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    January 30, 2009

    Judge: No anonymity for prop 8 donors

    Posted by: Andoni

    A federal judge in California yesterday denied a motion from ProtectMarriage.com who wished to keep anonymous the names of donors who supported the constitutional amendment that reversed the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same sex marriage in that state. The ruling affects 1600 people who gave between $100 and $999 since Oct. 18 to help pass Prop 8

    The donors fear reprisal because their names and addresses along with the location of where they live (on a map) appear on web pages such as Prop 8 Maps.

    January 29, 2009

    Take that, Pat Sajak

    Posted by: Chris

    For the first time, a "Wheel of Fortune" contestant acknowledges his same-sex fiance, no doubt to the consternation of host Pat Sajak, an out-of-the-closet conservative.



    H/t: Andrew Sullivan

    Should we 'Stand By Our Sam'?

    Posted by: Chris

    Samadamsrallyportland

    The sleazy scandal enveloping the openly gay mayor of Portland, who admits he lied about having sex with a teenage legislative intern, has descended into the absurd, now that Sam Adams has made clear he has no intention of resigning. Consider the opening graphs of Time magazine's report:

    The cast of the scandal in Portland, Ore., has a certain ring to it: Sam Adams. Bob Ball. Beau Breedlove and his dog Lolita ... "Everyone has porn names!" says Mark Wiener with a laugh. "Until yesterday, it had never occurred to me that the worst offending name was mine." Wiener (pronounced Wee-ner) is one of Oregon's most influential political consultants and a former — and now disheartened — campaign adviser to the protagonist in this political soap opera.

    That would be Sam Adams, the new mayor of Portland and the first openly gay man to lead a major American city. Then there's Bob Ball, an openly gay local real estate developer who once had mayoral ambitions himself. In 2007, Ball hinted that Adams' mentoring relationship with a former legislative intern, Beau Breedlove (now 21), was, in fact, a sexual one that had begun when the young man was just 17.

    SamadamsvertI commented earlier on the lack of glee in the usual quarters of the gay blogosphere about such scandals, mainly because Adams is out and a Democrat. But some, including one of the usual worst offenders -- the Stranger's Dan Savage -- are actually campaigning for Adams to stay in office.

    The Facebook group launched to support Adams makes their case this way:

    Sam Adams was impolitic when he decided to have a sexual relationship with an 18 year-old. He made a mistake when he lied about the relationship to the public. But, this mistake does not warrant a witch hunt, a public investigation, or calling for the resignation of a committed public servant.

    Don't we have more important issues to deal with in Portland when Oregon has a 9% unemployment rate and the future of our schools is in jeopardy?

    If you have ever had a relationship that you later felt was a mistake, don't be one of those throwing the first stone. Support Sam Adams!

    BeaubreedlovevertLet's break that down. Adams, then 42, was "impolitic" in having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old? Actually, Breedlove was only 17 when they met and first kissed -- once in Adams' car and once in a City Hall men's room.

    Adams insists he waited until Breedlove was 18 for their first sexual contact, but he has lied so many times about so many other details concerning this relationship. Why should he be believed on this point, especially when his motive to lie would be so powerful -- the age of consent in Oregon is 18.

    He "made a mistake when he lied about the relationship"? He did more than lie; back in 2007, he labeled the accusation a "nasty smear" and posted an "open letter to Portlanders" that, ironically enough, is still available on his website:

    Dear Portlander,

    As you have probably seen in the media, I have been the target of a nasty smear by a would-be political opponent. I will not dignify the substance of this smear by repeating it - if you read the accounts you will see there is no foundation to it. The reason is simple: it is untrue.

    This kind of ugly politicking may be commonplace in other cities and at the national level, but Portland and Oregon largely has been blessedly free of it. It saddens me that it has been introduced here, and I have faith that Portlanders' rejection of it will mean that this incident is an anomaly.

    About this attempted smear, here is what I want to say.

    I have in the past, and I will in the future, respond to people who reach out to me for help and advice. This is especially true when it comes to young people.

    Growing up in Newport and Eugene, Oregon I remember when I was a teenager and I had nobody who I felt I could talk to at a time I desperately needed someone to give me advice and perspective about coming to terms with being gay. I came through it. Not everyone does.

    Gay youth suicide rates, homelessness and depression are still too high. And adequate services have been lacking: Reasons why I co-founded Portland's Q Center, served on the Boards of Cascade AIDS Project, Basic Right Oregon and lobbied the state legislature in support of statewide non-discrimination laws.

    I didn't get into public life to allow my instinct to help others to be snuffed out by fear of sleazy misrepresentations or political manipulation. I understand the need for good judgment, and I keep within the bounds of propriety -- as I did in this case.

    I'm glad that people consider me as a person they could come to for help, understanding and support. I work at it. And I hope that you do too. Local programs needing mentors have long waiting lists.

    Now, even if we are to believe Adams' latest version of events, we know that his idea of "propriety" was not violating the law itself. Like Mark Foley before him, Adams abused the trust and responsibility that comes with mentoring vulnerable younger men, where the balance of power is so obviously lopsided.

    Adams' open letter makes clear that he recognized that responsibility, even as he shirked it and lied about it openly and repeatedly. He's even lied a number of times since going public with his admission, acknowledging additional facts about the nature of the relationship only as the facts compelled him to do so.

    I don't see how he recovers the public's trust at this point, and there is absolutely no way for him to repair the damage he's done to the image of gay men generally.

    January 28, 2009

    'Don't Ask' Sanchez, he has no clue

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattsanchezblog You know that when Fox News publishes commentary opposing repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell by a Marine reservist who has a history in gay porn and prostitution that the result is going to be a fun read.

    Matt Sanchez made headlines back in 2007 when his queer past surfaced after he had been feted by conservatives for whining about derogatory language he claims a couple of socialist students used against him at Columbia University. He later admitted to performing in a handful of XXX gay films in the early '90s under the names "Rod Majors" and "Pierre LeBranche."

    Sanchez claims he was strictly gay-for-pay, though gay blogger Andy Towle has written about meeting Sanchez in a San Jose gay bar back in 1989, and the two subsequently went on several dates. Sanchez also acknowledged (after initial denials) that he was running gay adult massage ads in the New York Blade as late as 2004, the year after he joined the Marine reserves.

    With that background in mind, here are a few snippets of what Sanchez the Fox News "war correspondent" has to say about Don't Ask Don't Tell, the very policy he violated back in 2004:

    Although “the primary purpose of the armed forces is to prepare for and to prevail in combat should the need arise”, forcing the military to legitimize same-sex relationships will be a Trojan Horse for imposing gay marriage nationwide and all in the name of “change.”

    The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) would force the United States military to accept the future same-sex marriages of those serving.  Activists would use this federal recognition of gay marriage in the military to challenge and force a repeal of state constitutional amendments, but wedding bells are not the only reason why gay advocates and military officials should not be heading to the altar.

    I've been in and around the gay rights movement for more than a decade, and this is the first I've ever heard of this alleged strategy -- for which Sanchez provides absolutely no citation, of course.

    Many pro-gay groups hold up the example of international armed forces throughout the world that have lifted bans on homosexuality. It is true: France, Germany, Italy and Spain all permit openly gay service members.  But in Afghanistan, neither France, Spain, Italy or Germany will confront the Taliban.

    Sanchez conveniently leaves out the U.K. military, which has joined the U.S. in battling the Taliban, and which not just allows gays to serve but aggressively recruits them.

    Will gay service members have to be separated from their non-gay service members? Will separate showers and living quarters be required? Or will there be all-gay military units? Will gays who don’t wish to self-identify be forced to do so?

    Mattsanches3way Ahh yes, the old personal privacy canard, one that clearly poses no personal problem for Sanchez, the exhibitionist. As Sanchez himself proves, gays have been able to lawfully serve in the military since 2003 1993, when DADT replaced the outright ban on gays in the military, so whatever privacy issues exist are already dealt with.

    What's more, allowing gays to serve openly would actually improve the privacy of heterosexual soldiers and sailors, who currently have no idea who among their compatriots is gay. Once a service member comes out, those with want to hide their naughty bits can do so much more effectively, and the openly gay soldier will no doubt make much more of an effort to avoid anyone thinking he might be leering.

    The new commander-in-chief can unilaterally repeal Don’t ask Don’t Tell with a stroke of a pen, but [President Obama] has held back.

    Wrong again, Matt. Congress passed DADT, and President Clinton signed it into law. Only a new act of Congress can repeal the ban and allow gays to serve openly.

    GOP math: more division than addition

    Posted by: Chris

    Fiveredstates
    The Politico's Ben Smith reports on the way support -- or even conversation -- with the Log Cabin Republicans remains something that those seeking to run the GOP run away from at warp speed.

    First, Smith posted an item than an aide to Saul Anuzis, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, had responded positively to an inquiry from Patrick Sammon, the Log Cabin president. "I think you will find him to be a very reasonable individual who does not seek to grow the party by dividing it," the aide said in the exchange.

    Later, in an update, Anuzis sets the record straight, so to speak:

    "I have no knowledge of this email. I have never contacted this group, I have never had any correspondence with them, I have not sought their support nor have I ever talked to anyone from their group. So I have no idea what this could be about, but it was not at my request or authorization."

    Is it any wonder that a new Gallup report shows only five remaining "red states" solidly in GOP hands?

    January 27, 2009

    Throw some gays overboard, again?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Man-overboard

    Remember the battle last year when the trans members of our community were excluded from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) --- resulting in activists and most LGBT organizations exploding in protest? They argued that it was not right to move forward with federal rights and benefits for some in the community while others are left out.  We have resolved this bitter policy argument by committing that this year when we move forward with employment protections, we will do so only if all members of our community can receive these benefits.

    We face a parallel situation again today -- leaving many in our community behind-- in our quest for federal marriage rights. If we pursue marriage as the sole vehicle to achieve the 1100+ federal rights and benefits for our relationships (the ones that come with opposite sex marriage), we will effectively be throwing gay couples who live in the 30 states with constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage overboard. When everyone else gets marriage benefits, gay people who live in these 30 states will be left behind and get absolutely nothing. They will also have no hope of getting these benefits or protections for their relationships for a very, very long time.

    Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will bring the 1100+ federal rights and benefits only to couples who live in states that perform same sex marriage (MA, CT) or recognize same sex marriage (NY, RI). Repealing DOMA also gives hope for gay couples in the 16 states that have the possibility of same sex marriage sometime in the future. However, gays in the 30 other states will be completely shut out and left behind.

    This poses a huge problem. If we choose to go forward with a marriage only strategy at the federal level, we are actively choosing to pursue a strategy that excludes a segment of our community-- just as we did to the trans community when we left them behind over ENDA.

    There is a simple and fair solution to this dilemma and that is to pursue a strategy of moving forward with both MARRIAGE and CIVIL UNIONS simultaneously. Pursuing this path is not only fairer, but would result in achieving couples' rights and benefits in all 50 states, not just 20. We would be taking care of our entire community and leave no one behind.

    This solution permits us to pursue the strategy that Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry wants as well as the strategy that President Obama outlines for LGBT civil rights on the White House webpage -- at the same time. If we were investing in securities this strategy would be called diversification; it has the benefit of maximizing our protections and minimizing our risks.

    If we pursue marriage and marriage only, here's what it would take to get federal couples rights and benefits to gays in all 50 states:

    1. DOMA must be repealed (or declared unconstitutional) which would result in gay couples in four states getting the federal rights and benefits of marriage, with another 16 possible after some long and hard work in each state. For gays in those 30 states that have inoculated themselves against same sex marriage with constitutional amendments, nothing happens and much, much more would have to happen before they have a chance to see couples' rights.


    2. Next, using the "full faith and credit" clause of the US Constitution, some gay couples will have to get married in (let's say) MA and then go back to (let's say) GA and sue to try to have their marriages recognized there. After many years this would end up in the US Supreme Court and then if we win (a very big if), those 30 states will have to recognize our marriages. This may take 10 years or more. But even after that victory, those 30 states still will not have to perform same sex marriages.

    3. Finally, another lawsuit will have to be filed challenging those state constitutional amendments on the federal "equal protection" clause, to compel those states to perform same sex marriages. This may also take 10 or more years.

    Add this all up and it becomes a generational wait for the unfortunate gay people in those 30 states.

    By SIMULTANEOUSLY going full steam ahead with marriage-- trying to repeal DOMA and get marriage rights state by state in the18 states where it's possible, AND pursuing a federal level civil union strategy as President Obama wants, we can end up with couples rights in all 50 states much quicker; 20 can have marriage and the other 30 who have no hope for marriage, can have civil unions while waiting for the courts or Congress to do the right thing. Another reason we can't forget gays in these 30 states (such as SC, GA, AL, MS, , TX, NV, etc.) is they are the ones who really need some gay rights, arguably more than the people in MA and CT -- although I know that no one group deserves rights more than another. The point is that EVERYONE deserves rights and we shouldn't neglect any subset of our community as we move forward.

    Both Chris and I have blogged on ways to achieve civil unions that would work well for all 50 states, not depend on DOMA being repealed and complement the state by state fight for marriage.

    At this point some clever person might say, but Don, being trans is not a choice, while living in GA is. If the person living in GA wants couples' rights and benefits, they should move to MA. Well that same argument was made about trans people and ENDA last year. Cynics suggested that any trans person who wanted employment protection should move to a state such as NJ or OR where they could have these protections. However, most commentators shouted this argument down saying a person should not be forced to make a geographical move in order to obtain basic rights. So for this discussion I'm going to stipulate that moving is not a valid solution for couples' rights either.

    Finally, I would like to remind you of a really smart move right out of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign playbook. Obama pursued a "50 state strategy" to win. If we go forward only with marriage, we are pursuing a "20 state strategy" because there are only 20 states currently "in play" for marriage. However, if we pursue both marriage and civil unions, we are using a "50 state strategy," putting all 50 states "in play."

    For gay rights, a "50 state" strategy is far superior to a "20 state strategy.

    I firmly believe that true equality comes only after we have same sex marriage coast to coast. That is our ultimate goal, and I am a supporter of marriage equality both politically and financially.

    However the question today is how to get to that ultimate goal fastest while also being fair to ALL members of our community, not just some.The answer is that pursuing both marriage and civil unions simultaneously is the smartest strategy moving forward.

    January 25, 2009

    The 'Obameter'

    Posted by: Andoni

    AAA

    The St. Petersburg Times has determined that Barack Obama made over 500 promises during the course of his presidential campaign....and they are keeping track of them. They've established a webpage called The Obameter: Tracking Obama's Campaign Promises.

