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  • « October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

    November 30, 2007

    Two weeks later, HRC wakes up

    Posted by: Chris

    Bnnr_actionalert Way back on Nov. 16, I posted about media reports that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act was in serious jeopardy, even though it had passed both the House and the Senate. The problem then, and now, was that Senate Democrats attached the hate crimes measure to the Defense Department reauthorization, setting up a classic political squeeze.  Now House conservatives are objecting to the hate crimes addition and House liberals are objecting to aspects of the DOD bill dealing with the Iraq war.

    In classic Clintonian Democrat fashion, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) pressed his colleagues to jettison the hate crime add-on, saying that to do so "does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill." Funny, even as it "does no harm" to the principle of the hate crime bill, it kills for this session the bill itself.

    I wrote in response, way back on Nov. 16:

    What's truly striking about this legislative machination is not the willingness of some Democrats to once again ignore promises to pass even basic gay-friendly legislation. We've come to expect that after 8 years of Bill Clinton and 15 years of off-again, on-again Democratic Congressional leadership that has yet to enact anything.

    No, what's truly striking is the dead silence of all those voices that screamed so loudly at the prospect that "gender identity" would be jettisoned from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act under not-so-different circumstances.  All that lobbying mobilization, all the hand-wringing, all the flurry of press releases and "United ENDA" coalition building. Now? Nada. Zippo. Nothing from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the rest of the usual suspects.

    Finally, this week, two weeks after the media reports about Democratic machinations that threatened the hate crimes bill -- which is trans-inclusive by the way -- the Human Rights Campaign finally put aside its turkey leftovers long enough to alert is members.

    The Task Force, which you'll recall was the loudest voice of division over ENDA, has remained completely silent about the hate crime measure -- even when it issued a press release about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which ironically recounts the victims of hate crimes based on gender identity.

    The National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, has also been struck dumb by the threat to the Shepard Act.  There's an alert about an archaic regulatory action by the Department of Homeland Security, but nothing on hate crimes. The NTCE issued seven -- count em -- press releases during the ENDA debate and yet nothing about this new threat to the hate crimes bill.  Some allies.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    Answering HIV's rising gay threat

    Posted by: Chris

    Safe_sex_01 I posted earlier this week about a convincing trove of data showing that HIV is again spreading in larger numbers among gay and bisexual men, in the U.S. and abroad. The question remains what we -- the government, HIV/AIDS group and we gay and bi men -- are going to do about it.

    Since tomorrow is World AIDS Day, there's no better time to make a few informed suggestions.

    One thing is clear: The old ideas of the past, simply handing out condoms and such, are no longer working. It’s time for new ideas and new energy. If anything, the data on rising HIV infections is an indictment of the way most agencies have tackled prevention among gay and bisexual men.

    For one thing, it’s long past time to trust gay and bisexual men with real information about the risk of exposure associated with particular sexual behavior. It’s criminal that more than a quarter-century into this epidemic, public health officials still keep secret the data they have on the relative risk associated with giving or receiving oral and anal sex, with and without condoms.

    Armed with the better information, people will act more responsibly than they are today under the "use a condom every time" reminder. That's not to say that condoms should be abandoned. Agencies should rediscover effective marketing techniques to remind gay and bi men where they meet -- bars, clubs and online chat rooms -- to wrap it up. The TV ad I posted about a couple of days ago, produced by the government of Brazil, is an example of the kind of frankness that gets noticed.

    But it’s not just about condoms. Gay men are already way out ahead of prevention efforts, adopting their own techniques like “sero-sorting” – that is, poz men having sex with only other poz men – to limit if not eliminate their exposure. We need to know what works and what doesn’t.

    One thing we know works is getting tested, since men who know they're positive take meds, which makes them less contagious, and are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

    The JAMA report also makes one policy argument that is long overdue. The authors called for “legal domestic partnerships as a way to promote stable, longer term [gay male] relationships.” The most effective curb against gay male sexual promiscuity is to encourage committed relationships, and legal recognition is an important way of doing that.

    Another is for public and private HIV agencies to help promote the alternative of dating and relationships over promiscuity; not in a preachy way, but by reminding us all how sex with love beats just plain sex any day. The Brazilian TV ad, in which parents counsel their son to take a condom on a date with his boyfriend, is another subtle example of that.

    I would go one step further, and develop marketing campaigns that remind us all that good old-fashioned dating, going steady and relationships have a lot to recommend them, especially with rising HIV statistics. Most of the gay men I know who survived the worst of the AIDS slaughter in the 1980s and 90s did so because they were in relationships. There's nothing wrong -- and a lot right even beyond the safe sex context -- to remembering that lesson.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hivaids

     

    November 29, 2007

    Does Hillary lead among 'real gays'?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillary_and_gays A new survey released today claims that almost two-thirds of likely GLB voters in the Democratic presidential primary support frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama trails with 22 percent and John Edwards with 7 percent. I've posted a much more thorough analysis of the poll on Gay News Watch, but here are a few nuggets:

    • Obama and Edwards register about the same support among gays in the poll as they do with Democrats generally, meaning Hillary's higher GLB numbers represent fewer undecideds among gay voters, who the survey found are much more politically involved.
    • Even as the only candidate backing gay marriage, Dennis Kucinich managed just 5 percent support in the survey.
    • Rudy Giuliani was the top candidate for half of GLB Republicans in the poll, with John McCain managing just 23 percent, Mitt Romney at 11 percent and Fred Thompson at 10 percent. Not surprising results considering Giuliani is the frontrunner generally and his gay rights record and positions are markedly better than the others.

    Even more interesting than the results of the survey, however, are questions about its methodology. The poll was conducted by academics at Hunter College in New York, but for their sample of voters they relied upon a pool provided by Knowledge Networks, the same group that provided the sample for the Human Rights Campaign's controversial survey showing some 70 percent support for Barney Frank's gay-only, compromise ENDA.

    HRC did a poor job of providing information about that earlier survey, and there are some hints about why in this new one -- which was paid for by an HRC grant but conducted by the Hunter College professionals. First and foremost is the demographic information on the Knowledge Networks sample group. According to Hunter College, the GLB respondents were 51 to 49 percent female to male, and 49 percent bisexual.

    I noted in my post about the earlier HRC poll that a 50-50 male-female breakdown about GLB Americans probably grossly overstates the percentage of GLB Americans who are lesbians.  Every indicator I've ever seen, from readership of GLBT publications to participation in GLBT events, has shown 60 to 70 percent (or more) of "us" are men.

    Then there is the 49 percent of the Knowledge Networks pool that is bisexual. Again that is grossly overstated, from information I've seen over the years about the GLBT demographic breakdown.

    Andrew Sullivan sees something sinister in those statistics:

    So the poll is designed to reflect a pre-ordained political "community", rigged for PC purposes to inflate the numbers of bisexuals and lesbians. No big surprise which Democratic candidate won in a landslide: the candidate HRC has been supporting from the start.

    I wouldn't go so far, at least not without additional evidence. But I do see how Knowledge Networks could back themselves into those numbers. Knowledge Networks "recruits its nationally representative sample of respondents by telephone and administers surveys to them via the Internet." So if they simply cull from the general pool of respondents those who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, then the more fluid nature of female sexuality might result in high numbers of both females and bisexuals.

    The question, then, is whether we consider female bisexuals who may well be heterosexually married and not self-identify as part of our happy "LGBT community" to nonetheless "count" as GLB voters, etc. It's a question that brings to mind the earlier debate about transgender issues, and whether heterosexual cross-dressers are part of the "LGBT community."

    My own take is that the information is useful, whether or not we consider it an indication of how "the gay community" feels about an issue, whether it's ENDA or the presidential race. The most important thing is to clearly identify just who the "we" we're talking about is, so that their opinions can be put into proper perspective.

    If my suspicions about the Knowledge Networks system are correct -- and hopefully the LGBT press will delve further into the issue, both as a political story and just to get a better sense of who it is we are -- then we still don't have a good idea about the presidential proclivities of "the GLBT community," at least in the way that most of us mean when we use that (loaded) term.

    As a side note, the Blade has published an interesting report airing criticism about the methodology of HRC's survey on ENDA, though it focuses more on the wording of the questions than on the demographics. Curiously, when the Hunter College folks asked the Knowledge Networks gay pool about ENDA, they got contrary results. Only 37 percent agreed that, "It was right to remove the protections for transgender people from this bill in order for it to pass this year," while 61 percent said, "It was wrong to remove the protections for transgendered people even if this makes it easier for the bill to pass this year." 

    Of course that wording is just as treacherous, focused on "removing protections" for trans workers rather than ensuring protections for GLB workers, and grossly understating the political reality by saying that removing gender identity makes it "easier."

    The survey also reminded us how woefully uninformed most GLB folks are, since fully 40 percent thought GLB workers were already protected from discrimination under federal law.

    GNW 5: Foot-shooting edition

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Sheilakuehl Churches boycott schools over new Calif. gay bias law: QUICK LOOK: At least two churches are encouraging parents to keep their children home from school today and tomorrow in objection to new California antidiscrimination laws that protesters... (MORE)
    2. Silencedeath Silence on HIV linked to infection rise in gay, bi men: QUICK LOOK: An HIV/AIDS epidemic is re-emerging in the United States among homosexual and bisexual men who are no longer frightened about the deadly disease and are returning to... (MORE)
    3. Godaddygirl Go Daddy parody of Larry Craig axed for Super Bowl: QUICK LOOK: Three months after Go Daddy Group Inc. said it might pass on advertising in the 2008 Super Bowl, the Scottsdale domain-name registrar notorious for its racy ads said... (MORE)
    4. Frenchdragqueen French drag queen arrested in string of 18 deaths: QUICK LOOK: A 68-year-old man has been arrested by French police on suspicion of murdering 18 people, most of them homosexuals, between 1980 and 2002, officials say. The suspect,... (MORE)
    5. Moroccanbride Bride arrested after Moroccan gay wedding protests: QUICK LOOK: A wedding for a well-known gay man in Morocco ended with the colorful 'bride' behind bars, along with five other wedding guests, and sparked riots and calls for authorities... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Donnarose2 Last two transgender members quit HRC council: QUICK LOOK: Two transgender members of the Human Rights Campaign quit yesterday, saying the group's support of an employment nondiscrimination bill that excluded transgender workers... (MORE)

    It's difficult to decide which form of activism is more self-defeating, the religious extremists who are keeping their children away from school to protect them from a gay rights law that hasn't even gone into effect yet. Or, on the other hand, transgender activists like Donna Rose resigning from the Human Rights Campaign because the organization was willing to go only 99 yards and not the full 100 in support of trans inclusion in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    Solmonese It appears the anticipated showdown between Rose and HRC Prez Joe Solmonese at the recent Dallas Black-Tie Dinner never materialized. A report about the event in the Dallas Voice only mentions that Solmonese received a "thunderous" ovation when passage of ENDA and hate crimes came up. Rose claims in her resignation letter from the HRC Business Council that she failed to receive any response for a meeting with Solmonese after the whole trans-ENDA debacle.

    I'm not surprised. I know personally how prickly Solmonese can be toward his critics; he's refused to meet with me or even acknowledge my "hello" at the gym or at restaurants since I first criticized him on the editorial page of the Washington Blade.

    Still, except for its dramatic flair, Rose's resignation does her own cause no service, disengaging from the very group she wishes to lobby.

    UPDATE:

    Paul Schindler is is reporting today in Gay City News that Solmonese's refusal to meet with Rose was the "last straw" in her decision to quit the HRC Business Council. Reading the blow by blow, it's difficult to decide who's the bigger drama queen:

    Brad Luna, an HRC spokesman, took exception to Rose and Green's characterization of Solmonese's silence, noting that the group was in frequent back and forth communication with them about the possibility of a meeting. Rose acknowledged that she had been in email touch with HRC staff, but insisted that Solmonese made clear by not responding personally that he was not interested in a meeting.

    Luna noted that Rose did not seek to talk to Solmonese when both were in Dallas this month for an HRC dinner, to which Rose responded, "I don't think Joe wants to talk to me. I've heard Joe has taken exception to some of my comments, which I can understand. But as leader of a group like HRC, you have to be able to talk to people."

    Just when it seems HRC and Solmonese could not mismanage the HRC-transgender issue any worse, they somehow manage. Luna, the HRC spokesperson, only barely escaped his own meltdown with the LGBT press, after ignoring for weeks requests from a number of journalists for more information on that HRC ENDA poll.

    You have to ask whether the folks at HRC's fancy national headquarters are so bunkered down that they don't care about all those they're alienating, or whether simple arrogance is at work. Either way, it's way past time for some major league fence-mending.

    A refreshing HIV prevention message

    Posted by: Chris

    In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Brazilian government has produced a series of safe-sex advertisements that are running on television. There's even one with a refreshingly positive message for young gay men.

    Son: I'm heading out...
    Dad: Be careful.
    Mom: Don't forget to take a condom.
    Dad: Son, take it just in case. You never know if your boyfriend is going to have one or not.
    Son: Thanks Dad, thanks Mom.
    Negra Li: You don't expect all parents to be like this, right? Wearing a condom should be your attitude, and it is important in the fight against AIDS.

    The spokesperson at the end of the spot is singer Negra Li. If only our government would invest in messages like this, or our TV networks would even air World AIDS Day messages like this in primetime. So much for our leadership role in the global fight against AIDS.

    The translation and hat tip go to Made in Brazil.

    November 28, 2007

    HIV is again on the rise

    Posted by: Chris

    Aids_ribbons Just in time for Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, there is bad news about rising HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men, in the United States and beyond. Don’t turn the page just yet. This isn’t yet another alert about yet more “alarming” HIV rates or a dire warning about a “second wave” of infections.

    They may not have come up with a vaccine to make us immune from HIV, but we’re almost completely immune to these repeated cries of AIDS “wolf.” Too many cogs in the AIDS, Inc. machine – from pharmaceutical companies, HIV organizations and politicians hording government AIDS dollars – have a self-interest in promoting “alarming” data on the epidemic. So we tune them out almost instinctively.

