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    September 29, 2007

    Feliz aniversario a The Week

    Posted by: Chris

    260_2 Parabens e felicidades for The Week, the gigantic playground for gay nightlife here in São Paulo, which is celebrating its third birthday. My friend Marcos, who blogs (in Portuguese) over at Carioca Virtual, paid a visit last night for The Week's Angels party, a special event for the three resident DJs who have played a huge part in making the club what it is.

    I know (bitter) American gays poke fun at the cult of the DJ, and the dance club scene in general, but for those who actually appreciate the music, DJs like The Week's residents João Neto, Renato Cecin and Pacheco make almost as much difference as whether you're attending a concert by Celine Dion or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    Any of these three Brasileiros could compete with the top circuit DJs in the U.S, whether it's Neto's high-energy Abel-esque set, Cecin's Lehman-esque upbeat lyrical beats, or Pacheco's Rauhofer-esque aural journey.  Renato Cecin has single-handedly made my night on multiple trips to the week with his uplifting beats.  João Neto bring his infectious energy to the DJ booth when he spins, and is as adored by the guys here away from the turntables as he on them.  (I profiled João and The Week a couple of years ago for the Blade.)  It's great to these three in the spotlight, which often gets diverted by the "international DJs" who are invited to play at The Week. Parabens, caras.

    249 A special congratulations also to André Almada, whose drive and creativity would leave most American club promoters in the dust. The concept of The Week is in part that it changes week to week, no easy proposition for a club of its size and popularity. You know how fickle the queens can be.

    I couldn't help thinking last night that Almada had once again outdone himself, with an extraodinary set-up for the Angels Party and tonight's big birthday party, featuring my favorite transgender Israeli DJ -- actually my favorite DJ period -- Offer Nissim (pictured here with Almada). I have zero doubt an amazing time will be had by all.

    Don't expect any early posts tomorrow!

    September 28, 2007

    The gay Democrats split on ENDA?

    Posted by: Chris

    Frankbaldwin The other openly gay member of Congress is holding out on supporting workplace protection for gay and lesbian Americans now that "gender identity" has been removed as a protected category from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Tammy Baldwin, lesbian representative from Wisconsin, has not included her name on the trans-free ENDA, Gay City News reports.

    Baldwin is refusing interviews, but I doubt seriously that she will fail to support ENDA now that Democrats control both houses of Congress and the bill has its best chance of passage in years.  After all, for years she supported and co-sponsored a version of ENDA votes exactly like the new one that Barney Frank will introduce: extending workplace protection on the basis of "sexual orientation."

    As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts in a statement quoted in the GCN story:

    "While I personally favor legislation that would include gender identity, the new ENDA legislation proposed by Congressman Frank has the best prospects for success on the House floor."


    Thank goodness for Capehart, too

    Posted by: Chris

    Cape A must-read editorial today by (I'm assuming here) Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post, supporting Barney's decision to introduce a gay-inclusive ENDA and a trans-inclusive GENDA (love that name, btw).

    Money quote, as Andrew likes to say:

    Mr. Frank, one of two openly gay members of Congress, deserves credit for devising the plan that might well save the basic bill.

    It requires time and patience to educate the public and lawmakers about how prejudice harms some people. That's what gays and lesbians have been doing in their quest for equality for nearly 40 years.

    And that's what transgender people will have to do. Delaying passage of ENDA, which was first introduced in the House in the mid-1970s by Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.), until the transgender community changes enough hearts and minds would be a mistake.

    Amen, Jonathan.

    Thank goodness for Barney!

    Posted by: Chris

    Barneyfrank As expected, House Democratic leaders have agreed to remove transgender protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act after determining that the votes weren't there to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

    "People now accept the fact that we just don't have the votes for the transgender," said Barney Frank (D-Mass).

    Nervous Democrats had been hearing about Republican amendments to the employment bill, Frank said, "that would talk about schoolteachers, and what happens when the kid comes back from summer vacation and teachers change gender. We just lost enough Democrats and we couldn't be sure of the Republicans."

    The schoolteacher scenario is a familiar one for gays, of course, and it took years of work in the social and political sphere to overcome the base prejudice that underlies that sort of objection. And the simple and unfortunate reality is that transgender activists haven't finished doing that hard work yet.

    Instead, they've focused their energy, and a whole lot of venom, at guilting gays into allowing them to ride on our coattails -- as if we could pull off such a power play when in 2007 we've still not managed to pass a single piece of federal civil rights legislation.

    I absolutely love Barney's response to complaints from some gay and trans activists that House Dems have caved for fear of a tough vote.  That's just "stupid," he said.

    "Have they been living in Sweden and thinking they were in America for the last 20 years? We're going to go ahead with sexual orientation for the first time in American history. Why would timid people be pushing people to do that?"

    It's worth noting that Barney and House Dems did pass a trans-inclusive hate crime measure, which should prove their trans-friendly credentials. What's more, Barney hasn't "forgotten" trans rights, as most trans activists and gay apologists have pre-accused the rest of us of doing. He's promised to introduce a separate transgender ENDA and to hold hearings in support of it.

    For those like Matt Foreman of the Task Force begging for a little more time to rally House votes, it's time to smell the coffee.  Even if that could be accomplished, the votes most assuredly aren't there in the more conservative Senate, and certainly not the 60 votes to avoid filibuster or 67 to overcome a possible Bush veto.

    Meanwhile, the Blade has updated its story on a trans-free ENDA with the word from the Human Rights Campaign that it did not "assent" to removing trans protections. Not only does that prove HRC is out of the loop, it means they're sidelined by an internal board debate over the ridiculous question of whether to support ENDA if it only protects gays.

    "We are consulting with our friends in the community and allies on the Hill about our next course of action," HRC spokesman Brad Luna is quoted as saying. That must read Martian to those new to the down-is-up, black-is-white world of gay politics.  Where that famous MLK quote that none of us free until all of us are can be twisted to mean that no incremental progress toward freedom is conscionable unless and until we can simultaneously achieve it for everyone.

    But as regular readers of this blog know, the HRC board under Cheryl Jacques voted in 2004 to actually oppose ENDA if trans rights are excluded. Salvaging HRC's political credibility now will require a reversal of that silly position, and meanwhile the most basic of gay rights bills is without the active backing of the nation's largest gay rights group.

    I would say, in closing, that "the time has come" to pass ENDA, but as a respected Democratic friend of mine recently reminded me, the time actually came and went a decade ago.  Still, it's gratifying to see mature political leadership willing to make the compromises needed to move the ball forward.

    A curious time to rally round the gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Naacp_ad It's wonderful to see the recent voices from the African-American civil rights movement in favor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to existing hate crime laws.

    Some of us have been saying for months that a vocal response was needed to counter a campaign by conservative black clergy (and white clergy too) making the spurious claim that the hate crime law would somehow subject preachers to arrest for delivering anti-gay sermons.

    In just the last week, we've seen the NAACP take out a full page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen has been targeted by influential local black clergy for his hate crime support. (An enlarged copy of the ad, where the text is readable, is available for viewing on the jump from this post.)

    Then Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an influential young African-American professor at Princeton, penned a piece on Huffington Post calling on black Christians to answer the ridiculous claims by conservative black clergy about how the hate crime bill would impinge their religious freedom.

    Just yesterday, legendary African-American Professor Cornel West, also of Princetown, wrote an opinion column for the Boston Globe making the same arguments in even more blunt fashion:

    The truth is that the Matthew Shepard Act protects all First Amendment rights. And, although that is a given, this bill goes out of its way to protect the free speech of ministers. Those pastors who wish to continue condemning and dehumanizing the gay community will be free to do so.

    Well said, though I can't help but notice the curious timing for this groundswell of vocal support for the hate crimes bill. Two factors could explain the trend.

    The more neutral would be that the bill was up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate. Of course, the prospect that it would come up for a Senate vote has been around since at least July. The other is the decision by the Human Rights Campaign, the bill's strongest backer, to take its own vocal stance last week at the controversial Jena 6 rallies in Washington, D.C., and Jena, La.

    I'd like to believe the timing is because of the Senate vote this week, but I can't help but wonder… What do you think? Was this scratch-your-back politics at work?

    For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    (An enlarged version of the NAACP follows in the jump)

    Continue reading»

    Teaching gay to seven year-olds

    Posted by: Chris

    0_21_king_and_kingkiss The reaction to the Democratic presidential debate question on Wednesday night about exposing second graders to gay relationships has shed some light on where we are in terms of cultural acceptance.

    As far as the candidates were concerned, they acted according to form: Edwards tried to suck up, Obama tried to be inspirational, and Clinton basically punted.

    Here's the background, via AP, though you can read the entire debate excerpt if you follow the jump to this post:

    The Democrats were asked during a debate Wednesday night whether they would be comfortable with having a story about same-sex marriage read to their children as part of their school curriculum, as a second-grade teacher did last year in Lexington, Mass.

    The top-tier Democratic candidates — Clinton, Obama and Edwards — generally said they favor teaching children tolerance for others, including gays and lesbians. They did not expressly embrace or reject including the same-sex marriage as part of a second-grade curriculum.