    On this webpage you can see all the promises Obama made, sort them by subject, see the ones he's completed already, or the ones he's started on. I guess they are planning on keeping this page going for four years because they also have a category called broken promises.

    The promises to the LGBT community are numbers 290 through 294 ----- and in case you haven't been paying attention, none of them are checked off yet.

    In case you are wondering, according to the St. Petersburg Times, Obama has completed five of his promises already.

     

    The week on GNW (Jan. 18-24)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. Gay Portland mayor admits '05 relationship with teenGay Portland mayor admits '05 relationship with teen: QUICK LOOK: More than a year after denying it, the newly elected mayor of Portland has admitted having a sexual relationship with a male teenager in 2005. Sam Adams, who is openly... (MORE)
    2. Obama says 'all are equal' but gays not in addressObama says 'all are equal' but gays left out of address: QUICK LOOK: President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address that “all are equal,” but omitted a frequent stump-speech reference to gay Americans. “The time has come to reaffirm... (MORE)
    3. 'Milk' gets 8 Oscar nominations including Best Picture'Milk' gets 8 Oscar nods and Penn for Best Actor: QUICK LOOK: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced eight nominations today for the Harvey Milk biopic, "Milk," making it a heavyweight contender in the awards,... (MORE)
    4. Disgraced evangelist faces new gay sex allegationsDisgraced evangelist faces new gay sex allegations: QUICK LOOK: Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard's former church disclosed Friday that the gay sex scandal that caused his downfall extends to a young male church volunteer... (MORE)
    5. HBO blames producer for cutting Robinson prayerHBO blames producers for cutting gay bishop's prayer: QUICK LOOK: Sunday afternoon, HBO televised the Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial — a concert planned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee — to kick off... (MORE)

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

    • Gay politican talks about Gaydar photo controversyGay politician talks about Gaydar photo controversy: UICK LOOK: A junior minister has given a deeply personal interview to a gay publication in which he discusses coming out, his mother's struggle with alcoholism and his humiliation... (MORE)
    • Simpsons out macho character Duffman as gay man'Simpsons' out gay character Duffman as gay man: QUICK LOOK: Long-running TV comedy show The Simpsons has revealed that the character of Duffman is gay. The revelation comes in the latest episode of the program, now in its 20th... (MORE)
    • Bisexual British army cop busted for working as prostitute: QUICK LOOK: A bisexual army cop has been relieved off her duties after it was discovered that she was working as a 100 pounds an hour hooker from her barracks. Lance Corporal Rebecca Smith, 21, who had been given... (MORE)
    • Anti-gay Nike advertisement isn't from Nike after allAnti-gay Nike advertisement isn't from Nike after all: QUICK LOOK: Some Internet forums are ablaze over what appears to be Nike’s newest ad campaign in the latest issue of CMYK Magazine. The ad copy reads: “THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN... (MORE)
    • Donors rescue the struggling Log Cabin RepublicansDonors rescue struggling Log Cabin Republicans: QUICK LOOK: A number of donors have come to the rescue of the Log Cabin Republicans in an attempt to alleviate the group’s debt of at least $100,000, according to Patrick Sammon,... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

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



    January 23, 2009

    A switch in time saves Gillibrand?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATES: At the end of the post.

    Kirstengillibrandhillaryclinton

    However you felt about Caroline Kennedy's precocious non-campaign campaign to be the new junior senator from New York, she would have represented improvement over Hillary Clinton on marriage equality. For whatever reason, Kennedy made support for marriage equality one of the few controversial issues on which she took a specific stand. Hillary, of course, insists she's not there yet -- in public or in her heart of hearts.

    Now that we know New York Gov. David Paterson has selected Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, it appears that all the time that he took to make the decision did not result in a better gay rights outcome. Gillibrand aligns with Hillary against marriage, though she does back federal civil unions.

    In an interview with the gay-sounding non-gay publication Inside Out Hudson Valley, she elaborated:

    What I’d like to do legislatively, on the federal level—and I think we’ll be able to do this with the new president—is actually make civil unions legal in all 50 states, make it the law of the land. Because what you want to fundamentally do is protect the rights and privileges of committed couples, so that they can have Medicare benefits, visit in the hospitals, have adoption rights.

    All [the] things that we give to married couples, committed gay couples should be eligible for. And then the question of whether you call it a marriage or not, what you label it, that can be left to the states to decide.

    [It’s] so culturally oriented. My mom’s generation, they want their gay friends to have every right and privilege that they should be eligible for as a married couple, but they feel uncomfortable calling it marriage. To them, a marriage is a religious word that they learned from the Catholic Church: It’s a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. So they feel uncomfortable with the word. But they don’t feel uncomfortable with the rights and privileges.

    I think the way you win this issue is you focus on getting the rights and privileges protected throughout the entire country, and then you do the state-by-state advocacy for having the title.

    You can roll your eyes right along with me on why we are deprived a basic human right because the senior generation is "uncomfortable" with us exercising it, but Gillibrand is right that the issue is largely one to be decided at the federal level anyway.

    There are other areas of concern about Gillibrand. She missed the mark on 4 of the 11 issues on which the Human Rights Campaign scored her first term in Congress, scoring an 80 out of 100 (yeah, I don't get the math either).

    She got three checkmarks for ENDA -- voting twice for the compromise version and co-sponsoring the trans-inclusive version -- another two for the hate crimes bill, one for backing needle exchange in the District of Columbia and one for an obscure vote against an amendment to the Head Start program.

    But Gillibrand failed to sign on as a sponsor for four important measures:

    1. Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (146 Democrats sponsoring)
    2. Uniting American Families Act: equal immigration rights (118 Democrats sponsoring)
    3. Equal tax treatment for D.P. benefits (116 Democrats sponsoring)
    4. Medicaid funding people with HIV (140 Democrats sponsoring)

    Hillary had been a co-sponsor of the Senate versions of those last two, and committed to supporting UAFA and repealing DADT though she had not signed on to sponsor.

    Perhaps Gillibrand just needed more than her first two years in office to warm up to UAFA and DADT, and perhaps she'll be more ready to sign on now that she represents the whole state and not just upstate New York. Either way, her support for federal civil unions makes the glass at least half full, and is an excellent place to start.

    UPDATE #1:

    It appears Governor Paterson may have insisted on a commitment on marriage equality from Gillibrand before giving her the nod. So says the Empire State Pride Agenda:

    Last night likely Senate pick Kirsten Gillibrand spoke to Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle about issues important to New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

    "After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples," said Van Capelle. "She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues."

    None of this explains why she fell so short of the mark before now, but it's still great news. We'll have to see whether the "whole range of LGBT concerns" included equal immigration rights, equal taxes on D.P. benefits, and early treatment of HIV.

    UPDATE #2:

    HRC has also chimed in with its own "clarification" of Gillibrand's gay rights views, claiming she supported repeal of DOMA and DADT, even if she didn't co-sponsor, begging the questions: (1) why didn't she co-sponsor? and (2) why doesn't HRC release this kind of information more generally? The reason for both, no doubt, is that members from moderate and conservative districts often will promise only quiet support, wanting to avoid controversy until such time as an actual vote occurs (if ever).

    However understandable politically, it hardly engenders much confidence in a politician like Gillibrand's courage under fire. And to claim she supported marriage equality runs directly contrary to what she herself said publicly.

    Here's the HRC "clarification":

    "There has been some discussion about the record of Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Governor David Paterson’s pick to replace Hillary Clinton, regarding her stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and additional LGBT issues. In particular, we’d like to clarify references to the Human Rights Campaign Scorecard for the 110th Congress. Although Kirsten Gillibrand did not co-sponsor legislation to repeal DADT, non-cosponsorship does not mean support for the policy or opposition to repeal. In fact, in conversations with her office the Human Rights Campaign has confirmed Gillibrand is in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and supports full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples."

    Additionally, HRC confirmed with Gillibran’s staff additional points regarding her LGBT record:

    • Supports marriage equality
    • Co-sponsored and voted in favor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
    • Co-sponsored inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and supports enactment of inclusive bill
    • Voted in favor of ENDA
    • Supports repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
    • Supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
    • Supports equal tax treatment of employer provided domestic partnership benefits
    • Voted against allowing discrimination in hiring for the Head Start program
    • Voted in favor of allowing Washington, DC to fund needle exchange programs with local funds
    • Voted against procedural attempts to derail ENDA and hate crimes
    • Endorsed by HRC PAC in 2008
    • Supports the Early Treatment of HIV/AIDS Act (ETHA) to allow states to provide Medicaid coverage for HIV-positive persons

    (Photo of Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton circa 2006 via New York Times)

    January 22, 2009

    Affirmative action by any other name (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Equalrep
    Remember Equal Rep, the Facebook-based lobby group that campaigned for an openly gay cabinet appointment by President-elect Barack Obama? They took considerable issue with my suggestion that they were effectively pushing affirmative action for gay politicos -- not to mention distracting from much more important issues for the movement.

    Paulsousa Having failed to succeed with Obama's selections to existing cabinet posts, they've come up with an entirely new suggestion:

    Equal Rep is now putting on a follow-up national campaign to strongly urge President-elect Obama to create a new cabinet position, Secretary of GLBT Affairs. All participants are asked to phone and email President Obama’s White House comment line and email daily from Jan. 26-30. …

    Equal Rep founder, Paul Sousa, said, “And on top of that, gay Americans are the only minority group to have never been appointed to the Presidential Cabinet in the history of the United States. We’re asking President Obama to give this community the attention it needs and the representation it deserves.”

    There are other Cabinet positions that represent minorities such as the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs and Equal Rep is asking President Obama to create another position similarly for the GLBT community. It is commonplace for Presidents to create Cabinet positions due to community needs such as the creation of the Secretary of Homeland Security position in 2001.

    What to say, what to say, what to say… I think I'll just second the remarks of Matt Comer at InterstateQ:

    I don’t think Sousa really understands what his proposal means. The U.S. Department of GLBT Affairs?

    Never. Will. Happen. Ever. If African-Americans, after suffering centuries of bondage, rape and murder, didn’t get a representative U.S. department, neither will we.

    There’s no need for minority departments. The U.S. Justice Department, if operated correctly and with tools given to them by the president or Congress, is the office in charge of protecting the civil rights of Americans. And, let’s just face it, the LGBT community hasn’t yet gotten any federal civil rights legislation. That’s just a simple fact of life. If we can’t get a simple bill passed, what makes him think his proposal for a Gay Secretary is going to be taken seriously.

    There were better ways to address our representation in Obama’s administration and the government, and I’m sure the Victory Fund and others are working diligently away to find it. One way to address equal representation is supporting LGBT people who run for elected office. The more out elected officials we have, the bigger a pool there is for a president or governor to appoint from. Hell, even taking the initiative to run yourself, if no one else is running, is a solution. You might not win, but you make it possible for someone else to win down the road.

    But, the reality is that a Gay Secretary isn’t possible and isn’t the answer. And, no, the Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs is not similar to any idea for a Gay Secretary. Sorry.

    Whether or not the kids at Equal Rep intend an entire department or just the position of cabinet secretary, it's so far beyond the pale, not to mention a smack in the face of other minority groups. Why is the important work that would actually benefit the lives of LGBT Americans of such little interest to so many?

    The ad that KABC refused to air

    Posted by: Chris

    The Los Angeles TV affiliate KABC refused to air an advertisement about gay families by a group called GetToKnowUsFirst.org during the inauguration. The spot was intended as a general response to passage of Proposition 8 and aired in 42 of the California's 58 counties -- everywhere the initiative passed by 50% or more -- during Tuesday's coverage of the Presidential Inauguration.

    KABC is the only station that refused to sell the ad space, saying "it was too controversial to air during the Inauguration, since 'many families will be watching,'" according to the group's ad agency, which tried to place the ad. The rejected spot profiles two African American men raising five children ages 6 through 25. Ironically, the family lives in Los Angeles.

    KABC's decision is particularly remarkable because the ad itself is very wholesome:

    It's also exactly the type of advertisement that the No on 8 campaign was missing, making the gay issue plain and the desire for marriage equality one in which more people could relate.

    For those wishing to register with KABC their opinion over the refusal, here's the contact info:

    ABC7 Broadcast Center
    500 Circle Seven Drive
    Glendale, CA 91201
    (818) 863-7777
    Send email from here.

    No glee in Gayville -- or Portland

    Posted by: Chris

    Samadamsvert Lost in all the inauguration hoopla was the ugly sex scandal involving Portland Mayor Sam Adams, the only openly gay candidate to ever win that office in America's 30 largest cities. Yet despite obvious comparisons to the Mark Foley scandal back in 2006, there's no comparable glee in Gayville, especially the blogosphere.

    In the weeks leading up to his election last November, Adams dismissed rumors of a past sexual relationship with Beau Breedlove, then 17 and other the legal age of consent, back in 2005. Adams insisted he had merely mentored the teen, and labeled the accusation -- made by another gay man who was then considering a mayoral run -- as an ugly smear of the type that discourages gay men from running for office.

    Now, months after Adams' landslide election win, a local paper confirmed the story about the relationship and Adams has admitted that he lied to the public, and had convinced Breedlove to lie as well. Now he's admitting that even the claim of a mentoring relationship was a lie:

    Breedlove asked Adams for advice on being gay in the political arena, but Adams now says that was originally a pretext for meeting.

    "There was no proposition, but I felt there was some interest," Adams said of their initial meetings. "Part of the lie was to play up the mentoring." …

    On Monday, Adams admitted that he and Breedlove had sex several times in the summer of 2005 -- a few weeks after Breedlove reached the age of legal consent. Adams said he lied about the relationship and asked Breedlove to lie because he didn't think voters would believe they waited until after the young man's birthday to become intimate.

    A criminal investigation is now underway, and calls for Adams to resign have mounted, including from Just Out, Portland's gay newspaper, and it seems he may be leaning in that direction.

    The comparisons to "Foley-gate" are obvious: A gay male politician approached by an underage teen for mentoring instead abuses that relationship by soliciting sex, except that Adams admits that actual sex took place.

    There are differences, of course, since Foley's teenage targets were participants in the congressional page program. But no difference is more important to the reaction the scandals are receiving than the poltiical affiliation -- Adams is a Democrat, Foley is a Republican -- and the closet -- Adams is out, Foley was not.

