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    December 31, 2008

    Memo to HRC, Tammy and Barney

    Posted by: Andoni

    SameSex Family
    I just checked Obama's new interactive web page Open for Questions to see how the voting is going on LGBT issues. When you search for questions that have the words gay or lesbian in them, the question getting the most votes (3,959 -- ten times the number of votes as the second place question) is:

    "You've stated during your campaign that you don't support marriage rights for GLBT citizens. How will you ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have rights equal to those of married couples?"

    In fact of the top ten questions, three deal explicitly with obtaining those 1100+ federal benefits and six deal with recognition of our relationships in one way or another such as wanting to be able to pass Social Securtiy benefits to a partner. It is pretty clear that the biggest thing on our minds is benefits and protections for our relationships. No where in the top ten is ENDA or Hate Crimes specifically mentioned, although there is a general question about ending all discrimination (which includes marriage, federal benefits, employment).

    My question about about how, who and when we will obtain those 1100+ federal benefits for our unions comes in at number 13, but is essentially the same question as the one at number 1. I was surprised that the question about same sex immigration is at number 11, again much earlier than an ENDA question or a Hate Crimes question.

    So, Memo to our gay leaders: HRC, Congressman Barney Frank and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

    Your rank and file are not that less concerned about employment discrimination or and hate crimes, than we are about our relationships. Our community's biggest concerns and desires are to have our relationships/families protected. That means obtaining those 1100+ benefits that married couples get, re-unification of our families if one partner is a citizen and the other a foreign national, and protection of our children. Apparently ENDA and hate crimes are so 1990's. If you think you can simply pass ENDA and Hate Crimes and that is enough and we will be happy, you are sorely mistaken. Just look at the numbers.

    December 30, 2008

    Rick Warren clarifies and confuses

    Posted by: Chris

    Rickwarrenvideo Throughout the outcry over Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, I have taken a lot of heat for defending the megachurch pastor against claims he considers gay relationships the "equivalent" of incest and pedophilia.

    As I explained (here and here and here), it was flatly irrational to interpret Warren that way, given that he was making a "slippery slope" argument that depends logically on examples like incest and pedophilia as horrific consequences of recognizing relationships like ours that are much less objectionable. I also interpreted Warren as favoring some forms of recognition for gay relationships, which of course he would never support for incest and pedophila, both illegal.

    Now there's confirmation from the horse's mouth, so to speak. In a video available for viewing on the website for Warren's church, the evangelical is ostensibly speaking to his own congregation, but of course he knew that whatever he said on the subject of gay marriage would enjoy a much larger audience.

    Here are some highlights (transcribed by me):

    I have been accused of equating gay partnerships and relationships with incest and pedophilia. Now of course, as members of Saddleback Church you know, I believe no such thing. I never have. You've never once heard me in 30 years talk that way about that. …

    God created sex to be exclusively in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. But I've in no way ever taught that homosexuality is the same thing as a forced relationship between an adult and a child or, you know, between siblings, things like that. I've just never thought that in 30 years.

    However, I understand how some people think that because of a recent Belief.net interview. ... In that interview I named several other relationships, in fact I've done it several times, named several other relationships such as living together, man with multiple wives, or brother-sister relationships or adults with children or common law partnerships -- all kinds of relationships -- I don't think any of them should be called marriage.

    I was not saying those relationships are the same thing because I happen to not believe that and I've never taught it.

    Just to reiterate my own view, I am not defending Warren's opposition to gay marriage, which is based on imposition of his own theological view in the law and "slippery slope" scare tactics that would fear-monger if they weren't so ridiculous.

    I also could not help but laugh at Warren's hypocritical views on civility in public discourse. At one point in the video, he complains that gays treat all disagreement with them as some form of "hate speech," an accusation I think is unfortunately all too true:

    Some people today believe if you disagree with them you either hate them or are afraid of them. I'm neither afraid of gays nor do I hate gays. In fact, I love them, but I do disagree with some of their beliefs and I have that constitutional right just as I would fight for their constitutional right, too.

    Then, later in the video, when he answers questions from his congregation about how he plans to respond to the controversy over his role at the inauguration, Warren engages in the same demonization and demagoguery he earlier criticized, and without even a hint of irony:

    You've asked, 'What about these hateful attacks? ... How are you going to respond to all these false accusations, attacks, outright lies, hateful slander and really a lot of hate speech -- it's what I would call Christ-aphobia -- people who are afraid of any Christian. You know how I'm going to respond. You already know the answer. ... We return good for evil, we return love for hate.

    Just as progressives want Obama to unify the country without including the views of millions who disagree with them, Warren objects to demonization of his views while readily engaging in the same smear tactics. Warren will never gain credence as an advocate for civility as long as he uses such doubletalk.

    But again, trying to focus on common ground, Warren does suggest without specifics in the video that he supports legal recognition in some form for gay couples, if not full marriage equality. Whether or not you believe, as I do, that Warren is clarifying his view, or is modifying his position in response to the controversy, he has very clearly left the door open to support for legal recognition for same-sex couples.

    Given the proliferation of "bad cops" who have made hay out of this controversy, including gay leaders trying to change the subject from Prop 8, now is the time for "good cops" to reach out to Warren and see whether he would throw his specific support around some level of legal recognition, or perhaps even federal civil unions.

    December 29, 2008

    How to ask Obama a question

    Posted by: Andoni

    Obama answering
    Calling all activists - now is your opportunity to influence president-elect Barack Obama's thinking on gay issues (actually all issues). It has become very much easier to submit a question to his transition team as well as vote on other questions that have already been submitted.

    Even though I am traveling, when I got an email from John Podesta, co-chair of Obama's transition team, announcing this new feature called  Open for Questions on their transition web page, I dropped everything, registered, asked a question and voted on other questions.

    My question was:

    "How soon will you enact legislation to grant to gay and lesbian couples the same 1100+ federal benefits that opposite sex married couples get? Who is working on this? Who is going to introduce this bill you list in your civil rights agenda?"

    I would have gone deeper, but the length of the questions is limited. I was impressed that there already were a number of questions about same sex immigration, so instead of repeating those question, I simply voted "yes" to those questions, supporting them.

    You can search topics by keywords. If you are not registered, it's as simple as using your email address and choosing a password.

    Note that as of this posting, this is not like pissing in the ocean. So far, there have only been only 15,000 questions submitted, a much smaller number than I would have expected.

    This is a geat tool and I personally hope others will register and vote for my federal benefits question and support those questions others asked on same sex immigration.

    If I don't post again until after the New Year, have a great New Year eveybody. I'm on my way to Thailand to be with my beau.

    December 28, 2008

    The Week on GNW (Dec. 21-27)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. Bush refuses to back historic U.N. gay rights measureBush refuses to back historic U.N. gay rights measure: QUICK LOOK: An unprecedented declaration seeking to decriminalize homosexuality won the support of 66 countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, but opponents... (MORE)
    2. Psychiatrists debate gender identity for DSM-V manualPsychiatrists debate gender identity for DSM-V manual: QUICK LOOK: Panels of psychiatrists are hashing out the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — will have consequences for insurance reimbursement,... (MORE)
    3. Bush back 'conscience' rule for refusing medical careBush backs 'conscience rule' for refusing medical care: QUICK LOOK: An 11th-hour ruling from the Bush administration gives health care workers, hospitals, and insurers more leeway to refuse health services for moral or religious reasons... (MORE)
    4. Pope Benedict slams homosexuality, transgenderismPope Benedict slams homosexuality, transgenderism: QUICK LOOK: Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. The Church "should also... (MORE)
    5. Double homicide followed by gay man's murder in northern Brazil: QUICK LOOK: The brutal murder of a gay man and his teenage adopted son this month in northern Brazil has been followed by the homicide of another gay man in a nearby town. Francivaldo Santos Lima, 31 years, was... (MORE)

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

    • Conservative group targets Campbell soup for gay adConservative group targets Campbell soup for gay ad: QUICK LOOK: A recent ad placement in the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian news magazine, has put Campbell's Soup toe to toe with the American Family Association. The print piece... (MORE)
    • New Beckham teammate planning locker room peekNew Beckham teammate planning locker room sneak peek: QUICK LOOK: One of David Beckham’s new Italian teammates is desperate to see his golden balls. AC Milan striker Marco Borriello, 26, said: “I must admit I have a dressing room curiosity... (MORE)
    • Scottish gay man attacked by his mother, twin brother: QUICK LOOK: A mother in Scotland has admitted an anti-gay attack - on her own teenage son. Celia Duncan, 42, hurled abuse at Stuart O'Neil, 16, who she had thrown out of home for being gay, when she saw him walking... (MORE)
    • Gay Indian prince said to be seeking British soulmateGay Indian priest said to be seeking British soulmate: QUICK LOOK: Manvendra Singh Gohil has been trawling the bars and clubs of a British seaside resort - even taking up a menial job - in a life-follows-art search for a soulmate.Gohil,... (MORE)
    • Ex-boxer accused of beating up teen for being gayEx-boxer accused of beating up U.K. teen for being gay: QUICK LOOK: An ex-boxer has admitted a homophobic attack on a 14-year-old boy who confided he might be gay. Wirral magistrates heard Stephen Hope, 40, of Hull, only stopped his attack... (MORE)


    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.

    December 26, 2008

    Give us your pedigreed few...

    Posted by: Chris


    In response to my post about the arrogant and counterproductive attitude taken by the Bush administration toward immigration, one reader suggested we replace current policy that prioritizes uniting families with one that admits based on wealth and intellect. In reply, tongue planted firmly in cheek, I wrote:

    Ahh, don't ya just love liberal elitism? I can just see the new Statue of Liberty: "Give me your well-rested and well-fed, Your pedigreed intellectuals yearning for an even higher salary and a better 401(k)..."

    That, in turn, set another reader off:

    Umm, Chris... Austrailia and Canada, among several other countries, are doing exactly that. They are welcoming and encouraging the best minds that this country has to offer, to come to their shores and offering them incentives to do so. The film industry, is but one example among many.

    I just don't follow your logic at times, Chris. In one breath, you make the comment "So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants" and in the next breath, you defend them with your above quoted comment. You appear, more often than not, to be purpose-driven to keep everyone on this blog partitioned and disunited. …

    Taking in all of the "poor, huddled masses" in exchange for all the intelligent, best educated, best minds and productive people, is nothing more than a "brain drain" to the U.S. as a Canadian newspaper article called it. … We call it "social welfare" to make is sound PC, but it is really nothing more a deadly disease that is tearing the fabric of our society apart, destroying the middle class and dividing us into a nation of haves and have-nots.

    When there is no middle-class left to pay taxes, who will be paying for the social welfare programs that this country is rife with? … Depression, hell. We are plummeting into a Third-World status with the speed of a lead balloon. At the rate things are going in this country, we can stick our heads up our asses and kiss it goodbye.

    Popewind Note the overwrought, panicked rhetoric used here, as if our very way of life is threatened if we don't further restrict our borders. It calls to mind "the sky will fall" arguments we regularly hear in opposition to marriage equality, as if human society faces extinction if gay couples can marry. Consider this ditty last week from the pope:

    “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less," Pope Benedict told scores of prelates. "What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”

    There has always been a certain segment of society that wishes to limit freedom or exclude others for fear our "way of life" is threatened. They are pretty much always on the wrong side of the argument, not to mention the wrong side of history, and they show remarkably little confidence that their vaunted "way of life" has enough merit in and of itself to adapt, survive and thrive.

    More to the point, my commenter missed the point of that post, which was not to bemoan "porous American borders" but to point out that U.S. immigration policy makes sneaking across a much more effective means of entry than following the rules.

    I can only shake my head at the cold-hearted sorts who believe the immigration policy of the United States of America, the strongest nation in history and one built almost entirely by immigrants, should be retooled as some sort of corporate recruitment policy. Unless we further tarnish her image with arrogant and restrictive policies, America will always attract those yearning for freedom and opportunity, at all economic levels. 

    The rolls of "social welfare" programs have declined over the years, not increased, and those low-income, (even illegal) immigrants work harder than most Americans and at jobs we don't want. If you want the sky to fall, try actually making all 11 million of them leave! Not to mention that the same immigration policy they advocate now would almost certainly have excluded their own ancestors.

    The U.S. will always attract more than our share of "the best and the brightest" so long as we remain an open, inviting society. We don't need to follow the Aussies, hardly xenophobic-free themselves, who after all are trying to entice folks to move to the opposite side of the planet, or Canadians, trying to overcome a beastly cold climate.

    All in all, it's terribly sad and disappointing to me to see gay folk turn up their noses at others whose lives have been made more difficult by cultural bigotry. Having lived as outcasts, we ought to show more compassion for others on the ouside.

    The great gay migration

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphishernandodesotobridge I've spent a lot of time this year back in Memphis, where I grew up, and I'm struck how over holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the city's gay establishments swell with locals like me who got the hell outta Dodge after graduating high school or college. The reasons are obvious enough to us, but bit by bit "those who stayed" are beginning to clue in.

    The Memphis Commercial Appeal documented "the great taxpayer migration" in an article last week:

    An analysis of tax-return data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service showed that in Memphis, upward mobility often translates into outward mobility. The total income of people leaving the area outstrips the pay of those moving in by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to the data.

    That has led to a substantial -- and accelerating -- hemorrhaging of wealth, bringing ominous portents for the economy, tax base and even quality of life for the entire region.

    That's only counting the impact of  folks who were already in the workforce and moved on to greener pastures. If you add in those of us who left for college or just afterward, the net loss to cities like Memphis would be further multiplied.

    The beneficiaries aren't just bigger cities, but those without the cultural and political baggage of racism and homophobia. Dallas-Fort Worth was one of the top beneficiaries of the exodus out of Memphis, but the No. 1 destination was Nashville, a city that's slightly smaller in population but with better race relations, a much more active and engaged gay community and a lower "redneck ratio."

    Memphislogo The evidence isn't just anecdotal, either. Using Census data from 1990, the Brookings Institute constructed a number of different "indices" based on population categories and looked for patterns among the best and worst performers among the nation's top 50 cities. The results should not surprise you:

    Perhaps our most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area's high-technology success is a large gay population. Frequently cited as a harbinger of redevelopment and gentrification in distressed urban neighborhoods, the presence of gays in a metro area signals a diverse and progressive environment and provides a barometer for a broad spectrum of amenities attractive to adults, especially those without children. …

    Eleven of the top 15 high-tech metropolitan areas also appear in the top 15 of the gay index. The five metro areas with the highest concentration of gay residents — San Francisco, Washington, Austin, Atlanta, and San Diego — are all among the nation's top 15 high-tech areas. …

    The gay index is positively and significantly associated with the ability of a region both to attract talent and to generate high-tech industry.

