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    June 30, 2007

    More fairy tales and feathery wings

    Posted by: Chris

    R3208255706 Yahoo News has pulled together a slide-show of almost 100 photos from Gay Pride events around the world, and it's even more egregious that ABC's drag-fest earlier this week. (In fact, many of the photos ABC featured are also included here.)

    R2268336316 It's almost as Yahoo wanted to see how outrageous they could go with their photos without being slapped down by GLAAD or other gay rights activists. Literally 9 out of every 10 photos is of a drag queen or someone barely clothed, and the 10th is typically of semi-graphic same-sex sex acts.

    It's about as irreponsible as I've ever seen, and I certainly hope that GLAAD will  move aggressively in response.

    Even the photo I considered the sweetest, nicest pic from the whole collection -- the pic below from Seville, Spain -- got ruined by a photo caption that identified the couple as "activists."

    June 29, 2007

    Voices from Brazil's Bermuda Triangle

    Posted by: Chris

    Jardins_protestMore than 200 people marched through a São Paulo neighborhood protesting violence against gays. The banner reads 'Homophobia Kills: We want a Brazil without homophobia.' (Photo courtesy of ClubWhirled)

    Kudos to my pal Kevin Ivers over at ClubWhirled for bringing international attention to the recent murder of two young men in the Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil, and the lackluster reaction from the local police and gay population.

    Johnclaytonbmp The unexplained violence, which many suspect is the work of neo-Nazi skinheads, has some gays calling the wealthy neighborhood a "Bermuda Triangle" of sorts. 

    The recent violence is by no means the first time, either. I wrote back in April 2006 for the Washington Blade Blog about another apparent gay-bashing in Jardins, when a group of swastika-toting skinheads stabbed a 22-year-old in the chest. The attacks this week were also stabbings.

    So Kevin was justifiably proud to participate in a protest held in the neighborhood two days ago calling for hate crime legislation, and posted about it here. Our mutual friend over at Made In Brazil also helped spread the word.

    I agree with Kevin that it's curious the protest organizers chose not to make specific mention of the two murders or pause at the sites where they occurred. But the important thing, as Kevin points out, is that they put some pressure on the police to take action and hopefully encouraged closeted gay residents to report attacks when they occur.  You'll can watch one short video taken by Kevin of the protest here; he posted a second as well over at ClubWhirled.

    With the help of Kevin and some very close Brazilian friends, Anderson and I plan to move to São Paulo in a few weeks. One of our reasons was the city's reputation as being safer than Rio. Obviously we'll be watching things closely there and look forward to helping Kevin spread the word internationally about anti-gay attacks in the area.

    Click here for a complete summary of gay news from Brazil, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    Click here for a complete summary on news about anti-gay hate crimes, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    June 27, 2007

    Screwing Rudy over with red "X's"

    Posted by: Chris

    Ngltf_on_prez_candidates More information today on where the presidential candidates stand on gay, trans and HIV issues, as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force issued its "first comprehensive analysis" of the 2008 race.

    In past elections, the Task Force has put out fair, useful and thorough analysis without the tendency to skew things for one candidate or another, like we saw from the pro-Hillary questionnaire last month by HRC. But on a nuts-and-bolts level, the Task Force report released today is surprisingly weak. The information is inconsistent, not well-documented, and even sloppy in places. Not only did the report fail to deliver any bombshells (like HRC's), the Task Force serves up what we already know while managing to leave out a surprisingly large amount.

    HRC received well-deserved praise from this blog for forcing the Democratic candidates to move beyond general rhetoric about "equal rights" for gay couples. As a result, the Dems are now on record supporting repeal of half or all of the Defense of Marriage Act, and — even more importantly as a practical matter — full federal recognition of gay couples in civil unions, domestic partnerships and other committed relationships.

    The Task Force, on the other hand, glosses over all of that, offering up a check-mark or a red "X" for "supports civil unions/DP." Since the Task Force didn't give a separate line-item for DOMA, immigration rights or federal benefits for civil unions, we're left with a mishmash of info.

    The Task Force deserves its own big red "X" on the issue of fairness to the candidates. You get a taste that "the fix was in" from the press release accompanying the report, in which E.D. Matt Foreman essentially concludes: Democrats good, Republicans bad:

    The differences between the Democratic and Republican fields of candidates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues are shockingly stark and profoundly depressing. Over time, the majority of Americans have moved to support basic fairness for LGBT Americans, including nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws, repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' and protections for our families. Sadly, the Republican field has gone in the opposite direction, still clearly pandering to the venom of the so-called 'religious right.'

    Giuliani_2Looking at the Task Force scorecard (above), you'd think he was right, given all the green check-marks on the Democratic side and all those red "X's" on the Republican half. But when you dig a little deeper, you find one Republican candidate — who just so happens to be the leading contender — didn't get a fair shake.

    On the eight issues highlighted by the Task Force, Rudy Giuliani gets check-marks for two, question marks with asterisks for two, question marks for two, and red checks for two.  Here's how it breaks down:

    • The two green check-marks are for opposing a federal marriage amendment (as do John McCain and Ron Paul) and supporting civil unions. So far, so good.
    • The two question marks with asterisks are on employment discrimination and hate crime laws. Rudy is on record supporting the inclusion of gays in both, but he doesn't get a green check because he hasn't said if he would protect transgender people, too.
    • The two question marks are on gays in the military, where Giuliani supports lifting the ban but not during a time of war (or GOP primary, one ventures); as well as for gay adoption, although I can't imagine him opposing.
    • Rudy gets a red "X" for opposing same-sex marriage, just like every serious contender on the Democratic side, and for (of all things) not supporting HIV/AIDS funding. The only evidence for that red "X" is a 2001 article from the New York Blade, when I was the paper's executive editor, in which an AIDS activist criticizes Mayor Giuliani for cutting prevention funds for communities of color. Color me underwhelmed.

    So strip away the questionable characterizations, and what do you get? Giuliani really deserves a red "X" on marriage only, and deserves check-marks (though some with asterisks) on all the rest, including (I'm betting) on adoption.

    Does that make Giuliani as good on gay issues as the leading Dems, who all score similarly? Hardly. His support is tepid in some areas and, as the HRC questionnaire demonstrates, the Democrats have committed to specific areas of progress that are central to treating gays (and gay relationships) equally. What's more, Giuliani's record on (dis)respecting civil liberties should give great pause to many gay Republicans who've been waiting for a "little l" libertarian to capture the party's imagination.

    Nonetheless, we should call Foreman out for his doomsday rhetoric about the Republican Party. While it's certainly true that the "religious right" influence is exaggerated in the GOP primary, and the party has a very long way to go before it's competitive on gay rights, the glass isn't all empty. For the first time ever, the Republican frontrunner has a decent gay rights record; one by the way that compares favorably to that of Bill Clinton.

    Click here for a complete summary of gay news about the U.S. presidential race, compiled on Gay News Watch.

    June 26, 2007

    One-way blogging over at HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcbackstory The Human Rights Campaign launched a blog today called "Back Story," which promises to "weigh in on issues, provide some perspective and commentary and hopefully add to the daily dialogue," according to an initial post by Joe Solmonese, the gay group's leader. 

    JoesolmoneseofcIt's a good idea in principle, especially given how remote the Washington, D.C.-based organization can be from its members — at least between black-tie dinners.

    I've added the blog over at Immigration Equality to my daily read, not only because gay immigration rights are a personal issue for me, but because I.E.'s Adam Francouer is refreshingly open in discussing tactics and encouraging feedback.  Having spent 10 years observing the gay rights movement, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see one of our organizations treat strategy as something other than a "state secret" that only the rich and well-connected can discuss behind closed doors.

