March 01, 2010
Posted by: Chris
More sobering news that the retrovirus that causes AIDS has itself gone retro, impacting much gay men in percentages that rival the disease's devastation in sub-Saharan Africa:
In several U.S. urban areas, the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is as high as 30%—as compared with a general-population prevalence of 7.8% in Kenya and 16.9% in South Africa.
The reason, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that the epidemic is "generalized" among African populations, but not so here in the U.S., where it's not just concentrated geographically but within particular social networks.
That's led to a rethinking of HIV prevention efforts, which for years have focused on specific high-risk transmission behaviors, like unprotected sex, IV drug use, promiscuity and the like. We've all heard that, among gay men in particular, "the use of drugs such as crystal methamphetamine — especially at sex parties and in venues such as bathhouses — has contributed to risky behavior and HIV acquisition."
But now AIDS researchers are, in some senses, going back to where they started, looking at whether the strongest indicator of whether a person is at high risk of being infected is his "social-sexual network," especially in big cities in the Northeast and West Coast, as well as the South.
The extent of the risk of acquiring HIV in the United States today is largely defined by a person's sexual network rather than his or her individual behaviors. Understanding the context and settings in which risk is increased may lead to more robust and effective preventive interventions.
For example, black men who have sex with men are at increased risk for HIV infection in part because of its high prevalence in their sexual networks and their likelihood of choosing racially similar partners; they have also been shown to be less likely than their white counterparts to be aware of their HIV status and thus are more likely to unknowingly transmit HIV. Moreover, even those who are aware of their HIV infection may be less engaged in HIV care and less likely to avail themselves of antiretroviral therapy — behavior that limits the potential benefit of such therapy as a preventive strategy. …
Research is also needed to identify interventions that will persuade men who have sex with men to undergo HIV testing, facilitate their disclosure of their HIV status to sexual partners, and promote negotiations for safer sexual practices; such interventions need to be implemented in the settings where such men may meet (e.g., in bars or on the Internet).
More research, yes. But while we wait for more data, the time is now for the government and the non-profit groups that make up AIDS, Inc., and Gay, Inc., to launch aggressive new prevention campaigns that meet gay men where they are, and give them the information they need to lower their risk of infection.
Enough with the tired safe-sex messages that the younger set especially stopped listening to long ago. Handing out condoms in bars won't cut it anymore. What we need are creative prevention campaigns that are deployed on the social networks like Facebook, Twitter and the sites where gay men meet to hook up -- from Manhunt to Adam4Adam to Craigslist.
It's high time for HIV/AIDS prevention to enter the 21st century.
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?
February 15, 2010
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 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 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).
February 04, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
If you thought the Supreme Court decision declaring the anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional ended the criminalization of gays for simply loving another person, think again.
For gays in relationships, here is something not very pleasant to think about, especially now when tax problems are haunting a number of high profile public officials. Married straights can legally pass an unlimited amount of money, financial help, assets, benefits, services, etc. from one partner to another. Gay couples, however, cannot. Gay couples (and because the federal government does not recognize such marriages, even gays married in MA) can only pass $11,000 worth of cash, financial support, benefits, etc. from one partner to the other. Anything more than that is a taxable event (either as a gift tax on the donor or income tax on the recipient). And if you don't pay the taxes, it's a crime.
So the simple act of loving another person and doing for them what any straight married person would do for their partner can make you a criminal.
This is especially pertinent in these hard times when one partner may be totally supporting the other.
In a heterosexual marriage where one partner stays home and is supported by the partner who works, there is no tax problem. Such a situation can easily produce more than $11,000 worth of benefits moving from the working partner to the non working spouse. The value of mortgage or rent payments, food, car, insurance, clothes, utilities, etc. can easily surpass $11,000. Gay couples, however, in the exact same scenario, are breaking the law by taking care of their partner and not paying taxes on those benefits.
Is this fair? Absolutely not! But it's true.
There is a striking parallel here to the situation of old when in some states heterosexual sodomy was legal, but gay sodomy was not.
This potential tax problem doesn't only occur with stay at home partners. It can also happen when both spouses begin a relationship sharing expenses equally, but then one gets sick or loses a job.
Would any prosecutor or an IRS agent pursue gay couples for this type of tax violation or am I describing a non problem? Well for most of us the sodomy laws were non problems as well, unless of course you had an overzealous prosecutor who wanted to make a name for himself or score a political point. And at a time when government appointees are getting extra tax compliance scrutiny, it may only be a matter of time before a gay appointee faces this situation.
The basic problem, just as with the sodomy laws, is that anyone at any time can bring this infraction up to use against you.
A second problem is that this is not good for the psyche. Knowing that society's rules say that when you form a family and do the same loving, supportive things that a "recognized" married couple does, but your loving actions are illegal, this is not a great feeling. In fact, it's a terribly depressing feeling.
For the most part, breaking tax laws won't get you jail time, you simply have to pay the penalties and back taxes. But, just like after a plea bargain for a sodomy solicitation charge, it sure can short circuit a promising career in a hurry -- just ask Tom Daschle.
Do any of Obama's gay appointees have the type of tax problem I describe? I don't know. But the very fact that some schmuck has the ability to use this unfair part of the tax law against any one of us at any time should give all of us pause. In fact, it should give us motivation to fix this problem fast.
This tax predicament is just another good reason why our relationships should be recognized at the federal level as soon as possible. And if we can't have that, Congress should pass a targeted bill that addresses this couples' issue in the tax code. The best solution, however, is gaining the 1100+ federal benefits that opposite sex couples have all in one bill, not 1100 separate bills.
No gay couple that I know pays gift taxes or income taxes on net transfers of money or financial benefit from one partner to another. We are all potentially vulnerable at any moment if someone wants to make an issue of it. Just as the sodomy laws used to hang over our heads, these tax laws are also waiting to be used against us. We should move to fix the situation as soon as possible.
August 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It may not be hypothetical whether the Obama campaign is as jittery as Camp McCain allegedly was about a donation from the owner of a gay sex website. Blogger Michael Petrelis, the undisputed gay king of tracking campaign contributions, has discovered that Larry Basile, the liberal Democrat half of the Manhunt power couple, donated $250 to Obama back in January.
That makes even more curious that Basile told the Boston Herald (discussed here) he "wouldn't be surprised" if Obama also rejected a donation from a gay sex website owner. Since we now know that Obama in fact received such a donation from Basile himself, that little quip looks a lot more like pre-emptive damage control -- because mayby that's exactly what happened with Basile's contribution.
August 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
An interesting comment from a reader about my earlier post on the controversial contribution to John McCain's presidential campaign by Jonathan
Crotchley Crutchley, the co-founder and chairman of the gay hook-up site Manhunt:
Let's see if I understand your point, Chris.
It's a terrible thing when Americans use their First Amendment rights to protest the actions of others with whom they disagree?
It's wrong for people to use their freedom of association and the power of their dollar in the American capitalistic system to reward businesses with whose actions they agree and punish those with which they find fault?
It's wrong for a privately held corporation to determine that the actions of a board member have brought economic harm and reputational damage to the company and to reduce said member's role?
The First Amendment arguments are in reality just straw men. Simply because people have the guaranteed freedoms of speech and association doesn't make every exercise of those freedoms a good thing.
Also, despite the Cheneyesque line-blurring by some critics on the blogs, there is no absolutely no accusation that Manhunt/Online Buddies, Inc. itself engaged in any politics whatsoever. This was Jonathan Crutchley using his own money (from whatever source) for his own personal reasons. Another straw man.
The important point the reader raises is whether the personal politics and monetary contributions of a business executive (or investor/owner) provide a good justification for customer boycotts and executive firings. For executives, I would say absolutely not, unless there is some evidence of effect on the policies/conduct of the business. I don't think we want right-wing groups going on witch hunts for gay and gay-friendly execs at top companies, do we?
For investor/owners, the issue is more complex and ultimately a judgment call. What percentage of ownership are we talking about? How much of each customer dollar is enriching the anti-gay owner and enabling his donations? Also, how specifically anti-gay are the politics and donations? Is he giving to groups/causes etc with a specific agenda that is anti-gay? Or is his support for the cause/group for other reasons or even despite anti-gay stands?