    This time, however, is different. It’s not one study; it’s many, and they all show an undeniable increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men:

    • The rate of new infections among gay men under 30 in New York City rose 33 percent from 2001 to 2006.
    • As many as 1 in 22 gay and bi men in Florida is infected, with rates reaching 1 in 11 gay white men in Fort Lauderdale, 1 in 13 gay black men in Palm Beach and 1 in 12 gay Latinos in Miami-Dade.
    • New infections among gay and bi men in the U.K. are at record levels, with an estimated 1 in 20 infected nationwide and 1 in 10 in London.
    • In Australia, HIV infection rates have risen by a third in the last decade, with 88 percent of transmissions occurring through gay sex.

    Then came the big one: a report this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that overall, the number of gay and bisexual men in the U.S. with HIV or AIDS has risen 13 percent in just the last four years.

    The authors of the JAMA report put a lot of the blame for that increase on the fact that most of us don’t know our HIV status. One study cited in the report found some 77 percent of the gay and bi men infected with HIV were unaware they were positive; 91 percent of black gay and bi men did not know they were infected.

    The report also pointed to another cause that anyone who’s sexually active already knows intuitively: Sex without condoms has become more and more common, especially among young gay guys, as rebounding rates of syphilis among gay and bi men also testify.

    The reasons are also no mystery. Most sexually active gay and bisexual men weren’t around for the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, never cared for dying lovers and friends and didn’t attend funeral after funeral for men cut down before they turned 30.

    The drug cocktail has transformed AIDS into a treatable, if not curable, disease, and the conservative political climate has diverted too much funding into abstinence at the expense of safe sex prevention efforts.

    The rising infection rates will undoubtedly result in calls for additional funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, and no doubt those additional dollars are needed. But the grab for cash ought to be coupled with a hard look at whether we’re throwing good money after bad.

    I'll offer a few of my own prevention ideas tomorrow.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hivaids

    November 27, 2007

    GNW 5: Bad news from D.C.

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Briannicholspool Gay escort denies rumors of sex scandal with Lott: QUICK LOOK: The San Antonio-based gay escort alleged to have been linked to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott has issued a statement categorically denying any contact between the two... (MORE)
    2. Robharris Popular D.C. gay DJ arrested on crystal meth charge: QUICK LOOK: Robert Harris, a popular local DJ, was arrested last month and faces charges of conspiring to possess and distribute 50 grams of crystal meth, according to police sources... (MORE)
    3. N.Y. gay cop faces losing career, pension even after acquittal: QUICK LOOK: A gay cop who was stung by an undercover posing as a potential lover should be fired without a pension even though he was acquitted of criminal charges, an New York Police Department judge has ruled... (MORE)
    4. Hannan WSJ: More companies train workers on GLBT bias: QUICK LOOK: A growing number of employers are training managers on how to prevent workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender employees, including Chubb... (MORE)
    5. Rv_ailey25_ph The imagined anti-U.S. conspiracy of gay art pioneers: QUICK LOOK: "All the 'artists' with a capital A, the parlor pinks and the soprano voiced men are banded together," warned President Harry S. Truman in 1946. "I am afraid they are... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • New study calls HIV in D.C. a 'modern day epidemic': QUICK LOOK: The first statistics ever amassed on HIV in the District, released today in a sweeping report, reveal "a modern epidemic" remarkable for its size, complexity and reach... (MORE)

    The No. 2 story on GNW and my editor's pick are both depressing stories out of my old home. First the arrest of gay D.J. Rob Harris. For those of us who know Rob, the news is crushing and I wish him the best. He is a talented, incredibly friendly guy who made the transition from running A/V needs at the White House and a white-shoe D.C. law firm to his first love, behind the turntables at the city's dance clubs. His arrest is sad and shocking, and we should remember that he is innocent until proven guilty.

    Cyrstal meth has been a scourge on the gay community in D.C., much as it has been in almost every other big city in the U.S. and Canada. Thankfully, the intuitive evidence suggests that use is on decline and few are foolish enough to give it a try for the first time. But still remain hooked, since the drug is incredibly hard to kick.

    There's a connection, of course, between crystal and HIV, and the new study confirms what many have said about the nation's capital for a long time: the city's often incompetent government has never mounted an effective campaign against the illness among the city's majority African Americans.

    The problem was only exacerbated by some of the District's most influential black churches, which railed against homosexuality, when they were acknowledging its existence at all. The result is sending more black gay men into the "down low," and more black women into denial about what their boyfriends and husbands might be up to.

    For years at the Blade, we reported about the D.C. government's inept HIV AIDS agency. Perhaps this new, depressing data will be the kick in the pants that Mayor Adrian Fenty and the agency need to finally get things on track.

    Another blogger scandal gone bust

    Posted by: Chris

    TrentlottescortUPDATE at the end of this post:

    The blogosphere is buzzing with yet another sex scandal involving yet another anti-gay Republican and yet another gay escort. Only this time, the "scandal" is missing pretty much every factual ingredient except the names of its alleged participants: Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott and "Benjamin Nichols," the "stage name" of a San Antonio-based escort.

    But that didn't stop the gossip, which was started by the Big Head DC blog, run by Rob Capriccioso, from claiming he had emails confirming at least two meetings between Lott and Nichols.  Big Head then quoted non-denial denials by Nichols and the Internet rumor mill was off and running.

    Here are the actual facts we know via Gay News Watch:

    The San Antonio-based gay escort alleged to have been linked to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott has issued a statement categorically denying any contact between the two. Benjamin Nichols, the escort's working name, said, "I will continue to offer a great sense of confidentiality to the people I see. I have not, nor have I ever seen or had contact with Senator Trent Lott. It's as simple as that. It never happened."

    B3 Allegation on the connection was first made on a Washington, D.C.-based satirical blog, Big Head DC, which claimed Lott's relationship with Nichols led to the conservative Republican senator's sudden resignation yesterday. The blog claimed that emails had confirmed two meetings between Lott and the escort, and then quoted Nichols in confirmation.

    "Trent is going through his fair share of scrutiny right now and I don’t want to add to it," the blog quotes Nichols as saying. "All I can say at this point is no comment. It's the professional thing for me to do."

    Nichols claims in his statement that the quotes attributed to him by Big Head were fake. "There are falsely pieced-together quotes that serve no purpose other than to sensationalize a completely fabricated scoop," Nichols wrote.

    Big Head later reported that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who has offered $1 million for information about sex scandals that lead to the resignation of conservative politicians, had been investigating a Lott-Nichols connection.

    Big Head DC was founded by Rob Capriccioso, who lost his freelance writing gig at Radar magazine last month after a post about a phone number belonging to ABC's Sam Donaldson winding up on records belonging to "the D.C. Madam," Deborah Jean Palfrey. Capriccioso failed to note Palfrey's claim that the single phone call had been a wrong number.

    Lott is a longtime foe of gay rights legislation, receiving consistent zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard. Lott compared being gay to being an alcoholic or kleptomaniac in an infamous 1998 interview on the "Armstrong Williams Show."

    “You still love that person and you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts," Lott said then. "You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem just like alcohol … or sex addiction … or kleptomania.”

    Lott later resigned his powerful post as Senate Majority Leader over comments at former Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. Lott waxed nostalgic about Lott's segregationist run for president in 1948. After the fall from power, Lott worked his way back to a position of influence, serving as GOP whip until his surprise resignation yesterday.

    Nichols has penned freelance articles for Seattle's alternative weekly The Stranger, which is edited by gay writer Dan Savage, author of the "Savage Love" advice column. After Denver escort Mike Jones "outed" his relationship with Colorado televangelist Ted Haggard, Nichols scolded Jones publicly for breaking the escort's vow of confidentiality.

    "You were paid for sex, Mike," Nichols wrote in the Nov. 6, 2006, article. The most important rule you can follow when taking people's money in exchange for sex is that—no matter what—their lives stay their own and whatever passes between the two of you remains private. Period."

    If this scandal follows the course of Larry Craig's, or even if any small part of it turns out to be true, including even that Trent Lott has had sex with men, then the media will treat Big Head DC as if he "broke the story" and "brought down a senator," even though all he did was repeat a rumor, something anyone with a keyboard can do.               

    So where's the disincentive for bloggers like Big Head, who has no doubt enjoyed a massive traffic bump that will convert some percentage into regular visitors? Simple answer: There's isn't any.

    UPDATE:

    Blogger Rob Capriccioso has now responded to Nichols' claim that he fabricated the quotes in question. Capriccioso decided to publish his entire email exchange with Nichols, thereby violating his promise that they some of them were off the record.  His decision to do so represents yet another example, as if we needed one, that bloggers are not necessarily journalists and follow their own whatever-feels-good, seat-of-the pants ethics code.

    In this case, if Capriccioso wanted to refute Nichols' claim that the quotes were fabricated, he could simply have released the on-the-record emails, which he quoted from.  Instead he released the entire alleged exchange, with no justification except that Nichols got on his bad side by claiming fabrication.

    What we learn from the alleged email exchange -- "alleged" because there's no evidence of their legitimacy except Capriccioso's now-tarnished word -- is precious little. We do learn the incredibly non-credible  source of the rumor that Capriccioso is spreading: a commenter to his blog, who claimed that Lott and Nichols vacationed at the same location two times. Nothing about the email exchange between Nichols and Capriciosso confirms those two alleged meetings, as Capriccioso claimed in his original bombshell post.

    Yes Nichols has been somewhat cagey with his denials, using Lott's first name and words like "current affiliation," etc., but if that what passes as evidence these days then the blogosphere is treading into yet murkier waters, as if that were possible.

    November 24, 2007

    GNW 5: Candid cardinal and gay pol

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Marcuspatrickplaygirl1 Soap stud fired for Playgirl pics stripping at gay clubs: QUICK LOOK: Even though it hasn't officially been confirmed, "Days of Our Lives" hunk, Marcus Patrick was likely fired from his starring soap gig because he got naked for Playgirl... (MORE)
    2. Jerryfalwell FBI reveals gay death threats on Falwell from Ohio: QUICK LOOK: Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, stirred up passions with his attacks on abortion and homosexuality. Now, the FBI's confidential file on Falwell, who... (MORE)
    3. Marcouellet Canada's senior Catholic cardinal apologizes to gays: QUICK LOOK: Canada's senior Roman Catholic clergyman has issued a sweeping apology for the church's historical sins in Quebec, trying to rehabilitate the institution's image just... (MORE)
    4. Poofterplate In reversal, Va. gay man can keep 'POOFTER' plate: QUICK LOOK: David Phillips made the news for the absurd treatment he received from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles when it recalled his license plates for "obscenity."... (MORE)
    5. Superpop Brazilian male model awarded millions for TV outing: QUICK LOOK: The Brazilian TV network Rede TV was ordered to pay US$42 million to model Carlos Alberto Cunha Gonçalves after a guest on the talk show "Superpop" said he is gay,... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Gay Czech Croatian MP hopeful won't date politcian 'whores': QUICK LOOK: Vinko Kalinic, the Czech Republic's Croatia's first gay candidate for Parliament, is a former intelligence officerand says he was never romantically involved with a politician,... (MORE)

    X142156119860489928_2 Sick of politicians so slick and prepackaged that they can talk endlessly and say almost nothing? Say hello to Vinko Kalinic, the Czech Republic's Croatia's first openly gay candidate for Parliament. There's no question whether he poll-tested his answers in this published interview, including these doozies:

    • His favourite colours are rainbow colours.
    • Kalinic said he was never romantically involved with a politician, as they are “whores”
    • One of the reasons he is running in the north Croatian region of Zagorje is his brief love affair with a man from Varazdin who got him ‘head over heals’ and because of whom he got to love Varazdin and the people of Zagorje
    • It was only at 25 years of age that he discovered he was gay, but until then he was totally straight
    • Kalinic is attracted to string figures and handsome, manly men such as Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, while he dreads, as he says, unsavoury characters such as Social Democrats’ Ljubo Jurcic and Zoran Milanovic, whom he described with “yuck”

    Talk about someone who would benefit from some training from the Victory Fund. Either that or he could serve as the ideal example of "what not to do"…

    November 23, 2007

    An accidental Coverboy activist

    Posted by: Chris

    I wanted to share a bit of reaction to my post earlier this week about the "Coverboy of the Year" contest put on annually by Metroweekly, the D.C. gay entertainment magazine. The post was about whether it was kosher to include a female-to-male "tranny boi" (my words, not his) who loves "The L Word" and has a girlfriend in a contest for gay boys.

    I speculated in the comments to the post that the editors may have purposefully downplayed that something special about "Alexander O." -- even now they stop just short of identifying him as transgender -- so as not to arouse a concerted reaction from, shall we say, twink traditionalists.

    Now comes word from MW that in fact they weren't even aware of Alexander's uniqueness until they were well into his photo shoot for his original spread back in March for the weekly "Coverboy Confidential" feature.  Even still, it took reading between the lines in the year-end contest to figure out he wasn't like the other finalists.

    Adamd I also got a humorous email from my former flatmate "Adam D.," who I also spotlighted in the post. I thought I'd share it (with his permission) with you good folk:

    Chris,

    Little did I realize back when we met that someday there'd be a blog with your name on it that even remotely involved me. Even with my usual foresight, I was surprisingly mistaken! Not to mention speculation on my part as to what the topic may be. At the time, if given pen and paper, I'd venture to guess the subject matter would have little to do with spotlight coverage around a posterboy contest or, even more distant a possibility, something wrapped-up in sexual identity or gender studies. For the record, I'm hear to say that day has come and I'm all the more surprised, impressed and, shall I say, honored.

    In encounters with the other candidates, and trust that there have been plenty, it's clear we're all going through our own experience. I'd say this contest means something different to each of us, but regardless we're learning some things along the way. Whether we realize it today is one thing, but even as the announcement comes and goes, I gaurantee we'll chalk-up a nugget or two and move forward, just in-time for the next wave of coverboys to begin their own campaign season.