    Unfortunately, the initial posts on HRC's Back Story aren't too encouraging, at least when it comes to encouraging real discussion and "adding to the daily dialogue."  Most of the early entries by HRC's designated blogger Chris Johnson — who handles the group's "blog outreach," as if we needed further evidence of staff bloat — are either glorified press releases or news blurbs repeated on a thousand gay websites and blogs.

    It's not fair to judge a blog by its early posts, so there's still hope HRC might offer more meaty discussion and even (gasp!) take a few risks.  I know firsthand that it takes awhile to grow accustomed to the blog form, and its drive-by commentary is still an imperfect fit for me. But I can make one very specific suggestion to HRC:  enable reader comments.

    Sovo_logo_small I've been plenty critical of HRC, of course, in my years editing Southern Voice and the Washington Blade , in syndicated columns since and here on this blog. But I have always given over more space for responses and criticism than I took to use myself and, of course, this blog includes comments, and I don't censor.

    Blade_logo_small In the early days of the web, I added a comments section to SoVo and the Blade websites, but we had to remove the feature after a small but determined bunch used it to write incredibly personal, nasty and defamatory comments about individual staffers (no, not me). The Blade recently opened up its site to comments again, and I wish them well with it.

    Every comments section depends on a certain degree of respect and decorum, both qualities all too often missing from the Internet. But if I can handle the heat, and so can the Blade and Immigration Equality, then HRC can, too.  Otherwise, we're left to conclude what we already suspect, that "improving communication with members," one of Solmonese's goals for "Back Story," is really just a one-way street.

    June 25, 2007

    A suit of mirrors and feathery wings…

    Posted by: Chris

    …is that what Gay Pride means to you?

    That's the headline ABC News pasted on its slideshow depicting Gay Pride events around the world.

    Berlinpride The 12 photos were taken at big Pride celebrations in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Berlin, as well as at smaller events in places like Seattle, Marseilles, France and Guadalajara, Mexico.
    But do they represent quality photojournalism?

    By my count, of the 12 photographs, five were of drag queens and two were of people decked out in otherwise outlandish costumes. Three of the pictures were of shirtless muscle men.

    MoredragprideThat leaves a grand total of two photos, out of 12, that showed normal looking folk — in both cases pictured with colorful rainbow flags or banners.

    Photographers will always gravitate to the more outrageous photos, but the percentages in ABC's collection mirror what we often see in the mainstream media.  ABC seems to be an especially egregious offender, considering they managed to depict São Paulo Gay Pride, with 3 million attending, using one photo of an overweight drag queen.

    Sfpridedrag The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has taken note of this disturbing pattern, and its "Pride Resource Kit" includes some good advice:

    Please avoid exclusively depicting the more sensational aspects of Pride. Colorful and unconventional participants play an important role in Pride events and celebrations, but GLAAD encourages journalists to avoid the tendency to ignore the diversity that exists at Pride events. Reliance on outrageous or over-the-top images and footage marginalizes subjects by taking them out of context to depict them as abnormal – perpetuating misconceptions about the LGBT community to audiences who do not regularly attend or participate in Pride events.

    Maybe it's time for ABC's photo editor to join Isaiah Washington in gay rehab.

    June 24, 2007

    I second that emotion…

    Posted by: Chris

    Mario_cantone When I first heard the news that among the replacements being considered for Rosie O'Donnell on "The View" were three catty queens, my reaction was pretty much exactly what my friend Cyd Zeigler had to say over at The Dooryard:

    I'm bothered by the news that has popped up in the last 36 hours or so about The View looking for a gay guy to replace Rosie O'Donnell. Good idea, lots of gays are tuning in, it'd be interesting having that dynamic to play off the women. THIS is my problem: The guys they're looking at are Ross the Intern, Mario Cantone and Perez Hilton. Aaaaarrrghhhh!!! In other words, the only gay guys they want to have on are more catty and bitchy and feminine than Rosie was. Unfortunately, that's what the media (mainstream or gay) want to put out there as the face of gay men, so that's what we're stuck with.

    PerezhiltonfingerLike Cyd, I'm not hyper-sensitive about feminine gay guys or harbor illusions that to be masculine is to be "straight-acting," a phrase I disdain. But these hacks are essentially modern-day minstrels, mincing for money — the last thing they need is greater exposure.

    June 22, 2007

    RSS, tickers and widgets, oh my!

    Posted by: Chris

    Rss_symbol_2 A few weeks ago, I made my big gay announcement about Gay News Watch, a new website that compiles, sorts and customizes all the gay news and views from the U.S., Europe and worldwide. I'm very pleased to say that traffic has been better than anticipated for a start-up project, and is growing every day.

    Several of you commented at the time, however, that you were disappointed you couldn't subscribe to Gay News Watch via RSS feed. Well, be disappointed no longer. Starting today, an RSS subscription is available, either by going to the site and clicking on the RSS symbol in your browser URL window, or simply by clicking here, or if you want more info first, by going here.

    Gnw_ticker_2 But that's not even the most exciting part.  I've partnered with a fantastic company called MuseStorm to create headline ticker "widgets" that you can use to add Gay News Watch headlines to your blog, website or MySpace-type online profile.  You can see an example in the right column here, which I created using my own design, background, text color and size specs.

    You can create your own Gay News Watch widget by going here.  The ticker will scroll the last 20 headlines on Gay News Watch, which means you'll always be displaying the breaking news from the last 24 hours.  So by simply pasting a snippet of code into your blog, website or online profile, you can be your own gay news service.

    And even that's not all. (OK, I'm starting to sound like a QVC salesman, so sue me.)  With a click of your mouse you can also create Gay News Watch  headline ticker desktop widgets, either from Yahoo by going here, or from Google by going here.

    There's more good stuff where that came from.  Soon you'll be able to download Gay News Watch desktop widgets for your Mac Dashboard, Vista Gadget, mobile phone and even your favorite instant message application.

    OK enough with the sales claptrap. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…


    June 21, 2007

    Waking up on the wrong side

    Posted by: Chris

    Melbournegaybar It's 'gays only' at Tom McFeely's bar (above) in Melbourne, Australia, which won the right to exclude heterosexuals so gay men aren't forced to deal with 'hens' night out.' (Photo courtesy of AFP)

    Having spent the last 15 years of my life involved in one way or another in the movement for gay rights, I'll risk my credentials in saying some days I wake up and think we're on the wrong side of things.

    Not generally, mind you. And not on any of the big issues. But some gay folks have got a crazy mixed-up idea of what gay rights laws ought to be used for.  A few examples:

    Tom McFeely is unapologetic for seeking an anti-discrimination exemption for his Melbourne gay club to refuse entry to heterosexuals and lesbians. The Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal granted a three-year exemption for the Peel Hotel last week, accepting McFeely’s claim that gay men felt uncomfortable with the number of heterosexuals and lesbians in the venue. “When it came to the stage where a gay guy can feel uncomfortable in a gay club, that’s when I felt I needed to do something about it,” McFeely said. Contrary to media reports, he said fear of violence was not the motivation. “We don’t really get any violence at the Peel. Historically the only violence has come from lesbians, particularly when they start fighting around the pool table,” he said. “It does make gay guys uncomfortable. That’s partly why I also put lesbians in this exemption.”

    A woman who was turned away from a Montreal gay bar has filed a human rights complaint. Audrey Vachon was recently refused service at Le Stud in Montreal's gay village after sitting down with her father for a quiet afternoon pint. A waiter came over and told her father, Gilles, that the bar doesn't serve women. Vachon, 20, says the waiter avoided looking at her during the conversation. "On the spot I didn't believe it, I thought it was a bad joke," Vachon said. "I didn't say a word until I'd left. I was too shocked. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I felt guilty that I'd even gone there, like I'd done something wrong."

