February 28, 2010
Posted by: Chris
- D.C. gay marriage survives last legal hurdle: QUICK LOOK: The D.C. Court of Appeals Friday denied a request by a Maryland minister for an injunction to block the city’s same-sex marriage law from taking effect March 3, ending the last potential obstacle... (MORE)
- Top Army, Air Force chiefs oppose fast DADT repeal: QUICK LOOK: Top Army and Air Force officers said Tuesday they would be reluctant to overturn a 17-year policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military without more... (MORE)
- Second judge gives gay marriage OK in Buenos Aires: QUICK LOOK: A judge in Buenos Aires today gave the green light to another marriage between two men, two months after the first gay marriage in Latin America. Judge Elena Liberatori... (MORE)
- Blanket HIV testing could see AIDS 'gone' in 40 years: QUICK LOOK: Health officials are considering a radical shift in the war against HIV and AIDS that would see everyone tested for the virus and put on a lifetime course of drugs if... (MORE)
- Dutch lesbian speedskater wins Vancouver Olympics gold: QUICK LOOK: Dutch speed skater Irene Wust, one of only six openly gay athletes at the Winter Games, won a gold medal Sunday in the women’s 1500-meter race. Wust wept on the medal... (MORE)
And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:
- AIDS drugs haven't changed risk of gay anal sex: QUICK LOOK: The introduction of effective drugs against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has not changed gay men's risk of contracting the virus during a single act of anal sex,... (MORE)
- Apple booting 5,000+ racy apps from iPhone store: QUICK LOOK: A new policy at Apple's App Store has led to the deletion of many "overtly sexual" apps, including Hunk Du Jour, which is popular among gay men. In an email to developers... (MORE)
- HIV-positive gay doctor on trial in Ga. for teen sex: QUICK LOOK: The fate of an HIV-positive former Emory and Grady doctor is in the hands of a federal jury, which began deliberations in his criminal trial Monday afternoon in downtown... (MORE)
- IKEA pays actors to be gay for Sydney Mardi Gras: QUICK LOOK: A half dozen actors were paid hundreds of dollars each to participate in the IKEA float during the 2008 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. The Eventing Edge, a... (MORE)
- Gay-bashing CPAC'er has a checkered legal history: QUICK LOOK: The man who cited natural law in an off-script anti-gay rant at CPAC has had two run-ins with the real law in the past decade, including a restraining order for domestic... (MORE)
- Harry Potter speaks out for gay suicide prevention: QUICK LOOK: Daniel Radcliffe is explaining why he has just filmed a public service announcement for The Trevor Project, the leading organization focusing on suicide prevention efforts... (MORE)
February 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
... Miss Beverly Hills, a title she gave herself while a resident of Pasadena, trying to "clarify" that she's not literally advocating the execution of gays by saying gays should abide by a passage in Leviticus that urges death to those who have sex with those of the same gender.
Confused? You've got company. Asked whether gays who find Jesus can stay gay, she resorts to the hair toss after an answer escapes her...
Posted by: Chris
Ryan Dobson, son of the anti-gay radiovangelist James Dobson of Focus on the Family, apparently didn't focus enough on his first marriage, which ended due to infidelity. And yet still he risks distraction from marriage No. 2 to defend the semi-sacred institution of serial monogamy from the gays.
The son did not inherit his father's gift of political rhetoric -- actually, Ryan is adopted -- so his answer makes some questionable, and revealing, connections. Consider how Dobson explains why it was wrong for Dr. George Tiller to be murdered for performing abortions by comparing Tiller's murderer to gays angered by opposition to gay marriage:
So what Doctor Tiller does, in my core, it goes against everything that I hold dear to me ... But you don't get to just go and assassinate people. Because then, you can do it to me, too. "I disagree with what Ryan says about homosexuality or about gay marriage. We're gonna go kill Ryan." Or anybody else ... People that disagree with me, that's OK. It doesn't equal hate. Most of it equals different political viewpoints, different theological viewpoints. It's all right.
Q. But then why do you think the perception of hate is there?
Because it's personal. I mean, if you're homosexual and you're trying to get married, and you fell madly in love with someone, and then you've got Ryan Dobson, Christian right-wing extremist, saying gay marriage is bad for America, then you feel it personally — and then you wanna lash out at someone because you've been wounded.
Besides what his father would no doubt call sloppy moral relativism, comparing the righteous anger felt by those who oppose abortion with the righteous anger of gay folks thwarted from marrying, there is the acknowledgment by Dobson that we want to marry after "falling madly in love with someone."
That's an admission about the universal nature of love, gay or straight, that you'd never ever hear Daddy Dobson make. (via)
Posted by: Chris
Your mean-spirited, vaguely mysogynist, anonymous-sourced hatchet job on Sarah Palin and Meg Stapleton actually induced the first feelings of sympathy I've ever felt for either.
Can't wait for the book.
Posted by: Chris
If you're listening to the other side these days, it's amazing what you'll learn. Just in the last day or so, we've learned that...
“Slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African-American lobbies are running Raleigh.” -- North Carolina state Sen. Jim Forrester (R-Gastonia)
"“I am still stunned that he would issue such an amorphous, confusing opinion. It's a bucket of warm spit." -- Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore)
3. From yet another rightwing California beauty queen comes not just opposition to gay marriage but apparent agreement with the Christian extremists in Uganda who believe gays should be executed...
"In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white. I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life." -- Miss Beverly Hills Lauren Ashley
February 25, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Say what you want about Chris Matthews -- and his choice today of former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown to discuss health care reform was pretty darn mystifying -- but I continue to enjoy the way "Hardball" cuts through the spin. Just check out the montage they produced on the Republican and Democrat talking points at today's health care summit.
The GOP hit list -- "scrap the bill," "let's start over" with "a clean sheet of paper" and go "step by step" -- runs from 1:00 to 2:00. The Democratic strategy, to strike a bipartisan tone and emphasize about how the two sides aren't so far apart, begins at 3:30.
All in all, the overscripting of the Republican talking points makes a mockery of any claim that they showed up today with an eye toward anything other than the cameras there recording the festivities. It's one thing to set a tone or advance a general strategy, but it's quite another when speaker after speaker "extemporaneously" hits the exact same notes, even using the exact same words. What has become of the party of ideas?
The worst of the worst, of course, was John McCain, who has either become so bitter about losing the election or so paranoid about his primary challenger from the right, that he has become an "angry old man" caricature. This small man now bears absolutely no resemblance to the energetic, centrist, independent John McCain who impressed me and so many others when he first ran for president just one decade ago.
At this point, President Obama has done everything reasonably expected of him with regard to bipartisan effort. I have my own doubts and concerns about the size of "Obamacare" and its effect on the deficit, but it's also clear that the loyal opposition isn't loyal enough to the process to be a real bargaining partner. The Democrats should do exactly what reports suggest they will: The House will pass the Senate bill, thereby passing through Congress (with 60 votes in the Senate), the health care reform bill, and will then use reconciliation to push through with a simple majority vote the "fixes" to the Senate bill that House Democrats need to get on board and to excise Ben Nelson's "Cornhusker Kickback."
All I can say is it's about. damn. time.
P.S. Did Willie Brown always have RuPaul eyebrows or did this "San Francisco Democrat" get a drag queen makeover?
Posted by: Chris
I am not one of those who believes opposition to gay rights is always, or even mostly, motivated by hate. The "No H8" campaign, while creative, is an example of caricature and bumper-stickering an issue that is way too complex for pretty celebrity pics.
But sometimes hate is the only explanation, and you can see it on the faces of those in Uganda who clamor for a new law that would execute sexually-active gay people and imprison those who fail to report them. In a country that already considers homosexuality a criminal offense, this new effort is an attempt at genocide, pure and simple, made all the more perverse since it's supposedly Bible-based.
A protest in favor of it captures the anger, the fear and the hate.
Posted by: Chris
The legal separation of San Diego hotel developer Doug Manchester and his wife of 43 years is final, but court records don’t reveal how the couple’s substantial wealth was divided — or if it will affect Manchester’s most-ambitious project to date, the Navy Broadway Complex in downtown San Diego.
Perhaps the eight months in which same-sex couples could marry in California proved too much for Manchester and his wife to overcome. Another straight marriage killed by the gays.
February 24, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Anyone who watched Ryan Sorba's tirade against CPAC for accepting the gay Republican group GOProud as a sponsor knows the firebrand leader of Young Conservatives of California has, um, issues. Thanks to Talking Points Memo, we're getting our first glimpse into his closet:
The man who cited natural law in an off-script anti-gay rant at CPAC has had two run-ins with the real law in the past decade, including a restraining order for domestic violence, according to court records in California.
Ryan Sorba of California Young Americans for Freedom, who is a longtime anti-gay activist, in 2001 had a restraining order brought against him by a woman in a San Bernardino County domestic violence case, according to case records.
A three-year restraining order granted by the court barred Sorba from any contact with the woman, Mary Paulson, and his brother Michael Sorba. He was also ordered to move out of the "family dwelling" in Highland, a small city outside San Bernardino, according to records. Sorba was 19 at the time and did not appear in court for any of the proceedings.
Sorba insisted the woman was not his girlfriend (surprise, surprise), but the mother of a male friend from his neighborhood with whom Sorba had heated relations (surprise, surprise). "I got in a fight with a kid in my neighborhood. And the mother did not want us getting in any more fights," Sorba told TPM. "And so the mother filed a restraining order. And then nothing else ever happened."
In a second incident, Sorba was cited for a noise disturbance (surprise, surprise) that involved screaming at a gay guy (surprise, surprise) while handing out flyers at a California polling place in favor of Proposition 8:
Asked how he knew the man was gay, Sorba said "because he looked gay, he sounded gay -- it was evident."
"I'm proud of that ticket. I look at that ticket as if it's a trophy," he said.
Any predictions where this story goes next?
Note: Photo of Sorba with a Young Americans for Freedom member is unrelated to the reported incidents.
Posted by: Chris
If you took the time yesterday to go to the Big Brother Brasil website to vote to eliminate Marcelo Dourado, the homophobic contestant who once threatened to beat a female contestant because she's a lesbian, then thanks. It turns out that last nights "paredão" -- elimination showdown -- pit Dourado against Angélica, that same lesbian, and Dicesar, one of two openly gay male participants, who also does drag.
Despite an online campaign among gay folks and their friends, and despite his neanderthal machismo, Dourado survived elimination, receiving 38% votes, behind Angélica's 55%. Only 7% of voters wanted popular Dicesar to leave.
My co-blogger Kevin, who first alerted us to Dourado's offensive conduct, characteristically pulled no punches himself in response:
Thanks for your support everyone, but Globo just announced that Dourado will remain on the show, and the lesbian he said he'd love to beat until she was sent to the hospital was eliminated. Globo said it was a total of 77 million votes (a new record), and Angelica received 55%, vs 38% for the homophobe Dourado (and 7%... for the drag queen, Dicesar).
If you believe that was really the votes (Globo doesn't submit to outside verification, to my knowledge) I have a bldg to sell you in the Cracolandia section of Sao Paulo. But if it was the real voting, why watch this vile show any longer? I won't be watching.
"I just lost my appetite," said mixed martial artist Marcelo Dourado, after hearing a gay contestant on "Big Brother Brasil" talking with a friend about going to The Week, a popular São Paulo gay club.
February 23, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Cooking up homophobia on "Big Brother Brasil," Marcelo Dourado needs to go, and you can make it happen. From meu amigo and co-blogger Kevin comes this call to arms:
Attention to my American friends: There is a huge favor for gay rights you can help with in Brazil right now. … Please go online TODAY and vote as many times as possible (there is no limit to voting) -- vote to ELIMINATE Marcelo Dourado, the most homophobic and revolting participant ...that Big Brother Brazil has ever had, the same season they have put three openly gay participants in the house.