    Pleased to see you're prompting discussion; happy to be a part of it.

    "Adam D."

    Adam is a super guy, with a lot more substance than is going to come through in a "Coverboy Confidential" interview. And he was a terrific caretaker of "my boys," the beagle brothers Cliff and Norm, when I was away visiting Anderson in Amsterdam and São Paulo.

    If you want to cast your vote for "twink traditionalists," consider checking the box for Adam. Don't miss Jeff Code's fantastic photos of Adam (and the other finalists, of course). Voting is live now on Metroweekly.com and closes this weekend.

    November 22, 2007

    GNW 5: Kissing cops and 'gay Jesus'

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_3 Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Walmart HRC raises red flag on Walmart's gay health benefits: QUICK LOOK: The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, is giving Wal-Mart a red "do not buy" rating in its new consumer guide, bestowing a lump of coal on... (MORE)
    2. Bakerbeach Oil clean-up nears completion on San Fran gay beach: QUICK LOOK: The oil spill fouling Bay Area beaches has not impeded progress on improvements to the city's gay beach. Crews continue to remove toxic landfill from the slopes above... (MORE)
    3. Kiss Russian official sued for attacking kissing cops photo: QUICK LOOK: The director of Russia's Tretyakov Gallery said today he is suing the culture minister over his remarks attacking an exhibit that featured a photo of two policemen... (MORE)
    4. Cloutierpress Gay man wins Calif. mayor's race, sorry for arrest: QUICK LOOK: A gay Vallejo city councilman won the mayor's race by four votes yesterday, just hours after apologizing for his weekend arrest for public intoxication after drinking... (MORE)
    5. Georgebush4 Activists claim Bush double-cross on HIV travel ban: QUICK LOOK: The Bush administration is trying to pull a fast one rushing through draconian proposed new regulations that will restrict even further the entry of HIV-positive people... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • BBC sued for blasphemy over 'gay Jesus' in musical: QUICK LOOK: A Christian activist sought yesterday to use blasphemy laws to prosecute a top BBC executive over the broadcaster's decision to screen "Jerry Springer-The Opera", a musical... (MORE)

    Jerryspringermusical The lawsuit by a group called Christian Voice against the BBC for broadcasting the bawdy "Jerry Springer" musical is a perfect example of why Britain should scrap its antiquated blasphemy law. The last time the law was successfully prosecuted, according to a Reuters report, was against a publication called Gay News, which published a poem about a Roman soldier's love for Christ.

    The poem and the musical are, of course, purposefully provocative, and the conservative Christians are reacting exactly as the artists hoped they would. That's all well and good, but the law has no place in deciding whether offensive speech is also illegal.

    We've seen a flipside of the same debate here in the U.S., with the recent $11 million verdict against the infamous Phelps clan from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Fred Phelps and his progeny first made a name for themselves by protesting Matthew Shepard's funeral with signs proclaiming "Fag Matt in Hell."

    When directly picketing the gays stopped being sufficiently provocative, they moved on to greener pastures, most recently protesting outside the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. The Phelps' twisted thinking is that the soldiers' deaths are somehow God's punishment for tolerance toward gays in the United States.

    Ap_funeral_protest_071102_ms The Phelps were sued by one Maryland family whose son's funeral they picketed, and a jury returned an $11 million verdict. The Phelps have appealed and civil libertarians have come to their defense, proclaiming that the First Amendment was designed to protect outrageous and offensive speech. One recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times is typical:

    It's hard to imagine a more despicable message than the notion that U.S. combat deaths in Iraq are God's just punishment for America's tolerance of gays and lesbians. But that is precisely why a Kansas church preaching that demented doctrine must receive the protection of the 1st Amendment. Those on society's margins -- and sometimes its weirdos -- are those whose speech needs protecting.

    I agree that the Phelps' protests are, in principle, protected by the First Amendment, although like all speech it can be subject to reasonable and content-neutral regulations as to time, place and manner. But the LA Times and other free speech advocates do the First Amendment no favors by portraying its purpose as protecting "weirdos" and incredibly offensive speech like the Phelps' pablum.

    The First Amendment is there to protect a robust debate over important public issues, not to protect weirdos and those at the margins. The reason it does protect the offensive speech of weirdos is because it's not possible as a practical matter to legislate the line between offensive speech that doesn't serve the public debate and its inoffensive counterpart.

    Perhaps the "Jerry Springer" case will provide the British courts an opportunity to finally absorb that lesson, and scrap "blasphemy" laws that protect organized religion from criticism in ways that other institutions are not. I saw the "Jerry Springer" musical on a trip to London a few years ago, and it's downright silly to take its views of Christian theology so seriously as to take deep offense, much less sue.

    And if those like the Christian Voice who do take offense would be much better served by having their own say -- answering speech with more speech -- rather than trying to silence the opposition.

    November 21, 2007

    Howard Univ's gay 'experiment'

    Posted by: Chris

    The_hilltop While combing the Net for content for Gay News Watch, I came across a "news" article on gay issues in the Howard University student newspaper The Hilltop that reads more like it's from the Christian Broadcasting Network than one of the nation's most respected historic black colleges.

    Under the headline "College Students More Likely to Experiment Sexually," the article by Kailyn Hart starts by setting up the classic paranoia about the percentage of "Howard men" who are turning gay, then quotes bogus and completely discredited psychological theories to explain the phenomenon of "experimental" homosexuality.

    Here are the highlights, beginning with the set-up:

    For many students college life may be a safe haven to experience homosexual desires. Within the confines of Howard University, students are concerned with the high number of bisexual and/or gay men and women.

    Due to mixed feelings and fast spreading rumors, students are paranoid about the notion of homosexual relations taking place at Howard University.

    J.D. Brown, a 21-year-old student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said, "There are a great number of men on campus who are involved in the gay, bisexual or 'downlow' lifestyle. I feel as though walking up to any Howard man, there's at least a 50/50 chance that he has or does engage in homosexual activity, but many of my gay friends feel that the percentage is much higher."

    Then, as expert sources, Hart quotes a psych major, J. Garrison (why don't these students have full first names?), who advances the theory that homosexuality is "normal" but a form of sex addiction:

    "People become aroused by images because they mentally connect certain body parts to sex," he said.

    Garrison also believes that homosexuality is a preference or choice, and that a person can choose not to be gay.

    "Most who claim to be gay are addicted to the feelings of belonging or interpersonal interaction they get when they indulge in same-sex relationships," Garrison said.

    Hart also cites thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, who was expelled by the American Pschological Association back in 1983 and now works for the Family Research Institute, which The Hilltop article fails to identify as an anti-gay lobby group:

    "According to [psychoanalysis], homosexuality is a mental illness, symptomatic of arrested development," Cameron said. "People believe that homosexual desires are a consequence of poor familial relations in childhood or some other trauma."

    He also said that homosexual desire may stem from family abnormality, cultural influences and unusual experiences as a child.

    Of course, Cameron's data is about three decades old, since homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses in 1973. The article, however, fails to note that or even quote a balancing source.

    The article concludes with observations by a bisexual male student and an Internet advice columnist, who at least do not pawn off their views as science.

    I was the editor of my college newspaper and student magazine, as well as my law school newspaper, so I cut no slack to student journalists who ought to know better when it comes to following basic rules of journalism: balance, weighing the credibility of sources, and giving readers complete information.

    I hope the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation will take a hard look at The Hilltop story and press the newspaper for a follow-up that corrects the errors of the first article and offers a balance of viewpoints about the issue of homosexuality on campus.

    November 20, 2007

    GNW: 1 gay candidate drunk, 1 dissed

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_3 Here are the five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Cloutier Gay Calif. mayoral hopeful arrested for being drunk: QUICK LOOK: Openly gay councilman Gary Cloutier, one of two candidates in the yet undecided Vallejo's mayoral race, was arrested early yesterday on charges of public intoxication,... (MORE)
    2. Fbisealplaquem Anti-gay hate crimes up by 18 percent, says FBI: QUICK LOOK: The number of hate crimes in the U.S. rose by 8% in 2006 with some of the biggest increases against gays, Hispanics and Muslims. Statistics released today by the FBI... (MORE)
    3. Jimneal11 Did Dems avoid gay N.C. candidate for U.S. Senate?: QUICK LOOK: Former Wall Street investor Jim Neal of Chapel Hill announced he was running for the U.S. Senate. N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro declared a week later that she was... (MORE)
    4. Wmicro216 Pastor pushes Microsoft takeover bid over gay rights: QUICK LOOK: A black conservative Christian pastor of an evangelical megachurch has vowed to take over Microsoft by packing it with new shareholders who will vote against the company's... (MORE)
    5. Three charged after four stabbed outside Greenville gay bar: QUICK LOOK: Three men were charged with assault and battery after four men suffered serious stabbing injuries early Saturday at the same site linked with the death of a 20 year-old gay Greenville man, deputies... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Michellebruce Trans candidate said to have 'deceived' Ga. voters: QUICK LOOK: Two unsuccessful city council candidates in Riverdale, Ga., say a fellow candidate in the suburban Atlanta town committed fraud when she ran as a woman. Georgia Fuller... (MORE)

    File this one away under "Sore Losers." Rather than let the voters of Riverdale, Ga., decide in a runoff whether to keep transgender council member Michelle Bruce, her two opponents have filed suit claiming Bruce "deceived" voters by using the name Michelle and campaigning as a woman.

    The complaint is not only legally frivolous, it's also factually silly. The first time Bruce won, she kept her gender identity private, which is her right. But since then she has been very open about being transsexual, accepted an endorsement by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and her status as the state of Georgia's first out trans elected official has been widely reported.  In fact, if you Google "Michelle Bruce and Riverdale," 14 out of the first 15 entries are focused on her gender identity.

    The only deceit here is of the self variety, as her opponents will learn in court soon enough. The question is whether the additional attention to the runoff brought by the lawsuit will sink Bruce's shot at remaining in office. Those wishing to contribute to her campaign can do so via the Victory Fund's website.

    Who's the fairest twink of them all?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: I've updated this post, and backed away some from some of my provocative prose here, in a later post worth checking out.

    Alexander_oThere’s something about “Alexander O.,” one of the contestants for “Coverboy of the Year” in the D.C. gay mag Metroweekly. The other ten finalists in the popular annual contest gab about the typical mix of fashion, pop culture and boy craziness that we’ve come to expect of the 20-something twinks featured weekly in the publication’s “Coverboy Confidential” profile.

    But Alexander’s bio reads a bit more, well, lesbian. His favorite TV show is “The L Word.” If he could have dinner with three people, alive or dead, he would pick Angelina Jolie, Katherine Moennig and Judy Dlugacz.

    It’s safe to say that 99 percent of gay men don’t know Katherine Moennig is the actress who plays the sexy, butch character of Shane on said Showtime series, and the remaining 1 percent couldn’t pronounce Dlugacz, much less know she’s the founder of lesbian Olivia Cruises.

    And then there is the matter of Alexander’s girlfriend, Melissa, who he describes as “hot,” “smart, sexy — she’s everything.”

    The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael’s Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as “Washington D.C.’s GLBT News Magazine” — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a “Coverboy,” but we find a clue in Alexander’s willingness to talk about transgender issues.

    “I just want to be more visible and spread awareness,” says Alexander. “It’s OK to be transgendered — or not.”

    Inclusive words, to be sure, but Alexander’s campaign to be Coverboy of the Year is sure to rub some the wrong way. He’s already been introduced at a banquet of transgender activists, who were urged to support him, and a number of trans email lists are drumming up votes as well.

    Adam_d It rubbed me the wrong way for the sake of “Adam D.,” another Coverboy finalist and, I should disclose, a friend and former tenant of my Washington, D.C., apartment. To be honest, I teased Adam endlessly when he posed for MW, not to mention when his three picks for that fantasy dinner were James Dean, Enrique Iglesias and Jeremy Bloom. But Adam is smart and incredibly sweet and has his sh*t together, and at least I know who his threesome is!

    If Alexander’s underground campaign should succeed, as I suspect it will, it wouldn’t be the first time that trans activists have ruffled GLB feathers. For years, male-to-female trans women have tried to attend the female-only Michigan Womyn’s Festival, leading organizers to adopt a controversial “women born women” admissions policy.

    Lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco has written about how the popularity of gender-bending among young lesbians has all but eliminated femmes from the under-30 crowd.

    “Young women who once called themselves butch now call themselves tranny bois, and these tranny bois are mostly dating each other” Vanasco, a self-identified femme, wrote in a provocative column from a couple of years ago.

    Some of those who champion gender bending claim it will once and forever explode gender stereotypes, but it’s not immediately clear just how. Are “tranny bois” really bending genders when they don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as women in touch with their masculine side? Or is it reaffirming gender stereotypes to say that being butch means being a man?

    If Alexander is indeed someone who would have identified as a “tomboy” or a butch lesbian a few years back, does being a “tranny boi” really make him a gay twink, too?

    What’s most striking about Alexander isn’t necessarily what he may or may not be packing below — he’s happy to do a striptease on request, by the way, according to his bio. It’s that Alexander, who comes off as completely endearing whatever gender he identifies with, is more lesbian or even straight male than he is gay boy — spiky hair and tank top aside.

    We’ve all seen how changing cultural conventions can irritate, even as they generate greater tolerance and acceptance. Tranny teens have run for homecoming queen, and Bill O’Reilly practically foamed at the mouth earlier this month when a pair of happy lesbians were voted “cutest couple” for their high school yearbook.

    But breaking down mainstream conventions is different than pressuring one minority group to include another as one of its own. Some of those tensions came to light during the divisive debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and whether to go forward with “sexual orientation” protections if the votes weren’t there for “gender identity” as well.

    Some of us were upset at the idea that GLB people aren’t deserving of equal rights, or even our own organizations, because of the “LGBT” groupthink that has taken over the movement.

    Those who wanted to scrap Barney Frank’s gay-only ENDA, on the other hand, argued that gays are necessarily gender non-conformists. Some even broadened the definition of “transgender” far beyond transsexuals and cross-dressers to include anyone who doesn’t fit masculine and feminine gender stereotypes.