    Nothing excites the gay blogosphere more than sexual hypocrisy, but party affiliation and closetedness are key ingredients in inciting the glee and self-righteous indignation we have seen so many times over the years. Even though Adams' abuse of his position and status -- in the community in general and the gay community in general -- is comparable to Foley and others, the reaction is markedly different in his case.

    Without the closet and/or the alleged self-loathing of gay conservatives to blame for the misbehavior, where's the fun in all of it?

    Where's the fun, indeed. Adams' scandal is deeply disappointing. Whatever you think about age-of-consent laws like Oregon's that deprive even 17-year-olds of making decisions about sex, a relationship between a 42-year-old and a 17-year-old is grossly inappropriate -- and just plain gross, especially so when the 42-year-old is in a position of political prominence.

    Of course straight politicians engage in sexual misbehavior all the time. But don't gay men in public office understand and accept the extra burden and responsibility they have to meet an even higher standard, given how few have gone before? To that extent, Sam Adams' betrayal as an out gay politician is much more disappointing than Foley's.

    Openly gay politicians like Adams should absolutely know better than to come anywhere close to an age-inappropriate relationship, given the ugly stereotypes still out there about gay men as sexual predators. If Adams is to be believed, and he has lied so many times already, he at least waited until Breedlove was 18. That's cold comfort, when he could have so easily steered clear entirely from the situation.

    Then Adams lied about the relationship publicly and repeatedly, and pressured the youth to lie as well.

    Should Adams resign? I think so, yes. Do you agree?

    Inauguration tidbits

    Posted by: Andoni

    Metro on way to Capitol

    It was the best party I had ever attended. Everyone was my friend, yet I went there knowing no one. I talked to perfect strangers and felt as if I had known them all my life.

    It was the highest high of my life, but there was no alcohol or drugs served.

    And when Barack Obama said that there is a

    "God given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness"

    I was ecstatic. He was talking directly to me. In my mind he was laying the groundwork for my emancipation which will come later in his administration. It could have been Harvey Milk up there talking to me.

    I knew then that Barack Obama was going to fulfill his campaign promises. In fact seeing how quickly he is moving with executive orders on his promises, I am sure this guy is serious about gay rights. He does what he says.

    And my high is still present, two days later. Maybe this is what if felt like to be in Times Square at the end of World War II.

    I met so many interesting people who became immediate soul mates. The photo above was taken on the Metro on the way to the festivities.

    Inauguration Day began early for me getting up at 4:30 am to catch the 7:30 am flight to Reagan National. I was going up and back on the same day.

    My plane arrived in DC at 9:08 am and I was in line at the check point for Purple ticket holders (the intersection of Louisiana and First Street) around 10, finally to be admitted just before Barack was introduced.

    When I got off the plane, I quickly made my way to the Metro, but when I got to the platform, a train was pulling away and there were still about 1000 people on the platform. I asked someone what happened and he said that it was the third train that passed them by because it was full. I immediately turned around, went back down the escalators and up to the other platform for trains going south. An empty yellow train came immediately and I got on, took a seat and went 4 stops in the wrong direction to Huntington, where the train immediately turned around and began going north to DC. When we got to the Reagan National Airport stop again, the train was full and very few people were able to squeeze on. Meanwhile, I was comfortably seated. If I had not learned this trick from all my years on public transportation I would have missed the inauguration as many others did. (Why didn't the Metro folks only open certain cars at each station so everyone had a shot to get into the train everywhere along the route?)

    I waited in line at my check point for over an hour inching along because of the inefficiency of the ticket checkers. I made friends with everyone around me. The mood was joyous. This type of really bad line management under any other circumstances would have resulted in a riot. I could go on and on with what they did wrong, but suffice it to say, it was very bad at the Purple check point.

    In any case, I got in just before Barack was introduced. I was one of the last people to get in before they closed the Purple gate. The area was fairly packed, and I could not get to where I had planned to stand. Just as I was about to choose my spot, I noticed that some people were removing a waist high fence surrounding one of the monuments, and they began entering that verboten zone, climbing the monument for a better view. There were at least 6 police officers right there, so I waited to see how they would react to this. After a moment it became clear that the police chose not to make an issue out of this, so I joined the young people climbing the monument to get a better view. (Picture below) It should be noted that the monument was surrounded by freshly planted ornamental cabbages as part of the landscaping. I was worried for the plants. On my way out after the ceremonies I could not find one cabbage plant that had been trampled by the 100 people or so who had made the circle around this monument their home for an hour during the inauguration. This was definitely a well behaved crowd.

    I would say I was within 300 yards or so of the stage. It was one of those indelible moments in life such as the lunar landing or the Kennedy assassination, only this time I was there in person instead of simply watching on TV. One million, two million, who knows how many people.... but in spite the tremendous crowds, people were happy, polite, and patient in the face of the tremendous obstacles by security in getting to your allotted spot. Sadly to say, some people with Purple tickets behind me, did not get in. The reason for this is unclear and the Presidential Inauguration Committee has begun an investigation to see what happened.

    In general there were 3 groups of really good tickets. They were on the actual Capitol grounds. The first group was up on stage with Obama and these were the Senators and Congressmen, former presidents, and very, very important people. The next group was seated at a lower level in front of Obama and they were anywhere from 50 yards to 250 yards or so away. These were government officials from around the country, Hollywood stars, and people who paid $5000 or $10,000 for a weekend package to all events. (I had declined this opportunity.)

    Finally in my group, we stood behind these people and were between 250 to 400 yards away....about midway between the stage and the large Capitol reflecting pool. The people on the Mall behind me were anywhere from a half mile away to to two to three miles away. However, neither they nor I could could see the features of Obama's face and we both had to rely on the Jumbotrons, so in a sense our positions were equal.

    The over-riding mood of the day was happiness, people being nice to people, and a real patriotic feeling. The only thing comparable for me was the Bicentennial celebration I attended in Boston with over a million people at the Esplanade along the Charles with Arthur Fiedler playing the 1812 Overture just as the canon and fireworks started. Both events were wonderful, but the Obama inauguration was definitely more wonderful.

    Me and new fiends

    January 21, 2009

    Federal civil unions: so simple

    Posted by: Andoni

    ".... and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions."

    More properly, the title of this post should have been "Federal recognition of our relationships as civil unions: so simple."

    Of all President Barack Obama's proposals for the LGBT community on the official White House webpage , I believe this one is the best and most powerful. It will achieve more rights and benefits for gay people than all the others combined. It's beautifully simple yet simultaneously brilliant. If done properly, it will bring gay rights to couples in Mississippi and Alabama as well as Massachusetts.

    Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act will take many more years because marriage is still such a third rail issue, whereas benefits for civil unions is not. And when DOMA falls, only Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York couples will gain those 1100+ rights.

    This is how you do it. The bill would not have to be complicated and could be as simple as this:

    THE PURPOSE of this legislation is to extend to same sex couples the exact same rights and benefits from the federal government that married opposite sex couples receive from the federal government

    THE LEGISLATION: All federal statutes, codes, rules and regulations are hereby amended so that wherever the word "marriage" appears, that word is replaced with the phrase "marriage or civil union." Additionally, when other forms of the word "marriage" are used, the appropriate form of "civil union" is used. (Example: "married" is amended to read "married or civil unioned.")

    DEFINITIONS: For the purposes of this legislation "civil union" is defined as any same sex union legally created by a state government where such a union has the exact same or substantially the same definition, obligations and rights as a marriage in the state.

    RESTRICTIONS: This legislation applies for federal rights and benefits only. There is nothing in this legislation to mandate state recognition of these relationships, or to compel the various states to grant similar rights and benefits to same sex couples. Such matters are left entirely to the states under the Tenth Amendment.

    Here are some important things our community needs to understand about this proposal:

    The federal government doesn't create marriages or other unions, it merely recognizes marriages legally performed by one of the states. This would be the same arrangements for "civil unions." The federal government would recognize a same sex union legally performed in one of the states and it would be called a "civil union."

    This legislation does not require DOMA to be repealed. Only if the federal government wants to call these unions "marriages" does DOMA have to be repealed.

    The federal government would acknowledge same sex couples in all 50 states, as long as the union was created legally by one of the states, which is what they do for marriage. It doesn't matter where you live, it matters that your union was created or performed legally -- which would mean in a state that performs these same sex uinons. A couple can go from a state that has no recognition of same sex couples to a state were same sex relationships are legally created. They can get hitched legally there and the federal government will acknowledge that relationship even if the couple returns to their home state where they get no recognition and no state rights and benefits.

    Because of DOMA, the federal government cannot recognize same sex marriages (from CT and MA) as marriages, but under this legislation, those same sex marriages would be defined as civil unions (see definition above) at the federal level. Domestic partnerships from CA and civil unions from VT or NJ would also be called civil unions at the federal level. Should a future state decide to call a same sex union something new, such as a "civil partnership," this law would cover that too -- as a "civil union."

    When DOMA is repealed, then same sex marriages from MA and CT (and any future same sex marriage state) will be recognized as marriage by the federal government. DOMA is the only thing preventing that now.

    The fight for marriage can and will continue in the states. When new states choose to call our relationships marriage, people will receive the 1100+ federal benefits as civil unions. When DOMA is repealed, they will receive those same 1100+ benefits under a new name, marriage. Maybe then someone will propose to expand the federal definition of civil unions to include opposite sex couples as well, so they too can choose to have a marriage or a civil union, getting our country further along the road of separation of church and state.

    You may ask, how can the federal government grant rights at the federal level, when the state government where the couple resides may not do the same.

    There is a parallel situation. Just like marriage licenses, the federal government does not issue doctors' licenses either -- states do. So how does the federal government recognize doctors who can practice in the federal medical system (the Veterans Administration, the military, the public health system, etc.)? It recognizes the state licenses. To practice medicine in the federal system and receive all the rights and benefits granted to a physician by that license, you must hold a license legally obtained from one of the 50 states. Your license may be from MA, but the federal government will recognize you as a doctor in the federal system in Alabama (for example at the VA hospital) even though the state of Alabama will not recognize that license and will not allow you the rights and benefits to practice in their state outside of the VA system. Alabama will not recognize your license to practice medicine from MA even if the federal government does. So just as the state of Alabama does not recognize a same sex marriage license from MA, or a doctors license from MA, the federal government does recognize the doctors license and could do the same with the other license. The federal system and the state system are two separate and independent systems. This is at the heart of federalism that some Republicans like Bob Barr strongly support.

    The best part of this is that it is such a powerful tool. Literally hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of gays in all 50 states will have the ability to access these 1100+ federal benefits even if their own state doesn't recognize that relationship.

    Finally, I realize that the screams from our own left will say "marriage or nothing." Here's a counter argument. By setting up such a clearly "separate but equal system" (there is no debate on this, rigtht?), that separate but equal system, as a half step, will be successfully challenged more quickly (either through public education or in the courts) and become full marriage equality sooner, than the purer route of going from nothing at the federal level to full marriage equality in one step. Anyone who thinks that going from nothing to full marriage equality at the federal level all in one step is coming soon is fooling themselves. That is a much harder, bigger, and more time consuming route.

    I wish I could say my thinking is original on this, but it is based on my discussions with a prominent LGBT Obama campaign official and a prominent ACLU attorney neither of whom wishes to go on record at this time.

    January 20, 2009

    From transition to clean break

    Posted by: Chris

    Bushobamacheney

    CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin sounded a sour note a few hours ago on Barack Obama's inaugural address, criticizing it for lacking a coherent theme or any memorable phrase or idea. I would actually agree.

    The speech surprised by being less memorable or powerful than his race speech, his acceptance speech in Denver or on election night in Chicago -- not to mention his 2004 keynote at the Democratic convention. Though with four warm-ups like that and all the world attention, it was probably impossible for Obama to live up to expectations today.

    If a central goal of his presidency -- and the inauguration -- is to u nify the country, the speech itself probably hit a sour note. I can only imagine how President Bush and Republicans reacted to hearing about "a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable." We usually hear these sorts of broadsides from Republicans after Democratic control in Washington. Can't you imagine Ronald Reagan saying the same thing after four years of Jimmy Carner?

    Not to mention how John McCain and his supporters probably felt about Obama proclaiming, "We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," or "or that in national defense, "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

    I agree on each and every point, but that's not my point. I wonder whether such direct attacks on Bush and the GOP, especially on such a day, will undermine the goodwill Obama has built and set the country on a more divisive course.

    On the other hand, polls show Americans overwhelmingly agree that the Bush presidency was a failure and the nation is headed in the wrong direction. Even arch-conservative Bill Bennett called the speech "muscular," and though he was talking about its few chest-thumping passage, he is right. Obama set a clear new course for the country.

    Forget talk of a transition, this was a clean break. This was change. That's what the people want, after all.

    (Photo via Washington Post)

    Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov

    Posted by: Chris

    Whitehousedotgov

    What a difference one minute can make!

    The new official site WhiteHouse.gov went live at 12:01 p.m., when the Constitution provides that Barack Obama became president even though he didn't take office for a few more minutes. In the section on "Civil Rights," there is an entire subsection entitled "Support for the LGBT Community" -- the only subsection on the civil rights page.

    There you'll find commitments to support hate crime and workplace discrimination laws -- both including sexual orientation and gender identity -- as well as repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and opposition to a marriage amendment. But most dramatically, in my view, is discussion of relationship recognition:

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

    You don't get much better than that except for outright support for marriage equality, which is actually a non-issue at the federal level. And not to read too much into it, the support for federal civil union rights and repeal of DOMA is listed just below hate crimes and ENDA, which are the first and second pieces of legislation expected to pass Congress.

    It is disappointing that there is no specific mention of equal immigration rights for GLB Americans or the Uniting American Families Act, either in the civil rights page or the page on immigration. Obama has repeatedly expressed support for UAFA, although he did not sign on a sponsor in the Senate and has expressed some reservations about the potential for fraud.

    But then again, either repealing DOMA or adopting federal civil unions would automatically extend pretty much the same rights as UAFA.

    Talk about change we can believe in! Can we officially stop caring or talking about Rick Warren now?

    Yes, they're "only words" but to put the commitment right out there, so prominently, is to give us a standard by which to measure the administration's success on civil rights. Even more importantly, we must now respond to this dramatic change of fortunes in Washington by doing our part to lobby Congress to move forward on these issues.

    The full text on LGBT rights is below:

    • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
    • Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
    • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
    • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
    • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
    • Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
    • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
    • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

    A sharp but hopeful speech

    Posted by: Chris

    Barackobamainauguration
    It was an inaugural speech of sharp distinctions and change more than idealistic unity or the marking of a historical first. I'm not sure how I would feel if I were a supporter of George W. Bush or John McCain, but President Obama -- ahh, that feels good writing! -- certainly did not disappoint those of us yearning for a clean break.

