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    November 30, 2008

    Will NY Dems renege on marriage pledge?

    Posted by: Andoni

    After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democatic victory.

    This has been the campaign promise to our community for years. The state of New York could/would pass a pro-active same sex marriage bill for gays if only the Democrats could gain control of the State Senate, something they had not done in 40 years. The State Legislature had already passed such legislation and both former governor Eliot Spitzer and current governor David Paterson supported gay marriage and promised to sign the bill if it landed on their desk. In fact both stated they would push for the legislation.

    The LGBT community received innumerable letters and phone calls asking for money to turn the NY Senate Democratic with the singular goal of passing same sex marriage explicitly stated. The effort worked, and in the aftermath of the Prop 8 loss in California I stated that at least we were going to get marriage equality in NY as a consolation prize. How wrong I was.

    You can imagine my surprise, hurt, and anger upon reading in yesterday's New York Times that despite their explicit pledge NY Dems May Skip Gay Marriage Vote. This is even worse than what Chris describers as a lowering of expectations at the national level.

    I mean I understand their excuses for postponing the vote:

    1. they don't want to do anything too controversial because they want Governor David Paterson to win his next election
    2. after the blowback by the electorate over Prop 8 in California, they have concluded this is too controversial an issue and the voters may punish them for it
    3. the Democratic leader of the NY senate is having a hard time getting every Dem to vote for him to be Senate Leader. A couple of Dems will vote for the Republican if he intends to bring the marriage bill to a vote.

    These are all excuses.

    Chris points to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who fulfilled all his promises to gays within his first year in office.Why are our politicians so cowardly?

    In other countries when a candidate or party wins an election, they treat it as if the candidate and his stated positions come together as a package. The electorate knew what the candidate promised if elected, so when that candidate wins, the public seems to accept the result as the people having spoken on the total package, the candidate (or party) and the positions.

    Why are we so different?

    I'm not sure what the answer is in NY, but I believe a promise is a promise and we should hold them to it. If some Dems choose to change to Republican, so be it. At least we will know who is against us and try to defeat them next time.

    It's time to start making politicians realize that promises mean something and if they break them there will be consequences.

    November 28, 2008

    Will Obama follow Rudd's example?

    Posted by: Chris

    Kevinrudd In case you've forgotten what it looks like for a politician to actually fulfill his campaign commitments, there's Australian Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:

    The Rudd government has finished its one-year anniversary by honouring an election commitment to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from a wide-range of federal laws.

    The federal parliament today approved changes to superannuation laws that allow same-sex couples to leave entitlements to their partner or children upon death. The Senate also agreed to a bill to extend the meaning of de-facto to include same-sex relationships.

    The legislation brings long-awaited equality to same sex-couples in areas including tax, social security, health, aged care and employment. They are part of an election commitment to act on the recommendations of a 2007 landmark report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

    Like Barack Obama, Rudd came to office after many years of conservative government control. Like Obama, Rudd opposes equal marriage rights for gay couples. Unlike Obama, Rudd even opposes civil unions, and in fact any form of civil ceremony for same-sex couples.

    Nonetheless, Rudd's government has delivered in its first 12 months in office, on equal treatment for gay couples under federal law. Since Rudd opposes civil unions, the federal government recognition is not based on whether the relationship is recognized under state law. But Rudd's success illustrates how incremental approaches, however distasteful they may seem, can bring real change to real lives, on the road to full equality.

    November 26, 2008

    ENDA vs civil unions

    Posted by: Andoni

    EuropeIt's been two weeks since I first noticed and reported that we have a tremendous opportunity to take a giant leap forward in civil rights by passing a federal recognition of civil unions law. Chris has elaborated on this proposal here and here.

    I was prompted to think about this by all my religious conservative relatives who called me after the repeal of same sex marriage in California (Prop 8). They said they could not support marriage for us, but certainly believe our relationships should be honored equally and that they could support civil unions. These are strong religious folks supporting civil unions. They are (sort of) fair minded people, but hung up on the "M" word. Unfortunately, that's the reality of what's holding us back. No amount of education is going to change these people's minds. We have to wait a generation until they die before we get a strong majority in this country supporting same sex marriage. That's 10 to 20 years.

    Whereas now we have about 48% percent of the population who support marriage for us and 50% who oppose it. But of the 50% who oppose, 30% are homophobic and oppose most gay rights, whereas 20% are only hung up on the word marriage. That makes a very convincing majority that would support recognition of our relationships as civil unions -- right now. This 68% support corresponds with the 66% support Chris cites. That's about the same percentage of support HRC claims for a non inclusive ENDA, in its questionable best case scenario poll. Of note is that the House of Representatives passed the non inclusve ENDA with only a 56% support level --- which is probably a more realistic number for support of the non inclusvie ENDA. For the trans inclusive ENDA, the percentage falls to below 50%. They could not get a majority of the House to pass a T inclusive ENDA last year.

    So here is the problem with our current strategy. Our national organizations such as HRC and our political leaders such as Cong. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin have made it clear that the next time the only version of ENDA will be the T inclusive ENDA (the one that has less than 50% support). Furthermore, I've been told that Hate Crimes and a T inclusive ENDA will be the first two bills we bring up. And to make matters worse, many leaders are telling me that these will be the ONLY two gay bills brought up before the 2010 midterm elections. Duh?

    So a T inclusive ENDA has less popular support than a civil unions bill, yet our leaders are hell bent on ENDA. Our leaders are so fixated on ENDA, that they cannot see when there is clear sailing in front of us in another possible direction where we can make huge gains. You know we are making progress on recognition of our relationships when a key member of the religious right, Michael Medved,  says he supports civil unions for us. A civil union recognition bill (just don't call it marriage) is an easy sell to members of Congress as well. I bumped into Congressman Hank Johnson two days ago and described such a bill and it only took him two seconds to ask who was sponsoring it because he wanted to be a co-sponsor. Our leaders have been perseverating on ENDA since 1994, regardless of other more fertile opportunities that may be at hand.

    We are so asleep at the switch that there isn't even a federal  recognition of civil unions bill being written to be introduced, even though President-elect Obama says this is one of his civil rights priorities.

    My suggestion, introduce both a T inclusive ENDA and a civil union recognition bill and see which gets the most co-sponsors. Do polling and see which has the most popular support. Pass Hate Crimes first and then decide on a whether a T inclusive ENDA or civil unions goes next. Choose whichever one can get through. But for heavens sake don't allow ENDA to hang up all other legislation. If it doesn't have the votes, move it aside and go for another bill that has support. Don't block the path for all other bills because ENDA is stuck.

    Let's become smarter and more creative with our legislation. We should not use the same thinking that we've been using for 15 years that has gotten us nowhere.

    The above map details all the European governments that recognize same sex relationships in one way or another. Here is the key. Below is the the map and key for all the states that honor same sex relationships. Federal recognition of civil unions could change the lower map to one of light blue from coast to coast. And I would bet that this is easier to do than a trans inclusive ENDA at the moment.

    Us_civil_unions

    November 25, 2008

    Toward a more civil union (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    President_obama Don't miss this fantastic column by Jonathan Rauch in the Advocate, and I say that not only because I agree with him. In addition to some prescient analysis of the 2008 election, which he reads as the triumph of "Karl Rove divisiveness" by "Barack Obama unity," Jonathan argues that growing acceptance of gays should mean a mindset change for the movement:

    The old civil rights model, with its roots in an era when homosexuals were politically friendless pariahs, focuses on such matters as protection from bigoted employers and hate crimes. In truth, for most gay Americans the civic responsibility agenda, with its focus on service to family (marriage), children (mentoring and adoption), and country (the military), is more relevant and important.

    With a comparatively sympathetic administration and Congress taking office in Washington, the time has come to pivot away from the culturally defensive pariah agenda -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, for instance -- and toward the culturally transformative family agenda. Priority 1, and well ahead of whatever comes second, should be federal recognition of state civil unions.

    This is what I've been arguing (here and here) as well. It's relationship recognition that has sent tens of thousands into the streets. That way lies the future of the movement.

    In theory, it doesn't have to be zero sum between ENDA/hate crimes vs. federal civil unions, but that's probably the political reality. It will be hard enough to get congressional Democrats to take on civil unions, despite strong public support. And history suggests they'll expect us to sit down and shut up (and once again open up our checkbooks) once ENDA and hate crimes are law, despite the fact they've promised passage for years and both are backed by overwhelming supermajorities in polls.

    Worse yet, all signs are that the movement "leadership" is already signed, sealed and delivered on this crappy deal.

    November 24, 2008

    The expectation lowering continues

    Posted by: Chris

    Rahmemanuelbarackobama1 Are we already seeing Rahm Emanuel's fingerprints?

    From the (anti-gay) Washington Times:

    President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

    Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

    "I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

    What does it say about what lies ahead if Barack Obama's top staffer believes Bill Clinton's biggest mistake on gay issues was not throwing us under the bus but (once in a blue moon) supporting us?

    And what does it say for our movement that its leaders often sound like White House flaks the way they make excuses for equality further delayed?

    November 23, 2008

    The Week on GNW (Nov. 16-22)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Obama transition issues gay rights planOBAMA TRANSITION ISSUES GAY RIGHTS PLAN: QUICK LOOK: The Obama-Biden transition team has released its official civil rights agenda on Change.gov, the official transition website, and the expansive and far-reaching section... (MORE)
    2. Calif. high court agrees to hear Prop 8 challengesCalif. high court agrees to hear Prop. 8 challenges: QUICK LOOK: The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider complaints by opponents of Proposition 8 that it improperly revised the constitution to ban gay marriage... (MORE)
    3. Lawmaker expects 'Don't Ask' repeal within one yearLawmaker expects 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal within one year: QUICK LOOK: The U.S. military's "don't ask-don't tell" policy could be overturned in the first year of President-elect Barack Obama's administration, according to the lead sponsor... (MORE)
    4. 5 years later, views shift on gay marriage in Mass.Five years later, views shift on gay marriage in Mass.: QUICK LOOK: When the Supreme Judicial Court handed down its landmark decision five years ago tomorrow allowing same-sex couples to wed in Massachusetts, opponents warned that traditional... (MORE)
    5. Gays in India fear blackmail and unhappy marriageGays in India fear blackmail and unhappy marriage: QUICK LOOK: Homosexuality is illegal under the Indian penal code, which describes the act as "against the order of nature" and declares it punishable by 10 years to life in prison,... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Dr. Phil dedicating entire episode to Prop 8 debateDr. Phil dedicating entire episode to Prop. 8 debate: QUICK LOOK: Dr. Phil is dedicating an entire episode to the ongoing controversy surrounding Proposition 8, the California gay marriage ban. Frank Voci, founder of WhiteKnot.org,... (MORE)
    • Tony Curtis defends 'Brokeback' slam, loves gay fansTony Curtis defends 'Brokeback' slam, loves gay fans: QUICK LOOK: Tony Curtis gained fame cross-dressing with Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like it Hot," but he found himself in an odd position in 2005, when he was widely quoted as blasting... (MORE)
    • With Prop 8, Calif. high court takes on people's voiceWith Prop. 8, Calif. high court takes on people's voice: QUICK LOOK: When the California Supreme Court begins weighing arguments over same-sex marriage — again — in December, some 18,000 such marriages could hang in the balance. Opponents... (MORE)
    • Three D.C. gay men indicted in sexual assualt, deathThree gay men indicted in sexual assault, death: QUICK LOOK: A grand jury has handed down an obstruction of justice indictment against three gay men who were under investigation for the August 2006 murder of Robert Wone, a prominent... (MORE)
    • Prince slams gays for 'sticking it wherever they want'Prince slams gays for 'sticking it wherever they want': QUICK LOOK: Asked about his perspective on social issues — gay marriage, abortion — Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    November 21, 2008

    Toward more perfect civil unions

    Posted by: Chris

    Preamble Thanks to Bilerico Project for posting my essay about a federal civil unions law -- "A modest marriage proposal" -- yesterday. Blogmeister Bil Browning gets points for proving me wrong and leaving in my criticism of Beltway-based gay "leaders," despite the fact many participate there as guest bloggers.

    The discussion that follows in the comments is not unlike the healthy debate we've had on here. I'm pleased that almost none of the objections have come from the short-sighted perspective that hate crimes and ENDA are all we should reasonably expect this year.

    I think it's clear to everyone except those employed by the Human Rights Campaign or the Democratic Party that those two bills are a start, not the finish. Having promised passage of both for years -- including if Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 midterms, it's not enough to finish yesterday's (yesteryear's) work and call it a day.

    The concerns I've seen raised about civil unions, rather, have been about how they are inherently unequal to marriage and we'd be left with a system like the Brits that enshrines marriage for heterosexuals and "civil partnerships" for gays. First and foremost, I agree wholeheartedly that we can never give up the fight for marriage or accept separate-unequal, second-class citizenship. 

    Civil unions are an important step, but they are not the promise land. Still, remember, no is married by the federal government, so the wording issue -- while important -- isn't as crucial as it is at the state level. Also, the gay rights movement in the U.K. never pressed for full marriage equality and has chosen not to push for it after civil partnerships were enacted. That's their right, of course, but there's nothing that says we have to follow their lead.

    Some have suggested that repealing the Defense of Marriage Act would accomplish the same thing as a federal civil unions statute, and they are right, of course. If we can repeal DOMA, or even half-repeal DOMA, I'm all for it. But the "M word" remains a sticking point for many in Congress, and the public, so federal civil unions would be a more immediately achievable step -- and one that would represent real, dramatic progress in hundreds of thousands of lives, especially in the red states with constitutional amendments that ban them, for the time being, from marrying gay couples.

    Fyi1 Just look at the sea of red on this map from Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry.

    We are years and years away from wiping the books of these anti-gay amendments. In the meantime, we have a unique opportunity, with the Democrats firmly in control, to go 95 percent of the way toward redressing discrimination by our own federal government against gay couples all across America.

    It's not a chance we should miss.

    November 20, 2008

    Back to the future on gay rights?

    Posted by: Chris

    Kochabzugcarter Even the most rabid anti-gay conservatives rarely trot out the tired old chesnut about a looming "gay agenda." Anyone with access to the Internet can see that we can't even agree on who are enemies are, much less what it is we want from government.

