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    January 31, 2008

    A civil exchange

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamaclintondebate Tonight's much-hyped one-on-one showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn't have the sparks of the South Carolina debate but both candidates did a credible job of making their case to Super Duper Tuesday voters. Hillary did herself a favor by not going on the attack very often, since it plays right into Obama's game. And Obama can never be as inspirational in a debate setting than when he's giving a speech.

    A lot of the policy differences were reruns from previous debates, but for voters just now tuning in -- it was a civil exchange that both campaigns should be happy with.

    UPDATE: Bill Schneider reached an interesting conclusion:

    I thought overall, his position tonight was still that of the challenger, and she was effectively the incumbent. Barack Obama needed to peel votes away from Clinton. He made some progress on the Iraq issue. But how many Democrats are still more concerned about Iraq than about anything else? To the extent that the debate was a draw, it helps Clinton.

    I don't disagree that there weren't any knockout punches by Obama, although he did best on Iraq, which is receding as an issue. But I wonder if Obama was consciously not on attack because he is already surging in the polls and didn't need to risk his positive aura by going negative. tonight

    The gay case for Hillary, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of this post.

    The New York Blade endorsed Hillary Clinton last week, and like most of those making the case for her within the gay rights movement, the differences with Barack Obama were papered over or, in the case of whether to repeal half (Hillary) or all (Obama) of the Defense of Marriage Act, not even acknowledged. The Blade did acknowledge the failures of Bill Clinton's administration, on DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell -- although I would add the failure to pass workplace or hate crime protections -- but nonetheless concludes:

    We question whether Obama can muster the aggression needed to force change. His talk of bringing people together reminds us of current Democratic Congressional leaders’ talk of bipartisanship. In an effort to avoid confrontations with Republicans, Dems have gotten us nowhere in 2007: no hate crimes, no ENDA, no impeachment—Harry Reid can’t even get White House staff to testify about the attorney general scandal (Bush officials simply ignored Reid’s subpoenas and suffered no consequence).

    This would not be the case if Hillary were running the show.

    I couldn't agree more that likely follow-through and willingness to fight for passage of our civil rights laws is a central question that gay voters should consider. But I couldn't disagree more than it is more likely under a second Clinton administration than under Obama.

    Hillary is at least as conservative about picking her political battles than was her husband and has never even criticized him for agreeing to Don't Ask, Don't Tell or signing DOMA. To the contrary, she has defended him for doing so by rewriting the reasons why -- similar to Bill Clinton's own revisionism. I see no evidence that she will be more courageous on civil rights once in office than he was, in fact I believe our agenda will be very low on her agenda.

    Barack Obama spoke with conviction about gay rights issues during the HRC-Logo debate in a way than Hillary could not, drawing the comparisons to the black CIvil Rights Movement than the Clintons and establishment Democrats are mortally afraid to make.

    It's a judgment call between the two, ultimately, if you set aside the important DOMA policy difference. But we do have history here to guide us.

    UPDATE: Interestingly, New York City's other gay paper, Gay City News, has endorsed Barack Obama -- again basing their judgment on non-gay issues, which is not uncommon for that publication. (I have had a bit of a running debate with the GCN's passionate editors about whether it makes sense for a gay publication to devote so much space to Iraq War coverage, etc.)

    For GCN, Clinton disqualified herself with the nasty campaigning by her surrogates, especially her husband the ex-president. On that issue, as any regular reader of this blog knows, I can certainly sympathize.

