling "the whole story" or short-handing too much treated it as if it were.  I thought (naively) that by saying I understood and agreed with the broader issues being raised by the Jena 6 that I could focus on the narrow issue of whether a gay rights group should get involved.

    I do think the gay community should support issues important to the black community when they align with the issues we are fighting for in our movement.  I don't believe so much, however, in support that's merely the result of scratch-your-back politics or white guilt.  It's important for black gays not to pander or guilt white gays into supporting them.  If you respect us, then you should make your case and hear what we have to say in response.  Real dialogue goes in two directions.

    • The LGBT community has a lot of work to do in really seeking to understand the magnitude of pain (historically from generation to generation) that Black and other communities of color feel in response to systemic and institutional racism and discrimination.

    I know this wasn't intended to be patronizing, but that's how it is received.  I have done a great deal of "work" in my life to educate myself about racial discrimination. Far, far, far more than the average black heterosexual has done to understand my own victimhood.  Do you honestly believe that the average white person is going to go running to the encyclopedia in response to an exhortation like that? There is racism among whites and blacks both in the gay community, and I confront it everywhere I see it, including in myself.  For the most part, however, there is far less racism among gays than among straights.

    One thing I'm pleased to see is that many African Americans seem ready to move past this history, now that the laws in the U.S. have been equalized for a generation and so much has been done to eradicate racism.  They realize there are lingering issues, including those raised in the Jena 6 case.  But they also recognize that victimhood is a big ole trap that sucks out energy that could be spent making a new future.  That's why Barack Obama is so popular and such a breath of fresh air.  He speaks in a positive way about the future without wagging the figure about white guilt for the past.

    And just since we're being real here, it is a bit tiresome to hear young black folk who were born long after Jim Crow was dismantled complaining about slavery and generations of discrimination.  I heard the same thing in law school, from black fellow students who came from far greater economic privilege than me and still benefited from affirmative action (in college, law school, and hiring and promotion afterward).

    • We all want to see justice done and served for everyone of them; but we want that justice to be dispensed fairly and appropriately.  How often in this country do you hear people being charged with attempted murder during a high school fight?

    I have heard that but it's always said in passing.  And when it's said in a way that dismisses the Jena 6 beating as "a high school fight," then I frankly don't believe it.  How often does "a high school fight" involve six guys blindsiding, beating and kicking the other unconscious and sending him to the hospital? That never happened in my high school!

    What happened in Jena was also not a "fight," and here's where I'd like Darryl! and others to really listen.  This is the heart of what set me off.  It's not "a fight" when six guys surprise and beat up one.  It's an attack, and in Jena, it was a very violent attack.  Not attempted murder, I agree, but then that charge was dropped.  But not "boys will be boys" scuffle either.  To say so doesn't just diminish what happened in Jena, it is a slap in the face to gay teens and adults who've experienced similar cowardly beatings by jock-types. Including me.  Understand now?

    • I also want to say that I think Donna Payne was where she needed to be doing what we both expected and needed her to do.  Stand for us and represent us.  I think again you threw her name into your article and glossed over her purpose and representation.  Do you or have you gotten to know her perspective on this issue?

    Donna wrote her op-ed piece on Advocate.com and said what she said mischaracterizing what happened at Jena.  I didn't attack her personally; I responded to what she said.  In response to the email from Darryl!, I asked Donna to share her views.  Like others at HRC, she chose not to even reply.

    (The complete email from Darryl! is available at the jump.)

    Continue reading»

    New ENDA weaker than the old?

    Posted by: Chris

    Lambdalegal As usual, Lambda Legal has managed to add substance to a messy controversy that has mostly featured petty grandstanding. I don't always agree with Lambda, but I appreciate how they stick to substance and usually contribute something real to the debate.

    That's what they've done here on the debate over whether to remove transgender protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. While the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign are posturing, credit Lambda for taking the time to analyze the substance of ENDA, trans-inclusive and gay-exclusive.

    The result of that analysis may have been a bit pre-determined by Lambda's position on ENDA, which mirrors that of the Task Force and other groups that demand transgender inclusion, but Lambda actually took the time to compare the legislation and came to interesting conclusions:

    The recent version is not simply the old version with the transgender protections stripped out — but rather has modified the old version in several additional and troubling ways.

    In addition to the missing vital protections for transgender people on the job, this new bill also leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians and gay men who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or woman should look and act. This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit.

    This version of ENDA states without qualification that refusal by employers to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees that are provided only to married couples cannot be considered sexual orientation discrimination. The old version at least provided that states and local governments could require that employees be provided domestic partner health insurance when such benefits are provided to spouses.