    Edwards, who has a 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, said he wants his children "to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day," but added that teaching such issues might be "a little tough."

    Obama, who has daughters ages 6 and 9, said his wife has discussed same-sex marriage with their children and urged them "not to be afraid of people who are different."

    Clinton said, "With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion ..."

    For me, Obama's reaction was the strongest, and is worth the read in full on the jump. Edwards tried to segue-way into his gay rights sound byte and Clinton just avoided the question.

    The reaction to the Democrats was swift and predictable, and the mainstream media badly mangled the coverage. Mitt Romney, who has turned out to be as craven politically as is basically imaginable, released a statement that suggested the top Dems were in favor of sex education for second graders. Again, from AP:

    Republican Mitt Romney criticized his Democratic rivals Thursday for not rejecting the inclusion of gay-related issues in sex education for second-graders.

    "Last night's debate was just the latest example of how out of touch the Democratic presidential candidates are with the American people," Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. "Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade."

    The role of public education is to teach our young people about the world around them. The existence of gay people isn't something that should be hidden simply because some people object to us. It's ridiculous that Hillary Clinton would suggest that parents should decide when or whether children can learn that there are gay couples in the world.

    If our relationships are entitled to equal treatment under the law, as she keeps claiming we are with "civil unions," then there should be no debate about when children learn about gay couples: It should be whenever they discuss straight couples.

    Romney is guilty here of a phenomenon that extends far beyond him, to many gays actually. The equating of gay relationship with sexuality. How many times have you heard closeted friends say, "I don't talk about being gay at work because what I do in bed is none of their business." John McCain has used similar language, as if gay relationships were uniquely sexual and private and "in the bedroom," while straight relationships are appropriate for cocktail parties, photos on office desks and office chit-chat.

    For a complete new summary of gay issues in the presidential race, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary  or  gaynewswatch.com/gopprimary

    Debate excerpt transcript after the jump…

    Continue reading»

    A last thought on the Last Supper…?

    Posted by: Chris

    Robinson01_med After reading some of the comments to my post on the Last Supper parody by the Folsom Street Fair, I do think there's something to be said for the critique of conservatives pitching a fit about the poster. Dan Savage makes the case, with a number of much more humorous examples of Last Supper parodies, that conservatives were rather selective about raising a stick concerning this particular parody.

    For conservative Christians, gays represent the antithesis of religion, family, morality and godliness. That's why the idea of gays marrying, raising children, joining the Boy Scouts and serving in the military is much more threatening to them than when we hold over-the-top Gay Pride parades or street festival bacchanalias like Folsom in San Fran and Southern Decadence in New Orleans.  The latter represents our expected behavior.

    I don't buy into the idea, expressed by some in the comments to my original post, that all gays share some responsibility to make ourselves look respectable to conservative Christians, or Christians generally. But I do think it's unfortunate that more of us don't realize that our ideological foes salivate at images like the Folsom Street poster, or the surreptitious videos they take at gay parties and social events. To that extent, their rage is more manufactured than real. 

    And their upset isn't so much with the gays, who are expected to be offensive and sacreligious, but with the mainstream culture, for not slapping us down when we misbehave.  That's why Miller Beer got the brunt of the conservative protest, for sponsoring Folsom and having its logo on the poster.

    Lost in the brouhaha over the Folsom Street Fair poster is the real threat to conservative Christianity this week. It wasn't in San Francisco with a bunch of leathermen and drag queens posing with sex toys. Not by a longshot. The real threat came from New Orleans, where Episcopal bishops refused to throw to the wolves an openly gay, non-celibate Episcopal bishop.

    For that reason, Gene Robinson represents a much greater threat to conservative Christian bigotry.

    September 27, 2007

    Is ENDA about to go trans-free?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    The Washington Blade is reporting that House Democrats are preparing to remove transgender rights from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act after an internal tally yesterday showed there weren't enough votes to pass the trans-inclusive version introduced this session. 

    No surprise there, although it's noteworthy that at this stage, they're just trying to get ENDA through the House, much less the more conservative Senate, and much less by margins high enough to survive a filibuster or presidential veto. If there were ever doubt about whether the political support is there yet for transgender workplace rights, this should settle the matter.

    Also not surprisingly, nine glbT groups, with an emphasis on the "T" to the exclusion of the others, have issued a statement opposing the removal of trans protections and vowing to oppose ENDA if it only protects gay people.  The signatories on the statement include:

    National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
    National Center for Transgender Equality
    National Center for Lesbian Rights
    National Stonewall Democrats
    National Coalition for LGBT Health
    Pride At Work, AFL-CIO
    National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects
    Mautner Project

    Missing, of course, are our friends at the Human Rights Campaign, even though the HRC board voted during Cheryl Jacques' tenure to take a similar "trans or bust" stance on ENDA.

    Fortunately, Barney Frank and the House Democratic leadership are more realistic politically and hopefully HRC's usual pragmatism will keep it on board, even if trans protections are removed. If HRC holds tough, no one will sing their praises higher than your's truly, though to me the decision is a political, moral and civil rights no-brainer.

    UPDATE: The Task Force has come out with a finger-wagging press release that ought to embarrass Matt Foreman, the group's E.D.  As head of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Foreman succeeded in getting historic gay rights legislation through the New York legislature and in the process sacrificed inclusion of protections for transgender New Yorkers. 

    Now he has the nerve to call the same strategy "unconscionable" when employed by gay-friendly House Democrats trying to get ENDA passed for those gay Americans not fortunate enough to live in places like New York with gay rights protection:

    "If media reports from the last 24 hours are accurate, it is unconscionable that congressional leaders would rush to a decision to strip protections for transgender people at the same time as states across the nation are adding these protections at an unprecedented pace."

    Give your moral high horse a rest, Matt, and please work out the liberal guilt over your (utterly justifiable) tactical decision in New York without putting at risk the passage of historic federal gay rights legislation.

    Foreman calls it "incredibly ironic" that House leaders are considering jettisoning trans protections in ENDA on the same day the Senate voted 60-39 in favor of cloture on the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill. The real irony here is how he condemns those who are following in his own political footsteps.

    As far as ENDA vs. hate crimes, he knows better. Protecting transgender Americans from being beaten up based on their gender identity has always been more politically palatable than navigating the dress code issues, restroom policies and other tricky aspects to transgender workplace rights.

    That's why I've written (for years now) that including trans protections in ENDA is a much bigger problem politically than in hate crime legislation. Maybe now some of our idealistic friends from the left end of the spectrum will see why.

    Hate crime bill barely survives vote

    Posted by: Chris

    Correction: Nine Republicans, not eight, crossed party lines to put the hate crime bill up for a vote. The original post omitted Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman.

    The Senate today voted 60-39 to cut off debate on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to federal hate crime laws.  There wasn't a vote to spare, considering the measure needed 60 to end any threat of a filibuster. Immediately after the cloture vote, the Senate approved by voice vote, with no dissents, adding the amendment to the massive Defense Department authorization.

    A few interesting angles:

    • Sen. Larry Craig voted with his GOP colleagues against cloture, hoping to kill the measure.
    • Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who some have said will be the next target for outing activists, was vocal in his opposition. "The president is not going to agree to this social legislation on the defense authorization bill," said Graham. "This bill will get vetoed."
    • Complaints like Graham's about the attachment of "non-germane" amendments are bipartisan old hat in Congress, as is the strategy of amending needed legislation with controversial amendments. Both sides do it; both sides complain when the other side does.
    • Backers of the law will need 7 more votes, assuming they don't lose any, to override President Bush's threatened veto.
    • But before that happens, they've got to get the bill passed, no easy task since they've attached it to the DoD reauthorization, which is itself encumbered by debate over the Iraq war.
    • Nine Eight Republicans crossed party lines to vote with the unanimous Dems to end debate on the hate crime bill.  They were: Susan Collins (ME), Judd Gregg (NH), Richard Lugar (IN), Gordon Smith (OR), Olympia Snowe (ME), Arlen Specter (PA), George Voinovich (OH), John Warner (VA) and Norm Coleman (MN).
    • The minimal crossover only emphasizes the need to reach out to moderate Republicans. HRC under Joe Solmonese has become so closely tied to the Democrats that it is incapable of doing that work. And Log Cabin? Well Log Cabin has virtually disappeared from the scene since the departure of Patrick Guerrierro.
    • Andrew Sullivan sounded a dissenting note, calling the measure "a completely symbolic and utterly irrelevant 'hate crimes bill.'" Ouch. He also buys into the revisionist view of the Matthew Shepard's murder as more the work of drug-addled thugs than homophobes: "the Shepard case was not devoid of homophobia, even if it was grotesquely distorted as a pure hate crime by the usual suspects."

    I support hate crime bills, because I see them as a form of anti-terror legislation, since the target of both types of criminals isn't just the victim, but a broader group and societal peace as a whole.  I part ways with those who see it as "thought control," since all criminal legislation includes a "mens rea" or criminal intent element, and the thoughts here aren't punished unless they give way to action.

