June 29, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
This is something that is possible only in San Francisco.
Even though it was foggy yesterday, my partner and I drove to the top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco because the guide book claimed that this gave one of the best views of the city --- and we were hoping the fog would clear by the time we reached the top. Upon reaching the summit, we noticed 3 TV news vans and an overflowing parking lot. This was bit puzzling considering the bad weather. We soon discovered that there was a party at the top -- with a band, majorette, an Academy Awards like pink runway, hundreds of people and thousands of pink balloons.
The special occasion was the annual christening of a giant pink triangle displayed on the side of this the highest hill in the city. Every year for Pride an organization called the “Friends of the Pink Triangle” lays out a giant pink triangle (made of cloth) about the size of a football field overlooking the Castro, and it can be seen throughout the city.
It is quite an event. The mayor comes and christens the pink triangle with a bottle of champagne and then there is a party on top of Twin Peaks.
The “Friends of the Pink Triangle” explain in, you guessed it, pink handouts, that this is to remind people of the senseless and irrational hatred that existed against gay people in the past, but which unfortunately still exists in many quarters today.
We waited a while for Mayor Gavin Newsom to arrive so the ceremony could begin. Several limos drove up, but queens, not the mayor emerged. The mayor was behind schedule or maybe he has become used to "gay time." We didn't wait for him. The next place in our guide book was beckoning and we had a schedule to keep. We were on vacation.
June 27, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The recent "education" efforts by Log Cabin Republicans about John McCain's gay rights record appear to have paid off -- our friends over at Gay Patriot reported yesterday that LCR president Patrick Sammon recently met personally with the presumptive GOP nominee. The private meeting wasn't on McCain's public calendar -- much like a secret meeting he had with Hispanic Republicans -- but Sammon has confirmed it:
We’ve had a series of productive meetings with the campaign since Sen. McCain won the nomination—including a recent meeting with the Senator. We expect to have more conversations with the campaign as we head toward November.
It would be very easy to overplay the significance of this get-together. Bruce (Gay Patriot) portrays it as historic -- the first time since Bob Dole reversed himself and decided to accept a contribution from Log Cabin back during his 1996 run for the White House.
On the one hand, having a gay rights group with "a place at the table" in the McCain campaign is a good thing, so long as they don't give away the store just to be in the room. (That's three mixed metaphors in one sentence, for those of you counting at home.) With McCain's recent backpedaling on a federal marriage amendment -- the one gay-friendly position he's taken in decades of public life -- it's important for someone with access to help him hold steady in the face of pressure from social conservatives.
On the other hand, within the 24 hours after news of the meeting had leaked, the McCain folks were showing their true colors. First they told Politico's Ben Smith that it was pure coincidence that McCain and Sammon even shook hands:
A McCain aide emails that the Log Cabin Republicans that the meeting, about two weeks ago, wasn't a formal one. "They were in the office for a meeting with staff and Sen. McCain dropped by. It wouldn't have been on the schedule anyway."
Then later they "corrected" that impression:
The same McCain aide corrects: "The meeting with Log Cabin Republicans a few weeks ago was scheduled as a meeting with the senator. Our mistake. Like Sen. Obama, every single campaign-related meeting he has isn’t alerted to the press."
The immediate effect on the campaign appears minimal as well. Yesterday, the same day the meeting went public, proponents of the ballot measure that would amend California's constitution to overturn the landmark gay marriage ruling were bragging they'd received an email in support from the Arizona senator:
The ProtectMarriage.com campaign says it received an e-mail from McCain Thursday in which the Arizona senator expressed his support for the group's efforts "to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman."
McCain's position on the amendment isn't that surprising, given that he recorded TV ads in support of a much more draconian amendment in Arizona that would have banned gays from marrying, entering civil unions or domestic partnerships, and even prohibited public agencies, hospitals and universities in his home state from extending health and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
(That Arizona measure is the only gay marriage ban ever defeated at the ballot box; a more limited marriage amendment stalled this week in the Arizona Senate.)
Even still, McCain's willingness to reach out on the California ballot measure greatly undermines (some would say blows a nuclear-sized hole in) the effort by Log Cabin to use Republican Gov. Arnold Scwarzenegger as some sort of stand-in for McCain on the issue. Here's how LCR put it in their McCain education package:
When the California Supreme Court affirmed the state legislature in May 2008 and paved the way for marriage equality in the Golden State, Sen. McCain issued a statement saying that the people of California should decide the issue.
Sen. McCain's strongest California supporter, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), issued a statement immediately following the California Supreme Court's ruling saying: "I respect the Court's decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
It appears Rovian-Melhman politics hold greater sway at McCain campaign headquarters than the typical desire of presidential nominees to move to the political center once they've wrested their party's backing. That's not good news for Log Cabin's leaderships, which appears willing to stake its reputation on an "inside" relationship with McCain.
Posted by: Kevin
Today is National HIV Testing Day in the United States. It's an annual opportunity to focus on the fact that as many as 300,000 Americans are HIV-positive and don't know it. That's between 25% and 30% of the total number of people with HIV in America. They are undiagnosed, and therefore they are not in treatment and more likely to die of AIDS.
The best research indicates that this segment of the HIV-positive population could be behind as many as 70% of new infections.
So much for the idea that the AIDS crisis is over.
And it seems the American people are not blind to this reality. The Test for Life campaign last night released a poll, conducted by Peter Brodnitz, Barack Obama's presidential campaign pollster, which has some interesting results: 88% of likely voters believe that HIV and AIDS are still "a serious problem" in the United States, and 43% - a plurality of respondents - perceive that it has gotten worse over the last decade.
What's more, 65% of likely voters support making HIV testing a routine part of medical care, rather than something that Americans must skulk off to an anonymous clinic to have done. This is a highly important result because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines way back in 2003, then made them into recommendations in 2006, which called for HIV testing to become a routine procedure for Americans between the ages of 13 and 64, as an immediate measure to close this gap of people unaware of their status, and therefore not getting treatment and infecting others.
The medical profession has resisted or ignored the guidelines for too long, but state and local governments are finally realizing they have no choice. The high number of people, mostly men of color, receiving late diagnoses and entering treatment after the onset of AIDS, reflects a total failure in our national AIDS strategy. Routine testing has been the missing element. In New York City, the Bronx has decided it must find every way possible to ensure that every adult in the borough gets tested within the next three years.
Even First Lady Laura Bush says that HIV-related stigma must be ended, and that it is imperative that every American get tested for HIV. Barack Obama himself got a public HIV test when he visited Kenya. President Bush's global HIV/AIDS relief program (PEPFAR) is awaiting approval in Congress, and the new program will massively increase the amount of money for fighting the disease abroad. There is never enough funding for each community's needs here at home when it comes to the myriad of problems that AIDS causes around us.
But nothing would be more powerful than you, yourself, marching down to your doctor's office or the local clinic and getting an HIV test today, this weekend, or next week. Knowing the truth could save your life, and the lives of others. HIV is only a death sentence if you want too long to find out.
June 25, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It’s Pride season again and this grumpy gay man is wondering when we’re all gonna grow up already. For years now, a lot of us Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers have watched as the whole Gay Pride thing seemed in arrested development – all rainbows and pink triangles, just like our baby Prides lo those many years ago.
Back in the day, Gay Pride parades felt edgy – even dangerous. As recently as the early ’90s, when I came out, gays were non-existent on television and the butt of jokes in the movies. AIDS was going full-tilt, mowing down a generation of gay men and scaring the bejeesus out of those of us in the one that followed.
I still remember how my heart was pounding when a hot summer afternoon traffic jam back in 1990 forced me practically into the parade route for Atlanta Pride. I circled the gayborhood in my car for an hour, sun visor down and heart pounding.
A couple of years later, still neither out nor proud, I rode my bike along the outskirts of Capital Pride in Washington, D.C., and I remember being shocked (shocked!) that Laura Branigan had agreed to perform for these perverse masses.
Since then, of course, gay has gone mainstream and the new generation gays seems blissfully non-plussed about what all the fuss is about. We’ve gone from Jerry Falwell hissing at Ellen “Degenerate” for coming out on prime time to the Republican candidate for president coming on to her daytime chat show to wish her well in her pending nuptials.
But have Gay Pride events and their accompanying movement matured along with the culture? For years now, big city Pride fests seem geared more for the suburbs and surrounding region, places where coming out is still edgy and being proud can still be dangerous.
It’s maturation only in the cushy couch potato sense. Those energized calls for equality of yesteryear – the air filled with chants of protest and counter-protest – have been replaced by crass commercialization and corporate sponsors. Even the bible-thumper with barely legible placard seem to be phoning it in.
With the exception to a few political bromides and opportunistic candidates, most Pride stages are fluff entertainment these days. There’ll be folk rock for the dykes; bad drag and disco for the fags.
All that’s not bitter, just descriptive. If Pride still helps clear the closets of suburbanites, small town queers and rural gays, while even raising a bit of homo and hetero awareness, then it’s better than harmless fun.
The real problem is that our gay civil rights movement also seems trapped puberty, or worse yet gone fat and complacent, losing any connection to those of us who’ve been “out” longer than we were “in” at this point.
There’s a dangerous disconnect here. The deep and broad cultural advances we’ve made as gay and lesbian Americans have not been matched by political and legal advances. At the federal level, there’s not a single gay rights law on the books – still. Congress has refused to protect us from discrimination at work or at home, and even hate crimes meant to terrorize us go unchallenged except as petty crimes.
What’s worse, Uncle Sam himself is still discriminating against us. Not only are our valid marriages and civil unions refused any federal recognition, but our brave gay service members still risk discharge even as they risk their lives.
The political party that calls itself our friend and champion took back the Congress almost two years ago, and yet even the most benign legislation on our behalf remains as mired in the mud as ever – despite bipartisan backing and overwhelming public support.
Despite landmark gains in the courts and some select state capitals, the D.C. beltway remains the blackhole of the movement, sucking up millions with nothing to show for it. The bloated organization that sits at the head of our movement pays outrageous salaries to its top executives – more than a quarter-million dollars annually to its leader alone and six-figures each to almost another dozen – even though their signature achievement is to have none.
When workplace and hate crimes bills died an ugly death this year, the “largest gay political organization” issued a press release – thanking the failed leaders of Congress. Do we really think we will “nice” our way to equality?
Hoping we’ll forget the broken promises of the 2006 election, the Democrats and their apologists at the Human Rights Campaign are claiming anew that this is “the election our lives depend on,” as former HRC chieftain Elizabeth Birth has been saying every November since anyone can remember.
All that’s not bitter; it’s descriptive -- and angry. If only some of that energy will rub off on all those g.d. rainbows.
Posted by: Chris
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Posted by: Andoni
When I related the story of the Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico going wild to find illegal immigrants in "That 5 a. m. bang on the door" several of you responded that this is the reason we need to move forward quickly with “Real ID.”
Let me tell you, I ran face to face into Real ID today and it isn’t a pretty site.
Today I accompanied a foreign student, here legally, who wanted to get a state ID so he doesn’t have to carry his passport everywhere he goes. Here is how you get a state id. First you have to get a social security number. However, because he is not eligible for a social security number, he has to apply for a social security number and receive a “denial letter” saying he can’t have a social security number. With the social security denial letter, he has to go to the state drivers licensing office (this is whether he simply wants an ID or a drivers license) and show them the denial letter. He also have to bring a ton of documents to prove who he is and that he is here legally: passport, I-94, I-20, and utility bills and bank statements tying you to the address you claim.
After several hours of waiting in lines, things went well, until the very end. That is when the bureaucrat went to the Homeland Security new database called SAVE (started in January) to verify the information. That’s when she found that Homeland Security had entered his birthday into their database incorrectly. All the other documents had the same correct birthday, but Homeland Security had something different. Everything else matched, passport numbers, I-94 numbers, etc., but because the manually entered birthday did not match, he was stamped DENIED.
It’s quite possible that if I were not standing next to him, speaking good English and wearing a T-shirt with an American flag, they might have carried him away to detention.
They gave him a letter with instructions on what to do next. Following the instructions he called the 888 number on the letter to reach the proper department within Homeland Security but the number had been disconnected. I called my Congressman’s office and got the correct number. After calling Homeland Security, we were on hold for 30 minutes. After going through several people, they told us that the only way to correct the database was to appear in person at a Homeland Security Office, but the appointment had to be made online. This person then proceeded to give me the webpage address to make the appointment. It was the wrong url address. After several tries of all the permutations, I did a Google search and found the correct url. Unfortunately the first appointment available was over a month away.