    The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued today for refusing to offer its services to gays and bisexuals. A suit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay. Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option. They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gay men and lesbians denied access to the dating service. eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

    A lesbian couple barred from holding their civil union ceremony at a beachfront pavilion in Ocean Grove, N.J., has filed a state civil rights complaint against the church group that owns the property. The couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster alleged in a complaint filed two days ago with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights that they were denied use of the boardwalk pavilion because of their pending status as same-sex civil union partners. "They have weddings there all the time," said Bernstein, a semi-retired educational consultant. "We wanted to have our ceremony on the boardwalk, on the beach, because it's a beautiful setting, just like any married couple would want to do." Division on Civil Rights Director Frank Vespa-Papaleo said the complaint was the first to deal with discrimination in public places under New Jersey's new civil union law, which took effect in February.

    Prosecutors dropped a felony hate-crime charge today against one of two female high school students accused of handing out an anti-gay fliers at their suburban school. In exchange, the 16-year-old pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting a peace officer, both misdemeanors. She faces punishments ranging from court supervision to juvenile detention at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 13. Authorities say the teens handed out fliers at Crystal Lake South High School with a picture of two males kissing and hateful language about gays.

    For the most part, these cases show how gays who live in the friendliest of places are willing to fight "civil rights battles" on the very margins of what the law allows. They do so oblivious to how they play right into the trap that gay rights is really "politically correctness" run amok.  And worse yet, they recklessly endanger the ability of gays elsewhere to enact the very type of laws they are bending out of shape.

    A vote for civil union laws is a vote to force churches to perform gay weddings! All the opposition has to do is cite the incredibly lame-brained lawsuit out of New Jersey.

    A vote for hate crime laws will make a crime out of free speech! A quick reference to the out-of-control prosecutor in the high school flier case should suffice.

    "Tolerance" for gays is a one-way street!
    Sure sounds that way when gay bar owners want the right to exclude heteros or women to preserve their own "safe space"; something no one else is allowed. Cyberspace isn't even safe from lawsuit-happy lesbians, who think they're (somewhat justified) "offense" over eHarmony's exclusion of gay relationships somehow amounts to a "civil right."

    With so many example of real-life, down-and-dirty actual discrimination and mistreatment of gay people worldwide, you'd think our more fortunate brothers and sisters in the gay-friendliest of places would tone down the "offense" setting on their P.C. meter long enough to let the rest of us win some basic equality.

    June 19, 2007

    From the mouths of penguins…

    Posted by: Chris

    Opus My favorite comic strip in college was Berkeley Breathed's "Bloom County," so it's good to see him back stirring up trouble. The strip's second coming (actually, third comng) features roughly the same cast of characters, including the naive but lovable penguin Opus, who gets title billing this time around.

    So last week, "Opus" featured two boys talking about a third grader named David Dinkle who has two moms and no dad.

    "A dearth of dads for David Dinkle," quips one. "Multiple mommies," replies the other.

    "No dad?" asks Opus. "Makes you wonder," said one of the boys. "Makes you wonder how he'll do without a male role model in the house."

    On cue, legendary misogynist Steve Dallas, a longtime "Bloom County" character, hurls his television set through the front window of his house and emerges, festooned in a ballcap with bazoombas, a beer in hand, three days' growth of beard and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. "Now THAT was a pitch you @$%* moron!" he yells to the ballplayers on the telly.

    Sacks_and_daugther__w150 The response to the strip from aggrieved heterosexual males (and their erstwhile admirers) was predictable, swift and predictably swift. Blogger Glenn Sacks claimed, for one, claimed Breathed's "message is clear: dads are useless as role models (when they're not outright destructive), and kids have little need or use for them."

    In a disclaimer (encased in parenthesis) at the end of his post, Sacks (shown in this photo from his website with his own daughter) insisted his preference for opposite-sex parents "should NOT be construed as a criticism of lesbians, lesbian moms or gays." (One can imagine him arguing a preference for same-raced parents not being racist.)

    Sacks promises his criticism is reserved for the idea, supposedly pushed by Breathed and "prominent feminist authors," that "kids don't need fathers, that moms are better than dads, and that having two moms is better than having a mom and a dad."

    Within days, Sacks had reverted to social conservatives' favorite whine these days: deliberately misunderstood victim of political correctness. He took particular umbrage that "the gay press -- including prominent blogs Queerty and Pam's House Blend"  had "mischaracterized" him as anti-gay.  Where in the world did they get that idea?

    Sacks again insists in this follow-up post that individually, gays are every bit as capable parents as heterosexuals. It's when they combine into a couple that gays are inferior. It's a new twist on "love the sinner, hate the sin." It's "respect the gay, don't respect the gay couple."

    Since Sacks seemed forlorn that no one would take his argument seriously, I am more than happy to take the bait. First, as far as "Opus" goes, Sacks' beef (in his own words) is with Breathed's message that "dads are useless as role models (when they're not outright destructive)" and that "kids only need mothers."

    Sacks' take on "Opus" only works, of course, if we can imagine Breathed's apparent support for gay parents is limited to lesbian moms. If "dads are useless" and "kids only need mothers" then gay fathers would be a total anathema, right? Can anyone imagine this is what Breathed was saying, much less what he actually thinks?

    If Breathed had a real political agenda, as Sacks believes, then the much more likely possibility is that he supports the idea of any loving couple raising children, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. So much for the daddy victimization; that would diminish the mommy role every bit as equally.

    Stevetv My own take on "Opus" isn't so serious (imagine that — comedy from a comic strip!). Breathed has never used the character of Steve Dallas to represent all men, much less all potential fathers. (Actually, lost on everyone is the fact that Dallas actually came out as gay at the end of Breathed's "Outland" strip, only to revert to chauvinism after reparative therapy.)

    I believe Breathed was making a more subtle point, reminding us through humor that there are plenty of redneck sexist couch potato guys out there who aren't particularly good role models of any sort. So let's be careful about generalizing the idea that ticking both gender boxes is the best way to ensure a child's well-being, rather than ticking the boxes next to "loving, supportive and attentive."

    Now, onto Sacks' more serious claim about gay parents, one shared by plenty of anti-gay conservatives (though Sacks protests he's not one).  Again, Sacks' own words:

    My belief is that while gays and lesbians as individuals are just as competent as parents as heterosexuals are, children need fathers and do benefit substantially from both the male and female parenting styles. When two gay men parent a child, I believe children lose something substantial from not having a mother, and when two women parent a child the child loses something substantial from not having a father.

    I understand the point here, although it runs counter to every legitimate social science study comparing how well-adjusted the children of gay parents are compared with those raised by opposite-sex couples. What I don't understand is, assuming he's right, what we're supposed to do with the information.

    I don't know Sacks' views generally on parental rights for gay couples, so let me imagine what conclusions he would reach from his view that a mom and a dad really is better than two moms or two dads:

    Let's limit parental rights to opposite-sex couples.  How cruel! If Sacks is right about the disadvantage of being a child with single or gay parents, then they need extra support and assistance from the government, not less. Surely he wouldn't punish the child for the sin of the parents.

    Let's  "encourage" the upbringing of children in opposite-sex households. If so, the target audience is single-parent heterosexuals, for whom partnering with someone of the opposite sex makes sense.

    Let's "discourage" gay couples from parenting. If so, they still ought to focus their energies on single-parent heteros for two good reasons:

    First, gay people want and will have kids for the same reason anyone else does, and Sacks and those who devalue our relationships are the last source we'd turn to for advice on whether to take the parental plunge.  So all the "discouragement" will come to naught and, as pointed out, only hurt our kids. Second, if we're ranking parental scenarios according to "likelihood of success," then a same-sex couple still ranks higher than a single parent.  Two moms are better than one, even if (according to Sacks) they're not as good as a mom and a dad.

    All in all, it's disappointing to see how many "not anti-gay" pundits continue to view lesbian moms somehow as an indictment of fathers. Sacks wasn't the only one to respond that way to "Opus," although Washington Post syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at least suggested you could both favor gay parents and not bash dads.