    And just in case you thought San Francisco -- known for Silicon Valley and the Castro -- was unfairly weighting the data, the "gay index" was even more closely associated with high-tech success without S.F. included. Studies like this are part of what convinced the city of Cincinnati to rescind its anti-gay ordinance a few years back. And if this follows other trends, Memphis will clue in sometime before the turn of the next century…

    December 25, 2008

    Bill Clinton's Rick Warren

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillarybillbilly It's worth remembering, as you consider the competing viewpoints over Warren-gate, that there was no outcry surrounding Bill Clinton selection of evangelist Billy Graham to give the prayer at his 1993 inauguration, and again four years later. Graham's views are far more conservative and damning than Warren's, whether on sexual morality, homosexualtiy and (most disturbingly) AIDS and other STDs.

    In 1997, Clinton presented Graham with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation's highest civilian honors. There's a certain irony, of course, to Clinton's choice given his own record of sexual morality and marital fidelity, and his presidency's record on gay issues isn't one we hope Barack Obama replicates.

    But the broader point is the insidious way that ideological intolerance (liberal and conservative) has grown over the years, and the divisive effect it has, eschewing debate in favor of exclusionary demands. As we saw throughout the Republican and Democratic primaries, it's not enough that candidates agree with these ideologues, they must never associate themselves with anyone who fails the litmus test.

    Just imagine if Rick Warren had said something similar to what Billy Graham preached on the subject of AIDS back in 1993, when the death toll from HIV was reaching its peak, especially among gay men:

    "Is AIDS a judgment of God?" asked Graham before a record-breaking crowd in Columbus, Ohio. "I could not say for sure, but I think so." After seeing letters criticizing that comment, Graham contacted the Cleveland Plain Dealer to retract his statement. "I remember saying it, and I immediately regretted it and almost went back and clarified the statement," said Graham in a telephone interview. He said he never intended to make the remark, explaining that he was tired during the sermon and forgot to retract or clarify his statement. "I do believe God stands in judgment of all sins...but AIDS is a disease that affects people and is not part of that judgment," Graham told the newspaper. "To say God has judged people with AIDS would be very wrong and very cruel."

    Don't take Graham's retraction too seriously. Later that year he repeated the same "cruel" condemnation in a syndicated newspaper column that is still available on his website under the heading "Homosexuality":

    I believe the "explosion in sexual freedom" is one of the most disastrous things that has happened to our society in the last 50 years. Think, for example, of the devastating impact this "explosion" has had on our families. A family isn't just a nice idea; it is a God-ordained institution, given to us for our happiness and protection. But almost every day I get at least one letter from someone whose family has been torn apart by sexual immorality. …

    The same could be said about another "explosion" today—the explosion in sexually transmitted diseases. Millions of people in many parts of the world are living under a sentence of death because of AIDS and other devastating sexual diseases. How can we possibly conclude that unbridled sexual expression is a good thing?

    (Jump to the end of this post for some additional tidbits about homosexuality from Graham and his evangelical association.)

    Bill clinton billy grahamI also can't imagine that Rick Warren will use language anything like that Graham used in 1993, and again when Clinton asked him back to offer a inaugural prayer four years later.

    From Billy Graham's 1993 inauguration prayer:

    Our God and our Father, we thank you for this historic occasion when we inaugurate our new President and Vice-President. We thank you for the moral and spiritual foundations which our forefathers gave us and which are rooted deeply in scripture. Those principles nourished and guided us as a nation in the past, but we cannot say that we are a righteous people. We've sinned against you. We've sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality, and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to you.

    His inaugural invocation four years later was longer and more subdued, at least when it came to sinful folk "reaping the whirlwind of immorality." (AIDS, anyone?)  But Graham nonetheless admonished Americans that the government depends on God's grace ("Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it"), and he prayed that God would "teach us to follow Your instructions more closely."

    Now, as promised, some additional pearls of wisdom and compassion from the page entitled "Homosexuality" on Billy Graham's website:

    The realization that someone you love is gay can be a shattering experience. If you are trusting in Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, you can be conscious of your Heavenly Father's great love for you and your loved one (Jeremiah 31:3). God is the One who is able to transform lives and heal the scars of painful memories. We want to assure you that any willing person can be liberated from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, especially verse 11. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)

    Q: Does the Bible approve of some homosexual relationships? A;The Bible provides God's blueprint for marriage and for His good gift of sex in Genesis 2:24. The gift is only to be enjoyed within a marriage between a man and a woman. There are no exceptions suggested, such as homosexual partnerships. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association)

    If you engage in homosexual relations or lust (willful fantasizing about such relations) God is deeply grieved and sets about in a variety of ways to turn you from such a destructive course. … And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). You must discipline your mind as an athlete disciplines his body. … God not only wants to protect you from homosexual behavior, but He wants to begin to meet the deep needs at the root of your same-sex desires. Apart from an occasional miracle, this psychological and spiritual healing which leads toward sexual wholeness does not happen quickly. Usually, outside help is necessary. For this reason, we would suggest that you contact a Christian ministry which assists men and women who want to deal with homosexual issues in their lives. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)

    It must be emphasized that even if a biological predisposition to homosexuality in some people exists, it would not change God's opposition to the behavior. Neither would it change the fact that through the transforming power of Jesus Christ freedom from sinful behavior is always available. In addition, many strugglers discover growing heterosexual attractions as they address underlying problems with the help of competent Christian support and counseling. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)

    When a little boy desires to dress as a little girl and play with little girls and their toys exclusively, it can be very troubling to parents. However, your son is not a homosexual. While gender-confused children may develop homosexual attractions in teen years if not helped, that is not the issue at this point. The reasons why a child develops opposite sex characteristics and preferences to an extreme degree is complex. Whatever the causes, you would do well to emphasize that he should be exactly what God made him—a boy. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association)

    Feliz Natal and Happy Hanukkah

    Posted by: Chris

    From me and mine to you and yours, here's to a safe and happy holiday, however you choose to celebrate -- or not (celebrate it, that is).

    (It's not a blurry, poorly lit photo; it's Art)

    December 24, 2008

    Bah-humbug from George Bush

    Posted by: Chris

    RichardgrenellHis presidency winding down, rejected by most as a failure in foreign and domestic policy, President Bush remains steadfast, determined not to engender sympathy, even during his final Christmas in the White House. On two important issues just this week, the Bush administration stuck a finger in our eye and even rubbed it around a bit.

    In the United Nations, an historic declaration was introduced in the 192-member General Assembly urging countries "to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention."

    The measure was sponsored by France and backed by 65 other countries, including every nation in the European Union and most of Latin America. But not the United States of Bush, despite a crystal clear Supreme Court ruling from 2003 that our own Constitution was on the exact same page as the U.N. proposal.

    The official American position was based on highly technical legal grounds. The text, by using terminology like “without distinction of any kind,” was too broad because it might be interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on issues like gay marriage, American diplomats and legal experts said.

    It was at least refreshing to hear a powerful retort from Richard Grinell, a longtime acquaintance and gay Republican who was a spokesman for a succession of Bush U.N. ambassadors:

    "Concerns about a remote possibility (marriage) ignores the purpose of the resolution, which is to make sure that people are not killed or oppressed just because they are gay."

    A true conservative, Mr. Grenell said, is "always interested in less government involvement and more personal responsibilities."

    "If being gay is a criminal act, then the State Department has granted hundreds of criminals like me top-secret security clearance," he said. "Common sense says that we should be the leader in making sure other governments grant more freedoms to their people."

    George W Bush As if that weren't enough, the Bush health department has issued new rules intended to allow medical  professionals to provide medical care based upon "sincere religious belief or moral conviction":

    "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience," says Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt in a statement. That sounds relatively harmless, not to mention respectful of personal religious beliefs, except when you remember that absolutely any form of personal bigotry can be called a "sincere religious belief or moral conviction."

    That's why there's no "religious belief" or "moral conviction" exception to the Civil Rights Act, although churches and related entities are excluded as employers from the watered-down Employment Non-Discrimination Act (that was then "watered up" with gender identity protections).

    So in the guise of respecting religious freedom, doctors, nurses and pharmacists won't risk federal funding even if they refuse treatment to lesbians and gay men based on religious views about homosexuality, and transgender folk based on beliefs about gender identity. Talk about entangling church and state.

    In many cases, state law will still prohibit these types of refusals but by no means everywhere. And President-elect Obama could initiate the process to reverse the rule, but that will take months.

    Thanks, President Bush. Merry Christmas to you, too.

    (Photo of Richard Grinell via Wikipedia)

    December 23, 2008

    Watch the Warren bait and switch

    Posted by: Chris

    Solmonesebaldwinfrank A lot of the anger over Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to say a prayer at the inuauguration springs from genuine (if misplaced) resentment over the mega-church pastor's previous pronouncements on marriage, mixed with a disturbing streak of P.C. intolerance that runs through the gay rights movement and liberals generally.

    Part of it is lingering distrust of Obama by gay Hillary supporters, who still revel in the chance to stick it to him, as they did on the (similar and analogous) Donnie McClurkin flap. Another part is from Clinton-haters, who are already bracing themselves for Obama to "throw gays under the bus" the way Bill Clinton did on gays in the military (1993) and the Defense of Marriage Act (1996).

    And then there are the "leaders" of the gay movement, who absolutely love this kind of controversy for an entirely different reason: the gay and gay-friendly masses are exorcised and primed for fund-raising, successfully distracted from the indefensible lack of progress, even backsliding, on the actual push for legal equality. You know who I'm talking about, people, so let's just get to the quote (from Politico.com):

    The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

    “There is a lot of energy and there’s a lot of anger and I think people are wanting to direct it somewhere,” [Joe] Solmonese [of the Human Rights Campaign] told Politico.

    B-I-N-G-O and BINGO was his name-o! A nice juicy controversy with absolutely nothing of consequence at stake, and all those angry gays upset by the humiliating defeat of gay marriage rights in California, Arizona and Florida are distracted from further inquiry into why we lost, or whether there is anything that Democrat-controlled Washington can do anything about it.

    Look at this shiny Rick Warren bauble, gay people! Pay no attention behind that curtain to the deal Joe Solmonese, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and others have cut to give you only hate crime and ENDA crumbs until after the mid-term elections! (And by then, of course, the excuse will be that controversial issues like Don't Ask Don't Tell and relationship recognition must wait for Obama's re-election.)

    Remember Solmonese's "very frank" letter -- we know it's "very frank" because HRC said it was -- to the president-elect calling the Warren invitation "a genuine blow to LGBT Americans"? Does anyone remember HRC sending such a very frank letter when congressional Democrats failed to pass even the most benign form of gay rights legislation? (No, actually, HRC thanked them for giving it the ol' college try -- for the 12th consecutive year.)

    (And why can't the cynic in me shake the notion that Obama's real transition sin was failing to hire more Beltway gays to high White House and cabinet posts? Hillary surely would have emptied out HRC with cushy bureaucratic jobs.)

    GeoffreykorsOn the other side of the country, another gay leader in the hot seat is also trying his hand at the Warren bait and switch. Geoff Kors, the Equality California leader under heavy fire for the horribly mismanaged and poorly strategized No on 8 effort. You think he's gonna miss out on this chance to point the heat in another -- any other -- direction?:

    The head of California’s largest gay civil rights organization has declined an invitation to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama because Rev. Rick Warren will deliver the invocation.

    It is extremely disappointing and hurtful that President-elect Obama has chosen California Rev. Rick Warren, who actively supported Prop 8 and the elimination of existing civil rights for LGBT Californians, to give the invocation at his inauguration,” said Equality California executive director Geoff Kors in a statement.

    “Accordingly, I have decided to decline the invitation to attend the inauguration as I cannot be part of a celebration that highlights and gives voice to someone who advocated repealing rights from me and millions of other Californians.”

    The EQCA home page devotes its premium space to Kors' silly refusal to attend the inauguration, which makes about as much political sense as his silly refusal to meaningfully debate Prop 8. Does he really think we can boycott and refuse to debate our way to equality? He needs to watch "Milk" again.

    There's still time to make lemonade from these lemons. If the uproar over Rick Warren has the Obama folks anxious to mollify the gays, then let's ask for something real -- not simply long-promised hate crime and employment non-discrimination legislation. Something real -- like administration support for pushing a federal civil unions bill.

    December 22, 2008

    How to lose friends and influence

    Posted by: Chris

    USBrazilPride2 Unless you've traveled outside the U.S. and Europe, or have friends from places like Latin America, Africa and Asia, you probably didn't know that one of the biggest black eyes on America internationally is this country's arrogant approach to immigration -- on the temporary kind.

    As in so many other areas, the Bush administration used the horror of 9/11 and the specter of another terrorist attack to make temporary visas, whether for work, study or tourism, much much more difficult to obtain, even from parts of the world with no significant history of terrorism.

    I've been asked more times than I care to count why my partner doesn't just come to the U.S. to visit when I max out my Brazilian tourist visa. Would that it were so easy. For just a taste, check out this story by São Paulo native Jose Guzzardi, who managed to get one of those visas to study at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas:

    I personally invited [one of my best friends, considered part of the family] to come to my graduation from UCA. Even though she had work responsibilities, she made arrangements to come and scheduled her visa interview [with the U.S. Consulate]. …

    After her interview was over, she called me to tell me that the American consulate in Sao Paulo denied her visa because there was not enough evidence that she would come back to Brazil, even though she had already made flight reservations to return one week after my graduation. The person interviewing her rejected to even look at the flight reservations or any of the other documents that she brought with her, which included a letter of recommendation that I had written for her.

    Besides being saddened by not being able to come to my graduation, she was extremely upset with the “arrogance of the American people.” She told me, “I cannot believe how arrogant Americans are… she didn’t even look at my documents before denying my visa.”

    Consulate officers in the Bush State Department make it clear to citizens of most any country outside Western Europe that they are presumed liars who intend to overstay their visas and live in the U.S. indefinitely, until proven otherwise. So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants, but those who follow the rules and come prepared with documentation are treated with disrespect and disdain based on little more than their country of origin.