I am quite angry over what happened. The error was on the part of Homeland Security, but it is the person who suffers. Common sense would tell you that it was a simple data entry error, but the victim is the one who has to go out of his way to correct it. This is also an example of being presumed guilty, until you can prove your innocence.
I’m for Real ID, but I am not for incompetence. If this system is to work, bureaucrats cannot be making these kinds of errors.
In a similar vein, there is legislation in the works that would force employers to fire any employee whose social security number does not match the one in the national database. Experts say that up to 20% of the social security database has errors. If my experience today in happens with an obvious minor typo error is any indication of the future, hundreds of thousands of legal workers will be fired and not be able to clear things up in time to save themselves from the dire consequences that come from losing your job and not being able to work.
I will keep you posted on the situation I described today, but I am not happy. This could turn out to be like the Do Not Fly List, where it is nearly impossible to correct the government’s error. I guess I should be thankful we discovered this problem on the new database ourselves. Had we not discovered it, it’s possible the immigration officer at the airport would have discovered it on this person’s next entry to the United States, and deported him on the spot. These officers have a history of denying entry for the most minor reason.
Real ID might be a good idea in theory, but the evidence I saw today makes me think that at the moment it will do more harm than good. Before we can have Real ID we have to have our databases as near to 100% correct as possible and have in place a mechanism where errors can be quickly and easily corrected.
June 24, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
Gay Democrats, along with their party, are moving to unite themselves behind the certain nominee, Senator Barack Obama. The Human Rights Campaign quickly endorsed Obama after he secured enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination, and many leading activists are calling for the gay community to unite behind Obama.
In this environment, I want to pose a strategy question for reader responses:
Say we unite behind Obama now and end all debate over his candidacy in June 2008 -- and he wins the presidency. If Obama then subsequently pulls back from gay issues once in office due to political considerations, and fails to deliver on his promises, what leverage will the gay and lesbian community have over him?
Let's hear your opinions.
June 23, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Remember the clever theory advanced by Log Cabin blogger Kevin Norte about how the ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California was actually "revising" rather than "amending" the state's constitution?
Well it's now officially a legal claim:
In a legal brief filed late Friday with the high court, the gay rights groups argue that the initiative is a "revision" of the state Constitution, which would require involvement of the Legislature, rather than simply an amendment, which can be approved by a majority vote in an election. …
The suit has been brought by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and other gay and civil rights groups -- interesting bedfellows for our gay Republican friends. I offered my own view (here and here) about why the claim being advanced here is unlikely to prevail on the merits, but the L.A. Times report makes it sound as if it won't even get that far:
Legal experts said the supporters of same-sex marriage face a difficult task in getting the justices to block a vote on the initiative. Typically, courts allow initiatives to proceed to a vote and then consider constitutional arguments on them if they pass. The court indicated it would rule on the petition this summer.
All that said, the argument is an interesting one and the legal issues are very much open to interpretation. In a kitchen-sink battle like the one over gay marriage in California, you can see why they're throwing any and everything to see what sticks.
That said, and here I go again with hating on LCR, it is surprising to see gay Republicans associated with an effort to prevent the voters from deciding the question. Generally the "unelected judges" are the bad guys, right?
(Photo of gay newlyweds via Los Angeles Times)
Posted by: Chris
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June 20, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I'm traveling and while on the plane today I read a great opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Terry Garlock on why he supports same sex marriage. It's entitled "Conservatives wrong to fight gay marriage." I wish more conservatives would see it this way.
Posted by: Kevin
It seems like left-leaning readers of this blog love to comment up a storm, while the right-leaning ones tend to send emails. I've gotten more than a few lately about whether it's time for me to attack the mother ship -- i.e. Citizen Crain himself -- over the perception that despite his so-called "independent" label, he is not only backing Barack Obama for President, but he's firmly in the tank for him.
Given the recent "pissing match" Chris got into with the bitches at Queerty, which might soon drag Dan Renzi into the ring as well, I thought - why not?
Let's all go for his throat, shall we? Let's bring the pissing match home! (Yee-hah!)
First of all, there are the tit-tat lists marked SUPPORTS and OPPOSES that try to compare Obama and McCain on a host of issues that Chris selects as the decisive ones. Most recently, he made this list in order to castigate Log Cabin Republicans for even putting out a message to their members to get feedback on their endorsement decision. He also went out of his way to point out that Log Cabin was "ignoring" recent statements that cast much doubt on the firmness of McCain's opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, but he didn't mention that Log Cabin's own summary of McCain's record includes his positions on all the major gay issues.
There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to distinguish "why" McCain was opposed to FMA versus "why" Obama is, as if to show a world of difference between the fact that both of them voted against it. That has irked some friends of mine, who say that is the mark of a tank soldier rather than a critical observer - someone who accuses others of "tortured" arguments when he himself is waterboarding the context of a significant and "brave" action by McCain.
Chris has also been accused of really going on a tirade against Log Cabin for months, even criticizing them for their ad campaign against Mitt Romney, a man who all of us can agree had to be stopped. That made some resentful and confused. That he also dug up a racist pin that some vendor was peddling at a state GOP convention led one fellow blogger and friend to comment in an IM: "Give me ten minutes and I'll find you 100 vile buttons from Democrats and left-wingers about "Bush and Dick" as well as others attacking religious faith, calling Bush a terrorist, etc. Doesn't make any of it relevant."
And finally, there is the attack on McCain's personal life, and convicting McCain of having committed adultery against his first wife with his now-wife with mere hearsay evidence. That has enraged some people that don't even like McCain, and raised the question (in their minds) about "how far up Obama's ass Chris Crain has gone," as one friend said in an IM to me.
Amidst the daily barrage of criticism of McCain from the Citizen in question, there have been little to no questions or perspective or pondering of what might come next on the Democratic side, the natterers say. Almost as if scrutiny of Obama should now end, and we should all drive towards the breach and open fire on the enemy until November. But so many questions remain.
- Will Obama campaign against the Florida anti-marriage amendment? Will he be willing to stake his his presidency on it? Because if not, then why should McCain? Frankly - that's a fair question from a purely objective standpoint. What's our answer? We need independent voices out there demanding one, and putting Obama to the test.
- Do we want to push McCain further in our direction on gay issues before the election? If so, will going after his personal life achieve that? What could achieve that? I would hazard a suggestion, based on the man's entire political career thus far: independent voices would.
- Do we want to really follow through with Andoni's excellent post on the need for the gay community to throw out its outmoded and failed political strategic framework and forge one more in line with today? If so, does rushing off to the Obama army in June achieve that, or does it just cause the gay issue in general to evaporate? Tell you what - independent voices are what this community's political leadership has almost none of today, and you can see what it leads to.
- Is it even wise for us to pretend that the national gay vote is going to mobilize around gay issues alone in 2008? Sure, we must rally with ruthless discipline in California. Everyone knows that. But what about the rest of us? And what about all the other issues that we all care about? Is the gay community truly made up of happy left-wing New Deal Democrats who want more farm subsidies, less free trade, presidential summits with Iran and Venezuela, and a dialogue with Hamas? Come on. The debate led by an independent gay blog should recognize the reality that we are definitely NOT.
So, with all of this evidence of his blameworthiness, and the power of the torch-holding mob behind me, I therefore say that yes, I shall now render judgment on Chris Crain's head.
I point my fist at thee and cry: GUILTY! GUILTY! Get thee from that tank!
(Now stop bothering me y'all, and have a nice weekend everyone. It's June. Go to the damn beach. And use the comment feature more, will ya?)
Posted by: Chris
The "Daily Show" skewering was just about as you'd expect in its "coverage" of the first same-sex marriages in California. My favorite was when Jon Stewart noted that Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, the first gay couple to wed in L.A., had a traditional Jewish ceremony -- and then imagined what it would be like for children to be raised by two Jewish moms.
That good fun along with the usual lampooning of conservatives and a funny bit on Sulu fencing shirtless can be found in the video after the jump.
But following Jon Stewart's opening riff, he pivoted to a conversation with correspondent John Oliver, dressed in a tux, who proudly announced he had gone "gay for America," getting married to a man to resolve his own visa issues and remain in the U.S. It turns out the joke's on him because his groom, "Daily Show" regular Jason Jones, is Canadian and likewise green-card minded.
Well, actually fellas, the joke's on us -- us being the thousands of gay Americans in relationships with foreign citizens. Not only are jokes on national television about fake gay marriages to get green cards decidedly unhelpful to our cause, they're also a gross distortion of reality. As we know all too well, marriage licenses issued to gay Americans and their spouses in California, Massachusetts, Canada or anywhere else have absolutely no effect on our spouses' immigration rights because they are completely unrecognized by the U.S. federal government. (In fact, they could get a partner on a temporary visa deported because it's evidence they intend to live here long term.)
All that's due, of course, to the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- authored back in 1996 by Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr, voted for by would-be Democratic veep Sam Nunn and GOP presidential nominee John McCain, defended to this day by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and signed into law by her husband.
We "love exiles" know all too well that our partners will have no legal standing for immigration purposes based upon our relationships until DOMA is either repealed or struck down -- and Log Cabin pal McCain has said he'll back an amendment to the U.S. constitution banning gay marriage if the latter (or no doubt the former) should happen.
Or, Congress could enact the Uniting American Families Act, which gets around the marriage issue by allowing gay Americans in committed, long-term relationships to sponsor our partners for U.S. residence without requiring a marriage license. Of course, all those "Daily Show" only make that fight more difficult by suggesting straight foreigners will game the system by faking gay relationships for U.S. visas.
The reality is that most heterosexuals would it a lot easier and more palatable to fake a straight relationship, but we also know that reality is only an infrequent visitor to debates over gay rights and immigration -- much less the two together.
So thanks, Jon and Colin. With friends like you, who needs James (Dobson) and Pat (Robertson)?
Hat tip: Andoni
(Don't forget -- Jon Stewart's truly funny riff on California gay marriage follows after the jump.)
Posted by: Chris
June 19, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I expected some bitchy reaction to my post earlier today about the curious selection of "Real World" alum Dan Renzi to be the editor of the Express Gay News, Fort Lauderdale's LGBT paper. Discussing Renzi's "unusual" journalism cred, I pointed to his stint as queen bitch on the gay blog Queerty, and I wondered out loud "whether the content-'lite' snarkiness of reality TV and Queerty will play well" at a community newspaper with so many politically serious readers.
No reax as of yet from Renzi himself, but the Queerty queens pretty much flipped a gasket:
Homo blowhard Chris Crain doesn’t approve of Real World alum Dan Renzi’s editorial appointment at Floridian fag-rag Express Gay News. And who would? Consider Renzi’s coverage of gay marriage in California: “Who wants to write a story for me about the whole gay marriage thing?” Nice. And, yes, we know Renzi once edited this very blog, but he doesn’t anymore - one guess why.
In the years since he left, new folks have helped redirect this site. Crain knows that, of course, but still used his column to take a shot at us. Thanks, Crain, you dick.
Actually, I would agree that Queerty's reporting has improved quite a bit since Renzi's departure. Just yesterday I listed it among the 15 sources I look to for gay political news.
Funny enough, the anonymous (scared?) author of the Queerty post shared my concerns about Dan Dan the editor man and went on to proved my point (with an exclamation point) about just how tired and vacuous the catty queen stereotype has become.
(More evidence of that last point: "Pissing match between Chris Crain and Queerty Leaves Real World-er Dan Renzi Soaking Wet")
Posted by: Chris
There appears to be some hope that the Log Cabin Republicans are having second thoughts -- or at least giving some thought -- to whether they should endorse John McCain, who opposes absolutely any and every form of gay civil rights protection. Marc Ambinder reports:
The Log Cabin Republicans aren't sure whether they plan to endorse John McCain, or whether extending a presidential endorsement is even necessary. … When I last checked with the group and with the McCain, they were working to find a mutually convenient time for McCain to meet with the LCR board.
He also attached a copy of an email sent to LCR members asking for their input on the question:
However the LCR board may feel, the national staff led by Patrick Sammon appears clearly leaning toward a McCain nod. Hopefully Log Cabin members will educate themselves about McCain's real record and pressure the board to withhold endorsement unless McCain backs away from at least his most extreme anti-gay positions.