    We saw the same phenomenon when pro-gay liberal columnist Leonard Pitts voiced disapproval of Mary Cheney's mommyhood. I view it as part and parcel of those opponents of gay marriage, like conservative Maggie Gallagher, who find it easier to attack the rights of gay people than deal with the messy, intractable social problems of couples and parenting generally.

    It's as if these folks perform a fairly heartless cost-benefit analysis, sacrificing equal rights for gays and the well-being of our children for the supposed greater good of protecting "traditional families." I reject the entire idea that as a society we must choose between the two.  And I'm just cynical enough to believe that for many anti-gay conservatives, there's a Karl Rovian private understanding that gay marriage and gay parents aren't really in the top 10 actual threats to the traditional family.  But wedge issues play (and fund-raise) so much better in Peoria.

    Well, not in Bloom County, at least.

    Click here for a complete news summary on gay parenting, compiled on Gay News Watch.


    June 17, 2007

    Is this our 'marriage moment'?

    Posted by: Chris

    1181915178_6447 That giant whooping sound you heard last week was from Massachusetts, where advocates for marriage equality finally drove a stake through the heart of a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would have blocked gay nuptials in the one place in the U.S. they are legally recognized.

    The victory was particularly impressive given how high the bar had been raised. Not only was gay marriage put to a vote of Massachusetts legislators, the amendment needed only 50 out of 200 votes to go on the November 2008 ballot. It managed only 45.

    All sorts of factors can be credited for such sweeping success: 10,000 married gay couples vs. 0 skies falling, for one. Plus, gay marriage opponents in the state’s top three political posts — governor, Senate president and House speaker — were each succeeded in a matter of months by gay marriage supporters. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick played a particularly aggressive, high profile role, staking his political capital on the amendment’s defeat.

    The bulk of the political money and energy was on the pro-gay side, and state legislative races in 2004 and 2006 proved that backing the marriage ban could actually be more dangerous politically than opposing it.

    The defeat of the amendment means gay marriage is safe in Massachusetts until at least 2012, and for all practical purposes permanently. That’s also good news in neighboring Rhode Island, the one state that so far has recognized Massachusetts marriage licenses issued to its gay citizens.

    Devalpatrick Gay activists in the Bay State already have the next target in their sights: the infamous 1913 law that limits Massachusetts marriage licenses to gay couples from states (like Rhode Island) that don’t outright ban gay marriage. Successful repeal of the 1913 law would mean that gay couples from all over the country could travel to Massachusetts, get married, and return home demanding that other states recognize their marriage licenses.

    The federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, purports to allow one state to refuse recognition to another state’s gay married couples, but politicians in more than a few middle-of-the-road states will see the advantage of allowing gay marriage through the back door. Massachusetts may well become “the Las Vegas of gay marriage,” as former governor turned presidential candidate Mitt Romney has warned.

    The 1913 law that Romney used to forestall non-residents from marrying in Massachusetts has its roots in pacifying states in the early 20th century that opposed interracial marriage, and Romney’s African-American successor, Governor Patrick, has already signed on in support of its repeal.

    The connection between marriage equality for interracial couples and gay couples is one being encouraged by Evan Wolfson’s Freedom to Marry Project, which last week marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion striking down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

    That landmark ruling, in the appropriately named case of Loving vs. Virginia, went against overwhelming public opinion in 1967, when about 70 percent of Americans were against mixed-race couples marrying. That’s about the same percentage as oppose same-sex couples marrying today, though another 30 percent do support civil unions, which bestow separate-but-virtually-equal rights and benefits.

    Jebbushad_2 Provocative advertisements co-sponsored by Wolfson’s group feature photographs of prominent conservatives like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and others like golfer Tiger Woods, pictured with their white, Latina and white spouses, respectively.

    The victory in Massachusetts last week strongly encourages the idea that the sweep of history is with progress on marriage equality for gay couples, just as it was 40 years ago for interracial couples. But have we arrived finally at our “marriage moment”?

    Cheryl Jacques, a former Massachusetts state senator who led the Human Rights Campaign in 2004, popularized that phrase during the halcyon months after her home state’s highest court struck down the hetero-only marriage law a year earlier.

    Then came the horrific backlash, as dozens of states passed laws and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Karl Rove managed to wedge the issue into the 2004 presidential election. And even state supreme courts in friendly states like New York and Washington state declined to follow their black-robed predecessors in Massachusetts.

    Now, as the good news returns, have the tables turned back in our favor? Are we ready, this time, for a “marriage moment” of more far-reaching and permanent effect?

    Hopefully we are a more mature, realistic and strategic movement now than four years ago. We understand the value of incremental progress, however bittersweet. In places where marriage is within legislative or judicial reach, like California, New York and Washington, D.C., we ought to go for the brass wedding ring.

    But in most other places, civil unions and domestic partnerships shouldn’t be welcomed with pinched noses as consolation prizes; they represent real progress, and important rights and benefits for tens of thousands of same-sex couples.

    In the “red states” where even minimal legal recognition for gay couples isn’t viable, a focus on workplace rights and hate crime laws will move things in the right direction. Real recognition for gay couples in the South, Midwest and other conservative parts of the U.S. will ultimately await action by the federal government, whether from Congress or the courts.

    In the meantime, last week’s victory in Massachusetts, along with the historic marker from Virginia, are important reminders that we are on the right side of history, however long it takes.

    Click here for a complete news summary on the movement for marriage equality, compiled by Gay News Watch.


    June 14, 2007

    Mass. marriage ban killed!

    Posted by: Chris

    Bostonglobecoverblog The proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution died today with only 45 votes out of a possible 200 in support — five less than necessary to put the measure on the November 2008 ballot.  The narrow 45-151 vote means Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry. The question needed the approval of 50 of 200 senators and representatives to advance to the 2008 ballot.

    Details here.

    The victory is truly remarkable, considering that only one-quarter of the 200 legislators voting would have sent the measure to the ballot, where it would have divided the state and wasted millions in a risky fight to win a popular vote for our civil rights.  True kudos go out to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, a strong supporter of marriage equality, who personally lobbied wavering legislators and no doubt made the difference in closing days.

    If ever you needed proof we're on the right side of history, you got it today.  Gay marriage is here to stay in the US of A.

    São Paulo Pride in pictures

    Posted by: Chris

    Faceincrowd I've uploaded my favorite photos from the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade into a photo album so you can get a sense of the scope of this massive event and some of its participants.  Since we were up high on a float from The Week International nightclub, I wasn't able to get very many "face in the crowd" type photos.

    You'll find many more of that variety on the Made in Brazil blog, which also includes links here to some of the other gay and mainstream media sites that chronicled the world's largest ever Gay Pride Parade in pictures.

    Enjoy — and make plans to visit next June!

    June 13, 2007

    CNN solicits 'I-Reports' on being gay

    Posted by: Chris

    Storygay Presumably timed for Gay Pride month, CNN is asking for "I-Reports," or personal video testimonials, from people about gay life in the USA:

    What is your perspective on gay life in the United States?

    Do you think American society is now more accepting of homosexuality, especially in regards to issues concerning the workplace, religion, health and family? Or is the experience dominated by the politics that surround it?

    If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, what was your “coming out” experience like and do you think it may be easier now than, perhaps, decades ago?

    And would it matter to you if someone in your immediate community -- your neighbor, your boss, your pastor, your mayor, your doctor, your kid’s teacher -- was gay?

    Visit this link to get your details and make your submission.


    June 12, 2007

    Remembering the party has a purpose

    Posted by: Chris

    Dscf2954 More than three million people gathered last weekend in São Paulo, Brazil, for the world’s largest ever Gay Pride parade. The sheer size and spectacle weren’t the only reasons the event was one I will never forget.