    An award for HRC…

    Posted by: Chris

    …that we can all agree was well-deserved:

    Audubon Nature Institute (www.auduboninstitute.org) and Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org) have received FundRaising Success Magazine?s 2007 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence for online and multichannel fundraising campaigns.

    The Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit organization that works to advance equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Americans, won first runner-up in the Multichannel category for its "Defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment" campaign (www.hrc.org/millionformarriage/fmavote.html), which raised nearly $230,000 from 4,119 gifts through a coordinated series of offline and online advocacy, communications, and fundraising appeals.

    "The Defeat the FMA campaign demonstrated the role of online advocacy and engagement in fundraising," said Dane Grams, Online Strategy Director for Human Rights Campaign. "Using Convio?s integrated suite of tools for advocacy and fundraising, we converted 2,383 activists to donors -- who contributed nearly half of the campaign?s TOTAL revenue."

    Well done, HRC, especially considering the FMA had absolutely zero chance of passing and the two HRCs -- the other would be Hillary Rodham Clinton -- cooked up the strategy of defending our right to marry by never actually mentioning our desire to marry. Instead accusing the Bush administration (and correctly so) of a political diversionary tactic.

    HrcequalsOf course that strategy also fit the game plan of Hillary, Howard Dean and other leading Democrats -- to keep gay marriage out of the political spotlight in a vain attempt to sidestep the issue. If only HRC were as effective at making the case for our equality as they are bilking of us precious resources for the gay rights movement.

    P.S. For those interested in the glacial progress of the federal hate crime bill, HRC is breathlessly reporting the "breaking news" that the Kennedy-Smith amendment is up for cloture vote today. If it meets the 60 votes threshhold, then it will have survived any filibuster attempt.  That would also set a nice mark for whether it has enough wind at its sails to survive a Bush veto, since that only requires 7 additional votes.

    Even still, winning the vote today only secures the hate crime bill's attachment to the massive Defense Department authorization bill, which is itself caught up in the raging debate over the Iraq war.

    A bit more Jena 6 scrutiny

    Posted by: Chris

    Jamie Kirchick chimes in on the Jena 6, hitting many of the same notes I did, in a column for Advocate.com:

    It says much about the state of the American civil rights establishment when its foremost organizations recast a group of brutal thugs -- the “Jena 6” -- as heroic victims persecuted by a racist judicial system. And it says even worse things about the country’s preeminent gay rights group when it somehow contorts that dubious cause into its own.

    But that’s what happened with the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement of the movement to free the Jena 6, a group of black teenagers who beat and stomped a 17-year-old white boy into unconsciousness last December.

    Likewise over at Gay Patriot, Gay Patriot West (that would be Dan), takes things a step further, making an interesting point about HRC's use of the Jena 6 beating to draw hate crime analogies:

    The alleged injustice here was not the absence of such legislation, but the presence of prosecutorial misconduct. But, I guess that’s irrelevant to Joe when he has a chance to join his fellow leftists in attacking Bush. (If anything, a hate crimes law might justify the prosecutor’s alleged excesses if he believed that the Jena 6 assaulted the white teen because of his race.)

    I'm in favor of hate crime laws, though I've made the point previously that the prevailing apologist explanation for the Jena 6 beating actually elevates it from a senseless beating to a race-motivated hate crime. It's nice to see others reaching some of the same conclusions and asking more questions that HRC will probably never deign to answer.  Stay tuned…

    September 26, 2007

    Father forgive them…

    Posted by: Chris

    Poster (click to enlarge and enrage)

    UPDATE at the end of the post:

    …even they know exactly what they're doing. I can take a joke as well as the next guy, but there's nothing funny about this year's Folsom Street Fair poster, which parodies the Last Supper using leathermen for disciples, a bare-chested Christ, sex toys from wine goblets and members of the sophomoric drag troupe the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence thrown in for good measure.

    I get the resentment of organized Christianity and the way it has repressed gays, women and minorities for centuries.  But beyond the sixth grade snicker at doing something that they know would enrage conservatives, what is the point of childishly offending the widest possible audience?

    The Folsom Street parody, like the Sisters themselves, only proof that the Golden Rule is much more effective than its opposite.  Kudos to Miller Beer for asking that its logo be removed:

    Statement Regarding Folsom Street Fair
    While Miller has supported the Folsom Street Fair for several years, we take exception to the poster the organizing committee developed this year. We understand some individuals may find the imagery offensive and we have asked the organizers to remove our logo from the poster effective immediately

    I wish the rest of us could ask that our association as gays be removed, too.

    UPDATE: Dan Savage offers up several dozen Last Supper parodies from mainstream culture to argue that conservative Christians are only upset when the gays have their turn. He seems to miss the point that the Folsom Street version isn't merely poking fun or having a laugh; it replaces the wine goblets with fisting dildos and all variety of sex toys. It's not a stretch to see why that offends more than a Simpson's take-off.

    Andrew Sullivan agrees.

    For complete coverage, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/folsomfairflap


    That didn't take long

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE at the end of the post:

    This in from the BBC: "Kenyan bishop rejects Episcopal response on gays":_41449092_kenya203

    The head of Kenya's Anglican Church has rejected a compromise over gay bishops by US Episcopal Church leaders. They have said they will halt the ordination of gay bishops and public blessings of same-sex relationships to prevent a split in the Anglican Church. "That word 'halt' is not enough," said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. Many African Anglicans threatened to leave the worldwide Anglican Communion after the ordination of the first openly gay bishop four years ago.

    It's striking how progress in the Anglican church in North America and Europe can be held up by those in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America who are a generation or more behind on the treatment of gays. Reminds me of the impact my native South has on the U.S. 

    (It's also striking how no one considers it patronizing to call the U.S. South backward -- which it is -- but they'll call you that or worse if you say the same of the global South -- even though it is far more backward culturally than in the U.S. obviously.)

    On the one hand, I wish the U.S. and global Norths could decouple so progress would move more quickly there.  On the other, the wait is justified by the positive influence these respective Norths can have on their respective Souths.

    Peterakinola UPDATE: Not to be outdone by his Kenyan counterpart, Peter Akinola has sounded his scorn on the Episcopal bishops' promise of restraint, as predicted:

    "Sadly it seems that our hopes were not well-founded and our pleas have once again been ignored," Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said, responding to a six-day meeting of Episcopal Church bishops that ended a day earlier in New Orleans.

    "Instead of the change of heart (repentance) we sought, what we have been offered is merely a temporary adjustment in an unrelenting determination" to make the rest of the global Anglican Communion, as the worldwide church is called, think the same way as its U.S. branch, Akinola said in a statement issued from his office and circulated to American media.

    Anyone who thinks Akinola actually hoped the U.S. bishops would retract doesn't understand the power politics at play here. At this point, Akinola fancies himself an archbishop with conservative minions in the most powerful country of the world. There's no stopping his ego now.

    For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/anglicanrift

    Episcopal backslide or defiance?

    Posted by: Chris

    News_23196 Just two days ago, Episcopal bishops meeting in New Orleans had promised "a clear response" to an ultimatum from overseas Anglican bishops regarding non-celibate gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions. When the promised response was released late yesterday, it was as clear as mud.

    Most media have reported the statement as promising "restraint" or a "concession" or "easing" or "tempering" their "stance" on gays. But the New York Times reported the other way around.

    The AP report offers the majority view, "Episcopal Church Tempers Support for Gays":

    Episcopal leaders, pressured to roll back their support for gays to keep the world Anglican family from crumbling, affirmed yesterda that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop. The bishops also pledged not to approve an official prayer for blessing same-gender couples and insisted a majority of bishops do not allow priests to bless the couples in their parishes.

    Meanwhile over at the Times, "Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church’s Orders":

    Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself.

    After nearly a week of talks at their semiannual meeting in New Orleans, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution that defied a directive by the Anglican Communion’s regional leaders, or primates, to change several church policies regarding the place of gay men and lesbians in their church. But the bishops also expressed a desire to remain part of the communion, and they appeared to be trying to stake out a middle ground that would allow them to do so.

    My bet is that they're all correct to some degree. The Episcopal bishops basically agreed to freeze the status quo to see whether that satisfies the hardliners, at least temporarily. The conservatives don't just want to preserve the status quo, they want to rollback the ordination of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson. Mostly, they want power, pure and simple, especially Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and his American allies.

    So I'll go with schism.

    For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/anglicanrift

    September 25, 2007

    A hate crime hits home

    Posted by: Chris

    14194458_240x180 I wonder if Joe Solmonese will finally get it now. After ignoring anti-gay hate crimes in Alabama and New York in favor of the  "Jena 6" bullies in Louisiana, now one of HRC's own has apparently been bashed outside a Northwest D.C. bar.

    The victim, an HRC intern who previously worked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left BeBar on 9th Street at 1 a.m. on Saturday and was hit from behind by a group of three who shouted anti-gay slurs. Local TV station NBC-4 reports (video here):

    "He suffered injuries to the back of his head, as well as to his face," friend Joe Solmonese said.