This "inclusive leader," as LCR calls him, is night and day on gay issues as compared with Barack Obama; more so even than the differences between George W. Bush and John Kerry four years ago. Let's break it down just on the issue of relationship recognition:
- OPPOSES repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of valid state same-sex marriages, and allows anti-gay states to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states;
- OPPOSES civil unions and even domestic partnerships;
- OPPOSES federal recognition of civil unions or DPs;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments banning gays from marrying and recognizing gay marriages from other states;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments banning civil unions and domestic partnerships;
- FAVORS state constitutional amendments that ban public agencies, universities, hospitals, etc from even offering D.P. benefits;
- OPPOSES judicial authority to strike down state laws that ban gays from marrying;
- OPPOSES immigration rights for gay Americans to sponsor non-American partners for residence and citizenship;
- opposes a federal marriage amendment but has said he would change his mind on that if some very open criteria are met.
- FAVORS civil unions issued by states AND federal recognition of those civil unions the same as marriages;
- FAVORS full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act;
- OPPOSES state constitutional amendments blocking gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships or DP benefits;
- SUPPORTS judicial authority to strike down state laws that ban gays from marrying;
- FAVORS immigration rights for gay Americans to sponsor non-American partners for residence and citizenship;
- OPPOSES a federal marriage amendment under any circumstances.
The only thing these two have in common on the issue is opposition in principle to the idea of gay marriage itself, an issue both agree that states -- not Congress or the president -- should be deciding anyway. While they both voted against a federal marriage amendment, McCain has of late conditioned his opposition in major ways -- a major flip-flop that LCR has to-date refused even to publicly acknowledge much less criticize.
LCR is right that the endorsement decision is "crucial" -- crucial to the organization's credibility as committed to gay civil rights.
Posted by: Andoni
It’s 5 a.m. You are lying in bed in your home and there’s loud banging on the door. Someone shouts “Pizza delivery.” What do you do? Thinking it’s a mistake, you ignore it, but the banging continues, only now more people begin to shout, “Animal control.” Then someone tries to open a window and climb in. It’s dark outside. The person is too big for the window and stops trying.
You are frozen with fear and the next thing you hear is “County Sheriff, open up.”
You go to the door and open it and immediately many men push themselves into your house and start slapping you around. They have uniforms and badges. They rush through the house and round up the rest of your family and make them go outside in their night clothes and underwear. This includes your grandmother who is terminally with cancer and your sister who is 8 months pregnant. You ask the uniformed men to be gentle, but they don’t seem to care. You ask them what they want and they don’t answer.
Finally, they say they are there because you have dogs and they aren’t licensed. You tell them you do have licenses for your two dogs and offer to produce the paperwork. They don’t care. Then they look around and then claim your refrigerator is illegal.
They make you stand outside barefoot while thy ramsack your house searching for something which they never indicate what they are looking for.
Then they come back outside and want you to prove you are US citizens. You tell them your social security number, but they claim it’s fake. You tell them you have a drivers license but they don’t want to see it. They drag you and your family off to the county jail where you sit for days, no attorney, no charges.
Only several days later, the fingerprint and social security data comes back from the federal government proving you and your brother are citizens, but the rest of your family are not. You and your brother are released and the rest of your family is deported.
After you are released you get an attorney and find out that the police had no warrant, no probable cause or anything else to come to your house in the middle of the night other than someone seeing you come and go and observing you were of Mexican descent.
This is a true story from New Mexico folks and I heard many, many others just as bad as this one when at the ACLU membership conference in Washington DC last week.
This type of police action is going on in community after community by local law enforcement. These out of control police vigilante units are the result of a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act called 287 g. The original idea was to increase the manpower of federal immigration authorities by allowing the Department of Homeland Security to give special permission to local law enforcement to perform immigration law enforcement functions provided they have special training and operate under supervision of the federal authorities.
No one knows how many local police units have been deputized under 287 g agreements because Homeland Security won’t say. It’s a secret.
I know that there are dozens, possibly hundreds of such agreements in force throughout the country with little to no oversight. And very few citizens know or care that this is going on in our name.
The interesting thing is that these units target Mexican looking people, they don’t target the white people who could have come from Canada or Europe. Experts believe that up to 33% of the illegal immigrants in the country come from Europe or Canada and overstay their visas. They then blend right in and seldom get challenged or caught.
So, if you get that 5 am knock on your door and they want you to prove you are a US citizen, can you do that on the spot? You can give them your Social Security number, but there is no way for them to check that it is really your number on the spot, so if you are not white, you will be in jail for days before someone from the government proves you really are a citizen.
There are so many things wrong with what is going on, it makes me sick to my stomach. The Fourth Amendment is being violated (it applies to all people in the United States, not just citizens), you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, and there is racial profiling. Furthermore, these are out of control vigilante groups with a badge. All of this stuff is dangerous folks.
I just thought you would like to know what your government is doing in your name. We the people, we are the government, and we are responsible.
Posted by: Chris
About a month ago, Dan Renzi of "Real World 5: Miami" fame was named the new editor of the Express Gay News, the lesbian and gay newspaper for Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. It's a paper I know well, since I oversaw editorial operations there from 2003 to 2006, after Window Media's sister company purchased it about five years ago.
I was lucky enough to find a great editor for the Express; long-time gay journo Mubarak Dahir compiled an excellent record of serious, entertaining and well-rounded coverage. He was succeeded last year by Phil LaPadula, who had been a reporter at the paper dating back to before our purchase of it.
Now comes Renzi, famous mainly for his bitchy tirades more than a decade ago on "Real World." My personal favorite was the haughty lecture he gave his Miami castmates about how "superficial" they were for choosing an original fashion line as their business project. Disgusted at their shallow display, Dan quit the project and sought more depthful employment as, wait for it, a fashion model.
But hey, he was a kid back then, and thank god there weren't cameras falling my closeted conservative self around at the ripe old age of 22. Still, Renzi's journalism credentials -- a few freelance articles and a stint at Queerty -- are certainly unusual.
I'll let you be the judge about his early days as Express editor. His first big story, of course, was last month's landmark California Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Renzi posted this at the time on his personal blog:
Who wants to write a story for me about the whole gay marriage thing?
I'm thinking it will be more interesting as a column, that is not just a regurgitation of facts. Great, gay people can get married in California now. That's it for the facts.
Yeah, that pretty much sums that up. Then there was his editorial on the subject in the current issue:
The “gay marriage” topic has been beaten to death, with so many pictures of gleeful gays galavanting along the streets of the Golden State, holding hands and kissing romantically, happy to join the world in matrimonial bliss. But now the dust has settled, and we can sit back and think…marriage? Really? …
As I’m sitting here in my bed typing this, I just looked over at this man lying next to me watching TV. Marriage?...really?
Just so you know, I can sit here and type about him without him noticing. He doesn’t read, or speak, much English; we have more of a “yes-or-no” relationship, which is blissful in its simplicity. “Do you want dinner? Do you like Chinese?” That’s about it. Watch, let’s type something to him right now. Hi. Do you like your show on Telemundo? What is this talk show host yelling about? Why is he wearing a viking helmet? Telemundo is crazy. You are very sexy in my bed. You don’t know I am typing about you and it doesn’t matter. When I am finished typing this I am going to give you besos. Nope, no reaction.
I'll leave it to Latino readers whether they find that little passage offensive. My own partner spoke no English when I met him in January 2005, and I didn't know Portuguese. But we did get by in Spanish and within weeks we were both learning each other's language. Equal partners learning how to communicate; that's sort of what a real world relationship, married or otherwise, is all about, right?
Fort Lauderdale may have a Spring Break, Sodom by the Sea reputation, but it's actually home to a mature, well-read, political attuned gay population. I can't help but wonder whether the content-"lite" snarkiness of reality TV and Queerty will play well in this Peoria.
Posted by: Chris
As I begin my second week visiting Memphis during a difficult time for me and my family, I stole some time away to make a few long-needed tweaks to the blog. (Thanks very much to all of you who have posted supportive comments and messages here or on Facebook.)
As for those tweaks, for those paying attention to such things, they include:
- Filling in the Blogroll and Sources links at the upper right of the blog banner. Check out the Sources link if you're curious my take on the best gay political blogs, gay general blogs and news sources, and the best political blogs and news sources in general.
- For the link called Columns that's intended to include my weekly syndicated gay press columns, I'm directing folks to the San Francisco Bay Times, which has published each and every column since I started in November 2006 after leaving the Washington Blade. There's also a link there to almost 100 of the editorials I wrote over a number of years at the Blade. (There are another 50 or so Blade editorials that pre-date the linked compilation, as well as -- gulp -- some 200 editorials I wrote during my years editing Southern Voice newpaper in Atlanta.)
- I reformatted my own "About" page to fit the "new" blog format, and updated the text a bit from when I wrote it almost three years ago. I also went a bit hog wild with "citizen" quotes; not sure they will stand the test of time.
- Adding links in the "About" section on the righthand column that includes background links on my co-bloggers Kevin and Don George.
- In addition to my own Facebook profile, I've added one for the blog itself. If you're on Facebook, I'd love to have you as a friend and to include you on the profile for Citizen Crain as well.
- I've increased the size of the author IDs that appear before the headlines to each blog post. While I can revel with the best of them in the praise I get for blog posts written by Kevin and Andoni, I had to draw the line when a friend told me my "beautifully written" post about Ted Kennedy was my best ever -- except Kevin wrote it.
That last change didn't come soon enough to prevent my getting credit on Andrew Sullivan's blog for Andoni's post on HRC's misplaced priorities. Special thanks to Patrick, Andrew's assistant, for correcting that one.
I'm still working on other changes, including the return of the photo albums that disappeared after the blog's makeover in January. If you have any other suggestions, please do let me know.
June 18, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I nearly died last night watching mainstream TV coverage of the first same-sex marriages in California. On the NBC Nightly News, they featured the above report on a couple from Houston who went to California to get married. During the interview, this couple said they were doing it because they could not marry in their home state of Texas.
Then one of them added the following explanation: "There's over 1100 rights that married couples have immediately once they sign those papers."
How embarrassing --- from coast to coast. What this couple did was convey totally incorrect information to the over 12 million viewers that night, information that made it sound like we now have all our rights through marriage in California. The fact is that even if a same sex couple marries legally in California, they will receive none (zip, zero) of those 1100 rights that couple misled the nation into believing they had.
It's hard to believe that this couple was so uneducated to say what they said on national TV. They performed a tremendous disservice to the community. And it was sad to see NBC not catch this error.
Just imagine if the couple had done their homework and said, "Yes, we are getting married, but alas, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, we will receive none of the 1100 federal rights and benefits that an opposite sex couple gets the minute they sign the papers. Things just aren't equal yet!"
What an opportunity lost.
So, if you go to California to marry and someone puts a camera in your face, please say something smart to help the cause.
Posted by: Chris
It's a bit depressing to see Kevin Naff, my former colleague and successor at the Washington Blade, lowering the bar even further for the two HRCs: Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign.
Kevin endorsed Hillary back in January -- based not on her gay rights superiority but on her supposed general election prowess -- so I guess it's not surprising that he still had her back as she bowed out last weekend:
[Clinton] delivered her belated concession speech, promising her full support of Obama. And, contrary to the Obama camp’s claims during the primary campaign that she shies from mentioning gay issues in front of non-gay audiences, Clinton referenced her gay supporters, not once, but twice.
“Eighteen million of you from all walks of life — women and men, young and old, Latino and Asian, African-American and Caucasian, rich, poor and middle class, gay and straight — you have stood strong with me,” Clinton said.
She continued, “We all want an America defined by deep and meaningful equality — from civil rights to labor rights, from women’s rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families.”
Kevin never explains why exactly we should be impressed that Clinton waited until she was withdrawing from the race to remember her gay and lesbian supporters. Color me less than impressed. If anything, it suggests her conspicuous failure to mention gays in literally thousands of campaign appearances was a calculated ploy not to risk her support among "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans."
Now that she's out, Hillary pivots and remembers the gays, just as she frequently forgets her maiden name when running for national office and then remembers it when she's not.
Kevin's defense of the other HRC is even more curious to me because I know he knows better. Kevin takes a shot at Andrew Sullivan and Michael Petrelis for pointing out that the Human Rights Campaign leadership supported HRC the candidate far more than Barack Obama, now of course the nominee.
Mostly, Kevin seems put off that aspects of Andrew and Michael's posts had already been reported at various times by the Blade. When he gets down to substance, Kevin points out that some HRC board members also gave money to Obama. A stronger counterpoint, made by HRC Board member and lobbyist David Medina, is that Obama refused donations from registered lobbyists.