    Anyone who has been to Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro knows that Brazilians know how to throw a party. Gay Pride in São Paulo, a city of 20 million, is no exception. The parade down Avenida Paulista was a gigantic street party, with 23 massive trailers, each sponsored by a gay organization, nightclub or business, fitted with a powerful sound system, decorations and spotlights — the parade starts in the early afternoon and lasts for eight hours well into the night.

    This was not a parade like we are used to in the U.S., with floats and official participants in the street, cheered on by spectators on the sidewalks. This was a celebration for everyone, with no distinction between those of us on the floats and the people dancing alongside in the streets and spilling over onto the sidewalks.

    Dscf2951 Strangers danced — and occasionally locked lips — with strangers, gay men partied alongside lesbians, with the expected contingent of dolled-up drag queens and a healthy contingent of straight couples, with smiles on their faces as broad as the gay participants.

    I wish the energy and the spirit of Sunday could be bottled and delivered back home to the U.S., where so many Gay Pride parades have begun to feel a bit stale, a bit stereotyped, and a bit adrift from their original purpose.

    Latin America in general, and Brazil in particular, still trails Europe in the U.S. in cultural acceptance of homosexuality, even if they’ve managed to achieve more rights than many of their American counterparts. Brazil is home to conservative Latin machismo and the largest Roman Catholic population in the world, so Gay Pride in São Paulo is still a vital opportunity for lesbians and gay men from smaller cities across the country — and elsewhere in Latin America — to feel free to be themselves.

    Of course, any event with more than three million participants will have its hiccups. Watching safely from the float for The Week, São Paulo’s legendary nightclub, my partner and I were at times worried for the surging mass of people below, where happy partiers could be caught up in a crush of humanity in the blink of an eye.

    Police presence was minimal — too minimal — so pick-pockets had themselves a field day. Pride organizers complained afterward that special observation towers and tents set up for the police were left empty, overcome by street revelers. The few police I saw simply stood and watched, and played no active role in controlling the massive crowd.

    But the biggest problem is one familiar to those of us who have watched Gay Pride events in the U.S. change their focus over the years. This is supposed to be a parade with a purpose; the theme in São Paulo was ending racism, sexism and homophobia. But it appeared a bit lost amidst the bacchanalia.

    I have seen the same thing in Washington, D.C., where the political focus fell by the wayside in the 1990s as a (supposedly) gay-friendly president took the White House and the worst of the AIDS crisis subsided. I knew an unfortunate corner had been turned the year Capital Pride organizers actually chose as keynote speaker Tammy Faye Bakker, who preached from the Gay Pride stage that homosexuality was a sin but we were all sinners.

    Untitledbmp_2 In São Paulo last weekend, too many missd the message. As the parade drew down, a gay tourist from France was stabbed to death outside a gay restaurant and bar only blocks from the parade route. He had just left a well-known gay restaurant with some gay Brazilians he had met earlier, when they were approached by three youths dressed as “skaters,” typical of local skinheads. Without a word or a demand for wallets, the Frechman was stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen.

    The next day, the gay Brazilian who blogs in English under the name Made in Brazil wrote about the incident, and a number of other gay Brazilians responded angrily that he shouldn’t cast Gay Pride in a negative light. Even as the mainstream media here picked up on the murder as a possible hate crime, local gay websites — the only form of gay press here — downplayed the tragedy or ignored it entirely.

    Ending homophobia had been the theme of the Gay Pride parade, but how quickly some of its participants forgot. Brazil’s gay and lesbian leaders haven’t managed yet to harness the energy of São Paulo’s massive Pride celebration — or at least make the message last once the music has stopped.

    Matthew Shepard all over again?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hall_king1 Coleman King, 18, in front in stripes, and Garrett Gray, 19, behind, are claiming 'gay panic' caused them to brutally beat to death Shorty Hall, 35, in Crothersville, Ind.

    A reader of Gay News Watch submitted a story from an alternative newspaper in Bloomington, Ind., that we should all do our part to spread the word about. A young, slightly built man was brutally beaten to death on April 12 because, his suspected assailants claim, he made a pass at one of them.

    The shocking murder of Aaron Hall, known by his friends as "Shorty," and the use of the so-called "gay panic" defense by those charged in his murder, have yet to attract media attention from bigger newspapers in Indiana, much less outside the state.  It is incumbent on all of us to make sure it is investigated as a possible hate crime and, if confirmed, Americans see the violent result of homophobia.

    Reporter Steven Higgs of the Bloomington Alternative lays out the facts:

    The simple facts in Shorty Hall's murder shout major media. … The 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming is commonly invoked in comparison.

    Thirty-five-year-old, 5-foot-4, 100-pound Aaron Hall was brutally beaten on April 12 for hours by two teens who have described the murder in chilling detail to police. Each says Hall precipitated the violence by making a homosexual suggestion.

    The beatings included repeated pummelings with fists and boots and dragging Hall down a wooden staircase by his feet as "his head bounced down all of the steps," in one of the accused's words. He died naked and alone, in a field, where he had crawled after his killers dumped his body in a roadside ditch.

    Police found Hall's body 10 days after his death wrapped in a tarp in the garage of Jackson County Deputy Coroner Terry Gray, whose son is one of the accused.

    The Crothersville Times has more, quoted by Higgs:

    "King said they were all drinking beer and whiskey when Hall grabbed him in the groin, asking King to perform oral sex. King said he punched Hall, then jumped on him, punching him several more times. King said Gray also punched Hall while King held Hall down."

    Gray said King left the room after initially assaulting Hall. Gray said he walked over to ask Hall if he was all right. "Gray then admitted to striking Hall several times in the eye area causing significant damage," the Times reported.

    Gray told police that King walked back into the room and moved Hall to the couch. "According to Gray, King then straddled Hall and began physically assaulting him multiple times with his hands," the paper said. Hendricks said the beatings "went on for several hours before Hall was loaded into Gray's pickup."

    Before dragging Hall down the steps to Gray's Ford Ranger pickup, Gray said they assaulted him again on the deck. King said he and Gray "continued beating Hall as Hendricks drove south to the dirt farm lane." There they dumped Hall in a ditch and threw his camouflage coat over his body.

    "King admitted to striking Hall a few more times," the Times said. "The trio then left Hall in the ditch."

    The cold-hearted brutality of the murder is truly shocking.  One of those allegedly involved is said to have even sent a text message photo to a friend that showed the beating victim between two of his attackers, almost as a hunting trophy.

    There is some question about whether the victim, Aaron Hall, was actually gay or whether his alleged attackers are counting on homophobia to stigmatize the victim and hopefully lessen their punishment.  Regardless, gay rights groups, the gay media, the blogosphere and the media generally need to pay attention to this case to make sure it is investigated properly -- including the possibility that it was an anti-gay hate crime.

    For a full report on recent crimes investigated or determined to be motivated by anti-gay hate, visit the Gay News Watch summary here.

    June 11, 2007

    Clinton campaign OKs UAFA meeting

    Posted by: Chris

    HillarychatstillAfter hedging her support for the Uniting American Families Act, which extends to gay Americans the same right heterosexuals have to sponsor non-American partners for citizenship, Hillary Clinton's campaign has agreed to a meeting with Immigration Equality on the issue.

    Clinton said in her Human Rights Campaign candidate questionnaire that she "supports" UAFA, and yet she has not signed on as a co-sponsor, and she indicated in her written response that she has both fraud and bureaucratic concerns.

    "In the current immigration debate, I'm fighting to ensure our immigration policies respect and reunify families that have been waiting for years," Clinton says in her response to the HRC questionnaire.  "While I'm supportive of this proposal in principle, I have been concerned about fraud and believe implementation of this provision could strain the capacity of our Citizenship & Immigration Services."