    Lanehudson Take this essay in the Advocate by young D.C. activist Lane Hudson, the former Human Rights Campaign staffer made famous by the anonymous website that outed Mark Foley's instant message shenanigans.

    No one appreciates more than me Lane's initial observations about the failure of our movement "leadership" to raise expectations beyond what has already been promised and not delivered for more than a decade now:

    The Human Rights Campaign Fund began in 1980 with the purpose of lobbying Congress for this very reason. Since then, no major piece of legislation has been passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. On the contrary, we have seen a ban on gays in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act passed. Our only successful defensive maneuver was to prevent the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

    Given our record, a change in strategy is warranted. The "stay the course" crowd's response to this is usually a "let's wait our turn" attitude. Our time at the back of the bus must end. Now.

    Hudson's actually too young to remember firsthand the history he's reciting, but he's dead-on about the consensus outside the Beltway that hate crimes and ENDA are not nearly enough. His solution -- and one I've heard knocked around by some of my liberal friends in the gay media biz -- is back to basics:

    Rather than ask for a version of ENDA that is vastly watered down from the version originally introduced by representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch 30 years ago, we will honor their leadership and ourselves by insisting that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This will grant sweeping protections enjoyed by other minorities in America, in employment, credit, and housing, among other fields.

    406pxcivilrightsact1964 I admire Lane's pluck, but this idea of amending the Civil Rights Act is, unfortunately, a solution in search of a problem, and one that would create a whole new around of headaches.

    Put aside that 20 states already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 7 of those (and D.C.) include gender identity protections as well. Put aside that earlier this year yet another federal court ruled that anti-trans discrimination is already illegal under Title VII (albeit a non-universal conclusion). Put aside the "third rail" nature of tinkering with the Civil Rights Act, and the further strain that will put on our already frayed relationship with many African Americans. 

    The fact is that the significance of such legislation would be largely symbolic. No one is marching in the street because we're refused rooms at hotels, service in restaurants and lunch counters or seats at the front of the bus. Has anyone ever seen a "queer-only" water fountain?

    Many African Americans would justifiably find it downright offensive to suggest we are denied fair access to housing loans when they've witnessed how white gays gentrify their neighborhoods, flip their houses and leave behind sky-high property taxes.

    The Civil Rights Act also brings with it disparate impact suits -- where employees can sue for discrimination based on percentage representation in the workforce and management. Given how personal and private many gays view their sexual orientation (and trans folk their gender identity), this presents enormous problems of its own.

    And what about affirmative action goals for gays and gender-nonconformists  -- is that really on anyone's agenda? It's a trainwreck only a mole for James Dobson would suggest!

    Loveeharmonystyle Besides, look at the kinds of cases we see in states where such broad-based non-discrimination laws exist -- like today's eHarmony settlement in New Jersey, where our "victory" is a separate website to match-make for gays, as if any self-respecting homo should trust their love-connection to admitted homophobes.

    No doubt real discrimination exists in housing and public accommodations, and in states where there's no existing legal remedy.  For those cases, as they say, "there oughta be a law."

    But why pick the speck out of the private sector's eye -- risking critical civil rights alliances -- when there is a giant log in our own government's? Our very own federal government won't let gays serve openly in the military and engages in blatant discrimination against same-sex couples in more than 1,200 ways.

    What's more, the Obama-Biden transition team is already on board with a solution, whether it is full or half-repeal of DOMA or a full-fledged federal civil unions law. Measured almost any way -- number of people affected, political viability, scope of rights won, government vs private sector discrimination -- there is more important work to be done.

    Dancing while gay America burns

    Posted by: Chris

    Solmoneselauper It wasn't enough for "the nation's largest gay political group" to pat itself on the back as one of "the top five winning member interest groups" in this year's election, despite the passage of four more anti-gay ballot measures, including Proposition 8 eliminating gay marriage in California.

    Now word has it that out-of-touch "leadership" at the Human Rights Campaign is also planning a GLBT "inauguration ball" for next month. It was bad enough that HRC refuses any responsibility for the abysmal "hide-the-gays" strategy they trotted out once again in California, or its 0-30 record fighting anti-gay ballot measures. They can do their denial in their dancing shoes.

    As boneheadedness goes, this rivals even the Big Three automaker CEOs flying corporate jets to Washington with their hat-in-hand to taxpayers.

    If HRC follows through on rumored plans for their ironically named "Equality Ball," they will have fully mastered the art of self-parody. Even "hockey mom" Sarah Palin's small fortune on clothing can't compare to Joe Solmonese and company donning tuxedos and ball gowns while the rest of us are taking to the streets -- no thanks to HRC, of course, which offered no resources or assistance for the National Day of Protest.

    Seeing as how every good party craves a theme, let me suggest one for HRC's Equality Ball, should it come to pass: Irrelevance.

    November 19, 2008

    To my bah humbug friends…

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    When the election of Barack Obama sent many gay Americans dancing into the streets -- figuratively and literally -- celebrating, my dear friend Kevin offered a sober, some might say cynical, reality check:

    [W]hy gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend. The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays. And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.

    Bluelight Well, we all saw how the dancing celebrations quickly transformed themselves into angry protest, for day after day in California and culminating in a National Day of Protest on Saturday that was unprecedented in size, reach and energy. (I say that having participated in both the 1993 and 2000 Marches on Washington.) Already there are creative campaigns to shine blue lights outside homes and businesses in support of equality, as well as talk of additional protests, including during inauguration weekend, and maybe even another March on Washington in May.

    However you feel about street protests, it's no fair tsk-tsk-ing these folks for wild-eyed optimism about Obama's election. Clearly, they see the need for continued activism and continued pressure.

    Obama_lgbt_adIt's also becoming more apparent than political climate in Washington for gay rights is not the same today as it was in 1992, as much as my bah humbug friends would have us believe. For one thing, the president-elect has already reiterated in writing the promises he made during the campaign to push for a wide array of federal LGBT rights. He didn't have to do that; anyone named Clinton certainly wouldn't have.

    Just today on the Hill, a leading House Democrat predicted repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" during the first year of the Obama administration. Does that make it so? Of course not, but she also didn't have to do it. Like the Obama-Biden Plan on LGBT Rights, the promise made by Rep. Ellen Tauscher is an early sign, mere days after the election, that real change may well be coming to America.

    I do not agree with Kevin, either as a historical or prospective matter, that "the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations." I have been as critical over the years as anyone of their inaction and unfulfilled promises. No doubt they take advantage, and no doubt they milk us again and again.

    But they do care about gay rights, in my view, just as their GOP counterparts care about opposing gay rights and limiting legal access to abortion. The reality that gives rise to the cynicism is that politicians of all stripes tend toward the cowardly, doing the absolute minimum they think they can get away with.

    That is where we come in, and why continued pressure from us, if not from our supposed leadership, is so critical. If the Democrats co-opt us into believing only hate crimes and ENDA are achievable in Obama's first year or first term, then that's surely all that we'll get. But, my bah humbug friends, the same holds true if we give in to cynicism -- confusing 2008 with 1992 and Barack Obama with Bill (or Hillary) Clinton. Cynicism can lower your sights, just as being coopted can, and you're left in the same place as the very HRC-ites you justifiably condemn.

    In that respect, Barack Obama was absolutely right. We are the change we've been waiting for.

    Know Hope But Verify.

    Project_postcard UPDATE:

    One grassroots effort that sprung up in response to Prop 8 offers a creative way to keep the pressure on the Obama-Biden team. Project Postcard, initiated by a group called the LGBTQ Civil RIghts Front, suggests mailing a postcard from your hometown with a "friendly little reminder" of candidate Obama's gay rights promises.

    Here's the address:

    President-elect Barack Obama
    Presidential Transition Office

    Kluczynski Federal Building

    230 S. Dearborn St., 38th Floor

    Chicago, IL 60604

    The Project's organizers suggest using the text of the postcard to call for repeal of DOMA, which certainly sounds good to me, but I would go one step further, calling for passage of a federal civil unions law:

    Dear President-elect Obama,

    Please ask Congress to enact a Federal Civil Unions Act repeal DOMA
    ! All Americans should have the right to marry.  Thank you in advance for advocating for the civil rights of your LGBT citizens. 

    Will a bunch of postcards change the world? Of course not. But it's going to be up to each and every one of us to do what we can to keep up the pressure, since it's unlikely to come from our "leaders" in Washington.

    A chance to ask why we lost

    Posted by: Chris

    Three of the leaders behind the effort to defeat the gay marriage ballot measures will be answering questions during a live blog event on Thursday over at Bilerico.

    You'll almost never see actual criticism of GLBT leadership at Bilerico, likely because founder Bil Browning fears he'll lose access for events like this, and because many gay group E.D.'s (excuse me, "presidents," though next to none of them were actually "elected" by "members") are regular contributors and guest-bloggers.

    Hopefully we'll see some tough questions of Kate Kendall, of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, about why the promised "big ol' homo" campaign against Prop 8, full of visible gay voices, never materialized.

    Others answering questions on the live blog include Equality Florida's Nadine Smith and Equality Arizona's Barbara McCullough-Jones.

    Growing chorus for change at HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcnotequals A number of influential voices are echoing the view raised here (and here) about the need for fundamental change of mindset and personnel at the leadership of the gay rights movement:

    • Andrew Sullivan: Why are non-gay Mormons more capable of organizing and fund-raising on a gay rights measure than HRC, the biggest national gay rights group? I mean: HRC claims (absurdly, but bear with me) 725,000 supporters and members. … They are supposed to have "expertise" - but the ads that ran in No on 8 were the usual fearful, focus-group driven, conviction-free pap. So in the biggest national struggle in the history of gay civil rights, this organization - which has vacuumed money from the gay community for years - were by-standers. Why is that not a scandal? How many struggles do we have to wage with these people always, always failing to lead - before we demand accountability and reform?

    Following up on Andrew's point about who wanted it more, it turns out that James Dobson's Focus on the Family is facing layoffs of more than 200 staffers because it pumped $539,000 into the Proposition 8 battle in California. Can anyone imagine HRC giving till it hurts like that? In fact, HRC claims to have donated $237,409 in "staff time." (HRC claims to have given $3 million, but it's counting bundled money from HRC donors).

    • Markos_moulitsas Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas: As a gatekeeper, the Human Rights Campaign sucks. Sullivan calls for the organization to be abandoned and defunded. But something worse is happening -- it is being rendered irrelevant by current events, and with irrelevance, it will shrivel up and die on its own. … The anti-Prop 8 campaign was an exercise in frustration. What we're seeing now, straight out of Taking on the System, is brilliant. And the movement is spreading far beyond California's borders. These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of it's so-called, self-appointed "leaders" to give them permission to engage.
    • Gw200h267 Robin Tyler (quoted by AP): The movement's leaders "were very timid. They were too soft," said Robin Tyler, a lesbian comic who created a series of celebrity public service announcements with the slogan "Stop the Hate, No on 8" that were rejected because they were deemed too negative. "We were lightweights on our side."
    • Queerty: In our struggle to change the mind's of others, we may have to change our own. The grassroots, "everyone has a voice", web-centric nature of the campaign that started after Prop. 8 passed is a direct response to the hierarchical, "here's the plan, get on board or go away", "shout from our bubble" effort that preceded it. Madness is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response. It's clear that the strategy (or lack thereof) of the HRC and No on 8. campaign did not work. … To the people who feel that questioning our gay leaders will only make us more divided, I point to our defeat and ask, "What makes you think we were ever united?"
    • Rexaz2_2Rex Wockner: Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born."? Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."? It was.
    • Hrcspanight Michael Petrelis: After all the hard work HRC did shoving gays back into the closet during the No on 8 campaign, … HRC is now giving the San Francisco community what it truly needs at this point as we pick ourselves after being knocked down by the voters. It's HRC Spa Night! … What's next? Get a face-lift and HRC gets 10% from the plastic surgeon, to fight the next ballot proposition? … One thing that is surely not next from HRC is an achievement of any significance for gay Americans. What would happen to the gay movement and its quest for fairness and equality if we once and for all stopped giving even a dime to the worthless Democratic Party hacks burning through $40 million community dollars annually?
    • Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway: The HRC’s tepid response to ballot measures is now 0-30, their accomplishments on Capital Hill are minuscule — they are in serious danger of becoming completely irrelevant. With this, they are now reduced to self-parody. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.
    • Andytowle2 Andy Towle: Voices are ringing out from all areas (liberal and conservative, some more critically than others) in the wake of the grassroots-organized protests around the nation, that national gay organizations, which have been the well-funded standard bearers for the gay movement for decades, must adjust to the new activism we've seen these past few weeks. Voices are ringing out that the national gay organizations must … adjust to this new reality" or "wither and die." Or perhaps, as we witnessed last weekend, they already have in many ways.
    • Waynebesen Wayne Besen: There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona. ... The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... Up until two weeks ago, major GLBT groups instructed people to write a check and then essentially instructed donors to check their activism at the door. Sometimes, one was asked to take their commitment a step further by sending e-mail or attending a dinner. I think this week's protests mark the end of the Passive Era of gay politics. A sign at protests, "No More Mr. Nice Gay", highlighted this monumental change. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die.

    The commentary from Towle and Besen is noteworthy because Towle rarely uses his über-popular Towleroad blog to criticize gay groups and Besen was a long-time staffer in the HRC communications department during the Elizabeth Birch years, working with HRC lifer David Smith, who remains at the org.

    It's particularly disappointing to see how behind the curve HRC is on the use of technology to push grassroots advocacy, given the dozens and dozens of young, tech-savvy staffers who work at the agency. It just goes to show you how the top-down approach to politics pushed by Smith, Joe Solmonese and other HRC leaders results in in-house management that further cripples the group's effectiveness.

    Change may well be coming to HRC, for no other reason but that many of its leaders are no doubt jockeying for jobs in the incoming Obama administration. (Query whether they will be embraced by the White House, given how obviously they sided with Hillary Clinton during the primaries. It's noteworthy that none of the seven out gay politicos with roles in the Obama transition team hail from HRC.)

    Either way, the gay rights movement is moving on with a retooled HRC or without it. The question is whether the D.C.-based gay groups want to remain relevant to the constituents and the movement they claim to lead.