Regardless, Kevin ignores the weight of evidence -- pointed out by Andrew, Michael and your's truly (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) -- that HRC has had more than its thumb on the scale for Hillary throughout the primary season. Crediting HRC as he does with not out-and-out endorsing Hillary does not a sound rebuttal make. Are we measuring fairness by such low standards these days?
Finally, it's disappointing to see Kevin dismiss as silly Andrew's point about HRC's obsession with commercializing the movement; selling trinkets of equality -- like its latest, a T-shirt designed by Christian (I'm sorry for my "hot tranny mess" tagline) Siriano -- over and above the actual hard work of passing gay rights legislation.
Instead, Kevin credits HRC with the House passage of ENDA this session. To the contrary, there is no greater condemnation of HRC's ineptitude and "Dems or bust" "strategy" than the debacle over trans-ENDA and the failure to get either that bill or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act through both houses of Congress -- despite majority support in both chambers.
Have we really lowered the bar so far that we thank HRC for so little, so very late? The movement does not need more apologists for either HRC. We need more pressure not less on the organization, the candidate, as well as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, to once and for all deliver on the long-delayed promise of federal gay rights protections.
Kevin is usually at the forefront of doing just that; I hope he'll "find his voice" again soon.
Posted by: Andoni
President George W. Bush’s presidency has been marred by its rigid thinking with little ability to change when new circumstances on the ground dictate that new ideas, policies, or plans should be tried.
I would argue that the Human Rights Campaign has been using the same modus operandi for the past 14 years. Their two prime priorities have been Hate Crimes legislation and the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). Neither has successfully become law despite year s of trying and literally millions of dollars spent.
One would think that after 14 years of failure, some leaders of the gay movement would try to assess the situation on the ground and change priorities or strategy.
I was on the Board of Governors of HRC when they came up with the ENDA idea in 1993. Prior to that time gays were pushing for a more comprehensive civil rights bill. In 1993 polling showed that a workplace only bill with a little education could garner the votes to pass. The philosophy was easy. Try something small and do-able, then build on that.
The only problem with this approach was that Republicans took over Congress in 1994 and we never achieved the goal of passing that small carefully focused bill that was supposed to be easy. Here we are 14 years later pushing the very narrow rights bill, using the same strategy, unable to reassess things by looking at the bigger picture in our movement. Just like the Bush administration, we cannot admit failure and we cannot adjust and try something new.
If ENDA had passed in 1994, it would have been noteworthy and a great step forward. In 2008, it would be laughable it that’s all we can get after all our hard work and how far the public has moved in our direction. ENDA and Hate Crimes are way too little, way too late. Yet you don’t hear anyone from our national leadership speaking about what is important today and changing direction.
At some level I guess they realize how important it is to save and hold the marriage victory in California, but I don’t really hear the bugles sounding loudly on this to indicate what a crucial battle it is we face.
On the federal legislative level, I would argue that we should temporarily shelve Hate Crimes and ENDA and concentrate on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) first. DADT and DOMA are two pieces of legislation written into the federal laws of the land that say that not only can the federal government discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens, but they must discriminate. What kind of logic says that we should pass legislation (ENDA) that tells private companies that they cannot discriminate against gays (ENDA), when the government itself continues to discriminate against gays in some very big ways – the military, marriage, and 1200 federal benefits? This is like telling your child they can’t bloody people up in fist fights, when you the parent, set the wrong example by doing it all the time. Doesn’t make sense, right?
Similarly, this is as crazy as it would have been for black people ask for their Civil Rights Law of 1964 and Voting Rights Law of 1965 if it was still federal law that they could be slaves, were only 3/5 of a person, couldn’t serve into the military, and had to endure separate but equal schools. You have to get rid of the institutionalized discrimination in the federal government before you can pass federal legislation telling the public that it can not discriminate.
You can’t force the private sector operating in the public area to give equal rights to gays (or blacks), when the government itself has laws to discriminate against gays (or blacks) and actively does so. This is so upside down, it's crazy, illogical and hypocritical.
It’s time for Barney Barney and Tammy Baldwin and the leaders of HRC, NGLTF, Lambda Legal and the ACLU to sit down together to discuss a new strategy and new priorities. Things really need to be shuffled because we have not had any major re evaluation of our agenda and priorities since 1993 -94.
Things have changed so much that it's a totally new battleground out there and our leaders don't realize it. Public opinion has changed dramatically, marriage is our most important issue, and we have a presidential candidate in Barack Obama who would like to give us more than what our organizations are asking for. One such example of the new situation on the ground is that Obama has repeatedly said that he wants to give gay couples those 1200 federal benefits of marriage. This is huge, but I have not heard any of our organization pick up on how they will be ready to do this legislatively. They are still thinking about ENDA and Hate Crimes.
Wake up, leaders, it’s 2008, not 1994. Don’t be like Bush having set a plan in motion without ever re-evaluating it.
It’s time to reassess and make some new goals and plan new strategies.
Posted by: Chris
I defy you to watch this San Francisco Chronicle video of gay couples marrying in San Francisco this week and not be moved emotionally. I was certainly no match for it, especially since I was beaming with pride at snippets showing my friends Bruce Deming and Jeff Byrne, who met when we were all law school classmates about 10,000 years ago, tying the knot:
June 17, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
Add another flip flop to the list of Senator John McCain’s major positions today. He has just reversed his long standing stance against offshore drilling for oil.
It’s absolutely amazing the number of flip flops McCain has made over the past few years. Senator John Kerry made one flip flop and it killed his run for the presidency. McCain makes a dozen or so and he still is considered the Straight Talker. Here is a list of McCain’s flip flops from The Jed Report.
Is there a new political axiom here: Make one major flip flop and it’s political suicide, but if you make a dozen, people don’t notice?
Posted by: Chris
Over at Gay News Watch, I am posting all the stories relating to the post-primary presidential election under a new story topic called "White House 08." A few hours ago, while adding the ABC interview with Barack Obama that touched on gay marriage, it occurred to me that someone at some point is going to make a tasteless and racist joke about a black man possibly occupying the White House.
Literally within the hour, I learned that a vendor at (natch) the Texas GOP Convention had already gone there:
Another winner pin for sale? "Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Deportation."
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama got his chance to talk about same-sex marriage yesterday, in response to a question on ABC World News by reporter Jake Tapper about yesterday's wedding ceremonies in California:
OBAMA: I still think these are decisions that need to be made at a state and local level. I am a strong supporter of civil unions. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I also think that same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospitals; they should be able to transfer property…
TAPPER: Does it bother you what they're doing in California?
The setting was different, of course, from the Tennessee crowd that cheered on John McCain's promise to defend "the sanctity" of heterosexual marriage. But the candidate was even more different.
In a nationwide television interview, Obama restated his opposition to gay marriage while reaffirming the authority of states to decide the issue. In contrast to McCain's threats of late about a federal marriage amendment, Obama made no effort to carve out state supreme courts as some sort of illegitimate exception to that process.
Asked whether he was "bothered" by gay couples marrying in California, the once-married Obama also didn't pander to "the sanctity" of "traditional" marriage like the adulterous, twice-married McCain but instead issued a quick and definitive "no."
Here's the video via Towleroad:
Posted by: Chris
- SAME-SEX COUPLES BEGIN MARRYING IN CALIF.: QUICK LOOK: Before the ceremonies began, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and seven other Southern California Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage... (MORE)
- Gay marriage unlikely to influence presidential race: QUICK LOOK: Gas prices. Iraq. Health insurance. Gay marriage? As John McCain and Barack Obama battle in Ohio during the next five months, voters are not likely to hear much from... (MORE)
- Gay soldiers in Brazil face humiliating discrimination: QUICK LOOK: The imprisonment of a gay soldier in the Brazilian army has sparked a nationwide debate about sexuality and discrimination in the world's largest Catholic country. Army... (MORE)
- Elderly lesbian couple becomes first in S.F. to marry: QUICK LOOK: Cheers filled San Francisco's City Hall shortly after 5 p.m. as longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, partners for more than 50 years, began their second... (MORE)
- Gay couples in Mass. find marriage can be mixed bag: QUICK LOOK: Four years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to marry, there have been blissful unions, painful divorces and everything in between. Some... (MORE)
These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.
June 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Gay and HIV activist-blogger Michael Petrelis is the best in the gay biz at following the money. This week he compiled a few data points about the Human Rights Campaign and Hillary Rodham Clinton that are as disappointing and they are not-surprising:
FEC records show which 2008 Democratic contenders were lucky enough to take in dollars from the top people at HRC:
Hillary Clinton: $4,300
Chris Dodd: $3,000
John Edwards: $ 750
Bill Richardson: $ 500
Barack Obama: $ 0
Zero dollars for (and zero leverage with) the Democratic nominee is just about right from an organization that has made almost no effort to hide its siamese-twin (or should I say 'conjoined'?) relationship with the other HRC.
Andrew Sullivan brings it home:
Meanwhile, [Joe] Solmonese's record on Capitol Hill is, despite his breathless promises a while back, non-existent. They still haven't passed their hate crimes bill; the employment non-discrimination bill is still in limbo (they were insisting it should be the priority over marriage and the military two decades ago!), Don't Ask, Don't Tell still stands, and HRC didn't even ask the presidential candidates what their position was on the HIV immigration and tourism ban on their election questionnaire.
One reason the US still has the same HIV immigration and tourism policies as Saudi Arabia and Yemen is because the US chief gay lobby group is more interested in selling tchotchkes than standing up for gay people or people with HIV.
But fear not: they have persuaded Christian Siriano to design a "fierce, fabulous, flawless" t-shirt for the summer. This is what the suckers still give them money for.
Posted by: Chris
Over the weekend, John McCain hosted a meeting for disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters in a quixotic effort to woo them to the GOP side. I can only imagine what my friend Kevin thinks about these militant Clintonistas breaking bread with McCain, but there seems to be no end of pandering in trying to scoop them up.
Ben Smith of Politico.com reports that McCain disguised his stated preference for Supreme Court justices in the hard-right mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito by instead pointing out to the Hillary backers that he voted to confirm Bill Clinton's nominees -- Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer. Never mind the mammoth difference between the range of nominees a senator would vote to confirm and the narrow scope of choices he would make from the Oval Office himself.
And then this:
Another person who was present, but asked not to be named to avoid conflict with fellow Democrats, said he'd pressed a McCain staffer on McCain's position on same-sex marriage.
The staffer "said it was the same as [John] Kerry's position," he said.
That answer is the type of half-truth that only a Clintonista could love; it all depends on what you're definition of "same" is. Yes, McCain and Kerry both oppose gay marriage, both opposed a federal marriage amendment and both have backed amendments to state constitutions that would ban same-sex couples from marrying.
But on these and so many other points, there are all sorts of meaningful differences between the two:
- Kerry voted against and favors the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act; McCain does not.
- McCain's FMA opposition is based on states' rights; Kerry's is based on not writing discrimination against gays into our nation's founding document.
- McCain has conditioned his FMA opposition, saying he would support a federal amendment if DOMA is struck down, if judges "impose" (i.e., protect equal rights) gay marriage on a second state, or a lot of folk get worked up about the issue.
- Kerry no longer backs state constitutional amendments on gay marriage.
- Kerry had previously supported a limited state constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying; he otherwise supports civil unions, recognized in a way equal to marriage by the federal government.
- McCain supports state constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and even D.P. benefits for public workers and students at public universities.
- And, of course, Kerry never tried to use gay marriage as an applause line in public rallies, much less as a way to deflect questions about his own infidelity and abuse of the marital institution.
Otherwise, yeah, John McCain's position on gay marriage is "the same" as John Kerry's.
Posted by: Kevin
Chris' posting on John McCain, or more importantly on the competing visions of McCain put out by the Human Rights Campaign and the Log Cabin Republicans, was timely and important. And given the moment we are in now, finally having washed the Clinton mud off our shoes and looking ahead to the general election campaign, it is time to begin sizing up both of the candidates.