    The impact -- besides reinforcing an arrogant tone set from the White House down for the last eight years? The loss of billions in tourist tollars. Guzzardi explains:

    The U.S. travel Industry is worth about $713 billion dollars a year and creates 7.5 million jobs across the country. Tourism is one of America’s most important industries, and … a strong tool for public diplomacy and a great way to improve America’s image abroad.

    However, the number of foreign tourists coming to the United States has decreased considerably in the past few years. In 1992, 9% of people who crossed international borders came to the United States. In 2000, this number was reduced to 7.5%, and just last year, it went down to 6%. … One of the major reasons for this decrease is the difficulty for foreigners to obtain tourist visas to come to America. …

    In Brazil, the visa application process is very complex and time-consuming, taking an average of 100 days for someone to obtain a tourist visa. All Brazilians must be personally interviewed for the visa, and they have to pay a $100 dollar, non-refundable fee for the interview. These interviews last for about three minutes, and the interviewer at the consulate must determine whether the applicant is someone who is “eligible” to come to the United States.

    All of this hardship to obtain a visa has directly affected the number of Brazilians visiting the United States. In 1998, 1 million people from Brazil visited America. In 2000, this number was reduced to 750,000 and just last year, it dropped to 500,000. This has a direct effect in the American economy, since Brazilians are big spenders - the average Brazilian spends about $2,000 dollars per trip. This means that the United States just lost $500 million dollars from the Brazilians, who decided to visit Europe instead (the number of Brazilian tourists in Europe increased from 500,000 to two million in the past six years).

    Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton restore respect to citizens of Latin America, Africa, Asia who follow the immigration rules and apply for temporary visas? Hope But Verify.

    P.S. Don't forget to click on the "Change America" badge along the lefthand side of the blog and vote for "Equal Immigration Rights" as a policy priority for the Obama administration. It's still ranked No. 2 among all 121 immigration proposals on Change.org.

    (Pictured is "U.S.-Brazilian Pride" painted by the love of a certain blond blogger's life).

    The Week on GNW (Dec. 14-20)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. Obama's choice of inugural pastor sparks gay outrageObama's choice of inugural pastor sparks gay outrage: QUICK LOOK: Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation... (MORE)
    2. Ex-cop arrested in murders of 13 São Paulo gay menEx-cop arrested in murders of 13 São Paulo gay men: QUICK LOOK: A retired police officer has been detained in connection with the murders of 13 gay men in a low-income suburb of Sao Paulo, police said Thursday. Retired state police... (MORE)
    3. Gay groups talk policy, posts with Obama transitionGay groups talk policy, posts with Obama transition: QUICK LOOK: Gay activists met with members of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team this week in what was believed to be the first meeting between national gay rights... (MORE)
    4. Joint Chiefs chair quietly planning for DADT repealJoint chiefs chair quietly plans for DADT repeal: QUICK LOOK: Admiral Mullen, who was selected by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for a two-year term, has been on the job for a year. Come January, he will face perhaps the biggest... (MORE)
    5. U.S. gay rights groups cut staff to cope with recessionU.S. gay rights groups cut staff to cope with recession: QUICK LOOK: Many gay advocacy organizations are scaling back services and cutting staff, as the nation’s recession takes a toll on nonprofits. At Lambda Legal, 10 positions were... (MORE)

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

    • Debate erupts over Newsweek gay marriage coverDebate erupts over Newsweek gay marriage cover: QUICK LOOK: Last week, Newsweek's cover story on the biblical case for gay marriage resonated on TV stations, throughout the blogosphere, and in the inboxes of many NEWSWEEK employees... (MORE)
    • After rash of bashings, gay man shot dead in D.C.After rash of beatings, gay man shot dead in D.C.: QUICK LOOK: A 35-year-old gay man was shot in the head and killed shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday while walking home from a restaurant and bar in the popular gay neighborhood of Dupont... (MORE)
    • Gay and lesbian teens at higher pregnancy risk: studyGay and lesbian teens at higher pregnancy risk: study: QUICK LOOK: Lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are at significantly higher risk for pregnancy during their teen years than their heterosexual peers, suggests a survey published... (MORE)
    • Character on Sci-Fi 'Battlestar Galactica' comes outCharacter on Sci-Fi 'Battlestar Galactica' comes out: QUICK LOOK: It’s difficult looking at the future and not seeing yourself in it. Some three decades ago, after watching "Logan’s Run" with its all-white cast, Richard Pryor said black... (MORE)
    • Frustration grows over tactics used against Prop 8Frustration grows over tactics used against Prop 8: QUICK LOOK: Grassroots activists gathered at West Hollywood Auditorium on Sunday for a traditional town hall meeting on the loss of the No On 8 campaign. Most... (MORE)


    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.

    December 21, 2008

    Warren-gate and the First Amendment

    Posted by: Chris

    Roymoore There is a deeply disturbing undercurrent to the arguments made by those who want Barack Obama to rescind the invocation invitation to Southern Baptist evangelist Rick Warren in favor of a minister with friendlier views on gay marriage or homosexuality. While you and I might view this campaign as well-intentioned, the 16 million members of Warren's denomination understandably feel otherwise, as do many millions who belong to faith traditions with similar views.

    We gays are very accustomed to Southern Baptists and other evangelical and fundamentalist faiths attempting to have their beliefs about homosexuality enshrined into law, always at the expense of our freedom or civil rights. But now the shoe is on the other foot.

    The angry blogosphere, D.C.-based gay groups and their progressive allies are basically demanding the president-elect remove one minister from his role in a major public ceremony because of his religious beliefs and replace him with one who is more acceptable. Their demand ought to trouble everyone, particularly LGBT Americans and anyone else who values the First Amendment separation between church and state. 

    The use of public ceremonies to show official government favor of one group over another runs directly afoul of the First Amendment's "establishment clause," which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion, or even from sending direct or indirect signals that some faith groups or views are preferred over others. The clear motivation for Obama showing favor for one set of beliefs over the other, as well as the obvious effect, is for the new president to signal that religious beliefs like Warren's are on the "outs," and religious beliefs approved by gays and progressives are on the "ins."

    That same intent, and that same obvious effect, are why the First Amenment does not permit official prayers in public schools and high school football games, and why we no longer have manger scenes at Christmas time in front of city halls and state capitols. That's why Roy Moore was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the courthouse rotunda.

    In my public school here in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn., we began each and every day with the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God" included) and the national anthem, but that wasn't all. We also sang along to Kate Smith on "God Bless America," and our principal led the students in reciting "The Lord's Prayer." Jewish students stayed quiet, obviously, and Jehovah's Witness adherents stepped out into the hallway for our morning intercom revelry.

    The motivations behind these official displays of religious preference, and certainly their impact, are directly analogous to why gay folks are demanding that Warren be removed from the inauguration, and the obvious effect on the public if Obama ultimately caves. 

    To be fair, it is partly Obama and Warren's fault that church and state are entangled here. The president-elect's decision to include a religious invocation and benediction, while noncontroversial and in keeping with tradition, opens the door to these kinds of debates. What's more, marriage as an institution is a conflation of law and religion, "vesting power" in ministers to officiate at a religious ceremony that has legal effect.

    Warren makes matters worse, of course, by basing his opposition to gay marriage and support for Proposition 8 on his religious beliefs about homosexuality. I've long believed that laws excluding gays from civil marriage are, in and of themselves, a violation of the First Amendment establishment clause, since the primary objections to marrying gay couples -- repeated in one form or another by conservative politicians and pastors alike -- are their personal religious views about "the sanctity of marriage." The government ought not to be choosing which denominational views about marriage by same-sex couples will be enshrined in the law.

    So do we really want to jump into the Blblical battle over marriage, asking the president-elect to signal to the public that views held by Warren and millions of others are disfavored by the government? Shouldn't we be arguing that the Bible and religion are an illegitimate basis from excluding gays from a fundamental freedom and civil right?

    Gay folk and progressives exorcised by the selection of Warren would be much better served focusing on winning the political debate over marriage, in part by arguing for the separation of church and state, than by trying to use the president-elect to show our religious beliefs are in favor. Not only is that fight an anathema to the First Amendment, it's a loser with the majority of church-going Americans today.

    (Pictured is former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and a cake honoring the Ten Commandments memorial that federal courts had removed from the courthouse of the state supreme court.)

    December 20, 2008

    Commenting troubles

    Posted by: Chris

    Longhairchris Readers: For some reason, Typepad is not posting all the comments to all the recent posts, especially where the number of comments exceeds 30 on a particular. I am still seeing your unpublished comments on the back-end, and I can assure there is no conspiracy or censorship at work (geez!). It's just a Typepad hiccup of some sort.

    I promise I am looking into it. In the meantime, I would encourage you to comment on posts with fewer than 30 comments.

    Muito obrigado,

    P.S.  Just came across this old photo at my parent's home and couldn't resist sharing it. Stylin' and profilin' since circa 1976-77, when I am guestimating this photo was taken. And if you look over my shoulder, you get a hint of my brother, two years older than me, wearing matching duds.

    Rick Warren, a different take

    Posted by: Andoni

    Success key Chris has covered the Rick Warren controversy from many angles beginning here and continuing herehere, and here.

    My take is different.

    Assume we are observers sitting on the sidelines watching how two distinct entities operate over the course of time and then compare how successful each has been. These two entities would of course be the national gay and lesbian leadership and Barack Obama.

    The LGBT leadership has had the goal of full equality for gays in the US for a very long time, setting up specific stepping stones to get there: Hate Crimes legislation, ENDA, repeal of DADT, repeal of DOMA, UAFA, and coast to coast marriage equality. A few years ago most analysts would have given our community very slim odds of achieving full equality in the near future, but most probably would have given us a fairly decent shot of at least passing some basic legislation such as Hate Crimes and ENDA.

    We have been working on these first two items as long as I can remember. However, the strategy, decisions and actions of our national leaders has achieved absolutely nothing for us at the national level. Yet they continue to pursue the same strategy. To any independent observer, this should be a very sobering thought about how we operate.

    Meanwhile, as recently as  2007, the other entity, Barack Obama, was also given nearly impossible odds of achieving his goal -- capturing the presidency. However, he had a new way of operating. He wanted to practice a new kind of politics that brought people together who agreed on things; he didn't believe in punishing people who disagreed with him. He wanted to end the culture wars. He wanted to end the traditional thinking of us versus them or red states versus blue states. He wanted to form a new coalition to provide a big enough majority to govern effectively and move his agenda forward.

    He knew he (we) could not be successful with the old politics and the old way of thinking -- talking to and working with only those who agreed with him (us) all of the time. This old way has never resulted in a big enough coalition to accomplish things. The old way of dealing with people who only thought exactly like us always resulted in obtaining less than 50% of the vote.

    The end result is that Barack's way worked and our national gay leadership's methods haven't and won't. People who think only like us do not make up a majority. We need more than people who only agree with us 100%.

    Oh and one more point about our national leaders and their judgment. These are the same folks who analyzed the presidential election during the primaries and decided  that they should back Hillary Clinton because she was the sure winner and Obama didn't have a chance. This should have given us pause about the accuracy of their political judgment.

    So if you were an investor and saw these two approaches and the results, which approach would you support? I would support the modus operandi that gets the results -- and that would be the Obama way of doing things. And if that means having to listen to Rick Warren during the Inauguration, I can put up with that. (Keep your eye on the prize.)

    There were several times in the past two years that I thought Barack Obama was wrong and I was right. I got very emotionally upset and emotionally vocal when he didn't act or react the way I thought he should. However, it always turned out Obama knew what he was doing and I didn't. His judgment was correct and the judgment of his critics was proven wrong. That's when I learned that his political judgment was better than everyone else's.

    Barack has an LGBT agenda (at change.gov, then Agenda, then Civil Rights). I'm not going to act out because my feelings are hurt that he invited Rick Warren to speak at his Inauguration. Obama has a game plan to achieve his agenda .....and a good track record. I trust his political judgment and skills, and will give him 2 to 4 years before I become critical.

    A lot of our national leaders are acting like spoiled children who didn't get their way. We should remember that we don't own Barack Obama, and we shouldn't be behaving as if we do. It won't do our movement any good.

    It's as simple as this. If we are concerned about results, remember Barack's way has worked, our national leaders' way hasn't.

    I've learned that when I leave my emotions out of things and use my brain, I usually make a better decision. When my emotions are in charge, I usually make the wrong choice. At the moment, I think most of our leaders are acting on emotions, instead of logic, over this Rick Warren thing.

    December 19, 2008

    Newsweek: Warren outrage justified?

    Posted by: Chris

    Newsweekwarrendebate Newsweek.com has posted my debate with Leah McElrath Renna over whether gay outrage over Rick Warren's role in the inauguration is justified.

    My thanks to Carl Sullivan at Newsweek.com and to Leah for being such an provocative debate partner. She surprised me a bit by coming at the controversy from a spiritual perspective, and I'm curious whether our exchange raised any new issues for any of you.

    Just a quick highlight:

    Chris Crain: Leah, you and others are criticizing the selection of Rick Warren as a betrayal of Barack Obama's promise to unify the country, but the way you define "unity" is really very exclusionary. … Obama's point was to unify us around areas of agreement, and here you are focused on disagreement, so where's the betrayal? For "unifying the nation" to mean anything, there must be "inclusion" for conservatives, including the many millions like Warren who oppose gay marriage. Excluding those with whom we disagree is the antithesis of unifying. …

    We are only deferring that happy day when we win our equality if we are unwilling to find common ground and respectfully engage those with whom we disagree—especially those like Rick Warren who are so influential with so many. We can't get away with "refusing to get into" whether Warren in fact "equated" our relationships to abusive ones. The argument isn't beneath you, Leah, it's in front of you. 

    Leahmcelrathrenna Leah McElrath Renna: I need to return to my central point that is not about marriage equality for same-sex couples or any other policy-related issue. The reality is that Rick Warren does not believe that lesbian and gay people exist. In his worldview and spiritual perspective, LGBT individuals are people who choose to engage in sinful, sexually disordered behavior. This worldview is justified by him and others by a narrow, ahistorical and literal interpretation of a very small number of Biblical passages. It is not shared by all religions, nor by all people or denominations within the Christian faith.

    As long as LGBT people and our allies continue to allow others to define our very existence as a so-called "social issue,'' we will not succeed in creating a world that is safe for ourselves, our loved ones and our families.