    November 18, 2008

    Obama-Biden Plan = fed civil unions

    Posted by: Chris

    Changegovcivilrights The Obama-Biden transition team has released its civil rights agenda on Change.gov, the official transition website, and the section on LGBT rights is expansive and includes federal civil unions -- the topic of my post earlier today:

    Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

    Other LGBT highlights of the Obama plan:

    • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity
    • Fight Workplace Discrimination: passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity protections
    • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell
    • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
    • Expand Adoption Rights
    • Promote AIDS Prevention: Obama promised in his first year in office a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies, expanding beyond abstinence-only sex ed and ending the federal ban on needle exchange

    It's a powerful, far-reaching plan and is night and day with anything LGBT Americans have ever been promised by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (It's worth noting that two of the seven bullet points involve repealing anti-gay laws signed by the last "pro-gay" president.)

    What's missing? There's no mention of the Uniting American Families Act, which extends equal immigration rights to gay Americans, but there's no need for UAFA is DOMA is half-repealed or a federal civil unions law is enacted.

    A modest marriage proposal

    Posted by: Chris

    With the click of a mouse and boots on the street, hundreds of thousands of newly minted activists across the country last weekend declared independence from the top-down, black-tie, this-cutesy-logo-brought-to-you-by movement for gay civil rights.

    Gw270h405 It took the political perfect storm: the “Yes We Can” spirit behind Barack Obama’s election, running smack up against the “Oh No You Don’t” passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California.

    The result was Stonewall 2.0. No corporate sponsors, no tony Washington, D.C., offices, and not a single poll or focus group. Just tech-savvy young activists pulling off day after day of street protests in California, followed by a massive mobilization on Nov. 15, a National Day of Protest in big cities and small towns across these United States.

    In handmade signs signed off on by no one, gay and straight alike made their case for equality, and rejected en-masse the inane “strategery” of avoiding words like “marriage,” “discrimination” and “gay” because they didn’t poll well.

    “No More Mrs. Nice Gay”
    “OMG CA, WTF?”
    “Keep your church out of our state”
    “Would you rather I married your daughter?”
    “You get married in your church, I’ll get married in mine.”
    “Hey California, Jim Crow called. He wants his Proposition 8 back.”

    Gw320h240These protesters weren’t buying the namby-pamby “gay agenda” our so-called leaders have already agreed to behind closed doors in Washington. Those Beltway-based Democrats have collected our checks and counted our votes for a decade with promises to pass hate crime and employment non-discrimination laws. Belatedly keeping their word is a beginning, not the end.

    What do we want, then? Repealing Proposition 8, of course, but that’s not even an option until 2010, at the earliest, and may well be taken care of by the legal eagles already challenging the ballot measure in the courts. Even if Prop 8 is reversed, we are only back to where we were on Nov. 3, leaving the vast majority of same-sex couples across America with little or no recognition for their relationships or prospects for same.

    Gw333h500 That’s why a growing number of us have our own modest marriage proposal. Call it Proposition 9, or Prop -8, if you’d like. It would instantly confer more than 1,200 rights and benefits to same-sex couples in every single city, state and small town in the U.S., and it’s already supported by two-thirds of Americans.

    What is it?
    A federal civil unions law.

    What would it do? A federal civil unions law would say that all the rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples under federal law would be extended to same-sex couples whose relationships are recognized under state law.

    What kind of rights are we talking about? Hundreds and hundreds -- 1,269 to be exact, according to the G.A.O. -- including “real life” benefits like equal access to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, veterans and disability survivor benefits, access to health insurance, rental and other housing insurance, education grants and programs, first-time home buyer credits, property transfer rights, consumer credit protections, domestic violence protection, and a wide range of tax benefits and protections.

    Gw610h547_2 It also includes immigration and asylum rights, which means no more “love exiles,” LGBT Americans forced to make a heartbreaking “Sophie’s Choice” between remaining in the U.S. and the non-American partner they love.

    Who would it include? Everybody! It doesn’t matter where you live. There are no residency requirements for lesbian and gay couples to marry in Massachusetts or Connecticut, enter into civil unions in Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey, or domestic partnerships in California, Hawaii, Washington or Oregon. For the price of a round-trip ticket to any of these places, a same-sex couple can solemnize their relationship under state law and receive the same recognition under federal law as a heterosexual married couple.

    What about the Defense of Marriage Act? What about it? A federal civil unions law does not run afoul of foul-smelling DOMA, and does not require its full or even half-repeal. DOMA says only that the U.S. government can’t use “marriage” or “spouse” for gay relationships, and one state can’t be forced to recognize another state’s gay marriages. A federal civil unions law does neither.

    Gw404h325_2 What would the public say? A federal civil unions law does what the people say they want, since for years surveys say two-thirds favor gay couples having the rights and benefits of marriage, just not the “M-word” itself. Even a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention this year told pollsters they support civil unions for same-sex couples.

    What would Obama say? The president-elect and his running mate don’t support gay marriage, but both have been on record for months supporting fair and equal treatment of gay couples under federal law.

    The "Obama-Biden Plan" on Civil Rights, announced on the transition team website (change.gov) includes this promise: "Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to … enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions."

    Even Sarah Palin didn’t object when Joe Biden in effect promised federal civil union protection in the vice presidential debate.

    “Look,” Biden said, “in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.”

    Say it’s so, Joe. The Prop 8 protesters couldn’t have put it better.

    Bidenpalindebateap_2

    The Queen doesn't like "queens"

    Posted by: Andoni

    Queen_sofiaWell, not THE Queen as in Elizabeth, but the Queen as in Sofia of Spain. Turns out she doesn't like gays.

    In a new book, "The Queen Up Close" by Pilar Urbano, Queen Sofia tells the author that while she respects other sexual orientations, she does not understand why "they should feel proud to be gay." Then she goes on to say

    That they get up on floats and parade in the streets? If all of us who are not gay were to parade in the streets, we'd halt the traffic in every city.

    The Queen also opined that although gays were entitled to unions, the unions should not be called marriage.

    All I have to say is that the Queen probably can't help herself -- she was brought up Greek.

    Before she married Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and converted to Catholicism, she was Princess Sophia of Greece and brought up in the Greek Orthodox religion. Greek Orthodox is even more homophobic than Roman Catholic -- if such a thing is possible. Good thing the monarchy is pretty much a figurehead in Spain and the Queen's views don't really matter in governing. In 2005, the Spanish government was among the first countries to legalize  same sex marriage in spite of the views of the Church (or the monarchy). Apparently the churches in Spain have less influence over government than the churches in the United States. Could it be that all that bad history Spain had with Church and state intermingling taught the people that the church should not be involved in matters of the state?

    The Queen's comments were roundly denounced by Spanish liberals and gays. The palace apologized but also claimed that she was "inexactly" quoted, and the gay community more or less accepted the apology. The 70 year old Queen did not limit her candid comments to gays however; she also spoke out on euthanasia and religious education in schools

    King Juan Carlos is reported angry at the staff that permitted the Queen to sit for interviews for the book because the carefully controlled facade of the royal family has been pierced.

    As a tangential note, the trial  of those first same sex weddings in Greece was supposed to commence on Oct. 2, but it has been postponed to Dec. 4. It will be interesting to see if Greece has progressed as far as Spain in allowing for the separation of church and state. In my opinion the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece is more powerful than the Roman Catholic Church in Spain. The civil marriage laws in Greece were clearly gender neutral. So we'll see if Greece follows the law or a religiously biased interpretation of the law.

    November 17, 2008

    Prop 8 and common sense (II)

    Posted by: Andoni

    Dsc03905Last week I suggested some common sense reasons why the California Supreme Court should invalidate Prop 8. Here's one more they should consider.

    Conceivably pro-same sex marriage advocates could put the question on the ballot again in 2010. This time for numerous reasons, including that it is not a presidential election year, same sex marriage may win by the same narrow margin by which it just lost. Same sex marriage would once again be legal. That of course would provoke the anti-same sex marriage folks, including the Mormons, who would redouble their efforts in the presidential election year of 2012 to once again outlaw same sex marriage. They might be able to win again in 2012.

    I think you get the picture. With the margin of victory or loss being so close, there could be a ridiculous back and forth legal mess. The Supreme Court should consider the possibility of on again, off again civil rights and all that implies before they validate Prop 8. Civil rights by a simple majority that could change every couple of years would be a disaster.

    One final point. In its 4-3 decision to legalize same sex marriage in California, the court said there was a fundamental right in the constitution for gays to marry. They used sweeping language placing sexual orientation in the same category as race and gender. Going beyond marriage, they generalized that there was no legitimate basis in California to deny or withhold legal rights on the basis of sexual orientation . Here is just one quote from the decision (emphasis mine):

    Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation—like a person’s race or gender—does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

    In my common sense law book, that 4-3 decision inserted the fact that gays are equal everywhere in the constitution of California. So by my simple minded thinking this has to be the starting point for all seven justices (even the three who voted against same sex marriage last May) as they deliberate the current lawsuit to invalidate Prop 8. Gays are now equal in every aspect in the constitution -- so said that 4-3 decision. We are equal in the marriage clauses, we are there in the equal protection clauses --we are everywhere in that constitution.

    So for the justices to conclude that defining marriage as between a man and a woman is a simple small change (an amendment - requiring only a simple majority) that doesn't fundamentally change or unbalance the whole constitution (a revision - requiring a 2/3 vote by the legislature before going to the people) would be a stretch and a dishonesty. You can't have gays along side blacks and women in the equal protection clause (everyone has to be equal in this state), and then strip gays of some rights a few paragraphs later. That would be an incompatible situation. That would also be a major change (revision) to the constitution and Prop 8 was not done properly to be a revision or major change.

    I can see the three justices who voted initially against same sex marriage want to vote that Prop 8 was done properly, but that would be dishonest. If truly a supreme court decision on constitutional matters becomes part of the constitution, then the marriage decision in May wove us quite deeply into that constitution and it would take more than a simple majority to take us out.

    I'm told the decision will come within six months. We'll see if the justices (especially the three who dissented in the original marriage case) are intellectually honest with themselves honoring stare decisis (prior decisions) or if they revert to their preconceived ideologies (don't approve of gay marriage, no matter what) and vote that Prop was simply a minor change to the constitution.

    November 16, 2008

    Stonewall 2.0 news round-up

    Posted by: Chris

    SECOND UPDATE: Adding in reports from New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    3035862343_f6c6aedf26 Through my job updating Gay News Watch, I see a lot of gay news headlines, so I thought I would round up the articles I've seen about the National Day of Protests yesterday -- dubbed by Rex Wockner as Stonewall 2.0. The sheer number of protests is staggering, especially considering the bottom-up organization, lack of corporate sponsors and lack of backing from big-buck national GLBT groups.

    National round-ups:

    SandiegoprotestLocal stories:

    Outside the U.S.:

    Counter-protests/misc.:

    This round-up isn't necessarily comprehensive, though I did do my best to track down stories in larger urban areas and college towns. A few notable states/cities missing from the list, at least so far:

    • Alabama
    • New Jersey
    • Wyoming
    • Delaware
    • New Orleans
    • Nebraska
    • South Dakota

    If you come across articles or reliable blog posts from these states, or from cities missing on the big listing, please let me know.

    UPDATE:

    Thanks to readers, I've added the following links to the complete list (above):

    SECOND UPDATE:

    Protest for the punctuality-challenged

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphisprop8protestca As it turns out, showing up an hour or so after the scheduled start time for the Prop 8 protest yesterday here in Memphis meant that I was seeing the second wave, of fellow punctuality-challenged protesters. According to the Commercial Appeal:

    More than 150 people ignored the chilly winds to protest Downtown in front of the Memphis City Hall, bearing signs that said "Love makes a family," "Support love not H8" and "This is what democracy looks like."

    "Because of our history in civil rights we felt it was particularly important for Memphis' voice to be heard," said Amy Livingston, a board member with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, which co-sponsored the protest with the Women's Action Coalition.

    I had felt OK about showing up at 1:30 or so because Facebook invite indicated the downtown Memphis event would run from 12:30 to 3 p.m., and given how protests can be a bit disorganized and the gays like to be fashionably late -- (right about here, those who know me well usually roll their eyes and change the subject, so I'll just stop).

    Since none of the folks pictured the photo above, from the Commercial Appeal, were among the crew I witnessed, I'd say total turnout for the protest topped 200. Impressive and encouraging, especially for a grassroots rally protesting an election result so far away -- geographically and politically.

    The Week on GNW (Nov. 9-15)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Conn. issues first gay marriage licenseCONN. ISSUES FIRST GAY MARRIAGE LICENSES: QUICK LOOK: A 4-year legal battle for same-sex marriage came to an end this morning in a New Haven courtroom when Superior Court Judge Jonathan E. Silbert signed an order paving... (MORE)
    2. Gay marriage rallies stretch across U.S.GAY MARRIAGE RALLIES STRETCH ACROSS U.S.: QUICK LOOK: In one of the nation’s largest displays of support for gay rights, tens of thousands of people in cities across the country turned out in support of same-sex marriage... (MORE)
    3. Baldwin expects Congress to act first on hate crimesBaldwin expects Congress to act first on hate crimes: QUICK LOOK: As President-elect Barack Obama transitions to power, out U.S. representative Tammy Baldwin shares her insights on how LGBT issues played out in the election and what... (MORE)
    4. Gays among liberal groups pushing Obama wish listGays among liberal groups pushing Obama wish list: QUICK LOOK: Gays serving openly in the military. Voting rights for more ex-convicts. Paid sick days and family leave for most American workers. Those are part of a long wish list... (MORE)
    5. A doctor, a mutation and a potential cure for HIV/AIDSA doctor, a mutation and a potential cure for HIV/AIDS: QUICK LOOK: The startling case of an AIDS patient who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia is stirring new hope that gene-therapy strategies on the far edges of AIDS... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Comic Wanda Sykes comes out in response to Prop 8Comic Wanda Sykes comes out in response to Prop. 8: QUICK LOOK: Comedian Wanda Sykes says the passage of a same-sex marriage ban in California has led to her be more outspoken about being gay. "You know, I don't really talk about... (MORE)
    • Obama asked gay bishop what it's like to be 'first'Obama asked gay bishop what it's like to be 'first': QUICK LOOK: Barack Obama sought out controversial gay bishop Gene Robinson not just once but three times during his campaign to become President of the United States. Bishop Robinson,... (MORE)
    • Mike Piazza uses gay rumors to make memoir pitchMike Piazza uses gay rumors make memoir pitch: QUICK LOOK: Of all the amazing and wonderful feats Mike Piazza accomplished during his illustrious career, this was not one of them: standing in front of a bunch of reporters to... (MORE)
    • Trans sex worker warns arrests won't solve problemTrans sex worker warns arrests won't solve problem: QUICK LOOK: Sharmus Outlaw has worked the streets of the District for years and has been arrested for prostitution, but the 43-year-old transgender woman told members of the D.C... (MORE)
    • Haggard blames child sex abuse for gay sex scandalHaggard blames child sex abuse for gay sex scandal: QUICK LOOK: Ted Haggard, the disgraced former evangelical leader, recently broke his silence on the second anniversary of the scandal that brought him down. He gave a pair of sermons... (MORE)
    • Nicole Kidman goes from lesbian to post-op transNicole Kidman goes from lesbian to post-op trans: QUICK LOOK: She played a woman with lesbian leanings in The Hours - and won an Oscar - so Hollywood insiders are tipping awards-glory for Nicole Kidman, who has reportedly signed... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    November 15, 2008

    Protesting far from Prop 8

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphisprop8protest Memphisprotesters Several dozen young protesters showed up outside Memphis City Hall today to join the National Day of Protest in response to passage of gay marriage bans in California, Arizona and Florida -- as well as the ban just across the Mississippi River in Arkansas on gay couples adopting or foster parenting.