But I think the fair assessment of both men is not accomplished by looking at hack-speak. It's done by looking at both men, their records, and watching what happens between now and November. For us to say we definitively know what kind of president either Obama or McCain will be on gay issues right this moment is, in a word, foolishness. And it also has a tinge of hackery to it. It's natural that HRC would pump out a million-page screed against the Republican nominee in record time, whether he was John McCain or a ham sandwich. And it would also make perfect sense for Log Cabin to react against it with a protectiveness of a nominee like John McCain. There was no such veil of protection for George W. Bush in 2004. There are reasons for all of this. None of them have much to do with how Obama or McCain will be on gay rights in 2009 and beyond. Not yet, anyway.
Nor, frankly, does the question which Chris poses in the title of his post (and, hence, my own here.) For I would counterpoint not that McCain would be the best man for gay rights in this election. I would counterpoint that asking whether HRC or Log Cabin is right about him is, in fact, the wrong question.
The right question is -- do we know if Obama or McCain will be the better president, in terms of results they will deliver? And if we don't know yet, how can we best be sure to know before we have to vote in November?
Since Chris is one of the best gay journalists alive, in my opinion (talk about "ass-kissing"...), he went over, in a fairly broad way, John McCain's voting record and some of his more recent public statements in order to venture into some territory on answering the question. I've also written about the hope and ambivalence that gay Republicans feel about McCain's candidacy. Chris has done a great deal more probing on Obama's incredibly scant record, and turned up a lot more promises that have never been put to anything more than a rhetorical test.
What we both have done a lot of work on, though, is mining the rich, mineral-filled caverns of the Clintons' records on gay issues and, in doing so, our canaries turned up dead on one alarming point: don't trust mere words from people who, at the end of the day, really don't care about gay rights as much as they care about their own asses.
I'll introduce another factor. There is a notably large segment of the gay community that cares very passionately about other issues, too. Like Iraq. Like the economy. Like race. And yes, even innovation and technology (thanks, Andoni). And on those issues, there is a wealth of intensity of feeling inside those two men, and plenty of specifics to begin to judge them soundly. The pull of those issues, versus gay rights, cannot just be negated simply because this is a gay blog, and we are gay people. A guy who backs gay marriage but wants to bomb Beijing on day one is, quite frankly, fair game for debate in any community over whether it's wise to vote for him. Fair enough. So to pretend that the raging anger at John McCain among some gay people is about his vote against ENDA, and not really about his position on Iraq or on tax policy, for instance, is not only naive but insulting to all our intelligence. (I'm sure Chris is among the least afflicted, with his journalistic groundings, but come on. None of us is that shallow to be motivated by one issue alone. At least here's hoping none of us are.)
By their specific records and policy statements, for example, it is glaringly clear which man would be better for Latin America. (Guess who.) I am passionate about gay issues, and I am very, very passionate about Latin America. (For Christ's sake, I live here.) And if I'm supposed to "vote for my interests" - where exactly do all of those interests fall? Because I vote for the man who is right on farm subsidies and energy policy, does that make me an Uncle Tom? And if you vote for the man who is right on Iraq for your tastes, does that make you a traitor to America? Please. We're intelligent people, folks.
I have to say that not only can't I say I've decided between these men, but I refuse to decide right now. I'm not a hack, nor am I defending a fundraising base, or trying to use my leverage over a campaign to produce something positive on the issue of the organization I lead. I'm just a voter. And my long experience thus far with presidential campaigns teaches me that there is a long road ahead of us to November, once the primaries are done with. On gay rights alone, Obama is potentially an impressive figure. Perhaps he could be transformative. He could also be a crashing disappointment. Ditto all around for McCain. Our task is not to close off debate now and free them both to ignore us! It's to figure how to push them to the absolute limit to prove themselves before the election.
HRC proved yet again that they haven't got a clue -- and transparently revealed yet again that they are just a cog in the machine, dealing out their loyal Obama endorsement through some intern's blog, with all the requisite bitchiness of their spurned and eponymous favorite. So they will have no leverage over Obama, nor will they seek to gain any. My question is -- who will, and how will they do it? And what do we want Obama to do and say before November?
And same for McCain. We have to pressure him, and we have to do it effectively. Log Cabin is never going to walk off the stage now, especially since the much larger HRC is so useless that through their morning-after endorsement of Obama, they've once again tossed the gigantic responsibility of impacting the GOP campaign onto Log Cabin's shoulders (with the fervent hope that they'll fail). And if HRC had not put out their screed, you would not have heard from Log Cabin. That is also telling.
To answer Chris' concluding thought on Log Cabin, I can report that the desire to raise that bar every election cycle isn't just a goal, it's seared into their DNA. It is their raison d'etre. It's everything they pray for and stay awake nights strategizing over. Their decision to not endorse Bush in 2004 wasn't done with glee, it was done with a broken heart. Not because they love the Republican Party, or even liked Bush -- but because of the setback it represented in the bigger picture that the President of the United States fell backwards instead of moving forward. They took it personally, and they risked their existence on saying so. So they will carry the institutional memories of 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 into this cycle and will fight to raise that bar. I can tell you, with all the pedantry of a kindergarten teacher, my children, that they won't raise that bar in June 2008 by trumpeting to the world all the things John McCain has done wrong. No more than HRC would have reached their goal of installing the Clinton borg back to power by putting her on the hot seat at any moment during the primaries (or ever, for that matter.)
And naturally, people who want to see the GOP fail no matter what, in turn, want to see Log Cabin fail. And they will throw the kitchen sink at both from day one to achieve it (notwithstanding David Smith's shit-eating grin) and make sure Log Cabin is out-gunned, under-funded, and hit with every kind of demeaning, demoralizing crap that they can manage to hurl at them. And, quite diligently, Log Cabin will still fight to the last moment, Hillary-style if need be, to leave a space of air for McCain to step forward and raise that bar. Until they, the most hopeful of all, lose hope. Call them what you will; but that's the truth about them.
I sorely wish such a group existed on the Democratic side. I know of many, many individuals who do, and whom I admire deeply. I support them 100% in their efforts to influence Barack Obama between now and Election Day, and I'll do my part (as I'm sure Chris and Andoni also will) to air their voices on this blog.
The counterpoint is, therefore, that there is a lot left in front of us. There are 12 town hall debates coming, perhaps more. There are two party conventions. There are campaign mailings, and mistakes, and controversies and surprises all in store. We could, in fact, have the greatest presidential campaign season for gay rights in the history of the United States. Or, we can throw such an opportunity away by handing the mike to the hacks now and skipping off to happy hour 'til November. My vote, for the moment, is to be part of making history.
June 15, 2008
Posted by: Chris
[John McCain] has the right stands, in my opinion, on abortion and the sanctity of marriage. …
It’s well known he has a temper and he has been known to swear in public. The fact he divorced the wife who stuck by him and raised his children while he was in a prisoner of war camp to marry a much younger woman, doesn’t sit well with those of us who believe marriage is for life.
But, we’re not electing the person we think is the most righteous. We’re voting on the one we think will lead America in the right direction for the next four years.
Query: Is that more or less tortured than the rationalization gay Republicans will make for McCain?
Posted by: Chris
As we all ponder John McCain's applause line in Tennessee last week -- something about defending "the sanctity and unique status of
marriage between man and woman" -- we should keep in mind how the GOP nominee himself has treated the institution.
McCain originally married Carol Shepp, a statuesque former model. And yet already in McCain's early Navy years, according to a New York Times profile, "stories began to spread about Mr. McCain and young women, [and] McCain has acknowledged running around with women."
Later, during McCain's four years in captivity in Vietnam, Carol McCain waited with their three children and even endured her own tragedy: a near-fatal car crash that left her slightly disfigured, four inches shorter and with some additional weight. The Times profile recounts how McCain's "supporters and his biographer, Robert Timberg, all suggest that the marriage had already effectively ended and that the couple had separated by the time he met Cindy, his present wife":
That might be the most soothing way of explaining a politician's divorce from a disabled wife and his remarriage to a wealthy heiress, but it does not jibe with accounts of family members and friends.
'For somebody to say that [John and first wife Carol McCain] were separated or at each other's throats is just nonsense,'' [McCain friend Carl] Smith said.
Yet at precisely the time that Mr. Smith was a guest in what appeared to be a happy household, in April 1979, Mr. McCain accompanied a group of senators on a trip to China. The Navy threw a big cocktail party for the group during a stopover in Honolulu.
''John and I were talking, and then somebody tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and exchanged a few words,'' said Albert A. Lakeland, then a Senate staff member. ''When I turned around, John was gone. I looked around, and he was making a beeline for this very attractive blond woman.
''He spent the whole party talking to her, and he kept avoiding me when I approached,'' Mr. Lakeland said. After the reception, Mr. McCain and the young woman, Cindy Hensley, went out to dinner, and the romance blossomed.
Mr. McCain continued to pursue Miss Hensley, calling her to keep in touch. When she thanked him for sending flowers that had just arrived (signed ''John'') he said it was nothing. As she discovered years later, they were from another man named John.
Over the next six months, Mr. McCain pursued Miss Hensley aggressively, flying around the country to see her, and he began to push to end his marriage. Friends say that Carol McCain was in shock.
Late that year, the McCains finally separated, and Mrs. McCain accepted a divorce the next February. Mr. McCain promptly married Miss Hensley, his present wife.
And with that, McCain discarded his wife for a younger, far wealthier model, one much better suited to his political ambitions, which -- we know now -- include defending "the sanctity and unique status of marriage between man and woman."
Posted by: Chris
As a candidate two years ago for mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty courted gay voters by in part promising he would release a long-shelved opinion by the District's attorney general on whether marriage licenses issued elsewhere to gay couples should be recognized in the nation's capital. Once elected, Fenty promptly reneged on his promise, egged on in doing so by a small kabal of old school gay "activists" frightened by their own shadow, who have long provided political cover for officials eager to do absolutely nothing on such a hot-button issue.
Now two years later, in time for California's gay marriage avalanche and for Capital Pride as well, Mayor Fenty is revisiting his abandoned campaign promise, assigning his own attorney general the task of reviewing and updating the legal opinion completed but never released by then-A.G. Robert Spagnoletti, who is gay:
I have asked the interim attorney general to review all developments since his predecessor's memo on this issue, including the California Supreme Court ruling. What he will do and when he will do it has not been determined, but he is looking thoroughly and wisely.
Like many gay residents of D.C., I long ago lost patience with the marriage of convenience between the city's toothless activist establishment and gutless political establishment and the foot-dragging to the alter that has resulted. At this pace, we can expect the District to recognize gay marriage at about the same time as the gay-friendly states of Mississippi and Alabama.
The difference, of course, is that the mayor and a majority of the D.C. Council are already on record favoring full marriage equality for gays, and the District's congressional overseers -- long the excuse for inaction -- are now Democrats pledged to respect local autonomy on the issue.
I am holding out some hope despite myself for the process set in place by Fenty because his interim A.G., Peter Nickles, is someone I worked with as a young lawyer about 10,000 years ago -- OK, 15 or 16 years ago. Nickles' gruff manner and intense work style made him probably the most intimidating partner at Covington & Burling, the D.C. firm where I first worked after law school.
But in my three years by his side, including some fun work for the National Football League, I was always very impressed by his intellect, his drive and, like many Covington partners, his distinguished pro bono record, especially on behalf of prisoners in the D.C. jail.
I don't remember ever discussing being gay with Nickles, even though I was out at the law firm, which was ahead of its time in those days in welcoming openly gay lawyers. But here's hoping my old boss Mr. Nickles will do his part to make gay civil rights history, reaffirming equality under the law for the District's gay and lesbian residents.
Regardless, it is looooong past time for Mayor Fenty and the D.C. Council to stop hiding behind legal opinions and live up to their campaign promises. Not only should the District recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts, California, Canada and elsewhere, but the city's laws should be changed so that gay couples can marry in Washington, D.C., itself.
Posted by: Chris
One of the key reasons why Log Cabin Republicans are looking past John McCain's long and extensive record of opposition to any and all forms of gay civil rights is the gay GOP group's belief that, "Sen. McCain isn’t going to use gay people as a wedge issue."
The general election is in its very early days, of course, and already this week the presumptive Republican nominee is already failing to chin even that extremely low bar:
Appearing at a campaign rally in Tennessee, John McCain was met with sustained cheers after stating that he believes "in the sanctity and unique status of marriage between man and woman."
As the cheers began, McCain added "That's what I believe, that's what I support, and that's what I will fight for."
The point here isn't simply that McCain opposes gay marriage; Barack Obama does as well. The point is that the Republican is using marriage as a wedge issue with conservatives, even in a place like Tennessee that already has a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What more support could McCain offer to these voters but a federal marriage amendment?