    Immigration Equality has suggested that UAFA supporters contact Clinton and let her know that gays are seeking unconditional support on the issue and sponsorship of UAFA.

    For a comprehensive look at gay immigration rights, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the U.S. presidential race, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    June 08, 2007

    Inflation runs high at HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Solmonese Inflation may be under control in the U.S. economy, but it's still running rampant at the Human Rights Campaign, which cooks its books to count as "members" anyone who's ever given a dollar to the organization and hasn't (to the group's knowledge) died.

    After the latest round of scrutiny and criticism over the abominable practice, which has been roundly condemned by both observers, there were murmurings of reform. Apparently they stayed murmurs.  Now the number is up to a laughable 700,000.  One can only imagine how endowed HRC would advertise itself in an online profile…

    June 06, 2007

    A gay 'oopsie' for Obama

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamafist With all the attention on whether Hillary Clinton is selling gays short on marriage or inching her way to an gay marriage endorsement, it's easy to miss that Barack Obama has some 'splaining of his own to do on the subject.

    The candidates "report card" issued by the Human Rights Campaign masked an important difference between Clinton and Obama on the Defense of Marriage Act, one-half of which prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, and one-half of which allows one state to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states.

    HRC shows both candidates — in fact all seven Democratic presidential candidates — backing repeal of the first-half of DOMA that deals with federal recognition. HRC does not show, however, that Obama is on record favoring a full repeal of DOMA, making him and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich the only ones willing to require states to recognize gay marriages from other states, just as they do straight marriages.

    Today's Chicago Sun-Times reported on the HRC questionnaire, pointing out that Obama's position wasn't always so gay-friendly.  He said he was against DOMA's repeal as recently as in a December 2003 candidate questionnaire for the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Obama spokesperson Bill Burton tried explaining the change: "Obama has opposed DOMA. He felt it was a poorly conceived law and, in 2004, after hearing from gay friends who relayed to Obama how hurtful it was for the bill to be law, he supported its repeal."

    That sounds like a reasonable flip-flop evolution on the issue of the type we should encourage in all politicians. The only problem is, in February 2004, just two months after the pro-DOMA questionnaire, Obama wrote a letter to the gay Chicago paper the Windy City Times calling for DOMA's repeal.  So I guess those "conversations with friends" took place in January?

    What's more, Obama claims in that WCT letter that he has been against DOMA since it was first introduced back in 1996:

    For the record, I opposed [the Defense of Marriage Act] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. …

    When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue. … Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.

    I'm guessing Obama didn't actually oppose DOMA back in 1996 as an "abhorrent law" that "perpetuates divisions," only to subsequently decide by 2003 that it shouldn't be repealed, only to reverse course again in time to campaign with gay voters in 2004.  The more likely explanation is that the 2003 questionnaire was wrong, by accident or otherwise. Doesn't the "new kind of politics" include 'fessing up about this sort of thing?

    Obama is a bit less tortuous on gay immigration rights, but only marginally so. Told about the plight of gay Americans in binational relationships back in a February 2004 interview with WCT, Obama said he needed to study the issue.  When it was raised again with Obama in February 2006 by a gay American forced to live in exile to be his partner, Obama said he thought "that sounds unfair." 

    But still, he did not sign on to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act, even though it was the only issue that cost him a perfect score on HRC's congressional scorecard. Finally, pressed by HRC's presidential candidate scorecard, he checked that he "supports" UAFA, but then said in his answer that the legislation should be amended to address fraud concerns.

    More than three years after the gay immigration issue was raised with Obama, he still hasn't specified what changes would be necessary to win his actual support and co-sponsorship. That's not leadership, especially when every other Democrat running for president (except Hillary) has endorsed UAFA without conditions.

    All the waffling inspires discouragement in the ranks of Americans who ought to be more enthusiastic supporters, like Republic of T, a liberal black gay blogger who has written about his disillusionment with the Democratic candidates:

    Leaders, real ones, at some point have values — like fairness and equality — that they don’t dodge, deny, or dissemble about, but that they stand by and speak up for even when unpopular. Let alone with those values are popular or are gaining in popularity.

    I feel his pain.

    June 05, 2007

    Was the fix in for Hillary?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillarystares It's fascinating to see how Hillary Clinton's candidacy has the ability to polarize, not just among the left and right of American politics, but within constituencies.  Consider the split-screen, almost schizophrenic reaction to the release this weekend by the Human Rights Campaign of its "report card" on the Democratic presidential candidates.

    Ben Smith, blogging at The Politico, saw a Hillary headline in the HRC release:

    The news … seems to be that Hillary is repudiating her long (if tepidly) held support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which her husband signed, and which drew her criticism in New York. 

    Smith quotes Clinton spokesman Phil Singer confirming, however, that Hillary still supports the one-half of the Defense of Marriage Act that allows states to refuse gay marriages from other states. That drew scorn from the gay left, where bloggers like Pam Spaulding questioned "sHillary's" position as half-hearted:

    It was obviously not ok for states to prevent people of different races from marrying back in the day (that was overturned by Loving v. Virginia in 1967), but Hillary Clinton is saying that it is ok for a state to apply that discriminatory thinking when the couple is gay or lesbian in 2007. That renders CUs legally unequal when you cross state lines.

    In similar fashion, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan suspects HRC may have "rigged" the report card for "the other HRC" — Hillary Rodham Clinton — by masking her continued support for half of DOMA. Gay Republican blogger Boi From Troy sees it the same way:

    I had grown some respect for Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton yesterday when I read that in a survey for the Human Rights Campaign, she had repudiated her support for the Defense of Marriage Act and was now opposed. It would take a pair to disagree with a policy signed into law by your husband!

    But it looks like defending her own marriage is more important that standing up for the equal rights of all Americans to marry, as the New York Senator is backtracking, telling The Politico that in her own responses to HRC, “she distances herself from a central plank of DOMA — its bar on the federal recognition of same-sex marriages — but not from the portion which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.”

    What makes all this fascinating is that Hillary's position on marriage and DOMA is exactly the same as four of the other six candidates who responded to HRC.  Only Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich favor full repeal of DOMA.

    Despite all this flak from the Net roots about Hillary selling gays short on marriage, the headline in the MSM is that she's practically backing full marriage equality!  Patrick Healy asks today on the New York Times blog "The Caucus": "Is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton preparing to endorse gay marriage?":

    Her advisers say no – she supports civil unions only – and gay rights advocates who work with Mrs. Clinton say she has not promised them anything. Yet these advocates also say that Mrs. Clinton is inching, in her famously incremental way, toward a policy position that might at least open the door to gay marriage.

    So did HRC rig things for Hillary, or is she truly out front on marriage, inching her way to a full-fledged endorsement? Well, the way the HRC questionnaire frames the issues does mask some important differences in ways that benefit Hillary the most.

    Obama gets no credit for being the only candidate (besides Kucinich) who opposed DOMA since it was first proposed a decade ago.  As noted, he’s also the only one (besides Kucinich) who now favors its full repeal.

    On “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Hillary is rated the same as the rest for favoring repeal, even though as recently as this week’s New Hampshire candidate debate she still defended her husband’s support for the 1996 “compromise” on gays in the military as “an important first step.”

    HRC shows Clinton and Obama as supporting gay immigration rights even though both hedged in their questionnaire answers, saying UAFA should be toughened to address fraud concerns. HRC didn’t even ask the candidates where they stood on ending the ban on immigration by people with HIV.

    The report card doesn’t try to tally leadership, of course, and the biggest deficiency of Democrats at the federal level has been their inability to translate pro-gay rhetoric into law.

    Of the seven candidates, only Bill Richardson of New Mexico has shown leadership in actually enacting gay rights, having managed workplace protections, a hate crime law and employee D.P. benefits in his first term as governor of a “red state.” He even called his legislature into special session this year to try for statewide domestic partnership, although the measure failed.