    GNW 5: Gay media drama

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Bush-Barney embrace followed boyfriend phone callBush-Barney embrace followed phone call to boyfriend: QUICK LOOK: It's a time-worn president's trick: walk up to a congressman chatting on the phone and send your regards to the astonished person on the other end of the line, charming... (MORE)
    2. HX threatens suit after IN staffers launch rival pubHX threatens suit after IN staffers start rival pub: QUICK LOOK: Bill Berggren, who in January was fired from his post as associate publisher of In Newsweekly, plans to launch a new LGBT magazine, N’Touch New England, which he said... (MORE)
    3. Gay marriage not on Fla. primary ballot but still an issue: QUICK LOOK: Supporters and opponents of the idea of a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage were working the polls yesterday. The subject wasn't even on the ballot — and may never make it before... (MORE)
    4. Ind. one step closer to amendment banning gay marriageQUICK LOOK: A same sex-marriage ban is moving forward with Indiana lawmakers. State legislators advanced a resolution to begin amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage. People are reacting with strong... (MORE)
    5. Colin Farrell to be best man at gay brother's weddingColin Farrell to be best man at gay brother's weddingQUICK LOOK: Colin Farrell, who played bisexual in "A Home At the End of the World" and gay(ish) in "Alexander" is to take on another gay role, this time as the best man at the wedding... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

    January 30, 2008

    And then there were five

    Posted by: Chris

    080130_edwards_analysis John Edwards is out. Rudy Giuliani is out. Not only will that impact who wins the primaries but allows for more meaningful comparisons of the likely match-ups for the fall as well.

    Edwards' departure obviously clarifies the Democratic race, though it's anybody's guess whether it will benefit Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The North Carolina senator ran on the ideological left of the field, a contrast from his Senate voting record and his 2004 persona. If his supporters are similarly inclined, then Obama may benefit because voters perceive him (probably correctly) as more liberal than Clinton -- especially on the Iraq War.

    Obama will obviously also benefit by consolidating the "anybody but Hillary" folks. As much as I have grown to dislike Hillary in this campaign, I do not count myself among that crowd. If Obama had dropped out, I would have probably swung Hillary's way -- because Edwards' "journey" on gay rights and other issues struck me as only slightly more genuine that Mitt Romney's trip the contrary direction, and Edwards' proximity to trial lawyers and trade unions is anathema to me.

    W0129110a On the Republican side, Giuliani's non-starter of a campaign was a huge disappointment to many social moderates in the party. The only bright side is that few analysts are blaming his failure on his left-leaning social views, although those and his messey personal life no doubt were to blame in part for why he never caught fire in Iowa or New Hampshire and ended up bailing on both.

    His departure from the campaign puts gay-friendly moderates in a bind. Mike Huckabee is obviously a non-starter, except for those who believe that nominating the least electable candidate is the best political strategy. My own view is that he's only staying at this point because he knows that many of his evangelical backers would likely flock to Romney, whom Huckabee clearly disdains. There's also plenty of speculation that Huckabee is bucking to be McCain's running mate, although I find that unlikely, even though it might help the ticket with evangelicals and in the South.

    John McCain is portrayed as the remaining moderate in the race, and the label fits well on issues like finance reform, immigration, torture, tax cuts -- where he can be a GOP maverick. His famous willingness to "reach across the aisle" has never extended to social issues, even though it doesn't appear he cares particularly much about them. Despite his "agents of intolerance" broadside against the religious right in 2000, McCain has consistently opposed even basic, bipartisan gay rights legislation like employment non-discrimination and hate crimes protection.

    McCain has opposed on federalism grounds a federal marriage amendment, something both Romney and Huckabee support. But the president doesn't get a vote on constitutional amendments, and the whole idea will be in political nowheresville after the Democrats solidify their control of Congress in November.

    Romney presents something of an enigma. He was targeted by Log Cabin (on non-gay issues) because of the way he reinvented himself on a whole host of social issues to adapt to a more conservative GOP primary electorate. It's a fair question to ask which Romney is closer to his actual core, the moderate Massachusetts governor or the conservative presidential candidate. After all, when John Kerry tacked to the right in 2004, few believed his newfound views were truly his own; why shouldn't we wonder the same about Romney?

    The newly conservative Romney as a nominee would at least present voters a clearer choice between the parties than McCain would. My dream matchup, actually, would be Romney against Obama, since the former's mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners negative campaigning is the perfect contrast to Obama's "new politics." There's a reason why Obama soared when the Clintons went harshly negative, and I believe those tactics would backfire especially with independents even more explosively on Romney.