    Memprop8proThe most striking thing about the protesters -- besides the fact that there actually were protesters in a conservative city with a very closeted gay community -- was just how young they were. By the time I arrived, the initial gathering of around 100 and dwindled a bit, but I'd guess not a single one was much older than half my age (22, for those of you doing the math at home).

    The other thing that impressed me was just how many of them were straight and there simply to support their friends -- at least a third, I would guess.

    Did the protest make a difference? Well, downtown Memphis is fairly deserted on the weekend, and the temps were unseasonably cold -- easily in the 30s as the wind gusted down Mid America Mall. So City Hall was empty and the protesters far outnumbered curious passersby.

    Memphislogo_2But that's beside the point, in my mind. The primary benefit of protests is to energize and activate the protesters, and the young crowd was definitely not lacking for energy. Plus, the local media showed up, so Memphis will hear their voices.

    Finally, on a personal note, I got a lump in my throat as the protesters decided to walk down Mid America Mall, and we passed a landmark from my own past -- the William Len Building, where I lived almost 20 years ago, in the summer of 1990, when I worked for a law firm here.

    WmlenbuildingI was still deeply in the closet, and at least one year away from confiding in absolutely anyone in my life. To file past that same building with a group protesting for gay marriage made me smile. I've come a long way, baby.





    p

    Mo' money to hide gays = equality?

    Posted by: Chris

    Smithsteve That's essentially the message from one of the brilliant strategists who decided the way to beat back a discriminatory ban on gay marriage was to never mention "discrimination," "marriage," or "gay."

    The excuses offered by Steve Smith, a (heterosexual) principal in the Dewey Square consulting firm that managed the "No on 8" campaign, are maddeningly illogical and unconvincing:

    • He blamed money woes, even though he had $2 million more at his disposal than "Yes on 8" did.
    • He complained about being "under-resourced" while acknowledging "we ended up spending very nearly $40 million dollars, more than anybody had ever spent on this kind of race."
    • He was clueless about the tech-savvy grassroots that energized the Obama campaign and the Stonewall 2.0 protests, admitting the No on 8 website was "pathetic" until volunteers from Google fixed it. The result: In the months prior, No on 8 raised "only about $1 million in Internet contributions"; after the site fix, "we raised approximately $22 million" from the Net in just 6 weeks.
    • Despite the fact that turnout in San Francisco was under 50%, Smith concluded, "We lost because we missed seven or eight points in L.A."
    • He joined the chorus of finger-waggers warning protesters not to blame the Mormon Church, even as the N.Y. Times confirms, "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage."
    • He admitted "No on 8" failed to define the issue, but disagreed with criticism that avoiding terms like "marriage," "discrimination" and "gay" might have something to do with that.
    • He lamented that "Yes on 8" successfully defined the issue, even as he dismissed early pro-Prop 8 ads as "real screamers" that "actually didn't say almost anything at all" and "the other side won by bullshitting."

    Let us hope that if nothing else comes out the National Day of Protest in response to losing three more marriage ballot measures, we can move beyond the focus-group driven, over-strategized leadership that thinks somehow we can wink-nod clever our way into full equality.

    The Mormons and us on Prop 8

    Posted by: Andoni

    MormontempleBottom line, they fought as if their lives depended on it, we did not.

    Today's New York Times, reveals how the Mormon Church thought it was going to lose Prop 8 with less than two weeks to go before the election. In the 11th hour they pulled out all the stops, marshaling unprecedented money and rallying their troops.... and won. The Times concludes that it was the Mormon Church that tipped the scales on marriage in California.

    The article quotes Mormon leaders saying that Prop 8 was the largest social issue campaign ever undertaken by the church, larger than any anti-abortion effort. They realized what the stakes were for the rest of the country should same sex marriage be validated by the public in California.

    By all accounts, both first hand communications from people in California as well as media reports, our side did not mount the same kind of effort that the people who feared same sex marriage did. The only good news for us is that in spite of all the massive effort by our opposition, we only lost 52 to 48. This bodes well for a proactive measure in the future.

    I think both sides knew that importance of winning Prop 8 in California, but it's sort of like the Super Bowl....the team that wants it more usually wins. It seems as if the Mormons wanted to win more than we did.

    What can we do now to show how much we want this thing? Well today we all go can go to a National Day of Protest rally. They are happening all over the country and you can find one near you here. Maybe if there are hundreds of thousands of people protesting Prop 8 from coast to coast, the Justices of the California Supreme Court will be impressed with how important same sex marriage is to our community...and find the backbone to overturn Prop 8.

    Let's start wanting this more than our opposition. That's the most important key to victory.


    November 14, 2008

    Are your expectations 'appropriate'?

    Posted by: Chris

    Joesolmoneseofc

    In an interview with Metro Weekly, Joe "Extremist For Love" Solmonese made clear -- as if there were ever any doubt -- that he and HRC are just fine with our relationships remaining the love that dare not speak its name inside the Beltway:

    The new Congress and administration represent the best opportunity we've ever had to finally protect all Americans from hate crimes and to ensure workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We strongly believe that it is important to have a plan in place for each piece of legislation we are working to pass. In the months ahead, we'll work to keep transparency with the community and to set appropriate expectations.

    Are your expectations "appropriate," you Prop 8 protesters? Don't expect the Human Rights Campaign to do anything on the issue that has brought you into the streets because our ENDA/hate crimes bread crumbs are already a done deal.

    Just in case you assume HRC was smart enough to have worked through the nasty, divisive issue of transgender inclusion before deciding to leave ENDA at the top of its very narrow agenda -- well -- your expections aren't appropriate, either:

    It has been our goal and will remain our goal to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We will continue to do the hard work of educating Members of Congress on the need for crucial workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    In other words, he has no idea.

    A few related nuggets:

    • Asked his reaction to the Nov. 4 vote, Solmonese did a verbal victory dance, making absolutely no reference to Prop 8 or the other anti-gay ballot measures.
    • Taskforcepledge_2HRC had the gall, despite its abysmal failure on Prop 8, to claim it is among "the top five winning member groups" in the election. Again, no mention of the ballot measures.
    • At 3:40 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the supposed grassroots group the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force issued their first press release congratulating the real activists for their "amazing" protests. What's really amazing is that a small group of tech-savvy 20-somethings have managed to accomplish in one week what our national groups haven't managed to do in almost a decade now -- mobilizing us to protest.
    • Unsurprisingly, the Task Force "take action" link leads to a pledge form that, like HRC's, will be sent absolutely nowhere, except the group's own membership department. And what's the pledge? A promise to be nice, even though we're angry.

    Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Expect

    Posted by: Chris

    Samnunn There are more signs that initial impressions were correct about the administration of President-Elect Barack Obama tackling little more than enactment of already-popular, long-stalled measures like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.

    First there was the buzz that Sam Nunn, ringleader behind the so-called compromise policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," would "lead the handover team for the Department of Defense." It was Nunn, you will recall, who blindsided the newly-elected president from his own party in early 1993 by sounding the alarm about Bill Clinton's campaign promise to eliminate the ban on gays in the military.

    The Obama team walked back those initial reports, insisting Nunn had no formal role in the presidential transition, but nonetheless acknowledged the former Georgia senator, now 70, "will play an informal senior advisor role throughout the defense transition process" because "his expertise and the respect he has earned will be invaluable."

    Jamiegorelick Trumpeting "respect" for the man who crippled a new Democratic president by playing to bigotry is sure to hit a false note with many Obama supporters. So will word that Jamie Gorelick, Defense Department counsel during the Clinton years, is being considered for attorney general.

    Gorelick has all sorts of baggage relating to her role in curbing anti-terrorism intelligence and later becoming a multimillionaire running Fannie Mae, but we gays will never forget her role as the legal architect behind "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It was Gorelick who created the legal fiction that DADT regulates "conduct" not free speech or "status" as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

    Well, not "conduct" per se, but proclivity to engage in conduct. So if a soldier or sailor says he is gay, his statement is taken under Gorelick's DADT framework as a rebuttable admission that he has a proclivity to engage in "homosexual conduct" -- meaning not just sodomy but holding hands, kissing, anything particularly homo.

    Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws that criminalize sodomy in 2003; the military still uses Gorelick's DADT fiction to defend its indefensible policy, which the president-elect has said was wrong-headed from the start and harmful to our national security.

    Finally, as if all that weren't enough, there is a depressing coda to my earlier post about how Rahm Emanuel, the new White House Chief of Staff, tamped down expectations that Obama would tackle gay issues early on in his administration.

    Davidmixner Gay F.O.B. David Mixner apparently told harrowing stories in his 1996 book "Stranger Among Friends" about the arrogant atitude taken by Emanuel, a top Clinton advisor, took toward gays when DADT first hit the proverbial fan:

    When President Clinton said publicly that he "wouldn't rule out" an idea to allow the military to segregate openly gay service members from straight ones, Mixner tried to contact the White House for an explanation.

    "We don't have to explain or justify our actions to you," said Emanuel, according to Mixner. "If the President of the United States never does another thing for you people, you should get on your knees and be thankful. He's already done more for you all than anyone. How dare you question his actions!"

    Mixner said Emanuel ultimately finished the phone conversation by saying "I will not talk to you anymore" and hanging up. Emanuel, he said, "made it very clear that he would decide what would be recommended to the President."

    From his point of view, Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal, Mixner "unjustly criticized" Clinton. "If somebody criticizes the president," he said, "then I think they are persona non grata."

    Rahmemanuelbarackobama There's no way to square Emanuel's offensive attitude toward criticism by "you people" with President-Elect Obama's approach to gay rights, politics in general and toward dissent.

    (An excellent article by former Blade editor Lisa Keen also retells Mixner's harrowing encounter with Emanuel over who would pay to replace trampled grass after the 1993 March on Washington. Rejecting any government responsibility, Emanuel said "some of your rich boys" should pay. Geffen can do it. So can several others. They'll want to please the president." Is there any better analogy to the Clinton-Dem attitude toward "you people?")

    There's also hope that Emanuel, who compiled a gay rights record in Congress that is better than the Obama's, has mellowed somewhat on gay issues. Mixner himself remains cautiously optimistic:

    When asked about Obama's choice of Emanuel for Chief of Staff, Mixner called him an "excellent choice."

    "He should just remember it is sixteen years later and a lot of things have changed since then," said Mixner. "I am sure he is aware of it."

    To borrow from Reagan, later paraphrased by Sullivan: Know Hope But Verify.

    November 13, 2008

    This finger-wag brought to you by HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Mlksolmonese

    MLK and Solmonese -- For Whom Does the Finger Wag?

    Unbelievable. Just when I think "the nation's largest LGBT political lobby" can't make itself any more irrelevant to the lives of its supposed constituents, Joe Solmonese et al somehow manage to go the extra mile.

    After failing to lift a finger to help organize days of protest following the passage of Proposition 8 and three other anti-gay ballot measures, the feckless leadership of the Human Rights Campaign finally acted.

    Are you ready? Drumroll, please. Solmonese issued his "weekly message" one day early!

    Normally, I would wait until Friday to write to you, but with all that’s going on right now, I felt it was important to speak to you today.

    Yeah, I was shocked, too!

    But simmer down, folks. It's not like Joe is interested in speaking truth to power, our offering some actual plan to mobilize the protesters' grassroots energy into achievable goals. No, no, no. That would conflict with the Beltway bargain HRC has already struck with the Reid-Pelosi-Frank-Baldwin contingent in Congress to take our ENDA and hate crimes and hush up till 2011.

    So instead it is the protesters themselves -- how dare they act from the bottom up! -- who are treated to a classic P.C. finger-wag in this Very Special Episode of Solmonese Speaks:

    To reverse the outcomes of November 4, we must embrace our passion and anger, and redirect them to tasks that have as yet gone undone. We must take this election as an occasion to look inward.

    Inward? I remember Obama saying that "we are the change we are waiting for," but surely Solmonese isn't blaming gay folk for HRC's "No on 8" hide-the-gays strategy that has failed all 30 times it's been tried before. Oh yes! It seems that minority voters were justified in stripping gays (of all races) of our fundamental rights because we have not sufficiently bankrolled a broader social justice agenda.

    In our California, Arizona and Florida campaigns, we asked diverse communities to hear our stories and respect our rights. But have we heard the concerns of the people we asked to listen to us?

    We assert that equal marriage rights are basic human rights. We must also show that our concern for human rights does not end with marriage. We must make clear alliance with those we seek as coalition partners. As we ask communities of color and religious communities to engage and partner with us, we must demonstrate our commitment to the people and issues they care about.

    Specifically, Solmonese calls on the gay rights movement, already tiny in number and overwhelmed financially and politically, to devote out energy to "forty-seven million uninsured" Americans and "legions of children are denied equal opportunity by failing schools, violence, and racism."