    You wouldn’t know any of that from reading the HRC report card, which added up check marks in a way that makes all seven Democrats look equally good on gay and HIV issues, a blurring of the lines that did benefit Hillary the most.

    My own guess is that HRC set things up not only to favor “the other HRC” but Democrats generally, since the party’s most likely nominees are not as strong on gay rights as those in the second and third tier, especially Richardson, Kucinich and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd.

    It’s still a huge achievement for HRC to have all these candidates on record backing full federal recognition for gay couples. The race for president often redefines a party’s positions on issues generally, and the HRC questionnaire has raised the “floor” of what we can expect from Democrats — and any politician who claims to be “gay friendly.”

    For a comprehensive look at gay immigration rights, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the U.S. presidential race, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    June 04, 2007

    Having it both ways on immigration

    Posted by: Chris

    It's not just on UAFA and immigration rights for gay Americans that the leading Democrats are waffling.  They are talking out of both sides of their mouth on broader immigration issues, too.

    June 03, 2007

    Hillary, Obama hedge on UAFA

    Posted by: Chris

    Well, the bloom came off the rose pretty quickly for those of us in binational relationships.  The Human Rights Campaign "report card" on the Democratic presidential candidates indicates that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama "support" immigration rights for gay couples.

    But the actual HRC questionnaire responses show both candidates hedging their support, raising concerns about immigration fraud.  Clinton, in particular, said she did not believe the already overburdened U.S. immigration agency could handle scrutinizing the additional applications they would receive. The other five Democratic presidential candidates, including John Edwards, have offered their unconditional support.

    More details here, in a special report I wrote for Gay News Watch.

    My reaction to the Clinton-Obama hedge is mixed.  Obviously, concerns about immigration fraud are serious and should be taken as such.  The Uniting American Families Act, which extends to gay Americans the same right to sponsor non-Americans for citizenship, would put binational gay couples through the same scrutinization as straight Americans.

    Still, it's reasonable to put unmarried couples through greater scrutiny than married couples because the act of marrying, with its accompanying responsibilities and commitments, is pretty clear evidence of the couple's legitimacy and credibility.  Of course, there are limited jurisdictions worldwide where gays can marry, and even once married their responsibilities are subject to how they'd be treated where they divorce.  It's one thing to marry in Massachusetts or Canada, for example, but if most other U.S. states won't recognize the marriage, then it's not as risky and serious a step for the couple.

    Other countries have addressed this issue by requiring additional evidence of commitment and mutual interest of unmarried couples.  Both the U.K. and Canada require cohabitation for at least one year.  That can be a huge hurdle for gay couples, since only 20 countries worldwide allow gays to sponsor a partner for a residence visa.  Perhaps a requirement like that would satisfy Clinton and Obama. 

    It's disheartening to see Clinton, who counts many prominent lesbians and gay men as supporters, put a price tag on our equality.  That's the effect of withholding her support for UAFA because she's concerned about whether the Citizenship & Immigration Services could handle the burden of scrutinizing visa applications from gay binational couples.  If she believes gay couples should be treated equally, then the question of burden should be applied to gay and straight couples equally.  Unless she favors withholding sponsorship rights for straight couples, money shouldn't be a reason for withholding similar rights for gay couples.

    I also can't help but wonder whether the risk of fraud is actually greater for gay couples.  The vast majority of heterosexuals worldwide wouldn't dream of faking a gay relationship for immigration purposes.  And even a small amount of scrutiny would pierce the veil of most.

    It was encouraging to see all seven Democratic presidential candidates support UAFA, but to take Clinton and Obama seriously when they say they support immigration rights for gay binational couples "in principle," they should make clear what more they would require.

    For a comprehensive look at gay immigration rights, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the U.S. presidential race, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    June 02, 2007

    Dems back federal rights for gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Demsdebate UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Very big news today from the Human Rights Campaign, which released its "report card" that shows all seven Democratic presidential candidates back full federal rights for gay couples, including:

    • equal tax treatment
    • Social Security survivor benefits
    • immigration rights (UAFA)
    • inclusion in the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
    • domestic partner benefits for gay federal workers

    There's also a full commitment on trans-inclusion and complete support and agreement on every issue raised by the questionnaire except on marriage equality.  As we already knew, only Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich supports that.

    All the details are in a special report I've posted here on Gay News Watch.  HRC did not release the actual candidate questionnaires, but I have asked for copies and will post them.

    UPDATE:  I've now received all seven candidate questionnaires from HRC and the links to each are at the bottom of the article here.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the presidential campaign, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    Hillary, Obama waffle on UAFA

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Obviously, this post was almost immediately "scooped" by the very happy news from HRC that all seven Democratic presidential candidates support UAFA.  Still, I think this post offers some useful background about Obama and Clinton, especially on how Hillary thought at one point UAFA might be included in comprehensive immigration reform.

    Digging for clues on how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama really feel about DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, I also came across a couple of hints on their view about UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act.   The evidence is all encouraging but it's also inconclusive, which leads me to wonder: Why waffle on UAFA?  (Sorry, it just rhymes so well.)

    I found this interview with Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim in February 2004 which Obama, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate, came out instinctively against the ban on travel visas for those who have HIV and asked for more time to study the issue of binational couples:

    WCT: On immigration—there is an HIV ban, and there is no ability for gays to marry and thus have their partners stay in the U.S.
    Obama: I haven’t studied either of those issues carefully. I would object instinctively to a ban on visitors with HIV. I think that that’s a remnant of initial fears about HIV transmission that were inaccurate. I would want to examine the immigration law in the broader context of the immigration policy.

    The only other hint I could find was in a press release from Love Exiles, a grassroots group of Americans who (like me) are living "in exile" abroad because the law does not allow them to sponsor their non-American parters to live in the U.S.  That's the problem for which UAFA is the cure. The press release recounts who Love Exile member Robert Bragar, a New York lawyer living in exile with his Dutch partner, asked Obama about the issue at a Democratic Party function in Washington, D.C., back in February 2006. Obama is paraphrased as telling Bragar that the U.S. sounds unfair.

    Three years since Baim raised the issue and more than a year since Bragar raised it again, Obama still hasn't cosponsored UAFA or taken a position on the legislation.

    As far as Hillary, there's a tidbit in this Gay City News story that had clues about her ongoing support for DOMA.  Employing pretty classic Hillary-speak, she sounds like she favors immigration rights for gay couples, and even favors including the measure as part of a more comprehensive immigration reform effort:

    Asked about a measure authored by West Side Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler that would allow immigrant partners of Americans to gain citizenship just as foreign-born married spouses can, Clinton said movement on that awaits a comprehensive solution to the immigration issue that moves beyond the current Republican emphasis on penalties and border fences. With a Democratic Congress, Clinton said, much more is possible "and I think that will be included in it."

    That attempt at comprehenstive immigration reform, by the GOP-led Congress, failed. Clinton has been silent on UAFA during the current go-round on immigration, still hasn't signed on as a co-sponsor and she didn't even address the issue in her gay issues position paper.

    And it's clear the UAFA silence is intentional. Lavi Soloway, a gay New York-based Canadian immigration rights experts wrote in his blog in February that "the Hillary staff has had one excuse after another" since being asked to sign on for UAFA, and its predecessor the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, since she first came to the Senate.

    It's long past time for both Clinton and Obama to clear up the confusion and show the leadership they talk so much about. John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd are on board in favor of UAFA.  Senators?

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the presidential campaign, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    To my transgender sisters…

    Posted by: Chris

    Transrestroomblog UPDATE: This post, like my later post on UAFA, was scooped by news today from HRC that all seven Democratic presidential candidates back inclusion of gender identity in both ENDA and hate crimes legislation, though none is on record favoring HRC's "suicide strategy" on the issue.