Crutchley is clearly not anti-gay, even if he doesn't prioritize gay rights like we would. If you support a Manhunt boycott because of Crotchley's connection to McCain, what about other businesses (gay or otherwise) with top execs (gay or otherwise) who are Republican -- or even Catholic! Lord knows the Catholic church has had a far more profound and pernicious impact on gay lives and in spreading HIV than John McCain and the GOP.
Even still, there's little question that the effectiveness of this kind of boycott almost always makes it a waste of activist energy. What's more, the (situational) ideological purity that motivates such boycotts is one big reason why political correctness so enrages many of us -- and even turns off moderates (gay and otherwise) to our own cause.
August 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The bubbling controversy over the $2,300 contribution to John McCain from a co-founder of the gay hookup site Manhunt.net offers a classic example of the way idelogical intolerance sucks the life out of meaningful gay political debate.
When word first got out that Jonathan Crutchley, one of the original investors behind Manhunt, had donated the maximum allowed by law to the Republican's presidential campaign, the response was altogether predictable.
The public interest was altogether understandable. Here was politics making for very interesting bedfellows. It could have been an opportunity for some real discussion about how and why some gay folk prioritize issues like national security -- cited by Crutchley in his own defense -- over "the gay agenda," as he put it somewhat dismissively.
That's not what happened, of course. The blogs howled with angry calls for horny gay boys everywhere to cancel their Manhunt accounts in protest. Can you imagine a less effective form of political expression than this laughable suggestion? Don't give money to Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or your favorite gay group, noooo. Effectiveness wasn't really the point here, clearly. The idea was to savor that "special" feeling of cultural and political superiority (see Carvey, Dana: Church Lady dance).
The reaction within Manhunt, Inc. (a.k.a. Online Buddies, Inc.) was also swift and tailor-made for the company's hometown of Cambridge, Mass. -- the place where political correctness was born and I saw flourish in the late 1980s. The Manhunt board of directors -- wouldn't ya love to know just who that includes and how they got there? -- reacted with "disbelief" at Crutchley's donation, even though his moderate GOP politics had been known for years and his McCain contribution public knowledge for weeks.
Larry Basile, the site's other co-founder and more active in current management, offered up his liberal credentials in alternative, swearing he had made (smallish) contributions to Democrats as well as to Obama. The board even went so far as to ask Crutchley to resign, which he did, because, "Politically, [the donation] was just off-base, with the whole feeling over here at Manhunt."
Does anyone else find it ironic that a website that offers tens of thousands of men a relatively anonymous way to meet up for sex would sack its chairman and co-founder over his own private political beliefs? Isn't Manhunt as much about the right to privacy as much as it is about same-sex marriage? This ain't gay eHarmony, after all. Doesn't that double standard at least rival Crutchley's alleged offense?
Crutchley himself saw the irony. "Welcome to the age of the internet, where everyone's private life becomes public," he noted in a comment he posted to an early article about the donation,
Another insidious aspect to the controversy is the angry indignation we often see from the left that anyone who calls himself a Republican might enjoy an active gay sex life, much less be affiliated with a business that facilitates such for other gay men. Why is that so?
There's no hint that Crutchley agrees with the social conservative wing of the Republican Party on gay rights or personal privacy; in fact he made clear that his support for McCain was based entirely on who'd be the better commander-in-chief. (Crutchley also makes the interesting point that being a "Masssachusetts Republican is about the same as being an Alabama Democrat.)
You may fault his judgment on that score, and disagree strongly with the way he prioritizes civil rights and other issues -- count me in on both points -- but neither makes him a hypocrite.
Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows I am no fan of John McCain and believe the choice we face in November should be clear for anyone committed to gay civil rights. Still, I am much more troubled by the arrogant intolerance that says the Crutchleys of our community should be excluded from gay-oriented businesses, organizations, etc., than I am by the misplaced political priorities of a few gay Republicans.
(Photo of Larry Basile, left, and Jonathan Crutchley via Out magazine)
March 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The Texas attorney general has filed an appeal to the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the full court to reconsider a recent panel opinion that struck down the state's ban on sex toys. The Texas law prohibits the sale of artificial penises and vaginas "primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" except for "medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement."
A Fifth Circuit panel struck down the law in Reliable Consultants vs. Ronnie Earle, concluding that it violates the right of ordinary citizens "to engage in private intimate conduct in the home without government intrusion." That right can be traced back to Supreme Court rulings striking down laws prohibiting the sale of contraceptives and, of course, the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas, which invalidated the same state's criminal prohibition against same-sex sodomy.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has warned of a familiar parade of horribles if the panel opinion is allowed to stand, including the invalidation of laws prohibiting "consensual adult incest and bigamy." Sigh. Laws against bigamy and incest were supposed to be the next victims after the Lawrence ruling, but of course not one such law has been struck down in the five years since.
The Lawrence ruling does, however, compel the invalidation of the Texas sex toy ban, and similar prohibitions in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. If the Fifth Circuit ruling stands, it will automatically apply to the laws in Mississippi and Louisiana which are part of that judicial circuit.
Since the justifications differ significantly, there's no logical nexus between invalidating bans on sodomy and sex toys, on the one hand, and prohibitions on incest and bigamy, on the other. But the Lawrence ruling ought to have already resulted in striking down laws against fornication (sex outside of marriage) and solicitation, at least where the sex act being solicited would occur in private (and is consensual, non-commercial and between adults).
The ruling from the Fifth Circuit, generally a reliable conservative court, would represent an important advance in getting government out of the sex regulation business.
January 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The good folks at PlanetOut just can't catch a break. Fresh off of news that management is pursuing the sale of the company comes word of a bizarre lawsuit out of east Tennessee involving an angry father who claims his daughter opened a gay porn mailer from PlanetOut's softcore Specialty Publications division.
You can imagine how fair (not) the coverage of the lawsuit was on local TV:
Think about this. Your young son or daughter gets a big white envelope addressed to them. They open it, only to find homosexual porn. A Powell dad says it happened to him, and his daughter. He's mad and he's taking action. …
Kent Blackwelder and his attorney filed a lawsuit alleging Specialty Publications sent unsolicited mail with nude pictures inside to his daughter. Blackwelder says he wants to make the magazine company pay and make changes that could keep your family with having to deal with a similar problem.
(Video of the story, including grainy black-and-white of the flyer, is here.) Buried in the report are important details, like the envelope was addressed to the father, not the daughter and contained a clear warning of sexually explicit content in an interior envelope containing the flyer.
But Specialty Pubs, which publishes Men (previously Advocate Men), Freshmen, Unzipped and other softcore titles, may have given the Blackwelders just enough wiggle room to bring their ridiculous $3.8 million claim. It seems the exterior envelope was not labelled as well,something the father claims is required by U.S. Postal Service regulations.
Either way, this is one headache that PlanetOut doesn't need right now.
January 22, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Because Concerned Women for America (CWA) cares deeply for the health and well being of all Americans, CWA is sending letters inviting the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD and Lambda Legal to put aside profound ideological differences with CWA — for the sake of the lives and health of their members — and to call for commonsense steps to help curb the spread of a potentially deadly strain of Staph infection. …
"We're asking HRC and other groups to denounce, through word and deed, 'sex with multiple partners,' 'group sex [parties]' and to actively promote the notion that it is never okay to 'use methamphetamine and other illicit drugs,'" said Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues.
This is, of course, the same Matt Barber who just days ago issued a statement about MRSA that took an entirely different tone:
The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease. In recent years we have seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves ‘gay.’…
Well, now the dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population. It’s not only frightening, it’s infuriating.
Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, ‘No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.’
Never mind that MRSA can be spread through any kind of direct skin contact, not simply sexual contact (gay or otherwise), and never mind that this drug-resistant strain of staph had already infected women, children and heterosexual males in hospitals, sports facilities and other environments before it was ever reported among gay men.
It's easy to dismiss Barber and the CWA since their patronizing, cynical tone ultimately does their cause more harm than good. But the media ought to at least be asking GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee what he thinks about what Barber and the CWA are saying.