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    More Obamomentum

    Posted by: Chris

    This in from Gallup:

    Barack Obama has now cut the gap with Hillary Clinton to 6 percentage points among Democrats nationally in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking three-day average, and interviewing conducted Tuesday night shows the gap between the two candidates is within a few points. Obama's position has been strengthening on a day-by-day basis. As recently as Jan. 18-20, Clinton led Obama by 20 points.

    With John Edwards dropping out of the Democratic race today, we'll see whether his backers were change agents (or anti-Hillary) and will flock to Obama, or whether they were more partisan, establishment Democrats likely to move to Hillary.

    Notice I did not go where NOW went, patronizingly suggesting that if Edwards' all-white support goes to Hillary, it somehow means they're not ready for a black president.

    Via TNR.

    Kennedy hit with bitter NOW backlash

    Posted by: Andoni

    It’s the politics of gender now.

    According to the AP,  the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women had the following to say after Sen. Edward Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama.

    We are repaid with his abandonment! He's picked the new guy over us. He's joined the list of progressive white men who can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton.

    NOW added it was our obligation to "elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who 'know what's best for us.'"

    I think they are saying that we have to vote for Senator Clinton because she’s a woman no matter who we think would be best for the country.

    The Bush-Barney embrace

    Posted by: Chris

    Bushbarneyfox_1 The embrace between President Bush and gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) after Monday night's State of the Union address was so warm and affectionate that Fox News anchor Brit Hume interrupted Nina Hagen's post-speech analysis to comment on it, albeit haltingly:

    Hold on a second, what we just saw there was an interesting moment, a moment of friendship and almost affection between the president and none other than Barney Frank. Who I think it's fair to say is one of the most liberal Members of Congress, also one of the smartest guys up there, but, uh...

    Hagen imagined a political reason for the playful hug, since Frank has worked closely with the Bush administration on banking regulation and the economic stimulus package agreed to by the House yesterday. In fact, the reason was much more personal, as the Boston Globe reports:

    It's a time-worn president's trick: walk up to a congressman chatting on the phone and send your regards to the astonished person on the other end of the line, charming the listener with your regular-guy credentials.

    That's what President Bush did Monday night at the State of the Union address, when he approached Newton Democrat Barney Frank, who was talking on his cell phone in the House Speaker's lobby before Bush's speech.

    What Bush didn't know was that the congressman was talking to his boyfriend.

    "Tell him I said, 'Hello,' '' Bush said to Frank, leaning in to pat the congressman's shoulder. As Bush continued into the House chamber, Frank told his skeptical boyfriend that it had been the conservative Republican president sending his good wishes. Frank's boyfriend didn't believe him, so the Massachusetts lawmaker put one of the sergeants-at-arms on the phone to back up his story.

    After the speech, Frank said, he felt he had to tell Bush what he had done. After all, the president opposes gay marriage, and gay rights groups do not see the president as an ally.

    Frank sought out the president, who put his hand on the back of the congressman's head to hear him more clearly in the noisy, crowded room.

    "Mr. President, by the way, the person I was talking to when you said to say hello was my boyfriend,'' Frank said he told the commander-in-chief.

    "Well. I hope you said how open-minded I am,'' Frank said the president replied.

    "I considered telling [the president] I wouldn't marry him,'' Frank said, "but then I thought, 'Nah.' ''

    The Globe doesn't indicate whether Frank was referring to his boyfriend or the president, but let's hope it's the latter.

    Voting as a function of time...

    Posted by: Andoni

    One problem facing Barack Obama in his quest for the Democratic nomination for president is that he is relatively new on the national scene compared to Hillary Clinton. If he has the time to introduce himself to voters as he did over a long period in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, voters tend to like him and he comes in either first or a close second.