    But by saying “we’re all transgender,” in effect, the word itself becomes too watered-down to be useful as a descriptor. There are important differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, and blurring the lines doesn’t do anyone a favor, after a point.

    Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for “The L Word” and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly’s Coverboy of the Year, will he “raise awareness” of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.

    Stay tuned. Voting on Metroweekly.com finishes this weekend.

    November 18, 2007

    Gay News Watch Sunday Top 5

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_3 Here are the five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. TimmillerPerformance artist exiled from U.S. by same-sex love: QUICK LOOK: He is denied sponsoring his Australian-Scottish partner to the United States because of unequal immigration laws toward homosexual couples. He is denied the right to... (MORE)
    2. Embassy_suites Calif. locals debate hotel restroom sex sting, arrests: QUICK LOOK: If the Embassy Suites in San Raphael, Calif., intended to send a message with the recent gay sex sting by police in a restroom, the hotel got what it wanted. Was that... (MORE)
    3. Simoncowell Simon Cowell: yes on botox, no on whether he's gay: QUICK LOOK: Best to be blunt with Simon Cowell, surely? Has he had copious cosmetic surgery then? His fellow X Factor judge Louis Walsh thinks he might have had pectoral implants... (MORE)
    4. Bishoptutu Tutu blasts Anglicans for 'obsession' with gay issue: QUICK LOOK: Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has slammed the church for being "obsessed" with homosexuality, in a BBC radio programme to be broadcast this week. The South African... (MORE)
    5. Elliotspitzer N.Y. GOP'ers have 'gay old time' razzing governor on marriage: QUICK LOOK: Republican lawmakers yesterday mocked Gov. Spitzer's claim that passing a bill legalizing gay marriage would be a top priority if the Democrats take control of the state... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Bsas_pride1 Thousands in Buenos Aires join 16th annual Gay Pride: QUICK LOOK: Tens of thousands gathered in Buenos Aires' famous Plaza de Mayo, spot of Evita's famous speech from the Casa Rosada, and marched to Plaza de los Dos Congresos for the... (MORE)

    You say 'Parada,' they say 'Marcha'

    Posted by: Chris

    Bsas_pride1blog This is Gay Pride weekend here in Buenos Aires, where my partner and I are living for the rest of this year. My first reaction was to the small size of the event, since B.A. bills itself (repeatedly) as "the gay capital of South America." I would put the numbers at tens of thousands, certainly smaller than most big city Pride events I've attended, and a tiny, tiny percentage of the millions who filled Avenida Paulista for the world's largest Gay Pride, in São Paulo, Brasil, back in June.

    The location yesterday was perfect, however, on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of Evita's famous speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. From that picturesque square, the parade proceeded through the Centro to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. The event here in BsAs is called the "Marcha del Orgullo," or Pride March, and it did have a more political feel than the "Parada de Orgulho" in São Paulo.

    There were political banners for the event's theme, "Equality, Liberty, Diversity," as well as, "The same rights with the same names," a direct call for marriage and not simply civil union recognition for gay couples. Still, drag queens dressed in wedding gowns, gyrating to "The Wedding Song" is unlikely to change many minds on the subject.

    Gay marriage is a hot topic right now in Argentina, since the election earlier this month of Cristina Kirchner, the current first lady and a former senator. A prominent Cristina backer in the Senate introduced a gay marriage bill in the weeks leading up to the election, but gay Latino blogger Blabbeando has raised a number of legitimate questions about whether that support can be attributed to the prime candidate herself. Reading his analysis, Cristina comes off a bit like her cautious and calculating counterpart running for president back home in the U.S.

    It's a mistake to judge a community by its Gay Pride, but overall I'm surprised that gay Argentinians are pushing for marriage. Moreso than in Rio or São Paulo, many gays here seem to be fairly closeted, although many would have you believe they are post-gay rather than pre-gay. Perhaps a bit of both is fair, but it speaks well of the activists here and the political scene that gays can be a political force with such a (relatively) small visible presence.

    More pics follow here and on the jump as well.

    Bsas_pride3cha_2
    Bsas_pride_5plaza_de_mayo

    Continue reading»

    November 17, 2007

    Gay News Watch Friday Top 5

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_3 Here are the five most popular stories yesterday on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Natalieportmaninstyle Natalie Portman unsure about marraige till gays can: QUICK LOOK: Actress Natalie Portman says she's not sure she will ever get married, and she'll wait at least until gay couples can do so. In an interview for the cover of InStyle... (MORE)
    2. Bencohenleft Gay rugby fans turn out for English star's calendar signing: UICK LOOK: Gay rugby fans turned out in force to meet and greet England rugby player Ben Cohen yesterday. The 29-year-old former Northampton Saints winger chose a bar in London's... (MORE)
    3. Guatemalakis Guatemala soccer coach not 'faggot' despite kiss: QUICK LOOK: As a number of Latin American sports journalists were interviewing Hernán Darío Gómez in advance of Sunday's friendly match between Guatemala and Honduras at the Miami... (MORE)
    4. Uva UVa. 'not gay' song prompts protest gay groups: QUICK LOOK: After a Cavalier touchdown, the marching band strikes up what, to an outsider, sounds like “Auld Lang Syne.” But, to its tune, students and alumni sing the “Good Old... (MORE)
    5. Elliotspitzer N.Y. gov wants Dem Senate to push marriage: QUICK LOOK: New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer said at a private fund-raiser that he wants a Democratic controlled state Senate to legalize gay marriage - -a highly divisive and controversial... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Trans activist showdown set for Dallas HRC dinner: QUICK LOOK: It’s beginning to sound like Dallas’ 2007 Black Tie Dinner could turn into a food fight.  At the very least, there will be some big issues on the table at the annual... (MORE)

    It's hard to decide who is more deserving of this public spat, the transgender activists foiled at the last minute from completely hijacking historic gay rights legislation, or "the nation's largest LGBT group," which tried until the last minute to play all sides of the controversy and ended up (further) eroding its credibility with everyone.

    Personally, I've got my money Donna Rose over Joe Solmonese. In my run-ins with the two, she packs the much bigger wallop.

    Rose

    November 16, 2007

    Beware Democrats bearing 'principles'

    Posted by: Chris

    I posted earlier today about the uncertain fate of the gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard
    Hate Crimes Act, which was passed as a free-standing measure in the House but was tacked on by the Senate as an amendment to the Defense Department reauthorization legislation. That step was intended by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the hate crime bill's sponsor, of making it impossible for President Bush to follow through on a veto threat.

    First the Washington Blade reported that some 20 House Democrats are threatening to vote against the DOD bill, even with the hate crime amendment added on in conference with the Senate, as a protest of the Iraq war. Now The Hill newspaper is reporting that House Armed Services Committee leaders are balking at the hate crimes add-on because they fear they lack the votes for the overall Defense bill if it's included.

    Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a senior authorizer and one of the conferees, said that there could be a middle ground.

    Art21 “This is a strategic question, not a tactical question. The middle ground is to recognize that and realize to put the defense bill out as is, as opposed to changing it,” he said. “It does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill.” …

    He also pointed out that the House already passed a stand-alone hate crimes bill earlier this year. For that reason, defense conferees will not be diluting the principle behind the hate crimes provision if they drop the language from the authorization measure, he said. 

    How's that for Orwellian? It "does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill" to jettison it from the DOD legislation. No, it just does harm to the prospect of actually passing it.

    What's truly striking about this legislative machination is not the willingness of some Democrats to once again ignore promises to pass even basic gay-friendly legislation. We've come to expect that after 8 years of Bill Clinton and 15 years of off-again, on-again Democratic Congressional leadership that has yet to enact anything.

    No, what's truly striking is the dead silence of all those voices that screamed so loudly at the prospect that "gender identity" would be jettisoned from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act under not-so-different circumstances.  All that lobbying mobilization, all the hand-wringing, all the flurry of press releases and "United ENDA" coalition building. Now? Nada. Zippo. Nothing from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the rest of the usual suspects.

    As if we needed further proof that transgender rights have usurped boring old gay rights as the core goal of our movement activists, this is it.

    Gay News Watch Thursday Top 5

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_3 Here are the five most popular stories yesterday on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Dorm loophole lets Univ. of Miami gay couples live together:  QUICK LOOK: Although Jack and Jill can't live together on campus, Jack and John can - even if they are a couple. "We assign housing based on sex, not sexual preference," said Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president... (MORE)
    2. Philjackson_2 No NBA fine for Lakers coach over 'Brokeback' quip: QUICK LOOK: Coach Phil Jackson was reprimanded by the NBA, but not fined, and criticized by a national gay group because of an off-color remark he made Tuesday night after the Lakers... (MORE)
    3. Glamcop Seattle AIDS org bans drag queens from Gay Bingo:  QUICK LOOK: For the past seven years Thom Hubert, a.ka. Glamazonia, has served as the drag hostess of Gay Bingo, a fundraiser for Lifelong AIDS Alliance. Seattle’s Gay Bingo—the... (MORE)
    4. Nicaragua sodomy law removed as part of statutory overhaul: QUICK LOOK: In a surprising and historic development when it comes to LGBT rights in the region, gay Nicaraguans woke up yesterday to the news that consensual sex with their partners will no longer be a crime... (MORE)
    5. Valencia Chewing gum leads to arrest in two gay murders: QUICK LOOK: A fingerprint and DNA on two wads of chewing gum helped capture a man suspected of murdering two gay men shot dead in 1998, six days and six blocks apart, Miami police... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK

    • Nancypelosi6 Iraq war dispute ties up gay, trans hate crime bill: QUICK LOOK: The fate of a gay- and transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill was called into question this week when gay-supportive members of the House of Representatives threatened... (MORE)

    The Human Rights Campaign's Back Story blog indicated a few days ago that House and Senate conferees had been appointed to reconcile the Defense Department authorization legislation that on the Senate side included the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act as an amendment. The same measure, which includes both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected categories, earlier passed the House as a free-standing bill.

    Now it appears (yet again) that choosing the DOD bill as the best vehicle to thwart a threatened Bush veto carries its own risks, as some 20 House liberals are set to vote against the broader bill over opposition to the war. Another 180 House Republicans say they'll vote against it because of the hate crime measure, though that could be simply to pressure conferees not to include it in the reconciled legislation.

    Missing from GLBT dynamic are bold public predictions that the hate crime measure is dead simply because President Bush has threatened to veto it.  Trans activists and their allies are saving that strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, for the sole reason that the latter does not include transgender protections.

    I'm also curious whether the 20 House Democrats ready to vote against the DOD bill based on the war include the same seven purists who voted against ENDA because it wasn't trans-inclusive. Both positions are based on good principles -- I support trans workplace rights and have opposed the war since before the invasion -- but idealistic and counterproductive politics.

    November 15, 2007

    Being homo in a hetero world

    Posted by: Chris

    Fdyq101x_2 It's always amusing when societal rules built around the idea that everyone is heterosexual have unintended consequences to the benefit of us homos. In a post earlier today I mentioned one: same-sex locker rooms that assume the sexes should be kept separate to preserve sexual privacy.

    Another example is highlighted by an article in the University of Miami's student newspaper, which reports that hetero students are up in arms that the school's gender-based dormitory policy means gay couples can live together but opposite-sex couples cannot:

    "We assign housing based on sex, not sexual preference," said Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president of Student Affairs. "There is no way we would know that a gay couple has moved in together."

    Though the University of Miami does not ask about sexual preference on the roommate selection form, some heterosexual students feel discriminated against.

    Corey Hipps, a sophomore, said he is moving off campus with his girlfriend next year because of the university's policy. Hipps said it's not fair that some couples can live on campus and some can't -- especially because living on campus is more convenient.

    Cue the violins. Still, the obvious solution is to provide some single-sex dorms for those who prefer that environment and some mixed-gender dorms. Of course that would require the university stop trying to play parent to its adult students. Dr. Franklin Foote, who teaches human sexual behavior at U of M, told the paper that couples who co-habit prior to marriage are more likely to get a divorce. Never mind whether that statistical relationship is causal, or whether the university tries to enforce any other housing rules based on divorce statistics.

    The whole thing reminds me of the time a friend was hospitalized in Atlanta after a car accident. His homophobic sister showed up, ready to shoo his gay friends out of sight, only to be informed that hospital policy only allowed a guest of the same-sex to spend the night in his hospital room. That meant his boyfriend could stay, but she had to go.

    Given how often society's rules are stacked against us, it's hard to get too upset about a few regs that backfire.

    Hat tip: Gay South Florida

    Gay News Watch Wed. Top 5

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall I thought I would try a new daily feature here on the blog that tips you off to the most popular stories each day over at Gay News Watch, my other web site.  If a story here peaks your interest, just click on "Quick Look" or "More" to get the details.  You'll also find an "Editor's Pick" at the end that highlights a story I found of particular interest. Enjoy.

    1. Phoenixgayfight_2 Boyfriends cheat death in fight on busy Ariz. freeway:  QUICK LOOK: Two men fighting in the middle of rush-hour traffic on Interstate 17 had motorists slamming on their brakes in disbelief as fists flew and tempers flared, Department of Public ... (MORE)
    2. Syphilisrash Unsafe sex spurs rise in syphillis incidence: QUICK LOOK: Syphilis, spurred by unsafe sex among gay men, rose 14 percent in the U.S. last year and the government said chlamydia cases topped 1 million, the most ever reported... (MORE)
    3. Sexparty Sex parties for HIV-neg men only stir controversy: QUICK LOOK: An HIV activist has gone off on a limb that has alienated him from AIDS researchers, activists and organizations by advocating "self-serosorting" by HIV-positive and... (MORE)
    4. Seyed_mahmoud_hashemi_shahrudi Iranian chief judge halts execution for teen sodomy: QUICK LOOK: The impending death sentence of Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year old Iranian citizen found guilty of multiple counts of anal rape (ighab), allegedly committed when he was... (MORE)
    5. Gayorrapper Details Mag kills controversial 'Gay or…?' feature: QUICK LOOK: Details magazine has wrapped up its four-year-old satirical and occasionally controversial back-page feature that asked of a given type each month: "Gay or... ?" Among... (MORE)

    EDITOR'S PICK
    Usflag2 Gay groups place flags to honor discharged troops:  QUICK LOOK: Several leading LGBT organizations in the United States are to join forces later this month to honour the 12,000 servicemen and women discharged as a result of the ban... (MORE)

    It's been almost 15 years since Bill Clinton accepted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as the so-called compromise solution for his bungled effort to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military.  His wife is still defending his failure of leadership as a necessary "transition" from an outright ban on military service by gays. In fact, the 1993 debate over gays in the military is an important reminder of the difference between Clinton promises and Clinton follow-through.