    Solmonese works with the victim at the Human Rights Campaign. "He went to the emergency room Saturday night," he said. "He was taken by ambulance. He had some stitches in the back of his head. He's bruised in his face. He was given an MRI, checked out internally. He's back at home and recovering now."

    I wonder if HRC will finally get it now. D.C. police had said more than a week ago that they were investigating a series of gay and transgender-bashings in the city. Preoccupied up until now with race politics and the Jena 6, HRC said and did nothing.

    Now, unfortunately, it's hit one of their own. I'm betting we won't hear HRC's diversity director Donna Payne dismissing this attack simply because the young victim was "treated and released" at the hospital. That's what she did in an oped for the Advocate, minimizing the Jena 6 attack that left  Justin Butler battered and unconscious, saying "The white student was sent to the hospital and released the same       day."

    I wish the BeBar bashing victim a very speedy recovery, and I hope the bruises on his face heal soon. If any good at all can come from such violence, let's hope it wakes up Solmonese, Payne and HRC to where they should be focusing their attention.

    September 24, 2007

    Iran's president, Columbia queers agree

    Posted by: Chris

    Artirancolumbiaap1 It's always nice when we can bridge the gap between West and East, Judeo-Christian and Muslim, left and right. Thanks to the Columbia University Queer Alliance, we can now say for sure that if you travel far enough left down the ideological spectrum, you'll circle round to the far-far-extremist right.

    Columbia Queers, meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  It turns out you crazy kids agree on one important point: There's no such thing as an Iranian homosexual.

    You may have heard that Ahmadinejad offered that nugget of wisdom when confronted at a Columbia University appearance about his country's long history of abuse, including arrest, brutality and even capital punishment, for gays.

    "We don't have homosexuals" in Iran, he said in response. "I don't know who told you we had it."

    Well it certainly didn't come from Columbia's uber-progressive queer student group, who previewed Admadinejad's visit with a warning -- not to the "petty dictator," as Columbia University President Lee Bolinger memorably referred to him -- but to the rest of us:

    We would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of  such words as "gay," "lesbian," or "homosexual" to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire. The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms "same-sex practices" and "same-sex desire" in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology.

    There you have it, the radicals of the left tolerating even the most brutal forms of intoleranceon the right. It's bad enough that "scholars of sexuality in the Middle East" are, like the Iranian president, so anti-West and anti-gay that they would write us out of existence. But it's downright depressing to see bright young minds so tortured by self-hatred for their own culture than they buy into the bullshit.

    Pegah_emambakhsh There are gay people in Iran. Just ask Pegah Emambakhsh.

    For a complete gay news summary on Iran, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/iran

    September 23, 2007

    Little Miss Missed the Point

    Posted by: Chris

    CcshirtOf the bloggers who cross-post over at Bilerico, Marti Abernathy is among the most amusing if not mature (see her accompanying photo-art).  If you're not familiar with it, Bilerico is a gay P.C. spinzone that talks a lot about "dialogue" so long as no one actually dissents.  If it all sounds like a snoozefest, it mostly is, with some rare exceptions like Karen Ocamb. Not surprisingly, they publish potshots at me so regularly that they've set up a "tag" with my name on it.

    Back to Abernathy, she's a transgender activist who has T'd off on me before, and hits the same notes again this time around, trying to play gotcha with a federal appeals court decision last week that shot down a lawsuit by a transgender bus driver in Utah fired from her job.

    Krystal Etsitty (yes, that's her chosen name) had argued that discrimination against transsexuals is a form of gender discrimination prohibited under Title VII federal law.  But Krysal (why didn't she just go with Kitty?) Etsitty lost, and Abernathy cites that as proof I was wrong for saying before that "under current case law, at least some judges interpret Title VII to protect transgender people."

    I have indeed made that point to argue that, while I support transgender workplace rights, I don't support the traitorous and silly HRC and NGLTF strategy of actually withdrawing support for gay workplace rights if a trans-inclusive ENDA stalls in Congress. So far, the politics bear me out. Nine months after the Democrats took Congress, the trans-inclusive ENDA hasn't even gotten out of a House subcommittee (though HRC somehow considered the fact that it got a hearing to "historic").

    You'll often hear trans activists and their gay apologists cry out in their best MLK intonation that discrimination against any of us is discrimination against all of us.  What they don't tell you is that they're perfectly happy to see us gay folk get shit-canned and demoted at will until America is ready to give transsexuals their rights as well.

    Transgender workers do need protection, no doubt, but my point has been that since Title VII already covers some, if not all, forms of discrimination against them, even their need for ENDA isn't as pressing. Abernathy, on the other hand, is mostly in an argument with herself, quoting the Etsitty opinion for the proposition that courts are universally rejecting the idea of protecting transsexuals as a class under Title VII.  The only problem is that I've never argued that.

    As she well knows, Title VII also provides protection against gender-stereotyping in the workforce, and the type of discrimination transgender workers often suffer from is, in fact, covered, as the Etsitty court acknowledges:

    This court is aware of the difficulties and marginalization transsexuals may be subject to in the workplace.  The conclusion that transsexuals are not protected under Title VII as transsexuals should not be read to allow employers to deny transsexual employees the legal protection other employees enjoy merely by labeling them as transsexuals. …

    Sex stereotyping based on a person’s gender non-conforming behavior is impermissible discrimination, irrespective of the cause of that behavior; a label, such as ‘transsexual,’ is not fatal to a sex discrimination claim where the victim has suffered discrimination because of his or her gender non-conformity.

    As another appeals court, for the Sixth Circuit (covering Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) puts it:

    Just as an employer who discriminates against women for not wearing dresses or makeup is engaging in sex discrimination, … employers who discriminate against men because they do wear dresses and makeup, or otherwise act femininely, are also engaging in sex discrimination, because the discrimination would not occur but for the victim’s sex.

    The Etsitty court even cites an opinion from the First Circuit (covering New England) that concluded a transsexual could sue for sex discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and another from the massive Ninth Circuit (covering the Western U.S.) that relied on Title VII to conclude that violence against a transsexual was violence because of gender under the Gender Motivated Violence Act.

    The reason Krystal Etsitty, a male-to-female pre-operative transsexual, lost her case was because she failed to prove her firing was motivated by sex-stereotyping. She was fired because she insisted on using the women's restroom at public toilets on her bus route, and her bosses said they feared they would get sued by offended members of the public if she did. Her employer's worry certainly sounds overwrought to me, but not every stupid employment decision should result in a lawsuit, even in the litigious U.S. of A.

    A trans-inclusive ENDA may well have saved the day for Etsitty, who could then fulfill her destiny as the Rosa Parks of the public toilets on her bus route. And before I get a chorus of nasty comments, I am well aware that the "toilet issue" is a sensitive one for transgender folks, who are offended by the politicization of such an intimate and personal act. But that's exactly why, of course, it's an area of such difficulty for non-transgender people as well.  Too bad their feelings don't count.

    If you ask me, and no they didn't, trans activists ought to spend less time trying to ride (or yank back) gay coattails on their way to workplace protection and do the difficult education and political work necessary to resolve these sorts of sensitivities. Racial minorities and gays have had to fight their own battles about intimate public spaces, and it's still a reason given for excluding gays from military service.

    But you don't get to leapfrog past these debates; you have to prepare for them and fight them. And there are quite a few gay people — including the vast legion of us who roll our eyes at the politically correct "amen chorus" at HRC dinners and Bilerico — who are unwilling to wait on gay workplace protection so that Krystal Etsitty can use the women's toilet on her bus route.

    September 22, 2007

    Meanwhile back at the movement

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrclogos While the Human Rights Campaign is busy defending schoolyard bullies who blindside and stomp unconcious defenseless students, the "nation's largest gay lesbian bisexual transgender rights organization" is MIA in the actual fight for equality.  In addition to completely ignoring the hate crime murders of gay men in Alabama and New York, HRC has avoided like the plague the gay marriage debate heating up in two states.

    Maryland's high court last week rejected a challenge to the state's hetero-only marriage law, crushing local and national activists who had hoped for at least a New Jersey-style civil union compromise. HRC's idea of a response was a press release. Meanwhile, gay Marylanders rallied on their own to build momentum for marriage or civil union legislation. But when the state Senate president threw cold water on the idea and the governor reneged on private promises to support full marriage equality, HRC was struck dumb — silent, that is.

    Meanwhile out in California, the Republican mayor of San Diego held an emotional press conference to announce that his relationship with his own lesbian daughter had caused him to reverse course and support a lawsuit there challenging the exclusion of gays from marriage. HRC — you guessed it — issued a press release

    The mayor's powerful appeal comes as gays in the nation's most populous state are trying to pressure Gov. Arnold Schwarzegger to back away from threats to veto a gay marriage bill passed (for the second time) by the California Legislature. When Arnold renewed his veto vow last week, HRC'ers didn't even manage a press release in response, though they did manage to let us know the cast of "Ugly Betty" will be making an appearance at the org's ubiquitous black-tie dinner.