    I know some of my transgender sisters question my commitment to their equality, but let me be the first (I think) to point out where the top-three Democrats on in inclusion of gender identiy in federal hate crimes legislation (where I support it) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (where I support in principle adding it at some later date, but oppose its inclusion now).

    As I pointed out previously, John Edwards came out for transgender protection in both pieces of legislation as part of his response to the Human Rights Campaign questionnaire:


    • Workers should be judged by the quality of their performance, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • We should strengthen the ability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on race, gender, religion national origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.

    Hillary Clinton made no mention of adding trans protections to ENDA in her gay-issues position paper, released last week, but did back inclusion of gender identity in hate crime laws:

    She will strengthen law enforcement and prosecution against discriminatory acts of violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals by signing the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.

    She did say, however, in an interview with LGNY editor Paul Schindler during her 2000 Senate campaign that she supports inclusion of gender identity into ENDA in principle, just not in practice (sounds familiar!):

    lgny: Do you think the goal of broadening the language for ENDA or broadening language in the hate crimes protection act to include gender expression and gender identity, do you think that's a practical goal at this point politically?

    Clinton: I think we need to try to move ENDA forward. I think ENDA is such an important legislative goal. I think it's within reach and I think it's a vehicle for widening the circle of rights and freedoms and responsibilities and I would really focus on trying to get that passed.

    lgny: In other words, no effort at this point at amending?

    Clinton: I don't see at this point that that would be in the best interest of moving the agenda forward.

    lgny: What I understand your answer to be is that laudable as that goal might be it might slow the political process down.

    Clinton: Well I think that's probably accurate. It may not be the answer people want to hear, but I think it's accurate. We should do everything we can to get ENDA to pass. Legislation is often imperfect at best, and not as inclusive as it needs to be, but you have to build on your victories. Right now we don't have ENDA. I think about the fact that we don't have the hate crimes legislation.

    Last fall, during an on-the-record conversation with gay and transgender activists, Clinton dodged the question in a way that suggests her position hasn't changed. Gay City News reported at the time:

    Asked by Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered activist who is a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, if she would support the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in the long-stalled federal employment nondiscrimination act, or ENDA, Clinton noted that the federal hate crimes measure also lacks such language, but said only, "We are very aware of that and we are raising that."

    Obamaprofile Obama avoided the issue entirely in his gay rights position paper.  He was more vocal in his support for trans rights during his 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.  Check out this February '04 interview with Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim:

    WCT: Talk about your record on hate crimes.

    Obama: I have been a strong advocate for hate-crimes legislation at the state level. I would continue to be an equally strong advocate at the federal level. I absolutely think that sexual orientation has to be included in all hate-crimes legislation.

    WCT: Gender identity as well?

    Obama: Absolutely. The transgendered community has to be protected. I just don’t have any tolerance for that sort of intolerance. And I think we need to legislate aggressively to protect them.

    WCT: Do you support adding gender identity to the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

    Obama: Yes. I think this is a difficult question because it touches on, for example, the rights of schools or other public institutions that may be concerned about a transgendered person in positions of authority. I would think the political resistance on that would be fierce. I’d have to look at the language.

    All in all, that puts Clinton and Obama in about the same place on the key trans rights issues: support for inclusion in hate crime laws and ambivalence about adding gender identity to ENDA.  Edwards, on the other hand, was unequivocal in his support on both.  Even Edwards, it should be noted, stopped short of the strategically suicidal position backed by the Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, which is to actually oppose workplace rights and hate crime protections for gay Americans unless transgender protections can be adopted at the same time.

    There's not a lot of daylight, then, between the top three, though we'll have to wait and see whether Clinton and Obama reaffirm their previous positions when their HRC questionnaires are made public in the next week or so. I'm sure my most vociferous transgender critics will not be satisfied with these commitments, but they are enough for me — and most gay and trans-friendly Americans, I'm guessing.

    June 01, 2007

    Hillary asked and answered

    Posted by: Chris

    Paul Schindler, longtime editor of Gay City News, a gay publication in New York,  tells me Hillary's acute laryngitis on whether the federal government should recognize civil unions is a recent affliction. Back in October 2000, when the former first lady was locked in a tight high-profile Senate election battle with Republican Rick Lazio, Schindler interviewed her for LGNY, the predecessor publication of GCN:

    lgny: Would you support a federal effort to recognize and confer the federal portion of benefits that these state civil union measures are not able to convey?

    Clinton: Yes.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the presidential campaign, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    Hillary, Obama on DOMA

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryblog Some nuggets are emerging about where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand on the Defense of Marriage Act, which both of them dodged in their gay issue position papers released last week.  Buried in this long New York Observer profile on gay-focused fund-raising efforts by the Democratic presidential candidates was this little nugget:

    Mrs. Clinton supports the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by her husband in 1996, which prevents a state from having to recognize the legality of a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere in the country.

    That position resulted in an embarrassing confrontation back in March of last year, when Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay New York lobby, urged gay political donors to boycott a fund-raiser held for Mrs. Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign in Diane Von Furstenberg’s downtown studio.

    In the course of explaining that he was still debating whether or not he would endorse a candidate in 2008, Mr. Van Capelle made it clear that he holds a grudge against Mrs. Clinton—and that he was enthusiastic about Mr. Obama.

    “He has separated himself from the rest of the Democratic candidates at this early point in the campaign by seeming far less tortured when discussing our community,” Mr. Van Capelle said. “I’m happy that Senator Obama has called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, something that Senator Clinton is in favor of. The best I can decipher from candidate Edwards is that he is on both sides of the issue.”

    Obama A bit of a double-whammy for me, since I wasn't aware that either Clinton or Obama was on record about DOMA. A bit of digging turned up a letter from Barack Obama from February 2004, during his U.S. Senate campaign, to the gay Windy City Times:

    For the record, I opposed [the Defense of Marriage Act] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. This is an effort to demonize people for political advantage, and should be resisted. …

    When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue. … Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.

    Welcome news but funny how such full-throated opposition to "an abhorrent law" somehow got omitted entirely from Obama's position paper on gay issues, released last week. We'll have to wait and see whether his answer to the Human Rights Campaign candidate questionnaire is similarly silent.

    As for Hillary standing by her man, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, the evidence is a bit murkier.  The Observer doesn't say where it gets her position from, though I found a few other oblique mentions on the web along the same lines.  Ironically the conservative press has done a better job of documenting her supposed support for DOMA than have the gay and progressive media.

    An article in the New York publication Gay City News did indicate in passing that Hillary was sticking by DOMA as recently as last October.  Paul Schindler reported:

    Clinton went on to defend both DOMA and her decision not to speak during the marriage amendment debate this past June, and in fact linked the two. She said that without being able to point to the U.S. law which bars federal recognition of gay marriage and allows states to similarly refuse to acknowledge such unions from other states, many more members of Congress would have voted to amend the Constitution, especially when that effort had its first vote two years ago.

    She explained that her choice not to speak on the Senate floor about the amendment this year was strategic. "Very few Democrats spoke, because maybe you thought one way, which is that you want people out there speaking for us. We thought as-force the Republicans out there, make them look like they're trying to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution. We don't even want to dignify it."

    If all this holds up and is reaffirmed by the candidates now, then Obama's position is best on DOMA, favoring full repeal of "an abhorrent law."  Meanwhile, Edwards backs repeal of just the half of DOMA that blocks federal recognition of gay marriages, and not the half that allows one state to ignore marriage licenses issues to gay couples by other states.  And then there's Hillary, apparently still supporting DOMA in its entirety.

    Let's hope those gays who showed up this week for her Washington, D.C., fund-raiser paused long enough before cutting their checks to ask where she actually stands on these issues.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the presidential campaign, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

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