    Throughout the whole debacle, President Clinton stayed on the defensive, trying to duck the issue, and never muttering anything more in the defense of gays except his lame line about how we don't have a person to waste. As if to say, "we even need the queers." 

    The Republicans, aligned with conservative Democrats like Georgia's Sam Nunn, occupied the vacuum, touring submarines to show the military's close living quarters. (The great irony of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for me is the old barracks canard. Considering DADT allows gays to serve only if they stay in the closet, it actually exacerbates the privacy issue. If I were a hetero soldier paranoid about gay soldiers staring at my naughty bits, I'd much prefer to know which ones are gay, so I could stay out of their range. On the flipside, a closeted soldier can get away with far more stolen glances than his out and proud counterpart.)

    Now a new gay group formed to fight the ban, Servicemembers United, is joining together with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Log Cabin Republicans and HRC to mount a very public protest of the policy, and the 12,000 service members discharged since DADT was signed into law.

    Another DADT irony? Many of those 12,000 aren't even gay. They're modern day Corporal Klingers from "M*A*S*H," pleading homosexuality to escape military service during time of war. Repealing DADT isn't just the right thing to do by the civil rights of gay Americans, but for the strapped American military as well.

    November 14, 2007

    Trans character assassination

    Posted by: Chris

    Autumn_sandeen_long UPDATES: At the end of the post.

    The latest attempt at attacking my character by a transgender activist comes from Autumn Sandeen, who submitted a false and libelous post about me on Pam's House Blend. With the smug sarcasm we've come to know and love from so many of our trans activist sisters, Ms. Sandeen accuses me of plagiarizing her on the Richard Curtis cross-dressing blackmail scandal:

    I really liked Chris Crain's New York Blade article Cross-dressing and blogger hypocrisy. As well I should: It sounded a lot like The Hypocrites' Exposed Closets And The 'Flinch Factor'.

    After a few choice excerpts of Sandeen's earlier PHB post and my Blade column -- which was actually in both the Washington Blade and the New York Blade -- she concludes:

    The similarities seems between the two pieces seem so ... correlative? Perhaps I should mention here that my piece was posted here at PHB on November 1st, and Chris Crain's was posted on November 9th. Since we know Chris reads PHB, it really does look like I might really be doing all of the "thinnin around here, Baba Looey!"

    There are a few problems with Ms. Sandeen's false and libelous accusation. Not only would I never plagiarize -- much less borrow ideas from the likes of Autumn Sandeen -- the Blade column she responds to was based on a blog post I published on Oct. 31, one day before  Autumn Sandeen's Nov. 1 post she claims I copied.

    Also, I sent out the Blade column to dozens of newspaper editors (any of whom could confirm receipt) by email on Oct. 31 -- again, one day before  Autumn Sandeen's post:

        From:       chris@citizencrain.com
        Subject:     A late-breaking column by Chris Crain about the Wash. gay blackmail scandal
        Date:     October 31, 2007 8:09:53 PM EDT

    Pam Spaulding has promised Sandeen's offending post will be taken down, and I appreciate the quick response. But since it was out there, it can't simply be erased. It ought to be retracted, by Ms. Sandeen herself, and an apology ought to be forthcoming.

    I have a great deal of respect with Pam Spaulding, and I do regularly visit the Blend, although to be honest I'm put off by all the smug nicknames they use for anyone they dub the enemy. I do not, however, read anything by Autumn Sandeen, who was responsible for several of the most hateful emails I've ever received over the course of a decade in the gay press. (Nothing I got from the Phelps clan can touch her!)

    It's unfortunate that Pam has chosen to give Sandeen's vitriol a larger pulpit than it ever would have on its own. The particular irony here is that Sandeen's attempted character assassination was based upon my having agreed with her -- well, actually, she agreed one day after me -- about how even media lefties treated the cross-dressing angle of the Curtis scandal for laughs.

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    UPDATE: Thank you to Kevin Naff, the Washington Blade editor, for publicly standing by my column in his own blog post today.

    UPDATE: Both Pam Spaulding and Autumn Sandeen have posted apologies alongside the original post.  That was the right way to handle the situation, and it is appreciated.

    Back off of Larry!

    Posted by: Chris

    Craigfrankvitter Since I've been very direct with criticism of Matt Foreman and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force for their divisive role as lead grandstander in the trans-or-bust "United ENDA" coalition, I want to offer some props for the organization's recent missive to the Senate Ethics Committee about the Larry Craig toilet scandal. The Hill newspaper, which broke the Craig story way back when, has the details:

    A leading national gay rights advocacy organization is pressuring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Ethics Committee, to drop an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). As a result, Democrats may question the merits of pushing the embattled Republican out of Congress.

    The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which last week helped push gay rights legislation through the House, has written a strongly worded letter to Boxer and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Republican vice chairman of the ethics panel, criticizing their investigation of Craig as unfair.

    The group argues the Ethics Committee has singled out Craig because he allegedly solicited gay sex but has ignored allegations of impropriety involving Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) because Vitter’s alleged behavior was heterosexual.

    It's rather humorous to see The Hill identify the Task Force has having "helped push gay rights legislation through the House" last week, when Foreman's group actually did everything they could to keep Barney Frank's compromise ENDA from coming up for a vote, or passing. Still the paper can be forgiven the error; generally you would expect gay rights groups to favor gay rights legislation.

    The paper's political analysis is also a bit off. The Democrats hardly need the Task Force to give them a reason to leave lame duck Larry in his Senate seat. It serves their interests just fine to have a sitting reminder of GOP hypocrisy in place until Election Day.

    That said, given all the civil liberties concerns about Craig's misdemeanor arrest and guilty plea, it would compound things to see Craig pushed out while admitted "john" David Vitter is left in office. My old friend Chuck Wolfe, who heads up the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, had a similar message for Senate Dems:

    “Certainly there’s a double standard because everyone’s assumption is they are dealing with one [lawmaker’s transgression] because it’s homosexual sex and not the other’s because it’s heterosexual sex,” said Wolfe, in reference to the ethics committee. “If they investigate every member of the U.S. Senate because of an extramarital affair, gay or straight, we’d be getting even less done than we are today.”

    “Anyone with any degree of personal ethics will drop it,” said Wolfe.

    Of course, there is the matter of Craig pleading guilty to a crime and Vitter not having been charged. On the other hand, Vitter admitted breaking the law, while Craig tried to withdraw his guilty plea and asserts his innocence.

    Either way, as I pointed out in a blog post comparing the scandals to Barney Frank's escort scandal way back in 1990, none of these crimes involve the type of official abuse of power that would justify removing them from office.

    Barney and Tammy back Hillary

    Posted by: Chris

    Frankbaldwin_2 No real surprise here. As Hillary Clinton consolidates her position as the choice of the party establishment, support from Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and other Democrats in Congress is to be expected. Barney's support came along with a campaign role as a chief economic adviser. Commerce Secretary Frank, anyone?

    Also not surprisingly, Barney and Hillary both praise each other's commitment to civil rights. Barney said he is "convinced that Hillary Clinton is the candidate best equipped to pass laws that will treat all Americans with dignity, fairness and equality no matter who they are or who they love." He doesn't elaborate,so we're left to imagine why. Perhaps because she's most likely to win the nomination.

    Barney's sister, Ann Lewis, is a senior adviser on the Clinton campaign, and Barney is a longtime Clinton friend. Remember he stuck by them even when Bill signed on to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    Finally, a third unsurprising angle to the Barney endorsement is bitter reaction from the transgender front. My old friend Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Vote has this to say:

    The lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, Frank released a statement saying that Clinton was “the candidate best qualified to serve as president.” Significantly, Hillary Clinton has never publicly expressed support — even in principle — for the idea of using federal law to protect transgendered people from discrimination.

    On this, as on so many other issues, Pauline is in desperate need of a fact-checker. Hillary Clinton's response to the candidates questionnaire from the evil trans traitors at the Human Rights Campaign confirmed that she supports inclusion of "gender identity" in both hate crimes and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    But never let the facts get in the way of a good rant…

    Hillary_enda

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_2 For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary

    November 12, 2007

    The Obama-Clinton difference, part 2

    Posted by: Chris

    Andrew Sullivan recently asked whether Hillary Clinton ever had defended gay rights in front of a non-gay audience the way Barack Obama has done repeatedly, including to black church leaders whose support he badly needs.  Ben Smith at Politico.com found an example of drive-by defense from Hillary to an already supportive crowd, the Democrats' Jefferson Jackson dinner:

    "We Democrats believe in labor rights and women's rights and gay rights and civil rights," she said.

    23blogobama190 Feel the chills.  Meanwhile, Obama answered (again) the Donnie McClurkin "ex-gay" controversy on "Meet The Press" this week by (again) forcefully making the case for gay rights.

    I've talked to African-American ministers. There's a problem of homophobia in the African-American community. I will go into churches, I will go into meetings with ministers and say, "I disagree with you on these issues. This is not how I interpret my faith." But the fact that we're having a conversation, I think, allows the possibly that I will change their minds, make them more tolerant of these issues.

    Andrew is right that there's no chance Hillary would ever be so bold.  The "MTP" video is here:

    If you watched it, you also saw Obama repeat (again) his promise, unmatched among the top candidates, to move aggressively to enact federal civil unions legislation. In a blog post surely not written by him but submitted in his name to Bilerico.com, Obama goes even further in concrete terms:

    For my entire career in public life, I have brought the message of GLBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones. No other leading candidate in the race for the Presidency has demonstrated the same commitment to the principle of full equality.

    I support the full and unqualified repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples.

    The "some" who "say" we should only repeal part of DOMA would be Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, the other two candidates with a shot at the Democratic presidential nomination. It's especially encouraging to see the Obama campaign repeat that pledge explicitly because the Human Rights Campaign candidate questionnaire, which was fixed for Hillary, only asked about repeal of the half of DOMA that prohibits federal recognition of gay marriage by the states. Neither Clinton nor Edwards is on board with repealing the other half, which says no state has to give legal recognition to gay marriages from other states. In fact, other than Obama only Dennis Kucinich has gone that far.

    Obama also pledges to fight for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which he refers to in passing as "a law that should never have been passed."  Again, the reference is to Hillary, who as recently as the HRC-Logo event was defending DADT as a necessary "transitional" measure to stop gay witchhunts, though she is now in favor of repeal. Never mind that discharges dramatically increased after Bill Clinton signed the measure into law.

    Still, the significance of these differences will be lost on most gay voters and our allies if Obama doesn't start doing a better job highlighting these differences. It's not "negative campaigning" to use names, as I've done here.

    Related posts:

    "The Obama-Clinton difference"

    "Hillary's Donnie McClurkins"

    "The fix was in for Hillary, take 2"

    "Was the fix in for Hillary?"

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_2 For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary

    The dissent becomes the mainstream

    Posted by: Chris

    (UPDATE: At the end of the post):

    At some point, the claim by the "United ENDA" crowd to represent the interests of gay Americans becomes laughable. In addition to the Human Rights Campaign poll showing 70% of actual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people support the compromise ENDA -- a result backed up by our own online poll -- there are the growing number of gay newspapers and gay bloggers and, of course, HRC, the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights abandoning the "trans or bust" strategy.

    The House vote was overwhelming in favor of the compromise ENDA, with only seven members dissenting on transgender grounds. Even Tammy Baldwin, the trans activists' principal ally, voted for the gay-only ENDA. In a statement she released after the vote, she hailed the compromise that trans activists are calling a betrayal: ""This is an historic moment in the on-going movement for equality in this country.  As in all movements, achieving success is a process, and today’s legislative accomplishment marks a milestone, but certainly not the end, of our quest."

    Now the country's two most influential mainstream newspapers have weighed in, both in favor of Barney Frank's compromise measure.  First the New York Times ("Gay Rights, the Transgendered, and Accepting Partial Progress"):

    Not everyone, however, is happy with the [ENDA] vote — and that includes many people who strongly favor gay rights. The “nay” votes included 35 Republicans — despite the efforts of Chris Shays of Connecticut and Deborah Pryce of Ohio to persuade their G.O.P. colleagues to vote in favor — but also some of the House’s most pro-gay-rights members, like Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. The objection of Mr. Nadler and the others: transgendered men and women were stripped from the bill, and would not be protected. If they had been included, the bill likely would not have gotten the necessary votes.

    Many gay rights supporters believed it was important to take the victory that was achievable, and vowed to come back another day to fight for the transgendered. “History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, expressing regret about the exclusion but nevertheless urging an “aye” vote. “It is often marked by small and difficult steps.” Ms. Pelosi is right. It’s frustrating to take equality one step at a time. But that is how equal justice has been won in this country.

    Then the Washington Post ("A Civil Rights Watershed"):

    Many gay rights activists opposed the bill because the final version didn't include protection for transgender people, including those who have changed their sex, who are living their lives as the other sex or who do not conform to traditional gender roles. The omission was a painful but wise choice that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made to increase the bill's chance of passage. Transgender people must channel the activism this action sparked into a long-term effort to educate the public and lawmakers about the discrimination they face.

    Both editorials are welcome voices of reason, although the WaPo news desk inexcusably failed to report on House passage of ENDA, instead relying on wire service copy.