    For a politician often accused of overly lofty rhetoric, it was a down and dirty and direct address. For those of us committed to equality and civil rights for gay Americans, there was this powerful statement:

    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

    The words are general enough to provide inspiration and hope to any number of groups, and no doubt fell short for those waiting in hopes for "the G word." But after eight years of wedge politics and opposition to basic civil rights and equality, they were powerful words indeed.

    Two-minute prayer vs. inaugural sermon?

    Posted by: Chris

    Tdjakes With all the hoopla about the two-minute prayer that Rick Warren will offer during today's inauguration of Barack Obama, I am surprised to have heard nothing about (self-proclaimed) Bishop T.D. Jakes giving the sermon at this morning's inaugural church service.

    Back in 2005, black gay activist Keith Boykin included Jakes among a series of black church pastors with anti-gay views who he believes are closet homosexuals:

    Jakes is even more conservative than [George W.] Bush. Unlike Bush, who has hired gays and lesbians in the federal government, Jakes has called homosexuality a "brokenness" and said he would not hire a sexually active gay person.

    And Jakes has also adopted another part of the presidential philosphy: his lifestyle. Jakes and his congregation refer to his wife Serita as "the first lady," and they live in a $1.7 million mansion on Dallas's scenic White Rock Lake next to a building once owned by oil magnate H.L. Hunt. As Time magazine explained, "He flies on charter planes or in first-class seats, sups with a coterie in a room known as 'the king's table,' sports a large diamond ring and dresses like the multimillionaire he is."

    I don't believe that black preachers have a duty to be poor, but I do believe they should not make their millions off the backs of their struggling kin. It's one thing to create your wealth as a preacher. It's another thing to create your wealth with a message of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia directed against some of the hardest hit people in your own community.

    Jakes has endorsed the so-called Truth for Youth campaign, which is distributing specially-made anti-gay Bibles to high school students all across the country.

    "To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife," Jakes told USA Today. "This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not," he said. But if Jakes still believes in the separation of church and state, it's not clear from his political activity. In fact, Jakes publicly endorsed the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have been the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legalize discrimination against a group of citizens.

    As Time magazine put it, "gay Americans would have no reason at all to consider Jakes their preacher."

    Ultimately Boykin's proof on Jakes' anti-gay past is much stronger than the rumors that Jakes may be a closet case. (A former male staffer went public with charges that Jakes repeatedly propositioned him for sex.) Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether activists take note of Jakes' high profile role.

    My own view, of course, is that Obama is fulfilling his promise to unite the country -- and making a shrewd political move -- by including the likes of Jakes and Warren, along with openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, and pro-gay ministers Joseph Lowery and Sharon Watkins, in inauguration ceremonies.

    HBO adds Robinson to re-broadcast

    Posted by: Chris

    Hboweareonepic2 For all those who suspected some grand conspiracy between the Obama transition team and HBO to exclude openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson from the broadcast of the (ironically named) "We Are One" event, rest easy:

    The cable network said that it had not been advised about what would go where in the two-hour live telecast. … The omission caused a pile of headaches for HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which received an estimated $2 million to give HBO the exclusive rights to the concert.

    Whew. And even double whew:

    HBO said late Monday that it will include an opening prayer from an openly gay pastor in subsequent telecasts of the "We Are One" inaugural concert, whose original live telecast began after the pastor's invocation.

    No doubt gay activists will be watching like hawks to make sure HBO follows through on its promise. Will they watch with the same level of scrutiny to make sure Obama and Congress move forwarrd on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell, or enact federal civil unions?

    January 19, 2009

    Change our community could believe in

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: I've updated this post to correct a couple of errors.  I originally reported that editorial positions in addition to Mike Fleming's were eliminated by Window Media last week in D.C. and Atlanta. They were actually eliminated last fall. In addition, Mike's leap from sales to editorial came earlier than I remembered, when he moved to New Orleans in 2001 to take over the editorial reins in that office, not when he subsequently moved to Atlanta, as I originally related.  Sorry for the errors!  

    Matthenniemikefleming

    PlanetOut isn't the only gay media conglomerate undergoing change and laying off top staff. The Window Media family of local gay publications last week eliminated several positions in Washington and Atlanta, including that of a key editorial position, just five months after eliminating two other editorial positions in Washington and Atlanta. Last week's casualty was Mike Fleming, editor of David Atlanta magazine and arts editor of Southern Voice, the city's gay newspaper.

    Hovo cover blogI know both the company and the editor very, very well. I co-founded Window Media way back in 1997, and Southern Voice was our first publication, purchased in August of that year. I remain a co-owner of the company. Only a few months after SoVo, we added the Houston Voice and Mike Fleming was brought on board in April 1998 as the local publisher. That same day, I hired Matt Hennie to be the paper's new editor.

    The two soon became best friends, but the Mike-and-Matt-Show was terrific professionally as well. Together and supported by a small but dedicated staff, they revitalized a dying gay newspaper and raised it to higher standards that ever before.

    Eclipse cover blogThey would both go on to serve in a number of key positions over a decade of involvement with Window Media. Matt came back to Atlanta, working as my managing editor at SoVo and later taking over the publication when I moved to D.C. in 2001.

    That same year, Mike decided to "jump the fence" to the editorial side, a rare move in an industry that (usually) treats separation between sales and editorial like the Constitution (usually) treats church and state. Mike won over skeptics, myself included, tackling with gusto, talent and a genuine commitment to the community the editorial challenges of our two publications in New Orleans, and later in Atlanta at Southern Voice and Eclipse (later David).

    SoVo Cover blogWe did not always see eye to eye, and sometimes I had to laugh at the unvarished way in which Mike shared with me his disagreements, but we respected each other -- and that's what mattered.

    Matt eventually moved on from SoVo, jumping a different fence into the P.R. world, though he has returned to his roots with the terrific new site Project Q Atlanta. Mike soldiered on, even as both publications he cared about struggled through shifting priorities and difficult economic times.

    The Atlanta LGBT community is better for it, just as the communities in Houston and New Orleans were previously.

    David cover blogNow Mike has been "downsized," and if you read his very personal final editor's note in David -- written without any idea that it would be his swansong -- it's almost eerily prescient:

     A wise person once said, and a talented young man recently reminded me, "Change, and the world changes with you." We've been hearing a lot about change lately. …

    Have you done any real introspection lately? What steps can you take, not just in the New Year as some resolution you'll break, but to find permanent solutions to long-term issues you drag around? You need to be the best you can be if we're going to pull this off.

    And speaking of you, it's not all about you. Another funny thing about "we" is that one of the best ways to help ourselves is to help each other. That's something I don't think enough of us incorporate into our lives, and it's crucial to realizing the dreams of America's new era.

    Mike goes on to practice what he preaches, taking a hard look at his own life and what he can do to give something back. I hope he realizes, even as he says goodbye to 11 years with Window Media, that he and Matt both have already given back immeasurably to the communities they love.

    We all -- but especially your's truly -- owe them a huge thank you for that.

    (Photo of Matt Hennie, left, and Mike Fleming via Facebook)

    The Robinson prayer that HBO skipped

    Posted by: Chris

    A transcript of the prayer by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson at yesterday's opening inaugural event is now available, as is the video:


    It's a challenging prayer, no doubt something of a downer for an event that is supposed to celebrate Barack Obama's historic election. Perhaps the event's producers excluded it from the HBO broadcast for that reason. Reverend Robinson's glass is not just half-empty; it's mostly evaporated.

    Still, it will no doubt please its intended audience, the progressive left that revels so much in victimology that it is loathe to ever recognize the "progress" from which it gets its name.

    Here's the Robinson transcript:

    Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

    O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

    Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

    Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

    Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

    Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

    Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

    Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

    Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

    And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

    Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

    Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

    Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

    Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

    Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

    Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

    And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

    AMEN.

    (Video h/t to our pal Jeremy at G.A.Y.)

    Looking beyond Warren-gate...

    Posted by: Chris

    Nymagobamawarren
    I was encouraged to read a piece by the Advocate's Sean Kennedy for New York Magazine that suggests that our activists are finally looking beyond the giant distraction of Warren-gate and on to the serious issues that lie ahead. (Unfortunately, HBO's failure to broadcast the inaugural event prayer yesterday by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson will undoubtedly prolong the kvetching.)

    But at least Kennedy's report suggests that the Human Rights Campaign hasn't forgotten to set their eyes on a prize bigger than who gives a two-minute prayer at the inauguration:

    [T]here were those who believed it was a genuine act of inclusiveness, in keeping with the post-swearing-in benediction by the Reverend Joseph Lowery, who supports gay rights (but not marriage), and the Reverend Sharon Watkins's leading of the national prayer service Wednesday morning, the first woman to do so.

    "Unless we believe it's pure political bull, Obama's been talking the whole time about bringing people together across the ideological spectrum," says gay-media veteran Chris Crain, adding: "Why is it a bad thing that someone who's anti-gay wants to support the most pro-gay president we've had?"

    But Crain is an outlier; for the most part, the rancor is unabated: "The Warren choice was universally disappointing," says Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith program. "But both grayheads like me and young people are wise enough to see that we can't expect perfection from our leaders. We have to be vigilant about getting the work done that it will take to get this legislation passed."

    He's referring to major policy items, like "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which Obama says he wants to repeal.

    That's actually the first time I've seen anyone from HRC talk about being "vigilant" about "major policy items" like repeal of DADT and DOMA. Up till now, all they've talked about are low-hanging fruit like hate crime and employmnet non-discrimination laws, which while important are largely symbolic by comparison.

    January 18, 2009

    Smoking dope and marrying gays...

    Posted by: Chris

    Change Well, the votes are in at Change.org, and equal immigration rights for same-sex couples didn't make the Top 10 ideas, which will be presented to Barack Obama after his swearing-in -- or did it?

    On the one hand, the issue finished second among all ideas for immigration reform, but ultimately received only 1,325 votes in the second round of balloting. That put it not only out of the Top 10 but about a thousand votes short of the next 25 top ideas at the site.

    On the other hand, marriage equality did make the final list, and equal marriage rights -- or even repealing DOMA or federal civil unions -- would effectively equalize immigration rights as well. While that's good news, it's instructive to see what finished ahead even of marriage equality.

    In a fairly clever move, the folks at Change.org -- no connection with Change.gov, the official Obama transition site -- listed the top 10 finishers on the home page in something of a random order based on importance of the idea. But if you visit the web page for each idea, you can see how they really tallied.

    Legalizing marijuana was the top vote-getter, just ahead of creating a new cabinet agency called the Department of Peace and Non-Violence.:

    1. Legalize marijuana, 19,530 votes
    2. Create Dep't of Peace and Non-Violence: 14,994
    3. Single-payer health insurance: 13,928
    4. Make the grid green: 12,913
    5. Repeal Patriot Act: 12, 285
    6. Exempt handmade toy makers from safety rules:  12,280
    7. Health care freedom: 12,062
    8. Pass the DREAM Act for immigrants: 12,010
    9. Pass marriage equality nationwide: 11,889
    10. Energy sustainability: 9,644

    No other gay rights ideas, including repealing DOMA and passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, made the top 35, which means they finished behind stopping puppy mills and introducing Esperanto as a foreign language subject in U.S. schools.

    While you join me in a collective eyeroll, we can at least remember that the site was a useful venue to raise the visibility of immigration and marriage equality, among other LGBT issues.   

    The Week on GNW (Jan. 11-17)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. Obama favored gay marriage in 1996 questionnaireObama favored gay marriage in 1996 questionnaire: QUICK LOOK: During the final weeks of the presidential campaign last fall, several media outlets contacted Windy City Times because of an old Internet story from the 1996 Illinois... (MORE)
    2. Syphilis rates sent higher by HIV-positive gay menU.S. syphilis rates sent higher by HIV-positive gay men: QUICK LOOK: U.S. syphilis rates rose for a seventh year in 2007, driven by gay and bisexual men, while chlamydia reached record numbers and gonorrhea remained at alarming levels... (MORE)
    3. Obama meets off record with liberal and gay punditsObama meets off-record with liberal, gay pundits: QUICK LOOK: President-elect Barack Obama met this morning off the record with several columnists and liberal commentators, following up on last night's dinner with conservative writers,... (MORE)
    4. Candidate to run GOP calls being gay a 'compulsion'Candidate to run GOP calls being gay a 'compulsion': QUICK LOOK: Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a leading candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC), is coming under fire Monday for making... (MORE)
    5. Heavy layoffs hit at least one-third of PlanetOut, Inc.Heavy layoffs hit one-third of PlanetOut employees: QUICK LOOK: Everyone knows that many media organizations are struggling, and now the latest evidence comes from PlanetOut, where as many as a third of the staff were laid off this... (MORE)

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

    • Prince Harry uses 'queer,' kisses fellow soldier in videoPrince Harry uses 'queer,' kisses fellow soldier in video: QUICK LOOK: Royal rebel Prince Harry stands accused of racism in a bombshell home video as he swaggeres in front of his army comrades. The soldier prince pours shame on the Royal... (MORE)
    • Two coaches wrestling in underwear fall four storiesTwo coaches wrestling in underwear fall four stories: QUICK LOOK: Two football coaches from a Pennsylvania college were injured Tuesday morning after they fell four stories at Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. Police said the two... (MORE)
    • Poppers suspected in death at Pittsburgh bathhousePoppers suspected in death at Pittsburgh bathhouse: QUICK LOOK: Pittsburgh police yesterday confirmed that they have opened a wide-ranging probe of a Strip District club where a 31-year-old Youngstown man was found dead this month... (MORE)
    • Hollywood hides hypocrisy in gay prestige film genreHollywood hides hypocrisy in 'gay prestige' genre: QUICK LOOK: (*WARNING: anti-gay source*): Hollywood is in the high phase of a new era of social-problem movies. In the tradition of racial melodramas such as "To Kill a Mockingbird,"... (MORE)
    • Gay British pol marries boyfriend in Norway ceremonyGay British pol marries boyfriend in Norway ceremony: QUICK LOOK: Retired London police officer Brian Paddick has tied the knot with his partner of two years, Petter Belsvik. The pair were married in a ceremony in Belsvik’s homeland... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

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

    January 16, 2009

    RIP to LGBT, Inc.