    Putting aside, for the moment, that gays have always contributed time, energy and (especially) money to the political party organized around these other social justice issues, Solmonese's primary goal here is the ole bait and switch.

    HrcnotequalsStop rabble-rousing in the streets on an issue HRC has already agreed to put on the backburner! You're only reminding everyone how badly our smartest focus-group strategists have failed our movement!

    Finally, as the pièce de non-résistance, there is the classic call to action that accompanies the Solmonese missive. He begs us to "join with [him] and thousands of others and pledge to become an 'extremist for love' and fight to overturn these amendments."

    That's you, Joe, a tuxedo-clad "extremist for love" with a quarter-million dollar annual paycheck. And the accompanying "take action" link? You guessed it -- a web form that captures your contact info and email address for the HRC database, consigning you to a lifetime of fund-raising solicitations.

    With "activists" like this, who needs the bigots? I wonder if he'll even show up for a protest.

    November 12, 2008

    A gay man to run the Democratic Party?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hildebrandsteve One of the two leading contenders said to be under serious consideration by Barack Obama for the job of running the Democratic Party is openly gay political strategist Steve Hildebrand. The president-elect is reportedly considering Hildebrand, who was Obama's deputy national campaign manager, to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    Paul Tewes, Hildebrand's partner in D.C.-based campaign consulting firm, has been mentioned as another leading candidate. Politico.com speculated that Obama might tap someone with a higher profile, like Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, to be the DNC general chairman and "the face" of the party, while leaving day-to-day operations to the likes of Tewes or Hildebrand.

    A native of South Dakota, Hildebrand cut his political teeth in party politics, not the gay rights movement. He the re-election campaign for Tom Daschle, then the Senate's leading Democrat, when he was surprisingly booted by South Dakotans back in 2004. Hildebrand's earlier work included Democrat Tim Johnson's winning run for the other U.S. Senate seat from South Dakota in 2002, and Al Gore's victory in the Iowa caucuses two years earlier.

    Hitchcockyandura If Obama does tap Hildebrand, it will be an interesting turn of events for the DNC. Despite the high-profile role of Andrew Tobias, the openly gay party treasurer, the DNC under current chairman Howard Dean has come under heavy fire from many gay Democrats for neglecting gay issues, especially state-level ballot measures to ban marriage.

    Dean and the DNC have vigorously defended themselves against the accusation, but their image has been sullied by a lawsuit filed by Donald HItchcock, alleging he was fired as the party's gay outreach liaison because his domestic partner, political consultant Paul Yandura, publicly called on gays to withhold donations over the ballot measure flap.

    As far as I know, Hitchcock's lawsuit remains pending. Obama's team would be well-served to clean up Howard's mess before installing their own people at the party's helm.

    Where to aim 'Second Stonewall' anger?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mormonprop8protest It's been absolutely inspiring to watch the groundswell of daily -- sometimes hourly -- street protests throughout California since the passage of Proposition 8 last week. So much for the cynicism about Obama-mania on Election Night eclipsing the gay marriage defeats.

    Rex Wockner and Andy Towle have done a fantastic job of chroncling it all, and Rexo offers this prescient analysis:

    Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born.

    It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.

    I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots.

    For the sake of the movement, I hope Rex is right. The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again. And it's clear from the HRC's radio silence about the Prop 8 protests that they have no idea what to do with gays who are energized enough to take to the streets.

    Gw200h258_2 Our so-called "leaders" at HRC and the Task Force aren't alone in their blank-face reaction to the week-long "Second Stonewall" protests in California, which will culminate in a National Day of Protest this Saturday. It's easy enough to see why the Beltway Boys are confounded by it all:

    • The protests are grassroots, from the ground up, and the HRC (Activism 3.0) model is top-down, controlled by strategists wedded to focus group data.
    • Because the anger and emotion is real, it's often misdirected, and D.C.-types can't associate themselves with protests that don't toe the line of political correctness.
    • The focus of the protests is marriage and relationship recognition, which is not on "the gay agenda" that HRC et al have already acquiesced to: hate crimes in '09, ENDA in '10, and maybe -- just maybe -- federal D.P. benefits and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in '11-'12.
    • Some of the protest anger is directed at HRC itself, and its top-down cohorts at Equality California, which ran a lackluster No on 8 campaign that refused to allow gay couples to be seen, much less make the case for their own equality.

    To see just out of step the D.C. gay groups are with their supposed constituents, consider that the only real response so far to seven consecutive days of gay activism in the streets is to scold protesters about who they shouldn't be angry at.

    Remarkably, the "Events" and "Take Action" links on HRC's website still list only the upcoming fund-raisers for the organization itself. It's unconscionable that a group that claims to be leading a movement is not at the very least leveraging its resources to get out the word for those who want to participate in the protests. Instead, HRC's only response to eight consecutive days of street protests has been to praise a memo from People For the American Way that calls activists to task for blaming minority voters.

    Daughterprop8protest In similar fashion, those on the crunchy Gay Left at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have been almost a caricature of themselves, ignoring the power of the protests to conclude what we really need is, you guessed it, to "get thee to an anti-racism training! Let’s learn how attending to our own internalized racism can bring new awareness to our work with colleagues of color." Yes, that's an actual quote. Could the Task Force be more calcified and paleo-liberal?

    Those on the gay right, for their part, are warning the protesters not to blame the Mormon and Catholic Churches, despite their obvious leading role in funding the devious Yes on 8 campaign. Conservative gay law professor Dale Carpenter warned that it's bad politics -- and risks proving Yes on 8's claims about the threat to religious freedom -- to protest outside Mormon temples.

    Carpenter's criticism is somewhat ironic, coming just weeks after he claimed he was quitting the gay rights movement. He's fundamentally wrong, in my view, to suggest that protesting the critical organizational role in Yes on 8 played by the church. In fact, he turns logic on its head to suggest the protests threaten religious freedom.

    Prop8protest1 The First Amendment guarantees the Mormons' right to preach against gay marriage and refuse to perform them in their own churches. The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.

    Carpenter argues that a better strategy for the protests would be to borrow a page from the black civil rights movement, and hold sit-ins in marriage license bureaus. Not only would such a strategy fail to make full use of the spectacular number of gays and allies energized to action, it's also misplaced. The government is not to blame here.

    Clearly the judicial branch isn't to blame, having vindicated the marriage rights of gay and bisexual Californians. The California Legislature twice passed gay marriage laws, so their hands are clean. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, but he opposed Prop 8 and since its passage has called on the state supreme court to once again declare gay marriage the law of the land.

    No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.

    H At some point, of course, these protests will die down and all these newly-minted activists will be looking for where to invest their energy. Neither HRC nor the Task Force has ever been about actual activism -- members are typically encouraged only to donate money and write emails and letters -- so it's my hope that the Join the Impact infrastructure will take on a life of its own.

    Perhaps this new generation of gay activists can take the fight to Washington and demand the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House do more than the absolute minimum for GLBT Americans.

    (All photos except lesbian couple are by Fergal O'Doherty via Rex Wockner's blog)

    November 11, 2008

    Prop 8 strains gay race relations (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Prop8policeprotesters Clearly this is going to get uglier before it gets better. Both sides are stepping up the angry rhetoric as our Prop 8 firing squad forms a nice, tight circle.

    As someone who rejects the view popularized by Dan Savage that somehow black Californians are the, or even a, primary culprit in the passage of Prop 8, I can only shake my head at how easily some black gay voices have taken the bait.

    Over on the Rod 2.0 blog, a black UCLA student reported the "N bomb" was being thrown around by some of the white gay Prop 8 street protesters:

    It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. "YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger."

    Talk about your sad commentary. It's hard to know where to start -- the ignorant white gay man who shouted obscenities, or the offended black gay man who responded by labeling the entire gathering as "a klan rally." Or, for that matter, the fact that only the reactive bigotry of the black gay student went unchallenged or even commented on by Rod himself or Pam Spaulding, who subsequently posted the same snippit on her blog. How depressing, then, that it took the National Review to point out the reverse racism.

    I wasn't the only one gobsmacked by Jasmyne Cannick's angry L.A. Times screed. Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff labeled it "shockingly racist" in his own blog post:

    Perhaps the most egregious passage in Cannick’s opinion is this: “There's nothing a white gay person can tell me when it comes to how I as a black lesbian should talk to my community about this issue. If and when I choose to, I know how to say what needs to be said.”

    It would have been helpful for Cannick to share her all-knowing and powerfully influential ideas before Nov. 4. These are the words of someone suffering from extreme delusions of self-importance.

    Cannick suggests the marriage movement is about white gays who are “racist and clueless.” Tell that to the multiple black gay and lesbian couples that have been plaintiffs in marriage lawsuits across the country.

    The sad personal truth about Cannick is that she's long prided herself as some sort of "gatekeeper" whose ring must be kissed before access to her people is granted. I don't agree with Kevin that it makes her racist, but he's spot-on that she suffers from "extreme delusions of self-importance."

    I found myself caught up in a similar debate on a gay rights list serve, when another black gay leader argued, as Cannick had, that marriage is somehow irrelevant to most African American gays, since marriage rates in general among U.S. black hover below 50 percent.

    Huh? I'm not sure where he got his data but that certainly does not square with the U.S. Census. As of 2001, more than 60 percent of black men and women had married by their mid-30s, and almost 97 percent had married by the time they reached their 70s.

    Ever_married_in_us_by_race_2 Considering life expectancies for both whites (78 years) and blacks (73 years) fall into that final column, it's safe to say that almost everyone marries at some point in their lives. Even factoring in declining marital rates, it's just not factual to argue that African Americans aspire to marry at dramatically different rates than white Americans do.

    Divorce_rate_by_race_2 In fact, marriage rights and relationship recognition are arguably more  important for African Americans than for other racial/ethnic groups. Many of the most critical rights that bundled in marriage and relationship recognition are the property protections that arise in divorce, and this chart shows, the higher divorce rate among black men and women.

    But then again, what does a white gay guy like me know about the lives of black same-gender-loving Americans?

    Let the expectation lowering begin…

    Posted by: Chris

    Changegov Well, that didn't take long. It's only been a week since the Democrats retook the White House and greatly enhanced their congressional majorities, and already we hear key party players telling the gays to simmer down.

    First there was President-Elect Barack Obama's official website, Change.gov. Under the header "Agenda," the only gay rights items included were the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No mention of repealing those two mainstays of the Clinton administration: the Defense of Marraige Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    Within days, no doubt due to flak from all quarters about what domestic and foreign policy goals were included and what weren't, the entire section was removed from the site, replaced by general language that promises "a comprehensive and detailed agenda" without saying what it is.

    Then there was the Wall Street Journal interview with Rahm Emanuel, newly named as Obama's chief of staff, who promised a "pragmatic" White House that will "do what they got elected to do." Emanuel, who was a senior Clinton adviser through both DADT and DOMA, clearly carries the scars of those experiences:

    Rahmemanuel_2 Mr. Emanuel defended President Clinton's decision to push through a tax increase in 1993 -- "a tough call" -- after having campaigned on a middle-class tax cut. He also denied that it had much impact in the midterm elections a year later. Instead, he cited issues like "gays in the military" as more damaging politically. "It's not what we campaigned on," said Mr. Emanuel.

    And as an example of Republicans losing their way, he cited the Terri Schiavo episode in 2005, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled congress intervened in a case involving a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

    In both instances, "the lesson is to do what you got elected to do," said Mr. Emanuel. "Do what you talked about on the campaign. If you got elected, that's what people expect. Don't go off on tangents where part of your party is demanding an ideological litmus test. Neither of those things was part of the campaign."

    The reality, of course, was the Bill Clinton had promised to remove the ban on gays in the military during the campaign, and Barack Obama has as well, repeatedly. What's more, the two main arguments Obama made to gay and gay-friendly voters during the Democratic primary season was that he would push for full repeal of the DOMA, while Hillary Clinton favored only half-repeal, and he would not "throw gays under the bus" -- the way Melissa Etheridge described our treatment during Clinton's two terms.

    Frankbaldwin_2 Then came the gay Dems in Congress. Appearing on Mike Signorile's Sirius OutQ show, Barney Frank reportedly predicted:

    1. Almost immediate passage of a gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard hate crimes law.
    2. Passage within two years of a gay and trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
    3. DADT repeal once the Iraq War stabilizes and the Defense Department is on board.
    4. DOMA repeal … well … someday … it's complicated.

    Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin sang from the same score during an interview this week with the Advocate:

    I’m not putting a timetable on this -- I’m talking more about the order or things. In this respect, we will start with hate crimes, and we will at the same time -- especially through the LGBT equality caucus that I founded with [out Massachusetts U.S. representative] Barney Frank -- be educating our new colleagues and our returning colleagues on a wide range of issues.

    I wouldn’t limit it to hate crimes and ENDA; as I discussed earlier, domestic-partnership benefits for federal employees [should be discussed]. We’re also working with an Administration that will be able to make plenty of progress that won’t require legislative authorization.

    Note how repeal of DOMA and DADT have been disappeared, and relationship recognition is reduced to a employment benefits package for federal employees. Why exactly are they more deserving than the rest of us?

    And if this is all we're to expect then why, oh why, did we debate full vs. half-repeal of DOMA, and why did Joe Biden pledge in the veep debate that, "in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple"?

    Why? Because the Democratic leadership in Washington will always do the absolute minimum they can get away with on gay issues, and their stooges in our gay rights organization are too busy jockeying for jobs to call them on it.

    Am I too cynical too soon, Kevin?  ;)

    Obama, free the gays!

    Posted by: Andoni

    I can't tell you how down I still am over the passage of Prop 8 in California repealing the right of gays to marry.

    As they say, when one door closes sometimes another opens. The surprising thing for me in the aftermath of Prop 8 is the number of phone calls I have gotten from relatives (I have a lot of religious conservative relatives) to discuss the Prop 8 result. Most go along the lines of "You know I'm not against you gays or gay rights, it's just that marriage is so sacred that I can't support it for two men. Civil unions would be OK, but sorry I can't support marriage." There is almost a tinge of guilt in their voices. I think I am getting these calls because these people realize on some level that what the voters did in California was wrong.

    I believe that the people who voted to strip gays of their right to marry fall into two categories: those who are not anti-gay but have a bona fide belief that the word marriage should only apply to heterosexual marriages and those who are definitely anti-gay and don't want gays to have anything, nothing, nada.