It was Huckabee, after all, who called in 1992 for gay men to be quarantined because they presented a "dangerous public health threat," even though it was broadly accepted years earlier that HIV/AIDS couldn't be spread through casual contact. Now an organization from within the bowls of his evangelical base is once again perpetrating the myth that we are infectious and dangerous and the infection can, in fact, be spread through non-sexual contact.
What does Huckabee think we should do now?
January 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The American Civil Liberties Union kindly forwarded me the brief they filed in Larry Craig's lewd conduct appeal, after I posted about it a couple of times yesterday.
Some confusion arose over the ACLU's position because an Associated Press account made it appear the venerable civil liberties lobby was arguing that sex in a bathroom stall is "private" and constitutionally protected. The ACLU later clarified that it was the Minnesota Supreme Court -- not the ACLU -- that had reached that fairly outrageous conclusion.
Well, sort of. As I expected, the Minnesota Supreme Court never said that sex inside toilet stalls is covered by the U.S. Constitution's "right to privacy." Instead, the court ruled in a 1970 case (State v. Bryant, 287 Minn. 205, 177 N.W.2d 800) that the police could not surreptitiously videotape bathroom stalls in a department from above to see if people were having sex.
It is one thing to conclude, as the Minnesota court did back in 1970, that people have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in a bathroom stall -- meaning the government has to have their consent or "probable cause" before engaging in surveillance. It is quite another to conclude that this "privacy" rises to such a level of constitutional protection that sexual conduct taking place there is protected from criminal prohibition.
The ACLU knows the difference and nonetheless stretches the definition of "privacy" way beyond its original scope in a string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, leading up to the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas sodomy ruling.
Remember that the prohibition against unreasonable searches and surveillance is explicit in the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, and the "right to privacy" at issue in Lawrence (and Roe vs. Wade) is "unenumerated" -- meaning judge-made. The ACLU does no one any favors by arguing for such an extreme extension of the right to privacy, especially when it was unnecessary in the case.
The ACLU -- and Larry Craig, actually -- would be better off arguing that his non-verbal cues -- toe-tapping, hand-waving, etc. -- could not be read to communicate one way or another about where he wanted the sex to take place, assuming they could be read to communicate that he wanted sex at all.
The really troubling police and prosecutorial abuses would be dealt a punishing blow if the courts rule that actual communication of intent to have sex in public -- which would include inside a bathroom stall. The rest is an overreach that risks what would be a real victory for civil liberties.
January 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
A sharp-eyed reader of The Citizen from Minneapolis noticed that the ACLU has issued a statement on its website disclaiming the AP story on which I based my earlier post. In particular, the ACLU says:
The Minnesota Supreme Court and other courts have found that a closed bathroom stall is a private location. The police have no business spying on people in places where there is an expectation of privacy. The ACLU is in no way advocating sex in public bathrooms. If law enforcement is genuinely interested in stopping sex in public bathrooms rather than ensnaring people in sting operations, posting a sign prohibiting it and announcing police patrols would be much more effective and would meet constitutional requirements.
The point here is that the Minnesota Supreme Court, not the ACLU, has ruled that a closed bathroom stall is a private location. Frankly, I'm not buying it, depending on the context of that earlier ruling -- I'm betting it was a case involving eavesdropping or surreptitious videotaping, not public sex. If so, then the ACLU is in fact arguing for an extension of that ruling to cover sex as well.
I've asked the ACLU for a copy of the brief, which will hopefully clear the matter up.
Posted by: Chris
The American Civil Liberties Union has jumped back into Larry Craig's "lewd conduct" case with an even more aggressive defense of toilet cruising than the last time around. How ironic if the anti-gay GOP senator's longest lasting influence on the law is to establish that sex inside toilet stalls is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The first time around, when Craig was trying to withdraw his guilty plea to challenge the constitutionality of his Minneapolis airport restroom arrest, the ACLU filed a brief arguing that the First Amendment protects "solicitation," so long as the act being solicited is constitutionally protected.
So a man in a bar asking a woman (or, after Lawrence vs. Texas, another man) to go home and have sex with him would be protected by the First Amendment -- because sex inside the man's home is private and between consenting adults, and therefore constitutionally protected as well. Because Craig never spoke, the police can't prove that he was soliciting sex to take place in the airport, as opposed to some other, private location either at that time or some future date.
This time around, as Larry Craig appeals his conviction, the ACLU appears to have extended that argument signficantly, to argue that public sex -- so long as it's "hidden" within a toilet stall -- is also constitutionally protected, meaning the solicitation of it is as well. "People who have sex in closed stalls in public restrooms 'have a reasonable expectation of privacy,'" the ACLU claimed.
If the ACLU is right, then all the back and forth about Craig's toe-tapping and non-verbal "cues" is irrelevant. The Constitution would protect his right to speak out with a clear voice in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and say, "Would you like to come into my stall and have sex with me?"
I think that goes too far. Yes, the police waste resources on toilet stings and too often entrap or pressure men into pleading guilty when they have not committed a crime. But Anthony Kennedy's eloquent description in the Lawrence decision about "the right to privacy" -- meaning certain personal decisions so intimate that the Constitution protects against governmental interference -- does not extend to sexual conduct taking place in public -- even semi-secluded.
The ACLU didn't have to go as far as it did in Larry Craig's case; the stance it took in the lower court would have vindicated the First Amendment right to solicit private sexual conduct. That would be victory enough and once on the books would eliminate the broad police discretion that allows the kind of abusive techniques employed against Craig, when the police can claim all sorts of information was "communicated" by non-verbal means.
Once solicitation is clearly protected by the Constitution, enforcement would be limited to what's actually being done in public; not what's being said.
Still, I would love to hear the court press Craig's lawyers on whether he agrees with the ACLU about constitutionally protected toilet sex, since up until now he is benefiting from civil libertarian support without taking a clear position himself.
January 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's a story brewing on the internet that Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who has just retired after 13 seasons in the NFL, described a fight with officials in his next to last game as "too much gay porn" -- a metaphor for something you don't want to watch or discuss.
The colorful story spread through the straight and gay blogosphere, supposedly pegged to a Sports Illustrated interview. I searched the S.I. site to no avail, but it turns out that's because the exact same quote -- down to the word -- was something Sapp said an entire year earlier.
In December 2006, he was asked during a locker room interview why he had been so upset on the Raiders sideline, jumping up and down and screaming while the offense was on the field. At first Sapp wouldn't say, but then explained the action on the field that day this way:
It was something that was really, really on the edge of like gay porn," he said. "That's what we call it. When it's real bad football, that's what we call it: gay porn. Something you don't want to watch. Something you just don't want to see on the TV. Something you don't even want to talk about. That's gay porn."
Pretty clever for a straight guy.
January 07, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Typically when adult film stars go for mainstream gigs, they skate in on the down low, dropping their nom-de-porn in favor of something a bit
more, well, mainstream. For instance, Colt model Elian Cortez got his
job dueling with tough guys on NBC's "American Gladiator" in part by
using the name Alex Castro.
Not so Milan Gamiani, right there on the cover of Lucas Entertainment's "Auditions Barcelona 7" -- no word on whether it's as good as Nos. 1-6 -- just one of more than a dozen gay adult films credited to the Italian-American resident of Barcelona. Gamiani used his nom-de-porn when he entered a contest to be in the 2008 calendar for the Spanish-language Cosmopolitan magazine. He even had the cojones to submit a photo from his adult film work -- albeit strategically cropped -- for his profile.
But Sentido G, one of the gay magazines here in Buenos Aires, made the connection, and we'll have to stay tuned to see if Cosmo is bothered by Mr. July's XXX-rated work. Gamiani does offer a revealing quote about why he doesn't drink, smoke or use drugs:
I believe that our body is our temple, and what we plant in the garden inside is what grows on the outside.
Now that's a priceless metaphor.
November 01, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The AP has put out a story on that study about former high school football players who dabble in man-on-man action. Funny how the wire service manages to report the results while leaving out a huge salient fact:
A new study, which will be published in the Journal of Sex Roles, suggests that one third of former American high school football players have had sexual relations with other men.