    In the previous version of ENDA the religious exemptions had some limitations. The new version has a blanket exemption under which, for example, hospitals or universities run by faith-based groups can fire or refuse to hire people they think might be gay or lesbian.

    The last two points raised by Lambda Legal seem valid ones to me. Why allow federal law to override state and local laws that require employers to treat domestic partners the same as married couples? It seems counterproductive unless (again) it's politically necessary for passage.

    I'm less concerned about the breadth of the religious exception. Anyone who goes to work for a company controlled by a religious group knows going in that there is a religious purpose behind the enterprise. Even so, it does seem worthwhile to revise ENDA so that again only employers or positions whose primarily purpose is religious are excluded.

    The gist of the Lambda Legal analysis, however, is pinned on gay employees needing "gender identity" as a protected category because an employer charged with anti-gay bias can simply claim the real problem was the employee's failure to conform to gender norms Indeed, the term "gender identity" is described in the trans-inclusive ENDA as "the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth."

    But as regular readers of this blog know, Title VII already protects employees of all sexual orientations and gender identities from discrimination because they don't live up to their employer's gender norms or stereotypes. Transgender employees have already taken advantage of this interpretation of existing federal law, but gay employees have been hit with the fact that federal law doesn't cover sexual orientation.  So once again, it is gay employees, not transgender employees, who need ENDA more.

    So while I don't buy Lambda's overall point that a trans-inclusive ENDA is necessary to protect gay workers, I do think Barney Frank and others should pay heed to Lambda's other concerns.

    October 02, 2007

    360-degree reversal for HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    The Human Rights Campaign board last night voted to complete a 360-reversal back to its 2004 position to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act only if it includes "gender identity" protections. The latest board vote is actually only the latest twirl for HRC on the issue.

    Hrc_11_logo For a decade before 2004, HRC supported ENDA as a gay-only bill with the best odds of passage. Then, three years ago, the board reversed itself and abandoned the strategy likely to get ENDA passed the fastest. Last week, when Barney Frank split the gay and transgender ENDAs because the votes weren't there to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA, HRC stayed quiet and ultimately issued a statement that tried to have it both ways -- insisting HRC hadn't "assented" to the strategy but accepting it as the way to get ENDA passed.

    Now the board has twirled about again, this time saying that HRC will only support a trans-inclusive ENDA, but won't tell members of Congress to vote against ENDA if only gays would be protected by it.

    Got that? Yeah I don't get it either.

    But I will adopt the version of the HRC logo seized upon by trans activists last week upset that HRC was caving on a trans-inclusive ENDA. For me, the new logo represents the number "11," which is probably a good guess for the number of years it will take before a trans-inclusive ENDA can be enacted.

    As for every person discriminated against in the workplace in the meantime because of their sexual orientation -- well that's on the head of HRC, the Task Force and their glbT allies.

    Racial condescension and the Jena 6

    Posted by: Chris

    Jena_6 Through almost 15 years of involvement in the gay rights movement, I've frequently heard black and white leaders alike talk about the critical need for "real dialogue" on racial issues. But what follows, in my experience, is a one-way conversation full of condescension and nothing approaching anything "real."

    That's because the white liberals who generally speak up feel so burdened by accusations of "white privilege" that their primary goal is simply to say whatever it is they think will most please their black listeners. The only time things get heated is when they guess wrong, much like Bill Richardson mis-pandered when Melissa Etheridge asked him whether being gay is a "choice."

    But look what happens when a white person does attempt "real dialogue" on racial issues in the gay rights movement. He is rewarded with additional heaps of condescension from black and white alike, along with the usual unfounded accusations of racism. I'm talking of course about the reaction to my posts about the decision by the Human Rights Campaign to defend the "Jena 6" -- six (black) high school football players who beat and kicked unconscious a fellow student.

    As a victim of a violent hate crime myself, I had argued that the gay rights movement should not take up the cause of schoolyard jock bullies who beat up a defenseless fellow student; it mirrors too closely the violence that gay teens and adults already face. I agreed with the Jena 6 protesters that in general the criminal justice system is unfair to African Americans, through not just prosecutorial abuses but from lopsided jury verdicts and harsher sentences. I also pointed out that by arguing the Jena 6 were acting in some racially retaliatory strike, HRC had only succeeded in turning a senseless schoolyard attack into an actual hate crime motivated by race.