    I would bet that this latter group is definitely a minority. That would make the sum of the people who favor gay marriage (voted no on Prop 8) and those who only quibble over the word "marriage" for us and don't mind us being recognized with rights in some other manner --- a fairly big majority, a working majority -- if we can get them all on the same page.

    I think the time is ripe to put this majority to work, right now while people remember how we were screwed on marriage. Contrary to what our more conservative national leaders and organizations may tell you, I believe this is a good time to propose federal legislation recognizing civil unions and granting federal benefits for these unions. Marriage is the lightning rod issue, civil unions is not. We should take advantage of this fact to move our cause forward in a dramatic way at this time.

    Federal civil unions would be in keeping with Barack Obama's campaign promises. He believes in civil unions for us, not marriage. Going with the flow at this time means getting on the civil union track, not the marriage track.

    There is a lot of guilt out there about what happened in California and it will put people on the spot to the test themselves whether they are just paying us lip service that they aren't really anti-gay -- only anti-gay marriage. This doesn't mean we stop fighting for marriage, but it will take much more time for that. Who are we as a people to think we can get 100% in one leap when African Americans had to settle for separate but equal before they got equal. Have we run a better campaign than they did? Have we fought harder? I don't think so. They were willing to get bloodied in the streets and arrested for their cause. I don't see similar motivations or sacrifices being made on our part, so it's hard to argue that we deserve an easier, faster path than they got. Separate but equal is fine by me for a while, but we need to get some federal recognition of our relationships on the books and there is an opening at the moment. Civil unions would be a giant leap forward and because we will have a president who has said this is what he believes in, this is where we should put our energy. It would be crazy to try to do an end run for marriage, and only marriage. Marriage or bust is not a good strategy.

    It doesn't take a Doris Kearns Goodwin to see that Barack Obama can go down in history as the president who brought gay rights to this country. He is in a position to pass ENDA and hate crime legislation, repeal DOMA, repeal DADT, and establish federal rights for our unions. 

    In summary, Barack Obama has the potential to be the Abraham Lincoln for gay people. Just as Lincoln freed the slaves, Obama (more or less a beneficiary of Lincoln's actions) is in the unique position to become known as the president who freed the gays.

    Prop 8 strains gay race relations

    Posted by: Chris

    Sarah Palin isn’t the only one facing flying fur after last week’s historic election results. While bitter McCain campaign aides accused their erstwhile veep of not knowing Africa is a continent, some bitter white gays were accusing African Americans of not knowing civil rights extend beyond race.

    Prop_8_by_race So much for Barack Obama’s election transcending racial politics in this country. Exit polls showed that increased turnout among black voters energized by his candidacy actually helped enact Proposition 8, the ballot measure that amended the California state constitution to take away same-sex marriage rights.

    Most whites voted against the divisive measure, while black Californians supported Prop 8 at the polls by a margin of more than two to one. Those shocking numbers have prompted a white gay backlash, and sex advice-cum-political columnist Dan Savage was typical in his vitriol.

    Dansavage “I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there — and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum — are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color,” he wrote.

    Not everyone was ready to pile on. Kathryn Kolbert, the partnered lesbian mother who is president of People For the American Way, warned against “lashing out at African Americans” as “deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.”

    Kolbert argued that even factoring in higher turnout, black voters were too small a percentage of the California electorate to have made the difference on Prop 8.

    She’s right about the electoral math. Black voters contributed only 3 percentage points to the “Yes on 8” vote, which passed by a margin of 4 points.

    Prop8_by_sex_race_2 If anything, Savage ought to look a lot closer to home – like in the mirror, for example. It’s true that whites overall voted 51 to 49 percent against Prop 8, but white male voters backed the measure by a similar margin. Given their higher percentage of the electorate, it was good ole white guys – not African Americans – who actually provided Prop 8’s margin of victory.

    Savage and others nonetheless vent that black voters ought to better appreciate the importance of civil rights issues, and the way marriage laws can be used to discriminate. Unfortunately, no one was making that case, at least according to Mario Solis-Marich, who wrote in Huffington Post that the “No on 8” campaign all but ignored black and Latino voters.

    Would a more effective outreach to African-American voters have really made a difference? Not according to relentlessly self-promotional Jasmyne Cannick, who claimed in a venomous Los Angeles Times column that black gays view marriage equality as a white gay issue anyway.

    Jasmynecannick200 “I am a perfect example of why the fight against Proposition 8 … failed to win black support,” wrote Cannick, who is herself a lesbian. “Why? Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please.”

    Here was Cannick, happily projecting her own unsuccessful love life – about which she blogs frequently – on everyone else, never stopping to consider whether homophobia in the African-American community might be responsible for disinterest in same-sex marriage. Tying the knot doesn’t exactly fit the “down low,” “gay thug” lifestyle.

    Conveniently, Cannick prefers the grievance/victimization route, claiming economic worries were more important to black voters. Well, duh. They were for white voters, too, in California and across the country. That’s why a black man is now the president-elect.

    It’s divisive and simplistic for Cannick and others to present economic trauma and gay marriage as zero-sum options. Voters of every race could have voted their pocketbook in the presidential race without voting their bigotry further down the ballot.

    The failure of so many whites and blacks within our “community” to see past their own race is discouraging proof of just how much remains to be said in our national “conversation” on race. We elected a black president, and still we can’t just all get along?

    What’s worse, the cultural conservatism that seduced African Americans on Prop 8 was profoundly against their own interests, which is usually the way bigotry works. Because while Cannick may not see immediate marriage prospects, her black gay brothers and sisters do.

    The statistics don’t lie: African Americans marry at the same rate as the rest of the population – more than 96 percent will tie the knot at some point in their lives. The extensive bundle of fundamental rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and divorce, at the federal and state level, often determine on which side of the poverty line many will live.

    Marriage equality and relationship recognition aren’t simply the clearest example of our own government discriminating against us. In the real world, no single item on anyone’s “gay agenda” has a greater impact on real lives, of all races.

    November 10, 2008

    Prop 8 and common sense

    Posted by: Andoni

    Prop_8_hateCalifornia Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger thinks the battle of Prop 8 is not over. Yesterday on CNN  he said preventing gays from marrying was "the same as" preventing interracial marriages in 1948.

    In fact, he seemed to urge the California Supreme Court to again lead  on the rights of people to marry the person they love by invalidating Prop 8:

    "It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end. I think that again maybe we will undo that, if the court is willing to undo that and then move forward from there and again lead in that area.

    I'm with Arnold. The court should lead again just as it did earlier this year  and in 1948.

    From the very beginning I could never understand how Prop 8 could be valid if it passed. From a strictly intuitive point of view, how could it be that a simple majority can take away the rights of a minority? In its landmark decision the CA Supreme Court said that the right for gays to marry was found in the state constitution as a basic civil right. How can a fundamental right  be stripped away by a mere simple majority of the voters?

    Looking at this absurd situation from a different angle, in the year 2000 Californians passed Proposition 22 which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It passed 61.4% to 38.6%. That proposition was invalidated as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court (above) earlier this year which then opened the door to same sex marriage.

    Jump forward to Prop 8. It was the exact same wording as Prop 22, only this time they labeled it a constitutional amendment. It passed by only 52% to 48% --- much much less support support than Prop 22. But this time they called it a constitutional amendment instead of a ballot initiative. The same wording passed with less support. Does it make sense in any legal scheme that simply changing what it is labeled on the ballot (and getting fewer votes) should allow it to "stick" this time? Not in my law book of common sense.

    The lawsuit by the ACLU and Lambda Legal bases it challenge on the fact that Prop 8 was a major change to the constitution rather than a minor tweak, therefore the procedure for getting Prop 8 on the ballot was invalid. That makes sense too. An explanation of the lawsuit as well as links to the legal briefs can be found here. Additionally, my friend David Cruz has a nice blog in the Wall Street Journal explaining the aftermath of Prop 8 here.

    I certainly hope the California Supreme Court finds its backbone to invalidate Prop 8 after making its landmark decision that the right for gays to marry is a fundamental right under the state constitution. Surely, such a fundamental right cannot be allowed (either from a constitutional law point of view or a common sense point of view) to be revoked so easily.

    UPDATE (after an email from Evan Wolfson) : All judicial decisions have a political component and we need to make sure the political climate is as good as it can be to empower the court to do the right thing. To help the court find its backbone, we need to engage the public, our communities, and our families on how important this fundamental right to marry is for us. The bottom line is that we have a role in this too. We can't smply sit back and expect the court to do all the heavy lifting.

    November 09, 2008

    The Week on GNW (Nov. 2-8)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Calif. voters approve gay marriage banCalif. voters approve gay marriage ban: QUICK LOOK: A measure to once again ban gay marriage in California was passed by voters in Tuesday's election, throwing into doubt the unions of an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples... (MORE)
    2. Obama win may be 'paradigm shift' for gaysObama win may be 'paradigm shift' for gays: QUICK LOOK: More than any other presidential candidate before, Barack Obama included gay people as part of his core speeches to voters, despite decades of conventional... (MORE)
    3. Floridians approve amendment banning gay marriageFloridians approve amendment banning gay marriage: QUICK LOOK: Florida voters approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage Tuesday, handing a victory to social conservatives who pumped millions into the ballot drive aimed at ensuring... (MORE) 
    4. Calif. Prop 8 opponents refusing to concede defeatGay marriage ban amendment backed by Ariz. voters: QUICK LOOK: The second time around proved the charm, as Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. Proposition 102, the Yes for Marriage campaign,... (MORE)
    5. Ark. voters OK ban on gay, unmarried foster, adoptive parents: QUICK LOOK: Arkansas voters have approved a measure banning unmarried couples who are living together being adoptive or foster parents. The vote imposes a ban that the Legislature balked at authorizing. More than... (MORE)
    6. Polis elected as third openly gay U.S. House memberPolis elected third openly gay U.S. House member: QUICK LOOK: Democrat Jared Polis defeated Republican Scott Starin in the 2nd Congressional District race Tuesday, becoming the first openly gay person from Colorado elected to Congress... (MORE)
    7. Openly gay candidates win local races across U.S.Openly gay candidates win local races across U.S.: QUICK LOOK: Out lesbian Kate Brown will become the next secretary of state in Oregon, making her the second-highest ranking official in the state. Brown battled through a competitive... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Producer imagines James Bond as black but not gayBond producer can imagine 007 as black but not gay: QUICK LOOK: The producer behind more than a decade of 007 movies said she can imagine James Bond as a black man but not as a gay secret agent. "Definitely you could have a black... (MORE)
    • Ore. town elects the nation's first transgender mayorOre. town elects the nation's first transgender mayor: QUICK LOOK: The first African-American President. The first time in 40 years an Oregon Senate candidate beat an incumbent Senator. And in tiny Silverton, Oregon, residents have elected... (MORE)
    • Teen lied about lesbian teacher seducing her: courtTeen lied about lesbian teacher seducing her, court told: QUICK LOOK: A teenager lied when she claimed a female high school teacher had seduced her into a sexual relationship, a Brisbane court has heard. In his closing address, defence... (MORE)
    • Calif. Sen. Boxer vows marriage fight not yet overCalif. Sen. Barbara Boxer vows marriage fight not yet over: QUICK LOOK: In a post-Election Day press conference in Los Angeles, California U.S. senator Barbara Boxer said the passage of Prop. 8 by voters was not the end of the civil rights... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    November 07, 2008

    The slo-mo death of pro-homo Republicans

    Posted by: Chris

    Shepardgordonsmithkenned The dramatic gains that Democrats will make in both the Senate and House bring with them some particularly sweet defeats of anti-gay Republicans:

    • In Colorado, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, the original sponsor of a federal marriage amendment, was defeated by Democratic challenger Betsy Markey.
    • In conservative North Carolina, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who scored 0, 0, and 20On  on respective HRC report cards, was decisively beaten by pro-gay Democrat Kay Hagan.

    On the other hand, Democratic gains are most likely in districts previously held by moderate Republicans, and Tuesday witnessed the defeat of two of the three most reliably pro-gay Republicans in Congress:

    • Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a primary co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was narrowly defeated by Democrat Jeff Merkley. Despite Smith's record, HRC did not issue an endorsement in the race.
    • ChristophershaysbarneyfrankIn Connecticut, moderate Republican Congressman Chris Shays, a primary co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was defeated by Democrat Jim Hines. HRC and Log Cabin had both backed Shays.
    • In New Hampshire, Log Cabin endorsee John Sununu, the incumbent Republican, was defeated by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu was not exactly in the same league as Smith or Shays, given successive scores of 25, 33, and 20 on HRC's report cards.
    • In Ohio's 15th congressional district, vacated by Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce, who co-sponsored ENDA, Log Cabin endorsee Steve Stivers leads by just 150 votes.
    • Another longtime Log Cabin ally, Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, retired his seat and was replaced by a Democrat. Davis had backed ENDA and opposed efforts to overturn pro-gay legislation adopted by the District of Columbia.

    It wasn't all bad news for gay Republicans, as several moderate House members including Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Most significant will be the return of Maine Sen. Susan Collins -- HRC's only GOP Senate endorsee and a primary co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Act -- who was easily re-elected.

    Even still, the trends are disturbing, and follow the difficult loss two years ago of Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, another outspoken pro-gay Republican.

    In this environment, as the GOP caucus in Congress looks more and more under the tight grip of social conservatives, the Log Cabin leadership would be much better served concentrating their limited efforts on the waining number of Republicans in Congress who are truly pro-gay, rather than wasting their credibility inside and outside the gay community acting as apologists for the likes of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

    Remember than neither McCain nor Palin backed a single piece of gay rights legislation -- a stark contrast with Smith, Shays, et al. After Log Cabin prematurely labeled Palin, the Alaska governor, as "a different kind of Republican," she even came out in favor of a federal marriage amendment.

    Log Cabin's fuzzy math: gay exit polls

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Log Cabin has responded to this post, defending its claim that 20% of GLB voters backed Bush-Cheney in 2004 by citing a Los Angeles Times exit poll that shows the GOP ticket receiving only 17% of the gay vote. Huh?