Sociologist Dr. Eric Anderson, who is credited with being the first openly gay high school coach during his tenure at Huntington Breach High in the early nineties, conducted research questionnaires with a small sample of ex-high school football players who said that they have had some sexual contact with other men.
As I noted in a blog post this week, that "small sample," which is never described in greater detail by AP, was a rather select one:
The 47 men, aged 18-23, were all American Football players who previously played at the high school (secondary school) level but had failed to be picked for their university’s team and were now cheerleaders instead.
No mention of "the male cheerleader factor" in the AP story. I guess that would read more like "dog bites man" than "man bites dog."
October 30, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The headline from Science Daily was a real eye-grabber: "Over One-third Of Former American Football Players Had Sexual Relations With Men, Study Claims." The magazine reports:
In his study of homosexuality among sportsmen in the US, sociologist Dr Eric Anderson found that 19 in a sample of 47 had taken part in acts intended to sexually arouse other men, ranging from kissing to mutual masturbation and oral sex.
But then, the fine print reads straight out of The Onion:
The 47 men, aged 18-23, were all American Football players who previously played at the high school (secondary school) level but had failed to be picked for their university’s team and were now cheerleaders instead.
Either the good Dr. Anderson, who hails from the University of Bath, is completely unaware of male cheerleader culture in the U.S. — George W. Bush excepted — or he was aiming to bias things from the get-go. Nonetheless, the study's conclusions are intriguing:
“The evidence supports my assertion that homophobia is on the rapid decline among male teamsport athletes in North America at all levels of play,” he writes in his study, entitled ‘Being masculine is not about whom you sleep with…Heterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality’ …
“I find informants actually engage in sexual activity with other men. But this does not mean that they are gay. My informants do not feel that their same-sex sex jeopardizes their socially perceived heterosexual identities, at least within the cheerleading culture. In other words, having gay sex does not automatically make them gay in masculine peer culture.”
Dr. Anderson may be right about declining homophobia in American sports, mirroring general cultural trends. But it's hardly justified to conclude these guys who have had sex with other men aren't gay because they are comfortably heterosexual "within the cheerleading culture." Talk about a workplace that embraces gender non-conformity, at least among men…
More likely, these cheerleaders in their 20s are figuring out who they are and whether they can accept being gay. Having acted on it before graduating college, they're already ahead of me at that age.
Next up for Dr. Anderson? I'd suggest an in-depth study on the extent of homosex among college fraternity presidents, or student body presidents, or those recent-grad fraternity employees for that matter. Three more completely unbiased peer groups. Right up there with drama majors.
October 06, 2007
Posted by: Chris
While the rest of us were fighting this week about transgender rights and such, the Larry Craig scandal descended from the absurd to… er… whatever is one level worse than that.
It was disappointing if not unexpected that the judge refused the Idaho senator' attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. There was the expected finger-wagging that Craig, of all people, should have known what he was doing when he pleaded guilty in the first place: "The defendant, a career politician with a college education, is of at least above-average intelligence. He knew what he was saying, reading and signing."
I like the dig at Craig's intelligence. Nicely done. I don't disagree with the judge, but it was a crimped ruling. Accepting for the sake of argument the problems with the constitutionality of Craig's arrest, then the police were counting on exactly the external pressures Craig caved to (actually multiplied in his case) to preclude him against the defendant asserting his own constitutional rights. If you care about civil liberties, then Craig's loss this week was also a lost opportunity to strike a very public blow against police abuse.
Contrast, if you will, Larry Craig's arrest with the near-arrest of another toe-tapping Republican exposed this week, this one out of Louisiana. St. Bernard Parish Councilman Joey DiFatta, 53, dropped out of the Louisiana state Senate race after it was revealed that he had been questioned by police twice on mall restroom lewdness charges. (No word on whether DiFatta is married; does anyone know?)
In the first incident, another restroom user physically held DiFatta for police after he caught the GOP pol peeping through a gloryhole to watch him pee. The man later dropped charges. The second incident, however, involved an undercover cop and would serve a nice instruction manual for the cops in the Minneapolis airport who nabbed Craig. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:
Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men's bathroom at Dillard's at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.
The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy's stall and tapped the deputy's foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.
The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy's leg, the report states.
The detective asked DiFatta, "What do you want?" according to the report, and he replied, "I want to play with you."
DiFatta also used a hand signal to indicate that he wanted to engage in sex and used language that indicated the same, according to the report. Conley, who is now the Kenner city attorney, confirmed the report's authenticity Thursday.
The incident did not culminate in an arrest because the deputy in the bathroom with DiFatta terminated the investigation after several children entered the bathroom, the report states. Conley noted in the report that DiFatta appeared well-versed and comfortable with the routine.
Conley wrote that had the investigation been allowed to continue, it likely would have concluded in DiFatta's arrest on obscenity charges, including a possible attempted crime against nature.
The civil libertarian in me is still troubled somewhat by the cop's responsive toe-tapping. If the concern with this sort of behavior is to protect those for whom it's unwanted, then the test ought to be whether DiFatta continues to pursue without any thumbs-up (metaphorically speaking) in response.
Still, the police officer here followed all the rules and was waiting for unambiguous communication far beyond anything Larry Craig did. Note that even, "I want to play with you," wasn't enough. Interestingly, the undercover cop Sgt. Conley is now the city attorney of Kenner, La. Perhaps that's why he was so careful.
(Yet another Republican with a wide restroom stance lost his lunch this week in Tallahassee, Fla.)
Meanwhile back in Idaho, or actually Washington, Larry Craig has taken Barney Frank's advice and will not resign his seat. Good for him. It will be much more entertaining to have him there and watch the Republicans twist and turn in distinguishing between Craig's misdemeanor offense and that other Louisiana Republican's admission to using the services of prostitutes.
Speaking of prostitutes, Ted Haggard's former escort Mike Jones apparently has a few ticks left on his 15 minutes of fame. In an interview with a Palm Springs radio station, he alleged in coy fashion that he had also serviced Larry Craig:
While promoting his new book during a radio interview with KNWQ-AM in Palm Springs this week, Mike Jones hesitated from making the allegation on the air. Management for the radio station says Jones told them he would reveal something about Idaho Senator Larry Craig on the "Bulldog Bill Feingold Show."
While he hesitated doing so on the air, a NewsChannel 3 camera was rolling when he made the accusation during a commercial break. Feingold asked whether the senator had seen Jones in a hotel room. Jones responded, "No, he came to see me." Jones then added, "His travel records to Denver have been documented. That's what I wanted to say."
I believe him, especially since he told gay blogger Joe.My.God the same story when the Haggard scandal first broke. Jones was apparently waiting to see if Craig would resign and decided to go public when the Idaho Republican reneged on that decision.
It will be curious to see if the mainstream press follows the Jones lead now that Craig is staying in office. Craig has vehemently denied Jones' accusation and, unlike in the Haggard case, Jones has no smoking gun phone messages. But if Jones can recall dates and the press can cross-reference trips by Craig to Denver, then watch out…
As much as the blogosphere and late-night comics would revel in yet another chapter in Craig's hypocrisy, I hope at least some of us will remember that it really doesn't help our cause.
For a complete and up-to-date news summary about the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig
September 18, 2007
Posted by: Chris
…a report emerged this week that an Episcopal priest in Boca Raton was arrested recently for soliciting sex in a public restroom. And in his case, it was crystal clear that the solicitation was for sex that would take place in private — back in the priest's home, actually:
Father Michael Penland was charged on June 28 with “soliciting for a crime against nature” in Waynesville Recreation Park after he allegedly asked an undercover officer to go home with him and have sex. On Sept. 5, Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade suspended Fr. Penland from his priestly duties at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton.
“The charge is brazenly unconstitutional,” said Robert Rosenwald, an ACLU lawyer with the Florida chapter’s LGBT project, who examined the police report.
Penland was issued a citation after he allegedly followed an undercover detective home in his car after soliciting him for sex in a public bathroom. He was among seven men arrested by the Waynesville Police Department in a summer-long sting operation dubbed Operation Summer Heat.