The political reality for any not wearing partisan blinders is that McCain will use whatever leverage he has to win, especially given the unpopularity of his party and his president, not to mention the tanking economy and the unpopular war.
Log Cabin endorses McCain at its own peril, as talk like this is sure to be repeated, along with aggressive use of gay marriage as a wedge issue by the Republican National Committee and conservative 527s.
Posted by: Andoni
Today’s “Meet the Press” was devoted to remembering Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief and host of the show since 1991, who died Friday.
Over the years, one of Tim’s favorite questions was to ask aspiring politicians who came on the show if they were going to run for president. Today there was a fascinating montage of Tim asking this question to prominent guests and most of them denying it. Tim was skilled in trying to pin these people down with a yes or a no, and most of them said no. The clip included former Representative Richard Gephardt, Senator John Kerry, former California Governor Gray Davis, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, and Senator Barack Obama.
It was very amusing to see many of these people give a “no” answer, knowing that they later ran for president. Their answers varied from “I have no plans to run” to “I do not intend to run.”
Of note, Senator Clinton responded to Tim’s “Do you want to be president?” with “No.” Pressed further, Senator Clinton replied, “I have no intention of running for president. I do not intend to do that.”
Senator McCain dismissed the question with a laugh and said, “You’ll hear it here first.” It came across as a don’t be silly, but if I do decide, I tell you first. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. When McCain announced his candidacy, he did it on Letterman’s “Late Show” instead of “Meet the Press.”
To their credit both Ralph Nader and Senator Barack Obama gave the most direct and honest answers. Nader told Russert, “After careful thought…… I have decided to run as an independent candidate for president.”
Senator Barack Obama did not play games either.
Russet: “But it’s fair to say you are thinking about running for president in 2008?”
Obama: “It’s fair, yes.”
It’s refreshing when a politicians give straightforward answers.
If a video of this montage becomes available, I will try to add it to this post.
June 14, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
As I've noted before, voters, including myself, tend to vote their values over their economic interests. It takes really bad times to break this pattern. In order to ascertain that the Democrats wrestle control of the White House from the Republicans and also win a huge filibuster proof majority in the Senate, I'm still hoping for the economy to keep tanking. The economy has to get to the point where it really hurts. This happened in 1932 and provided a new era of Democratic control after a long period of Republican economic mismanagement similar to today. I know that a severe economic downturn is devastating to lots of people and it will harm me as well. But it's the economy that gets voter's attention more than anything else.
Bob Herbert provides evidence in today's New York Times that the economy is indeed tanking and may provide the the deep and broad voter dissatisfaction that will help re-align politics for another generation. As a person interested in gay rights, this would be very welcome. A McCain victory will throw cold water on a gay rights movement that is about to break out with its biggest advances in our country's history. All we need is a gay friendly president and large working majorities in Congress.
To this end, I don't trust the voters to make the right choice on their own. However, when the economy is foremost on their minds, we just might get the results we are looking for and we deserve.
June 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Whatever lack of enthusiasm the Human Rights Campaign harbored toward the Democratic primary success of Barack Obama is more than made up for by hostility toward the Republicans' choice, John McCain. Even before HRC was released as a pledged delegate by candidate HRC, the D.C.-based group issued a report last week that portrayed McCain as offering "four more years" of anti-gay hostility in the White House.
Much in the HRC report is not new, highlighting as this blog has for months now McCain's long record of opposition to absolutely any form of gay civil rights:
- Opposes employment protections
- Opposes hate crime legislation
- Supports "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
- Opposes same-sex marriage and supports the Defense of Marriage Act
- Opposes civil unions
- Opposes domestic partnerships
- Favors state constitutional amendments banning marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships at any level of government, as well as recognition of any of these from other states.
- Favors state constitutional amendment that would ban public entities -- local governments, agencies, public universities and hospitals, etc., from providing health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of their workers, students, etc.
- Opposes adoption by gay couples
- Supports the ban on HIV-positive immigrants and backed a Jesse Helms measure blocking HIV prevention aimed at gay men
- Supports the nomination of strict constructionist judges who reject "judicial activism," which is essentially anything that limits the elected branches' ability to trample on gays.
That is a very daunting and very damning list, pretty much matching George W. Bush and the most conservative Republicans bullet for bullet. In fact, candidate Bush in 2000 had not yet come out against employment protection and hate crime laws; that only happened last year when his White House issued veto threats to both bills.
Regardless, McCain's policy positions belie the "party maverick" reputation, which has come almost entirely from government reform and not on social issues -- about which he cares little and thus cedes entirely to those in his party who care a lot.
In addition to this handy compilation of harshly anti-gay positions, the HRC report also provides some helpful citations to McCain's dangerous backsliding of late on the one and only gay issue on which he has stood up to Christian conservatives: the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Back in 2004, McCain not only voted against the FMA but spoke out in opposition, calling it "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." Not because it was discriminatory, or wrote into the U.S. Constitution for the very first time a provision depriving a distinct minority of its rights, but because it violated states' rights -- that is, the long-recognized authority of states to decide questions relating to marriage.
(States' rights, as any high school student history can tell you, is a malleable "core principle." One day it protects progressive states who want to marry gays, and the next it protects bigoted states that want to keep their Jim Crow laws or other "peculiar institutions.")
But McCain has long-since walked away from even this "core philosophy of Republicans." He did vote against the FMA in 2006, but campaigning in New Hampshire that same year he set a very low bar for when he would flip-flop and back a federal marriage amendment:
If the Supreme Court of the United States rejects the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional; if state legislatures are frustrated by the decisions of jurists in more states than one, and if state remedies to such judicial activism fail; and finally, if a large majority of Americans come to perceive that their communities’ values are being ignored and other standards concerning marriage are being imposed on them against their will, and that elections and state legislatures can provide no remedy, then, and only then, should we consider, quite appropriately, amending the Constitution of the United States.
Events in California have almost already satisfied the second marker laid down by McCain, assuming the anti-gay ballot measure fails in November, and the third marker means basically he's free to change his mind if the poll numbers are compelling enough.
It's the kind of fair-weather "friendship" that only a gay Republican could love, and I say that with all affection for my friends, of course. HRC policy chief David Smith made absolutely no mention of Log Cabin and its history of defending McCain during the conference call last week announcing the group's report.
When I brought up the issue Smith deflected it, reiterating HRC's "respect" for Log Cabin and "respectful difference of opinion" about McCain. Smith avoided answering when I asked if HRC and Log Cabin had met to try to work through differences of opinion about the Republican presidential nominee, assuring that the "lines of communication are open."
Log Cabin, for its part, was quick to respond to the HRC report on McCain, slamming it as an unfair representation of McCain that ignored the Arizona senator's "open door" to Log Cabin and "record of inclusion." McCain's coziness with Log Cabin is largely the result of the Republican presidential primary in 2000, when the gay GOP group sided with McCain against Bush.
But that was an entirely different John McCain, of course. The Arizona senator has since gone from calling out "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to kissing their rings and coddling their evangelical supporters. Log Cabin's Scott Tucker claims otherwise, insisting McCain "won the GOP nomination with no help (and with outright hostility) from many so-called 'social conservatives.'" Tucker conveniently ignores McCain's evangelical fence-mending -- a.k.a. ass-kissing -- and willingly blinds himself from the current political reality: However John McCain got here, he has no prayer of winning the White House without the enthusiastic support of those very same "so-called 'social conservatives.'" In the end, he will be every bit as indebted to them as if he were Mike Huckabee himself.
Tucker unfairly accuses HRC of "glossing over" McCain's FMA opposition even though the HRC report deals with that issue directly and in context. Instead it is Tucker and LCR that don't just "gloss over" but ignore entirely McCain's back-pedaling since on a federal marriage amendment.
I understand and appreciate the difficult position of the Log Cabin Republicans as they work for change within an often hostile party; doing so requires earning intraparty credibility by advocating on the GOP's behalf within the gay community. But the bar for LCR support cannot be set so low that anything short of mean-spirited hostility qualifies.
John McCain may not care very much about social issues like gay rights; but neither did George W. Bush for that matter. The important thing is that both men have a record of consistent opposition to absolutely any form of gay civil rights and a demonstrated willingness to pander to the right when necessary.
I have yet to see a principled argument in favor of John McCain's candidacy that does not jettison entirely the concept of gay and lesbian equality as simply a lower priority than other political issues of the day. The leadership of Log Cabin should rethink their position before its too late, and at least demand something more than token from McCain in exchange for -- perish the thought -- endorsing this man for president.
June 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Both of them waited until the very bitter end, and oh yes was it bitter. They waited until alternative had been exhausted; until they had tried the patience of pretty much everyone except those with a permanent address in Hillaryland.
Then, and only then, at the end of last week and the end of their rope, did both HRCs -- Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign -- reluctantly endorsed Barack Obama for president.
HRC the gay group actually came first, with a statement issued minutes after the campaign of HRC the candidate announced she would end (actually "suspend") her campaign the next day at a rally in Washington, D.C. For an important moment like announcing a presidential endorsement, you would think HRC would pull out all the stops -- something we know the resource-rich organization usually revels in doing.
Instead, this is how the Obama nod got announced on HRC's Back Story blog:
The following is from Jason Boeckman, HRC Communications and Marketing Intern. Jason is a senior at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford, OH.
Today the Human Rights Campaign announced its support for Barack Obama in his bid for the presidency.
That's right, the Obama endorsement was communicated by an HRC college intern. The weekly message by HRC chief Joe Solmonese was likewise lukewarm, barely containing his disappointment that candidate HRC wasn't the nominee:
Although Senator Hillary Clinton will not be the nominee, her historic campaign inspired a nation. Before joining the Human Rights Campaign as president, I served as chief executive officer of EMILY’s List, an organization dedicated to electing women to public office. To me, Senator Clinton’s extraordinary bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination was awe-inspiring, energizing, and a signal of all the progress our nation has made over my lifetime.
After that kind of orgasmic praise, Solmonese comes off like he's already smoking a cigarette and cleaning up the mess by the time he gets around to the senator from Illinois:
Senator Obama’s support for protecting our entire community from discrimination, his belief that the federal government should treat our families equally, and his conviction that patriotism—not sexual orientation—is what qualifies a person to serve our country in uniform, show promise that in our time, the dreams and hopes of our community will be shared, valued, and promoted from within the White House.
Regular readers of this blog know that HRC the candidate was always the candidate for HRC the organization (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). So there was no chance that HRC would endorse Obama at a time when it might actually gain some leverage with his campaign -- the type of courageous move we saw from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which endorsed Obama in mid-May.
Even still, you would think HRC and Solmonese would get over their "anger and grief" long enough to do their jobs.
Posted by: Andoni
In case you haven't noticed, we have an energy crisis in this country, as well as around the world. The situaton is so bad that even if we could build one new nuclear power reactor every day for the next 32 years (an absolute impossibilty), we will not be able to meet our country's energy needs for the year 2050.
Last week I was invited to a research conference at MIT by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to hear about advances in revolutionary new technologies. One such new technology, called quotum dot technology (also known as organic semiconductors) has the potential to completely alter the way we live and use energy.
Currently petroleum and coal are the two cheapest ways by far to produce energy. Solar is cleaner, but costs over a hundred times more than than either of these per energy unit. The U.S. could theoretically meet it's energy needs with solar, but there are two problems. The first is that it would require putting solar panels on 2% of all the entire land area of the U.S. This is not as hard as it sounds, because it just so happens that the tops of all the buildings in the U.S. comprise about 2% of the land area.
The second problem cannot be solved. Silicon is a major component of solar cells and there simply is not enough silicon in the world to build this many solar panels.
This is where quantum dots come in. These dots are man made organic materials such as the thin anti-wrinkle polymer weaved into permanent press clothing or the polymer mixed into exterior car paint to absorb light and then emit electrons in order to make car colors brighter.
Quantum dots emit 3 to 7 times the number of electrons when hit by light than silicon does. These materials are also much cheaper to make. Large rolls of this stuff can be made and sold at places like Home Depot and installed on roofs by homeowners. Also, because dots are more efficient thant silicon, less than 0.5% of U.S. land area U.S. will be needed.
So there you have it. We have the technology to solve our current energy mess. It will take only 10 years to do. The only thing that is required is the will to do it and some intial government subsidies to get the technology going.