If this guy continues to win the contest, it will be a horrible day for Brazil. PLEASE HELP! You have to vote TODAY because the voting on this week's elimination ends tonight! If he is not eliminated, one of the gay characters will be...
A bit of background from my friend Juliano at Made In Brazil:
There are three openly gay contestants in the Big Brother Brazil house this season: a 20-year-old boy, a drag queen, and a lesbian. I did not necessarily expect any of them to be the favorites to win the R$ 1.5 million prize, but what I also did not expect is the fact that the only homophobe in the house is current favorite to win the big prize, perhaps a sign that the majority of viewers across the country are not ready for all the gay exposure on the show.
Over the course of the last 50 days, Marcelo Dourado, a castaway from season 3 of Big Brother Brazil who was brought back to the show this season, has made sure to let Brazilian viewers know that he is not only homophobic, but also ignorant, and misogynistic. Earlier in the season he caught the media attention by saying that heterosexual men could not contract the HIV virus even by having sex with HIV positive women because AIDS only affected gay men.
According to him, the HIV virus is spread only through homosexual sex. After that statement, which was obviously addressed by Globo network, Dourado refused to have conversations which involved any gay topics saying that it disgusted him. He also said he wanted to beat the lesbian contestant and send her to the hospital, but that he couldn't do it because if he were to physically attack someone he would be automatically eliminated from the show.
This might strike you as another case of political correctness, like the flap over a faggy lion mascot at Missouri Southern, but the difference is not only the outrageousness of the remarks and the absence of any apology. "Big Brother Brasil" has huge cultural influence in Brazil, along the lines of "American Idol" here in the U.S.
So imagine an Idol hopeful spewing ignorance of the sort of Marcelo Dourado, and click here to vote to eliminate him -- the deadline is today!
For those who understand Portuguese (or even Spanish, Italian or French will do), here are some of Dourado's homophobic highlights:
Posted by: Chris
Out of the heartland -- Joplin, Mo., to be exact -- comes this bizarre tale:
David Ansley has resigned from the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors, after he used a homosexuality slur during a board retreat on Saturday.
In a written statement Monday, Ansley apologized to students, faculty, staff and administrators for any offense, and expressed remorse for his actions.
“I have always thought of myself as a tolerant man,” he wrote. “Yet the fact that I spontaneously made the comment has caused me pause. Personally, I am conducting introspection. My goal is to examine my own prejudices with the hope of renewed tolerance. I hope to be a better person because of all this.”
Ansley's grave offense? After a presentation by the school's athletic department about how they had butched up their lion mascot, the personal injury lawyer/board member "spontaneously" commented, "We went from the fag lion to the ferocious lion."
Board Chair Rod Anderson tried to tell the roomful of reporters covering the board retreat that Ansley's pronouncement was off the record, but to no avail. Ansley's "fag to ferocious" pronouncement was the lead headline from the meeting, with some reporters jumping the gun to report it on Twitter and Facebook.
Before the weekend was out, a Facebook page calling for Ansley's resignation had been created. By this week came the inevitable: Ansley resigned. Even that was not enough for some:
“He is now the cowardly lion, in my opinion,” said Hillary Fogerty, an English professor and adviser for the Equality Alliance at MSSU.
“He’s saying, ‘Let’s avoid the issue entirely, and fall on the sword and pretend it’s not here.’ What will his resignation serve? Resignation is not education. It doesn’t solve the problem of other board members being willing to cover up what he said or to laugh at it.”
Right. Let's ask for the manes of the board chair trying in vain to contain the controversy and two others who told the Joplin Globe that the comment wasn't newsworthy.
This is political correctness run amok, and those responsible should be ashamed of themselves. The "F word" is not the same as the "N word," no matter how much you want it to be, and we'd win a lot more sympathetic friends if folks like Ansley were asked to say they're sorry rather than retreat from the public square in shame.
February 22, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Ryan Sorba, the conservative hothead who took to the stage to "condemn" CPAC for accepting the participation of the gay Republican group GOProud, is continuing his Dale Carnegie ways, making enemies and influencing people -- to walk the other way:
Following his outburst, Sorba was approached by gay American University student Alex Knepper, who was attending the CPAC convention.
"So, you’re the infamous Ryan Sorba," Knepper relates saying to the young activist in a Feb. 20 article at Race42012.com. " ’You’ve made quite a name for yourself.’ "Knepper reports that Sorba asked, "So what did you think of my little tirade, then?"
"Oh, I thought it was quite evil, actually. I’m gay," responded Knepper.
"You mean you think you’re gay," Sorba told him.
"No, I’m gay," Knepper rejoined. "Do you think it’s a choice?"
"I think it’s the result of a complex process of social and environmental factors, but that it’s reversible," replied Sorba.
The two then began to argue over animals exhibiting homosexual conduct in the wild, with Sorba then claiming that Knepper had "a lisp." Knepper, who denies having a lisp, fired back, "Rudy Giuliani has a lisp--is he gay?"
At that point, Knepper reports, Sorba "went off on what he affectionately called ’his tirade’--giving the same mangled pseudo-Aristotelian spiel about how natural rights have to be grounded in natural law, meaning substance, and the final result of the reproductive organ must be a reproductive act, and all of that.
" ’Yeah, yeah, I get your argument, I understand it,’ I tried to interrupt, But he said that I didn’t, and he finished.
" ’But the vast majority of married couples partake in sodomy--oral sex, anal sex, fetishes," Knepper told Sorba. "Hasn’t your girlfriend ever given you a blowjob? I think the government should just get out of the whole marriage business!" Knepper went on to add, "I’m the one who says that my values shouldn’t have anything to do with government. It’s you who wants to impose his own biases upon the rest of the world!"
Sorba responded that "conservatives should not be upholding groups who support homosexual marriage and sodomy," and the discussion got more heated from there, with Sorba saying "something about how he could ’take me on’ physically if he needed to, to which I mentioned that his quick resort to force and threats said a lot about his political philosophy."
After offering to shake Knepper’s hand--and being snubbed--Sorba began to walk away. Knepper reports that someone walking with Sorba said to him, "Really, though, he had a point: why do you care about this so much when the economy is in shambles and the debt is growing and spending is out of control?"
"Because it corrupts the youth and the culture," came Sorba’s answer. Sorba then took out a camera and began to take video of Knepper, who struck a post and then said, "OK...Well, I’d like to say, then, that the person behind the camera is a Hitler Youth waiting for a fuhrer [sic] to sweep him off his feet into a grand national project so he can sacrifice individuals like stock-fodder to his own biases."
At that point, writes Knepper, Sorba "turned off the camera and approached me. I told him he should get his girlfriend to give him a blowjob so that he could experience the joys of sodomy. He put two of his fingers an inch from my face and said that he’d want to fight me if a girl wasn’t around. ’Ah, the use of force!’ I said again."
Then there's this extremist presentation by Sorba to college students in Massachusetts, in which he explores in great detail the sexual proclivities of gay men that he thinks are challenging the future of civilization:
Thanks to Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou for the background goods on Sorba.
I very rarely speculate on the sexual orientation of folks based upon their anti-gay views, but this guy's obsession really does beg the question: How long until the inevitable scandal involving a profile on a gay hookup site or being spotted in a gay bar?
Posted by: Chris
If you are a sexually active gay man, or if you know someone who is, then you need to know about a just released study that raises some findings that challenge the current conventional wisdom about safer sex:
The introduction of effective drugs against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has not changed gay men's risk of contracting the virus during a single act of anal sex, new research from Australia shows.
This finding was "unexpected," the study's authors admit, given that treatment with AIDS drugs sharply reduces the concentration of HIV in a person's blood, which would theoretically make it more difficult to transmit the virus.
It's been accepted wisdom among gay men and our doctors ever since the early successes of the "AIDS cocktail" of retroviral drugs that reducing the viral load in the bloodstream and other bodily fluids of those with HIV would also reduce dramatically the risk that they could infect others. At least according to this new study, that assumption was false.
The riskiest type of sexual activity was receptive anal sex with ejaculation into the rectum; each such act carried a 1.43 percent risk of contracting HIV. If a man's partner withdrew before ejaculation, the risk dropped to 0.65 percent. Circumcised men had a 0.11 percent risk of contracting HIV for every insertive sex act, while the risk for circumcised men was 0.62 percent.
The findings are "very similar" to a US study done in the early 1990s, the researchers note, which found an 0.82 percent risk of contracting HIV for every instance of receptive anal sex (whether or not withdrawal occurred).
I tried for years when I edited the Washington Blade and a number of other gay publications to get this kind of straightforward info about the risk associated with various sexual acts, both as the active ("top") or passive ("bottom") partner. We were, for the most part, stonewalled by public health "experts" who were loathe to trust gay men with actual info, favoring instead the tired "AIDS panic" approach of trying to scare men into using condoms by implying that any sort of sex was equally risky.
The results of the Aussie study are surprising because rates of HIV testing among gay men there are high (70%), of the HIV viral load is "undetectable" in three-quarters of those under treatment. And yet the risk of exposure appears not to have changed from the '90s, when almost no HIV-positive men had "undetectable" amounts of HIV in their bodies.
- If you are HIV positive, you owe it to others to always always always wear a condom every time you top, unless you are sure than your partner is also HIV positive. No rationalizations like "he should ask if he wants to know"; no excuses like "I'm undetectable so sex with me is safe."
- If you are HIV negative, you should never never never allow someone to top you without a condom, no matter what you may think about their HIV status or whether they are on the cocktail and seem healthy. There is still no cure for AIDS or reliable information about the long-term harm from HIV meds. It's not worth the risk.
- Finally, it's way past time for the panoply of organizations that make up AIDS, Inc., having received millions in public and private funding to educate gay men and others about the risks of transmission, to disseminate specific information like this so that each of us can make responsible choices about our sexual conduct.
February 21, 2010
Posted by: Chris
- Don't Ask When: repeal of gay ban won't be soon: QUICK LOOK: As promised, the Pentagon has begun examining how the ban on gays serving openly could be eased and then repealed, but a complete repeal of the ''don't ask, don't tell''... (MORE)
- Safe haven for gays at Vancouver Winter Olympics: QUICK LOOK: Pride House, in the heart of Vancouver's West End, is welcoming the world. The first of its kind at an Olympics, the unofficial pavilion is tucked away on a quiet side... (MORE)
- Out gay Tory says party no longer opposes equality: QUICK LOOK: Tory frontbencher Nick Herbert says there has been a "self-evident" change in his party's attitude to gay people. In a speech in the US, the shadow environment secretary... (MORE)
- Blaming D.C. gay marriage bill, Catholics shutter foster program: QUICK LOOK: The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples, the first fallout from a bitter debate over the city's move... (MORE)
- Ugandan pastor screens porn to support antigay bill: QUICK LOOK: A pastor seeking to bolster Uganda's anti-gay laws screened gay porn in a church in the capital Kampala overnight in a bid to gain support. The screening in an evangelical... (MORE)
And here are a few of the most
popular from the last week:
- 'White Collar' star hides being gay to be better actor: QUICK LOOK: Matt Bomer's curious relationship with the media about his sexuality continues in Elle, a magazine of women's fashions, and arguably one of the friendliest places to... (MORE)
- Scientists discover HIV strain passed in gay male sex: QUICK LOOK: A team of scientists, led by a virologist from the University of California, San Diego's Center for AID Research (CFAR), has discovered the origin of strains of human... (MORE)
- Sparking gay rumor, 'Twilight' star 'allergic to vaginas': QUICK LOOK: Robert Pattinson has reportedly spoken of his disdain for vaginas, according to reports. The Twilight actor, who took part in a naked photo shoot with other women this... (MORE)
- South African man wins 2010 Mr. Gay World contest: QUICK LOOK: A South African man has won the 2010 Mr Gay World pageant, beating rivals from Australia, Hong Kong, China and Spain, the organisers said on Sunday. Charl Van den Berg,... (MORE)
- Gay slur on men's skating lands TV anchor in trouble: QUICK LOOK: The Australian TV anchor for the Winter Olympics has landed in hot water for a gay slur during the men’s figure skating competition in Vancouver. In their Olympics wrap... (MORE)
February 20, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Just when I thought that Ann Coulter would win the testosterone award at this year's CPAC, the various factions fighting over gay issues at the annual conservative confab are gunning for gold.