    How can HRC get energized about the Jena 6 but remain ho-hum about gay marriage? Easy -- it's all about the politics. Democrats like HRC -- that's Hillary Rodham Clinton -- are loathe for gay marriage to emerge now as a hot political issue, so HRC does nothing to stoke the flames in Maryland or California.  Maryland is especially dangerous territory, since the Senate president and turncoat governor are both Democrats.

    It's mind-blowing to think of the sums wasted in support of this behemoth gay group, which spends more energy broadcasting morning news reports and a satellite radio show -- that one gets its own website -- than it does actually rallying suport for gay rights.

    (Credit to The Malcontent for the HRC "less than" -- or rewind -- logo.)

    September 21, 2007

    HRC invents a hate crime?

    Posted by: Chris

    An update on my post on "Joe and the Jena 6" from yesterday:

    A reader points out that Donna Payne's column in the Advocate alleges Justin Butler was targeted by the "Jena 6" for a beating in response to an incident in which Justin attacked a black student.  Payne wrote:

    In one notable incident an African-American student was assaulted and hit with a beer bottle at a party attended mostly by whites. In return, six African-American students beat unconscious the white student who had allegedly taunted the victim at the party. But although the white student was sent to the hospital and released the same day, the six African-American students -- who have come to be known as the “Jena Six” -- were arrested and charged with attempted murder. Five of the six teenagers were charged as adults.

    I haven't seen any legitimate news source report this serious allegation that Justin, the beating victim, is himself guilty of a hate crime.  Forgive me if I don't take the word of Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, who is hardly a model of credibility.

    Donnapayne_2 For one thing, she writes in the same column that she's horrified that "five of the six teenagers were charged as adults." What she doesn't mention is that four of those five actually are adults. Only 17-year-old Mychal Ball, who police said instigated the attack on Justin and delivered the blindside knockout blow that began the beating, was an actual juvenile tried as an adult.

    The prosecutor, who has loads of credibility problems himself, claims he tried Ball as an adult because he considered the Butler beating serious and because Ball had a record. The Louisiana Appeals Court overturned Balls' conviction, not because he has a colorable claim of innocence, but because  it disagreed with that decision to try him as an adult.  (Another fact conveniently omitted by Payne.)  The appeals court may well be correct, but is this what makes him a civil rights hero?

    I'm struck by how Payne seems untroubled tossing around an unsubstantiated allegation of a hate crime, even at someone who's been the victim himself of a beating.  (Blame the victim, anyone?)  But her careless accusation backfires, more than she realizes. Because if she's right that the Jena 6 were retaliating against a Butler, a white student, because they believed him a bigot — well, then, they're guilty of a hate crime as well.

    Hate crime laws cover any crime motivated in part by the protected categories, in this case "race" not "black."  So if the black students targeted the white student, they're ever bit as guilty of a hate crime as he allegedly was.

    Just remember that I'm not the one saying the Jena 6 are guilty of a hate crime. Donna Payne is.

    September 20, 2007

    Joe and the 'Jena 6'

    Posted by: Chris

    Shame on you, Joe Solmonese. Whatever moral authority you had to lead a gay rights group, much less the movement, you squandered today.

    Solmonese_2I usually skew toward being the lawyerly type, focused on policy and legal rights and such. Rarely do I read or see stories that cause in me a visceral emotional reaction. But the Joe Solmonese speech about the racial strife in Jena, Louisiana, kicked me square in the stomach.

    I met Joe Solmonese on a spring afternoon two years ago in Washington, D.C., after he accepted my invitation to a get-acquainted lunch. He had recently been appointed to run the Human Rights Campaign, and I wanted to introduce myself as editor of the Washington Blade.

    But unfortunate timing meant this was no ordinary lunch. I had recently returned from Amsterdam, where I had been spat upon, kicked and beaten by seven men who attacked me for holding hands with my partner in the street. My nose was still in a cast, my eyes still bruised and bloodshot.

    Hate_2 Joe was very solicitous and sympathetic at the time. And event though he had not been particularly active in the gay rights movement up until then, but he certainly seemed, at least on that spring day two and a half years ago, to "get it."

    I don't think he "gets it" now. If he ever did, then he certainly lost it today.

    I understand the politics of why HRC became involved in the campaign to "Free the Jena 6." African-American and other civil rights leaders have been very supportive on the issues we say are important to us, and now HRC is being supportive on the issues they say are important to them. It's scratch-your-back and no doubt for some based on a genuinely felt bond among civil rights groups.

    Still, why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race.

    But if these injustices are as common as Joe and I both believe they are, then why pick the "Jena 6"?  Why pick a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard -- as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?

    JustinbutlerblogWhen Joe spoke today at a Washington, D.C., rally to "Free the Jena 6," here was the head of the nation's largest GLBT rights organizations standing at a podium comparing the senseless beating of Justin Butler at Jena High School to a hate crime.  But he wasn't comparing victims. Oh no. He was invoking the image of James Byrd no less to side with the six macho bullies who punched and kicked Justin unconscious on the ground.

    I'm sorry but that just goes too far. Way too far.

    Solmonese tried to explain the presence at the rally of HRC, and by extension gay people generally, by saying, "We are here because we know about bigotry. We know about hate. We know the pain in high school of standing apart. Of being taunted. Of standing up, only too often, to be shut down."

    Mychalbell We certainly do, Joe. We know what it's like to be punched and kicked to the ground by teenage jocks filled with macho bravado. And that's exactly what the "Jena 6" were arrested for doing to Justin Butler.

    Football player Mychal Bell (pictured) blindsided Justin as he left the school gym with a punch to the head that knocked Justin to the ground unconscious. There the "Jena 6" commenced to kicking and stomping on him like he was a bug, causing injuries so serious they required hospitalization. If not for the intervention of an uninvolved student, things could easily have been even worse.

    I understand the broader racial issues here, and that tensions were already high because some ignorant, bigoted white students at the school hung nooses around a tree they stupidly claimed was their exclusive social property.  But no one has suggested Justin was connected to the nooses or even that his beating was racially motivated, as if that would somehow excuse it. 

    The "Jena 6" are the type of macho bullies (of all races) who victimize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students (of all races) every day outside school gymnasiums across this country. You remember those victims, don't you Joe?  They're the ones you're supposed to be defending.

    For the head of HRC to claim to stand up on behalf of gay people and compare the perpetrators of this kid's brutal beating in any remote fashion to the experience of those of us who have actually been victimized by hate crimes, whether because we are black or gay or from any other group, is deeply misguided, politically craven and downright shameful.

    Shame on you, Joe.  And shame on you, Donna Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, for dismissing the severity of the "Jena 6" beating by noting that Justin was "sent to the hospital and released the same day." Gee Donna, I was never knocked unconscious and was treated and released from the hospital in several hours. Does my hate crime even count with you?

    Scottyweaverblog If the two of you really need to be reminded what a hate crime actually is, then why don't you drive the few hundred miles from Jena, Louisiana, to Bay Minette, Alabama. If you did, maybe you'd learn that just last week, the last of three people pled guilty to beating, stabbing and mutilating Scotty Joe Weaver because he is gay. That's where you ought to be leading a rally, calling out the local media for claiming "there's no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama." That's where you ought to be drawing comparisons to James Byrd.

    Michaelsandy_2 But there were no HRC press releases about Scotty Joe Weaver; no big speeches from Joe Solmonese or poignant op-eds by Donna Payne. They haven't even spoken out this week, as three men go on trial in New York City for the hate crime murder of African-American gay man Michael Sandy.

    Instead, Joe is in Washington and Donna is in Jena, standing up for less serious sentences for violence against the defenseless.  Far too many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths are tormented by bullies just like the "Jena 6."  And quite a few of us have the bruises to show for their handiwork even as adults. The last thing  we need is the likes of Joe and Donna standing up on our behalf for the likes of them.

    Shame, shame, shame on you both.


    September 19, 2007

    Give the Post 'Fact-Checker' a Pinocchio

    Posted by: Chris

    Threepinocchios_copy The Washington Post's new "Fact Checker" feature gave conservative GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback three out of four "Pinocchios" for "significant factual error and/or contradictions" in his oft-repeated claim that gay marriage is to blame for the plummeting number of married couples and soaring out-of-wedlock births in Holland.

    Here's the Kansas senator's claim, which was a regular Republican refrain during the Senate debate of the failed federal marriage amendment:

    "In countries that have redefined marriage, where they've said, 'OK, it's not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women,' the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in northern Europe where 80 percent of the first-born children are born out of wedlock... And currently in this country -- currently -- we're at 36 percent of our children born out of wedlock."

    Post fact-checker Michael Dobbs reports in response:

    Brownback posits a strong correlation between the introduction of civil unions and gay marriages and the rise in children being born out of wedlock. His argument appears to rely on two premises: (1) the marriage rate has plummeted in countries that have "redefined" marriage; (2) the declining marriage rate has in turn resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of children born out of wedlock. …

    While it is true that there has been a sharp rise in out-of-wedlock births in Holland since the introduction of domestic partnerships in 1997, there has been no appreciable increase in several other countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, that changed their marriage laws at the same time. In general, the rise in out of wedlock births in Europe predates changes in marriage legislation, according to the European commission.