I know this isn't an LGBT story, but I wanted to relate it to you because you will be hearing a lot more about quantum dot technology. This is the equivalent of the invention of the transistor in 1947 and in the coming years you will see organic semiconductor (quantum dot) TV's, computer screens and light bulbs.
June 10, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
I previously blogged that some residents of the Greek island of Lesbos are insulted that the word lesbian is used to describe a woman who loves another woman. As a first step to show their displeasure, three islanders sued a Greek gay rights organization today to prevent it from using the word "lesbian" in its name.
So what's next, citizens from Athens, Greece suing the cities of Athens, Georgia or Athens, Ohio over ownership of the word? How about citizens of Troy suing the Trojan condom company because they don''t like the implication of the use of the word Trojan? Maybe the residents of Troy can pick on the USC Trojans for defaming them with their antics during half time shows.
It will be interesting to see how far the courts allow this to go.
June 07, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As a gay man, I "get" the sensibility behind "Sex & The City" -- both the TV show and the movie, which we dutifully saw on opening night here in Rio last night. It was fun enough for fans, if a bit too cliché and waaaay overdone on the commercialization and conspicuous consumption.
But the biggest problem for me was the emasculation of Big, Carrie Bradshaw's "Master of the Universe" financier who got cold feet at their wedding. Cold feet? For his third time around? He sat in his chauffered car outside the wedding as Carrie and Co. arrived pleading quietly, "Please let me see you, Carrie. Look this way." Mario Cantone showed more balls as the Nazi wedding planner.
The ultimate blow to Big's manhood wasn't even in the script, though. It was visual. Apparently someone decided that Big needed plucked eyebrows to match those of the girls. Big's brutal tweezing of rankled me the entire film.
It's bad enough that practically every gay man under the age of 30 (in the U.S.) has arched brows to rival RuPaul's. But Big, too? It's enough to make me keep the beard I've grown over the last week, even though it looks fairly scruffy, just out of spite. And then there's that tattoo I've had my eye on…
Posted by: Andoni
(Sub-healine: HRC endorses Obama, see below.)
Last evening the Obama campaign held a conference call with 1200 LGBT activists from around the country in order to update people on campaign plans moving forward. The first order of business was to invite gays who were Senator Clinton supporters into the Obama family.
After a short welcome from Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager (and LGBT community member) Steve Hildebrand, Elizabeth Birch, former head of the Human Rights campaign (HRC), recounted how it felt to be a long time Hillary Clinton supporter at this moment, now that the nomination has slipped from her grasp. She described an immense sadness and repeatedly alluded to how you feel when you see a “vanquished warrior” or “fallen warrior.”
Birch has two children of mixed race, a daughter and a son. She confided that although she was hoping that her daughter would see that it was possible for a woman to become president of the United States, now she realizes that it was just as important for her son to see that a person of color can become president. Her message was that after a period mourning, Clinton supporters should rally around Obama. It is imperative that Obama prevails for LBT rights to move forward.
Joe Solmonese, current head of HRC joined the conference call from somewhere along the side of road between San Francisco and Los Angeles, participating in a California AIDS bike ride. He announced that HRC had just endorsed Senator Obama for president. He then urged all LGBT people to get behind Obama so that we can pass workplace equality, hate crimes legislation, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and get more AIDS funding. What struck me most about Joe’s comments is how narrow his view is. He simply parrots the very limited HRC legislative agenda. Here we have a candidate who espouses just about total equality for gays, from actively advocating repealing all of DOMA to providing federal benefits for gay couples, and all Joe sees is the few crumbs that are the HRC legislative agenda.
Next up was David Mixner to provide a testimonial to how welcoming the Obama campaign was to him and all the John Edwards supporters after his candidate dropped out of the race. He said he understood how people feel when their candidate doesn’t win because he felt the same thing with Edwards, but that the Obama people were the most welcoming of any campaign he has ever encountered. He emphasized that Obama has explicitly come out against both the Florida and California marriage initiatives.
Barack Obama himself was not on the conference call yesterday because it was his day off. He is scheduled for future calls. Because there were 1200 people on the line, they could not answer questions. However, people emailed questions and they will be answered individually.
Finally, Hildebrand announced that Brian Bond, Kevin Jennings, and Melissa Etheridge will be joining the campaign in various capacities. Brian will oversee the recruitment of all constituencies, not just the LGBT community. Melissa will be co-chair of the 50 state voter registration and mobilization campaign.
After listening in to the conference call, I concluded that the LGBT community is indeed an important part of Obama’s campaign, and that we have people placed in some very high positions there.
June 06, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This is just to let you know that the reason for the quiet blog this week has been the result of a difficult time for my family. I am flying back to the U.S. on Monday, and will try to do some posts between now and then and, of course, once I'm back in the States.
Thanks to all for your patience.
June 04, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Better buckle up, fellas. It's going to be a bumpy ride:
The California Supreme Court denied a request today to put its ruling allowing same-sex marriages on hold until after the November election, clearing the way for gay and lesbian weddings to begin June 17.
Opponents of the court's May 15 ruling had asked the justices to stay the decision until Californians vote Nov. 4 on a constitutional amendment that would overturn the court's decision.
The court denied the request for a stay by a 4-3 vote, the same margin by which the justices declared last month that a 31-year-old state law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman violated the state Constitution.
That last paragraph is actually erroneous.The justices voted 4-3, aligning the same as for the original opinion, on the petitions for rehearing, which would reopen the ruling for reconsideration. That's to be expected, since the three dissenters would favor reconsideration and a different result.
But the justices were unanimous in rejecting a stay of the ruling until the November election, as well they should be. Courts typically grant a stay to allow a higher court to review a ruling, but doing so because a ballot measure would amend the state constitution, nullifying the court's ruling -- and also the constitutional rights recognized therein -- would set an absolutely horrible precedent.
Today's ruling is only a page long but take a look if you want to confirm what I'm saying about the report being inaccurate. Download ca_supreme_court_denies_rehearing_and_stay_in_marriage_cases.pdf .
Posted by: Kevin
So, as the Clintons do their worst to continue shitting all over the historic nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States, I ask all you gay Democrats out there:
Do you GET it, now? Do you UNDERSTAND what this pair has always been made of, since the days of Arkansas?
They say it's about you, and they mean it's about them.
They said way back it was about us -- the gay community -- but it was always about them. They promised change, and they delivered "don't ask, don't tell." They promised to "fight until hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice" for our rights, and they delivered the Defense of Marriage Act and the HIV visa ban codified into law. In every case, it was about their priorities, i.e. them. I always thought it was poetic that Bill Clinton made his historic crocodile-tear speech in Los Angeles in 1991 ("I have a vision of America, and you're a part of it") at a fundraiser. History tells us that this basically said it all about what the Clintons had to offer.
At least Hillary didn't have the charms of her wily husband. She never really hid her unease for the gay community, or her lack of interest in our issues. That's been evident since her 2000 Senate campaign. But now it should be clear to everyone that the Clintons were at best really good liars. Their worst is about to show itself, I'm afraid. Because even though the world knew that this primary election was over months ago, and that she couldn't win it, now it's clear that she only kept running in order to amass enough support to wound Barack Obama as much as she could and step all over the significance of his victory.
Last night she talked about fighting to make sure the 18 million people who voted for her are "respected and heard." Huh?? Exactly what about her positions and Obama's positions are so divergent that she can claim some sort of insurgency status now? What exactly do they need to be heard about? The fact is, Obama was the insurgent and she was the establishment at the beginning of this whole thing. And she simply needs to make her lies stick in order to change that reality and cling ferociously to the snapping lifelines at the water's surface and, at some point, win the day. Since no one thinks she is certifiably insane, that must mean 2012 or 2016. And that means she wants Obama to lose this election, or be a failed president.
And let's not forget, both Clintons played the race card in this election campaign more than once, and now Hillary seems to claim she's the voice of white, lower-class Democratic voters, and of white women especially. God knows you couldn't see that coming in January. So what, again, needs to be "heard and respected" by the black nominee? All I can say is that in her selfish and incredibly galling reach for power, Hillary Clinton is willing to sink to the level of Pat Buchanan, but with none of the convictions. That's pretty low.
I say to my gay Democratic friends who were so deluded during the messianic Clinton years in Washington simply this: we told you so. Look at the Clintons now, and see what we all saw the whole time.
June 03, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
“It’s done, now. The unions have been registered and the licenses have been issued. It’s a historic moment.”
Said Anastassios Aliferis, who as mayor of the Aegean island of Tilos, presided over the civil ceremony. He ignored warnings by a Greek prosecutor in Athens not to perform the ceremony or he would be prosecuted.
A gay couple and a lesbian couple were married at a sunrise ceremony this morning. I have reported before that these weddings were possible when gays discovered that the new civil marriage law was gender neutral. Church weddings are impossible because the Greek Orthodox will not perform them.
I will keep you posted whether the mayor goes to jail or whether this is the beginning of a new trend and new tourist industry for the island of Tilos.
As a dual American and Greek citizen, I am following this carefully.
It is interesting to note the photo of Charles Moskos architect of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in my previous post was with a Greek flag because he was of Greek descent. Maybe between the death of Moskos and the beginning of same sex wedding in Greece, we are entering a new era.
Posted by: Andoni
Charles Moskos, the architect of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) died last Saturday. Hopefully this represents not only the death of the man, but the imminent passing of his idea as well.
Mokos was an expert on military personnel issues, morale and recruitment trends in 1993 and as a result was called upon by top military brass to suggest a compromise to President Bill Clinton’s attempt to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
Between Senator Sam Nunn (whom I commented on yesterday) leading the charge in the political arena against gays serving in the military and Charles Moskos providing some questionable academic cover, Clinton’s attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military was foiled.
In a letter to the New York Times in 2005 rebutting an
editorial suggesting the military loosen the current policy, Moskos boastfully noted
"Any change in the status of homosexuals in the military requires congressional action. Your editorial implies that the military should disobey the law. Who is hiding from reality?"
Moskos is correct on this point. Any new president cannot
simply sign an executive order to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
It requires Congress to pass a new law.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act are two infamous examples of the United States government actively promoting and institutionalizing discrimination into the laws of the land.
History will judge the people involved in these acts poorly.
Posted by: Kevin
Urged on by what one reader called a "gaping hole" in the New York Times' coverage of the same-sex marriage issue in New York, Andrew Sullivan has been sharing reader mail on how the California marriage decision, and subsequent actions by New York Gov. David Paterson on gay marriage, has raised the hopes and inflamed the anguish of families affected by bi-national gay relationships that are denied U.S. federal legal recognition of any kind by the Defense of Marriage Act. (As is well-known to readers of this blog, Chris and I fall into that category of families as well, as we both were forced to move to Brazil to be with our partners.)
Heterosexual citizens have the right to marry foreign partners and bring them legally into the country with the right to live and work and even seek citizenship. Homosexual citizens don't have that right; they must either choose another citizen as a partner or leave the country in order to be with their foreign partners. I know this issue intimately because both my children have foreign partners. My heterosexual daughter was able to marry and give her foreign partner the right to live here. My homosexual son can't do that, and his partner isn't even allowed to enter the U.S., so he has no choice but to live in his partner's country. The people who claim to be protecting families are not doing anything to protect mine. Instead, they've torn it apart. I wish the Times would cover that aspect of the gay marriage issue because there are thousands of American families affected by it," - a mother of a gay son, commenting on the story on Governor David Paterson's decision to treat gay citizens married in other states no differently than straight ones.
I've written about this on my own blog, and Chris has championed the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign born partners to immigrate legally to the United States. We do what we can. But once you make the decision to spend your life with someone (i.e. marry them, whether it's recognized or not as legal), you jump with both feet off the curb and you don't look back. Sometimes I feel that if I put too much energy into fighting to change the policies of the United States, I'd not be tending to my life as it is today, and my relationship would suffer needlessly. You end up putting your life first; it's why you did all this in the first place. And it makes you an inconvenient player in the political realm.
Reading the excerpts of Andrew's reader mail has been an emotional experience. It's mostly because (and I'm surprised to realize this) most of us who live this life in exile don't spend a lot of time talking to each other about how hard it can be at times being separated from home. We tend to focus on adapting to life out here instead. You do your best when you're on the phone (or on Skype) with family and friends back in the U.S. to focus on the good stuff, and share the good news. You try to buck yourself up and focus on the adventure of it all, living abroad and adapting to a new culture and a new way of life. You also wake up to the aspects of life in the United States that are actually not so great after all- simply because (A) you can see them from far away, and (B) you want to do everything you can to avoid missing home too much. When you live abroad, you live abroad. Life in your new home affects you. You're not who you were before.