The GOProud didn't start off looking particular courageous, what with their head-scratching decision not to participate in a roundtable on Don't Ask Don't Tell but instead parlay their sponsorship to join a technology panel. But they found their inner-feisty after the National Organization for Marriage issued a statement attacking GOProud after appearing too chummy in this CNN report.
In this short clip, which is already going viral, GOProud Executive Director** Jimmy LaSilvia calls NOM out, asking why they couldn't deliver their statement in person, just two booths down, and asking, "Who's the real pansy at CPAC?"
Not to be outdone, an incredibly cocky Ryan Sorba, head of the Young Conservatives of California, "condemned" CPAC for allowing GOProud's participation, and launched into a rant attacking gay rights (video below). Nothing too shocking there, except for the audience reaction, which was more boos and jeers than applause. Eventually, Sorba walks off the stage.
Whatever you think of GOProud's politics or its history as a splinter group complaining that Log Cabin wasn't conservative enough(!), it is a net-plus that even at CPAC, the rightwing inner sanctum, attacking gay rights risks jeers as well as cheers.
** LaSilvia gets bonus points for taking the title executive director and not "president," like Joe Solmonese of HRC, who was in no way elected by that group's membership, or "president and CEO" like some at the helm of other gay rights groups. Next thing you know, these guys will start calling themselves bishops like some ministers with grossly oversized egos.
February 19, 2010
Posted by: Chris
...is from the real extant threat against the traditional institution of marriage, and it isn't coming from the gays.
A heterosexual couple in Austria is fighting for the right to enter into a registered civil partnership - introduced for homosexual couples in January 2010. Under current law the couple will be denied that right - but they have vowed to take the case to the country's constitutional court to overturn what they says is a discriminatory legislation.
Austria introduced civil unions for gay couples on January 1, affording them some of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. The new legislation, passed after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Social Democrats and their conservative coalition partner in government, gives same-sex couples a status similar to traditional marriage but different in a number of respects. For instance, there are less strict rules in the event of a divorce.
The heterosexual couple in question argues that this is a more modern form of union - which simply suits them better than a traditional marriage. And if it's offered to gay couples, why shouldn't it be an option for them as well? The issue at stake, they argue, is standing up against discrimination.
This is what irrational fear over same-sex marriage have wrought. Across Europe, and in many U.S. jurisdictions, government have adopted forms of "marriage lite" because they aren't ready to allow gay couples full marriage equality.
Whether called "domestic partnerships," "civil partnerships," "civil unions," "PACS" or some other name, they have evolved from the halfway measures toward marriages they were originally intended to be. Instead, these weigh stations on the road to equality have become a loosy-goosy alternative for gay and straight couples alike that represents a serious challenge to traditional marriage, especially in Europe.
In this week's Cato Institute panel (video now available here or after the jump for this post), Maggie Gallagher warned gays that they would have a difficult time finding a place among conservatives when they insist on remaking such a fundamental institution. What she can't or won't see is that gays do not want to remake the institution, they want to join it because they believe in it. They revere it, as Andrew Sullivan said in response.
Rather than become more uppity, as Gallagher implied, the gay movement has become remarkably more conservative. From its beginnings in sexual liberation and radical counterculturalism, the movement has sharpened its focus on what the vast majority of gay Americans want -- to participate as equals in the fundamental, conservative institutions they grew up believing in: marriage, the family, the Boy Scouts, the church, the military, and so on.
The question becomes how much Gallagher's social conservative allies are willing to tear away at those institution just to keep us out.
Posted by: Chris
An unlikely sponsor at this year's annual conservative conference is hoping to not only promote the issues that set it apart from many Republicans, but also draw attention to the beliefs they share. The group is called GOProud -- a name that combines GOP and gay pride.
So far, the group is getting a mixed response at the Conservative Political Action Conference. GOProud was founded by former members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian Republican grass-roots organization. GOProud has a booth at CPAC just two spaces away from the exhibition for the National Organization for Marriage, which wants the government to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
GOProud's nontraditional conservative views are rankling some attendees at CPAC. Liberty University Law School, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, boycotted the event after GOProud was announced as a co-sponsor.
Still, I'm baffled by the last item in this CNN report: Given a speaking role as a CPAC sponsor, GOProud affirmatively chose not to speak on a gay subject, instead asking to participate in a roundtable on technology. The middle of the debate over marriage and the military is no time for "we just happen to be gay" politics.
Posted by: Chris
Gay pop legend Elton John tells Parade magazine in an interview that he believes Jesus was "a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." In the online interview, Elton also tells of meeting and falling in love with husband David Furnish, and his help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Explaining his view on Jesus Christ, John said, "On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East -- you're as good as dead."
Elton said he was "attracted to David immediately. He was very well dressed, very shy. The next night we had dinner. After it, we consummated our relationship. We fell in love very quickly."
To keep the romance going, the couple has sent each other a card every Saturday for 16 years, "to say how much we love each other. We've never been jealous. We talk about the sexual side of things, things that normally would have frightened me before."
Posted by: ChrisUPDATE: At the end of the post.
Over at Gay Patriot, my friend Dan (a.k.a. Gay Patriot West) writes that he's confused by the reaction that Bruce Carroll is receiving as that blog's representative at the CPAC conference here in D.C. this weekend:
So, you’re at a gathering of conservatives . . . and . .
Folks couldn’t be nice to a guy bearing a badge identifying himself as a gay blogger?!?!?
They give a standing ovation to a man who opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment and favors repeal of Don’t Talk/Don’t Tell?!?!?
How could that be!?!?!?
I thought our critics told us conservatives don’t like homosexuals and that preventing any forward motion on gay issues was anathema to their agenda, such that they’d blackball anyone who paid so much as lip service to such issues.
I share Dan's confusion but for different reasons. Surely Bruce has spent enough time around Washington to know that polite smiles and applause mean nothing if they're not followed up with votes and co-sponsorship and party planks, etc.
I'm always happy when my gay conservative and Republican friends join me in calling out Democrats and progressives who only give our cause lip service, and nothing more. So why are they so excited when on rare occasions they are get that same lip service, and nothing more?
It's unquestionably a good thing anytime the presence of out gay bloggers is greeted by conservative smiles and a call for equality receives a CPAC standing ovation. But we are long, long past the day when anything short of co-sponsorship and votes in support of DOMA/DADT repeal were cause for self-congratulation.
UPDATE: It wasn't even lip service to opposition to a marriage amendment and repeal of DADT that got a standing ovation. It was Dick Cheney, who (sort of) holds those positions but said nothing about them at CPAC. He only walked in after his daughter Liz finished speaking and made a few off-the-cuff remarks.
Gentlemen... please... we can hold the bar higher than this, can't we?
Posted by: Chris
Lost in the debate over President Obama's revived push to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell is the ugly stepchild of gay rights legislation: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Once the darling of the movement, ENDA was to be the vehicle through which gay civil rights won its first victory into federal law.
As the name suggests, ENDA covers only the workplace and that limited scope is intentional; its leading advocates during the Elizabeth Birch years at the Human Rights Campaign argued that a more limited gay rights measure on an issue unrelated to marriage had the best chance of passage, thereby creating momentum for the rest of the gay agenda.
It almost worked. ENDA came within a single vote of passing the U.S. Senate in 1995, two years after Don't Ask Don't Tell and one year before the Defense of Marriage Act. It has resurfaced from time to time in subsequent years, only to be slapped down by Republicans when they were in the majority of one house of Congress or the other.
Then in 2007, Barney Frank reintroduced ENDA to a Democratic-controlled Congress, and for the first time -- the first time! -- gender identity was included along with sexual orientation as a protected category. After all those years of gay-only ENDA waiting its turn, the inclusion of trans protections effectively killed ENDA's chances of passage now that the Dems finally controlled Congress again.
When it became clear that the votes weren't there for trans-ENDA, Frank and Tammy Baldwin and HRC agreed to a compromise that once again limited ENDA to its original form protecting sexual orientation-based discrimination. Trans activists and the progressive blogosphere furiously erupted in response, labeling anyone who disagreed with this tactic as a cold-blooded traitor to the movement.
The compromise ENDA overwhelmingly passed the House, but the maelstrom manufactured in activists circles effectively killed its chances in the Senate, where many of those who would have otherwise backed workplace protections for tens of millions of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers balking at voting for a bill that would only earn the ire of many of the loudest LGBT voices.
Fast forward two years, the election of a Democratic president who supports a trans-inclusive ENDA and a Congress with historic Democratic majorities. ENDA has once again gone nowhere, and now we know why:
Frank said the transgender protections were among the sticking points in negotiations [among House lawmakers] on how to proceed [on ENDA].
“There has always been a problem with the question of people who are transgender in situations where people are totally or partially unclothed,” he said.
While expecting movement in the House, Frank was less certain about ENDA’s prospects in the Senate.
“I’m less sure about that,” he said. “I think people have often underestimated some of the difficulties.”
This time around, Barney and HRC have been saying that they're unwilling to compromise on transgender inclusion in ENDA, but it's too soon to tell if they'll stick to those guns. In the hopes that Congress will move forward on protections for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender Americans, I'll hold off recounting the long and compelling list of reasons why our leaders should be prepared to repeat the compromise of 2008 if it's the only way to secure passage before the looming midterm elections.
February 18, 2010
Posted by: Chris
After promises of greater transparency, the Human Rights Campaign responded in part to the blog swarm from earlier this week by releasing its roadmap to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. While it's fine as far as it goes, the roadmap is so vague and conservative that it's likely to leave gay service members quaking in their boots more than members of Congress.
HRC is stating its DADT repeal effort will be focused on five "key principles":
- Continued Presidential Leadership: We have — and will continue to — call on the White House to include DADT repeal language in the 2011 Department of Defense authorization bill. HRC Legislative Director Allison Herwitt made that clear in this story by the DC Agenda on Jan. 11.
- Congressional Action in 2010: We believe that legislative action must run on a parallel track with the work of the DOD implementation review. We have — and will continue to — press the Senate to include repeal language in the final mark up of this year’s DOD authorization bill.
- Gates/Mullen review: While the testimony of Gates and Mullen marked a historic and extraordinary move towards final repeal of DADT, HRC is advocating that the announced review is comprehensive and expeditious, and includes input from lesbian and gay service members and veterans. We will work to ensure the Working Group established by Secretary Gates will have all the data and information necessary to address any and all implementation issues.
- Strategic Partnerships: HRC will continue to partner with key groups and Congressional allies working toward repeal including the Center for American Progress, Servicemembers United and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. By continuing to pool our resources, contacts and intelligence, we can meet the opposition head on and build even greater momentum for repeal.