    With the tide having turned, trans activists are left to bellow, and do so loudly.  My old friend Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Voice was practically apoplectic, but after wading through paragraph and paragraph of unsupported insults aimed at the Times editorial board, it finally comes down to her claim that President Bush will veto ENDA, so the whole thing is academic only.

    The White House did issue a veto threat, though from the president's advisers, not from him. And after the House amended ENDA to broaden the religious exemption and reassure gay marriage foes, the president's peeps told the Times they would now reevaluate the bill to decide their position.

    Park also ignores that Bush also threatened to veto the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill, and yet she and other trans activists never call that bill "dead." That's because it's been attached to Defense Department funding, making a veto a much more difficult proposition. The same could be done with ENDA, though Park and her allies won't tell you that since it doesn't support their claim that ENDA is "dead."

    The rumors of ENDA's death are greatly exaggerated, and its trans opponents know it. But they'll leave no sneaky trick untried to undermine passage of historic GLB rights legislation.

    UPDATE:  Add the Washington Blade to the list of respected newspapers endorsing the compromise ENDA. In an editorial this week, my former colleage Kevin Naff gives voice to the rift I noted yesterday among gays who do not identify as part of an "LGBT community" and backs incremental progress as a political necessity:

    Passage of ENDA in any form would make history and no one in the “community” should be rooting for its demise. Politics has never been about “all or nothing” — it’s about the art of the compromise. Gay-only ENDA may not be the perfect bill, but it would bring immediate relief to millions of gays and lesbians hiding in the closet at work, fearful of losing their livelihood if their sexual orientation were exposed.

    As someone who has experienced overt workplace discrimination because of my sexual orientation, I find it unconscionable that a few would advocate for the defeat of a bill that stands to benefit so many.

    November 11, 2007

    More voices in 'T' dissent

    Posted by: Chris

    I've known Rex Wockner for a decade and for more than twice that length of time he's been one of the most respected journalists within the gay press. Our politics are quite different and we've disagreed plenty over the years, but always respectfully. I offer that background to make the point that he's anything but "conservative," a label I reject for myself as well, but look at what he's written in response to the "trans or bust" ENDA fiasco:

    Forchris I maintain my position that gay people and transgender people are two different things. Most of the transgender people I personally know have had a sex-change operation and paired off with someone of the opposite sex. That is a very different reality from the gay bear circles I travel in -- in those uncommon instances in which I engage with the gay scene. It's a very different reality from the reality of most gay people. It's even significantly different from the venerable gay tradition of drag-queenery (which I've never done and don't "get," but that's beside the point). …

    I've been sitting here sort of picking my own brain and asking myself if gay and trans people do in fact have some crucial thing in common. … What do I have in common with a guy who wants to remove his willy, grow breasts, become a woman and get married to a man? From where did this relatively new concept of "the LGBT community" come?

    Andrew Sullivan echoed the same sentiments in a post headlined "The LGBTQRSTZ 'Community'":

    Andrewsullivansq The Croatian-sounding acronym only makes sense from the perspective of the pomo-left, whose control of the major gay groups allows them to dictate what is and what is not kosher for gay people. I support enthusiastically the right of transgender people to live their lives as they wish and to be free from government discrimination. But that question is logically separate from gay rights, and always has been. Many transgender people are heterosexual; most gay people have no internal conflict with their own gender. It remains important to insist that, just because so many in the gay world have been browbeaten into repeating the concept of an "LGBT community", that doesn't mean it exists.

    John Aravosis, a blue-dog Democrat partisan, has written similarly in Salon, "How Did the T Get in LGBT?":

    Johnaravosissq_2 I have a sense that over the past decade the trans revolution was imposed on the gay community from outside, or at least above, and thus it never stuck with a large number of gays who weren't running national organizations, weren't activists, or weren't living in liberal gay enclaves like San Francisco and New York. Sure, many of the rest of us accepted de facto that transgendered people were members of the community, but only because our leaders kept telling us it was so. A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins.

    I've been asking similar questions for years, ever since trans activists browbeat LGB organizations to add transgender to their mission statements. I didn't object to that idea, in and of itself, but I was deeply troubled by the idea that it was somehow "exclusionary" for gay people to have some organizations just for us. Trans folks do, so why shouldn't we? 

    I also worried, unfortunately prophetically, that including "T" in the mission statement would become a huge distraction for resource-strapped gay groups, as if our own battles weren't consuming enough.  The deepest disappointment has been Lambda Legal, an organization for which I have a great deal of respect, which has so confused including T in its mission that now it feels obliged to argue that GLBs shouldn't receive any legislative protection until the political will is there for Ts to receive the same.

    Then transgender activists and their allies pressed their "trans or bust" strategy for hate crimes and workplace rights. It was the crowning achievement of their leveraging of the gay rights movement, and so brazen that I labeled it "the transjacking" of the movement. Provocative yes, but accurate nonetheless.

    Now all that has blown up in their face, and by overreaching their attempt at forced "unity" has brought to the surface deep divisions within our "community."  The form the debate has taken hasn't helped.  While some have been respectful, most trans activists I've seen have been incredibly aggressive and personal and mean-spirited, always questioning motives and rarely addressing points of view actually expressed.

    The question now is whether trans activists and their allies will realize their misstep and correct it going forward.  The Nation is reporting that Ted Kennedy will introduce ENDA as a gay-only measure.  I think they're reading a bit too much into his statement over House passage, but regardless the issue will present itself again.

    There's no reason why we can't all lobby for a trans-inclusive ENDA and yet support a compromise measure if the votes aren't there for "gender identity."  It's the right thing to do for millions of GLB Americans.

    November 09, 2007

    More on that HRC poll…

    Posted by: Chris

    The Human Rights Campaign, rather than answer questions from a variety of media outlets and bloggers about its poll showing 70% GLBT support for the compromise gay-only ENDA, has used its chosen media outlet -- the Advocate -- to release some additional information.

    The Advocate posted a non-bylined story today, though curiously it never explains its reason for being.  Regardless, the story indicates that the poll was "a random survey of 514 LGBT Americans conducted by Knowledge Networks, Inc., of Menlo Park, Ca., asked participants two questions concerning [the compromise] ENDA.":

    The first asked which of the following three statements was closest to reflecting their views:

    A. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should oppose this proposal because it excludes transgender people.

    B. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should support this proposal because it helps gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers and is a step toward transgender employment rights.

    C. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should adopt a neutral stance for this proposal because while it helps gay, lesbians, and bisexual workers, it also excludes transgender people.

    The numbers were 67.7% for backing the compromise bill, 15.8% for opposing it, and 12.8% for staying neutral. As poll questions go, this one looks pretty straightforward with no attempt to bias the result. So far, so good.

    The second question asked people the following: "This proposal would make it illegal to fire gay, lesbian, or bisexual workers because of their sexual orientation. This proposal does NOT include people who are transgender. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?"

    The numbers were about the same: 59.1% favored the compromise and felt strongly about it, 15.4% favored it but did not feel strongly, 15.1% opposed it and felt strongly about it, and 8.8% opposed it but not strongly.

    That's an even stronger indication that three-quarters of LGBT Americans back Barney Frank's compromise ENDA, which is a remarkable contrast to the almost unanimous 350 GLBT groups who joined United ENDA's "trans-or-bust" strategy.  (Only HRC, Log Cabin, GLAAD, and a few other groups didn't sign on.) Will Matt Foreman be issuing an apology for lying to Congress about how "the community" really feels? Don't hold your breath.

    The Advocate story included standard margin of error info and broke down the demographics: roughly 50-50 male and female with 1% transgender.  If anything, that's weighted female-heavy. Every demographic study I've seen of LGBT America shows we're 60-70% male, and trans numbers run about 1%, though you wouldn't know that from the commitment of resources from so many lgbT groups.

    Still, a few big questions are left unanswered by the Advocate story, and should be dealt with directly by HRC.  First of all, the new Advocate story says the poll was conducted Oct. 2-5.  The Advocate originally reported just two days ago that the poll was conducted Oct. 26.  That's a big difference, and means HRC has known for weeks before it re-revised its position on ENDA how strongly GLBT Americans felt about the question.

    Also, one of the questions pressed by the Bay Area Reporter and others is how exactly these 500 LGBT Americans were identified and whether they were a representative sample. HRC has said the 500 were not culled from its membership list or from the Advocate's subscription list, but the new Advocate story still doesn't clarify where they did come from.

    Finally, there is the curious way in which HRC released the information. HRC prez Joe Solmonese has done a good job on at least one aspect of the ENDA controversy -- he's been accessible to the gay press for interviews.  So why play favorites with the release of this polling data and string out over several days the details behind its demographics?  Just answer the questions already.

    Does HRC really need more questions raised about its transparency and credibility?

    ENDA by the numbers

    Posted by: Chris

    Pelosienda Parsing through the House vote to pass a compromise Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Wednesday confirms a lot of what we already knew about where support for gay equality is -- and is not:

    • Overall the vote was 235-184, which represents 56% of those voting and 54% of the House as a whole. The total fell well short of the 292 needed to override a threatened veto by President Bush.
    • Democrats favored ENDA 200-25 (8 not voting); Republicans opposed 35-159 (6 not voting)
    • Of those 25 Dems who crossed party lines to vote 'no,' (only) seven did so because the bill did not include "gender identity." Six of the seven were from New York or New Jersey. Even Dennis Kucinich, who voted against ENDA in committee, voted in favor when push came to shove. All seven, Dale Carpenter points out, come from states that already have state gay rights laws.
    • All but one of the 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted on ENDA backed the measure; Keith Boykin fingered the lone holdout: Alabama Democrat Artur Davis.
    • If those 35 Republicans, or those 37 black Democrats, had voted the other way, ENDA would have failed.
    • Geographically, support was strongest in the Northeast (65-17-1, or really 72-10-1 if you flip the "trans-or-bust'ers") and the West (63-33-2), though even the Midwest tipped in ENDA's favor (54-40-5). Only in the South did ENDA fail (53-94-6). The persistent hostility to civil rights in my native region was an emotional backdrop for me as I listened to the House debate. So many of the voices against ENDA had a distinctive Southern drawl.
    • The gender of the member was less a factor, though congresswomen favored ENDA by greater margins (51-16-3) than congressmen (184-168-11).
    • Age was also less of a factor than you'd imagine. The baby boomers run things in Washington and they split by about the same percentage (53% in favor) as did the House as a whole (56% in favor). Suprisingly, the 30 "post-boomers" in the House were less supportive (56% in favor) than the "pre-boomers" (63%).
    • I have no idea why, but the Washington Post actually breaks down congressional votes by astrological sign. For those curious, the three anti-gay signs were Gemini, Capricorn and Virgo. I'm proud to say that my own peeps, the Aries reps, were the most supportive, along with Taurus and Pisces.

    A lot of those data points mirror the encouraging results of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll that shows a clear majority of Americans (55%) supporting civil unions for the first time. The previous record was 51% in 2004, which put majority support within the margin of error; last year only 45% backed civil unions. Interestingly, the exact same percentage (55%) back legal abortion, although the report didn't clarify the degree of overlap.

    Abcpost_on_civil_unions

    It's a bit apples and oranges to compare workplace rights with civil unions, except in a general sense to see where support for gay equality is strongest demographically.  Predictably, there was gaps by gender (women 59% in favor; men 51%); age (18-29 year olds favor 66%; those over 65 only 44%) and by party (Dems 66% in favor; Independents 58%; Republicans only 39%).

    Less predictably, self-described moderates were as supportive, with 64% in favor, as liberals 69%; only 35% of conservatives back civil unions. There was a discouraging racial gap as well: only 45% of blacks support civil unions while 56% of whites do. Black political leaders are clearly out ahead of black America on gay issues, and thankfully so.

    Finally, the ABC-WaPo poll found that about 60% of Democrats who favor civil unions are backing Hillary Clinton for president. There's unlikely a causal link there, however, since Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all favor civil unions, although Obama has been more vocal in his support.

    November 08, 2007

    The debate before the debate

    Posted by: Chris

    (UPDATE:  At the end of the post.)

    Just one day before Barney Frank and our GLB allies in Congress debated opponents of ENDA in Congress, Human Rights Campaign prez Joe Solmonese had a debate of his own, with Mike Signorile on Sirius Out Q. You can listen to the exchange here on Pam's House Blend, but here are the highlights:

    • HRC's strategy was actually to prevent the compromise ENDA from ever coming up for a vote on the House floor.  Once it passed out of Rules Committee, HRC reversed itself.  It's unclear why HRC would publicly commit itself to a strategy that depended on ENDA never making it to the House floor, something that was inevitable after Nancy Pelosi gave a green light.
    • HRC will score the ENDA vote on its congressional report card, which is pretty remarkable considering the many public pronouncements by Solmonese that HRC opposed (and then was neutral) on the compromise bill. At the same time, HRC will indicate somehow those members (it turned out to be seven Dems) who voted against ENDA on trans-inclusion grounds.
    • Amusingly, Signorile complains the internal ENDA debate "got really ugly," including "nasty comments about transgender people" online.  No doubt that happened and shouldn't have, but thus far I've only seen nasty comments by transgender people (and their allies), not about them.
    • Signorile took Solmonese to task for acting like a Beltway lobbyist and not a civil rights leader. All I can say is, "Welcome to the party, Mike." I've said many times that Joe is no doubt a talented tactician, although his ENDA flip-flops raise some doubts there as well.  But he never should have been named to lead the nation's largest gay rights group. He would have been much better suited to be political director, working for a someone who gets "the vision thing" and can inspire unity and progress in the movement.
    • Solmonese now claims he "misspoke" at a Sept. 14 meeting with transgender activists in Atlanta for the Southern Comfort conference.  "We do not support and in fact absolutely oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive," Solmonese said then.  Believe it or not, Solmonese now claims HRC's position is still to oppose ENDA if it is not trans-inclusive, but only if it passes Congress in that form and is up for the president's signature.
    • Solmonese's take-away from the whole ENDA debacle is that HRC should be entrusted with more, not less, leeway to decide what's best for us. "In retrospect," he said, "perhaps the policy of HRC should be that we're going to evaluate each circumstance as it presents itself and do what we think is in the best interest of the community." Yes, he really said that.