But you can't help but hear in the voices of those closest to you back in the U.S. that there is a lingering hope that something will happen that will allow you to come back. It's part of being loved. It's part of being in a family. It's always floating around the phone call, or in-between the lines of the email.
Some of us don't have much family at home, or a family that has disowned our sexuality and, therefore, our relationship. That rarely makes the move any easier, because gay Americans often have a "chosen" family, a support network of friends that become vital to our happiness and emotional well-being. I can say that Chris and I, and many of the Americans I know in love-exile around the world, are incredibly privileged and lucky that we have the resources to go home to visit even once a year. Many immigrants to the United States often don't have that option. Both of my parents are in good health, and have visited me here once. I could imagine what this life would be like if one of them was ill when I had to make my decision. In any case, when you go home to visit your friends or your family, there is this distinct sense you get with every trip that life has just gone on without you, and you're really not part of that world anymore. It's unsettling, but you have to accept it.
The policy implications of all this are quite obvious, as Andrew's postings point out so well. Families and lives are being terribly impacted, but love is still winning out. John McCain is a strong supporter of immigration reform and has shown a willingness to buck his party's hardliners on the subject. If a Democratic Congress were to send him a reform bill with UAFA inserted into it, I have to wonder whether he'd sign it. I hope he would. Two recent television appearances only muddied the waters.
It's no comfort that Senator Hillary Clinton has not lifted a finger on this issue in the Senate, nor seems ready to do so when she limps back there in tatters from her loss to Barack Obama in the nomination fight. So much for all that gay money. And Obama has said he opposes UAFA because it would open the door to immigration fraud, betraying a stupefying ignorance of the issue. He should read Andrew's blog. He should talk to my mom.
But no matter what happens back home, we live our lives out here. And the longer the United States retains the Defense of Marriage Act as law, the more likely that time will end up healing over the wound we got in the split with our native country, I'm afraid, and much of what we have to offer the world will largely, and happily, find its way to other horizons.
I, like many, refuse to regret the greatest thing to ever happen to me, no matter what it cost me. (Am I supposed to wake up in tears every morning in order to please some activists back home?) It doesn't mean I am not a patriot, or that it isn't really hard to be separated from the whole life I knew until a year ago. My grandfather was Irish to the core until his death, but when he arrived on American shores he never set foot on Irish soil again. It was the Irish condition that sent him away, simply put. He didn't live long enough to see things change. Did he think this to be a tragedy in 1975 when he lay on his deathbed? I think not. How will I feel on mine? Who knows. I refuse to decide now.
It is, however, up to the United States to decide whether it will regret losing all of us.
Posted by: Chris
NOTE: I want to add one caveat to this post. Re-reading the item from the Daily News about Justice Corrigan, I noticed that there's not any supporting information for the claim she is gay. I didn't see anything definitive on the web either. I don't know if the Daily News columnist is outing Corrigan or speculating or if she is open about it.
Also in response to a couple of comments, I did not say that being gay she had to vote with the majority to overturn the marriage law. I analyzed her reasoning in some detail and found her arguments completely circular. That suggests to me, for the reasons I outlined, if she is gay she was simply squeamish to act because of her baggage.
Remember the dissenting justice in the California marriage ruling who made a point of saying she personally favored gay marriage, even if she didn't feel the California Constitution compelled it? Well, it turns out that Justice Carol Corrigan is a lesbian herself:
Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the Constitution does not. Therefore, I must dissent.
To reach that conclusion, Corrigan had to oversimplify the complicated case into a simple question of names: marriage or not. But it was always more complicated than that. As the majority made clear, California has created two separate legal institutions, not simply two names, for straight and gay couples -- and separate can never be equal.
Corrigan's reasoning in the case is almost entirely circular, which you would expect from someone afraid to go out on the limb for her own equality and looking for any reason not to. For example, she starts with her conclusion -- "domestic partnerships and marriage have the same legal standing" -- and works backward, concluding that "the same" is therefore "equal."
Likewise, she claims "the legitimate purpose of the statutes defining marriage is to preserve the traditional understanding of the institution." A dog could chase its tail for an hour and progress no further than Justice Corrigan in her analysis.
In similar fashion, the claims that gay couples "seek both to join the institution of marriage and at the same time to alter its definition." That's because she defines marriage as the legal institution of a man and a woman, just as racists once defined it as a union of two people of the same race. She claims "the institution of marriage was not fundamentally changed by removing the racial restriction that formerly encumbered it," even though that is exactly what defenders of laws against interracial marriage vociferously argued in their day.
I've stated before my own view that the majority overreached in several important ways, especially in ordering that gay couples be allowed to marry. Having concluded that the California Constitution requires one institution with one name for the legal recognition of gay and straight couples, the court should have left to the Legislature whether to (a) eliminate domestic partnerships and open marriage for all, or (b) eliminate marriage and open domestic partnerships for all.
But for Justice Corrigan, "judicial restraint" was an excuse to duck and cover, and to argue herself into circles. It's symptomatic of something I call "the best damn lesbian" syndrome: first generation gay or lesbian professionals desperate for respect without regard to their sexual orientation, which they carry like emotional baggage.
Like the lesbian partner at my first law firm, already successful and tenured in her position, but still completely in the closet. She defended that decision to me, an openly gay junior attorney in the early '90s, even though I hadn't even criticized it.
"I just want to be thought of as 'the best damn regulatory lawyer in Washington,'" she said, "and not 'that lesbian lawyer who does regulatory work.'"
Well, Justice Corrigan, you're certainly cementing how you'll be remembered.
June 02, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Hillary Clinton managed to close the gap some on Barack Obama with two primary events over the weekend and even succeeded in moving the goal posts a bit on the total needed to clinch the nomination. And yet despite those successes, the mathematical odds of her capturing the nomination are all the more improbable.
The party's Rules & Bylaws Committee vote on Saturday netted Hillary some 24 delegates -- 19 from Florida and 5 from Michigan -- and moved the "magic number" needed to clinch the nomination up to 2,118. Then Clinton's convincing win in Puerto Rico on Sunday yielded another 38 delegates for her and 17 for Obama.
As a result, Obama's total delegate count stands at 2,070, just 48 shy of clinching; and Clinton is at 1,914, still 204 less than needed to win. There are only 31 pledged delegates up for grabs in tomorrow's Montana and South Dakota contests, the last on the primary calendar. Another 202 superdelegates remain unpledged.
To clinch, Obama needs only 20 percent of those remaining delegates, while Hillary would need 88 percent. Even if Obama gets just half (15) of the 31 delegates out of Montana and South Dakota, he'll need only 33 of the remaining 202 superdelegates to win.
There are all sorts of signs that the Hillary camp is finally ready to accept Obama as the nominee, including Politico's report that Clinton advance staffers are being let go, as well as Hillary's decision to speak Tuesday night from her home state of New York, rather than in Montana or South Dakota.
"It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee," acknowledged Clinton campaign national co-chair Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor. "After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."
Party leaders like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have also spoken out, making clear they will do everything in their power to end the contest this week, presumably by pressuring superdelegates to make their selections one way or the other.
Even Clinton herself is said to have "come to terms over the last week with the near certainty that she would not win the nomination, even as she continued to assert, with what one associate described as subdued resignation, that the Democrats are making a mistake in sending Mr. Obama up against Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee."
The only remaining question of significance relating to Hillary, then, is whether she will (a) truly work to unify the party, (b) do the minimal necessary to preserve herself as the alternative should Obama stumble this year or lose in November; or (c) actively undermine Obama with an eye toward 2012.
John Heilemann of New York magazine says the answer to "What Hillary wants" is clear:
Whenever this query is put to me — which only takes place, oh, on the order of 100 times a day — my response is simple: She wants to be president. Duh. And if it ain’t gonna happen this year, then her central objective is to make it as likely as possible in 2012.
I think that's exactly right and explains her aggressive campaign long after the math was clear, and even the divisive jeering encouraged by Hillaryland at Saturday's RBC meeting. Whenever and wherever possible, the not-so-subtle message to her supporters is to help sink the Obama ship, so that Hillary can try again in 2012.
If Obama does lose and if Hillary does run again in 2012 (as could Obama), she may well find that the scorched earth campaign she and her husband ran this year has poisoned the well for her in 2012 (or even 2016).
(Photo of Clinton protesters outside RBC meeting via New York Times)
Posted by: Chris
The battle over same-sex marriage is about to go nuclear. Not because it may impact this year's presidential race, as some have worried. But because the skirmishes will now multiply into a multi-front struggle that will determine whether access to civil marriage for the rest of us comes sooner or much, much later.
Much of the early aftermath to the California marriage ruling has focused on its possible impact on the general election contest between John McCain and Barack Obama. Democrats remember all too well how George Bush and Karl Rove in 2004 used the Massachusettes marriage ruling as a "wedge issue" to galvanize conservatives in swing states like Ohio.
The possibility for a repeat exists, of course, since a gay marriage ban is already slated for the November ballot in Florida, a hugely important swing state, and conservatives hope a similar measure in California might put that reliably Democratic state in play. That's unlikely, however, since Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has thrown his weight against the ban, and Obama's candidacy is likely to draw to the polls younger voters, who a recent Field Poll confirms back gay marriage by an almost two-to-one margin.
Those who really care about the future of marriage for same-sex couples in the U.S. need to stop being distracted by the pretty, shiny bauble that is the Obama-McCain contest and focus on the battle in California itself, as well as the brush fires it's sure to spark throughout the country.
The impact from California will dwarf that of Massachusetts because marriage laws in the two states differ in one important aspect: A 1913 law in the Bay State allows non-residents to marry there only if their marriage would be accepted in their home state. Gay activists failed to convince the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- the same one that struck down hetero-only marriage in 2003 -- that the 1913 law was also unconstitutional. As a result, the landmark 2003 ruling extended marriage only to those residing in Massachusetts and a few other states -- Rhode Island and New Mexico among them -- that certified they met the 1913 law's restriction.
Not so in California. Non-resident gay couples may marry without restriction, and then go home and ask that their marriages be recognized in any number of contexts. New York Gov. David Paterson has already ordered state agencies there to recognize marriage licenses issued to gay couples in California, Massachusetts, Canada or the four other countries where it's legal. Gay-friendly governors elsewhere may quickly follow suit, especially after the November election cushions the possible blowback and (hopefully) cements marriage equality in California.
It's long past time, for example, that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty to fulfill his campaign promise to make public the legal opinion of a former attorney general, gay himself, about whether the District should recognize gay marriages from elsewhere. In fact, it's long past time for the D.C. Council to adopt marriage equality outright -- a majority already supports it and the Democratic leadership in Congress has pledged to allow marriage to be decided at the state level.
In the other 48 states, gay newlyweds returning from California will over time be raising recognition issues that will challenge not just the state constitutionality of marriage bans but their federal constitutionality as well, along with the holy grail: the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That infamous 1996 law, renounced by its own author Bob Barr now that he's the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, purports to allow each state the right to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states.
The U.S. Constitution has something to say on that matter, however, since the "Full Faith & Credit Clause" generally requires that states recognize the legal papers and judicial rulings of other states -- including marriages. There are all sorts of exceptions to the rule, as it has been litigated over 200-plus years, but that won't save DOMA. By saying each state may unilaterally reject gay marriages from other states under every conceivable context, DOMA is clearly unconstitutional, since the FF&C will require otherwise in at least some situations. And if DOMA falls by judicial fiat, as it should, expect calls for a federal constitutional amendment to ensue.
So much will depend on the unpredictable circumstances of each challenge that the outcomes will be all over the map. Couples who travel to California from states with marriage bans written into their constitutions will likely find their new licenses worthless, since the FF&C clause has long allowed states to prevent citizens from escaping local marriage limits by simply crossing state lines and wedding elsewhere.
On the other end of the spectrum, judicial rulings from California that recognize a gay marriage in circumstances like child custody or the right to sue for a spouse's injury or death will most likely be accepted -- perhaps even in the most hostile anti-gay states. That's because the federal Constitution's FF&C clause will trump DOMA and a state's marriage ban under the right circumstances.
If you've followed me this far, you at least see the tremendous variety of ways the detonation of the California marriage bomb will scatter shrapnel throughout the union. For that reason, preserving the victory there ought to be priority No. 1 for all gay rights donors and political organizations.