The ACLU lawyer is right on target…again. I have no issues with laws against public sex, but soliciting an act that is constitutionally protected -- and that certainly includes adult, consensual sex in your own home -- is protected by the First Amendment.
September 17, 2007
Posted by: Chris
I'm happy to report that both the ACLU and the Washington Post have joined a growing chorus of voices asking questions about the Larry Craig arrest. The ACLU has filed a brief on the conservative senator's behalf -- and they say politics makes strange bedfellows -- arguing pretty much what I've been saying in this space since the night the scandal broke:
Solicitation for private sex, the ACLU argues, is protected speech under the First Amendment no matter where it occurs. … In its brief, the ACLU argues that the government can arrest people for soliciting public sex only if it can show beyond doubt that the sex was to occur in public.
That second sentence is key. There's been rampant speculation, including by me, over whether Craig was there to solicit public sex or private sex, and the speculation only proves the point: There's no way the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a few hand and foot signals indicated one or the other.
The prosecutors no doubt know this, so the charges are "disorderly conduct," an entirely too vague and subjective offense that they know most of those busted won't challenge because, like Craig, they just want it to go away. Whatever your sympathy level for Craig, and I have some in reserves, it's an abuse of government power to bully people into accepting an unconstitutional arrest based on their own self-loathing or lack of fortitude to escape from the closet.
I've read an enormous amount of hostile crap from the likes of Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signorile and Mike Rogers who have succeeded in politicizing sex to a degree our conservative opponents wouldn't dream. Thank God for the ACLU, which remembers that even unsympathetic individuals deserve to have their civil liberties respected:
"Senator Craig has not always been a great friend of civil liberties, but you shouldn’t have to endorse the civil liberties of others to keep your own," said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU [who is openly gay, adds CC]. "Government should make public restrooms safe for all, but it should do so in a manner that is really designed to stop inappropriate behavior, rather than destroying the lives of people who might have no intention of doing anything illegal."
A Washington Post editorial this weekend wasn't quite so solicitous (pun intended) because it suggests the Minneapolis court should reject Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. I understand the sentiment, since he certainly made as well-informed lay decision as anyone could under the circumstances, considering he's been writing laws for almost two decades.
But with so much public attention on his case, I wouldn't mind seeing him succeed withdrawing so he could challenge the constitutionality of his arrest, which WaPo agrees was over the line:
Mr. Craig should have been able to beat the charges because none of the gestures, in and of themselves, constitutes a crime. And Mr. Craig, even by the officer's account, did not expose himself or commit any other act that would have breached the law. …
It seems clear that he pleaded guilty because his priority was not exoneration but avoiding exposure. What's troubling is that the sting operation may have been counting on just that sort of motivation in order to extract guilty pleas from men who, in fact, had done nothing explicitly lewd or illegal.
For a complete news summary of the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig
August 03, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The cop from the Village People isn't the only public figure in homo-denial this week. Two more examples surfaced just today.
First, there was Florida state Rep. Bob Allen, the conservative Republican busted for soliciting sex from an undercover cop. He finally told his version of events, albeit via a recorded interview with police. According to an Orlando Sentinel report, he was only going with the flow, afraid of all the black people around the public park at the time:
"I certainly wasn't there to have sex with anybody and certainly wasn't there to exchange money for it. This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park," Allen, who is white, told police in a taped statement after his arrest. Allen said he feared he "was about to be a statistic" and would have said anything just to get away.
Even setting aside the racist paranoia, Allen's version doesn't explain away the version related by the "stocky black" undercover cop:
Three undercover officers said they were staking out a nearby condo hoping to catch a burglar when Allen entered a park bathroom at about 3:30 p.m. The officers, who didn't recognize the seven-year legislator, said they thought he was behaving suspiciously and thought that he was looking for a sexual partner. …
Titusville Officer Danny Kavanaugh recalled entering the restroom twice and said he was drying his hands in a stall when Allen peered over the stall door. After peering over the stall a second time, Allen pushed open the door and joined Kavanaugh inside, the officer wrote. Allen muttered " 'hi,' " and then said, " 'this is kind of a public place, isn't it,' " the report said.
The officer said he asked Allen about going somewhere else and that the legislator suggested going "across the bridge, it's quieter over there."
"Well look, man, I'm trying to make some money; you think you can hook me up with 20 bucks?" Kavanaugh asked Allen.
The officer said Allen responded, "Sure, I can do that, but this place is too public."
Then Kavanaugh said he told Allen, "I wanna know what I gotta do for 20 bucks before we leave.' " He said Allen replied: "I don't know what you're into."
According to Kavanaugh's statement, the officer said, "do you want just [oral sex]?" and Allen replied, "I was thinking you would want one."
It's he said-he said, of course, but if police weren't even there for a vice sting, then Allen's version is looking shakier and shakier…
Then there was former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who snapped angrily at a Time Out New York reporter who asked him to address long-standing rumors that he's gay. The New York Post's Page Six tells the story:
Time Out New York writer Alison Rosen asked the former mayor, "Are you gay?" Koch fired back, "When was the last time you performed oral sex on your boyfriend?" A flustered Rosen responded, "Well, I'm single now, so it was a long time ago" - to which Koch scolded, "See, I don't think you should answer that question. It's an improper question, and so is yours. My sexual orientation is none of your business, and whether or not you performed oral sex on your boyfriend is none of my business."
Good for the TONY reporter for calling his bluff! Memo to Koch: It's 2007, not 1957, and saying whether you're gay isn't the equivalent of talking about your last blowjob. Anymore than saying you're heterosexual is the same as dishing on your last time in the missionary position. No wonder he endorsed Bush's re-election.
April 23, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Some surprising results from last week's Sunday Survey, on the nature of sexuality among (not necessarily between!) the genders. The poll was based on the latest report on controversial sex researcher J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, who argues that men are generally straight or gay and women are mostly bisexual.
Visitors to this blog disagree with Bailey about both genders. Given the option of saying that each gender was "generally either straight or gay," "along a spectrum from hetero to bi to gay," or "mostly bisexual," a near majority of you selected the second, along a spectrum option, for both genders: 49% thought so of men; 47.1% thought so of women.
Bailey's view came in second for both genders: 37.3% thought men were either straight or gay, while 39.2% of you thought women were mostly bisexual. Trailing far behind were the beliefs that men are mostly bisexual (13.7%) and women are either straight or gay (3.9%).
I say the results are "surprising" because they run counter to my own experience; so apparently I need to get out more…
This week's survey is on hate crimes. I'll be posting later today on the subject, since it's the piece of gay rights legislation most likely to be enacted by Congress this year, having been reintroduced last week as the Matthew Shepard Act. Hate crime laws are controversial among conservatives and libertarians, including gay conservatives and libertarians, because they make bias, or thoughts, into a crime.
Some say that impinges on free speech, others say free exercise of religion. Still others argue, as the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese wrote in this week's Washington Blade, that "the hate crimes bill sends a strong message that society does not tolerate hate violence against our community."
What do you think? Vote in the Vizu Poll to the right, and as usual voting will not open annoying pop-ups or navigate you away from the blog.
April 15, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It's time for a new Sunday Survey, and before I introduce a new topic, let's look at how the last poll turned out. Well it was up for several Sundays, but it looks like almost a bare majority of you (48.8%) agree that the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation should respond to the recent criticism it's received by creating special categories for "niche media" aimed at a gay and lesbian audience.
I like that approach because it preserves the primary purpose for the awards (outside of raising money for GLAAD), which is to influence and recognize non-niche media to present fair and inclusive representations of gay people. At the same time, gay media — whether it's here! TV, Logo or the gay print press — can also be recognized for its outstanding work. That said, I think editors who work within gay journalism should guard against being compromised by the awards process. The watchdog role played by the gay press, including over movement organizations like GLAAD, is much more important than any award recognition.
Coming in second in the poll at 29.3% were those of you who preferred to see gay media included in the same categories as "mainstream," non-niche media. This is the approach called for by here! TV and others who claim they've ghetto-ized by being excluded. Finally, 22% of you preferred to see the awards remain as they are currently, open only to non-niche media. On the one hand, that's less then one-quarter of you for the status quo; on the other hand, almost three-quarters of you accepted GLAAD's explanation of why full inclusion of gay media would conflict with the organization's mission.