    Posted by: Chris

     PlanetoutlogoRegentmedia

    The slow-motion implosion of PlanetOut, Inc., the largest-ever gay media company and the first ever traded online, has finally concluded. The company that traded as LGBT on the Nasdaq exchange is no more, having announced a merger with with Here TV and Regent Entertainment, the conglomerate that previously gobbled up PlanetOut's marquis titles: the Advocate, Out and Alyson Books.

    Then just yesterday, came the inevitable round of layoffs -- fully one-third of all employees at PlanetOut, including the company's chief technology officer. 

    Much of the reaction to the merger news was the typical worry about conglomeration of LGBT media, which is pretty ironic given that the story here is really the failure of that experiment. While Paul Colichman, the force behind Here and Regent, has succeeded in picking up the pieces of PlanetOut -- and for a song, I might add -- the parts combined are nothing compared to the PlanetOut powerhouse of days gone by.

    There are all sorts of reasons, of course. PlanetOut.com basically melted away into nothingness along with its editorial budget, and declined even as a networking site after the merger with Gay.com. The latter then descended into its own death spiral, unable to compete against the likes of Friendster, MySpace and Facebook for networking and Manhunt and Gaydar for hook-ups.

    Advocateobama On the print media side, PlanetOut's titles struggled along with the rest of the industry through extremely difficult times. Things weren't helped by the Hollywood-centric, content-free editorial direction of Judy Weider, who oversaw the Advocate during its final years under the ownership of parent company LPI.

    When LPI bought Out and put both publications under Weider, the hard-hitting Advocate became the People magazine of the gay press, with gay-for-pay celebrities on most week's covers. The provative Out magazine which got an injection of Attitude from British editor James Collard, morphed into the Advocate's high-gloss twin, something akin to the Us Weekly of gay media.

    Both publications have undergone something of a renaissance since PlanetOut ousted Weider. The Advocate, in particular, has become more relevant in the last couple of years than in recent memory, once again become the "must read" of gay politics that it once was.

    So kudos to Colichman and Here/Regent for a savvy business strategy that brought together so many famous brands for such an affordable price. We can only hope that the same business acumen, along with the renewed editorial strength of the Advocate, is a sign of a brighter future for the new gay media giant.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 For related stories and breaking news, click or bookmark:

    Lincoln's wisdom of leadership

    Posted by: Andoni

    Lincolnstatue2 OK, so I went out and bought Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals" after it became clear that Barack Obama was trying to emulate Abraham Lincoln in this respect. I'm about 3/4 of the way through this 800 page tome and highly recommend it for new insights into Lincoln as well as possible insights into Obama's modus operandi.

    Lincoln was one of the greatest leaders this country has ever seen, but one trait from the book that struck me was that Lincoln was not usually on the cutting edge of the great progressive causes of his day -- until the timing was right.

    He is remembered as the great emancipator and terminator of slavery in the U.S., but he was not a strong proponent of either movement as they were building strength and volume. He joined and then acted when the timing was right.

    As with any progressive movement there are activists who are agitated and want immediate change. They scream loudly but with little effect. When these big movements eventually do succeed, these people are not usually the ones remembered as much as the leader who actually jumped on the wagon at the right moment and escorted the sought-for change.

    Take same sex marriage for instance. Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry is associated with this cause since his early efforts in Hawaii in the 1990's and has been a mover and shaker ever since. However, when gay marriage finally becomes a reality on the national level, it will be the Supreme Court justice or the president who makes it happen who will be remembered best. And most likely that person will not will have been an active gay marriage advocate all along. As they say, timing is everything.

    Barack Obama is not a strong supporter of gay marriage. It appears that he was a stronger advocate in the past ---before he ran for U.S. Senate or for president. Lincoln did the same thing on the most controversial issues of his day. He was a more vocal opponent of slavery years before his run for the presidency, but became more cautious in his rhetoric the closer he got to the presidency and even in his first two years as president. When the time was right, and he knew he could win that battle, he took a very strong position however, against slavery and the rest is history.

    During this period of being publicly cautious and not revealing their stronger internal positions, both Lincoln and Obama, at least leaned more toward the morally correct position.

    A good leader cannot get too far out in front of the public. Lincoln himself said that he could not have successfully issued his emancipation proclamation even six months earlier than he did. The public wasn't ready yet and it would have failed.

    A good leader while simultaneously not getting too far ahead of the public, uses his office to bring the public closer to his position by educating them and leading them there. Lincoln was great at this with his speeches and letters to the nation.

    If a leader is too far ahead of the nation, he cannot make that change and fails.... no matter how moral that position is. Think Bill Clinton and "Don't ask, don't tell."

    Two of Lincoln's contemporaries observed his leadership style. Leonard Swett wanted Lincoln to immediately propose a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Lincoln refused and replied that he could see a "time coming" for a constitutional amendment and whoever "stands in its way, will be run over by it" but that the country was not ready just yet. Swett later wrote that the secret to Lincoln's leadership was "by ignoring men, and ignoring all small causes, but by closely calculating the tendencies of events and the great forces which were producing logical results."

    John Forney, a news reporter at the time, put it another way. Lincoln was "the most truly progressive man of the age, because he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them."

    I believe this is the way that it is with Obama and same sex marriage at the moment. Now is not quite the right moment for Obama to take up same sex marriage. It would be a premature struggle that would end as badly as Clinton's trying to lift the ban on gays  in the military.

    However, I bet that when the timing is right, Obama will jump on recognizing same sex marriage at the federal level and it will be historic. The timing isn't quite right yet. I don't know when it will be right, but I bet it's coming soon.

    January 15, 2009

    Did the Mormons lie about Prop 8 $$?

    Posted by: Chris

    A provocative eight-minute piece by the American News Project that provides some revelations about the extent of the Mormon Church holy war in favor of Proposition 8 and against gay marriage. The report raises some valid questions about the veil of secrecy with which churches are allowed to operate in politics while maintaining tax exempt status.

    My reaction was how these internal Mormon documents and satellite transmissions offer up very clear evidence that the motivation of those opposing gay marriage in California was not the preservation of religious freedom but rather the contrary: imposing the theological views of the LDS Church and its conservative allies to deprive gay couples of the basic human freedom to marry.

    The California Supreme Court need look no further for justifications for striking down Prop 8.

    Bitter isn't pretty, even on Savage

    Posted by: Chris

    There's nothing like the smell of gay cynicism in the morning. Take sex advice columnist cum pundit Dan Savage, who tells Rex Wockner that he believes Barack Obama's invitation to gay Bishop Gene Robinson was all about damage control:

    Does anyone believe that Gene Robinson, per the Obama team, was part of their inauguration-day plans all along? It certainly didn't sound like Gene knew anything about it when Warren was selected and he was handing out the bitter quotes. And the Obama team's post-Warren talking points -- mocked here, there, and everywhere -- mentioned that big gay marching band... but not Robinson.

    Hmmm. I'm thinking the talking points would've been a good time to bring up Robinson, had he been part of the plan all along, so it seems pretty clear he wasn't.

    Air-tight logic from Savage, as always, and also wrong, as usual. Obama's relationships with Robinson stretches back much further than the Rick Warren flap. That's not all.

    Weeks ago, when Robinson was "handing out the bitter quotes," he was always telling the congregation at Trinity Cathedral in Miami that not all of the details of all of the Inauguration-related events had been announced, and angry gays "should not be surprised" to find someone they'd be much happier about being named to deliver a prayer at a related high-profile event.

    I'm as hard (actually much harder) on politicians than the next gay, but can we let Obama at least take the Oath of Office before we expect the worst of him? Bitter isn't pretty, even in politics.

    Wave buh-bye to the Bush legacy

    Posted by: Chris

    Georgewbushwaves Asked how his presidency will be remembered, George W. Bush famously said, “You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you’re gone.”

    We can chuckle all we want at Bush-isms like that one, but we needn’t wait “until long after we’re gone” to know that on issues important to gay and lesbian Americans, history will judge Bush unkindly.

    The Texas governor and son of an ex-president campaigned as a “compassionate conservative,” but the contested election of 2000 made it almost impossible for Bush 43 to deliver on his promise to be “a uniter, not a divider.” He would squander his second chance to unite the country, after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    The Iraq War again divided the country and re-election prospects were looking grim, but the landmark gay marriage ruling in Massachusetts presented Bush the perfect political opportunity to follow the cynical divide and conquer “strategery” of his political “brain,” Karl Rove. In the January 2004 State of the Union address, a speech itself mandated by the Constitution, Bush signaled his support for amending the nation’s founding document to ban gay marriage.

    In one of many cruel ironies from the Bush years, W. used the “G word” for the first time as president during that 2004 campaign, while reassuring a voter that he would do everything within his power to save “traditional marriage.”

    Sadly, the wedge politics worked even if the federal amendment never came close to passing. Across the nation, Republican politicians responded to the president’s call by proposing state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. The resulting ballot measures brought conservatives to the polls in November, tipping battleground states like Ohio for Bush and ensuring a second term.

    Even in the waning months of his presidency last year, Bush reached out to remind gay Americans that we were second-class citizens. His White House staff threatened to veto the most basic gay rights legislation: a hate crime bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    There were some indications that ENDA amendments agreed to in the House, stripping gender identity protections and strengthening exceptions for faith-based employers, might have resulted in the president actually signing the legislation. Perhaps for that reason, as well as the divisive fight over transgender protections, the Democratic-controlled Senate never took up ENDA, and President Bush was never forced to decide whether to sign or veto.

    The stormy Bush legacy on gay issues has a few silver linings. Some controversial executive orders ping-pong between presidents of different parties, signed by one only to be repealed by the next. Bush left in place a Clinton-era order that protected federal workers against anti-gay discrimination. But Bush did little when one of his own appointee watered down the protections until they were effectively meaningless.

    Bush was the first GOP president to send openly gay nominees to the Senate for confirmation. During the Clinton years, appointees like Roberta Achtenberg and James Hormel faced stiff resistance from Republicans like Jesse Helms based solely on their sexual orientation. Although Bush made precious few out gay appointments, his willingness to do so at all marked an end to the Helms era even before Helms himself passed away.

    Another Bush highlight was his massive commitment to the fight against AIDS outside the U.S., especially in Africa. Without taking anything away from that effort, it was hard not to see it as a signal that the heterosexual population affected by AIDS in Africa was more sympathetic to the president that the largely homosexual population here at home.

    Because on the domestic AIDS front, Bush reverted to the Reagan-Bush policy of malign neglect, setting policy with almost total disregard for the health of gay and bisexual Americans, who remained at the greatest risk of contracting HIV.

    HIV prevention policy under Bush emphasized abstinence only until marriage, ignoring the cruel irony that this same administration was actively working to prevent gays from marrying. Did he really expect gay men to abstain from sex our entire lives?

    It wasn’t just in AIDS policy that W. treated us not just as second class citizens of this country, but worse even than foreigners. In yet another irony, this additional smack in the face came from a regulation that may actually mark the first time the U.S. government recognized same-sex relationships, and in immigration of all areas.

    Foreigners who come to America on work visas are permitted to bring their unmarried partners with them, and the Bush administration decided that regulation includes same-sex partners as well. The motivation was not gay rights but competitiveness, since U.S. employers would otherwise lose out on talented young Europeans who are marrying later or entering into civil unions.

    As positive as this recognition was, it only highlighted how gay and lesbian Americans now have even less rights than non-Americans to sponsor foreign same-sex partners to live in the United States.

    It will take months if not years for the incoming administration and Congress to undo the harm done in eight years of George W. Bush, not to mention his Democratic predecessor. For that reason alone, Jan. 20 can’t come soon enough.

    Gay GOP blogger BoiFromTroy signs off

    Posted by: Chris

    Mariashriverscottschmidt After five years as the Boi From Troy, Scott Schmidt has decided to sign off the blog, which focused on gay Republican politics, USC football, and... well... boys.

    His voice will be missed in the gay blogosphere because he managed to stay true to his Republican loyalties while at the same time strongly advocating equal rights for gays. It's not an easy task; just ask my co-blogger Kevin.

    Scott made the decision to stop blogging while working on the Republicans Against Prop 8 effort, and he made clear in a farewell interview with the Advocate that he's not walking away from politics or the Net, just his Boi From Troy persona:

    One thing I have learned while blogging is that none of us fit nicely into compartmentalized boxes -- even into those boxes we define ourselves with. As a gay, Republican USC football fan, my readers would get crazy when I talked about other passions I had, like Georgetown basketball, some boy, or obsessively racking up frequent flier miles. We are all individuals, and we should not hold it against folks who don't fit the predefined community molds.

    Million dollar question -- what comes next?
    Freedom! Although I hadn't been blogging as regularly lately, once I declared that I was no longer "Boi From Troy" it was very liberating. This doesn't mean I will give up writing, and I won't be leaving the Internet. I still have my column at Spot-on.com and still consider myself as a blogger -- I just won't be Boi From Troy.

    I look forward to hearing from Scott in whatever form his voice will take in the future.

    (Photo of Scott Schmidt with Maria Shriver via BoiFromTroy.com)

    January 14, 2009

    Obama's gay marriage closet (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Some have reacted to news that Barack Obama unequivocally supported gay marriage when he ran for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 by saying they've always assumed that leading gay-friendly politicians were closeted supporters of marriage equality, despite their public opposition.

    Others, myself included, reacted by giving Obama a bit of a pass because we perceive the political climate on gay marriage, while improving, as too hostile except in certain geographic pockets.

    Advocatehillary In reality, both sets of assumptions may well be wrong. For one thing, there are generational and faith-based reasons why even the politicians we assume are our closest friends continue to resist full marriage equality. Hillary Clinton, for example, shot down one reporter's concerted attempt to get her to send some sort of signal along those lines:

    We’re supposed to be convinced that this brilliant Yale-educated lawyer and lifelong feminist, who hobnobs in Martha’s Vineyard and Malibu with her well-heeled friends from the business and entertainment worlds -- who famously declared that women’s rights were human rights at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing while China was on lockdown -- is having trouble with the concept of same-sex marriage? Could [Hillary Clinton] perhaps be a closet supporter of marriage equality? …

    But when I suggest that her “personal position” is actually not her position at all, she quickly interrupts me, sitting up in her chair with a start.

    “I don’t think that would be fair,” she says. “Because, you know, I would tell you that. This is an issue -- I’m much older than you are -- and this is an issue that I’ve had very few years of my life to think about when you really look at it, when you compare it to a whole life span. I am where I am right now, and it is a position that I come to authentically. But it is also one that has enormous room and support both in my heart and in my work to try to move the agenda of equality and civil unions forward.”