    Now that we approaching Super Duper Tuesday where 22 states, large and small, all vote on the same day, time is running out for Obama to introduce himself to the voters in these states. One factor working in Obama’s favor is the intense negative publicity the Clinton team has gotten in the media since they started going negative after their Iowa loss. The other factor is that he has shown that he can win or hold his own.

    There is one bit of encouraging news for Obama from today’s New York Times regarding yesterday’s Florida primary with respect to the votes for Senator Clinton versus Senator Obama: “She did well among those who cast their votes early; among late deciders, Mr. Obama matched her almost one for one, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky.”

    The Florida polls had been open for weeks and for those voting in real time, Obama pretty much tied her without even campaigning. This is not great news for Obama in California, where hundreds of thousands have already voted early, but does bode well for him in those states that only vote on the day of the election next Tuesday.

    This phenomenon, algebraically put, where the voter’s choice is a function of time will be interesting to watch going forward. It appears that the more time goes by and the more information the voter gathers on the candidates, then the more likely that voter will choose Obama rather than Clinton.

    Is there enough time for Obama?

    Like candidate, like staffer, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    Once again, a Hillary Clinton staffer manages to be as duplicitous as the candidate, in this case trying to explain  how the New York senator could claim "victory" in Florida when she had promised voters in the officially designated early voting states that she wouldn't campaign there:

    "There are more voters in Florida alone than there are in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina combined," Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle argued in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

    This was the same Solis Doyle who last summer committed Clinton to signing the Florida boycott pledge, saying, "We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and we believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role."

    Credit the Post's Dana Milbank with nailing that particular example of double-speak.

    Notice how the campaign callously disregards promises made to covet support because they're not longer politically convenient. Sound like any former president now campaigning for his wife that you know? Is there any good reason why should we expect something different if the proverbial fan gets hit on gay issues?

    January 29, 2008

    Time to endorse, Al Gore!

    Posted by: Andoni

    Algorefootball Barack Obama has been fortunate over the past few weeks to gain a strong list of endorsements from both the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic Party. Most recently President John F. Kennedy's  brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, as well as his daughter, Caroline, have lent their family mystique and full support to Senator Obama.

    The one big name endorsement still undeclared is former Vice President Al Gore.

    Just like Obama (but unlike Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards), Al Gore vocally opposed the Iraq War from the very beginning. This alone would seem to make a natural basis for an endorsement. Besides climate change, the Iraq War was Gore's second most passionate issue.

    Since Gore won an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize, many seem to think that Al Gore is beyond politics. I certainly hope not. The time to make an endorsement is when it counts, when it can make a difference. And that time is now. 

    Al Gore should get off the fence and endorse –- and I have an idea of how he can achieve the loudest echo chamber for his endorsement.

    Super Bowl Sunday occurs just two days before Super Duper Tuesday, February 5, when 22 states go to the polls to vote for a Democratic nominee. Even though a 30 second Super Bowl ad costs 2.4 million dollars and that same amount of money could buy hundreds if not thousands of targeted local ads, I believe that in this instance the money would be well spent on the Super Bowl:

    1. A presidential political ad during the Super Bowl would be a "first" and that ad would be talked about and replayed thousands of times all over the country -- free.
    2. Such an ad would be a great way to reach the vast audience in all 22 states that will be voting just 2 days later.

    Should any of Al Gore or Barack Obama's people be reading this blog, I offer the following idea for such a Super Bowl ad:

    SETTING: a football field with two players on it, both in uniform and both with helmets on. One is tall and lean, the other tall and obese.  These could be stunt doubles for Obama and Gore.

    Player 1:  (Obama's voice) "Fired up?"

    Player 2: (Gore's voice) "Yup, Ready to go".

    They then bang their clenched fists into each other and get into formation.

    Player 2 crouches over a bit and says: "Hut, hut, 2000, 5-4, 2008, Hike!" then back-peddles and throws a perfect pass which Player 1 catches cleanly.