- Voices of Veterans: HRC’s “Voices of Honor” campaign is organizing veterans across the country to generate media, grassroots and grass tops pressure in key states that will be critical to the final votes in the House and Senate. The campaign builds on the work of the national “Voices of Honor Tour” last summer which led to 30 new Congressional co-sponsors and garnered national media attention to this discriminatory law.
It's good to see HRC committed at least to getting DADT repeal language into the Defense Department budget bill now working its way through Congress, rather than letting the ongoing Pentagon review to delay legislative action until next year. But, to paraphrase Mike Dukakis paraphrasing a Wendy's ad, where's the beef?
Where's the call on HRC members and others to call Congress, complete with a phone number or a link to find out who your representatives are? Which senators and representatives has HRC identified as wavering and of those, which are most crucial to get on board now? At this point, it's not enough to know that your congressional delegation supports DADT review as a general matter. We need to know where they stand on repealing DADT now as part of the DOD authorization bill.
Why hasn't HRC launched a "public whip count" on including DADT repeal in the DOD budget bill, the way ACT on Principles has produced one (complete with blog widgets) on the issue of DADT repeal generally? (You can see the ACT on Principles widget on the lefthand side of this blog.)
For those interested in what a roadmap ought to look like, in terms of proposing a specific way forward legislatively, take a look at the SEDI plan proposed by Servicemembers United, one of those "strategic partnerships" that HRC cites above:
A Set End-date / Delayed Implementation (SEDI) model is ideal for achieving the goals of all parties involved, and reporting benchmarks are reasonable to ensure that sufficient progress is being made toward the ultimate goal of developing the most effective implementation plan.
Most importantly, the process of working to lock in full legislative repeal of DADT and the Pentagon’s development of the most effective repeal implementation plan can occur simultaneously.18-Month Set End-date / Delayed Implementation (SEDI) Model
- Immediately; Pentagon Working Group begins; Legislation introduced to lock in repeal
- After 3 months: Deadline for interim changes to policy enforcement; First report to Congress
- After 6 months – Second report to Congress on progress of repeal implementation planning
- After 9 months – Third report to Congress on progress of repeal implementation panning
- After 12 months - Repeal implementation begins according to plan established by Pentagon
- After 18 months – Full repeal completed; Final report to Congress
This plan, developed by discharged Army translator Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United and Rear Adm. Alan Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Ret.), lays out a clear and detailed two-track process that allows the Pentagon review to go forward without delaying the legislative piece until that review is completed next year.
If a loose-knit group of activists like ACT on Principles and a small, relatively new organization like Servicemembers United can produce concrete tools like these, why is it so impossible for "the nation's largest gay political group," as HRC refers to itself ad nauseum?
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
My favorite exchange of yesterday's Cato Institute forum on gay conservatives came in response to columnist Maggie Gallagher's claim that permitting same-sex couples to marry would invariably leads somehow to government intrusion into religion of the sort that all conservatives should abhor. In support, Gallagher, who is Roman Catholic, cited the requirement that Catholic Charities, for example, place children into households led by gay couples, despite their genuine faith-based belief this is against the child's best interest.
Let's leave aside for the moment the irony of conservatives resorting to the politics of victimization, previously the P.C. province of liberals, even as she claimed that 50-60% of Americans are on her side. Poor majority conservatives, oppressed by the 3-5% of us who are gay.
Let's even forgive Gallagher the obvious straw man here, as if a line can't be drawn in the law between opening up marriage to same-sex couples and requiring that religious institutions recognize those marriage in the provision of social services. Her example, as it turns out, comes straight out of the headlines, as the D.C. archdiocese just announced yesterday that it was shuttering its 80-year-old foster parent program for precisely this reason.
Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, his forehead marked from Ash Wednesday services that morning, drew a crucial distinction between laws that over-reach, prohibiting independently funded religious groups from discriminating in hiring or in the provision of services, and less troublesome regulation requiring those faith-based orgs that "suck at the teat of government," as he put it, to treat us taxpayers equally.
Catholic Charities receives some $20 million annually from the District of Columbia, so any "interference" in their pristine religious function occurred at the time the Catholics showed up with their hands held out, asking for our money.
Even more devastating was Sullivan's pointing out that the rest of us can be forgiven for suspecting "some animus" behind complaints of the type Gallagher raises when Catholic Charities has for years placed foster and adopted children into the homes of remarried couples, despite the church's very clear prohibition on divorce. Seen in that light, the Catholic threat to suspend its social services looks more like a cynical attempt to bully gay couples out of the civil marriage pulpit.
The Washington Post story on the archdiocese decision suggest as much, reporting without explaining that despite yesterday's decision on foster parenting, Catholic Charities "is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage."
Most telling of all, however, was Gallagher's final reply to Sullivan, acknowledging the church's inconsistent treatment of gay and remarried couples and cheerfully, if ominously, warning that the bishops would soon be "cleansing" that process further, likely meaning that remarried couples would find themselves out of favor as well.
There, my friends, is the slippery slope. Marriage equality between gay and straight couples does not necessarily lead to forcing faith based groups to act contrary to their beliefs in the provision of services, but the coming cleansing will prove very instructive to millions of heterosexuals Americans who would never imagine that their households could be refused foster and adoption placements funded by their government.
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
February 17, 2010
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
As expected, there was no shortage of fireworks today at the Cato Institute forum on whether there's a place for gays in the conservative movement, especially between Andrew Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher, the conservative columnist and marriage equality foe. But more on that later...
The pleasant surprise of the event was Conservative M.P. Nick Herbert, who is openly gay, civil-partnered and will likely be in David Cameron's cabinet if the Tories as expected win the upcoming U.K. election. But more on that later…
Ironically enough for a panel about whether the conservative movement is excluding gays, apparently some gays wanted to exclude Sullivan from the panel for failing to be sufficiently conservative, or so said David Boaz of the Cato Institute, who handed out the invitations. Asked by Boaz to defend his conservative credentials, Sully took umbrage, arguing it was irrelevant to the topic.
At one level he's right, of course, but maybe there is a connection. I am thinking of my own political journey, and how the treatment of gay rights and homosexuality in conservative circles has naturally affected my willingness to listen to the arguments made by those same conservatives or their in any number of other areas, even unrelated to gay rights or social issues generally. Just consider my presidential preferences over the years:
*1992-93: I came out*
I held my nose for a couple of those votes, particularly in '96 and (especially) '04, but from the time I came to grips with being gay, my sexual orientation has become a political bellwether, and not because my views on the many other issues of the day have changed so dramatically.
We live in a country with two major political parties, and most elections come down to a choice between them. You wouldn't know it if you turn on FOX News or MSNBC, but the differences between these center-left and center-right institutions is not so great for me to hand my vote over to the party that fights against my civil rights. As Andrew pointed out today, never was that more true than when President Bush and the GOP tried to amend the Constitution to prevent gays from marrying. With that backdrop, I am willing to continue holding my nose 9 times out of 10 and vote my equality as a single issue, at least until such time as basic equality has been achieved.
Beyond the power politics of it, I also cannot help but judge the conservative movement by its followers, not to mention its leaders, and to conclude there is something fundamentally wrong with their philosophy, their judgment, and their movement if they are so committed to opposing my equality, or cynically ally with those who are.
It is an inescapable indictment of the conservative philosophy or temperament that so many who are so wrong on our issues find a home in that movement and ascend to power within it. David Boaz was dead-on to call conservatives out for being on the wrong side of pretty much every civil rights movement in U.S. history, only embracing the principle of equality and justice after the dust settles in that particular battle.
I would add to Boaz's criticism the plethora of a la carte conservatives, or what I think of as single-exception conservatives: people like Nancy Reagan or Dick Cheney, who suddenly find themselves receptive to stem cell research or same-sex marriage, respectively, when the issue hits close to home. How can they part ways with their usual allies to protect those they love without ever examining whether the conservative philosophy that led their allies to oppose them this time around might be doing similar harm to other families on other important issues?
If I am honest with myself, I must ask the tough question: If I weren't gay, or if conservatives hadn't been so hostile to gay rights and gay relationships, would I still be the fire-breathing conservative I was in my youth?
I often think of conservatives as those for whom the traditional system works, and liberals as a collection of those for whom it hasn't and others who empathize for them -- or find cause in allying with them. Being gay, I am profoundly affected by how conservatives have rejected what I see as a simple call for equality under the law. That painful experience leaves me much more open to similar claims by other groups, be they racial or ethnic minorities, the economically disadvantaged, the unemployed, the transgendered, immigrants, and so on.
How could I not be?
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
Posted by: Chris
Since moving back to Washington a few weeks back, I've had the pleasure of reconnecting with Phil Attey, a friend I know from his days on the Human Rights Campaign communication staff. (Yes, I have friends at HRC; I even dated an HRC staffer a number of years ago -- is that the equivalent of "having one over for dinner"?).
After leaving HRC in the late '90s, Phil has been at the cutting edge of leveraging the Internet and social networking to bring about change (yes, the kind we can believe in). A lifelong Catholic, Phil will very soon be calling on the lessons learned as an LGBT Netroots pioneer in the launch of a sorely needed effort at answering on their own terms those who misuse religion in politics to deny us civil equality.
Phil and I don't always see eye to eye on tactics, but he's no knee-jerk defender of his former employer and I appreciate the way he challenges those of us throw bombs from our blogs to use our voices in a positive way as well. Along those lines, I'd like to share something he posted on Facebook -- Sarah Palin-style -- in response to the blog swarm targeting HRC that I joined yesterday.
It's worth taking the time to read, and I join him in directing our primary focus where repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and other gay rights progress presently is mired -- in the hallowed halls of Congress.
Yesterday, a group of our most prominent bloggers joined forces to ask their combined audiences to make phone calls on DADT. The idea of this excited me, as along with some great Facebook activists have been advocating for months, a united online call to action to flood Congress with phone calls on the issue.
Sadly, instead of calls to Congress, they were joining forces to shut down the phone lines of our nation's largest pro lgbt equality group. Can you just see Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck salivating?
My intent is not to shame the bloggers or finger point. We don't have the luxury of such time. Reality Check: We only have a few months to ensure the DADT repeal is included in this Spring's Defense Authorization Bill, and we need to focus on real action.
Besides, these bloggers are my friends and heroes ... and valued voices in our movement.
Trying to keep this positive, here are three things they could easily combine their forces to accomplish that would not only help to repeal DADT, but spark a grassroots excitement in the progressive community that after we elected President Obama, we've completely lost on the left:
1. Promote a CALL CONGRESS Day for the next Senate or House Hearing on DADT.
Have a graphic designer create a stylish logo, give it a catchy name, and join forces to create an online echo chamber to bring our entire community on board. Trust me, if you do this, all of us on Facebook will help you pull it off and praise you for it!
2. Call for a National "March Into Washington" Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.
Show the critics of the recent March on Washington that marches actually can be used to move Members of Congress on our issues. No money needed, no lofty speeches, just set a day with enough time in advance for folks to get cheap flights to DC, provide them with talking points on DADT and include a link for them to look up the office numbers for each of their Senators and Representative. 250,000 people walking through the Senate and House buildings and into offices would have an impact the likes of which Washington has never seen.
3. Call of a National Day of Congressional District Action.
Let's take a page from Tea Party. Poke fun at them all you want. Call them Teabaggers, racists, bigots, whatever, but please don't disrespect the reality that they just kicked all our progressive asses when it came to Health Care Reform. Not even my hero Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake was able to counter their grassroots influence on the HCR debate. Call for rallies and Congressional District meetings with every Member of Congress when they'll be back home during their next recess. And if you don't think you can actually organize/inspire our community to do our own rallies, at least learn from the great work ACT UP did with their 1992 "What ABOUT AIDS" signs, and create ones our activists can take to hijack the Tea Party Rallies that will be happening across the country on Tax Day, April 15th. ... DADT WASTES MY TAX DOLLARS ... REPEAL IT NOW!