    I'm as cynical as the next guy -- OK, even more so -- about Hillary's ability to give a straightforward answer about pretty much anything. But I also think she could have signaled that she was further along personally if she had wanted to, much as Obama did and much as Bill Richardson did during the primaries.

    Evan_wolfson As for giving politicians something of a pass in today's political climate, a new report by Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry organization "unequivocally" showed that "voting to support the freedom to marry and opposing anti-marriage measures helps rather than hurts politicians":

    A review of all of these votes from 2005 to the present shows that legislators who vote to end marriage discrimination for same-sex couples are consistently re-elected.  The success of more than 1,100 state legislators who voted to support the freedom to marry stands in bold contrast to the commonly held belief that supporting marriage equality ends political campaigns and careers.  In fact, these legislators are re-elected no matter what party they represent or if they changed their vote from opposing to supporting marriage equality.  Even better, legislators who run for higher office win after voting in favor of marriage for same-sex couples.

    The study, which included votes over the last four years from 21 different states taken in each of the country's four major regions of the country, is available for download here.

    A good start for the 111th Congress

    Posted by: Chris

    Harryreidpatrickleahy Some encouraging news from Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality about the Uniting American Families Act on the very first day of the 111th Congress:

    [When] the Senate convened, Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a short bill for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking about the Majority Leaders’ bill, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Senate Judiciary Chair who will guide all immigration bills, gave a speech on the floor about this bill. In it he said:

    We must … live up to the goal of family reunification in our immigration policy and join at least 19 other nations that provide immigration equality to same-sex partners of different nationalities.

    Senator Leahy is the lead sponsor of UAFA, which had 19 Senate cosponsors in the 110th Congress which ended in December. We look forward to working with him again in the 111th.

    Immigration Equality commends Chairman Leahy for making it clear, on the day the new Senate convened, that LGBT families must be included for immigration reform to live up to its goal of family reunification

    The timing and fate of comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress is unclear, what with the financial crisis and the long list of easier bills on the Democrats' list. Still, it's important that leaders like Leahy insist early on that UAFA be included in comprehensive reform.

    It would have been more encouraging yet if Reid had included gay immigration rights as part of his own immigration reform proposal. Then again, Reid isn't yet a UAFA co-sponsor. That would seem to be a top priority for IE and its allies.

    Huckabee the huckster on homosexuality

    Posted by: Chris

    Mikehuckabeebus As much as Mike Huckabee wants voters to believe he is the anti-Mitt Romney -- sticking to his guns rather than shifting with the political winds -- the former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate is all over the map on homosexuality.

    • As a Senate candidate in 1992, Huck said homosexuals "pose a dangerous public health threat" and called for "quarantining" people with AIDS.
    • In a book he wrote in 1998, Huckabee called homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle" linked to "pedophilia, sadomasochism and necrophilia"
    • In a "Meet the Press" interview as a presidential candidate in December 2007, Huckabee backed away from those earlier comments and was even noncommittal on the origins of homosexuality: "I don't know whether people are born that way.  People who are gay say that they're born that way.  But one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice.  We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behavior."
    • In a "Daily Show" appearance last month, Huck seemed to soften his views somewhat, even as he defended his opposition to gay marriage.

    Now in an interview with Esquire, Huckabee offers up a new analogy to explain his views about our lives, and the result will be no less offensive to millions of gay Americans, not to mention those who know and care about us.

    Huckabee says he doesn't know if homosexuality is inborn, but he believes you can control the behavior. He compares homosexuality to obesity or alcoholism: "Some people have a predisposition to alcoholism. Does that mean they're not responsible for getting drunk? No."

    The analogy is ridiculous of course, since love and sex are basic human desires and needs, unlike the desire for alcohol, and he does not advocate that we simply curb our desire for sex, as the obese must do with food. (P.S. Has anyone else noticed that Huck is looking quite a bit chubbier these days?)

    So long as GOP presidential hopefuls like Huckabee continue to peddle backward thinking like this  that has been rejected by the majority of Americans, they are sure to turn off the very moderates they need to return to power.

    January 13, 2009

    Barack Obama's gay marriage closet

    Posted by: Chris

    Barackobamawctphoto Just how many gay marriage skeletons does Barack Obama have hiding in the closet?  Eighteen months after we first learned the president-elect had given conflicting answers about the Defense of Marriage Act in candidate questionnaires back in 2003 and 2004, a new, even bigger bombshell has come to light.

    Just one week before Obama takes the oath of office, a gay newspaper in Chicago is reporting that the president-elect vowed to support marriage equality for same-sex couples when he was a candidate for the Illinois state Senate way back in 1996.

    Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim, who was the co-founder and publisher of the gay paper Outlines, which later merged with WCT, reported today:

    IMPACT, which was Chicago's main GLBT political action committee for several years, surveyed Obama and other candidates, as did Outlines. What we are including with this special Presidential Inaugural issue of Windy City Times are copies of the answers to the IMPACT and Outlines questions.

    For IMPACT, the Obama campaign simply responded on the form. For Outlines, the candidate typed in his answers and signed his letter.

    It's a great scoop for Tracy, though her analysis raises a couple of questions for me: Why assume "the candidate typed in his answers" to the Outlines questionnaire, and why not assume that the handwritten responses to the IMPACT questionnaire were not by the candidate?

    The usual course is for these types of questionnaires to completed by campaign staff and signed by the candidate, which can lead to later embarrassment -- or plausible deniability, however you want to look at it. However important these surveys can be in pinning down politicians, I've long viewed them with skepticism, including the survey responses by Obama on gay marriage that previously surfaced during the primaries. 

    Thedocument But as much as these newly surfacing questionnaires from 1996 confirm my original intuition that Obama's apparent flip-flop on the Defense of Marriage Act was really just an erroneous questionnaire response, they pretty much have him dead to rights on the less subtle issue of gay marriage itself.

    There is zero doubt in my mind that a candidate of Obama's intellect and political savvy knew what he was doing, and the political risk he was taking, when he voiced support for gay marriage back in 1996, only months after the issue burst onto the political scene because the Hawaii Supreme Court had indicated it was ready to strike down hetero-only marriage laws.

    His response to the '96 Outlines questionnaire, signed by the candidate, indicates, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

    In similar fashion the handwritten response to the IMPACT questionnaire indicates Obama "would support" something called "the Marriage Resolution," which in turn states:

    Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice,
    RESOLVED, the state should not interfere with same-gender couples who chose to marry and share equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage.

    1996IMPACTObamapg3 That's two very clear indications that Barack Obama supported marriage equality back in 1996, the same year Congress passed DOMA, which he later called an "abhorrent law" that "perpetuates divisions."

    One final indication that Obama backed gay marriage and later "evolved" to supporting civil unions as a strategic matter: the man said so himself in a 2004 interview with the one and the same Tracy Baim:

    Tracy Baim: Do you have a position on marriage vs. civil unions?

    Barack Obama: I am a fierce supporter of domestic- partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue.

    I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation. I know that's true in the African-American community, for example. And if you asked people, ‘should gay and lesbian people have the same rights to transfer property, and visit hospitals, and et cetera,' they would say, ‘absolutely.' And then if you talk about, ‘should they get married?', then suddenly ...

    TB: There are more than 1,000 federal benefits that come with marriage. Looking back in the 1960s and inter-racial marriage, the polls showed people against that as well.

    Obama: Since I'm a product of an interracial marriage, I'm very keenly aware of ...

    TB: But you think, strategically, gay marriage isn't going to happen so you won't support it at this time?

    Obama: What I'm saying is that strategically, I think we can get civil unions passed. I think we can get SB 101 passed. I think that to the extent that we can get the rights, I'm less concerned about the name. And I think that is my No. 1 priority, is an environment in which the Republicans are going to use a particular language that has all sorts of connotations in the broader culture as a wedge issue, to prevent us moving forward, in securing those rights, then I don't want to play their game.

    No reading between the lines required here, friends. The man who will be president in one week supports full marriage equality and backs civil unions as the expedient path to get there. That's true whether you agree or disagree with his political analysis, and I definitely take issue with his excuse-making and rationalizations.

    The point is, we've got the goods on the soon-to-be former-president-elect, and this latest finding should give us greater confidence to push with full force for real gay rights progress, meaning a federal civil unions bill that would extend those "more than 1,000 federal benefits that come with marriage" to every gay couple who wants them in all 50 states -- and even for those ex-pats stuck living in "love exile."

    'Welcome to the United States of America' (and f**k you)

    Posted by: Andoni

    Welcometotheusa Regular readers of this blog know I was in Thailand over the holidays. Like any person who enters the United States, I had to go through Immigration and Customs (now a part of Homeland Security) upon returning home to the United States.

    The routine is familiar to those who have traveled outside the US. When you you get off the plane you get routed down a one way corridor where you eventually see a huge sign that says "Welcome to the United States of America." This leads to a large open area where dozens of immigration officers wait in individual cubicles to check your credentials to make sure you are eligible to enter the US. As you approach this massive check point area, signs divide you into two lines, one for "citizens and permanent residents," and another one for "visitors."

    Most of the time there is a triage officer in this open area to direct you to the proper line.

    On this trip, I was the first person off the plane and as I hurried up the escalator and down the corridor, I came to the main check point area, and it was entirely void of other travelers. Either we were the first plane of the day, or the passengers from the prior planes had completely cleared out. There was absolutely no one in any of the lines. As I started to get in the line for "citizens and permanent residents," the triage officer intercepted me and directed me to go right over to the officer in booth #29. This booth happened to be on the side of the room designated for "visitors."

    I did exactly what the officer told me to do, I went directly up to the immigration officer in booth 29 who was passing her time chatting with a guard. Upon approaching the immigration officer, she angrily barked at me to retreat and go back and wait for her to call me. I wanted to say, "But I was simply doing what that other officer told me to do," but I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to do anything to delay my getting home.

    So I went back to the line and waited for her to call me. She made me wait for 4 minutes and 30 seconds by my watch. She looked at me several times to show me that she knew I was there, but continued to chit chat with the guard. Other lines were moving, but mine was not.

    When she finally beckoned me to come forward, I presented my US passport, and her first words were, "I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were a citizen or I wouldn't have done that."

    I was flabbergasted. She thought she could treat me that way because she thought I was a foreign visitor instead of a US citizen? Words cannot describe how angry I was.

    Is it official government policy to treat foreign visitors rudely or do these workers simply reflect some of the same anti-immigrant sentiment expressed by the country as a whole? The problem is visitors who get off airplanes are not undocumented (illegal) immigrants. They are people who have proper paperwork to enter legally. You cannot get on an airplane bound for the US without a visa (which means they have already examined your background and intent) or are from a visa waiver country.

    Chris has has written and I have commented on the really bad reputation the United States has in foreign countries for the arrogant way we treat foreign citizens who wish to apply for a visa at one of our embassies to visit the US. I have now found out by accident that the bad treatment doesn't stop at our overseas embassies. If one is successful at gaining a visa to visit the US, this terrible treatment continues even as you enter the US.

    The huge sign may say "Welcome to the United States of America," however the attitude conveyed by some of the immigration officers is, "Fuck you, we don't want you here."

    I am embarrassed for my country. Who do we think we are? This has got to stop.

    January 12, 2009

    A coda to the Rick Warren flap (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Billclintonpodium I came across an additional irony from all the misplaced upset over the selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation next week. Of course among those most harshly critical of President-elect Obama are quite a few Hillary Clinton backers who still can't let go of the Democratic presidential primaries of last year.

    When I pointed out that Bill Clinton invited legendarily anti-gay evangelist Billy Graham to give the invocation at both of his inaugurations, a couple of commenters pointed to Warren's alleged support for Peter Akinola, the homophobic Anglican Bishop of Nigeria, as proof that his sins are worse than Grahams -- and hence Obama's worse than Clinton's.

    It's certainly true that Warren has been generally supportive of Akinola, who has led the schism effort over Gene Robinson's selection as the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. (The single citation I've seen to Warren backing Akinola's views on legal mistreatment of gays is from the English-language publication the Kampala Monitor, which quotes him an awkward speaking style that is anything but convincing.)

    Saniabacha2But the Clinton version of Warren-gate doesn't end with Billy Graham. It turns out that Bill Clinton has his own Nigerian ties -- and these are to Sani Abacha, the now-deceased, notoriously anti-gay despotic ruler, himself:

    It appears from the donor list of the Clinton Foundation that there is barely an oligarch, royal family, or special-interest group anywhere in the world that does not know how to get the former president's attention. Just in the days since the foundation agreed to some disclosure of its previously "confidential" clients—in other words, since this became a condition for Sen. Clinton's nomination to become secretary of state—we have additionally found former President Clinton in warm relationships with one very questionable businessman in Malaysia and with another, this time in Nigeria, who used to have close connections with that country's ultracorrupt military dictatorship.

    The Nigerian example is an especially instructive one. Gilbert Chagoury is a major figure in land and construction in that country and has contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as arranged a huge speaking fee for President Clinton at a Caribbean event and kicked in a large sum to his 1996 re-election campaign. In return for this, he has been received at the Clinton White House and more recently at Clinton-sponsored social events in New York and Paris. This may have helped to alleviate the sting of Chagoury's difficulties in Nigeria itself. As a close friend of the country's uniformed despot Gen. Sani Abacha, he benefited from some extremely profitable business arrangements during the years of dictatorship. …

    The point here isn't so much to compare Rick Warren to Bill Clinton, but to point out that the Clintons are involved in setting actual policy for the U.S. government, and yet we waste our attention on an ambitious evangelical who's saying a prayer. There is simply no comparison.

    A coda to the Rick Warren flap

    Posted by: Chris

    Gene-robinson President-elect Barack Obama has reached out yet again in an attempt to those who criticized his selection of mega-church evangelist Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Jan. 20 inauguration. The inaugural committee announced today that the kickoff event at the Lincoln Memorial on Monday, Jan. 18, will feature an invocation prayer by none other than Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.

    The selection of Robinson for the event, which will be broadcast on HBO, is a bit ironic for me because I used Robinson as an example several weeks ago in my gay press column when asking the hypothetical of how gay rights opponents and proponents would have reacted if John McCain had won the election and tapped Robinson as a "reach across the aisle" selection:

    Imagine, in a conciliatory gesture toward Obama supporters, McCain selects Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, to give the invocation. In a nod to his own supporters, he chooses the evangelical leader Rick Warren to give the benediction.