    Every one of those points was completely ignored by most of those who responded to what I wrote. Instead, they just piled on the condescension and, in some cases, insinuated that I was a racist. Some "real dialogue" huh?

    Alexbio_2 The worst offenders were on the so-called Bilerico Project, a vanity site for Bil Browning (whoever he is) out of Indiana that appears to be an "experiment" in how fun it would be if gay and transgender liberals sat in a virtual circle and nodded and shook their heads in unison. First there was Alex Blaze, a mouthy white 20-something with zero credentials who channels Dana Carvey's Church Lady by wondering, without any support, why in the world I would dare to part from the party line on the Jena 6. Could it be -- could it be, yes it is -- racism!

    Sounding a similar note was Michael Crawford -- a Washington, D.C. based black gay blogger who goes by the name Bloggernista. Crawford is a regular comment contributor to this blog and his comments are often thought-provoking and interesting.

    BloggernistabioBut over on Bilerico, Crawford just can't help himself, and instead compares me to Bill O'Reilly in response to my post that questioned the timing of vocal black support for the gay hate crime bill, coming right after HRC joined in the Jena 6 rallies. Rather than address what I actually wrote, Crawford condescends to lecture me on how black leaders have historically supported gay rights issues. Well, duh. I've written many times about black support for gay rights issues and certainly don't need Crawford to lecture me on the subject.

    Then there is Rev. Irene Monroe, who kindly forwarded me an op-ed she wrote for the Advocate's website that also disagreed with my position on the Jena 6. Monroe was nice enough in the email to thank me for supporting her early op-ed work while I was editor of the Washington Blade, and her column was thankfully free of condescension. She wrote, in part:

    Chris Crain, the former editor of the Washington Blade and the man behind the popular blog and syndicated column “Citizen Crain,” balked at HRC’s president, Joe Solmonese, for appearing at the rally.

    “Why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race,” Crain wrote. “But ... why pick the Jena 6, … a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard, as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?”

    Irene_monroe Wow -- she's responding to what I actually wrote! Is there actually hope for real dialogue? Read on…

    When your identity, like mine, is the intersection of these two marginalized groups, the question is moot.  Crain’s question is similar to the mindset of Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, who said gays never had to sit in the back of the bus. …

    Crain’s question, however,  cannot be summarily dismissed, because it is an important one. But his question should be hurled at the Goliaths leading the Jena 6 protest and not at the Davids who followed African-American leadership.

    For a different reason than Crain’s, I too, ask a question: “Why a rally in support of these six black boys but not the seven black lesbians who defended themselves against an anti-gay attack and were charged with beating and stabbing a white filmmaker? The filmmaker instigated the violence by threatening them and actually trying to choke one of them in the Greenwich Village in August 2006?”

    I don't quite get why the question is moot for Monroe, or why she's comparing me to a virulently anti-gay member of the King family, except that for Monroe identity politics trump everything. If that were really true for me, then as a white Southerner I should disagree with the whole point made behind the Jena 6 protesters. But as noted above, I agree with their broader criticisms, just not their selection of these particular civil rights "heroes."

    The really unfortunate thing is that you won't read even Monroe's effort to engage what I actually wrote if you see the column on Advocate.com. That's because the editors there decided to paraphrase the five paragraphs above in one sentence:

    This is clearly evident in white gay blogger Chris Crain's attack on HRC and its associate director of diversity Donna Payne, a black lesbian, for “inventing a hate crime” in Jena 6.

    Mmm, I love the smell of political correctness in the morning. Don't you?

    I feel no need to apologize or condescend on racial issues. I have fought for racial equality when it wasn't popular for me to do so. As a freshman at conservative, mostly white Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, I was one of the co-founders of the Racial Environment Project, which was formed in response to some racist slurs found on the walls in student dormitories. Through REP, I lobbied for years for scholarships to improve the racial diversity on campus.

    As editor of the Vanderbilt school newspaper and later its magazine, I wrote editorial after editorial criticizing the segregation of fraternities and sororities, which essentially controlled the school's social life. It wasn't until my junior year that for the first time a white sorority pledged a black student. My columns  angered the Vanderbilt administration and alums, alienated many Greek friends, and I even wound up moving off campus after receiving threatening phone calls that called me a "nigger white" and a "nigger lover."

    I don't write this because I expect a prize or a lot of sympathy, but to explain why I feel no need to apologize to anyone about being white or taking a stand on issues of race. I do believe there's value in real dialogue, and I am ready to listen to substantive responses to what I actually wrote. (I did receive one by email that I'll write about later.)

    Until then, I won't hold my breath.