Is it pollyanna to think this will actually happen? Maybe. But as Willie Wonka said to Veruca Salt, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams"
It's time to make some music. It's time to make some dreams come true.
Yours in the united stand for equality,
Posted by: Chris
Yesterday I joined those who sponsored a blog swarm of the Human Rights Campaign, albeit focusing Solmonese, Smith & Co. on Congress, not exclusively on the White House. As one reader points out, it was not particular efficient to ask people to lobby HRC to get them to lobby President Obama to get him to lobby Congress.
Support for the swarm was broad and included at least one surprise entrant, considering its target was a gay rights group, not Congress: another gay group, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
We join the Swarm’s call for DADT repeal this year. The best way to erase the law from the books in 2010 is for there to be a provision included in the defense authorization budget that nixes the law and replaces it with a policy of nondisrimination. We urge the President and Congress to include this provision in the defense authorization budget bill in the coming weeks. (This defense bill is currently being drafted.)
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has to be repealed this year. That has been the Human Rights Campaign’s position from the start, and at this point there is no one in the White House who does not know it. We and the community to whom we are accountable agree: This is the year.
We firmly support including repeal in the annual Department of Defense Authorization bill, and have not only indicated as much, but continue to make that case, all while working to gain support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act....
We have been lobbying the White House relentlessly, and we’ve seen more movement in recent weeks than in the previous 16 years. Our nation’s top defense officials testified, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed. That did not happen in a vacuum.
These events are just the start. There is a clear path to repeal, and that’s the one we’re on.
Note that missing entirely from the HRC response is any mention whatsoever of the other end of Pennsylvania, where that "clear path to repeal" must next pass through. Owing to the misguided focus of the swarm on President Obama, rather than Congress, HRC wriggles its way free without angering (or pressuring) its Democratic friends on Capitol Hill.
February 16, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker calls out U.S. evangelicals for their role in fanning the flames that resulted in legislation proposing the capital punishment and imprisonment for sexually active gay men:
Let's assume that these missionaries have only the purest of intentions and want only to help strengthen the traditional family. Dear Sirs: Uganda isn't Connecticut. A country where gays are routinely harassed, rounded up and incarcerated doesn't need stoking by American fundamentalists on a mission from God.
In an interview with Alan Colmes, [Scott] Lively said he was invited to the African nation because Ugandans were worried about American and European gays trying to export homosexuality to their nation. Given that Uganda was already rather unwelcoming to gays, it seems unlikely that they needed advice from American preachers. Instead, it seems more the case that Uganda has became a laboratory for zealots who have found a receptive audience for their personal cause.
The proposed law is a case study in the unintended consequences of moral colonialism.
Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who famously hosted the first joint appearance of presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama and enraged some activists when Obama invited him to say a prayer at his inauguration, does not escape, either. Parker points out that a video Warren made declaring the measure "unjust," "extreme" and "un-Christian" was motivated primarily by "accusations that he had helped create the bill" since his Saddleback Church has close ties with Ugandan religious leaders behind the legislation.
In a statement to Newsweek, Warren said: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."
I'm not so sure about that. It may not be Warren's personal calling to comment on "political process." But is neutrality really an option for one of the world's most powerful Christian leaders when state genocide of a minority is proposed in the name of Christianity?
If we decide that genocide is too political for interference, then what good is moral leadership?
I'm of the school that religion should have no role in arguing for or against criminal prohibitions of any sort, but when your own faith is being perverted to justify imprisoning and even executing people, and your voice can be of influence, then there is absolutely a moral obligation to speak out.
Posted by: Chris
Apparently I'm not the only one to notice that for an inside-the-Beltway organization, the Human Rights Campaign appears out of the loop when it comes to pushing for repeal this year of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld put together an excellent report that asks whether HRC under Joe Solmonese is producing anything like the results that could be expected for the amount of resources that "the nation's largest gay political group" siphons from our community. And today, a number of gay progressive bloggers have launched a "blog swarm" targeting HRC.
Eleveld's video report -- anchored by Thomas Roberts, formerly of CNN Headline News, who it's great to see here -- offers Solmonese and longtime behind-the-scenes string-puller Hilary Rosen the opportunity to make the case for HRC's effectiveness, and… well… lets just say that hopefully they do a better of job of advocacy for our rights.
"HRC needs to be as strategic as possible, as accountable as possible, to every member of our community to be laser-focused on what I call closing these very important deals." — Joe Solmonese, HRC president
"I think they are focused on their mission, I think they work for LGBT equality, I think they work for the movement and I think they feel that responsibility really strongly. At the same time I don't think it's an indictment that somebody wants to strategize with them behind closed doors. That to me is something we should be a proud of." — Hilary Rosen, lobbyist and former HRC chair
What those substance-free defenses fail to mask is what's obvious to many: The entire premise for HRC, formerly the Human Rights Campaign Fund, is that our movement needed an organization run by insiders who know how to leverage our community's small size into big results, to play the good cop to the street activists' bad cop, to play ball with the politicians, even as the rest of the movement protests outside the ballpark.
What happened is that Hilary Rosen's ex-wife, longtime HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch, grew HRC into the org that ate the movement, and we were left with only a good cop playing ball with the pols, and not particularly effectively at that. Only in the last several years, with the rise of the blogosphere, the net roots and a new generation of activists has the movement revitalized as something more than a black-tie dinner that relied on its checkbook to buy its equality.
Solmonese, who has headed up the organization since 2005, represents the culmination of the HRC model, a designer label lobbyist whose primary qualification for running the gay rights movement was that he sitteth at the right hand of Rosen, Birch and Emily's List founder Ellen Malcolm. Alongside David Smith, who has been running HRC "strategery" since before most bloggers were born, Solmonese and company have sucked millions from the movement and managed to botch the very tasks they were supposedly so suited to handle.
These consummate lobbyists gave us the legislative debacle back in 2008 over including, then not including, then promising to include, then jettisoning, transgender rights in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They backed the wrong horse -- that other HRC whose husband gave us DADT and DOMA -- in the Democratic primary, and despite the Democrats historic grip on D.C., they have failed to either mobilize the community or leverage their resources on Capital Hill, to get anything more than hate crimes enacted into law.
So yes, the blog swarm makes good sense, though its sponsors make their own strategic miscues. Their aim is for HRC to "publicly demand that President Obama take the lead in getting DADT repealed this year," meaning:
1. That means the president needs to state publicly that he wants Congress to repeal DADT this year; and
2. The president needs to take the lead in working with Congress to make sure the repeal happens.
As goals go, these should induce more head-scratching that game-changing. All this effort to get the leading gay rights to make a public demand that the president say something he already said, complete with timetable, in his very first State of the Union address.
More broadly, it repeats the very mistake HRC has been making since even before Barack Obama's inauguration, focusing attention on the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The president made his public commitment and dispatched his leading Defense Department deputies to make his case to Congress.
Now it's time for the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, which has been demanding our allegiance and our dollars for almost as long as HRC, to get repeal done, making a moratorium and repeal itself a part of the defense budget now working its way through Congress.
I strongly encourage readers of this blog to join in making calls to HRC, but to make a point of focusing their attention on Congress as well as the president, and demanding a DADT moratorium and repeal be included as part of the Defense Department budgetary legislation.
But even as we make these calls or send these emails, let's remember that we cannot simply sit back and expect HRC to do all the heavy lifting for us. That's why John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog claims, "You've done your job. Now it's time for the President, Congress and HRC to do theirs," even as he's telling his readers it's their job to call HRC. Our work -- all of our work -- remains unfinished.
Ultimately, our equality is all our responsibility, and it's up to each and every one of us to keep the pressure on all the key players -- within our movement and our government -- to dispense with business as usual in Washington and end the gross injustice done to gay men and lesbians putting their lives on the line for our freedom.
February 15, 2010
Posted by: Chris
"We heard a knock at the door. I was still asleep when they came in."
"They picked my mom up. They put her in handcuffs, and they put her in a van. We kept on asking questions.
"Why is this happening to our family?"
Watch how Shirley Tan's twin sons describe the morning that U.S. immigration police came to the Pacifica, Calif., home she shares with Jay Mercado, her American partner of 23 years:
Because they are both women, Jay cannot sponsor Shirley for citizenship the way that heterosexual Americans can sponsor their spouses, whether their relationship is long-term or the sight-unseen, mail order variety.
Shirley and Jay and their family tell the story as part of a new documentary from Immigration Equality, released on Valentine's Day to illustrate the plight of an estimated 36,000 binational couples, including my own. We shared tears, not kisses, on V-Day yesterday, and our conversation was over Skype, not a candlelit table.
For me and my partner, and for the tens of thousands of couples like us, please take a few minutes to watch this brief excerpt, then visit the new Immigration Equality Action Fund website and find out what you can do to help.
(Photo of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado and their twin sons via San Francisco Chronicle).
Posted by: Chris
Winston Churchill famously said, "The real traditions of the British Navy are rum, buggery and the lash." The same was apparently true for the Army as well.
The most remarkable part of John Crawford's story isn't the 70-year-old's ongoing legal responsibility to report to potential employers his 1959 conviction for "buggery" (a.k.a. sodomy) or even the many jobs he lost and humiliation he endured for admitting to consensual sex as a 19-year-old with his 22-year-old boyfriend.
It's the "enhanced interrogation tactics" the British military and civilian police used to extract the young soldier's confession:
His ordeal began after being posted to Aldershot barracks in Hampshire for military service.
When a gay friend at the barracks went absent without leave, military police turned their attention to Crawford. "They obviously knew he was gay, but they hadn't got anything on him – other than being camp. But they had got me. And if I knew him, then I must be one as well."
Crawford was held in a cell for three weeks, during which he was deprived of sleep by being forced to sit on a chair at night. "They badgered me and badgered me to admit I was a 'fucking queer', and I wouldn't." Then they decided to call in the civilian police.
These officers, he said, started a daily beating that involved wrapping him in blankets while was kicked and punched on the floor. He said he was then placed in a yard each day. Overlooking the yard, he recalled, there was a grassy embankment where hundreds of cadets would sit twice a day to drink tea.
"Can you imagine in the 50s? Oh look there's the 'fucking queer'. I had this from hundreds of people twice a day. I had to sit in this yard. I couldn't go anywhere."
Finally he relented to the pressure and confessed to being gay. Under duress, he told them about Derek, his 22-year-old partner who, months later, found himself with Crawford in the dock at Winchester crown court where both were convicted.
How ironic that all these years later, a leading American conservative like Dick Cheney could throw his support behind allowing gays to serve openly in the military, while in the same interview endorse yet again the same sort of torture that Crawford's tormenters used to beat his confession out of him more than a half-century ago.
February 14, 2010
Posted by: Chris
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- House liberals call for Obama plan for DADT repeal: QUICK LOOK: Congressional liberals were heartened when Barack Obama pledged to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but their initial elation has given way to concerns the repeal will... (MORE)
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- Three-quarters of Americans back DADT repeal: QUICK LOOK: Three-quarters of Americans say that they support openly gay people serving in the U.S. military, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a finding that could... (MORE)
And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:
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- John Mayer kisses Perez Hilton like he 'hates fags': QUICK LOOK: Singer John Mayer famously locked lips with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton last year. Here's what he had to say about it in a recent Playboy interview: "I remember seeing... (MORE)
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Posted by: Chris
Why is it that every time it seems the momentum is growing to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, some poorly sourced news article appears predicting the process of repeal will take longer and longer to accomplish?