GLAAD President Neil Giuliano has said the board will be reviewing the policy after this year's awards, and I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of change is instituted. Speaking of the awards, the Los Angeles ceremony was held this weekend and the big surprise was that "Grey's Anatomy" received honors for "outstanding episode." The show has very gay-friendly content and has been very supportive of actor T.R. Knight, who came out last fall. But GLAAD was vocal in criticizing actor Isaiah Washington after he called Knight a "faggot" during an on-set feud.
More surprising to me was that Jennifer Aniston received the "Vanguard Award" for her work on GLBT visibility. The GLAAD website doesn't explain why, though a bit of on-site sleuthing suggests it was because of her "girl-on-girl kiss" with Winona Ryder on "Friends" and again with Courteney Cox on the TV show "Dirt." According to Hollywood.com, "Aniston also appeared in lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge's 'I Want To Be in Love' video and was the first guest on gay comedienne Ellen DeGeneres' talk show." I'm not exactly sure all those snippets add up to a Vanguard, but it's more than Lance Bass had done before being honored by HRC. Too bad Aniston locked lips with presenter Jake Gyllenhaal (above) at the ceremony. Query whether either would have greeted a same-sex presenter the same way — now that would be Vanguard territory.
OK now for this week's survey. I posted yesterday about a New York Times report on the difference between gay male and lesbian sexuality. The article relied on the controversial research of Northwestern University psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, who concluded that men are either straight or gay, while most women are bisexual.
What do you think? Register your answer on the poll to the right. And as usual, clicking on the poll won't take you away from the site or subject you to any annoying pop-ups.
March 11, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It turns out that Marine Reserves Cpl. Matt Sanchez may not have been completely honest about just how far back in his past some of his time in the gay sex industry. His porn work, he claims, dates back 15 years, and he has said up until now that his escort work does as well.
But in a radio interview with Alan Colmes — the leftie punching bag for Fox News' Sean Hannity — Sanchez is confronted with a personal ad he placed in the New York Blade as recently as 2004 offering his "massage" services. Sanchez at first denies the ad is his, and Colmes doesn't help matters by mangling the publication name. Eventually, Sanchez "owns up to everything" even while claiming someone could be placing fake ads with his name and phone number.
You can understand Sanchez's need to stay vague. Not only does he risk blowing his conversion-to-conservativism story, if he's been tricking out for money so recently, he also risks getting tricked right out of the military.
Sanchez joined the Marine Reserves in May 2003, long after the (apparent) end of his porn career. But if he was selling "massage" services that involved "homosexual conduct" as defined by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, then he could get the boot from the Marines, and not in a good way.
Maybe now is the time for Sanchez and his conservative friends-standing-by-him to call for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Here's the interview (audio only):
Hat tip: AmericaBlog
Posted by: Chris
Matt Sanchez may have left his gay porn-escort past behind him, but it is coming back to haunt, and I don't mean angry Ann Coulter phone calls. The Navy Times reports that the U.S. Marines have begun a probe — er, investigation:
Homosexual behavior is prohibited by an article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that forbids “sodomy.”
As a member of the [Individual Ready Reserves], Sanchez falls under the authority of Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Mo., where the commanding general’s staff judge advocate, Lt. Col. Michael Blessing, has begun an inquiry into the revelations about his past, according to command spokesman Shane Darbonne.
“We’re looking into it and we’re going to verify facts and determine if any further action is warranted,” Darbonne said.
As of Friday afternoon, officials at Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans were unable to confirm whether Sanchez had enlisted prior to the end of his film career or if Reserve Marines were prohibited from doing porn when not in a drilling status. Sanchez has not returned phone calls seeking comment. He joined the Corps May 14, 2003 and is a refrigeration mechanic.
On Friday officials at Marine Corps Recruiting Command were unable to say whether past participation in gay porn disqualifies a potential enlistee because it was unclear how the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy might apply.
If liberal and gay bloggers can get over their (understandable) glee at the fact that O'Reilly-Coulter-Hannity put a gay porn star on their right-wing pedestal, the real focus of the Sanchez flap ought to be here. Or, as Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force put it, this is "the real 11 inches" of the Matt Sanchez story. Says Foreman:
There’s no inherent contradiction between Matt Sanchez being pro-military and being part of the ‘adult film’ industry. The real hypocrisy expresses itself in two different and important ways. First, the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law requires Matt Sanchez and thousands of other loyal Americans to hide their sexual orientation to serve their country in the military.
The important 11 inches in this story? That is the approximate distance between berths on U.S. naval submarines, so defamatorily measured in front of TV cameras by then-Sen. Sam Nunn in 1993, who immorally intimated that openly gay service members could not be permitted to bunk next to straight service members. From that shameful episode, Nunn led Congress to adopt the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ law, which should now be repealed. Let’s be done with officially enforced closets.
It's not a juicy hypocrisy, but it's certainly wrongheaded, that adult consensual sodomy between two people of the same sex is still a crime under the Military Code of Justice, almost four years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down civilian sodomy laws.
It's little known outside legal circles that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" actually depends on that military sodomy law. Since the Clinton Justice Department (9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick in particular) wanted to hide how the policy is actually based on the "status" of being gay, they constructed it to be based on "conduct," in particular the UMCJ prohibition on "homosexual conduct."
So now Sanchez might get caught up in "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," even though he's not technically "telling," since he claims he was so "bad at being gay" that he isn't anymore. (Huh?) Ironically, that ludicrous defense just might work. There's a loophole that allows a service member to stay even after being identified as gay if they can prove that they have no "predilection" for future homosexual conduct.
Let's hope this whole ridiculous house of cards comes tumbling down when the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston considers an appeal in a suit challenging the policy brought by the gay vets and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Or maybe the Democratically-controlled Congress will step up to the plate, and listen to a much more impressive handsome gay Latino Marine — Eric Alva, the first American injured in the 2003 invasion of Iraq — and repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
It's disappointing that Sanchez hasn't added his voice to that call, perhaps because he still hopes to curry favor with those conservatives who've been so accepting of his porn past. Whether or not he is actually gay — and Andy Towle is insisting he as "pretty good at it" back in the day — Sanchez ought to know as well as anyone that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is unfair, and may well result in his own ouster.
March 10, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Marine Reserves Cpl. Matt Sanchez posted an interesting essay on Salon.com where he argues that his history in gay porn is not only not hypocritical, as some gay and liberal pundits are charging, but helps explain why he wound up so conservative:
Porn reduces the mind and flattens the soul. I don't like it. That's not hypocrisy talking; that's just experience. I sometimes think of myself, ironically, as a progressive: I started off as a liberal but I progressed to conservatism. Part of that transformation is due to my time in the industry. How does a conservative trace his roots to such distasteful beginnings? I didn't like porn's liberalism. In porn, everything taboo is trivialized and everything trivial is magnified.
Why did I become a conservative? Just look at what I left, and look at who is attacking me today. Let's face it: Those on the left who now attack me would be defending me if I had espoused liberal causes and spoken out against the Iraq war before I was outed as a pseudo celebrity. They'd be talking about publishing my memoir and putting me on a diversity ticket with Barack Obama. Instead, those who complain about wire-tapping reserve the right to pry into my private life and my past for political brownie points.
Sanchez seems to be arguing that he turned right mostly over his distaste for those on the left. I can identify with him in a sense. When I arrived at a different Ivy League grad school in the late '80s, I had been branded a liberal and, by some, "a nigger white" for pushing diversity issues at a conservative Southern school.
I learned very quickly that conservatives had not cornered the market on intolerance, and it bothered me even more coming from liberals because it seemed so at odds with all their sermonizing about tolerance and respect. But really, which is worse? Intolerance from the right on the basis of ethnicity, religious beliefs or nationality? Or intolerance from the left based on ideology.
Sanchez wrote in Salon that his conservative colleagues have been far more accepting of his gay porn past than his liberal critics, a claim that surprises me, and I can't help wonder if it's wishful thinking or if it will last.