    ENDA, gay rights get trans-jacked

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank have agreed to delay until later this month consideration of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act after some 90 GLBT groups joined in a letter of opposition to Barney's decision to strip trans protections from the bill. Frank, the leading gay Democrat, made the move after a private headcount showed there was not enough support in the House to pass a trans-inclusive version of ENDA.

    At this point, the Pelosi-Frank decision is a delay, not a reversal, but if the delay sticks and the trans-inclusive version fails, it would be a remarkable betrayal of gays across the U.S., who have been waiting for more than 30 years to pass a basic civil rights bill through Congress. 

    ENDA enjoys its best chance ever of passage today, since gay-friendly Democrats control the House for the first time since 1994, and the Senate for the first time since 2002. The bipartisan support has been there even during periods of GOP control, but the Republican leadership blocked ENDA from full passage. Now, finally, when the political stars are aligned, and even President Bush hasn't outright threatened a veto, gay movement "leaders" have saddled ENDA with transgender protections that don't yet have sufficient political support.

    The demand for "additional time" to lobby for a trans-inclusive ENDA, led by Matt Foreman at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, is incredibly disingenuous. For one thing, the Task Force and the 89 other groups demanding a trans-or-bust ENDA have had years to lobby for this bill. Even if trans rights supporters are able to salvage enough votes for House passage, which is very doubtful, they have zero chance of getting their version of the bill through the closely divided Senate, much less by the super-majority required to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

    The few extra weeks pleaded for by Foreman are unlikely to accomplish anything but to kill momentum for a gay-specific ENDA. And that, my friends, is the real goal of the Task Force here. The rest of us will suffer through with no workplace protection because Foreman is still working through his liberal guilt for having successfully pushed through civil rights protections for New York gays while heading up the Empire State Pride Agenda, even though it took jettisoning transgender protections to get the job done.

    His overwrought press release prose -- "In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way" -- signal his true position, which is to oppose protections based on sexual orientation not just for a few additional weeks, but forever, until there's enough political support in Congress and the White House to pass transgender protections as well. Let there be no doubt on this point; the letter signed by Foreman and leaders of 89 other GLBT groups is headlined, "United opposition to sexual-orientation-only employment nondiscrimination legislation."

    The Human Rights Campaign, on the other hand, has kept its head down, ceding leadership to Foreman and the Task Force, until HRC could see which way the wind was blowing. Despite all the action last week on ENDA, HRC waited until late Friday to issue a statement that accepted the Frank-Pelosi decision, even while trying to claim opposition to it. Then on Oct. 1, when HRC saw itself even more isolated among GLBT groups, the nation's largest GLBT groups signed its own letter, joined by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, that expressed opposition to "the strategy and process" followed by Pelosi and Frank. Funny, that's not what HRC said three days earlier.

    The position advocated by all of these groups makes as little logical sense as it does political. The 90 groups claim in their letter, in bold print no less, that, "We oppose legislation that leaves part of our community without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided."

    What a disappointing break with reason, politics and history. ENDA was never meant as a comprehensive civil rights bill. It doesn't protect those gays or transgender people who are fine with their jobs but face discrimination in other areas, whether being kicked out of their homes or the military, or denied public accommodations, or refused legal recognition of their relationships.

    Since 1994, the whole point of ENDA was to zero in on the most narrowly achievable, incremental progress. Protection based on sexual orientation in the workplace was correctly viewed as having the greatest political support. Now those who run our GLBT rights organizations -- perhaps to perpetuate the need for their own organizations -- have abandoned that strategy for one that makes absolutely no sense: Let's pass the most politically palatable form of protection (in the workplace) but saddle it with the least politically palatable category (gender identity).

    Make no mistake about the political effect of the "trans-jacking" of not just ENDA, but the whole movement. ENDA and hate crimes have always been at the top of the long and growing list of gay rights bills in Congress.  So long as energy is spent on a trans-inclusive ENDA, then Congress has all the cover it needs to perpetually postpone more politically sensitive votes on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or federal recognition of same-sex couples.

    Since the vast majority of us enter into relationships that would benefit from legal recognition, progress on that front would affect almost every single gay or bisexual person. But for now we must wait even longer because our "leaders" have decided that protecting transsexuals from workplace discrimination is more important than winning basic legal recognition for our relationships.

    So now the streamlined bill that was given the top spot of the gay rights agenda is holding everything else back. At least movement veterans like Foreman have succeeded in securing their own workplace protection, since they've managed to postpone indefinitely the success of the gay rights movement.

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