    UPDATE:

    It will be very interesting indeed to see how HRC reacts to the chorus of criticism that seems to be coming from all directions.  From the left, the Bay Area Reporter is asking for the background info on the HRC poll that purportedly shows 70% of LGBT Americans backing a gay-only ENDA. 

    Few seem to doubt that percentage is about right, and it squares what the online survey conducted on this blog and Gay News Watch, but it is more than passing curious that HRC is thus far refusing to say who conducted the poll or its methodology and margin of error.

    November 07, 2007

    Give 'em hell, Barney!

    Posted by: Chris

    Barney_frank_enda_floor(UPDATE: Yeah so I changed the headline for the post; the first one was too cheesy.  Also, I've posted Barney's emotional floor speech.  Give it a quick listen.  The best part comes in the last three minutes.)

    Throughout the House debate this afternoon on ENDA, Congressman Barney Frank has been an absolute lion, calling out Republican opponents of the measure for nit-picking at the margins when their true objection is to the protection of gays from discrimination itself. Then, when Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia tried to send the measure back to committee, ostensibly to ensure that it does not impact federal marriage laws, Barney had had enough.

    In an impassioned and emotional speech, Barney talked about his own felt obligation to adopt ENDA to protect gays in 30 states who can be fired from their jobs based on nothing but their sexual orientation. He dismissed any suggestion that such a measure could have any impact on marriage laws, and pointed out the House had already adopted a friendly amendment that clarified ENDA would have no impact on the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996, that prohibits federal recognition of state-issued marriage licenses to gay couples.

    The end result was the defeat of the Republican amendment, 222-198. I am also thrilled to say ENDA itself was passed by the House by an impressive margin of 235-184.  Thirty-five Republicans joined 200 Democrats in passing the historic measure, which was first introduced more than 30 years ago.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium and with a giant smile announced the result.

    Pelosienda

    Who among us is the neediest?

    Posted by: Chris

    The House is (finally) debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (view it by webcast on CSPAN here), and Republicans have already tried to press for a vote to include transgender protections, a clear sign that they know it would kill the measure.

    As the House takes up ENDA and Tammy Baldwin's transgender amendment, it's worth testing the "third rail" of the internal LGBT debate here. It's an article of faith almost, for the professional activists who are pressing a "trans or bust" ENDA strategy, that T Americans are "most needy" when it comes to federal civil rights protections.

    The whole game of comparing neediness is rarely beneficial, but since the claim is made so regularly, I wonder whether it's really the case.  Consider the following, taken straight from the Human Rights Campaign's transgender FAQ:

    • Can Transgender People Adopt Children? Transgender people are not prohibited from adopting under law
    • Can Transgender People Get Legally Married? Although marriage is not yet a legal option for gay or lesbian people in any state, it is already an option – and a reality – for many who are transgender.

    Just last week, the United Methodist Church decided that a pastor who transitioned from female to male could remain in the pulpit; this same mainline Protestant denomination recently defrocked a minister after she publicly acknolwedged she is gay. That's because many religious faiths don't have the same specific objections to gender identity as they do to homosexuality.  Even as backward society as Iran executes homosexuals while subsidizing gender reassignment surgery.

    A document called "Transgender Tools," produced by HRC for use by employers, notes "a growing consensus that transgender people are covered under state and federal sex discrimination statutes":

    In the past few years, an increasing number of federal courts have interpreted federal sex discrimination laws to cover gender identity and expression, particularly in the area of impermissible sex stereotyping. In practical terms, this could mean that employers could be held accountable for anti-transgender discrimination in their workplaces.  

    Almost every story of transgender workplace discrimination I've seen involves the complicated issues surrounding the limited time period when an employee actually transitions from one gender to another, raising legitimate questions about use of restrooms and locker rooms, photo credentials, dress codes, health insurance and the like. These issues are complicated and serious, and they are also once-in-a-lifetime, at least at their most severe.

    The website for the National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, does not include a single detailed story of workplace discrimination, at least that I could locate.  It did, however, include some false and offensive "talking points" to be used to defeat workplace rights for GLB Americans:

    The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is one community and the community ONLY wants to move forward together with one unified bill. CALL TODAY!

    This is, of course, a lie. The HRC poll released this week confirmed what was absolutely evident anecdotally: the vast majority of LGBT Americans favor passing the compromise ENDA if the votes aren't there for transgender protections.

    None of this is to suggest that transgender Americans don't need workplace protection; of course they do. But T Americans already enjoy all sorts of basic civil rights denied to GLB Americans, including marriage, joint adoption and some workplace protection. To call them the neediest among us is a claim without support.

    Ironic headline of the year…

    Posted by: Chris

    …goes to: the Associated Press report on the Human Rights Campaign's latest 180 on whether it supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which for more than a decade has been the group's signature piece of legislation:

    "Leading gay rights group supports job discrimination measure"

    How crazy is it that this headline actually has a "man bites dog" quality to it in today's bassackward glbT rights movement?

    November 06, 2007

    Demagoguing to the end…

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman Outmaneuvered by rival HRC and marginalized by the new poll showing 70% of the actual LGBT people disagree with his "United ENDA" farce, Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is not going down without a bit more demagoguing.

    So Foreman took issue with the combined wisdom of the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, among others, all of which argued for incremental progress where achievable. GCN takes it from here:

    NGLTF's Foreman was uncompromising in rejecting what he termed "an inaccurate analogy" between incrementalism in the Civil Rights era and accepting a non-inclusive ENDA today.

    "At no time during the African-American Civil Rights movement were light-skinned African Americans or dark-skinned African Americans left behind," Foreman told Gay City News. "What is being lost is that we need to be working for the best law, not a bill that can be passed today."

    There's nothing new in Foreman's effort to divide rather than unite, suggesting that the compromise ENDA will "leave behind" gender non-conforming gays, who are the "dark-skinned blacks" in his analogy.  I acknowledged the divide in a blog post weeks ago, and engaged Lambda Legal in a respectful debate on the legal limits of the compromise ENDA as well.

    What's new is Foreman's attempt to play wedge politics with the divide, now that it's clear what a small sliver of the community he represents. Only time will tell whether the Task Force and its "trans or bust" abandon the strategy that is responsible for so much damage and divisiveness.

    Welcome back to the movement, HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    With the House poised to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act despite, rather than because of, the nation's largest glbT group, the Human Rights Campaign has belatedly remembered that the vast majority of its constituents would greatly benefit from passage of historic civil rights legislation. As a result, HRC has reversed itself -- I've lost track of how may times -- and once again actively supports passage of ENDA even if it does not include "gender identity" as a protected category.

    The policy reversal, which will probably have about as much (or as little) impact as HRC's fence-sitting has up till now, came complete with all sorts of ass-covering. First, there as a joint letter from the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights that included HRC, the NAACP and a number of other top civil rights organizations, that backed the compromise ENDA that could come up for a vote as early as tomorrow.

    The letter's take-away quote:

    It is “beyond dispute that transgender employees are particularly in need of those protections,” the letter says. “They face far more pervasive and severe bias in the workplace and society as a whole,” the letter says.

    “As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans,” it says. “From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature.

    Hmm. Sound vaguely familiar to anyone else?

    HRC also pushed the release of a poll it conducted almost two weeks ago, which shows an overwhelming majority of "LGBT Americans" favors passing ENDA even if transgender protections are removed. And the knee-slapper from the Advocate's coverage of the poll:

    HRC president Joe Solmonese said the poll numbers weren’t immediately obvious to him or the organization before they conducted the polling.

    “There were so many people out there speaking so emphatically about where the entire community was that I thought maybe we should get a sense of it, and that’s why we did the poll,” he said. “So it was surprising to me, but I think it really speaks to the fact that there’s a big diverse community of GLBT Americans all across the country.”

    No, Joe. It speaks to the huge disconnect between the left-leaning professional activists who run HRC and the 300-odd organization in the "United ENDA" coalition and the consituents that they supposedly represent.  It is a gap that has long been a subject of this blog, and it will be interesting to watch whether Matt Foreman, who led those trying to cover-up the community's real views on the subject, will own up to their mendacity.

    Note the similarity between HRC's poll results and the unscientific results of the poll from this blog and Gay News Watch (below). In HRC's poll, 70% backed a gay-only ENDA, while in our little survey, 73% did.  Similarly, the HRC poll showed 20% only supported ENDA if trans protections were included; 28% of our survey respondents felt similarly.

    It speaks volumes that HRC sat on their poll, knowing what the community really wants, until the House Rules Committee set ENDA up for a vote and then, at the 11th hour and 59th minute, literally one day before, HRC jumps on the bandwagon.

    That's not leading; that's called following.

    Enda_vizu

    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

    November 05, 2007

    Dreaming of being disrespected

    Posted by: Chris

    United_states_passport There's an interesting thread over at Andrew Sullivan's blog about the disrespectful treatment that gay couples, even American gay couples, receive from passport control officers when arriving in the U.S.  First to weigh in was conservative gay author Bruce Bawer, who lives in Norway with his partner:

    Every time that my partner and I fly to the US and I have to fill out a customs declaration form, it galls me to have to write "0" under "Number of family members traveling with you" given that my partner is, in fact, under the law of Norway, not only my family but my next of kin.  So on one recent trip, I wrote "1."  At passport control in Newark, the woman asked me where the other member of my family was.  I explained that he was a Norwegian citizen and had therefore gotten in line with other non-US citizens.  She asked what our relationship was.  I explained that we were domestic partners.  She spat out, in a vicious tone: "THAT'S NOT FAMILY!"  I replied, in a civil tone, "It is in Norway."  She said nastily, "Well, it's not here," and, grabbing a pen, changed my "1" to a "0."  Not wanting to jeopardize my partner's chances of getting into the country, I chose not to argue with her.

    Then Dan Savage chimed in:

    I feel for Bruce Bawer ...but try coming back into the US from Europe with your partner and your adopted child. DJ is, as you know, a quick kid. He spends a lot of time around adults, he's not oblivious, he can read adults. And we go to Canada and/or Europe at least twice a year. I can't tell you the number of times we've had passport and/or customs officials literally and audibly scoff when we tell them DJ is our son -- you know, that "uusssggghhhh" sound people make when they're told something they don't believe or are offended by, a cross between groaning and clearing your throat.

    Savage and his partner reacted by teaching their young son that, "These people work for George W. Bush, and that George W. Bush doesn't approve of gay families, and he hires assholes that feel the same way." 

    I don't see the point in teaching their child the double-evil that some people hate his parents, and the implicit lesson that he should hate them back, but c'est la vie.  Andrew points out that disdain for gay couples and those with HIV is U.S. immigration policy of long-standing; it's disrespect written into law.

    Without taking anything away from any of the above, I would add that for a whole slew of "love exiles" like my partner and me, it is but a distant dream to be treated with disdain and disrespect by U.S. passport control. Checking "0" on "Number of family members"? Sign me up, so long as he isn't turned away.

    I can't tell you how many times I've even played out the fantasy in my mind, imagining my partner and me boarding a flight to the U.S. — together. We actually find ourselves smiling longingly anytime we're at an airport and see an American or Delta or United Airlines plane.

    Now three countries (Argentina -> Brazil -> Canada) removed from ever being together in the U.S., I would add that passage of the Uniting American Families Act, along with repeal of the HIV ban, are the first steps toward a gay-friendly U.S. border.

    ENDA back from the dead

    Posted by: Chris

    Zombies_sf_6 Just when it looked like the divisively named United ENDA crowd had killed historic workplace protections for GLB Americans, the compromise version pressed by Barney Frank appears back from the dead and scheduled for a House vote this week. Gay City News is reporting that a headcount apparently shows enough votes for ENDA to pass the House in a form that only protects "actual or perceived sexual orientation" and not "gender identity" as well.

    Given the expected defections of purist liberals like Dennis Kucinich, it will ironically take Republican votes to pass a gay civil rights bill for the first time through the U.S. House of Representatives. (The actual number of defectors is said to range between 8 and 60, GCN reports.)  The irony doesn't end there — the United ENDA groups, led by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, have actively worked to defeat ENDA stripped of its transgender protections.

    The Human Rights Campaign has dutifully straddled the fence, not lobbying for or against the very same bill it pressed for a decade as its signature legislation, and has apparently promised not to count a vote for the compromise ENDA as a mark against House members on the group's annual congressional report card.  Smell the irony.

    Another bit of parliamentary weirdness reported by GCN relates to Tammy Baldwin's amendment to add "gender identity" back in to ENDA. At first, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a floor vote on the Baldwin amendment, but then apparently recanted when House freshmen objected to the vote as no-win, since defying conservatives on trans rights will only anger the left if the amendment fails and they vote in favor of the gay-only bill.

    So the solution is being worked out in the Rules Committee but will involve Baldwin introducing her amendment, which will then be debated on the House floor, but then withdrawn before there's a vote. The idea is to prevent a lopsided tally that wounds trans rights down the road, whether in a solo "transg-ENDA" or in a reunited ENDA next Congress if it fails to become law this year.

    Assuming ENDA does pass the House, it's anyone's guess whether the Senate will dare touch this hot potato. Thank goodness another pragmatist, Ted Kennedy, is in control of the bill's fate there. Kennedy resisted for years introducing ENDA with "gender identity" included and unless I've missed it, he hasn't even promised it will start off trans-inclusive as it did (for the first time) this year in the House.

    If ENDA passes the House in compromise form, there will be pressure on Kennedy to introduce it trans-intact (pun intented) in the Senate so that "gender identity" has a chance to make it through, perhaps if ENDA is attached to some noncontroversial legislation. (The same wayward fate that thus far has stilted the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.)

    Meanwhile, leading trans activist Mara Keisling is working overtime to reinforce the ridiculous idea that ENDA is dead anyway, so she and her "trans or bust" allies won't take the fall for klling it.  "There is no chance of this becoming law now," she told GCN. "We will have to get together and decide how to proceed in '09."