    Dobbs is correct, of course, that Brownback's spewing a load of bunk, but his "fact-check" misses the mark as well, misstating Brownback's claim, which in turn throws off Dobbs' own analysis.  Brownback isn't arguing against a broad "redefinition" of marriage; he's hitting gay marriage in particular. That's why his claim is so fuzzy.

    Newbrownback At around the same time Holland opened up civil marriage to gay couples, it created "marriage-lite" domestic partnerships open to gay and straight couples. The latter was a trend repeated throughout Europe, as Dobbs notes. So when Dobbs compares Holland (which both opened up marriage to gays and created a "marriage-lite" option for everyone) to Sweden and Denmark (which only did the latter), he's actually bolstering Brownback's point, since out-of-wedlock births rose more in Holland than in the other two. 

    On the flip side, the stats showing sky-high out-of-wedlock births from northern Norway, which Brownback and Dobbs cite from anti-gay pundit Stanley Kurtz, cut the opposite direction, since gay couples can't marry in Norway (they can  only in Holland, Belgium and Spain, among European countries).

    Even still, Dobbs' off-kilter analysis hits at something I've been arguing for years. If so-called "defenders of traditional marriage" are really worried more about the institution and "the family," then the enactment of heterosexual domestic partnerships, civil unions and the other "marriage-lite" creations popular in Europe are a much greater threat. And yet it's funny how we rarely hear them speak out on that issue. Clearly it doesn't fund-raise as well.

    It frustrates me to no end to see gay activists in places like California and Washington, D.C., fighting for incremental legal rights for gay couples, which is a good thing, and then pushing for the same "marriage-lite" option to be open to straight couples. Their well-intentioned argument is one of fairness, but how simplistic is that? Straight couples can marry; we can't.  Hardly fair.

    Reasonable minds can disagree about whether "domestic partnerships" are a good thing in and of themselves, rather than simply as an incremental legal right for gay couples excluded from marriage. The primary idea behind marriage laws is to protect the rights of the couple and their children, if any -- not just when they are together, but when they split up.  Divorce laws protect a non-breadwinning spouse and children from getting screwed over. 

    So the question becomes whether the less-economically-advantaged partner and children are better off with D.P. laws or without. That's a complicated issue and depends on what protections exist for "common-law marriages" and whether it's better to get families into domestic partnerships or hold out for full-fledged marriage.

    However you come down on that, it has nothing to do with the straightforward equality issue involved in denying gay couples and their families access to marriage. (That's a point largely missed by yesterday's disappointing Maryland marriage decision, which I'll have more to say about later.)  Gay activists should "keep their eyes on the prize" and focus on winning our incremental rights, and let the heterosexuals battle out the D.P. issue for themselves.

    By mixing up the two, we fall right into the trap set by the likes of Brownback and Kurtz, and which victimized Dobbs.  Worse yet, they may well be right!  Equalizing marriage rights is a big enough social experiment for us to advocate.  In the meantime, give Dobbs and the Post one Pinocchio for "some shading of the facts" and a "selective telling of the truth."

    For a complete news summary about the GOP presidential primary, click here or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/gopprimary

    For a complete news summary on marriage equality, click here or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/marriageequality

    September 18, 2007

    As if on cue…

    Posted by: Chris

    32367645 …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

    Welcome ACLU, WaPo to the party

    Posted by: Chris

    Anthonyromero 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."

    Amen, Anthony.

    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.

    Again, amen.

    For a complete news summary of the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig

    September 15, 2007

    'There is no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama'

    Posted by: Chris

    That's what WKRG-TV reporter Debbie Williams wrote in response to a complaint by a good friend and reader of this blog in response to my original post on her story on the Scotty Joe Weaver murder. My friend wrote, "Why no mention of the hate-crime angle in your story, Debbie?" She responded:

    As you know, there is no such thing as a "hate-crime" in Alabama.  I did mention the fact that prosecutors believe part of the motivation for the killing was because Scottie is gay.  It was mentioned in the Gaines trial but never brought up again until after the Kelsay plea deal.

    I wonder if she appreciates the irony in her response.  As if "there's no such thing as a 'hate crime' in Alabama." It reminds me of so many others from the same God-fearing region of the country who express their opposition to our "lifestyle" by sneering, "I don't believe in homosexuality."

    Honey, this fairy ain't like the tooth fairy. You don't get to decide whether you believe or not. You just get to decide whether to remain ignorant and intolerant -- like your forbears who "didn't believe" in women working or "didn't believe" in integrated schools.

    I hope they like the view from the dustbin of history because that's exactly where they're choosing to live.

    The reporter responds…

    Posted by: Chris

    Photo_20 Alabama TV news reporter Debbie Williams has responded to my post about her story on the third guilty plea in the Scotty Joe Weaver murder.  In response to my accusation that she "straight-washed" the crime by failing to report it was an anti-gay hate crime, she wrote:

    I am very well aware of our lawmakers' failure to pass any kind of meaningful hate crime legislation for the gay, lesbian and transgender community.  It is a story and a cause I have covered for more years than I'd like to count. 

    The hate crime aspect of the case was mentioned in the story.  It was not mentioned at all during the Kelsay hearing and was only mentioned during testimony of Gaines, the first defendant to plead guilty. 

    Unless I misread her tone, it sounds as if Debbie isn't hostile toward gay people but chose not to report the anti-gay motivation in the case simply because the prosecutors didn't mention it and it's not actually a crime in Alabama.  I wonder if she allows prosecutors and legislators decide what she can and cannot report in other contexts as well.

    Weaverscotty Let's not play with semantics here.  If she feels uncomfortable calling this a hate crime, then she could certainly have reported on the anti-gay motivation that those very same prosecutors have said from the start was responsible for this incredible brutal murder.

    That hate motivation was not, in fact, mentioned in the story.  I replayed the video multiple times to confirm that.  It's not surprising prosecutors didn't mention it in the Kelsay case.  Since there's no hate crime law, it wouldn't increase her punishment.  And judging from the way prosecutors describe the case, they were afraid it would evoke sympathy — for the perpetrators:

    Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb says despite having a different lifestyle from some people, Weaver certainly didn't deserve having his life taken. "He had a different lifestyle that some people maybe would not agree with, but when people take his life, people he was trying to help, I think it's very hard to understand."

    There was an angle to be reported here, an angle that was central to the story and put this crime in a larger social and political context.  Debbie Williams, who can be contacted by email, should have reported it.

    For a complete news summary about anti-gay hate crimes, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    September 14, 2007

    Opening the door a tad on Craig

    Posted by: Chris

    Mspairport Yes, I know I wrote before that the "case was closed on Craig," but we should be so lucky. I received an interesting email from a respected reader of this blog, Charlie Rounds, founder of RSVP Vacations, longtime activist and a Minneapolitan (who knew they called themselves that?). 

    Charlie offered this tidbit, in response to the claim that Larry Craig had to leave the secured area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to visit the restroom he claims he happened upon:

    I can clear up the security question -- there is no way that he had to leave a secured zone and re-enter to get to this bathroom. All gates at the Lindbergh Terminal are accessible after entering security -- there are no exceptions. Being a Minneapolitan, in the travel industry, and flying at least once a month I am pretty familiar with the airport.

    I've read elsewhere that some of the posts on CruisingForSex.com, the ridiculous (and ridiculously popular) website that facilitates tearoom cruising, second Charlie's recollection about the location of the restroom.

    Even still, the most damning piece of evidence I cited in that "case closed" post was Craig's recorded reaction to being arrested. "You solicited me," he told the undercover cop. That single utterance eradicates any reasonable doubt about Craig's intentions in that restroom.

    But it doesn't answer the constitutional questions raised about his arrest. And just like the ACLU defended neo-Nazis to defend First Amendment rights for all of us, the fact that Craig is a self-hating homophobe doesn't lessen the important safeguards on police misconduct that could be established if he prevails. Why Craig? Because the nation is watching.

    For a complete news summary on the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig

    September 13, 2007

    Straight-washing a hate crime

    Posted by: Chris

    Nicolekelsaycourtroom A third guilty plea was entered yesterday in the brutal murder of 18-year-old Scotty Joe Weaver, in Bay Minette, Ala. Prosecutors say he was beaten, cut, strangled and burned beyond recognition in July 2004 part because he is gay.

    Yesterday, lifelong "friend" Nicole Kelsay, 21, received a 20-year sentence but will be eligible for parole in six. Earlier Christopher Gaines pleaded guilty to capital murder and got life without parole, and Robert Gaines also pleaded guilty for his role and got consecutive life sentences. The facts of the case are bone-chilling. Scottie lived with the three people responsible for his death and had even been there for Nicole in the past when she needed help.

    According to Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone, Weaver was robbed of less than $100, then beaten, strangled, stabbed, cut, partially decapitated and set on fire. Whetstone has said the brutal nature of the murder "is suggestive of overkill, which is not something you see in a regular robbery and murder," and that there is "not a doubt in my mind" that Weaver's sexual orientation played a part in his murder.