    We know what the response would be. The Republican right would be furious: What a kick in the teeth from McCain to choose a minister whose elevation was an indictment of their core religious beliefs, and who advocates the destruction of traditional marriage and the murder of millions of aborted fetuses!

    Gay rights groups and bloggers, still reeling from Obama’s unexpected defeat, would be cheered by McCain’s unexpected and courageous attempt at reconciliation. Press releases from progressives would defend McCain against charges of betrayal, chastising conservatives for their intolerance and their insistence on dividing, not unifying. Besides, they would point out, the benediction will come from Rick Warren, who opposes gay marriage and supported Proposition 8 in California.

    You see where I’m going here? We know that, happily for us, history unfolded in opposite fashion, and Barack Obama chose Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation, and civil rights hero Joseph Lowery, who supports full marriage equality, to say the benediction.

    Yet the response from many gay bloggers and rights groups has been every bit as reactionary and intolerant as the Republican right would have been toward Robinson. Aren’t we better than that?

    Apparently not, at least not some of us, judging by the ongoing bitterness on the blogosphere and among some gay rights groups. Hopefully the intolerant types will be mollified by the selection of Robinson, who is in fact a far more divisive religious figure than Warren, given that his selection as bishop has resulted in a schism in the ancient Anglican Communion.

    Can you spot the real activists?

    Posted by: Chris

    Wockner-sandiegoprotest What is it about our nation's beloved capital that depletes the will to act from our so-called activists?

    Across the country just this weekend, tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men rallied in dozens of cities to call on President-elect Obama fulfill his campaign promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, that notorious statute passed back in 1996 by a Republican Congress and signed by Bill Clinton that robs gay married couples from any recognition of their relationship by the federal government.

    DOMA also purports to allow each state to decide for itself whether to refuse recognition of marriage licenses issued by other states or foreign governments. Politicians like Hillary Clinton who insist they have our best interests at heart have warned against touching DOMA for fear of inciting a new movement for a federal marriage amendment. Yet these tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men understand that politicians and their activist-apologists will always tell us that our calls for equality are poorly timed for one reason or another. They also understand that fighting for our basic civil rights will always carry some risk.

    That basic activist nerve unfortunately gets dulled by the risk-averse Beltway doubletalk that has long handicapped our movement. I've already noted any number of times the disconnect between these grassroots activists pushing for relationship recognition and the D.C.-based LGBT rights groups, which are cutting deals for lower-hanging fruit -- like workplace rights and hate crime laws.

    But the difference isn't just between local activists across the U.S. and the national activists lobbying the federal government.  Even the local activists in Washington, D.C., lack the basic nerve to act and are woefully out of touch from even the local D.C. community they claim to represent.

    Just last week, these "activists" declared victory when gay D.C. Council member David Catania decided not to introduce a marriage equality bill that had the support of the mayor and would have passed the Council by a lopsided vote of 12-1 or 11-2. Lou Chibbaro of the Washington Blade reported:

    His decision followed what appeared on the surface to be an ironic development: A number of prominent gay rights advocates lobbied Catania and other Council members not to take up a gay marriage bill so soon in the legislative year.

    That's what "activism" looks like in our nation's capital -- convincing politicians not to act. Why? The excuses are old and tired and make even less sense today than they have for the last decade that we've heard them from the same small cadre of mostly elderly folks, who are sadly blinded by their own partisanship and arrogance or who value their own influence over the process than they do the constituents they claim to represent. They fail to realize, of course, that their power is wholly illusory, since politicians -- Catania excepted -- are only to eager not to act when given an excuse not to.

    Rickrosendall When I first moved back to Washington in 2001, this same group -- personified by Rick Rosendall (pictured) of the ironically named Gay & Lesbian Activist Alliance -- urged caution because President Bush had proposed a federal constitutional amendment and Congress, which has veto power over D.C. laws, was under the control of anti-gay Republicans.

    Never mind that these same Republicans had portrayed the marriage movement as one in which judges impt puttiose their will on "the people." The GL"A"A cautioned against putting the lie to that argument by forcing these same Republicans to veto or not the democratically-elected legislature and executive in Washington.

    Years later, the threat of a federal amendment subsided almost entirely after it failed miserably in votes in 2004 and 2006. What's more, Democrats retook control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. Robbed of those excuses, these "activists" still refused to budge from the game plan they adopted sometime in the last millennium, claiming the Democrats hadn't wrested sufficient control of Congress so our equality was still too risky.

    The election of 2008 put the final nail in that particular coffin, as Democrats won very comfortable majorities in both the House and the Senate. It's beside the point whether majorities in both houses of Congress favor gay marriage itself. Like the new president, clear majorities in the House and the Senate favor leaving D.C. alone to self-govern, especially on areas of social policy like this one.

    Now these "activists" are offering up Proposition 8 as their latest excuse against action, since Washington, D.C., is majority African American, and black Californians voted in favor of the gay marriage ban. We are, of course, months and months away from a Prop 8-style referendum in D.C., assuming its backers could successfully navigate the District's complex referendum process to even get it on the ballot. Should they succeed, we have already learned much from the Prop 8 battle, and a campaign across a heavily Democratic city of 600,000 is far more manageable than it was in a geographically sprawling state of more than 36,000,000.

    If these "activists" aim to prove that if we wait long enough, gay marriage won't be very controversial in Washington, D.C., then of course they are right. But since when is that the point of a civil rights movement? The prize is our equality, and the point of the movement is to make that day happen sooner rather than later. And yet still they counsel keeping our gunpowder perpetually dry for fear that success will illustrate the timidity of their long-time strategery.

    If Rosendall, Rosenstein and other self-proclaimed "activists" in D.C. don't get that, then it is long, long, long past time that they just get out of the way and let others fight where they are unwilling or unable. 

    (Photo of DOMA protest in San Diego via Rex Wockner)

    January 11, 2009

    The Week on GNW (Jan. 4-10)

    Posted by: Chris

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

    1. Larry Craig won't keep fighting guilt in gay sex stingLarry Craig won't keep fighting guilt in gay sex sting: QUICK LOOK: Former Sen. Larry Craig has ended his effort to void the guilty plea he made following his 2007 arrest in a men's toilet sex-sting operation, his lawyer said on Thursday... (MORE)
    2. Transgender roommate is first for 'Real World' vol. 21Transgender roommate is first for 'Real World' vol. 21: QUICK LOOK: Former Sen. Larry Craig has ended his effort to void the guilty plea he made following his 2007 arrest in a men's toilet sex-sting operation, his lawyer said on Thursday... (MORE)
    3. Seattle gay bars are still pouring despite ricin threatFBI and Seattle police react to ricin threat to gay bars: QUICK LOOK: This week 11 Seattle bars catering to the LGBT community received letters warning, "Your establishment has been targeted. I have in my possession approximately 67 grams... (MORE)
    4. Haggard deems himself 'heterosexual but with issues'Haggard deems himself 'heterosexual with issues': QUICK LOOK: Ted Haggard, the disgraced former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, describes the upcoming HBO documentary about the aftermath of his 2006 sex and drug scandal... (MORE)
    5. Gays across the U.S. call for Obama to repeal DOMAGays across the U.S. call on Obama to repeal DOMA: QUICK LOOK: A rally and march by gay-rights supporters yesterday was ostensively about repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a legal... (MORE)

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

    • Amsterdam no longer gay capital of the NetherlandsAmsterdam no longer gay capital of the Netherlands: QUICK LOOK: Amsterdam has lost its position as gay capital of the Netherlands, according to the results of a vote by visitors to GaySite.nl. The city only scored with the 27,500... (MORE)
    • Two men executed in Saudi Arabia on rape chargesTwo men executed in Saudi Arabia on rape charges: QUICK LOOK: Two Saudi men were publicly beheaded on December 26th after being found guilty of rape. The official SPA news agency said Nasser al-Harby and Majid al-Sibeiy had gone... (MORE)
    • Italian soccer star comes out against gay marriageItalian soccer star comes out against gay marriage: QUICK LOOK: Italian center Fabio Cannavaro praised the quality of life in Spain, where he plays for the Real Madrid soccer squad, but criticized the legalization of same-sex marriage... (MORE)
    • Media access limited to gay leaders' Prop 8 summitMedia access limited to gay leaders' Prop 8 summit: SPECIAL REPORT: A Jan. 24 summit in Los Angeles to strategize about "winning back marriage rights" in California will be only partially open to media -- a decision that has led to the resignation ... (MORE)
    • Episcopal Church wins Calif. breakaway church suitEpiscopal church wins breakaway church suit: QUICK LOOK: Calififornia's high court ruled Monday that three Southern California parishes that left the U.S. Episcopal Church over its ordination of gay ministers cannot retain... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

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

    January 10, 2009

    Affirmative action by any other name

    Posted by: Chris

    Equalrep Round about the time I posted about gay grassroots lobbying for Barack Obama to name Fred Hochberg as Secretary of Commerce, news broke that the openly gay Hochberg has been slated to run the U.S. Import-Export Bank instead. Activists found themselves torn, since on the one hand it's a prestigious appointment but on the other, that almost definitely means Obama's cabinet will not include an openly gay secretary.

    (ABC News' Jake Tapper did report that Hochberg will be "the first openly gay director of the bank," though I have to wonder if he really did research the sexual orientation of every previous director since the bank's founding in 1934.)

    Paulsousaequalrep A group calling itself Equal Rep, which previously pushed openly gay hopefuls for Interior and Labor cabinet slots, is left considering next steps:

    "It was devastating to learn that gay Americans wouldn't have a seat at the table within Barack Obama's Cabinet administration. They are the only minority group to have never been appointed in the history of the United States." said Paul Sousa, Equal Rep founder.

    That statement, contained on the group's website, is of course factually inaccurate, since any number of homosexuals have been appointed to the Cabinet positions in any number of administrations; they've just been closeted, whether at their own choice or out of perceived political necessity.

    And no one has answered the factual question I raised in my previous post: Since Hochberg served as acting administrator of the Small Business Administration at a time when Clinton had elevated the agency to cabinet-level, hasn't Hochberg already broken this particular glass ceiling, albeit in a temporary capacity?

    Sousa did take serious exception to the rest of that post, and without disclosing his private correspondence, I can say that he rejects out of hand my characterization of his group as advocating affirmative action for gay Cabinet selections. Take, for example, Sousa's quote in a story on the Hochberg effort in the Washington Blade:

    “We’re not pushing his name just because he’s gay,” Sousa said. “We’re pushing his name because he’s highly qualified and the fact that he’s openly gay is kind of icing on the cake there.”

    Of course Equal Rep was pushing for Hochberg because he's gay. Are we really to believe that in all three cases, Equal Rep independently evaluated the qualifications of all the leading candidates for Interior, Labor and Commerce secretary and coincidentally concluded the gay candidate was the most qualified?

    No, they were arguing for each and every gay candidate that emerged as a contender for a spot in the Cabinet. Unless Sousa and his compatriots honestly believe that Obama is actively discriminating against openly gay candidates, then they are arguing that merit alone should not determine the selection and sexual orientation should play an affirmative role.

    That's not evil, but it is affirmative action.  And for the reasons I laid out earlier, it's also bad policy and a poor choice of priority for the movement.

    (Photo of Paul Sousa via Facebook)

    January 09, 2009

    'Yes' to getting rid of DADT

    Posted by: Andoni

    UPDATE AT END

    Future White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today answered some of the questions posed to president elect Barack Obama on his official website change.gov after round two of questions. In a video clip on Obama's web site Gibbs answers about five questions, with the one on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being the last, at around the 4 minute 18 second mark. Here's what he said, as transcribed by me.

    Gibbs (showing the question): Thaddeus from Lansing, Michigan asked, "Is the new administration going to get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy?"
    Gibbs (answer): That is Thaddeus, you don't hear a politician give a one word answer much, but it's "Yes."

    Not that this is anything new. Obama has promised this from the beginning. But it certainly is refreshing to hear it again, after the election and from his official future White House spokesperson.

    I don't know why they decided to answer this question. It wasn't one of the over-all top vote getters. It wasn't even one of the top gay question vote getters. Maybe its because there had been rumors circulating that they were going to delay repealing DADT and they wanted to squelch the rumors. But then again, "yes" doesn't exactly say when, does it?

    UPDATE:  Today's New York Times also notes that when Gibbs answered this question he did not say when the repeal would occur and suggested that repealing DADT is one of the items on Obama's agenda that might have to be postponed because of all the effort that is going to have to be made to fix the economy.

    Although I understand all this, this situation it is very frustrating. Now for the first time in 16 years we have the opportunity to pass major reforms that are long overdue. However, because the Bush Administration so trashed the economy (and country), the public demands that the economy be fixed first, so we are in a familiar quandary. If for any reason, the public turns on Obama and the Democrats (the economy doesn't get fixed, there is an internal attack, the overseas wars spiral out of control, etc), we will be left with another change of power (back to the Republicans), and another lost opportunity.

    We cannot allow that to happen. If necessary, we should insist that if Dems are significantly diminished or turned out of power, that they must return for a lame duck session to pass all those promised pieces of legislation before they bid their final good-byes to Washington.

    Grassroots push for gay Cabinet pick

    Posted by: Chris

    Fredhochbergblog Those of you reading between the lines already know that I'm less than enthusiastic about the demand that President-elect Obama appoint someone openly gay to his Cabinet. I would agree, of course, that it's a shame there has never been an openly gay Cabinet secretary, and that cultural and political pressures are partially to blame. Then again, so are the complicated closets of some of those who served in silence -- Donna Shalala, anyone?

    With Bill Richardson's withdrawal as Obama's nominee to run the Commerce Department, the president-elect has one final opportunity to tap someone openly gay to be among his initial selections. Leading the list of possibilities is Fred Hochberg, who was deputy and later acting director of the Small Business Administration under Bill Clinton.

    I have great respect for Fred Hochberg, and I remember how personally encouraging he was back in 1997 when William Waybourn and I were launching our own small business -- Window Media, which went on to publish a gay publications in Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Washington, and New York. That said, I don't know enough about the position at Commerce or the other leading candidates to say for sure that Hochberg is the most qualified.

    Neither do those who are behind a grassroots push -- on Facebook, where else? -- to pressure Obama into selecting Hochberg. Their argument sounds more of the affirmative action variety:

    In more than 200 years, the United States Cabinet has never included an openly gay member. Growing national focus on GLBT civil rights has therefore made the Secretary of Commerce appointment a national issue in the struggle for equal representation.