    LCR's Scott Tucker explains that the gay GOP group averaged that 17% along with the Voter News Service exit polls that showed 23% gay vote. Talk about your fuzzy logic, especially considering that Log Cabin originally represented that 20% statistic as taken direct from the exit polls, not the result of some "poll of polls" averaging.

    Tucker is right that in one section of my original post below, I misquoted VNS as showing 24% support for Bush in '04. That was actually the result from back in 2000 -- although CNN's site actually shows 25% of the GLB vote went for Bush in '00.

    The L.A. Times poll from 2004 relied upon by Log Cabin is particularly suspect, since it was based on interviews with 5,154 voters, 65% of whom were from California alone. Considering California's population is only about 12% of the U.S. total, the results of the L.A. Times poll exaggerated the state's GLB vote, which I think we would all agree was likely less supportive of Bush than gays nationwide.

    At the very least, the wide range of results from these various exit polls -- along with the inherent variable of which GLB voters would be willing to self-identify to pollsters -- ought to give us all pause in reaching substantive conclusions from these numbers.

    Johnmccainellendegeneres CORRECTED ORIGINAL POST: Log Cabin Republicans are doing their best to put lipstick on the pig that was John McCain's landslide defeat on Tuesday. In a post on Blog Cabin, Scott Tucker observed:

    Exit polls show John McCain received 27% of the gay vote. That is up from 20% four years ago. That equals 1.3 million votes -- the most any Republican candidate for President has received.

    Tucker's math is off considerably, even if his general point about greater gay support for McCain holds true. He is correct that national exit polls showed McCain-Palin receiving support from 27% of those who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

    But he's off the mark on how Bush-Cheney did four years ago -- in fact, the Voter News Service exit poll showed President Bush received 24% 23% of the GLB vote, despite his support for a federal marriage amendment -- which in turn led to a snub from Log Cabin.

    In fact, McCain's GLB support registers higher than the GOP nominee has received in any presidential election since pollsters asked the question:

    • 1996: Dole-Kemp: 23%
    • 2000: Bush-Cheney: 23% 25%
    • 2004: Bush-Cheney: 24% 23%
    • 2008: McCain-Palin: 27%

    On the Democratic side, meanwhile, the Obama-Biden ticket under-performed previous tallies:

    • 1996: Clinton-Gore: 66%
    • 2000: Gore-Lieberman: 70%
    • 2004: Kerry-Edwards: 77%
    • 2008: Obama-Biden: 70%

    ObamahrcforumObama's support from self-identified GLB voters is especially weak considering that the comparable totals in 1996 and 2000 were in presidential races with significant third-party candidates. Here are the complete totals, which I compiled from articles I edited in my years with the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspapers:

    • 1996
      Voter News Service
      GLB (5% overall): Clinton (66%). Dole (23%). Perot (7%).

    • 2000
      ABC News:
      GLB: Gore (70%). Bush (23%). Nader (3%). Buchanan (1%).

      Voter News Service
      GLB (4% overall): Gore (70%). Bush (25%). Nader (4%). Buchanan (0%).
    • 2004
      Voter News Service
      GLB (4% overall):  Kerry (77%). Bush (23%).

      Los Angeles Times
      GLB (4% overall): Kerry (81%). Bush (17%).
    • 2008
      Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International
      GLB (4% overall):  Obama (70%). McCain (27%).

    There are plenty of reasons to view this exit poll data about GLB voters with skepticism. Pollsters depend entirely on voters self-identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual -- a factor that signficantly undercounts the actual GLB totals and how they voted. In addition, Voter News Service followed a practice of only asking the GLB question of voters in places like New York and California, where they knew the percentage saying yes would have statistical significance.

    All that said, it's not surprising that gay, lesbian and bisexual voters would be a bit more willing, on the margins, to vote for John McCain this time around, given his opposition to the same federal marriage amendment that was championed by George W. Bush.

    There is also a word of warning for President-Elect Obama in these numbers. Bill Clinton received the lowest percentage of GLB support in 1996 -- although still two-thirds -- after he caved to Republicans and conservative Democrats on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. A more sophisticated and empowered GLB electorate is likely to be much less forgiving if "thrown under the bus" by President Obama, who starts off with a slightly smaller level of GLB support.

    Changes in Albany = marriage in NY

    Posted by: Andoni

    Newyorkstatecapitolalbanyny232In a little noticed election result in the same sex marriage battle, the New York state senate switched  from Republican control to Democratic control for the first time in 4 decades. (There was temporary fear that two Democrats would switch to Republican to prevent this earthquake, but that has subsided.)

    The senate change is huge because a pro-active same sex marriage bill has been hung up by Republicans in the state senate for years, never being allowed to come up for a vote. The bill has passed the legislature and governor David Paterson has promised to sign it if it comes to his desk. In fact, the governor is pushing for the bill.

    Now that the Democrats control the legislature, the senate, and the governorship, it should become law in the new session.

    Although Paterson signed  an executive order earlier this year for New York to honor same sex marriages legally performed in other states, this is very different than actually allowing same sex marriages to be performed in New York.

    When New York enacts legislation allowing same sex marriage, it will be the first state to do so pro-actively and legislatively without a court involved. Marriage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut were the result of court actions. California did pass same sex marriage legislation, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill twice.

    It is interesting that the New York senate changed hands in part by diminishing the stranglehold the NRA had on that body.

    So, as depressed as I am over Prop 8 winning in California, it appears we have a chance of opening another door for marriage as the California door closes temporarily.

    November 06, 2008

    Reality doesn't bite so much

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamabidenvictorychicago I was disheartened, as I'm sure many of you were, to read my co-blogger Kevin's bitter post, "We now interrupt this fairy tale for a bit of reality." We are all passionate about our politics and our movement for civil rights, and I can imagine how Kevin felt when he saw the election of a candidate he does not support coincide with the passage of anti-gay ballot measures in four states. I was frustrated enough by the latter, even though I was euphoric about the former.

    There is much in Kevin's post to be commended. I have written for years about the ideological intolerance of many gay liberals, as well as the need to be realistic about what the Democratic congressional leadership will deliver on gay civil rights. But I am far more hopeful, to use an overused word, that the size of the Democrats' majority come January, along with the expected long honeymoon for the Obama administration, might bring about far more concrete progress than Kevin expects.

    I do believe that 2009 will bring passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- with or without transgender protections -- and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act -- with gender identity included. The question is whether the passage of those two long-standing, popular measures will be viewed as enough to satisfy the gay donors and supporters who are at the core of the Democratic Party.  I would certainly hope not, since both bills have been achingly close to passage for more than a decade, and require the expenditure of absolutely no political capital by anyone.

    Prop8streetprotesters Leftist gay groups may well decide to expend what little political capital we have with the new Congress and administration by pushing for trans-inclusion in ENDA. Certainly, trans workers deserve the protection, but it remains unclear whether the votes are there, and the number of Americans benefitted would be miniscule by comparison to other pending items on "the gay agenda."

    All that said, I would hope that my good friend Kevin remembers that the success of our political process and our civil rights movement depend very much on the engagement of people like him -- who would hold our organizations and the new D.C. powerbrokers to task to live up to their campaign promises.

    Now is not the time, as we stand ever so closer to achieving tangible progress at the federal level, to cede the field to the loud-mouthed, close-minded minority on the left who care more about venting their sense of political righteousness on their fellow gays as they do fighting against our real enemies, and changing hearts and minds among the "mushy middle" that we still can reach.

    For more than a decade, I have dismissed the rantings of these bitterniks on the left -- "sticks and stones" and all of that -- because their ideological intolerance says far more about them than their silly, predictable attacks would ever say about Kevin or Andoni or me -- and everyone else who puts themselves out there.

    I hope you will join me in encouraging Kevin not to give up -- on this blog, on the movement, or on the process -- because, to borrow a Clintonism -- we don't have a person to waste. When that voice is as clear, as intelligent, as independent and as provocative as Kevin's, then the loss is all the more unfortunate.

    November 05, 2008

    We interrupt this fairy tale for a dose of reality

    Posted by: Kevin

    Alg_chicagocelebration I want to congratulate Barack Obama and add that he will indeed be my President, too.  It's not just a slogan, but it's real and from the heart.  I hope God will bless and protect him, and help guide him in facing the many challenges awaiting him in the coming years.  I share Chris' pride in the historic aspect of Obama's decisive election as the first African American U.S. President - something that I always wondered whether I'd see in my lifetime.  That it has happened, and that American women also advanced so decisively in this political season, are truly wonderful symbols of where America stands in the long march of political and cultural evolution.

    But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend.  The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays.  And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.

    Our defeat on Proposition 8 in California is the biggest, most glaring wound on the landscape, and will be infamous for decades to come.  This is the greatest loss of gay civil rights since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986.  Latino voters came out in huge numbers for Obama, and also voted for Proposition 8.  Worse yet, African Americans clogged California's polling places to vote for Obama with a fervent zeal, and with equal fervency voted overwhelmingly against us (currently as much as 70% voting yes on 8).  Obama won the state by about 2.5 million votes, and Yes appears to be winning by about a half-million votes.  A similarly glaring defeat came in Florida, another state that Obama carried, where a gay marriage ban passed by about 2 million votes.  Nationally, the anti-gay wave just about ran the table in all the states where gay issues were on the ballot.  Only in tiny Connecticut did voters reject the opening of a constitutional convention to throw out that state's court decision legalizing gay marriage earlier this year.

    I understand the emotion around Obama's message of "hope."  Who wouldn't want to be hopeful with all their heart and soul at these moments of great fear and uncertainty about the global economy, two wars overseas and the ever-present threats to us at home?  But exactly why should gays be so bathed in political hope at this moment?  I'd like to see a convincing case made by the Democratic leadership coming into nearly unchecked power in Washington in January.  But I'm afraid the reality will be something else entirely. 

    The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all.  That's about all I can be hopeful about now.

    I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations.  The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level.  That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party.  Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.

    But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts.  It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress.  The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012.  Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years.  And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.

    When I learned on Facebook this morning that dear gay friends of mine in New York were dancing in Times Square, and other friends in Washington were celebrating in front of the White House and actually comparing the experience to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- while gay marriage was going down the toilet in California -- it was astounding to me.  And deeply saddening and alienating.  The level of unreality that seems to be intensifying in the gay urban ghettos back home is just amazing to me; I probably was just as guilty of it before I was able to move away and get some more perspective.  Who knows.

    I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care.  To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore.  Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism.  When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you.  It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation.  Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us.  I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this.  I am, in fact, ashamed.

    The last thing I ever wanted was to write something like this post - and as it comes true over the next two years, the idea of gloating over it is beyond unseemly.  I hate the way things are.  I don't want them to get worse.  I would much prefer to be happy about yesterday's results and the trajectory of gay rights in America.  But the reality that I see that is informed by history, by experience, and by the cold, hard numbers of this election, and it couldn't be shaken off no matter how much I might want to delude myself, and that's why I'm writing this.  And it's also why I am saying goodbye to Citizen Crain.

    Movement politics used to be about strategic thinking, and about making a clear, undaunted moral case for your cause.  It used to be about raising the level of intelligence, grace and tenacity of an aggrieved community and really struggling every day to unite them, body and soul, behind an effort whose might would be its righteousness.  The gay movement used to be about thinking outside the box, including the one we ourselves might be in, and taking nothing for granted.  But something happened over the last several years that changed all that.  Now it's just a huge pathetic joke, a gigantic string of twitters, "status" one-liners, bitchy snits, gossip, celebrity worship and empty groupthink.  A gigantic co-opting of our energies by a political party that does nothing in return.  Besides a whole lot of fundraising.  Where some of its veterans, like Kate Kendall in California, have managed to not just "know hope" but actually make real strides, the wide swath of gay leaders in power right now have done nothing but fail miserably time and time and time and time again in recent years despite having political winds at their backs, and if they don't make a gigantic strategic shift immediately, the next two years will be their Waterloo.

    I'm so dispirited and, frankly, fed up, that I doubt I'll be blogging on this site after today.  I know I won't be missed, and I certainly won't miss the drudgery of the personal attacks.  I've just grown tired of fighting, and I'm far too involved in my new life in Brazil to be of any use to this site anymore.  As much as I love and support my friend Chris in his endeavors, including this site, I find the idea of going my own way, and going back to just my own little blog and my own personal contributions to changing my little corner of the world, very liberating.  I'll be far more useful.

    But if this is where I part company with you, I'll do it with this last thought:  I beg all of you with any energy left in you to wake up.  I beg you to stop deluding yourselves about what it's going to take to really change our situation in the United States.  Stop believing promises and start demanding action.  Stop scapegoating, and blaming 'enemies' and shifting responsibility for all our failures onto others, and take responsibility for everything we face.  Stop living the reality show and start living in reality.  And if you were active in this election cycle, don't delude yourself into thinking that the fight is "won."  It is, in fact, almost completely lost as of this moment if you stand down now.  Do more than just "know hope" -- think different.  Wake the fuck up and see reality, and demand results -- from our gay leaders, from our Congress, and from our new President. 

    That's all I've ever tried to encourage here, and it's about all I have left to say here.

    A first look at the exit polls

    Posted by: Chris

    Glb_pres_vote CNN has posted the exit polls with an extraordinary degree of detail. For lots of reasons, exit polling of GLB voters can be suspect, especially on a nationwide scale, but these numbers suggest about the same split between Barack Obama and John McCain as there was four years ago between Democrat John Kerry and Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

    Here are some nuggets I found during my initial look-see:

    Presidential race:

    • Openly GLB voters (4% of all voters): Obama (70%). McCain (27%).
    • Straight voters (96% of all voters): Obama (53%). McCain (45%).

    Calif. Prop 8 (overturning state supreme court's gay marriage ruling):

    • Prop_8_regionOverall: Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • Obama voters (61% overall): Yes (32%). No (68%).
    • McCain voters (36% overall): Yes (82%). No (18%).
    • Male voters (46% of all voters) Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Female voters (54% of all voters) Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • White (63% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%)
    • African-American (10% overall): Yes (70%). No (30%).
    • Latino (19% overall): Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Asian (6% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%).
    • Age 18-29 (20% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Age 30-44 (28% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 45-64 (36% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 65 and older (16% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Democrats (43% overall): Yes (35%). No. (65%).
    • Republicans (28% overall): Yes (81%). No (19%).
    • Independent (29% overall): Yes (44%). No (56%).
    • Married (62% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Unmarried (38% overall): Yes (36%). No (64%).
    • Children under 18 (40 % overall): Yes (63%). No (37%).
    • No children under 18 (60% overall): Yes (42%). No (58%).
    • Clinton Democrats (16% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Obama Democrats (23% overall): Yes (31%). No (69%).
    • Straight voters (95% overall): Yes (52%). No (48%).