    An August 2004 report by Laura Douglas-Brown of Southern Voice offered a bit more detail:

    A coroner’s report revealed Weaver was “beaten, strangled, stabbed, cut and burned,” sustaining injuries to his neck, torso, and “some other parts of the body that I won’t describe, but I will say they were curious,” Whetstone said.

    Scottyweaverblog_2 A local TV news report this week about Kelsay's guilty plea did an excellent job of showing the devastating impact of the horrible crime on Martha Weaver, Scotty's mother. WKRG's Debbie Williams reports:

    For the first time since the ordeal began Martha Weaver addressed the court and specifically Kelsay. Afterwards her questions were still unanswered. "Why did she do it? Why did she plot to hurt him like that?

    Alabamans are left to wonder the answer to that question becuase the WKRG report (video available here) leaves out any mention of the anti-gay motivation that might cause so-called friends to act with such brutality to score $100.

    Also omitted was any mention of the fact that Alabama has no hate crime law, or that a federal hate crime law passed the House earlier this year and a vote is expected soon in the U.S. Senate. There's no excuse for sanitizing hate from such a brutal crime, especially when Alabamans clearly need reminding of the vicious price of homophobia. Laura did a much better job of putting things in context for SoVo readers:

    Alabama was one of only 13 states with a sodomy statute on the books when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated such laws in 2003. A year earlier, then-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore denounced homosexuality as “an inherent evil and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it” in a legal opinion denying a lesbian mother custody of her three teenage children.

    Attempts to add sexual orientation to Alabama’s hate crimes law have failed repeatedly. Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized the state for failing to report apparent hate crimes to the FBI, including the 1999 murder of gay Sylacauga resident Billy Jack Gaither.

    Charles Monroe Butler Jr., 21, and Steven Eric Mullins, 25, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Feb. 19, 1999, death of Gaither, 39. Gaither’s attackers beat him to death with an ax handle, then burned his body atop a pyre of kerosene-soaked tires on a rural creek bank.

    Debbiewilliams I think Debbie Williams needs to hear from us that straight-washing hate crimes does a terrible disservice to the victim, to other members of that minority group, and plays a part in perpetuating a culture of hate.

    For a complete news summary of anti-gay hate crimes, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    September 12, 2007

    Enter the Fred Factor

    Posted by: Chris

    Fredthompsonhandshake It was the moment in the presidential campaign I'd been dreading for months. The popular conservative from my home state, fellow Tennessean Fred Thompson, has entered the Republican primary.

    The pundits and "insiders" have dismissed the former senator and actor even before he declared his candidacy last week on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."  Some claim he's a Hollywood lightweight, but I've heard that before (Ronald Reagan). Some dismiss him as a Southern simpleton, but I've heard that before (George W. Bush). And I've even heard some claim he has a wealth of sexual skeletons in his closet, but we've all heard that before (Bill Clinton).

    I have worried for so long about Fred Thompson's candidacy because he comes off as an authentic Southerner, despite the late-career acting gigs. And that folksy accent, combined with a consistently conservative voting record, is a potent combination.

    Thompson is no simpleton either. He was a respected (even feared) Nashville lawyer before he became famous, as I discovered 20 years ago as a cub reporter when he testily dismissed my attempt at an interview after a court hearing that had gone poorly for him.

    He showed off those smarts and his homespun charm in his first week of campaigning, when he carefully thread the needle on social issues, including the minefield of abortion and gay marriage. On abortion, he touted his perfect anti-abortion voting record, even as he demurred on making termination of a pregnancy a crime.

    "I've always said that I did not believe that young girls and their families should be criminalized," he told conservative GOP voters in Iowa." They can do whatever they want to abortion doctors, as far as I'm concerned. If it comes down to giving criminal sanctions to 18-, 19-year-old girls and their mama, I'm against that."

    Don't underestimate the power of that "aww shucks" charm. Americans have proven themselves particularly prone to seduction by it, from Jimmy Carter to Clinton to the current White House occupant. The accent is so potent because it settles so many nerves, among Southerners, Midwesterners and social conservatives all over that the candidate is, at some level, "one of us."

    He knows how to thread the needle on gay issues, too. On an early campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, a gray-haired gentleman stood up and asked, "My question is what society's position should be on deviancy, including homosexuality?"

    Thompson didn't miss a beat, giving conservatives the right positions without off-putting moderates.

    "I'm not going to pass judgment on several million of my fellow citizens. Anybody that knows me knows how I feel about the importance of a family … of traditional marriage," he said. "It's the thing I want for my children. But it goes back to the unity we were talking about. As president of the United States one should not go out of their way to castigate or pass judgment publicly on a large segment of people."

    In truth, Thompson is an unmitigated disaster on gay issues. He's on record as opposed to even basic protections like employment non-discrimination and hate crime laws. He did oppose a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution on federalist grounds, but he showed off those Matlock-like lawyerly wiles this week with an alternative proposal that is even scarier because it's more likely to be adopted.

    Aware that conservative evangelicals were wary about his candidacy because of his vote against the marriage amendment vote, Thompson has proposed an alternative amendment, constitutionalizing the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that allows one state to refuse legal recognition of marriage licenses issued by another state to same-sex couples.

    For good measure, his proposal would also prohibit judges from requiring a state to marry gay couples until a law to that effect has been passed by the state legislature. As if there were any doubt, Thompson made clear to a "reporter" from Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network that his real aim was to make it as unlikely as possible for gay marriage to be permitted anywhere without violating the principle that the issue is one for the states to decide.

    "The other approach has been tried in Congress," Thompson reminded CBN viewers. "Let's fashion something that will cure the problem, that will stop the problem in its tracks while still saying if some state wants to come along through their legislature and do something different, let them answer to their own people. And I got feeling they won't be in the legislature that much longer."

    Of course there is already evidence is to the contrary, since pro-marriage legislators in Massachusetts have done much better at the polls than opponents. And Thompson is flat wrong that no legislature has enacted gay marriage legislation, since California has twice, including last week. But it was vetoed the first time and likely will again by Governor Schwarzenegger, thus dubbed "The Discriminator" by my gay blogger Lavi Soloway.

    In New York the situation is reversed, as Gov. Elliott Spitzer is pro-marriage and even got the measure through half the legislature in June. In New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine said this week marriage is almost inevitable, albeit after the '08 elections. And in the District of Columbia, the mayor and a majority of the city council are already on record favoring gay marriage, but have been given temporary political cover for dodging the issue by an old-school gay activist group terrified of too much progress too fast.

    The point is that gay marriage is inevitable in other states, whether by popular means or by legal challenge, including prominent suits pending in Iowa, Maryland and California. If Fred Thompson "aww shucks" his way to the White House and gets his constitutionalized DOMA, we'll be saddled for generation with a patchwork of states where gays can marry, and then lose all legal protection when they cross the wrong state lines.

    For a complete news summary of the Republican presidential primary, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/gopprimary

    September 10, 2007

    Case closed on Craig?

    Posted by: Chris

    Larrycraigarrestphotos1 That was the subject line of the email from long-time journalist Rex Wockner, giving his list serv a heads up about a blog post that does, indeed, close the books on the part of the Larry Craig scandal about which none of us had any doubts: The Idaho senator was in the airport restroom to solicit sex.

    The blogger, from Idaho, makes two very keen observations about the Craig arrest that have escaped pretty much everyone -- certainly me, anyway.  Bryan Fischer, who writes for the Sun Valley Online, pointed out these nuggets:

    Most observers have overlooked one of the senator’s first statements to the arresting officer, “You solicited me.” That is an admission on the senator’s part that some kind of exchange of signals occurred between him and the officer. Further, if he was not familiar with the protocol used to arrange sexual liaisons, how did he know he was being solicited in the first place? Most of us had no idea of the process homosexuals use to arrange restroom trysts until we read about them in articles about the senator’s arrest. …

    The senator by his own admission had frequently been in that particular restroom, a restroom which is advertised on gay websites as a prime location for anonymous encounters, and is so far out of the senator’s way that he actually had to leave security to get to it, then pass through security checkpoints again to get to his next gate. It beggars belief that, in an airport with dozens of public facilities, he just happened to find himself in the one restroom in the entire airport noted for anonymous sexual encounters.

    I've seen some web chatter since Fischer's post that takes issue with the second point, with some folks claiming the security perimeter at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport had been extended recently to include the restroom, and others saying it hasn't.

    For me, the first point is the more convincing, at least when it comes to Craig's intent. By claiming the officer solicited him, Craig not only made clear that he was fluent in the lost language of the tea rooms, but he had peered, toe-tapped and hand-waved in response to the undercover cop's invitation.

    But that same admission reminds the civil libertarian in me why the whole Craig bust stinks. The undercover cop acknowledged that he pumped his foot up and down in response to Craig's toe-tapping. No doubt he met Craig's peering gaze through the crack of the restroom stall as well. There's no indication that Craig would have ratcheted things up to foot-tapping and hand-waving -- much less overt sexual conduct -- unless the cop had responded favorably.