    One question for those involved in the grassroots push: Since Clinton elevated SBA to a cabinet-level agency and Hochberg was acting administrator for the agency, hasn't he already broken this particular glass ceiling, serving as the cabinet level, albeit in a temporary capacity?

    Putting that aside, offering up Hochberg as a diversity pick for Obama's cabinet is a good example of how affirmative action can produce counter-intuitive results at times. Hochberg made his name in business over two decades at the helm of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, a direct mail company. He got the job because Lillian Vernon is his mother. Don't get me wrong -- Hochberg is credited with transforming the small business into a huge, publicly traded success, but he hardly required affrimative action assistance to launch his career or faced any hurdles of significance because he is gay.

    In that sense, it's a bit of an insult to Hochberg to suggest him for the Commerce job as an affirmative action hire, rather than simply on his own merit. His example is also why sexual orientation is generally a square peg for the round hole of affirmative action, and why including gays in diversity "goals" should be very, very low on the priority list for the movement.

    A certain segment of the "progressive" gay media and political sorts are arguing, for example, that we should scrap ENDA, put repeal of DOMA and DADT on the back burner, and press for inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which would mean LGBT inclusion in affirmative action programs. It's not just a wasted priority; it's bad policy, for that reason.

    Which brings us back to Hochberg, whose selection for Commerce ought to rise or fall based on his qualifications for the post, and not his sexual orientation. Given his experience in the public and private sector, and the importance of small business to the U.S. economy, he is probably the right candidate for the job anyway.

    January 08, 2009

    The best gay Obama pick yet

    Posted by: Chris

    Brianbondpic

    There's been plenty of grumbling among Beltway gays about the absence of openly gay picks at the cabinet level or among senior White House staff. The announcement today of Brian Bond's appointment as deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison is unlikely to silence the critics, but it is still very welcome. Kerry Eleveld first reported the selection for The Advocate.

    I've known Brian for a decade, since his tenure as executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a (truly) nonpartisan organization that helps elect openly gay candidates to public office. In the years since, including his recent stints with the Obama campaign and Howard Dean's mostly unfriendly Democratic National Committee, Brian has always maintained an open door, and never given into the grudges and in-fighting that often plagues the gay power circle in Washington, D.C.

    In Bond, the new president has made a selection who is respected as a fair player and (figuratively) a straight shooter. LGBT Americans will have a high profile advocate who maintains his independence, even as he fulfills the responsibility of his position to advocate on behalf of the Obama administration to the community.

    I couldn't be happier to see Brian joining the White House staff, and it makes me even more hopeful that the Obama presidency will be no repeat of the Clinton debacle.

    (Photo of Brian Bond via The Advocate)

    The Week on GNW (Dec. 28-Jan. 3)

    Posted by: Chris

    Note to readers: Sorry for my absence from the blog the last few days. I flew back to Brazil after a two-month stay in the U.S. and my net access was spotty until last night, when we moved into our new (albeit temporary) apartment in Rio. As much as I enjoyed seeing family and friends back in the U.S. of A. and recharged my batteries with two brief stays in D.C., a reunion with my better half was long overdue. Who knows -- maybe a new year, a new Congress and a new administration may bring changes that lead to the end of my "love exile" from the U.S., now stretching into the third month of its third year.

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

    1. Increase in visibility may have sparked gay bashingsIncrease in visibility may have sparked gay bashings: QUICK LOOK: From a series of street bashings in Seattle to the baseball bat murder of an Ecuadorean immigrant in New York, episodes of anti-gay violence punctuated a year now ending... (MORE)
    2. Has Barack Obama already turned his back on gays?Has Barack Obama already turned his back on gays?: QUICK LOOK: President-elect Barack Obama's decision to invite Southern California megachurch Pastor Rick Warren to give the opening invocation at his inauguration on January 20 has... (MORE)
    3. U.S. Episcopal Church is splitting over gay equalityU.S. Episcopal Church is splitting over gay equality: QUICK LOOK: In the past five years, the Episcopal Church has found itself pushed to the forefront of the culture wars. After Gene Robinson, an openly gay man with a longterm partner,... (MORE)
    4. Mickey Rourke trashes Sean Penn as a 'homophobe'Mickey Rourke trashes Sean Penn as a 'homophobe': QUICK LOOK: In a private text message, Mickey Rourke bashes Sean Penn—his chief rival in the Oscar race—as a "homophobe" and an "average" actor. Several entertainment industry sources... (MORE)
    5. 'Gay' words are banned from new Sony virtual worldGay words are banned from Sony's virtual world: QUICK LOOK: Michael Marsh, an 18-year-old gamer from Norwalk, Conn., wanted to set up a gay/straight alliance club in PlayStation Home, Sony's new free 3-D virtual world component... (MORE)

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

    • New Beckham teammate planning locker room peekNew Beckham teammate planning locker room 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)
    • Campbell's ignores conservative attack on gay adCampbell's ignores conservative attack on gay ad: QUICK LOOK: They don't come much more conservative than Campbell Soup, but the iconic marketer is nonetheless standing fast against the American Family Association, which has taken... (MORE)
    • Nev. gambling regulators cite gay bar for public sexNev. gambling regulators cite gay bar for public sex: QUICK LOOK: Nevada gambling regulators have filed a complaint against a Las Vegas gay bar that holds a slot machine license, alleging that several patrons engaged in sex acts in... (MORE)
    • Three arrested in N. California gang rape of lesbianThree arrested in N. California gang rape of lesbian: QUICK LOOK: One man and two teens have been arrested on suspicion of gang-raping a woman last month in the San Francisco Bay area while allegedly taunting her for being a lesbian,... (MORE)
    • Sodomy accuser is now suing NYPD for $200 millionSodomy accuser is now suing NYPD for $200 million: QUICK LOOK: A tatoo worker who has accused three cops of sodomizing him in a Brooklyn subway station took the first step Friday toward suing the city for $200 million. Michael Mineo... (MORE)

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    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.

    It's our relationships, stupid!

    Posted by: Andoni

    Chris has been monitoring the voting at change.org (a non-profit organization that will present to President Obama the issues obtaining the most votes after all the voting rounds are completed) and I have been monitoring the voting at Open for Questions on Obama's official web site. On Obama's site you can propose a question or vote on other people's questions. They have finished round two and soon they will post answers to the top questions from round two.

    The questions on Obama's site are grouped into pre-assigned cateories: The Economy, Health Care, National Security, Foreign Policy, Education, Energy and Environment, Science and Technology, and finally the catch all group for everything else -- Additional Issues. Any topic not in the assigned groups fell in this last group and that's where the gay and lesbian questions ended up.

    You can find all the gay related questions by searching for the words gay or lesbian or LGBT using their search tool.

    Not surprisingly, questions on the Economy and Health Care are leaders at the moment.

    But outside of the top questions in those categories, here's the big surprise. This question

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

    is one of the overall top vote getters. This LGBT question about obtaining rights for our relationships beat out the top question in every other category, except for the Economy and Health Care. In particular it got more votes than the top vote getters in: National Security, Foreign Policy, Education, Energy and Environment, and Science and Technology.

    Also among all the Additional Questions, it ranks #7 under with 6488 votes. The #1 question under Additional Issues wants Patrick Fitzgerald to be appointed Special Prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by the Bush Administration over the past 8 years. The next six questions in this category deal with legalizing marijuana and lessening drug law penalties.

    Further down the list of Additional Issues are questions dealing with repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and then granting equal immigration rights to gay and lesbian couples.

    A specific question about ENDA doesn't appear until you get near the bottom. The first ENDA question garners only 268 votes, about 4% of the votes garnered for rights for same sex couples.

    I would bet that the people asking questions about gay issues are gay. However, the people voting on these questions are both gay and straight. So why does the question about obtaining rights for our relationships come in so high, and a specific law for employment protection comes in so low?

    It could be that equal marriage rights is the new hot issue because it's in the news after the Prop 8 battle in CA. Or it could be that people think we already have employment rights (but if they read the question they would know we don't). Or it could be that most people think that rights and benefits for gay couples are more important at this juncture in time.

    Whatever the reason, this is certainly an interesting finding.

    Realizing that these votes come from both gay and straight people, it is a very good sign for the future in obtaining rights for our relationships.

    This survey demonstrates that we have support for a lot more than just ENDA and Hate Crimes and that we should be taking advantage of this by broadening our legislative goals.Of course ENDA and Hate Crimes are important, but we should not be focusing solely on them. And if we learn that there is more support for some of our other issues, we should move the ones with the most support first.

    Bottom line: I think we can accomplish a lot more in the next two years than our national leaders seem to think we can.

    January 07, 2009

    At last, some new thinking

    Posted by: Andoni

    Chris and I have been hitting the gay leadership hard, asserting that there is lot more opportunity for gay rights in this country at this time than they are willing to put on the table. To push only for "Hate Crimes" and ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) is aiming way too low and not meeting the needs or expectations of our community.

    "Hate Crimes" and ENDA would have been fine in 1994, but this is 2009. I am so discouraged that there is no bold new thinking anywhere in the leadership. Neither Barney Frank, nor Tammy Baldwin nor HRC are able to think outside the traditional rut they have been digging in for 14 years. I believe they are blinded by being too invested in these two pieces of legislation. There's a much bigger picture out there that they do not see.

    Kudos to David Mixner for his call today for some new thinking. He recognizes our problem and the fact that it is 2009 and not 1994 and makes some sound proposals that fit with our current needs. I agree with the scope of his thinking. And if it's a choice between David's proposal and the old castrated plan our current leadership has been working on for the past 14 years, I support David's aprroach any day of the week.

    January 06, 2009

    Bob Barr: "DOMA has to go"

    Posted by: Andoni

    This won't seem as newsworthy a statement as it is, unless you realize that Bob Barr was the author DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996.

    In an Op Ed in today's Los Angeles Times, Barr goes through the reasoning of why he proposed DOMA in the manner that he did, how he had to compromise with fellow Republicans who wanted the federal government to tell the states that they could only recognize unions between a man and a woman, and why he thinks it is time for DOMA to be repealed now.

    This is fascinating stuff folks. I know Barr personally and have spoken to him about this issue many times over the years. To see him grow this way is mind-boggling. Barr is a federalist, and unlike most of his Republican colleagues, his view of federalism seems to have become purer over the years. You may argue, where was his federalism in 1996 when wrote this law. That's a good question. He was probably more influenced by fellow Georgian and Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich at the time. But to see this man admit errors he's made over the years gives me more respect for him.

    So when Obama thinks the time is ripe to repeal DOMA (hopefull soon), I envision a press conference with Bob Barr standing next to him. It will be a most powerful statement to see the author of DOMA standing there saying Obama is 100% correct. This could indeed be the era of a new kind of politics.

    As an aside, when Obama proposes his HIV/AIDS initiatives, I expect to see Rick Warren standing beside him endorsing those plans as well.

    P.S. Sorry I'm not uploading a photo of Bob Barr. I'm still in rural Thailand using a 28.8 dial up connection. Most of the time it's slower than 28.8, and it's a miracle I'm connected at all. And the server is down half the time, to boot. 

    January 04, 2009

    Fred Hochberg for Commerce

    Posted by: Andoni

    SEE UPDATE AT THE END.

    Governor Bill Richardson has withdrawn as the nominee for Secretary of Commerce. As of yet there is no openly gay cabinet appointee by Obama. Many in our community are pissed at him for inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural. This is a real opportunity.

    Now is the time to bombard the Obama transition team at change.gov to suggest that he nominate a member of our community for Commerce. One name that immediately comes to mind is Fred Hochberg, who was the number 2 man at the Small Business Administration under President Clinton.

    Does anyone else have a suggested nominee.

    It's time for all good activists to get to work. Complaining is easy, getting something accomplished is harder.

    This post is short because I'm in Thailand working with an incredibly slow internet connect via the telephone. Remember those?

    If I get more time .....or patience, I will add to this post later.

    UPDATE: Here's some background info on Hochberg.

    And this is what David from Miami sent me about Hochberg:

    Fred Hochberg recently resigned from Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, part of The New School in NYC, where he served as the Dean during 2003-08.  He currently serves on the board of the Port Authority of NY and NJ.
     
    He is also currently a member of Obama's transition team, tasked with overseeing transition at the SBA as co-Lead of the SBA Review Team.  He served in the Clinton Administration from 1998-2001, first as deputy administrator of the SBA and then as its acting administrator.
     
    He received his BA from NYU, then his MBA from Columbia.  After his education and prior to serving at SBA, he spent over 20 years in private business, building up his family's business into the Lillian Vernon Corporation, where he was President and COO.
     
    Fred Hochberg's credentials are perfect for Commerce, especially his time at The New School, experience at the SBA, and his many years building the Lillian Vernon Corporation.  His mix of academic leadership, government service, and hands-on, real-world business-building and management, all in areas relevant to the Commerce department -- especially in this crazy era we are now in, with Main Street needing attention, not just Wall Street -- all make him especially qualified to become the next Commerce Secretary.
     
     

    January 02, 2009

    Change I hope I can believe in

    Posted by: Chris

    Letmypartnerstay Thanks in part to you, the readers of this blog, equal immigration rights for same-sex couples finished in 2nd place among all immigration-related proposals in voting on Change.org:

    1. Pass the DREAM Act: 2,219 votes
    2. Equal immigration rights for same-sex couples: 1,011 votes
    3. Citizenship route through marriage for undocumented immigrants: 850 votes

    It's especially heartening to see this modest proposal compete effectively outside the area of gay rights, which was a separate category on the website, which is unaffiliated with Barack Obama's official transition site, Change.gov.

    As I explained in an earlier post, the top three ideas in each category now go into a second round of voting, and the top 10 ideas from that round will be presented to the president after the inauguration and the website's affiliated groups have vowed to lobby for their enactment.

    In the area of gay rights, these three ideas move on to the second round:

    1. Pass marriage equality rights for LGBT couples nationwide: 2,889 votes
    2. Pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act: 877 votes
    3. Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act: 852 votes

    The new Congress is expected to quickly enact the hate crimes bill, which already passed both houses last year. It's noteworthy how much more important relationship recognition was to the voters, dwarfing all other categories. (Enacting a trans-inclusive ENDA came in fourth place, at 779 votes, and does not go on to the second round.)

    Of course the new president and Congress can't simply "pass marriage equality rights," and Obama does not support gay marriage anyway. But they can either repeal DOMA (idea #3) or they can enact federal civil unions, extending all the rights and benefits of marriage under federal law to gay couples who enter into marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

    Stay tuned for the second round of voting, which will begin on Jan. 5.

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