    Arkansas Initiative 1 (ban on unmarried/gay couples as foster/adoptive parents):

    • Male voters (45% overall): Yes (61%). No (39%).
    • Female voters (55% overall): Yes (54%). No (46%).
    • Obama voters (38% overall): Yes (45%). No (55%).
    • McCain voters (58% overall): Yes (66%). No (34%).
    • Age 18-29 (17% overall): Yes (46%). No (54%).
    • Age 30-44 (27% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • Age 45-64 (38% overall): Yes (58%). No (42%).
    • Age 65 and older (19% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Democrats (36% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).
    • Republicans (32% overall): Yes (67%). No (33%).
    • Independents (32% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • White evangelical/born again (55% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Other than white evangelical/born again (45% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).

    A uniter, not a divider

    Posted by: Chris

    Barackobamaelected What a historic and incredible evening this has been. Whatever differences you may have with Barack Obama, his landslide election tonight as the next president of the United States is a remarkable statement about the progress America has made in overcoming racial differences.

    Obama will not only be the first black president of the U.S., but the first leader of African descent ever elected in a country outside that continent. What's more, Obama was elected with a record of support for GLBT rights that eclipses that of any serious national candidate before him, including John Kerry four years ago, as well as Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats he defeated in the primaries.

    In Barack Obama's acceptance speech tonight, just as in the 2004 keynote address to the Democratic convention that launched him as a national political figure, and just as he did throughout the primary and general election, the president-elect specifically included "gays and straights" as among the groups of Americans he sought to unite.

    But even as gay rights activists celebrate Obama's historic election, there are sobering reminders from across the country about the long, tough road ahead before we overcome differences based on sexual orientation. In John McCain's home state of Arizona, where four years ago voters rejected an expansive ban on legal recognition for same-sex and other unmarried couples, a more limited constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying is heading toward passage.

    In Florida, even without the support of Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, voters have overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, even though state law already accomplishes that same end. Florida is also the only state that prohibits gays from adopting children, but voters in Arkansas, the state of where I was born, today have voted in favor of a ban on adoption and foster parenting by adults "cohabitating outside of marriage," meaning gays or straights in unmarried relationships.

    At least in Connecticut, where the state supreme court last month ruled in favor of gay marriage, voters have rejected by a constitutional convention that would have opened up the possibility of an amendment overturning the court ruling.

    Here are the results as of 1 a.m. ET:

    • Calfornia Prop. 8 (constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court gay marriage ruling): Yes (53.1%).  No (46.9%).  Precincts reporting: 25.2%
    • Arizona Prop 102 (constitutional amendment banning gay marriage): Yes (56.5%).  No (43.5%).  Precincts reporting: 91.2%
    • Florida Amendment 2 (constitutional amendment banning gay marriage): Yes (62.2%).  No (37.8%).  Precincts reporting: 98%
    • Arkansas Prop. 1 (banning adoption and foster parenting by unmarried couples): Yes (55.2%).  No (44.8%).  Precincts reporting: 63%
    • Connecticut Question 1 (constitutional convention): Yes (59%).  No (41%).  Precincts reporting: 90%

    The results in California are especially devastating, if they hold. Voters in the nation's largest state seem poised to take away the newly minted right to marry won in the landmark state supreme court ruling just last year. Despite weeks and weeks of images of happy gay couples tying the knot, a majority seem prepared to take it all away -- and even more depressingly, the margin of defeat may come from the same African-American and Latino voters who overwhelmingly supported Obama's message of unity and change.

    These results should also signal something very important to those who will work on gay rights issues with the incoming Obama administration and strengthened Democratic congressional leadership. Gays throughout this country are living in states that are denying their basic freedoms by refusing relationship recognition -- in many cases writing that discrimination into their constitutions.

    Relationship recognition has therefore emerged as an issue far more important at the federal level than low-hanging fruit like workplace protections and hate crimes -- and effects numbers that dwarf those impacted by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military.

    It's unlikely the Democrats will ever have a stronger majority in the House, and may well be near their peak in the Senate. President-Elect Obama will take office with a mandate unlike any since Ronald Reagan in 1980. The time is now to address the core principles of the gay rights movement, which Obama himself embraced during the course of the long, two-year campaign.

    That means:

    • Repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, at least that portion that blocks federal recognition of marriage licenses issued by states like Massachusetts, California (at least for now), and Connecticut (as of next week).
    • Recognition equal to that for married couples for same-sex couples in civil unions (in states that offer them), or can otherwise demonstrate an enduring, long-term commitment.
    • Uniting American Families Act, extending to gay Americans the right to sponsor foreign partners for citizenship the way heterosexual citizens can their fiances and spouses.

    Obama was right, of course, when he said in his rousing speech tonight in Chicago, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change." For those who care about taking full advantage of this opportunity to win equality for GLBT Americans, this is the kind of "change" we need to believe in.

    November 04, 2008

    A variety of No on 8 ads

    Posted by: Andoni

    As I write this I am doing my part in the GOTV. I have the list of new voters I registered and am now making sure they vote. About half already voted in early voting and the rest I'm on top of today. Ninety percent of my people have voted, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get the other 10% to the polls today.

    As amusement between calling people, I just looked at the variety of ads the "No on Prop 8" people have put together. Matt Coles of the ACLU's LGBT Project just emailed me from San Francisco. He's biting his nails and says it's going to be close on Prop 8, so if you have influence with people out there, now's the time to call them.

    It will be interesting to see if Californian's can learn from history or whether we humans are destined to continue repeating the same types of mistakes and injustices we have caused in the past? It is now almost universally agreed that the discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II and the discrimination against people who wanted to marry a person of another race were wrong, but at the time the majority did not see it that way.

    Tonight we wil find out if the majority of California voters have been able to learn from these lessons of history.

    BTW, my favorite anti Prop 8 ad is below in case you haven't seen it. The others linked above are quite good too.

    Voting machine math

    Posted by: Andoni

    Voting_machine_2

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there are going be problems at the polls today. In fact a grade school student using simple math could figure it out.

    Consider my state of Georgia where state law mandates that there be one machine per 175 voters at each precinct. This sounds good until you realize that the Georgia ballot this year is rather long, and according to poll workers (based on early voting) it takes the average voter 10 minutes to complete the ballot.

    If each person takes 10 minutes on a machine to vote, that means if everything goes perfectly, 6 people can vote on one machine each hour. In Georgia the polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm, 12 hours. So if 6 people an hour can vote on each machine, that means that each machine can handle 6 x 12 voters, or 72 people on election day in that 12 hour period. However each machine is supposed to handle 175 voters. Opps. Any grade school student can figure out there is a problem.

    Even allowing for the fact that 25% of the electorate voted early, and only 80% of voters after that will turn out, the math still doesn't work for a smooth day. That math works out to each machine having to handle 105 people. That means there is still a 50% overload on each machine.

    Consider the fact that in Virginia the majority African American precincts will only have 1 machine per 400 voters and it gets it gets ridiculous.

    UPDATE: In the Georgia presidential primary earlier this year, there was only one item on the ballot, whom do you want to be your party's nominee for president. You either picked up a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot and then only had one box to check off. The whole process took less than 60 seconds at the voting machine. As a result, each machine could process over 60 voters in an hour or 720 voters during the day. This is much more than the 175 mandated by state law.

    So in mandating how many machines there have to be per voter, the law should also take into account how long the ballot is. Again this is only common sense, something government doesn’t seem to have.

    BTW, Andrew Sullivan and Sean Quinn say watch Georgia tonight.



    November 03, 2008

    McCain-Obama role reversal

    Posted by: Andoni

    This evening on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," Keith Olbermann made a special comment addressing the numerous gaffs and errors Senator John McCain has made during this campaign. He wonders what would have happened if Senator Barack Obama had been the one to make these rather serious errors instead of McCain and then provides edited video clips to give us an idea of how it would have sounded.

    Does anyone doubt that had Obama been the one to make these errors, he would have been out of the race long ago?

    A question for Senator McConnell

    Posted by: Andoni

    Mitch_mccMike Rogers, the gay blogger who is known for investigating closeted gay politicians is at it again.

    Today he is asking Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to release his military records. Apparently Senator McConnell was discharged in the middle of the Vietnam War and Mike smells something funny.

    I am not a proponent of outing unless the person outed is in a position of power and is a hypocrite (i.e. anti-gay). McConnell  fits the criteria.

    Incidentally, Rogers was responsible for exposing Sen. Larry Craig (ID), and Reps. Mark Foley (FL) and Ed Schrock VA).

    It will be interesting to see if McConnell survives re-election tomorrow.

    Stay tuned.

    The Week on GNW (Oct. 26-Nov. 1)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. A 'gay mafia' of wealthy donors is redefining politicsA 'gay mafia' of wealthy donors is redefining U.S. politics: QUICK LOOK: A group of wealthy gay donors quietly influencing American politics is known as the Cabinet, although you won't find that name on a letterhead or even on the Internet... (MORE)
    2. Obama used in drive to ban gay marriage in Calif.Obama used in drive to ban gay marriage in Calif.: QUICK LOOK: The backers of a move to ban same-sex marriage in California are inaccurately suggesting they have Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's support in a mailing that appears targeted... (MORE)
    3. Testosterone gene linked to male-to-female transsexuals: QUICK LOOK: Australian researchers have identified a significant link between a gene involved in testosterone action and male-to-female transsexualism. DNA analysis from 112 male-to-female transsexual volunteers... (MORE)
    4. Ark. teen behind Obama plot had homophobic websiteArk. teen behind Obama plot had homophobic website: QUICK LOOK: The Helena, Arlk, teenager accused in a plot to kill presidential candidate Barack Obama expressed racist and anti-gay comments on two popular Web sites in the weeks... (MORE)
    5. Calif. ban is line in sand for same-sex marriage foesCalif. ban is line in sand for same-sex marriage foes: QUICK LOOK: While the battle over same-sex marriage has been all but invisible in the presidential race this year, it is raging like a wind-whipped wildfire in California. Conservative... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Obama surge could confound gay marriage hopesObama surge could confound gay marriage hopes: QUICK LOOK: In this historic presidential election year, political observers say high voter turnout for Democratic front-runner Barack Obama -- who is predicted to draw record numbers... (MORE)
    • Actor/comedian Denis Leary for using anti-gay slurActor/comedian Denis Leary slammed for using gay slur: QUICK LOOK: Denis Leary, already under attack for making fun of autism, is now defending his right to call homosexual men "fags." And incredibly, he says the Catholic Church and... (MORE)
    • Ala. judge issues restraining order on lesbian parole officer: QUICK LOOK: A judge here issued a temporary order Friday preventing a juvenile probation officer from contacting a foster parent and a child whom the officer once supervised. Foster parent Kaye Barlow testi... (MORE)
    • Gay marriage target date in Conn. is set for Nov. 10Gay marriage target date in Conn. is set for Nov. 10: QUICK LOOK: Since the state Supreme Court's ruling this month legalizing same-sex marriage, couples from Connecticut and New York have asked Beryl Weinstein, a justice of the peace... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    November 02, 2008

    Another year, another separation

    Posted by: Chris

    Rioaptovisto Hello there, dear blog readers. I know it has been a good long time since I was keeping up with regular blogging duties, and a number of you have even expressed concern about how I'm doing. Well, the honest answer is that I've been better. Regular readers know that the year 2008 has been a very difficult year for me personally, and the last couple of weeks have unfortunately brought a new challenge.

    You may remember that around this time last year, my partner and I moved to Buenos Aires for three months because I had used up the 180 days I am allowed to be in Brazil each year under my tourist visa. This time around, after a lot of thinking and discussing and soul-searching, we've decided we are going to have to be separated for the last two months of the calendar.

    So this week I'll be headed back to the U.S., and meu bebezinho will be headed back to his hometown to be with his familiy. After almost four years together and more than two years of living in limbo down here, the prospect of being separated for two long months has been particularly discouraging, even disheartening, for us.

    But endure it we must, and after a whirlwind week or so of winding up our apartment rental and moving things into storage, it's time once again for us to say "goodbye" -- if only temporarily.

    I will arrive back home just in time to cast my vote in the presidential election, something I hope each and every one of you will be doing as well, if you haven't already.

    What about an electoral/popular vote split?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Vote_worthToday's New York Times has a great article enumerating the inequalities of our presidential election system. The article entitled "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?" shows the relative weight of each individual's vote (by state) when translated into the vote the really counts- an electoral college vote.

    A shocking conclusion is that theoretically a candidate can win the presidency with only 22% of the electorate's vote, representing only 16% of the population. Go check it out.

    This brings me to a point I have been worrying about for a while. What if Senator John McCain manages to win 270 electoral votes (still possible) while losing the popular vote by a rather large margin?

    This is very possible for two reasons. First, there is the relatively much greater weight of a person's vote in a red state such as Wyoming versus the diluted weight of a voter in a blue state such as California. See the above New York Times map. Secondly, in the blue states, especially the large population blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland, Obama is winning by a very large margin and the margin is growing. In the traditional larger population red states, such as Texas, Florida, Ohio and Georgia, because Obama has run a 50 state campaign, if McCain wins these states, the margin of popular vote victory will not be as large as in the past. Obama will be adding significantly to his national popular vote total, while still losing those electoral votes.

    The scenario would be McCain squeeks by in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes, but Obama blows him away in all the other states. Using today's national polls which show a rather big spread in popular sentiment, this could translate into Senator John McCain winning 270 electoral votes, but losing the popular vote by as much as 10 million votes.

    What would happen then? The Constitution says McCain would be president. However, this would clearly be a dramatically undemocratic result in the eyes of the majority of the nation, let alone the world.

    Do you think the Constitution would survive this debacle?

    November 01, 2008

    Election eve at Obama campaign HQ

    Posted by: Andoni

    In case you need a little mirth this weekend, try this entitled, "Les Misbarack:"

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