    Rick Warren vs. Ann Curry

    Posted by: Chris

    This Rick Warren interview with Ann Curry of the "Today" show is making the rounds as further proof the evangelical mega-church pastor is unfit to give the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration:

    Let me be clear. Warren's viewpoint about the nature of sexual orientation, at least of the homosexual variety, is cramped and mean-spirited.  He has to "reign in" his desire to sleep with every beautiful woman he sees, and we have to "reign in" ever having at any point in our lives any romantic, loving, sexual relationship with the gender with which we are attracted to biologically.  How apples and oranges.  How unfair and how cruel.

    Also, however, how typical. Warren's viewpoint is shared by the Roman Catholic faith and most mainline Protestants -- except for Southern Baptists who are worse, and Mormons who are even more worse. Don't even get me started on Islam, which rejects the whole idea of homosexuality as a Western perversion.

    AnncurrySo faith leaders from all these traditions should be excluded from the inauguration on our behalf?  The Constitution prohibits "a religious test" for public office, but we gays sure do want one for important public ceremonies!  We're on the wrong side of this issue, folks.

    On a lighter note, you gotta love the NBC edit on the video, specifically the look Ann Curry cuts Rick Warren when he claims it is his "natural inclination to sleep with every beautiful woman" he sees.


    Some reader responses to Warren-gate

    Posted by: Chris

    Warren on beliefnet Some of the more interesting viewpoints so far...

    At first, I was upset when Obama chose Warren to appear at the inauguration, and then I was furious at his response that "a variety of viewpoints" would be represented. My reaction was that he had reduced the fight for the civil rights of an entire population to a "viewpoint."

    Discrimination is not a mere "difference of opinion" -- it's morally wrong. And someone who supported Prop 8 should not be given this kind of platform. Period. You do a disservice to all of us by giving Obama cover on this issue.

    We are not picking "this" as our battle. However, Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration shows shocking insensitivity to gay folks, especially for those of us in California who just had our marriage rights ripped away by Prop 8, which Warren vigorously supported.

    Please try to tell me with a straight face that, e.g., Jewish people should not be offended if Obama selected someone who had equated THEIR relationships with pedophilia to give the convocation at the inauguration of a Democratic President.

    It was during the Saddleback faux-debate that I first shouted at the television in derision when Obama signaled to millions of viewers that he opposes marriage equality and, for a nice bit of robocall usage, ‘God’s in the mix.’ (If that wasn’t providing cover to the supporters of the CA and FL amendments, I don’t know what was.) Had Rick Warren thrown his support behind an amendment harming any other minority group in this country, he would not be giving this invocation.

    Most responses ran along these lines, essentially arguing that our civil rights shouldn't be a matter of policy debate, and Obama would never have selected a minister who opposed black civil rights or favored discriminatory treatment of Jews or some other minority group.

    For one thing, the argument here is oval, if not downright circular. The whole reason we are having to fight for our equality is that many Americans -- and arguably most African Americans -- do not view our civil rights as analogous to black civil rights. So you can't start from the premise that it's the same and work backwards, unless you are more interested in hearing yourself speak than actually winning the debate.

    It's also incredibly unrealistic to apply the "if he said that about African Americans" test to gay rights issues, especially marriage. The public is much, much further along on civil rights based on race and religion; they are expressly written into our Constitution, for one thing. So instead of jumping ahead five or 10 or 15 years and trying to exclude our opponents from good society as extremist bigots, we need to meet them head on with confidence in our position.

    It's ironic. Those who presented Obama as the anti-Clinton are now using Clintonian triangulation and "depends on what your definition of 'is' is" rhetoric to justify Obama's VERY Clintonian move here. The more things change...

    Actually I was a Clinton supporter. She lost the nomination and McCain was not an acceptable alternative. I've believed for some time we will get very little from an Obama aministration, and nothing with any real political cost. … I know he doesn't support marriage equality - which makes him, to my mind, intellectually dishonest.

    Yes and no. Triangulation of the Clinton kind came in two forms: "Sister Souljah" moments that helped give Bill Clinton a centrist image, and actual centrist policy positions, like support for welfare reform, NAFTA, DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    You may accuse Obama of the Sister Souljah variety here, since Warren's inclusion in the inauguration is a symbolic move, but it's the latter form -- backing anti-gay legislation or sitting on pro-gay bills -- that is an actual betrayal. I don't even see the Warren selection as a Sister Souljah moment, since Clinton did that to directly express his own personal misgivings about changes in the culture. Obama hasn't embraced Warren's gay rights opposition, in fact he has said the exact opposite.

    And while we're being "intellectually honest," Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that she opposes same-sex marriage and does not even support a complete repeal of DOMA, a law that she is still defending as necessary for the time.

    If Obama really wanted to be "inclusive" why didn't he invite a senior Mormon to deliver the invocation -- they not only despise the gays, but from 1848 until 1978 blacks were forbidden to worship in Mormon Temples or hold Priesthood because they (according to official doctrine) were the cursed children of Cain whose skin colour was the mark of their original sin. How inclusive and healing it would be to have the invocation at his innauguration delivered by the leader of a chruch that institutionalised racism at the most fundamental levels until a mere twenty years ago.

    If Obama wanted to find someone of "shared values," I've no doubt he could have found a person of deep religious conviction and moral authority, but who was also more GLBT supportive. But then, that wouldn't have been such a huge PR coup.

    Comment No. 1 is answered above, since we can't snap our fingers and make society feel the same about our claim to civil rights as that of African Americans.

    Comment No. 2: He did find a minister who supports gay rights. In fact, civil rights icon James Lowery, who will deliver the benediction, is the rare black minister who supports full marriage equality. But you are still missing the point on "shared values" -- it doesn't mean share all our values. It means finding values we share even with those with whom we disagree. Bookend progressive pastors would not be inclusive; it would exclude the majority of regular churchgoers in this country.

    It is completely unfair of you to ignore the "Oh, I do" part of the BeliefNet interview. That is the part of the interview where he confirmed that he does, in fact, consider those other forms of marriage equivalent to same-sex unions.

    I did not ignore the "Oh I do"; I posted my own comment about it. I ran short of time yesterday, traveling from Washington to Memphis where I'm spending Christmas week. Taking the "Oh, I do" in context, I heard Rick Warren reaffirming what he had just said: that "redefining 5,000 years of marriage" would lead to marraiges we would all find objectionable, like having multiple wives or marrying your sibling.

    I based that partly on how Warren says in the same interview that he has "no problem" with civil unions or domestic partnerships. I've since learned that Warren later "clarified" his remarks:

    I now see you asked about civil UNIONS -- and I responded by talking about civil RIGHTS. Sorry. They are two different issues. No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the “right” to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage. It’s just not there. …

    I favor anyone being able to make anyone else the beneficiary of their health or life insurance coverage. If I am willing to pay for it, I should be able to put a friend, partner, relative, or stranger on my coverage. No one should be turned away from seeing a friend in the hospital. But visiting rights are a non-issue in California! Since 1999, California has had a domestic partnership law that grants gay couples visiting rights and all the other rights. Prop 8 had no -- zero -- effect on those rights.

    Warren is being both cagey and evasive. I've never really seen it argued that a state or federal constitution -- Warren is presumably talking about the federal one - guarantees the right to a civil union. When such an argument is made, it's for full marriage equality.  It's also true some of those who disagree strongly with judicial rulings on gay marriage or civil unions nonetheless support one or the other as a legislative matter. (For many years, I counted myself in this school on the abortion issue. I felt Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided but I would have voted for abortion rights in a state legislature.)

    He plays a similar game with domestic partnership rights and benefits, avoiding saying whether he would support them or not because they already existed in California at the time of Proposition 8.

    I do not see in those evasive statements the kind of bigotry and disrespect for basic human dignity that I keep reading about on the blogs. I see doors cracked open, quite widely for a Southern Baptist leader, for further dialogue and perhaps even common ground.

    Newsweek.com debate over Rick Warren

    Posted by: Chris

    A quick heads up that I'm wrapping up an e-mail debate with Leah McElrath Renna, author of the Huffington Post piece slamming Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation -- a piece that I then slammed in my first post on the subject. It's been a fun and interesting exchange, and I'll post a link to it when it goes live on Newsweek.com.

    I'll also repeat here what I've said to Leah privately by email:  I cringed a bit yesterday when I read that first post.  Ahh, the joys and perils of late-night blogging. I'm especially red-faced that I actually called her "honey."  I was intending the tone of voice we gay guys regularly use toward one another. But the reader can't know that, and the word obviously has a sexist history in male-female discourse, which is why I regret using it.

    December 18, 2008

    Lowering the volume on Warren-gate

    Posted by: Chris

    Rickwarrenwp I'll admit that my initial reaction late last night to the controversy over Barack Obama naming evangelist Rick Warren to give the inauguration invocation was a bit unfair in characterizing (err, disparaging) the motives of those offended by the decision. I still believe that political correctness and ideological purity underly most of the complaints, but I have heard from some who I would never characterize that way.

    One thing they cite is how supposedly "compared" or "equated" gay marriage to incest and polygamy in explaining his support for Prop 8 in California:

    I’m not opposed to [gay marriage] as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

    This is neither "comparing," nor "equating." In fact, Warren specifically draws a distinction between that which he does not oppose -- gay marriage -- and the parade of horribles he thinks opening up redefinition of marriage will lead to -- incest, pedophilia and polygamy.

    The proverbial "slippery slope" is used when the speaker knows his audience sees no real problem with the proposal at hand, and so must be jolted to attention by what would somehow inevitably follow:

    If you raise taxes, it will slow the economy, put people out of work, throw us into a recession and require socialist bailouts to get us back on track.

    Does that "equate" or "compare" raising taxes with socialism? No.

    Recognizing Rick Warren's argument as slippery slope and not comparison does not make his claim any more reasonable, but it does make it less offensive -- although clearly offended is what we do best on our side, rather than meet arguments head to head, with confidence that ours is the stronger position.

    Obama's unity call falls on P.C. ears

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamawarrent It hasn't taken the gays long to find fault in the still-transiting Obama administration. You can almost guess from the level of fury that what's at stake isn't something real, like a retreat on policy or foot-dragging on a campaign promise. That's because content- and consequence-free is exactly how the politically correct crowd likes their controversies.

    Barack Obama's offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.

    Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage -- come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a "strategery" role in the No on 8 campaign.

    Never mind all of those things because they do not matters as much as ideological purity, as defined by those who somehow think of themselves as "progressive" despite their own naked intolerance. We must demand exclusion in the name of "unity"!  Isn't that ironic, doncha think?

    A number of critics trace Obama's supposed betrayal to this transition-team promise:

    "The Presidential Inaugural Committee, at the direction of President-elect Obama...will organize an inclusive and accessible inauguration that...unites the nation around our shared values and ideals."

    "Shared values and ideals?" huffs Leah McElrath Renna on HuffPo ("Rick Warren, Obama? Really?"). How dare Obama when we don't share Rick Warren's views on gay marriage!

    Shared values and ideals, Leah. Do please try to focus, honey. You successfully honed in one of those un-shared values. Try to remember that the whole idea behind unity is finding areas of agreement, not disagreement, and focusing on common ground to bring us together as a nation.

    Can you imagine what sort of "unity" party that HuffPo and the "progressive" left would have Obama throw? One in which only other progressives are invited, thereby completely missing the point. Yes, election night was magical, and as a long-time Obama supporter I too was moved and inspired. But recreating Grant Park (or the Denver acceptance speech) will not unify the country.

    This twisted idea of unifying only among the like-minded reminds me of the joke about St. Peter giving a tour of Heaven. "Keep quiet as we pass this next doorway," he tells the new arrivals. "This is where we keep the fundamentalists, and they think they're the only ones here." I hate to break it to you P.C. stormtroopers, but your Obama-America Paradise includes more than gays and gay-friendlies.

    Another predictably knee-jerk response was Queerty shrieking headline -- "Barack Obama's 'new pastor' is a slap in the face to the gay community":

    Barack Obama's decision to allow a direct enemy of gays and lesbians to officiate at his inauguration isn't just alarming, it's outrageous and indefensible. We call on President-Elect Barack Obama to rescind his offer to Rev. Warren immediately.

    I'm sure Obama is quaking in his boots, Queerty. So I best step up to your challenge. I am hereby defending what you call "indefensible" (and "alarming" and "outrageous," those rhetorical handmaidens to lazy left outrage). And I will do so as someone who has closely watched, cared about, cried over and covered the gay rights movement since you were in diapers -- and as someone whose life and livelihood depend far more than yours on Obama living up to his LGBT campaign promises.

    Keep your eyes on the prize, boys. Obama's campaign to unify the country -- which last I checked includes millions of Warren's fellow travelers -- is in the service of an administration whose stated policy positions are the most supportive ever on LGBT civil rights. Winning over support for a pro-gay president from anti-gay leaders isn't just defensible, it's downright brilliant.

    Ahh but the shiny bauble of a controversy will always distract the ideological purists among us, who are spoiling for a fight more than they are fighting for a cause. Still, how disappointing and sad that it is the gays who are first to break ranks and declare some other (much larger group) as untouchable. It's the kind of exclusionary politics we should expect from our enemies, not from ourselves.

    (Photo of Barack Obama and Rick Warren via L.A. Times)

    December 17, 2008

    'Hide the gays' backlash grows

    Posted by: Chris

    Weho_townhall Those responsible for the monumentally unsuccessful "hide the gays" strategy against Proposition 8 have heard the complaints about failing to connect with the grassroots; they feel your pain. They even held a cyber town hall meeting, although you couldn't participate with an Mac (ahem!) or without a high-speed internet connection.

    Undaunted, some of those dissed grassroots held their own town hall meeting at Ground Zero -- West Hollywood. There was not a lot of love in the air:

    Most of the voices heard expressed frustration and/or anger at what they called the insular and inept leadership of the campaign. Organized by Robin Tyler, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that won Californians the right to marry, and the organization Marriage Equality, on whose board she sits, a panel of long time activists listened to speakers and then opined themselves on the No On 8 campaign’s shortcomings.

    A Los Angeles man, Jerry Johnson, criticized the television commercials the No On 8 campaign ran as not representing the reality of being gay couples or parents. He said that the ads he saw looked as though the gay leadership was trying to hide gay faces rather than showing them, missing a chance to humanize the community.