The last few days brought news that:
- An updated survey of Military Times readers, mostly veterans historically hostile toward open service by gays, showed an even split on the question.
- New polling showed fully three-fourths of Americans generally favor repeal of DADT, including a majority of Republicans and conservatives.
- Lt. Dan Choi, whose outspoken and passionate advocacy as a gay Army reservist has made him the face of DADT repeal efforts, was invited to participate in drills with his unit even though he has been facing discharge over the policy.
- Moderate senators on the Armed Services Committee threw their support behind the review of the policy announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, the voice of GOP conservatives on issues of national security, came out in favor of the review as well, and signaled that the time has come to end the ban:
"When the chiefs come forward and say, ‘We think we can do it,’ then it strikes me as it’s time to reconsider the policy, and I think Admiral Mullen said that,” Cheney said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Cheney said the U.S. military supported “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 when the law banning open service was put in place, but said “things have changed, significantly, since then” and predicted the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as it currently stands.
“I see that … Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff, has indicated he is belief that we ought to support change in the policy, so I think that — my guess is the policy will be changed,” Cheney said.
When Karl pressed Cheney further on whether he personally supports repeal, Cheney said said “it’s partly a generational issue” and he’s “reluctant to second guess the military” because “they’re the ones that have got to make the judgment on how these policies affect the military capability of our units.”
And yes despite all these positive developments, an AP story by Anne Flaherty in today's New York Times predicted "a complete repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy is probably years away":
The two officials appointed to lead a yearlong internal assessment -- Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson -- met for the first time on Feb. 9.
As that study gets under way, officials were expected by mid-March to suggest ways to relax enforcement of the law. Of particular interest is minimizing cases of ''third party outings,'' where a service member is kicked out after being reported by others to be gay.
The protracted time line is about more than giving military leaders time to assess the impact on troops and put new rules in place. The multiyear process also is a strategic way of getting troops used to the idea before they have to accept change. Politically, the time line puts off congressional debate over lifting the ban until after elections this fall.
The entire story is sourced to unnamed "senior defense and military officials," and fails to abide by a New York Times policy that requires at a minimum that such anonymous sources explain why they will not talk on the record.
Shoddy journalism aside, the article suggests shoddy activism as well. The Human Rights Campaign website shows no public statements or pushes on DADT since Feb. 5, further contributing to a sense that our "inside the Beltway" gay groups are as out of the loop on the process for DADT repeal than they were on pressuring the president and Congress to raise the issue last month.
At issue at this point is not whether Don't Ask Don't Tell will be repealed, but when. Now is the time for HRC and the other D.C. gay groups to shine.
The entire argument in favor of having a well-resourced organization of inside lobbyists like HRC, and in particular well-paid leaders like Joe Solmonese and David Smith is that they know how to massage the process and leverage our efforts to win our equality sooner than we would otherwise.
Will they mobilize the gay community and our progressive allies to prevent the Pentagon review to delay the legislative process toward repeal? Will they, at a minimum, succeed in making a moratorium on DADT discharges -- all discharges, not just so-called "third party complaints" -- an amendment to the Defense Department budget bill?
Or what will it take for the millionaire activists of Gay Rights, Inc., to earn the salary or be replaced?
February 13, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Since rational arguments never fail to convince fair-minded folks to exclude gay and lesbian Americans from the fundamental freedom to marry, its foes typically resort to the "yuck factor," and in doing so give us an unintended glimpse of the ignorance behind their bigotry.
In years gone by, the yuck factor typically took the form of two men in tuxedos or two women in wedding gowns, exchanging vows. Happily marrying same-sex couples in Massachusetts, California took care of that old canard, showing the universal feelings of love and caring that form the bonds in our relationships, just like in opposite-sex couples.
Then came same-sex kisses, but they've lost their shock value due to Hollywood's more realistic portrayals on TV and the movies, along with the increased frequency of airport and sidewalk smooches -- again showing we're just like our straight brethren.
That means gay marriage opponents have to up the ante once again on the yuck factor, but I'm guessing this particular attempt by one Republican state rep in New Hampshire won't catch on:
New Hampshire state Rep. Nancy Elliott (R-Hillsborough) has asked other members of the House Judiciary Committee to repeal the recently enacted gay marriage law. Her argument? Anal sex between gay men is yucky.
"We're talking about taking the penis of a man and putting it in the rectum of another man and wriggling it around in excrement," said Elliott. "And you have to think, would I want that to be done to me?"
Elliott didn't stop there, complaining that marriage equality will result in public schools "showing presentations of anal sex. … They are showing our fifth graders how they can actually perform this kind of sex. … That is the context of the lesson, that 'This is something that you, as a fifth grader, you may want to try.'"
Not only is Elliott's portrayal of anal sex grossly inaccurate (pun intended), it is of course completely irrelevant to whether gays should be able to marry, anymore than Nancy's right to marry should hinge on whether we're grossed out by imagining her lying back and thinking of New England with her partner.
Raising the sex education boogeyman is straight out of the Prop 8 playbook, and let's hope activists in New Hampshire are more effective in putting the lie to that falsehood.
Not surprisingly, Elliott's allies have yanked the YouTube video after a round of well-deserved Internet scoffing:
Apparently they discovered the yuck factor can backfire (pun intended) on those sleazy and cynical enough to employ it.
February 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
More very encouraging results from a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released today showing the public is evenly divided on whether gay couples should be able to marry, with 47% in favor and 50% opposed.
That statistic is remarkable most for how much it contrasts with the nation's elected officials, from the president on down, who overwhelmingly oppose marriage equality. I would venture to say that less than half the percentage of Democratic politicians back gay marriage as do their partisan supporters.
Also striking is the degree to which the South stands as a bulwark against our basic equality. Without my home region living up to its long and ugly history of civil rights intransigence, support for gay marriage would be overwhelming -- not that overwhelming support on a gay rights issue necessarily translates into political action by Democrats and Republican moderates.
Fortunately, the dustbin destination of hetero-only marriage laws is every bit as certain as it was for Jim Crow segregation. Two-thirds of adults under 30 support marriage for gays and -- for the first time ever -- a majority "strongly favor" our full equality.
Let's be clear about what this means: it should be clearer than ever that our civil rights movement is not over whether we win but how soon; it is inconceivable that Congress would pass, or the states would adopt, a federal constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying when two-thirds of young people are with us, and half the population overall.
So enough with the pussyfooting in Congress and the White House. Barney Frank needs to sign on today as a co-sponsor of DOMA repeal (the Respect for Marriage Act), and we need clear backing from the House and Senate leadership, as well as the White House.
The new ABC News/WaPo poll also shows support for civil unions reaching historic new levels, a full two-thirds of the public now believes we are at least entitled to all the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. In addition to DOMA repeal, which would still leave gays in most states with no federal recognition of their relationships, the Congress needs to take up federal civil unions legislation, ensuring equal recognition without regard to bias at the state level.
Finally, the Post offered some detail on the marriage numbers, which suggest that on marriage as on Don't Ask Don't Tell, a small percentage is more supportive of our civil rights when we are described as "gay and lesbian" as opposed to "homosexual." Not coincidentally, gays have for decades now preferred the former over the latter designation.
If you haven't already, I'd also encourage you to sign the Freedom to Marry Pledge announced this week by Evan Wolfson's FreedomToMarry.org and its new online coordinator Michael Crawford, who did a great job spearheading the marriage movement here in Washington, D.C.
Posted by: Chris
THREE UPDATES: at the end of the post.
Nate Silver notes that opposition among Republicans to repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell has stiffened, even as overall public opinion remains strongly in favor of President Obama's pledge made in the State of the Union Address. His graph shows the percentage of Republicans only in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
Silver attributes most of the difference in the results to question wording and polling methodology, and certainly on those points we have to defer to his judgment.
But I also bet that at least some portion of the decrease in GOP support for repealing DADT springs from nothing other than President Obama's public pledge to do away with the policy. For way too many Republicans, backing by Obama is all they need to know to join his opposition.
UPDATE: A CBS News/New York Times survey confirms broad support for repealing DADT. The margin favoring allowing gays to serve in the military is 70% to 19%. Among that 70%, the percentage backing service by openly gay soldiers and sailors stands at 58% to 9%.
UPDATE: Politico's Ben Smith points out that even within the CBS News/New York Times, there is substantial disparity, based in large part on whether the DADT question was asked concerning "homosexuals" or "gay men and lesbians." Not surprisingly, "gay men and lesbians" polls better, adding to the total that "strongly favor" allowing gays to serve openly:
UPDATE: A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows even stronger support -- 75% of Americans -- for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. Not surprisingly, men, the elderly and conservatives are less supportive, as is knowing someone who is gay:
The percentage of Americans who say they support gays openly serving is … far above the 44 percent who said so in May 1993. In the new poll, majorities across party lines favor such a policy, with support among Democrats (82 percent) and independents (77 percent) higher than among Republicans (64 percent).
The poll also reveals several sharp demographic divides. Men (65 percent) and seniors (69 percent) are far less likely than are women (84 percent) and young adults (81 percent under age 30) to say that gays should be allowed to serve if they have disclosed their sexual orientation. Knowing a gay person makes a big difference: Among those who say they have a gay friend or family member, 81 percent support allowing gay people to serve openly, compared with 66 percent who say they do not know someone who is gay.
Posted by: Chris
What is a university to do when one of its chaplains tells students in a calm and clear voice that he believes homosexuals should be executed? The question isn't just an academic one for my own alma mater, Vanderbilt University.
News of the depressing exchange came just weeks after I visited the Nashville campus for the first time in years, welcomed by a story about new chapter of the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi plastered on the front page of the Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper. (Stop your snickering; when I was editor we printed T-shirts proclaiming "we had the name first" -- and we did, by some 75 years.)
But now the smiling faces of those groundbreaking gay frat boys has been supplanted by the hood-covered heads of two teenage boys brutally executed by Iran in 2005 for the crime of gay sex.
I first heard from Tony Varona, an American University law professor, about the matter of fact way in which Vanderbilt's Muslim chaplain told students he favored the murder of unrepentant homosexuals.
The outrageous remarks were delivered in deadpan fashion by Awadh Amir Binhazim during an on-campus presentation about Muslims serving in the U.S. military. The Kenyan native, educated in Saudi Arabia, was asked by a student about whether he agreed with Islamic teaching that unrepentant homosexuals should be killed.
Q. Under Islamic law, if a homosexual person began to actually engage in homosexual relations on an ongoing and permanent way, with no intention of quitting, then the punishment under Islamic law would be death, unless, you know, he agreed to quit. As a practicing Muslim do you accept or reject this particular teaching of Islam?
A. I don't have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject a teaching of Islam. I go with what Islam teaches. … So, the punishment in Islam is certain rules that govern the determinatin [concerning the act and the number of witnesses]. It's a long story and I probably don't have the time to explain it. But you cannot prosecute someone just because you think they are homosexual. There has to be clear proof.
Q. Under Islamic law, is it punishable by death if you are a homosexual?
Video of the encounter (you can watch it after the jump) spread virally on YouTube, forcing the university to issue a statement distancing itself from its Muslim chaplain even as it defended the free exchange of ideas:
During the question-and-answer session that followed the presentation, a student asked Binhazim about Islamic law and homosexuality. Binhazim answered the question with his interpretation of an Islamic law.
For clarification, Vanderbilt strives to bring many points of view on the issues of the day to campus for examination and discussion. This is the purpose of Project Dialogue.