    Get together? Now there's a novel idea.

    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

     

    November 03, 2007

    If a cross-dressing Republican speaks…

    Posted by: Chris

    …will anyone listen?

    Richardcurtisstill OK it's a strained version of that old metaphor about a tree falling in a forest when no one's there to hear it, but you get the point.

    Washington state Rep. Richard Curtis, who resigned his seat after the media published details of an alleged blackmail scheme against him, says he knows he needs to explain his previous votes against gay rights legislation.  When he finally gets around to talking, it will probably be way too late.

    In an interview with the local Columbian newspaper, Curtis says now that he's lawyered up he can't talk about the case until it's resolved, seeing as how he still faces the possibility of being charged himself with solicitation. "He said if I spoke publicly, he would drop me like a hot potato," Curtis said, referring to his attorney.

    That's too bad, since explaining his votes against domestic partners and basic civil rights might help to remind the eager gossip blogger-mongers out there that this man is the alleged victim here. I'm not sure what form the explanation would take, although I can imagine that he viewed his own same-sex urges as wrong and a threat to his marriage -- so maybe he viewed others the same way.

    That's tragic and slightly pathetic, but it certainly gives me no joy in how he and his family was brought down in such mean-spirited fashion.

    The Obama-Clinton difference

    Posted by: Chris

    Andrew Sullivan has been somewhat harsh on Barack Obama for the Donnie McClurkin "ex-gay" mess, but in a post yesterday, he gets it just right.  A reader writes in to tell him that Obama is continuing to talk about homophobia before conservative black audiences, just as he did long before the gay blogosphere and the Hillary hacks at HRC went bonkers over McClurkin.

    Sully's reader opines:

    It wasn't the "right" thing to say politically, but it was the right thing to say.  The national media certainly wouldn't have reported on it had he left homosexuality out of this particular speech.  All he accomplished, by sticking to his principles, was run the risk of alienating people whose support he desperately needs.  Though, in fairness, this did cement my support.

    Andrew, this man is a strong ally.  Anyone for whom sexuality issues are important would be making a grievous error to jump his ship over the Donnie McClurkin fiasco.

    Andrew adds: "Can you imagine Senator Clinton defending "homosexuals" in front of a non-gay crowd?"

    Exactly.

    Along those same lines, don't miss the op-ed this week in the Blade by regular Citizen-reader Don George, "Obama's the true uniter":

    Take-away quote:

    If Americans are ever to overcome our ungovernable 50–50 stalemate on most issues, we need a leader who can reach across hardened, age-old divisions. Obama is possibly that man. He has a record of talking truth to evangelical churches about HIV and LGBT issues, and now he’s trying to bring evangelicals into his campaign.

    Obama believes that no progress will ever be made if the faith and LGBT communities are hermetically sealed off from each other, so instead of yielding to gay demands that he remove McClurkin, Obama invited Rev. Andy Sidden, a South Carolina pastor who is openly gay, to join the tour.

    That move should have been welcomed by gays. It makes no sense for the LGBT community to refuse a candidate the latitude needed to pitch a larger tent and to interact with supporters who do not see eye-to-eye with us on gay issues. There are not enough people in the country who think like us and only like us to win a presidential election.

    A counterpoint in the same issue by Jamie Kirchick hits way off the mark, which is a surprise coming from someone who usually dips further below the surface of hot-button issues. Kirchick goes so far as to compare Obama's alleged "Southern strategy" with the attempt by Richard Nixon to play the race card in the 1968 election:

    How ironic that Barack Obama — the first, serious black presidential candidate in the history of the United States — would resurrect one of the most disreputable features of the Republican Party’s campaign playbook.

    C'mon Jamie…  Don't you see a wee bit difference here?  Even if you accept that Obama selected McClurkin (which he didn't) as part of a calculated ploy to play to homophobes (which it wasn't), the huge difference here is that Nixon's political positions fit his strategy. He was no friend to African Americans or civil rights.

    Obama, on the other hand, has the strongest gay rights record ever of a serious candidate for president. So how in the world can you compare the two?

    November 02, 2007

    Hillary's Donnie McClurkins

    Posted by: Chris

    Bushcaption One week after the gay blogosphere went ballistic over Barack Obama's ties to an "ex-gay" gospel minister, the Washington Blade has an interesting story about two prominent anti-gay black ministers who Hillary Clinton has embraced as supporters.

    [Clinton supporters] said they’re generally unconcerned that anti-gay ministers Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Harold Mayberry are supporting the campaign.

    Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta once marched against gay marriage and hosts an “ex-gay” ministry. Mayberry has preached against homosexuality to his First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Oakland, Calif.

    In interviews this week, Wilson and others said they were not concerned that Clinton had accepted a $1,000 donation from Long or that she recently thanked Mayberry for “fighting for civil rights and equality,” because she has not allowed either minister to speak for the campaign.

    The Clinton backers tried to draw a distinction between Clinton accepting support from Long and Mayberry and Obama "handing a microphone" to "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin. Actually it was the Obama campaign that picked McClurkin and the candidate chose not to disinvite him, but whatever.

    Harold_mayberry Unlike McClurkin, who is a gospel singer, Bishop Long is an anti-gay leader active in anti-gay poltics, gathering thousands to march in support of Georgia's anti-marriage amendment. Likewise, Mayberry said of gays, "I'm comfortable in what I believe in. I'm not rejecting people. As God loves, we love. I don't reject thieves, I reject thievery." 

    Another blogger, MyDD, has highlighted Clinton's ties to yet another anti-gay black minister, who has a $10,000 "consulting contract" with the Clinton campaign and spoke out in favor of the state's anti-marriage amendment.

    There is an even more important distinction. Obama issued a forceful statement and gave a half-dozen interviews drawing sharp disagreements with McClurkin on gay issues. Clinton, on the other hand, has made absolutely no effort to distance herself or "speak our truth" to these anti-gay leaders.

    A Clinton spokesperson told the Blade the candidate “has been very clear” she supports gay rights, which is entirely different than making clear the views of Long and Mayberry on gay issues are not the same as her own.

    “But in campaigns, you can never expect all your supporters to agree with you 100 percent of the time,” said Jin Chon. “Hillary Clinton is a leader who will bring together people with differing opinions and have an honest and open dialogue to find common ground.”

    Where is that "honest and open dialogue"? We saw it with Obama, in a joint letter issued by anti-gay black religious leaders and gay activists.  There is no hint of it from the well-oiled Clinton campaign machine.

    Hrcequals But the soft-peddling of bigotry was, of course, enough for the "other HRC," the Human Rights Campaign:

    Brad Luna, a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, said the organization had no plans to issue a statement regarding Clinton’s ties to Long and Mayberry.

    He said the Obama campaign’s decision to let an “anti-gay reverend” headline a campaign event was “a unique situation,” but that HRC’s advice to Obama stands for Clinton, fellow candidate Sen. John Edwards and others.

    “If it’s Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama or Sen. Edwards or whoever,” he said, “we would encourage them to seek out places to have discussions among their campaign supporters and try to bridge the gap between religious leaders who might not be as good on these issues as we’d like and their GLBT supporters.”

    What crap. Can anyone imagine either Clinton or John Edwards having those kinds of discussions among campaign supporters? Meanwhile the only candidate who has, Obama, got its hand slapped by HRC, which as usual is doing the bidding of its pre-selected candidate.

    One of the most appealing things about Obama's candidacy is how he doesn't always tell a given audience exactly what it wants to hear. And given his ability to unite and not polarize (the way Clinton does, fairly or unfairly) his candidacy holds a much greater promise for the kind of honest and open dialogue we give so much lip service.

    The missing pink elephant

    Posted by: Chris

    R2 Reuters published a helpful story today, reminding us that the Log Cabin Republicans are still in existence. The story focused mainly on how more gay Republicans, like the happy South Carolina gay couple above, are coming out and joining up. 

    It's a hopeful sign and also to be expected as the social climate even in conservative parts of the country becomes accepting of gays, at least on the personal level. (It brings to mind my grandfather's memorable reminder to me as a young boy about black people. "Not all of them are n***ers," he said, peeling away the first layer of bigotry anyway.)

    The Reuters article notes in passing that Log Cabin won't be endorsing a candidate for president in this election cycle. If true, that decision is as much a head-scratcher as the attack ad the group released on Mitt Romney, which avoided all mention of his flip-flips on gay rights issues.

    Giuliani_in_drag2 I understood and agreed with Patrick Guerriero's decision in the 2004 election cycle to refuse to endorse President Bush, given his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning states from marrying gay couples.  But three of the top four candidates in the GOP primary — Giuliani, McCain and Thompson — oppose that same amendment.

    And one candidate — Rudy Giuliani — backs workplace protections, hate crime laws and domestic partner recognition. He has also said he's in favor of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," although he has backed off that pledge during the campaign, saying a time of war is no time to make such a change.

    There are all sorts of disappointments in how Rudy has handled gay issues during the campaign, but there's also little surprise, given that Log Cabin has been virtually invisible, and there's no sign that they've encouraged or pressured or had any contact whatsoever with the Giuliani campaign.

    The Log Cabin Republicans have been forever the subject of much grief within the gay community because of the GOP's horrendous gay rights record. But as former president Rich Tafel was fond of saying, the movement needs them there at the table, making the case for our equality within the Republican Party. And to be at that table, Log Cabin has to continually pay its dues, which means backing Republicans whenever it can, even though that's enormously unpopular within the gay activist crowd.

    Rudy Giuliani, for all his faults, has by far the best record of any serious GOP presidential candidate, much less frontrunner. Log Cabin ought to be vocally supporting him and prepared to endorse him.

    For a complete news summary of gay issues in the Republican presidential primary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/gopprimary

    November 01, 2007

    AP pulls a reverse-Onion

    Posted by: Chris

    Trailblazing_3 The AP has put out a story on that study about former high school football players who dabble in man-on-man action. Funny how the wire service manages to report the results while leaving out a huge salient fact:

    A new study, which will be published in the Journal of Sex Roles, suggests that one third of former American high school football players have had sexual relations with other men.

    Sociologist Dr. Eric Anderson, who is credited with being the first openly gay high school coach during his tenure at Huntington Breach High in the early nineties, conducted research questionnaires with a small sample of ex-high school football players who said that they have had some sexual contact with other men.

    As I noted in a blog post this week, that "small sample," which is never described in greater detail by AP, was a rather select one: 

    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.

    No mention of "the male cheerleader factor" in the AP story. I guess that would read more like "dog bites man" than "man bites dog."

    Obama and gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamarocks762526 Fresh off the senseless flap over an "ex-gay" gospel singer on his campaign tour, Barack Obama was hit with questions about gay marriage three times this week, two of them on national television.

    Alex Lamb, a gay student from Coe College, asked about the issue during a MTV/MySpace event that was broadcast live nationally, acknowledging in his question that Obama (like all the leading Democrats) favors civil unions and not marriage:

    I want to make sure those civil unions are exactly equal in how the federal government treats people. Right now there are about 1,200 laws that are not applying to people with civil unions even if those civil unions are recognized by the states, and as president of the United States I want to change it.

    (Video of the exchange, along with a follow-up question about the "ex-gay" controversy, follows in the jump).

    He reiterated his support for civil unions at a smaller Iowa gathering later in the day, and in specifics that we never hear from front-runner Hillary Clinton. The Des Moines Register reports:

    At the Cedar Rapids Public Library, Abbi Swanson wanted to know what the U.S. senator from Illinois would do to help her son, who is gay, gain the same marital protections as heterosexuals.

    Obama repeated his stand that he is against gay marriage, but for civil unions that offer the same benefits as traditional marriage. He told about 150 people at the library that he couldn't endorse traditional marriage for gay and lesbian families.

    "You want the word marriage and I believe that the issue of marriage has become so entangled -- the word marriage has become so entangled with religion -- that it makes more sense for me as president, with that authority, to talk about the civil rights that are conferred" with civil unions, Obama said. Individual denominations should make the decisions about what to recognize as a marriage, he said.

    Obamaellenblog Then finally, after dancing his way on to Ellen DeGeneres' daytime chat show, Obama put an exclamation point on his civil unions support:

    "You know what I would do is immediately set up a civil union that is equal in federal rights so that all the states, all the rights that are conferred by the states are the same for gays and lesbians, same sex couples as for any other couple," he said. "In terms of marriage, what I would do is I would say each religious denomination can make their own decision."

    The commitment to push civil unions at the federal level "immediately" is fairly unprecedented, as Jennifer Vanasco pointed out. That puts him far out in front of Hillary or John Edwards, who have stayed very very vague on what exactly "civil unions" means to them.  Obama is talking about the federal government treating state-issued civil unions the same as it does state-issued married licenses. That would represent huge progress.

    But it still leaves out gay married couples (in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and elsewhere), as well as long-term gay couples in states that don't have marriage or civil unions (or domestic partnerships like in California, Washington, Hawaii, etc.).  Obama has said he favors repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (not half-repeal like Hillary) so that would take care of married couples, and his questionnaire to the Human Rights Campaign favored federal recognition for long-term couples as well. 

    Finally, there is the sticky issue of religion and marriage. Obama has repeated the theme of leaving marriage to religion, which generally angers gays because we seek civil marriage, not to force religious denominations to wed us.  Obama clearly knows that, so why does he keep saying it?

    I think the answer is in the MTV/My Space event, where he talked about how marriage has become "entangled" with religion. He's actually got that backward, since marriage was a religious institution that became "entangled" with civil rights and responsibilities. Either way, he's clearly right about why marriage is such a time-bomb of a word for most people.

    I suggested years ago, when Vermont first created civil unions for gay couples, that the government simply extend "civil unions" to everyone and leave the word "marriage" entirely to the private sphere. That will never happen anytime soon, but it's the direction Obama seems to be headed. And since he is reiterating that civil unions won't impact religious marriage, which is true, his overall point is well taken.

    He would do well, however, to reiterate that gays aren't even seeking to infringe on religious denominations; otherwise this religion issue is a straw man is of his own making and will continue to rankle.

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

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