    Hide the gays they did, so much so that the G-word was never uttered, neither was the M-word ("marriage"), or even the D-word ("discrimination").

    Even Madonna, Janet, Whitney and Liza know that at least a first name is required for people to know what the hell you're talking about. Just ask the Artist Formerly Known As Prince; that is when he's not condeming you gay folk for "sticking things wherever you want."

    (Photos courtesy of West Hollywood News)

    December 16, 2008

    Gay teens at higher pregnancy risk

    Posted by: Chris

    Pregnant_teen Yes, you read that right. File this one under... "Huh?"' Right next to "Gay Men who are Rabid Pro-Lifers"...

    Lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are at significantly higher risk for pregnancy during their teen years than their heterosexual peers, suggests a survey published Tuesday in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. …

    One of the reasons for higher pregnancy among sexual minority youth, say the report’s authors, is the stigma gay teens continue to face and the strategies they may engage in order to cope with that stigma.

    For example, in 1998 among the teenage girls surveyed, 7.3 per cent of lesbians and 10.6 per cent of girls who said they were bisexual reported pregnancy compared with 1.8 per cent of heterosexual girls.

    Among boys, the numbers were also higher that same year for gay teenagers, with 9.6 of gay males and 11.6 per cent of bisexual teen boys reporting involvement with a pregnancy, compared with 1.5 per cent of heterosexual young men.

    Pregnancy rates declined slightly overall in 2003, but remained much higher among gay and lesbian teens than heterosexual teens.

    (H/t: Rex Wockner)

    Gay immigration rights on Change.org

    Posted by: Chris

    Have you heard about Change.org? It's a MoveOn.org-type liberal-progressive site that despite its name and appearances is affiliated only in spirit with Barack Obama. The site's primary focus has been to develop a "change agenda" for the "change candidate" who's now the "change president-elect":

    Anyone can submit an idea and comment and vote on others. The top 10 rated ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 as the "Top 10 Ideas for America."

    We will then launch a national campaign behind each idea and mobilize the collective energy of the millions of members of Change.org, MySpace, and partner organizations to ensure that each winning idea gets the full consideration of the Obama Administration and Members of Congress.

    Those Top 10 ideas are being selected through two rounds of voting. The top three vote-getters within each of 12 issue categories will survive the first round, which runs through Dec. 31. So far, there are more than 3,150 ideas. Even though there is a category called "Gay Rights," one lonely gay rights idea important to so many of us got tucked away under the "Immigration" category.

    You got it, ranked all the way up at No. 2 among 98 immigration ideas is "Equal Immigration Rights for Binational Couples." Not too shabby, but if you'll take just a minute to add your vote, we can help ensure it survives to the second round of voting.

    (Trailing by only a few votes is a call to allow undocumented immigrants who marry Americans to adjust their illegal status without first returning home or proving "extreme hardship," and another to stop immigration raids. And people say UAFA has an uphill political climb!)

    A video accompanying the post tells the three-hanky story of one young lesbian couple forced to separate for four months before the American half could travel around the world to New Zealand, where her relationship with her partner is recognized for immigration purposes.

    (Sorry but the video does not seem to be loading, at least on my browser.  Anyone else seeing it here?  You can view it here on Current.)  Their story hit home to me for obvious reasons, but I would be interested to know if those not impacted so directly by this issue are emotionally affected as well.

    Another, much shorter video is included as a plea to accompany the "Action": Tell Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act.

    It won't win any Oscars, but the way the couple resorts to hiding their identity is nonetheless visually striking, and enough to make this "Action" the most popular right now on the site. (I haven't quite figured out the difference between an "Idea" and an "Action." It's all a bit confusing, or maybe I'm just too 1.0 to figure it all out.)

    Within the immigration section, there's a powerful open letter to Barack Obama from Rachel Tiven, director of Immigration Equality, that brings up the issue in a way quite personal to the president-elect, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan:

    For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and the Americans who love them, your personal history holds a special promise. As the child of a binational couple who fell in love despite different citizenships and social stigma, you are uniquely able to understand the struggle of same-sex binational couples. Unlike a straight American, a gay or lesbian U.S. citizen who falls in love with a foreign national has no way to sponsor him or her for immigration benefits — and is then forced to choose between their beloved and their country. You have said you support an end to this cruel choice, an end to forced family separation, and an end to discrimination against LGBT immigrants.

    As you know, the answer to this injustice is the passage of the Uniting American Families Act. Please urge Congress to act on the bill, and insist that it be included in full, fair, and comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

    For those interested in how your's truly explained my vote for the equal immigration rights "Idea," I've included my post to their site in the jump:

    Continue reading»

    It's raining gatos e cachorros in Rio

    Posted by: Chris

    Madonnario That's "cats and dogs," for you non-Brazilianizers. Like poor Madonna, for example, performing Monday night in Rio's massive Maracanã stadium, built for last year's Pan Am Games. About 30 seconds into this video, our dear Madge performs some on-stage maneuvers that were definitely not choreographed.

    Even so, she recovers mighty damn well for someone past the half-century mark. I imagine vogueing could be a real bitch after hip-replacement...

    (Hat tip: Made in Brazil)

    December 15, 2008

    HRC's balls are for dancing (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Christmasdiscoballs A reader who is generally a staunch defender of the Human Rights Campaign can't believe the nation's largest gay political group (and a bunch of other Beltway boyz) will be dancing at an "Out for Equality" inugural ball while the rest of gay America burns:

    I happened to zip over to your blog just after the election and saw the news that HRC was planning a Ball. I'll have to say that, for perhaps the first time on a matter this significant, I agree with you.

    I come from a place in my life where I devoted countless hours to a local HRC steering committee in the Midwest, and therefore can offer a first-hand account for the value those smaller organizations have in their communities to make real connections and encourage otherwise complacent gays to give a damn.

    Still, I have to say that now simply doesn't feel like the time to put a smile on our faces and scamper off to an HRC party -- not when we've got amendments and restrictions abounding, and a party that wants us on-board, but doesn't fully fight for our rights. How about we see results before we get too interested in tuxedos and ballrooms. If the New York state Senate is any indication, we've got more than enough time to work on our tans and get those manicures before the big day.

    As you can tell, I was not one of those people dancing in the streets on November 4th and, yes, I was at the rally down at the Capitol. Oddly, I'm leary, upset and, frankly, a little scared right now. Let's see what Hope can do for me.

    Hope But Verify, with President Obama, Democrats in general, and our gay rights lobby groups.

    As I've said many times before, our full equality is an inevitability, absent some major cultural upheaval. The question is whether equality arrives sooner rather than later, as in five years, a decade, a generation, or our lifetimes. One key to the time frame is whether we use our influence effectively to pressure those in power to not just make changes the public already favors overwhelmingly, but actually expend political capital on our behalf.

    Have you ever heard a politician, especially a Democrat, complain in public or private that HRC pushes them too hard? Ever? In my decade close to the action, I have not, firsthand, secondhand or otherwise. That says it all to me, right there.

    Or, as Out for Equality headliner Cyndi Lauper (love her!) puts it in her recent hit, "It's the same ol' fuckin' story..."

    U.S. citizenship (and taxes) are forever

    Posted by: Andoni

    Irs_tax_form Regular readers know how often Chris, Kevin and I highlight the tremendously unfair discrimination lesbian and gay couples face under current U.S. immigration law.

    Tayland read my post entitled Obama on same sex immigration and left a comment vowing that if U.S. immigration laws don't change soon he and his partner will move to Canada, adding

    ... then the U.S. will have one less tax payer and Canada will gain one.

    I don't know how to break the bad news to you, Tayland, but here's something most U.S. citizens don't realize:

    U.S. citizens (and permanent residents) have to file and pay U.S. income taxes no matter where they live in the world, even if none of their income is generated in the U.S.

    Read that again because it is a very sobering thought.

    The U.S. is the only country in the world that has this world wide grip to tax its citizens -- and it has tax treaties with most of the countries in the world to enforce it.

    Is it possible to get around this law? Well Sir John Templeton found a way. He renounced his US citizenship in the 1960's and moved to the Bahamas where there is no income tax. He made millions tax free and everything was fine until he appeared on the cover of Forbes Magazine in a story boasting how U.S. millionaires can avoid US income taxes. This so enraged the public, that Congress passed a law (that was upheld in court) that created a 10 year shadow period for tax obligation even after you renounce your U.S. citizenship. Under that law you had to file and pay U.S. taxes for an additional 10 years.

    However, that wasn't the end of the story. Apparently, enough really rich people found a way to keep their incomes reasonably low during this 10 year period, only to sell their major assets in the 11th  year. This prompted Congress this year to pass and George W. Bush to sign what is called the "exit tax" law.

    Under this law, people who renounce their U.S. citizenship get taxed on their entire world holdings, valued on the day before they renounced and as if they had sold those holdings.

    The law is meant to apply to high net worth, high income people. Critics of this law point out that the only other time in history that such a tax was imposed on its citizens was by Nazi Germany aimed at the Jews who were trying to flee that country in the 1930's.

    (As an aside, it appears that enhanced interrogation techniques is not the only concept our current government has borrowed from the Nazis.)

    So Tayland, if you are a U.S. citizen in a same sex bi-national relationship, you get screwed trying to live here because the government won't acknowledge your partner for immigration purposes ---- and if you decide to improve your situation by leaving and going to a country where they honor and value your relationship, you get screwed once again by a government that asks you to pay tax to it no matter where you live or no matter where you earn your money.

    U.S. rights and freedoms may be shrinking and fading, but U.S. citizenship and taxes are last forever.

    Quarantining gays from marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm usually a bit loathe to sit and watch the latest Jon Stewart and Keith Olberman video making the rounds of gaydom, even though they both are strong supporters of our equality, because a political preacher exhorting his choir does not make for the most interesting viewing, IMHO.

    But I will pass on Jon Stewart's mini-debate on gay marriage with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee because it is two-sided and touches on a lot of the hot buttons of this issue generally. Huckabee's folksy image and guitar skills have successfully refurbished his image from that of an angry Baptist minister who urged that people with AIDS be quarantined to protect us from "the dangerous public health threat of homosexuality."

    At one point in the discussion, Huck defends treating same-sex marriage differently than interracial marriage because, "There's a big difference between a person being black and a person practicing a lifestyle." Nice try, Mike, but you said otherwise on "Meet The Press" a year ago.

    You can take the Baptist preacher out of Arkansas, but you can't take the Arkansas out of the Baptist preacher.

    I'll also note, in passing, that almost none of the pro-marriage-equality arguments that Stewart voices so effectivly were even attempted in opposition to Proposition 8 -- mainly because doing so would require using words like "discrimination," "marriage" and "gay," which our side's focus groups apparently found too messy.

    HRC's balls are only good for dancing

    Posted by: Chris

    Cyndi_lauper_joe_solmonese_2 When was the last time you heard "HRC" and "balls" in the same sentence? It was probably the last time the Human Rights Campaign actualy showed some cajones, which was... well... help me out here... never.

    So it's no surprise that when "the nation's largest gay political group" discovers it has balls, they are of the dancing variety.

    Yes, as rumored, HRC's Beltway-bound activists will be marking the heartbreaking defeat of marriage rights in California with -- what else -- yet another high-priced ($375 a ticket) black-tie event.

    Never letting a second interview get in the way of a good gush, WaPo reports:

    The "Out for Equality" ball (though its gay-rights organizers don't want to call it a ball) is shaping up to be one of the single hottest tickets on inauguration night. And you don't have to be L, G, B or T to want in on this action.

    The party, being organized by a large coalition of gay-rights groups led by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, promises to feature Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright, Melissa Etheridge, Thelma Houston and other artists. It will be held at the legendary landmark Mayflower hotel, which, need we even say, is one of the most primo locations in the capital city.

    Love the name, "Out for Equality." We are said to be a creative people, though our mind-numbing use of the same 3 or 4 monikers for every event, organization or Pride theme suggests otherwise.

    HRC isn't alone, mind you, in dancing with they should be marching. The following organizations are also sponsoring this "unofficial" inauguration ball (i.e., bring your own Obama, since the first couple is not planning to attend):

    • Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund & Leadership Institute
    • National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
    • PFLAG
    • Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
    • National Black Justice Coalition
    • Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
    • Freedom to Marry
    • BiNet USA
    • Dignity USA
    • Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
    • Equality Federation
    • National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
    • National Coalition for LGBT Health
    • LGBT Community Center of NY
    • International Federation of Black Prides
    • Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers
    • Family Equality Coalition

    But please, make no mistake, this is an HRC shindig. These other folks are just along for the ride and a good "A crowd" buzz during inauguration weekend.

    I can't help but wonder if any other minority group in U.S. history has ever thrown an inauguration ball for itself (much less twice) while still denied basic legal equality and protection from discrimination. I'm guessing not. That's the kind of "historic first" where HRC has unparalleled success.

    We will -- eventually and with no great debt to HRC -- win our equality, and if HRC gets its way, we'll be the first civil rights movement to value gnoshing and waltzing over marching and rallying.