No view expressed at a Project Dialogue or similar campus forum should be construed as being endorsed by Vanderbilt. The university is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. It is the belief of the university community that free discussion of ideas can lead to resolution and reconciliation.
Vanderbilt is committed to free speech. It is equally committed to a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin or sexuality.
There has been some confusion as to Binhazim's role at Vanderbilt. He is the Muslim chaplain at Vanderbilt, a volunteer position. He is not a professor of Islam and is not associated with Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He has adjunct associate professor status at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in pathology. This position, which carries no teaching or research responsibilities, is also unpaid.
Some have seen Vanderbilt's reaction as too tepid, and have called for some sort of punishment of Binhazim up to and including dismissal. Others acknowledge the need to preserve academic freedom, even as they argue that a Christian or Jewish chaplain advocating death to gays would undoubtedly be removed.
I stand four-square with those who defend the university for taking no action against Binzahim, even as I join those who are condemning this chaplain's cold-blooded endorsement of murder. If we agree that free speech is crucial to the academic setting, then it is only by protecting more extreme views at the margins that we ensure a free exchange of views by those within the mainstream.
That's why so-called "hate speech codes" ought to be anathema to any university, absent some direct incitement to violence. It's the difference between "Kill the gays in this room!" and "I accept Islamic teaching that the punishment for homosexuality is death."
That said, there is still plenty that is wrong, wrong, wrong with Vanderbilt's weak, if well-intentioned response. The attempt to minimize Binzahim's connection to the university comes off as cowardly as it is irrelevant: Is Vanderbilt saying that the same remarks made by a paid chaplain or religion professor would result in sanction or termination? If not, then let's dispense of the red herring. Either academic freedom extends to everyone in the university community or to no one at all.
Also disturbingly weak was the shrugged-shoulder reaction by Rev. Gary White, Vanderbilt's interim director of religious life and an ordained Unitarian Universalist, who told Out & About newspaper:
"Opinions are a dime a dozen. We as an institution are more about ideas. We believe in the power of those ideas and when we have places of rub and controversy, you’re not going to make much headway when you discuss opinions. You have to discuss ideas behind those opinions. What Binhazim expressed wasn’t an opinion, it was a theological ideal behind Islam."
How's that? What Binzahim was expressing was his opinion that he had no choice but to accept an Islamic teaching that gays should be executed. Where is the "idea" here, much less the "ideal"? Laughably, White even tries to reassure Vanderbilt's gay students that they have "no reason to be afraid or fear [Binzahim] at all." That's right, Delta Lambda Phi pledges. Your Muslim chaplain doesn't want to kill you himself; he favors his faith doing the dirty work.
Even still, asking us to imagine how the university would respond to a Christian or Jewish chaplain calling for death to gays is comparing crosses and crescents. It's not even clear to me that chaplains from a different faith would have been treated any differently, if we take Vandy at its word.
Assuming arguendo that's not the case, the differential treatment might well be justified. For one thing, the role of a campus chaplain is, in part, to explain the teachings of his faith, and a Christian or Jewish chaplain would be grossly misrepresenting those religions by publicly pushing the execution of gays. It would be the equivalent of a history professor grossly distorting basic facts or a Spanish professor teaching Portuguese.
In another way, the Judeo-Christian comparison is reminiscent of the oft-heard rejoinder that intolerance toward gays would result in swift and serious retribution if expressed about racial or ethnic minorities. It's a mistake to conflate the great controversy of our time about homosexuality with broadly accepted views about race and ethnicity (and religion). If we try to short-circuit the debate, we will likely succeed only in extending it. Just look at how the decision in Roe vs. Wade did anything but decide the issue of abortion in this country.
No, what's sorely needed in response to Binzahim's bigotry is not repression of speech, but more speech in response. For example, the notoriety surrounding his remarks represent an excellent opportunity to inform fair-minded folks about the medieval persecution of gays in most Muslim countries.
More speech would also call Binhazim to the carpet for trying to dodge a direct question with obfuscation. When the questioner pointed out that gays are summarily executed in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Binhazim zigged and zagged, claiming that no country follows Islamic sharia law completely. True or not, it's an irrelevant point considering the question concerned one particular teaching of Islam and whether it is incorporated into sharia law and enforced in many Muslim countries. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan under the Taliban are obvious examples.
For a supposed scholar of comparative religion, Binzahim also resorts to a simplistic distortion of how homosexuality is treated by other faiths, claiming they all reject this "alternative lifestyle." In fact, many mainstream Christian and Jewish faiths do exactly the opposite, and he ought to explain his ignorance on that point. More to the point -- the one that Binzahim inartfully dodges -- it has been centuries since any other major world religion has advocated the neanderthal punishment of death for gays.
That's not all more speech can do. The student who asked the question, Devin Saucier (pictured), was apparently a plant by a apparently a plant by a conservative student group called Youth for Western Civilization. (Do they cheer "Wes-tern Civ! Wes-tern Civ!" instead of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"?) Saucier's hope was to "expose the gullibility of leftists who grovel at the altars of tolerance and acceptance." Rather than focus on squelching Binzahim and his ilk, another response would be to call out these campus conservatives on the fact that many mainstream Christian faiths, and their advocates in politics right here in the United States, favor imprisoning homosexuals, even if they wouldn't go so far as executing us.
And isn't it conservative Christians who are so vocal these days about how religious freedom requires "tolerance and acceptance" of those who would fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to facilitate the adoption of children by avowed homosexuals? The very same Youth for Western Civilization complains that campus political correctness threatens their own religious freedom. Just how and where exactly do they draw the line here?
It's questions like these, and any number of others, that will generate real dialogue and expose extremism and hypocrisy in all its anti-gay varieties. Punishing speech, however repulsive, only drives it underground and misses a golden opportunity to make our own case. Let's have confidence enough in our own arguments that we don't resort to bullying into silence those with whom we disagree.
(Top: The execution of two Iranian youths for homosexual acts in July 2005, via Washington Post)
Posted by: Chris
Roy Boudreau , the House speaker in New Brunswick, Canada, had just finished admonishing fellow legislators to be respectful of one another when there were audible gasps from Conservatives on the floor.
"Oh my, God — he just gave the finger," someone exclaimed.Liberal member Abel LeBlanc, the owner of the offending finger, refused to apologize.
"That's enough," said another. "I saw it!"
"I'll not apologize in this house for that young lady over there," he said, before accusing an opposition member of lying.
"I'm gonna tell you, Dale [Graham, Tory MLA for Carleton], I'll walk outside with any one of yas here," LeBlanc said. "Don't ever laugh at me. Yes, I gave you that [extends finger]. And I'll give you that again [extends finger]. And I'll give you this if you want to go outside [shakes his fist]. You're a punk!"
The speaker asked LeBlanc to apologize or leave and he opted for the latter. The Liberal Party may well suspend LeBlanc from its caucus, at least temporarily.
The whole encounter happened during Question Time. Is this what we could expect from the likes of Joe "You Lie!" Wilson if the U.S. adopted that tradition?
February 11, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Chris Matthews goes all Hardball on D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty for the slow pace of plowing in response to the first wave of Snowpacalypse 2010. Paraphrasing JFK's famous witticism that Washington combines the charm of the North with the efficiency of the South, Matthews quipped, "We have the weather of Buffalo and the snowplowing capability of Miami." Boom!
My friend Jonathan Capehard says, "Amen brother!" WaPo's Jo-Ann Armao has the mayor's back, claiming Matthews is even more unpopular than the mayor. I guess I missed the memo; I'm a fan of Matthews and always thought Fenty was full of promise (and certainly better than several of his mayoral predecessors).
I spent most of the Snowmageddon Part 1 in the District and thought the plows responded pretty quickly, at least well enough for me to make my way back across the river over the weekend. D.C. folk don't know how good they've got it; Rosslyn looked completely unplowed from Round 1 as late as Tuesday night
Posted by: Chris
After three years in exile followed by eight months apart from my partner due to this country's discriminatory immigration and marriage laws, and not particularly caring for the current White House Chief of Staff (and I'm not particularly alone in that view), this GOP valentine just about summed up my sentiments.
I'm not saying Rahm's the R-word or anything, but his Clintonian brand of political arrogance and screw-the-base triangulation is everything Barack Obama ran against in the primaries and does not serve his presidency well.
February 10, 2010
Posted by: Chris
*VIDEO available at end of the post*: It's unclear to me why the Advocate posted a grainy CBS Reports featuring Mike Wallace on the then-taboo subject of homosexuality, but the video itself makes for fascinating viewing. I'm only halfway through it myself, snowed in here in Washington, and Wallace has already reported that:
The homosexual is not interested in or capable of lasting long term relationships like heterosexuals.
That little conclusion isn't sourced to any particular source because it did't have to; it was accepted as fact at that time, when I was but a toddler. Which is not to say that there are no sources here. The psychological "expert" is Charles Socarides, whose son Richard Socarides would later come out and serve as one of Bill Clinton's liaisons to the gay community. Still sticking to his anti-gay guns despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, Socarides said back then and believed to his death in 2005:
There is no such thing as a happy homosexual. The fact that someone is an obligatory homosexual rules out any possibility of happiness.
Bleak stuff, to be sure. But in fact, Wallace's account is remarkably balanced, coming as it did two years before Stonewall. He begins the report by interviewing D.C. resident and Mattachine Society activist Warren Adkins (pictured), as articulate a spokesman for the happy homosexual as I've seen in all the years since.
Socarides' harsh views are correctly characterized as among the majority at the time, but Wallace gives the minority, pro-gay viewpoint as well. And we have to remember that, as of 1967, there really wasn't much evidence that gay men (the report is limited to the male of the species) was attempting lasting, long-term relationships, at least en masse.
All in all, it's a fascinating glimpse at the state of knowledge in the U.S. about male homosexuality at the time of the Stonewall Riots just two years later. Be sure to take a look.
Posted by: Chris
Just two years after Snickers enraged the great gay masses with an off-color Super Bowl commercial that poked fun at accidental man on man smooches, the M&M Mars folks have apparently switched to an ad agency with their gaydar fully intact. How else to explain the Betty White ad that ran during the big game this year?
Or better yet, the Road Trip commercial that packs its biggest wallop in the last two of its mere 30 seconds.
For you Betty White fans -- and I am one for her "Mary Tyler Moore" days more than her "Golden Girls" run -- there is even a Facebook movement of more than 100,000 strong to draft her to host "Saturday Night Live." Not bad for 88 years young.
For a trip down memory lane, the four alternate versions of the 2007 Snickers man-kiss ad follow after the jump (update, apparently Mars pulled the earlier Snickers ads from YouTube):
Hat tip: Steve Rothaus
Posted by: Chris
You might have gathered from the paucity of posts that we here in the Washington, D.C., area have been a bit busy, what with the blizzard(s) and all. Last night and today brought Snowpacalypse Part Deux.
When Snowpacalypse (or Snowmageddon, as some are calling it) dumped some 20 inches on the D.C. area last weekend, the temps hovered just below freezing, which made for light, wet snow and the perfect playground for massive snowball fights. It also yielded pretty scenes like the one I captured on Willard Street in Adams Morgan that looked straight out of a Tim Burton movie. (Those mounds of snow are cars.)
Well, the sequel hit last night and like most movie versions, this one was bigger but not better. The temps are lower and the wind is much, much stronger, resulting in crazy snow drifts and cutting blasts of snow even on a short walk outside to check things out. Until the gusts die down, there won't be so many snowball fights and sled rides as before. (Oops, I was wrong: Dupont Snowball Fight Part Deux is set for today at 2 p.m.)