    But Craig was busted for engaging in conduct that was unwanted, which is the opposite of invited. He was arrested for "disorderly conduct," meaning "offensive … conduct … tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others," and "invasion of privacy," an offense only adopted last year in response to surreptitious videotaping of restrooms. Yet here, Craig's apparent interest in the undercover cop was entirely unsurreptitious.

    The offense Craig pled guilty to, "disorderly conduct" reads like political correctness run amok. Exactly how does a court decide whether conduct tends "reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others"? Holding my boyfriend's hand would probably fit that definition in Idaho. And Craig's toe-tapping and hand-waving probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow in many major cities.

    Regardless of how vaguely the statute is written, it's clear Craig's conduct was in response to behavior from the undercover cop that would "reasonably" suggest Craig was not "arousing alarm, anger or resentment."

    It's too bad for Craig that he pled guilty, though I don't feel a great deal of sympathy for him personally. But I do hope the public debate that's emerging now that he's fighting his guilty plea might discourage further unjustified arrests.

    September 06, 2007

    Obama and gay immigration rights

    Posted by: Chris

    Barack_obama_bbc Score another blow for readers of this blog. First there was Christopher Hubble, who reacted to a complimentary post I'd written about Bill Richardson by dredging up his "maricón moment" on the Don Imus show a year earlier. That resulted in a story on Gay News Watch that was a first important hint that the New Mexico governor's record on gay rights was more impressive than his command of gay issues.

    Now Danielle Clark, a Barack Obama supporter, has done some sleuthing that sheds important light on her candidate's qualified support for gay couple immigration rights. She came across a couple of posts I wrote back in June about how both Obama and Clinton were hedging their support for the Uniting American Families Act, which would extend to gay Americans the same rights straight folks have to sponsor their spouses for citizenship.

    The Human Rights Campaign candidate "scorecard" showed both Obama and Clinton supporting immigration rights for binational couples even though neither had signed on to cosponsor UAFA. It turns out that both of them, in their more detailed responses to the HRC questionnaire, had raised concerns about the risk of fraud under UAFA as written. When I wrote a less-than-complimentary second post tracking Obama's evolution on the issue, in which he showed sympathy but not full-fledged support, Danielle had had enough.

    She fired off an email to the Obama campaign asking for clarification and got this, rather detailed reply:


    Barack believes that LGBT Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a choice between staying with their partner and staying in their country. That's why he supports changing immigration policy through the Uniting American Families Act. He does, however, have some reservations about the fraud provisions of the present bill.

    Precisely because same-sex couples are not allowed to enter into civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other legally-recognized unions throughout the country, he believes we need to make sure that we have adequate safeguards against fraud.

    He wants to make sure that immigration is possible for a partner in committed relationships, but he also wants to make sure there is a good mechanism for determining who qualifies for that status. He would like to see the Act get more specific with regards to defining 'financial interdependence' and the documentation required as proof in order to establish relationships -- which could very well happen once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

    Hope this helps clarify.


    Actually, Alex and Danielle, this does help clarify quite a bit. The Obama camp is right that merely extending immigration rights to gay Americans doesn't level the playing field because heterosexuals are required to marry (or at least be engaged) to the non-American to sponsor him/her for citizenship. As Alex rightly suggests, gay Americans can't enter into that level of commitment because few states have marriage or civil unions for gay couples, and the Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Mr. Hillary Clinton) blocks federal recognition of gay marriages anyway.

    So that makes the fraud provisions of UAFA that much more important. Even though it's unfair we can't marry, it is fair to require some additional level proof than just our say-so that we are in a committed, permanent relationship with the non-American we want to sponsor.

    As Alex/Obama also suggests, the UAFA strategy has been to add on fraud-prevention provisions in the horsetrading that would happen when the bill comes up for consideration. Adding them now, it's reasoned by Immigration Equality and other pro-UAFA groups, only means vulnerability to some other, more painful compromise when push time comes.

    It's a judgment call to be sure, but I see Obama's point here.  Why shouldn't UAFA be written in a form ready for passage, rather than holding off on provisions that ought to be there but aren't. Other countries that have dealt with this issue of how to test the legitimacy of unmarried couples, including Canada and the U.K., have required one year of cohabitation in addition to proof of financial codependence, etc. It's a draconian provision, as my own vagabond life has proven, but I can't say it's unreasonable.

    So kudos to Danielle and, I have to say, I'm once again impressed that Obama and the Obama camp don't pander and have substantive responses on the issues. Now it's Hillary's turn.

    September 04, 2007

    ENDA finally gets a hearing

    Posted by: Chris

    Endacallout_5 A House subcommittee will finally hold hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Wednesday morning, some eight months after Democrats took control of Congress. The Human Rights Campaign released a partial witness list that includes three House member, including out gay reps Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

    The House panel will also hear from experts on the topic, and as usual the list is stacked to support the majority's view -- in this case support for ENDA. After those six witnesses speak, there are two witnesses picked by Republicans who are expected to oppose. Both are lawyers, and one is a lobbyist.

    Larry Lorber, a partner in the Washington, DC office of the Proskauer Rose law firm, is likely to speak from the perspective of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to HRC.  The Chamber's opposition to ENDA represents a general hostility to regulation that exposes businesses to a greater threat of litigation. But it will be interesting to see whether Lorber gets asked why his own law firm has an equal opportunity policy that includes sexual orientation.

    Lorber might argue that the Proskauer Rose policy proves that the private sector will protect gays on its own, or maybe he would point that jurisdictions where the firm has offices prohibit gay workplace bias. But in fact, it points out the Catch-22 that demonstrates the need for ENDA: The law is most needed to protect workers whose employers, or whose state and local government, are hostile toward gay people.

    September 02, 2007

    Breaking waves and a little news

    Posted by: Chris

    Nljgaconfab This weekend I attended the annual convention for the  National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA, or "negligee," as I call it for short), in sunny (steamy) San Diego, Calif. It was my 9th consecutive conference, and as always the highlight was catching up with colleagues and all the networking opportunities.

    One particularly interesting panel was moderated by IN LA magazine's Karen Ocamb, my co-reporter on the story about Bill Richardson "maricón moment." Her panel was on how gay issues may play out in the 2008 elections, presidential and otherwise. A few nuggets:

    • Steve Elmendorf, who worked gay issues and senior strategy for Dick Gephardt and John Kerry in '04 and is on board with Hillary for '08, flat out denied that Bill Clinton advised Kerry to back  constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage as a "Sister Souljah" strategy. "It absolutely did not happen," he insisted. I tend to believe him, though it's hard to imagine Bob Shrum made it up from nothing.
    • I missed some of what Elmendorf had to say because sitting next to me was Dan Blatt, better known as Gay Patriot West from the GayPatriot blog. He got so exorcised by the idea that Hillary is a victim, and not a purveyor, of attacks that he was about to go Sybil on me. Nice to see smart, passionate people across the spectrum in the room.
    • Elmendorf went on to argue that Hillary isn't worried about Republican use of gay issues as a wedge because the strategy has played out and the public has moved on our issues. Besides, he said several times, Hillary is "uniquely qualified" to fend off right-wing attacks because she's been doing so for 15 years. I've heard that argument a number of times, and I don't get it. Most of those attacks have "stuck" and her negatives in polling are horrible. So why should we believe she'll be more effective this time?
    • Jeremy Bernard, one-half of the gay couple behind B&G Associates, which is doing fund-raising consulting for Barack Obama in California, disagreed on whether the conservatives will try the gay wedgie. But he doubted it would be as pronounced an effort as four years ago. This time immigrants will the boogeymen. That I definitely believe. McCain's tanking campaign shows the red staters are hungry for some red meat on that issue.
    • Scott Scmidt, better known as gay conservative blogger BoiFromTroy, did his best to argue for Rudy Giuliani in a room that was having none of it. He tried to argue that Rudy adopted civil unions in New York (City), though that's not the case. The domestic partnerships there fall far short of civil unions. Also, he neglected to mention that Rudy's campaign came out against New Hampshire's civil unions, claiming they were "too close to marriage." Still, Schmidt made a strong argument that for gay Republicans, Rudy is likely to do the least damage and could move the party to the center... a little.
    • Elmendorf said gays have come a long way, baby, since 1992 and will expect more than just "inclusion"; we should expect to hear the right positions. I would argue that we crossed that bridge in 2000 and 2004, and this time around we expect more than positions but to be convinced that a candidate will lead on our issues and even risk political capital to see they are enacted. It's a test there's every indication that Hillary would fail.
    • Bernard told a pretty incredible story about overhearing a meeting Barack Obama had with a group of black pastors in L.A. before last month's HRC-Logo debate. When a pastor complained that Obama needed to support their opposition to rights for gay couples, according to Barnard, the candidate said the same thing to them that he would say later on Logo: that gay couples don't keep black people out of jobs or cause them to do violence on one another.

    I came away from the panel further seduced by the Obama candidacy. On gay issues and generally, he continues to impress.

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