    The Week on GNW (Dec. 7-13)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. U.S. silent on U.N. resolution to decriminalize gaysU.S. silent on U.N. resolution to decriminalize gays: QUICK LOOK: "The US government is one of the only western democratic nations that has declined to support a United Nations Declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of... (MORE)
    2. Larry Craig loses appeal bid to withdraw guilty pleaLarry Craig loses appeal bid to withdraw guilty plea: QUICK LOOK: Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has lost his latest attempt to withdraw his guilty plea in a Minneapolis airport men’s room sex sting. A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court...
    3. Day Without a Gay arrives for gay marriage backersDay Wihout a Gay arrives for gay marriage backers: QUICK LOOK: Same-sex marriage advocates plan to "Call in gay" on Wednesday in a protest designed to show Americans how big a part of daily life -- and the economy -- gays and their... (MORE)
    4. Family keeps vigil for Brooklyn victim of gay bashingNYPD probes anti-gay beating death of Ecuadorean: QUICK LOOK: Authorities opened a homicide investigation Tuesday into a vicious attack on an Ecuadorean immigrant whose assailants shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs, then beat him with a baseball bat and... (MORE)
    5. São Paulo police hunt suspect in killing of 13 gay menSão Paulo police hunt suspect in killing of 13 gay men: QUICK LOOK: The police are on the hunt for a serial killer responsible for the death of 13 gay men in 18 months in a park in Carapicuíba in greater São Paulo, Brazil. Twelve out... (MORE)

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

    • Pat Boone likens Prop 8 foes to Mumbai terroristsPat Boone likes Prop 8 foes to Mumbai terrorists: QUICK LOOK: A commentary posted on the conservative website World Net Daily by singer and sometimes anti-gay activist Pat Boone compares the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai that... (MORE)
    • Porn producer pleads guilty in murder of his Pa. rivalPorn producer pleads guilty in murder of his Pa. rival: QUICK LOOK: A man has pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of a northeastern Pennsylvania porn producer. Thirty-four-year-old Joseph Kerekes pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree... (MORE)
    • No hate crime charges filed in attack on lesbian momsNo hate crime charges filed in attack on lesbian moms: QUICK LOOK: A man charged with assaulting two lesbians outside an Oshawa school will not be charged with a hate crime, despite pressure from community agencies. On Nov. 3, two women... (MORE)
    • N.Y. police taunted subway accuser who blew kissesN.Y. police sodomized subway accuser who blew kisses: QUICK LOOK: A Brooklyn tattoo artist clapped sarcastically and blew kisses Tuesday after being taunted by supporters of the NYPD officer accused of sodomizing him with a baton. Michael... (MORE)
    • Calif. gay man beaten with 'Yes on 8' sign testifiesCalif. gay man beaten with 'Yes on 8' sign testifies: QUICK LOOK: A gay man allegedly beaten with a "Yes on Prop. 8" yard sign in Torrance, Calif., testified Monday that for a moment he doubted he would survive the attack. The 22-year-old... (MORE)


    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.

    Ridiculously lame excuse no. 5,234...

    Posted by: Chris

    Blagojevichmarriage... given by Democrats for why the gays must wait for basic legal equality:

    A proposal to allow civil unions in Illinois between same-sex couples has been stalled in the state legislature and seems likely to stay that way. First proposed in 2007 and running out of time before the current legislature expires, the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act would grant same-sex couples many of the rights given to opposite-sex married couples.

    There are two remaining legislative days on lawmakers' calendar, but … it seemed less likely to be called after FBI agents arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges Tuesday, casting state leadership into disarray.

    "Everything has been trumped by what happened," said state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the measure's sponsor in the House.

    So a civil unions bill pending for almost two years gets tanked, and we're to believe it's not because the Democrats are shafting us by prioritizing pretty much everything over our civil rights. Oh no. It's because on the last week of the (year-round!) legislative session, the governor got arrested.

    Here are the Democrats in a nutshell: Blagojevich sells a Senate seat, and the gays pay the price.

    And the salt in the wound is that the stalled civil unions bill would only advance us from third to second-class citizenship, since full (marriage) equality isn't even on the table (and is opposed by the soon-to-be-felon and soon-to-be-ex-governor).

    And remember, my friends, this lame defense is from the bill's sponsor, presumably one of our closest allies. With "friends" like this, who needs the Mormons?

    (Photo from Chicago Gay Pride 2005 of Governor Blagojevich, who does not support gay marriage, via Gay Liberation Network)

    December 14, 2008

    Principals (sic) of Journalism (sic)

    Posted by: Chris

    You may remember a couple of my posts from the primary and general election about the curious journalistic tendencies of the Philadelphia Gay News and its owner-publisher Mark Segal.

    Marksegal Well, it came to my attention today that Mark has taken his shots at me as well, if stealthily so. His criticisms came in a comment in response to a post on Queerty about Donald Hitchcock's suit against Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee. (It will be very interesting to see what comes of that litigation once Barack Obama's people are in full swing at the DNC.)

    As the unnamed Blade editor that Mark so roundly condemns, I can't resist responding. Mark is understandably thin-skinned about how the trained journalists who report and edit the news at the Blade have for years separated news from opinion and observed the separation of editorial and sales.

    As Mark will remind you within the first five seconds of practically every conversation, he is both PGN publisher and editorial czar, and as such he regularly runs roughshod over "high principals of Journalism" (otherwise known as "high principles of journalism") by using the paper to pursue his own personal agenda, politically and financially.

    Regardless, since Mark was so thankful the Blade had a new editor, I'll note in response the glaring factual error and 15+ grammatical/spelling/usage errors in his comment:

    It is very conceivable that the democratic [sic] Party or any other person [sic] who appreciates fair and unbiased journalism would at that point not appreciate The D.C. Blade [sic]. The Blade at that point to my understanding was more like the National enquirer [sic] or the Globe then [sic] a publication that upheld the high principals [sic] of Journalism [sic and ironic!]. Gee, wasn't this the paper that put a male hooker on it's [sic]  cover as a columnist [wrong!]? and [sic] that editor claimed he knows journalism. [sic] Thank the leaders of windows [sic] Media for replacing him, or was it a resignation? Anyway at that time, i'd [sic]  line my birdcage with the blade [sic]….. I't [sic] is beneficial to the entire LGBT community that it is getting back on it's [sic] feet, and it's [sic] long nightmare of bad editors is hopefully behind it.

    Remind me again who needs a better editor?

    (Photo of Mark Segal via PGN)

    Trans-inclusive ENDA, past and future

    Posted by: Chris

    This noteworthy comment from a reader came in response to my post on the Human Rights Campaign's new board leadership, in which I cheered passage of "ENDA (trans or not)":

    With regard to "ENDA (trans or not)," it's important to remember that the "gender identity" piece of an inclusive ENDA does not just protect trans people. In fact, trans people are only a small segment of the GLBT (and straight) population that would benefit from "gender identity" protections. The inclusion of "gender identity" in ENDA would protect gay, lesbian, and straight people who express their gender in non-traditional or non-standard ways.

    Many gay and lesbian people (and some straight people) are discriminated against not because of their sexual orientation (in many cases, it's not known in their workplace or in their job interview), but because of their gender presentation or gender expression. They are "presumed" to be gay or lesbian because of the way they are presenting their gender (in a way that does not reflect a "standard" male or female presentation). Straight people are also discriminated against because of this. They are also "presumed" to be gay or lesbian when they are not reflecting a standard masculine or feminine gender presentation.

    Even trans people will mistakenly say that HRC dropped its support of the "trans" portion of a national ENDA. It's not the "trans" portion. Discrimination based on gender presentation (how you present yourself as a man or as a woman), which translates to "gender identity," affects many people, only some of whom are trans.

    Great blog, by the way.

    Thanks for the kind words but I'm afraid we disagree on the legal impact of including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This is a subject much debated on this blog during the ENDA debacle earlier this year.

    HrcdivisionIn my view, you've got it backwards, actually. Even if "gender identity" is omitted as a compromise to pass ENDA, including "actual or perceived sexual orientation" will nonetheless extend coverage to the gay and straight gender nonconformists you describe. This is because, as you point out, the workplace bigots think of them as "fags" or "dykes." It's irrelevant as a legal matter whether the victim is actually gay because the law prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    I would add that many courts have concluded that transgender men and women, as a group, are already protected under Title VII, as the trans plaintiff's recent victory against the Library of Congress demonstrates. 

    This may be...

    Posted by: Chris

    ... my favorite link from Andrew Sullivan ... ever.

    Why do I suspect he's got the better of the argument?

    Our leaders aim too low

    Posted by: Andoni

    Obama_gay_rightsThe Advocate just published 26 open letters to Barack Obama from prominent LGBT Americans advising him on the important issues we face as a community and making suggestions on how he should address them. These letters are fascinating to read.

    Some are from leaders of single issue organizations and they concentrate mainly on their own issue. Others simply repeat the list of narrow items that have been on HRC's agenda for what seems like forever, you know, Hate Crimes, ENDA, etc. A few push Obama beyond what he has volunteered to give us, such as Evan Wolfson's appeal for full marriage equality.

    My favorite four letters cite the inequities in U.S. immigration laws for gay and lesbian citizens, a subject dear to my heart, and specifically ask Obama to remedy this situation by ushering through Congress the Uniting American Families Act or recognizing our relationships for immigration. These letters are from Rachel Tiven, Vestal McIntyre, Jim Buzinski, and Lorri Jean.  

    But what struck me most about these letters was how timid the ones from the people we consider our national leaders are. In particular, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin simply asks for Hate Crimes legislation, a T inclusive ENDA, domestic partnership for federal employees (for federal workers only and only a very few of those 1200 federal benefits), and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." No great vision.

    Joe Solmonese , President of the Human Rights Campaign doesn't suggest anything, he simply offers that HRC will work with the president.

    And none of these leaders picks up on a monumental issue Barack Obama has put in writing that he would like to give us.....it's right there in his Agenda items under Civil Rights on his webpage and is called the The Obama-Biden Plan. Barack says that 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.

    This is powerful stuff folks. If we pass this legislation, it would bring more gays rights to more Americans than all the other items on HRC's list combined. This legislation means that if a gay couple has a legally-recognzied union (any couple can go to VT to get civil unioned or MA to get married - both legally recognized unions), the federal goverment would then grant you those 1200 federal benefits that married opposite sex couples have. This is seismic. And recognition of our relationships has an approval rating of 55-66% as long as you don't call it marriage. This could be easier to pass than the controversial T inclusive ENDA.

    Barack Obama is proposing one great piece of legislation here, yet none of our leaders seems to have noticed. None of our national organizations have picked up on this item on his agenda to begin working on it with him; none of our Congressional leaders are writing such a bill that the president would welcome.

    It's time to stop thinking about getting our rights one small sliver at a time. It's time to start thinking bigger and grander than most of our leaders and national organizations are doing.

    It's mind boggling that none of our leaders in Congress or our national organizations seem to have realized the full potential of what Obama is proposing. If passed this legislation would bring more equality, more happiness to more LGB Americans than any other piece of legislation I can think of.

    The letters in the Advocate indicate to me that most of our leaders are aiming too low and aren't fully listening to Obama to take advantage of all that he is offering.

    December 13, 2008

    Another tall, lanky Chris Crain out of Arkansas

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.


    ArkCity.net reports:

    "Winning our first home (tournament) game was really exciting," Arkansas City Christian Academy sophomore Chris Crain said. "We had a lot of fun. It was close, but we pulled through."

    As our most famous former governor likes to say, "I feel your pain, Chris." At least he's coordinated enough to play high school ball, and play it well it appears.

    I barely made the varsity squad for my Methodist Church in Memphis, and even there my career was stopped short by an untimely foot fracture on a rebound. (Our team doctor was a pharmacist and told me to "shake it off" and play the remaining three quarters.)


    Party-pooper North Dallas Thirty points out that Arkansas City is actually in Kansas, not Arkansas. It apparently gets its name from the river, not the state, although according to NDT, residents pronounce it "ar-KAN-sas" instead of "AR-kan-saw." How embarrassing for them, and for NDT for embracing such ignorance!

    So I got suckered in by the city name and the team's nickname, the Travelers, remembering the old folk song "Arkansas Traveler" and the Arkansas Travelers minor league baseball team in Little Rock that I cheered on back in the day.

    Mea culpa.

    (Photo of Chris Crain via ArkCity.net/Alex Gambill)

    December 12, 2008

    A new leader for HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Kenbritt_lawriedemorest There's hope for the Human Rights Campaign, after all. Yes, I just wrote that. The reason is Ken Britt, the newly elected co-chair of the group's national board. Southern Voice reports:

    “This, for me, really is the highlight of my community activism,” says Britt, 59. “Serving the LGBT community at the national level is really, really important to me.”

    For more than 20 years, Britt has epitomized gay success and gay service in Atlanta. He was one of the founders of the gay business group the Atlanta Executive Network, served as board chair of AID Atlanta and Georgia Equality, held other leadership positions at HRC, and donated generously to everything from YouthPride to Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.

    Most impressively, Britt has engaged in gay rights causes while serving as executive director of one of Atlanta’s most prestigious law firms, Alston & Bird, defying longstanding fears that being involved in gay activism jeopardizes career opportunities.

    I met Ken when I was a newbie at Alston & Bird, waaaay back in early 1995, and was grateful that his years out of the closet made it easier for me as the firm's first openly gay lawyer. Well actually, another more senior attorney, Lawrie Demorest, had already been testing the waters, until she blew open the closet doors, referencing her work for HRC in her "partnership memorandum" -- the very document the firm would weigh in deciding whether to elevate her.

    Lawrie made partner and went on to lead HRC as well, serving herself as co-chair a few years back. My years of criticism of HRC and its paid leadership -- Elizabeth Birch, Cheryl Jacques and now Joe Solmonese -- have put a strain on my friendship with Lawrie, but I have always had the greatest respect and appreciation for her personally and professionally.

    It will be very interesting to see what impact Ken might have on HRC and Solmonese. Like Lawrie, Ken can be the good company man, and like Lawrie he is wicked smart. Ken also knows how to run a board, and do so agressively, through his tenure at AID Atlanta, Georgia Equality and AEN, a business networking group that gave me the start I needed to launch Window Media, lo these many years ago.

    There are some early hopeful and less-than-hopeful signals in Ken's SoVo profile. Unfortunately, Ken seems to sing from the Solmonese Songbook of Minimal Expectations:

    “We have got some real challenges and opportunities ahead of us, and HRC needs to keep up and be responsive,” Britt says. “But there has to be a balance between what really works in Congress, which is where we primarily lobby, and the sincere activism that is coming out of Prop. 8 and other initiatives this election.

    “There’s a new generation of gay activists popping up, and they’re pushing the agenda further and faster, which I think is terrific,” he adds. “There has to be a balance between what we want, if we could wave a magic wand and accomplish everything overnight, and reality.”

    Last time I got my reality check, it appeared Congress will soon be in the firm control -- 79 votes in the House and at least 17 in the Senate -- of Democrats whose leaders have pledged themselves to our equality.

    Why do we still need "a magic wand" when our allies are finally -- finally! -- going to be in actual control, on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue? What we need is not a magic wand, but a national lobby that raises expectations and pushes the agenda, rather than the contrary.

    Ken correctly notes the huge economic crisis -- not to mention two foreign wars -- that will occupy the  new government come January, but as Andoni has pointed out, our equality is free -- it won't add a dime to the federal budget deficit, and in the case of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal, it will improve our national security and the effectiveness of our military as a fighting force.