Here are a couple of pics I snapped from the relative discomfort of the front porch of my friend Tom's home in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington:
February 07, 2010
Posted by: Chris
- Pentagon backs Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal: QUICK LOOK: The nation’s top two Defense officials called on Tuesday for an end to the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, a major step toward allowing openly gay men and women... (MORE)
- Obama, Clinton slam draconian Uganda anti-gay bill: QUICK LOOK: Legislation under consideration in Uganda that could make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable with long jail terms and even execution is "odious," President Barack... (MORE)
- Brazilian general says military is no place for gays: QUICK LOOK: One week after President Obama raised the prospect of repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell law preventing gays from serving openly in the U.S. ministry, a top Brazilian... (MORE)
- Where are Hollywood's leading out gay male actors: QUICK LOOK: Colin Firth summed up a strange Hollywood agony concisely this week, as he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a gay college professor in A Single Man. “If you’re... (MORE)
- Labor caves to pope and limits gay Equality Bill scope: QUICK LOOK: Ministers had tried to include a new definition of a priest in the flagship anti-discrimination law, but church leaders complained that it was far too narrow. They said... (MORE)
- Powell backs Obama on Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal: QUICK LOOK: Gen. Colin L. Powell, who as the nation’s top military officer in the 1990s opposed allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, switched gears today... (MORE)
- Grindr app offers instant hookups in the age of GPS: QUICK LOOK: The iPhone app “Grindr” is the biggest boon for gay sex since Craigslist. Clark Harding experiments hooking-up in all kinds of weird places, from traffic jams to mid-flight... (MORE)
- Online group protests gay-friendly Valentine's Day ads: QUICK LOOK: *VIDEO available at end of jump*: An online mothers support group wants upscale retailer Armani Exchange to pull its new ad campaign, which the group claims promote homosexuality... (MORE)
- U.S. Orthodox rabbi claims gays cause earthquakes: QUICK LOOK: *WARNING: anti-gay news source*: Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America issued the following statement: “When Americans are suffering economically... (MORE)
- Saints' Fujita offers a rare NFL voice for gay rights: QUICK LOOK: New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita addresses hot-button issues the way he might meet an opposing running back: directly. So Fujita was not shy Tuesday about entering... (MORE)
February 04, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Why is the issue of gay rights considered so divisive? I still remember four years ago how the prospect of a simple Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem accomplished what centuries of wars could not: unifying Jewish, Palestinian and even Christian leaders in Israel and the West Bank.
Now we're seeing a similar effect on weak-kneed members of Congress, who are predictably following up a year of delay on gay rights, by agreeing that an election year "in the midst of two wars" is not the time to debate the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
"I don't think it will be a campaign issue," House Republican Leader John Boehner told NBC. "In the middle of two wars, and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?"
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said nothing about the proposed policy change, which he personally opposes, despite having a perfect platform for doing so Wednesday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen testified before Skelton's committee, and they received only a smattering of questions or comments from lawmakers about the topic that dominated their testimony before senators a day earlier.
It's certainly possible that the gays and military subject will arise in some congressional campaigns this year. House Democratic leaders said they will quietly sound out their more moderate and politically vulnerable members before deciding when to seek a vote to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
That final, highlighted sentence ought to result in phone lines burning up between the Human Rights Campaign and other supposed political insiders. The time is now, like never before, with every indication there will be fewer favorable votes on DADT and other gay rights issues after the November midtern election.
There may be districts where the issue cuts against moderate and conservative Dems, but look at the polling data:
Pew Research polls found that support for gays serving openly in the military rose from just over half of all Americans in 1994 to nearly 60 percent in 2005 and later years. Opposition dropped from 45 percent to 32 percent, and the proportion of people "strongly opposed" dropped by half, to 13 percent.
A USA Today/Gallup poll from mid-2009 showed even stronger support for letting gays serve openly in the military: 69 percent in favor, 26 opposed and 6 percent unsure. Among Republicans and conservatives, the rate of support was 58 percent. Support ran lowest in the South and among older Americans, but it still easily exceeded 50 percent among those groups.
With the scene set so favorably, it ought to be a no-brainer to get DADT repeal included in the Defense Department budget bill now under consideration in Congress. If not, then Capitol Hill is not the only place where heads need to roll.
Posted by: Chris
What must viewers of Fox News thought two nights ago when the panel of usual suspects were unanimous in agreeing with President Obama's call to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell to allow gays to serve openly in the mlitary?
Said Charles Krauthammer, the curmudgeonly, neoconservative WaPo columnist:
I think it is a good idea, and I think the administration's approach, which is a gradual approach, is the right one, which is to study how to do it over a year and then to implement it over years.
Remember when the armed forces were racially integrated in '48, it was over five years. Now, I don't think that these are equivalent entities, but in terms of adaptation, I think you're going to want a period of time. But look, the mores in the country have changed, certainly in the last 16 years, and certainly among the young. I think it's a form of discrimination that's sort of outlived itself.
The British and Australian and Canadians, who have serious armies, have already done this. I think we ought to study how it should be done in the most reasonable way, but I think it's a good idea to get it under way and get it started.
Proclaiming himself a libertarian, Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard, chimed in:
I also think personally that this is a policy that's outlived its usefulness. I don't think there is a reason a proud, patriotic gay or lesbian American shouldn't be able to serve, shouldn't be able to choose to put his or her life at risk in order to defend the country.
O'REILLY: Does anybody care about "don't ask, don't tell" anymore, do you think?
HOOVER: Wow. I'm so psyched you just phrased it that way. When you have Australia, the United Kingdom and Israel all allowing gays to serve openly in their military, I think you're right. I think that the issue has been acculturated so differently with folks in my generation as opposed to in 1960s when my dad enlisted in the Army.
CHERYL CASONE (Fox Business anchor): But these are people -- these are people that are willing to protect me, stop terrorists from coming into my backyard and coming after me. And you're going to kick them out because they say they're gay? Give me a break.
HOOVER: Yes. And translating Arabic, by the way. The one dearth we have is people who actually speak Arabic, and you're kicking out Arabic translators.[retrieved from the Nexis database]
Posted by: Chris
On the subject of the Q&A that President Obama had with House Republicans in Baltimore last week, and with Senate Democrats yesterday, there is a movement afoot to institutionalize something like the weekly Question Time the British prime minister has with members of the opposition in Parliament. You can sign an online petition at DemandQuestionTime.com.
The White House is already signaling resistance to the idea -- no doubt Rahm Emmanuel's handiwork -- and Harry Reid proved just how quickly a great idea can be spoiled by gamesmanship. Yesterday's Q&A with Senate Democrats just so happened to feature moderates facing re-election this year, each of whom asked tough questions of the president that they can now use in campaign commercials back home.
Am I the only one hoping very much that the Republicans unseat Reid this year so we can take our chances with Dick Durbin at the Senate helm?
If you missed last week's at times remarkable exchange, I strongly encourage you to view the video below. As someone strongly sympathetic to the president, I thought he made mincemeat of his critics, but whatever your politics, the largely respectful and meaningful exchange is the type that has been so sorely lacking in Washington for years now.
(Top: House Republican leaders John Boehner of Ohio, Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana watch President Obama address their caucus last week in Baltimore, via New York Times).
Posted by: Chris
In a historic question-and-answer session with House Republicans last week, President Obama chided his audience for painting themselves into a political corner by so demonizing the change agenda of the White House and Democrats that they had no wiggle room to compromise on issues where the two parties share common ground.
You can already see that dynamic at work in the newly resurgent debate over Don't Ask Don't Tell. With all the cover being offered on the issue by a Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman first appointed George W. Bush, you would think that at least some moderate Republicans would position themselves as open-minded on the issue.
But instead, we were treated to pathetic displays of fear-mongering by senators with Southern accents, principally Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Roger Wicker of MIssissippi and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. As someone who has lived in or near those three states for much of my life, let me tell you that their representatives in government ought to show greater self-restraint before once again staining their history by taking the wrong side on yet another civil rights battle.
They're not the only ones. Gay Republicans are trying to muster some excitement about open-minded members of their own party by pointing to Orrin Hatch, the venerable Mormon from Utah, who according to D.C. Big Pappa, a black gay Republican blogger (yes Virginia, there is a black gay Republican) said, "he’s open to repealing DADT, a key signal that the repeal might get true bipartisan support."
Except that it took less than one 24-hour-news-cycle for Hatch to walk back that open-mindendess, blasting "left-leaning media" for "misconstruing" his comments."I certainly do not support repealing this policy," Hatch said in a statementthat slammed "activists" for "misconstruing my position."
You can forgive "left-leaning" types like LaSalvia, and yes I'm being sarcastic, for their misconstruction. Here was the exchange between Mitchell and Hatch:
"I can put you down as being open to it?" Mitchell asked.
"I am," Hatch replied.
Should we now look forward to D.C. Big Pappa's next post, blasting left-leaning blogs and activists for misconstruing his first post for suggesting anything other than Hatch's principled opposition to repealing this important national security policy?
February 03, 2010
Posted by: Chris
MSNBC's Chris Matthews shows why "Hardball" is the best political show on cable. The debate over Don't Ask Don't Tell between Aubrey Davis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Peter Sprigg of the antigay Family Research Council, is given enough time to go below the surface and Sprigg is given enough rope to hang himself.
To be sure, Matthews helps Sprigg along, and in the process shows that his opposition to open service by gays in the military is actually only the tip of the iceberg. The FRC and its conservative Republican allies would, if they had the power, ban gays entirely from serving and even jail sexually active gay people.
The only piece of the puzzle left unsaid it is that the same sodomy laws that Sprigg and his ilk favor would actually imprison the vast majority of heterosexuals as well, since studies show than more than 80 percent of straight people (in and out of the military) engage in oral and anal sodomy, which would also be criminalized.
(QuickTime video for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users after the jump).
Posted by: Chris
That seems to be the Republican party line on Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the discharge of some 13,500 service members, at a cost of millions in training and impaired military readiness, since the policy was adopted in 1993. Here is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach reacting on last night's Rachel Maddow show to John McCain's cynical defense of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
We could not have better spokespeople on this issue, and you can add Dan Choi's passionate advocacy to the list. Also I strongly recommend a post over at Pam's House Blend by Justin Elzie, a "Marine of the Year" discharged in the early days of Don't Ask Don't Tell, who I had the honor to represent as a young lawyer at the D.C. firm of Covington & Burling.
Elzie reminds all of us that civil rights movements are really fought at the margins of change. The question isn't whether we will be allowed to serve openly in the military and marry legally. The question is when:
Right now there are some that are willing to stay with the status quo of gradualism and compromise. For instance, in our own community this week one person said on CNN that an option worth exploring would be allowing the Department of Defense to retain the flexibility to implement repeal along a moderate timeline of months.
The truth is that if DADT was lifted tomorrow, we would wake up the next day and the military would still go on with no detriment to morale. For someone in our community to suggest and support a delay and sensitivity to the military leadership's privacy concerns only helps validate this erroneous argument that gays would be detrimental to the military in closed quarters. The naked truth of a delayed implementation plan is that it is an accommodation for the straight male's uncomfortability with gays in the military. It doesn't make sense to have a ramp up or a go-slow approach implementation plan when thousands of LGBT personnel are already there. If we waited until every person in the military was comfortable with gays, repeal of DADT wouldn't happen. Gradualism emboldens our opponents.
Gradualism for accommodation is a problem in that there will always be an excuse. In 1993, a compromise was hatched and gave us DADT and it has reigned for 17 years now. We have waited too long and it is time for it to be over.