Regardless, I've come to realize that judging an ideology by its followers is not a particularly effective strategy. There's plenty of intolerance and hypocrisy to go around, along with respectful and thoughtful advocates. Powerful ideas can result in powerful abuses, as well as powerful progress.
Ultimately, choosing sides on an issue or more generally ought to come down to the merits of what's said, and not so much on who is doing the saying.
March 06, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The blogosphere is all a-twitter with news that the handsome Latino Marine on all the news programs this week once worked in gay porn and advertised his services as an escort.
No, not that handsome Latino Marine, Edward Alva, who appeared at a press conference with Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts calling for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
I'm talking about that handsome Latino Marine, Matt Sanchez who did the "O'Reilly" "Hannity" rounds to complain about how some socialist students at Columbia University were mean to him for being a minority in the military.
Blogger Joe.My.God gives the blow by blow:
If you are familiar with Cpl. Matt Sanchez, you probably know him as the handsome 36-year old Columbia University junior and USMC reservist who recently made the rounds of right-wing talk shows like "O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes," where he received praise for coming forward and complaining about his treatment at the hands of Columbia's "radical anti-military students" who called him names and mocked his military service. Sanchez was then feted at the CPAC conference where Ann Coulter made her "faggot" remark. Sanchez wrote an op-ed piece on the Columbia experience for the NY Post and began a blog and MySpace page chronicling his media exposure. …
Sanchez' face tinkled a few gay bells out there in fairyland, and [it turns out] Sanchez has had a lengthy career in gay porn, working under the names Rod Majors (NSFW) and Pierre LaBranche.
Sanchez hasn't denied anything, and since early posts by Joe and Tom Bacchus, blogger extraordinaire Andy Towle revealed that he actually went out on a few dates with Sanchez back in the late '80s. Since then, Sanchez has apparently given Joe a half-hour interview that left the liberal blogger impressed that the Columbia conservative is no "dumb bunny."
It will be interesting to see how the Sanchez story breaks. Liberals will scream "hypocrite!" which is their absolute favorite catch-all criticism. As applied to Sanchez, the charge seems particularly unfair. I'm not particularly sympathetic to his argument that Columbia should discipline his tormenters — if anything, there's your hypocrisy, since conservatives are supposed to be against campus speech regulations. But if you believe that gays should be able to serve in the military, and that there's nothing wrong with adult entertainment, then it's Sanchez service in uniform, not his servicing out of uniform, that should matter.
Or maybe some liberals will argue, as they did with Jeff Gannon before, that somehow it's hypocritical to be gay, conservative and have a sex life. I'm not sure they realize what they're really arguing: that something about selling sex for money (whether on film or in person) should make you a leftie.
The real travesty here is that coverage of Sanchez will dwarf coverage of Alva, who was the first U.S. service member injured in Iraq — he lost part of his leg — and his story of service with fear that he would be outed and discharged.
For video of Sanchez (on "O'Reilly," alas, not from his early work), follow the jump:
January 10, 2007
Posted by: Chris
After posting on Monday about a rekindled debate among gay men over "values," I came across a couple of viewpoints from the younger set worth noting. In a recent Advocate magazine column, author Christopher Rice wrote about "the gay divide" between his 20-something crowd and those (including me, just barely!) over 40:
Conventional gay wisdom says that AIDS in the mid-1980s stole an entire generation of gay men who were on their way to becoming the gay uncles of tomorrow. But my experience suggests that AIDS didn't behead the gay community; it drove a wedge between generations that neither side has done a very good job of bridging. I have met countless gay men over 40 who lived through the first years of the epidemic only to move into a world of inswardly focused domesticity and lose their taste for communal gathering places fueled by sex and alcohol. On the other side of this divide, my generation rose up, convinced that it could return to the escapist delights of the 1980s as long as it remembered to put on a condom. …
A true bridge between gay generations will require non-sexual mentoring between older and younger gay men. This isn't easy, since the bar, with its social hierarchies rooted in sexual attraction, remains our central gathering place. But that doesn't mean we need to tear them all down, or throw up more community centers where sex and flirtation are banned. Rather, we need to approach the world as out gay men in all areas of our lives. The freedom to be gay around the clock is what allows gay men to engage as full-fledged human beings, not just sexual ones.
I couldn't agree more with Rice, though I think AIDS both beheaded and wedged gay men largely along generational lines. There's no question that there are fewer gay Baby Boomers in their 40s and 50s to mentor younger Gen-X and Gen-Y gays and (just as importantly) serve as role models, especially in maintaining long-term relationships.
I'm more optimisic than Rice about whether sexual attraction operates as a barrier between generations. We're all accustomed to having other gay men as friends without sex interfering in the relationship.
In fact, we're much more experienced and adept at keeping things platonic than our hetero brethren. Remember the classic debate between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" about whether men and women could ever be "just friends"? I'm always surprised when I hear a straight person — whether a friend or in TV or the movies — become angry with a boyfriend-girlfriend-spouse for having a friendship with someone of the opposite sex. Are they really so sexually undisciplined? Could you imagine a gay man complaining that his boyfriend has other gay male friends?
Rice does point out how difficult it can be to bring the different age groups together, though every extended friendship network — whether real or virtual via Friendster, MySpace or the like — offers plenty of opportunities to interact. And there's so much to be gained!
Rice writes quite complimentarily of the wisdom his elders have imparted, but I hope he does not sell short what he and his generation have to teach us. There are tremendous advantages to coming of age in a society that is more accepting of homosexuality. In fact, I think that developmental time spent in the closet — dividing feelings of love and sex and associating sex with guilt — causes more relationship problems for gay men over 30 than anything else.
Along those same lines, Lovetastic co-founder Ryan Norbauer commented in response to some of the criticisms of his site in my Monday post:
You seem to imply that our site somehow positions itself against sex. To the contrary, we want to help gay men find better sex through deeper romantic connections. In my experience, the best love-making comes when you have a deep spiritual connection with your partner, based on something more than simply an appreciation of his body (although that's obviously an important component of a good relationship too.)
It's nice to see that level of understanding from someone in their 20s. I know plenty of folks in their 40s who separate sex from deeper emotion as if they were still in the closet. It's no doubt in the eye of the beholder whether Lovetastic is truly a better venue for "deeper connections" or whether it's a site for those less comfortable with their physical appearance. There's certainly a place in the gay world for it, whatever the case.
Norbauer adds that he shares my "discomfort with the term 'values.'" "Lovetastic isn't about promulgating some system of values," he writes, "it's about providing an aesthetic and philosophical alternative to most of the other self-proclaimed gay dating sites."
Actually, I'm very comfortable with a discussion about values, and I think it's long overdue. We are so used to being on the receiving end of a wagging finger ever time we hear the word, that "values" has become not-so-coded for "judgmental" or, even worse, "prejudiced." In fact, we all live by values, whether consciously or subconsciously, even if our primary value is to live a life free of all conduct rules.
I still remember when I was in my mid-20s, struggling with the closet, and an Episcopal minister challenged me to list my "sexual values." What bar must be reached to be sexually intimate with someone? It was an invaluable exercise then and one I've repeated many times over the years since.
Is physical attraction all we require? Physical attraction + the absence of other offending qualities? I remember discovering way back when that my sexual interest was inversely proportional to my romantic/relationship interest. That is; the less likely I thought the prospects of a relationship, the more interested I was in having sex right away (assuming the mutual attraction piece was there, of course). If a relationship did seem a real possibilty, on the other hand, I would push to wait, hoping we could get to know each other better and, as Ryan suggests, sex would be an expression of something other than "we're hot for each other."
What are your sexual values?
January 08, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Eric Rofes would be proud. I only met him once, but we corresponded from time to time after I read his fantastic book, "Reviving the Tribe." I identified with how Rofes saw the need for gay men to look below the surface for meaning in our lives. The first step for many of us was to free ourselves from the shackles of self-loathing and judgmentalism, but what value system would take their place?
Not that Rofes was the first or the only gay male voice to recognize the need for us to attain greater spiritual depth, but he was fairly unique in his ability to explore that need without trashing "gay life" the way so many "mainstream" gay men are wont to do.