    On the more hopeful side, Ken does anticipate a more active and energetic role for the movement:

    Recognizing many parallels between the gay rights struggle and the Civil Rights Movement, Britt believes it is time for gay organizations to begin adopting the more aggressive strategies that finally made equality for African Americans possible.

    Here, here! -- especially when it comes to making clear to the Democratic leadership that the time has come to deliver on all those years of promises, which yielded all those years of donations and volunteers and votes -- to Democrats and to HRC.

    One sidenote, however: Ken offers up HRC's response to Pat Boone's latest idiotic utterance as the kind of "aggressiveness" he's looking for. Fair enough, except we already have a Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and they tend to respond to ignorance like this with action, not with calls for donations...


    (Photo of Ken Britt and Lawrie Demorest via Facebook.)

    A seat at Obama's table

    Posted by: Andoni

    Board_room_tableIn keeping with his campaign promise for open government, Barack Obama has initiated a feature on his transition website called Your Seat at the Table.

    Here you can track all meetings the Transition Team has with any outside group and view any documents that any special interest group has given to the Obama team. In the past these meetings have been secret, but now all meetings and documents from those meetings will be available to the public.

    When I first received the email from John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project announcing Seat at the Table, I immediately went to the site to see what gay and lesbian organizations have been meeting with the Obama team and what exactly they were telling Obama. On December 5, the Obama team had not met with any gay and lesbian groups.

    Today I searched the site again and Immigration Equality is the first and only gay or lesbian group to have met with the Obama team so far. They left a memo outlining what they would like to see from the Obama Administration on immigration, and you can find a downloadable copy of the Immigration Equality memo to Obama here.

    Kudos to Rachel Tiven and Immigration Equality for being the first LGBT group to communicate with the Obama Administration.

    I applaud Obama for this move toward more open government. I will be keeping an eye on all our LGBT organizations to see what they are advising Obama. In particular I will be watching HRC to make sure they are not too timid or conservative in what they tell Obama our community wants in the way of gay rights. We want to make sure the gay agenda HRC gives Obama is in sync with what we in the grassroots think the agenda should be.

    NOTE TO HRC: We are watching.

    If you are interested, you can see the memo and video announcing Your Seat at the Table here.

    December 11, 2008

    NY Dems change their minds

    Posted by: Andoni

    Bus There are reports today that New York state senator Malcolm Smith has changed his mind on throwing gays under the bus in exchange for promises from three Democratic dissidents to vote for him as majority leader. Originally he was willing to exchange his promise not to bring up same sex marriage legislation in the state senate in 2009 for the votes of three members of his own caucus. The three had threatened to cross the aisle and join the Republicans if Smith did not agree to this.

    For whatever the reason, angry calls  from gays or simply not being able to live with his conscience, Smith has decided that it is better to wait for two years to gain control of the senate without a deal, than making this deal now. So he called off negotiations. Now we'll see if the three Democrats were bluffing or they will actually join the Republican caucus.

    I give credit to Evan Wolfson, who through all my getting angry and jumping to conclusions, told me that all this was simply posturing, and not the final act.

    (photo credit: this comical photo is from toole.blogspot.com)

    December 09, 2008

    Politically correct window-dressing: A+ ... Actual work: F

    Posted by: Kevin


    For as long as I can remember, the leading national gay rights organizations (and their statewide cousins, in terms of imperial attitude) have made a great deal of noise to indicate they were "working hard" to reach out to the African American community in the United States.  This was often couched in the language of building political coalitions to advance gay rights legislation and policy, as it should be.  We need to do it.

    Well, the results are in.  And to say that their efforts were an abject failure is being kind. 

    The 2008 election proved decisively in California, and hinted strongly in a national way, that all the flowery announcements by Human Rights Campaign directors past and present, as well as the multi-hue-drenched righteousness peppering speeches at NGLTF's Creating Change conferences, amounted to a lot of hot air in an echo chamber.

    When you read the latest Gallup Poll on African American moral and political attitudes on homosexuality, you can't help but think of the bullshit events on "diversity" sponsored by your state's left-wing gay rights juggernaut, or the dumb multi-racial hack love-ins among left-wing Democrats under an HRC logo-banner over the last 15 or so years.  In reality, any statement by HRC or NGLTF today boasting of their outreach to the African American community smacks of Kenneth Lay telling investors that Enron was solid bet, just before the truth was revealed that he knew it was a sinking ship.  Enron's stockholders had bankruptcy, we have the lovely Proposition 8 - and whatever else awaits us.

    This is not to say that building a strong political coalition with black Americans isn't absolutely necessary.  It is.   But what this Gallup poll says is that our current and past gay leadership did nothing effectively, and continues to be a total and complete failure at this.

    Since Prop 8 and the key fact that 70% of a tidal wave of African American votes in California voted against us on it, the issue of race has resurfaced for good reason.  The gay African American voices have run the gamut from pointing the finger where it belongs -- at those hypocritical gay organizations with money and clout who pay lip service to this hard work but never listen or apply themselves to do it right -- to the same old blaxploitation songs of "gay whitey" this and "gay whitey" that.

    But what is so interesting about the Gallup poll to me is the headline: "Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues."  In a white liberal context, that headline must be like the sound of hand grenades going off:  "conservative" (boom!)..."Republicans" (bam!)....."Moral" (ka-BOOM!).  Because left-wing political hacks don't let themselves hear, say or deal with those three words in any real way.  And now we're all paying the price.  Because just like the way HRC did its "building bridges" with "fair-minded Republicans" after the 1994 election basically forced them, the gay establishment's outreach to the black community has been a front.  Not real.

    I will never forget one moment at the 2000 Creating Change conference in Oakland, California.  I think it was the only one I ever attended, basically because I was a speaker on a panel.  But I sat in on a different panel on "people of color" issues, and behind me were two folks who I guess were local gays from Oakland.  The panel was the usual suspects whose jobs it seemed (to me) were to blather endlessly in person and in print in talking point-ese about "POC issues" (I always cringe when I hear that term).  The panel moderator beamed regally while a usual suspect gushed about some meeting in what sounded like the most marginal, way-left church-of-the-misfit-toys in some mid-sized city, where "we melded in song" about "the equality of peoples."  One of the folks behind me said in a stage whisper to his friend: "What the hell are they talking about?"  I chuckled to myself, in agreement.  It was funny to see these left-wing hacks talk about religion and morals the way an alien might discuss life on Earth.  Or the Republican Party.

    And here's where a gay Republican with a lot of experience with this now-generalized brand of incompetence can give advice to any African American gay activist who wants to channel their anger effectively right now.  First step is to wake up.  This isn't about racism - it's about competence. 

    The reason they failed is because they didn't do their jobs.  The reason they didn't do their jobs is because they have no fucking clue how to build political coalitions outside their extreme political comfort zone -- be they white, black or fuschia in skin tone.  They know how to hire people with the right color skin to run around saying "look at me, I'm Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank) Outreach!".  And as circumstance would have it, they've never been pushed to the wall so blatantly the way the Prop 8 results have nailed them.

    So, don't lobby for them to hire some token staff person or launch some bullshit "outreach campaign".  You'll just be participating in the ongoing failure.  Think of the gay movement like a business - someone isn't do their job, you fire them.  Demand the heads of those responsible, and demand they be replaced by someone of any race, any gender, who has the political and intellectual and moral skill to do the job in the African American community that nobody has been doing in this movement for decades.  Someone proven.  Someone who would be honorable enough to look at Prop 8, and at the Gallup poll results, and resign in disgrace. 

    Right now, this movement is all about electing Democrats, with this as the only result worth any real investment of time and money and effort.  You see what that has gotten us.  So let's make it about advancing the gay cause again, and let's leave absolutely nothing to window dressing or lip service anymore.  Let's be bold and courageous, and demand leaders who get the job done.

    December 08, 2008

    The Week on GNW (Nov. 30-Dec. 6)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. U.S. blacks as conservative as Republicans on gaysU.S. blacks as conservative as Republicans on gays: QUICK LOOK: Only 31% of black Democrats in America say homosexual relations are morally acceptable, roughly the same as the 30% of Republicans who agree, while very much different... (MORE)
    2. Life of gay icon Harvey Milk still yielding new lessonsLife of gay icon Harvey Milk still yielding new lessons: QUICK LOOK: Early this month, when it looked like same-sex marriage was on the rocks in California, gay rights activists summed up their angst about the upcoming Proposition 8 vote... (MORE)
    3. Appeals court lets stand 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' rulingAppeals court lets stand 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' ruling: QUICK LOOK: A federal appeals court refused Thursday to reconsider a ruling that raised doubts about the constitutionality of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the... (MORE)
    4. Can macho, non-metrosexual actors play gay roles?Can macho, non-metrosexual actors play gay roles?: QUICK LOOK: He has played a hardened ex-convict, a mentally challenged man and a California stoner. But Sean Penn's current portrayal of a gay politician has some critics calling... (MORE)
    5. Battle lies ahead for Obama on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'Battle lies ahead for Obama on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell': QUICK LOOK: Still smarting from the unsuccessful same-sex marriage battle in California, some gay-rights activists are turning to another front: repealing the so-called “don't ask,... (MORE)

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

    • Fox apologizes for showing Viking tight end's penisFox apologizes for showing Viking tight end's penis: QUICK LOOK: Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was the Vikings leading receiver and had a go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter today. Unfortunately, he also became the subject... (MORE)
    • Vatican criticized for opposing gay U.N. resolutionVatican criticized for opposing gay U.N. resolution: QUICK LOOK: Gay rights groups and newspaper editorials on Tuesday condemned the Vatican for its decision to oppose a proposed U.N. resolution calling on governments worldwide to... (MORE)
    • Newsweek cover: The religious case for gay marriageNewsweek cover: The religious case for gay marriage: QUICK LOOK: Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept... (MORE)
    • NYC accused of faking arrests to close porn shopsNYC accused of faking arrests to close porn shops: QUICK LOOK: The city's continuing war on porn shops has claimed gay and bisexual men as victims as nearly 50 of them have been arrested on questionable prostitution charges in... (MORE)
    • New star-studded web video protests Proposition 8New star-studded web video protests Proposition 8: QUICK LOOK: Since Proposition 8 passed in California, much of Hollywood has been up in arms. Now, they are singing and dancing, too, in a new Web video called ''Prop 8: The Musical.''... (MORE)


    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.

    Latest on that N.Y. marriage 'deal'

    Posted by: Chris

    Tomduane The Gay City News reports gay marriage advocates aren't necessarily buying published accounts that the state's leading Senate Democrats bargained away a marriage equality bill to win the support of three dissident Dems threatening to throw their support, and control, to the Republicans:

    New York's three dailies provided differing accounts of what Diaz came away with from the December 4 meeting, which Governor David Paterson also attended. The Times reported that sources with knowledge of the negotiations said Diaz is "confident" that there will be no vote on gay marriage in 2009.

    The Daily News wrote that Diaz said he had been "assured" the measure would not come to a vote; its print story did not give a time frame, but News political blogger Liz Benjamin said the agreement was for at least 2009.

    The Post reported that a vote would not happen in the 2009-2010 session, meaning that no action would come before the 2010 election, when Paterson and the Senate Democrats must both stand for reelection.

    [Gay Chelsea Sen. Tom] Duane, speaking from Washington late in the afternoon of December 5, said he knew no more about the negotiations than had been published and noted that none of the dailies' sources had been named - though the News account reads as though Diaz made his comment to the newspaper. Duane argued that Smith has repeatedly voiced support for marriage equality, while Skelos is opposed.

    There's little encouraging here, since the evidence suggests such a deal was cut to postpone a vote at least until after the midterm elections in 2010.

    December 07, 2008

    Hillary as president = no Prop 8?

    Posted by: Chris

    Prop8bigtentlarge_2 An interesting op-ed in today's New York Times engages in some familiar analysis concerning the growing cracks in the progressive coalition opened up by the passage of Proposition 8:

    Left-leaning California’s horror about this newly revealed schism between two of its favorite sons is a situation that cries out for a villain, but the one that liberal white Hollywood has chosen for the role probably won’t make it all the way to the third act.

    “It’s their churches,” somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election; “It’s their Christianity,” someone else hissed, rolling her eyes. Apparently the religion espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now the enemy, at least among the smart set, and if this sounds like a regional issue, it’s not.

    But this intriguing little notion was news to me:

    Many gay activists have begun quietly to suggest that had Hillary Clinton been the Democratic nominee, Prop 8 would not have passed.

    I'd say that's a hard case to make stastically and smacks of never-ending bitterness that even Clinton herself seems to have admirably gotten over. Considering that black voters were only 6% of the total in California, it would have taken more than depressed turnout of their numbers to have brought down Prop 8, which passed by 4 percentage points.  Remember that black voters alone were not responsible for the gay marriage ban's margin of victory.

    That said, I can't help but chew on the question. Which would you prefer: President-elect Obama and Proposition 8 (e.g., what we have now), or Hillary as president-elect and Prop 8 voted down?

    To read Kevin's repent (which I am as thrilled as you to see), I am guessing he'd pick Hillary/No 8, despite his antipathy for all things Clinton. I share many of those same sentiments -- multiplied by years of exposure due to my Arkansas roots -- and probably as a result I'm happier with what we got.

    For one thing, the activism unleashed by the combination of Obama's empowering victory and anger over Prop 8 has the potential to transform a movement that has badly needed it for years. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I would also expect Prop 8 to live a very short life, whether gutted next year by the California Supreme Court or rejected by voters in 2010 or 2012.

    Of course, President Obama could still bitterly disappoint us the way the Clinton I administration did in the 1990s, but despite early worries I like our prospects -- and certainly more than under a Clinton II regime.

    (Prop 8 illustration via New York Times)

    I repent

    Posted by: Kevin

    (And it isn't just because I saw "Milk.")

    I'm repenting from flouncing off this blog on the day after the 2008 elections, and repenting from walking out on the gay movement.  I was angry as hell, probably more angry and anguished and frustrated than I've ever been since I first took up gay activism at age 18 as a member of the American University's Human Diversity League (aka the gay student union on campus as it so maddeningly called itself at the time).  Yes, more angry and frustrated than when I was burying gay friends on a monthly basis in the early 1990s.  More anguished than when I stood on the floor of the 1992 Republican National Convention and breathed the full brimstone of Pat Buchanan's infamous hate speech in the Houston Astrodome.  And more frustrated than when Bill Clinton fucked us over from start to finish in 1993 on gays in the military.

    How, you may ask, could I possibly be more angry, anguished and frustrated on that November morning of 2008 than in all those dark moments of our collective past? 

    Because when AIDS was consuming the gay community in Washington, D.C., I had brothers and sisters to turn to who didn't need it explained to them.  We shouldered it together, and we were united without having to explain anything to each other. 

    Because in 1992, I was at the Astrodome with a group of people who would be galvanized in one evening to launch the gay Republican movement into a national political force, and would put their names, their money and their reputations on the line to fight everything Pat Buchanan stood for.  And I knew a number of gay activists on the left would cheer us.  (And they did, and not just because we would help defeat President Bush that year.)

    Because in 1993, as Clinton mangled and butchered our hopes in him, and eventually threw us under the proverbial bus, there were still brave people like David Mixner who had the balls to throw their access and their insider cache away and get arrested protesting on the sidewalk in front of the White House against their friends Bill and Hillary to register the horror and rage we all shared.  Because there were at least some people left at the head of the this movement with hearts and brains.

    And on Election Night 2008, thousands of gays danced in the streets as Proposition 8 -- which held all the political currency of everything we've gained in the last two decades -- went down the toilet in California.

    That's why I was furious beyond belief.  And that's why I couldn't pretend I was okay with any of this crap anymore.  So I just let it rip - the brutal and naked anger after years of watching this movement be slowboiled like meat in an open pot until it became devoid of all its substance.  After watching the Human Rights Campaign turn from a real potential power in the 1990s into a monstrously empty, amoral, celebrity-dazzled temple of irrelevance, and how it sought to zombify our collective identity for the sake of ongoing revenues much like how corporations sell laundry detergent and toilet tissue.  And consistently crush and squash any other group that could threaten its money, its image or its overwhelming predominance.

    And, to be a bit selfish, after I'd given ten years of my life to gay activism to help create some sort of political leverage over the Democratic Party in this country -- something the main gay organizations adamantly refused or simply have failed to ever do -- I felt like it was all wiped away in the dual reality of an Obama triumph and a Prop 8 collapse in California, the one state we could ever claim as our greatest field of strength.  And people were celebrating

    And yeah, I know you all didn't know about California as you danced in the streets that night.  I get it, okay?  But what you don't understand is that, to me, the fact that Obama was the main event for you and California was a footnote is precisely why I was so furious.  You were all the very borgified zombies I'd feared a Hillary juggernaut would turn you into.  The Democratic Party's success had become all encompassing to the extent that the main event for gays -- unlike one since Colorado Amendment 2 -- wasn't on your emotional menu on Election Night at all.  I was so angry, and my brain was so full of poison, that I honestly felt I had better walk out the door rather than let any of it come out for real.

    But alas.  Had how many hundreds of gay men in the 1980s felt the way I did on November 5th, we'd have no gay movement at all today.  We'd have no gay marriage in California to take away.  We'd have no failed promises from a White House to protest.  We'd have more graves to visit, that's for sure.  And we'd have little to be proud of ourselves over.

    So I repent.  I was wrong.  I mean it.  I ended up just walking around the block and catching my breath.  I need not comment on how much of what I warned about is coming true with incredible speed.  I'm not interested in being right, or being heard.  I'm only interested in being effective now.

    I don't repent my anger one bit.  I'm back, friends.  And I'm still very, very pissed.  The rage is as white hot as it was that morning.  I'm going to do something productive with this anger, and I hope you'll join me. 

    Indeed - and I say this with a hat-tip to heaven - I'm here to recruit you.

    Barack Obama and Lyndon Johnson

    Posted by: Andoni

    Lbj Barack_o

    Chris describes a huge obstacle we are facing in the quest for gay and lesbian civil rights. A majority of the African American population currently opposes us in our struggle for civil rights, especially the right to marry.

    It is interesting to note that during the 1940's, 50's and early 60's it was blacks who were trying to gain their civil rights but they had a voting bloc standing in their way, namely Southern White Democrats. Southern White Democratic leaders represented their white constituents' long held beliefs, values and prejudices, and repeatedly blocked any effective civil rights legislation Congress tried to pass. Finally, it took Lyndon B. Johnson, a president who was actually a Southern White Democrat to lean hard and twist the arms of his fellow Southerners to pass the historic Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

    This sets up a parallel situation today. One of the biggest impediments to gay and lesbian Americans obtaining their civil rights is the African American electorate -- and, guess what, we are about to have an African American president. When the time is ripe for gays to take those huge leaps forward in civil rights, will a President Obama lean heavily and twist the arms of his fellow African American politicians to get major civil rights legislation for gays, just as Johnson had to do to his fellow South White Democrats? I think he will.

    For Johnson, however, because he championed Civil Rights, he lost Southern White Democrats to the Republican Party for almost two generations. If Obama forces a vote that goes against the cultural values of African Americans, will they bolt from the Democratic Party? I don't think so.

    Because of the timing of his presidency, Obama is in the unique position to be able to pass more gay rights legislation than any other president in history. (Actually, this isn't hard to do, because there has been no federal gay rights legislation). In his four years as president Obama can enact Hate Crimes legislation, the Employment Non Discrimation Act, federal recognition of gay relationships (granting us those 1200 rights and benefits), and repeal both "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the Defense of Marriage Act. All these things are agenda  items that he wants to accomplish as president. As I said in a previous post, if President Obama does all this, he would go down in history as the "gay rights" president.

    This sets up another parallel that would close the loop between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln, a president Obama often cites and tries to emulate. Both Lincoln and Obama come to Washington from Illinois. Obama's most recent actions seem to indicate that he is trying to set up a "Team of Rivals" for his administration just as Lincoln did in his. Now here's where the circle could close: Obama is indirectly the beneficiary of one of Abraham Lincoln's greatest accomplishments --freeing the slaves. How poetic it would be if Obama took the lead on gay rights so the beneficiary of the freedom given by Abraham Lincoln becomes the president who in turn "freed the gays."

    December 06, 2008

    More stress along gay-race faultlines

    Posted by: Chris

    Diaz600 Yet more signs of serious cracks in the political alliance among racial/ethnic minorities and the cause of gay rights. Rhetoric among these traditional Democratic constituencies has been overheated ever since exit polls showed black Californians backed the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, and blacks and Hispanics together overwhelmingly backed an even more draconian ban in Florida.

    Now this report (discussed by Andoni here) that gay marriage may have also been the pawn in a struggle between black and Hispanic Democrats over wresting control of the New York state Senate, which has been in GOP hands for more than 40 years. With three Latino Democrats threatening to throw their support, and with it control of the Senate, over to the Republicans, Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith, who is black, cut a power-sharing deal.

    Apparently even more important to Bronx Democrat Rubén Díaz Sr., another of the holdouts, was a guarantee from Smith "that there will be no vote in the Senate next year on legislation to legalize gay marriage, something which most Senate Democrats support but which Mr. Diaz strongly opposes."

    Many gays were furious with the backroom deal, considering that New York Democrats had raised tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands from gay donors by pointing out that with Democrats in control of the Senate, gay marriage legislation would no longer be held hostage. A marriage equality bill already has the backing of Gov. David Paterson and a majority in both the House and Senate, but it was kept bottled up by GOP Senate control.

    “All civil rights movements have moments where they move forward, and moments of perceived setbacks,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell of Manhattan. “If in fact our civil rights were bargained away, that’s deplorable. But in the end, I think justice and fairness will prevail.”

    The stunned reaction from many gays is that the knives are out among groups considered friends within the Democratic and civil rights coalitions. It seems inconceivable that those who have suffered so greatly from discriminatory treatment could so easily slip into the shoes of the oppressor.

    The reality, unfortunately, is that black and Hispanic Americans have never been as supportive of gay rights as their political leaders, as a Gallup poll this week once again confirmed: only 30% of blacks and 22% of Republicans support gay marriage, as compared with 57% of non-black Dems.

    But before we wag our fingers at homophobia as the reason for that disparity, it's worth considering how the data suggest the real culprit is framing legal recognition of our relationships as a moral issue, rather than one of civil rights. The percentage support for gay marriage closely tracks views in the same groups -- including non-black Demcrats -- over whether our relationships are "morally acceptable": Only 31% of black Democrats said yes, roughly equal to the 30% of Republicans who agreed. As on marriage, moral approval of our relationships among non-black Democrats was double -- 61%.

    Gay rights advocates aren't the only ones who have failed to convince African Americans that an issue they see as a moral question is in fact a civil rights issue. Look at support for abortion rights, from the same Gallup survey: only 37% of black Democrats and 25% of Republicans, as compared with 54% of non-black Democrats. Those percentages once again track the viewpoints among these groups about related moral questions, including whether to have a baby or even have sex outside of marriage.

    If we accept for the sake of argument that blacks (and Republicans) are trailing in support for gay rights because they insist on letting their political view be governed by their moral and religious thinking, then the challenge is clear:

    1. Change their minds on whether gay relationships are immoral.
    2. Change their minds on whether their moral view is valid justification for their political position.

    Either challenge is daunting, and the best course no doubt is to push on both fronts, as the movement as done so for decades. We are distracted from these very real challenges, however, when we revert to easy rhetoric about homophobia and hate. Unless we plan to shame these folks into voting against their conscience, we would be better served meeting them where they are on the issue, and addressing these two questions head-on.

    (Photo of Rubén Díaz Sr. and his son, Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr., via the New York Times)

    LGBT equality doesn't cost anything

    Posted by: Andoni

    MoneyCongress and the Federal Reserve are currently spending tons of money that will burden future generations with tens of thousands of dollars of debt for each man, woman and child.

    Wall street firms, banks, insurance companies, cities, states, and automobile makers are all lining up to ask Congress for money -- trillions and trillions of dollars.

    Gay and lesbian folks want something from Congress, too. We want equal rights and in particular would like implementation of the Obama-Biden Plan for the LGBT community. The difference is that our request doesn't require money from Congress. We don't want to raid the Treasury and we won't subject future generations to debt.

    We simply want equal rights. They cost nothing --- except the will to grant them.

    The rights I'm speaking of (from the Obama-Biden Plan) include hate crime and employment non-discrimination legislation, federal recognition of our relationships, opposition to a federal marriage amendment, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and expanding adoption rights.

    We should each write our Senators and Congresspeople telling them that the cost of all they are doing now is trillions of dollars, however the cost of granting equality for gays is zero. All it costs is the will to do the right thing. Then ask them to do the right thing -- spelling out exactly what you want.

    I guess you could add that although the monetary cost of passing equality for gays is zero, the value would be "priceless."

    December 05, 2008

    Proposition 8, The Musical

    Posted by: Chris

    It apparently took only one day to write, one day to cast, and one day to shoot, but a few celebs with a sense of humor actually managed to take on Prop 8 and even put it to music:

    See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

    I'm not saying this little video would have won the day if it had been created before Election Day. But "Proposition 8, The Musical" does manage to do what the massive No-on-8 campaign did not: get at the heart of the Prop 8 debate, including Biblical distortions and, most importantly, church-state separation.

    No on 8 didn't just squander the money advantage here. We had the better argument, too.

    Affirmative action for Beltway gays

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    We are often reminded how limited our political capital is in Washington, and why as a result we should lower our sights and limit lobbying to largely uncontroversial, long-promised hate crime and employment non-discrimination. If we're too weak to push for relationship recognition -- you know, the issue the gays are actually marching in the streets -- then why exactly are we squawking about this?:

    Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, sent a letter to Obama this week asking him to name labor leader Mary Beth Maxwell, a lesbian, as labor secretary. Solmonese said that he did not believe there had been an openly gay Cabinet member before, but he's confident that will change with Obama.

    ''Not only will we expect it, but we fully believe that it will happen,'' he added.

    Why? Because even though an openly gay cabinet secretary has almost no significance in real gay lives, affirmative action for juicy administration jobs is the kind of prize that Solmonese et al will always keep their eyes on.


    It turns out that in addition to being tangential, the HRC/Solonese push suffered from the usual level of incompetence:

    Today, the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign will release a letter to President-elect Barack Obama strongly backing [Mary Beth Maxwell for Labor Secretary]. The catch: The group last week backed Rep. Linda Sanchez for the post.

    “You would have received our letter in support of Representative Sánchez’s candidacy for Secretary of Labor last week,” HRC President Joe Solmonese writes, asking for a mulligan. “While we remain supportive of Representative Sánchez’s candidacy, it has come to our attention that Mary Beth Maxwell is also being considered for this crucial position. Given Ms. Maxwell’s long history of leadership on labor issues, HRC is pleased to also endorse Mary Beth Maxwell for Secretary of Labor.”

    Would that those who oppose our equality were so blessed in their selection of "leaders."

    Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

    NY Dems throw gays under the bus

    Posted by: Andoni


    Mr. Diaz is now confident that there will be no vote in the Senate next year on legislation to legalize same sex marriage, something most Democrats support but which Mr. Diaz opposes.

    Well it happened. Today's New York Times details  a deal that was made among the Democratic leaders of the New York state Senate and Governor Paterson. In order to keep several senators from jumping ship to the Republicans, Malcolm Smith, the prospective majority leader had to agree to share power with several of the dissidents. One of these people who will wield power and help determine which bills come up for a vote is Ruben Diaz, a staunchly anti-same sex marriage senator from the Bronx.

    So despite all the promises, it appears that a same sex marriage vote will not occur in New York in next session.

    UPDATE: I sent Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry an email asking if he felt that we were thrown under the bus by the New York Democrats and this is how he responded:

    We should not get distracted by trial balloons or rumors, and not be deflected by politicians' maneuvering or invitations to surrender.  We must keep doing our part -- constituent visits, engaging the key additional votes we need, shaping the public climate, supporting the groups leading the fight -- and hold the leadership to do theirs, as well.

    We saw similar jockeying and efforts to get us to give up in 2007.  Some voices from the Assembly said they couldn't do it, we shouldn't make them do it if the Senate wasn't going to vote anyway, etc.  After a period of posturing and hedging, they buckled down, got to work, and wound up passing the marriage bill by a greater majority than expected.  And then all the pro-marriage members got reelected -- including the Republicans -- and we picked up others.
    The Democrats ran for the Senate pledged to advance a marriage bill, and now have a mandate to do so and a Governor who is committed to our cause. 
    We should expect them to deliver on their commitment, and all of us should just crunch down and do what we need to do to make it happen as early as possible in 2009.
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