I call them the "happen to be gay" men. They trash "the bars" as if they were uniformly meat markets, "the scene" as if it were all drugs, endless clubbing and unsafe sex, "the activism" as if supporting gay rights means screaming at ACT UP protests, and "the attitude" by which they generally mean that men more attractive than them don't return their interest.
Eric knew better. He knew that finding spiritual depth didn't require trashing the bars, the scene, activism or attitude. It meant finding common ground on which gay men can connect at a level other than superficial. It was a huge loss to "the movement" when Rofes passed away of an apparent heart attack last summer at the age of 51.
But now it seems a new round of folks is giving it a try, if a story from today's San Francisco Chronicle is any indication. The article focuses on three gay men — Ryan Norbauer, 25, founder of Lovetastic.com; Doug Sebesta, 50, co-founder of the San Francisco Gay Men's Community Initiative; and Christopher Lee Nutter, 36, author of "The Way Out," a self-help book:
They and others across the country are engaging gay men in conversations about their goals and values — both personal and collective — and challenging the sense of who gay men are and what makes their community. This introspection is happening as gay men are able to move away from the AIDS crisis, which had demanded their full attention for two decades, and now have the time and energy to look inward, these leaders say.
Unfortunately, of the three, only Sebasta seems able to engage in the type of search envisioned by Rofes, a fellow San Franciscan, without denigrating those of us who don't "happen to be gay" but actually are. The Chronicle reports:
Norbauer, who lives in Massachusetts, said his experience seeking a lover led him to Web sites and personal ads that were more about sex than personality. "That's not what being gay is about," he said. "Being gay is about loving men, and love is not the most pervasive thing on those publications or Web sites."
Unsatisfied, he created his own dating Web site, Lovetastic.com, where he requires that men be fully clothed in their posted pictures. The site is more MySpace than Manhunt, an Internet hookup site.
Actually, being gay is about loving men and having sex with them. What Rofes understood is that you don't have to trash the sex to celebrate the love. He founded PerfectUnion.net to fight for marriage rights, as well as Sex Panic!, the short-lived but influential group that fought the sex-negative safe-sex efforts of the late '90s.
If you take a look at Norbauer's Lovetastic, the first thing you notice is that almost half the "happen to be gay" men looking for "love not sex" on the site are too closeted to include any photo at all. As for the others, well, it's clear why they seek a safe space to remain clothed. What's more, their profiles are no more or less depthful that what you'd find on, say, Gay.com, the afore-mentioned MySpace, Google's Orkut or Friendster, or (gasp!) even BigMuscle, BigMuscleBears and Gaydar, for that matter.
The profile questionaire promises you won't be judged by your "stats," but it hastens to judge you by your "taste": "Taste is not only a part and index of morality," it announces, "it is the only morality." So much for spirituality — what's your favorite movie?! I had expected more of a personality questionnaire, like the kind used on eHarmony (which refuses on religious grounds to match up same-sex couples).
Instead, Lovetastic profiles are full of dismissiveness of the non-statistcal variety: "I have more important things to do with my time than go to the gym" is a typical refrain. Well I guess I haven't, and after using urban gyms in three major U.S. cities, I can tell you that without exception, the gay men there are a cross-section: from braniacs, type-A achievers and type-B creative types, to true athletes, muscleheads and retail queens.
Gay men in Washington, D.C., love to trash my gym (Results-Dupont) as a bastion of Muscle Marys with attitude, but among its members are Andrew Sullivan, HRC prez Joe Solmonese, Barney Frank and countless politicos, foundation heads, authors and the like. But my point is a bigger one: is counting resume inches truly more depthful than measuring "nether regions," as Lovetastic calls them?
Christopher Lee Nutter, another of those featured in Chronicle story, makes the Lovetastic profiles look downright tolerant. Nutter's own story is one of lurching from extreme depression in the closet, to "a state of bliss" as a "reborn" gay male, to "high as a kite" as a bartender at a New York City gay bar, posing nude for a photo book, to "spending weeks getting control" of himself if a guy didn't return his phone call.
Then he bought a book by the Dalai Lama and after two years of "isolation tank" soul-searching, had a conversion experience walking down the street when he became "suddenly awash in… extreme clarity and awareness." Would you buy a used self-help book from this man? As one reader, reacting to an excerpt of Nutter's book on Advocate.com, put it:
I recognize that we're now in the Age of Oprah and that anyone who lacks the sensitivity of Dr. Phil is considered a neanderthal, but one gets the impression that Mr. Nutter has taken things to a new level. By recycling every touchy-feely, new agey self-help adage that's ever been written, he's created a book whose insights sound astonishingly trite.
Then there's Doug Sebasta, the 50-year-old San Franciscan who helped launch a group aimed at making life in that city more meaningful, and more fun:
Sebesta said that as the community emerges from the AIDS epidemic, some gay men in San Francisco have found broken pieces of what used to be. But many have told him it is difficult to meet other gay men outside of sexual encounters or to connect on an emotional or friendship level.
"Over and above, people were saying they really have this longing for a sense of community (and) that they feel everything is fractured, that everybody is paranoid, and nobody is having fun," he said.
His group takes an unusual approach to healing the "fractured," clique-ish nature of gay male life in the big city: creating separate community groups specifically for blacks, Latinos, Asians, young men under 25 and older men over 50. The counter-intuitive idea, according to the group's website is that, "most people believed that before we could begin building something unified, each respective group of gay men had to deal with their own 'stuff.'"
I don't quite get that logic, but maybe as a white gay guy between 25 and 50, I'm not supposed to. And to their credit, their umbrella group ForEveryMan is by far the most active, so they put their organizing where their mouth is. Of course, not everyone is a "joiner," but here's hoping that groups like Sebasta's might contribute to a bigger dialogue about how gay men can live more meaningful — and fun — lives.
October 30, 2006
Posted by: Chris
* A Myer's department store in Sydney, Australia, has been forced to close its public toilets "because homosexuals were using the facility as a meeting point, often having sex in full view of other horrified users," the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The Myer's location had become a popular "tearoom" due to a cruising site called Squirt.org that lists some 15,000 such spots in Australia alone, including an Air Force base and the toilets at the Sydney Opera House. In the 21st century, with all the myriad private ways for men to cruise other men, there's really no excuse for such public sexcapades, and the way it discredits all gay men.
* Jon Stewart to a crowd of 12,000 at a taping of "The Daily Show" at Ohio State University: "A buckeye is a gay acorn, right?" (AP) (No, the photo isn't from the Ohio appearance, but I still love it.)
* Threats of violence from ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups have convinced police to reconsider permit approval for Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade, scheduled for Nov. 10. Considering that one anti-gay activist stabbed a parade participant last year, police are right to take the threats seriously. But cancelling it? Isn't Israel the country that famously refuses to negotiate with terrorists? Like the World Pride march earlier this year, plans for the Jerusalem march have accomplished what a shared faith in God could not: uniting rightist Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders. If that's not a statement of the sorry state of things in the Middle East today, then I don't know what is.
* Colorado voters will have the opportunity to split the difference next Tuesday on legal recognition for gay couples. Amendment 43 writes heterosexual-only marriage into the state's constitution. Meanwhile, Referendum I establishes a domestic partnerships for gay couples that have some basic legal rights but are not the equivalent of marriage or Vermont-style civil unions. The Rocky Mountain News has joined some moderate politicians in endorsing both measures as a middle ground, but let's not confuse these voter referenda for true democracy in action. Minority rights shouldn't have to be put to a popular vote, much less be subject to a constitutional amendment intended to prevent judges from addressing inequality.
* What a difference an ocean makes. Over the pond, Conservative Party leader David Cameron is standing by one of his closest advisers, MP Greg Barker (pictured), after the 39-year-old left his wife of 14 years for a male interior designer who had worked in the family home. The affair hasn't altered Cameron's new stance on behalf of the Tories in favor of civil partnerships for gay couples, passed in December 2004, a measure also backed by Barker at the time. Remarked one Tory insider: "The days are gone when we made people resign because of extramarital affairs, whether it’s straight or gay."