    Both players (the real Obama and the real Gore, not the stunt doubles) then come together and Player 1 removes his helmet and says, "I'm Barrack Obama."

    Player 2 then takes off his helmet and says, "I'm Al Gore, and I played on the opposing team for 8 years but I'm endorsing  Barack Obama for President."

    Player 1: "And I approve of this message."

    Blogger-activist search for purity, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    Dennisk The latest example of the blogger-activist search for purity comes from the Republic of T, a black gay blogger I read and respect, who is throwing up his hands now that Dennis Kucinich has withdrawn from a race he never had a snowball's chance in Hades of winning in the first place:

    So, I guess I’m sitting things out until November. I had looked forward to having the opportunity to vote my hopes in the primaries—to vote for someone. Now, I guess I’ll just fold my arms until I know who I’m voting against in November, and who I’m settling for.

    And before anyone jumps on me, I will vote in the general election. I just can’t see myself getting excited about or supporting any of the remaining Democratic candidates with any degree of enthusiasm. Of those who remain, Mike Gravel is the only who supports marriage equality, but he loses me with his whole tax position. At this point, the least unsatisfactory Democrat in my view may be John Edwards, but I can’t work up a good head of steam over him either.

    I'm sure "T" doesn't need me to remind him that settling and compromise are an inevitable and central part of politics in a democracy. The blogger-activist naivete on that point is one reason for the whole ridiculous fight over transgender inclusion in ENDA.

    In his post "T" says that it's not simply on gay issues that the candidates disappoint, but to suggest that Gravel (of all people) is the only one worthy of gay support is so far off the mark. Marriage equality is central to the movement but under our system has never been an issue decided at the federal level. That's one reason President Bush's support for a federal marriage amendment was so transparently cynical.

    Yes, most of us would agree that it violates the federal Constitution's guarantee of equal protection for a state to exclude same-sex couples from marrying, but gay activists haven't even filed that lawsuit, much less asked politicians to back that view.

    To the extent marriage is a federal issue and support from the president is anything more than symbolic, there is a real difference between the leading Democrats:

    • Hillary Clinton supports repeal of only Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which would allow for federal recognition of gay marriages. She has defended the decision by her husband to sign the law and still supports the remainder of DOMA, which states that each state can refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.
    • John Edwards told a national audience during the 2004 presidential primaries that he also supports the half of DOMA that Hillary doesn't want to repeal. He has since apparently come around, stating on his website that he favors a full DOMA repeal, although that's not a pledge the candidate himself has ever made personally.
    • Barack Obama has said since during that same 2004 election that DOMA was wrong and discriminatory when enacted and ought to be repealed in full.

    Advocates of John Edwards claim Obama's position was inconsistent in that 2004 campaign, and Hillary's supporters say she's the one most likely to be elected in November and knows best how to navigate her positions through Congress. I believe Edwards' supporters overstate their case and ignore their own candidate's 2004 view, and Clinton's supporters faith in her political follow-through ignores the history of two Clinton presidential terms that Hillary still defends in full today -- including on gay issues.

    Whatever stock "T" and other disgruntled blogger-activists put in any of these views, there is sufficient difference between the candidates that the judgment of each and every voter is needed to ensure the best outcome.

    "T" wrote that his parents taught him to vote against someone, even if he can't vote for someone. If none of the Democrats inspire him enough to vote for or against, then he and others ought at least to vote against those primary voters who don't care about our civil equality or actively oppose it.

    More on Obama and 'the G word'

    Posted by: Andoni

    Obamaau I've often admired Barack Obama for using the word "gay" in his speeches to all audiences, not only gay audiences. Most politicians only use these words to LGBT audiences

    Last week Obama reminded parishioners at Martin Luther King Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church that African Americans have not always been kind to their gay and lesbian brothers. Is Obama simply a good actor, or does he really have an internal compass that includes gays and lesbians?

    I believe I have my answer. In his speech at American University yesterday accepting Sen. Edward Kennedy's endorsement, Obama again included gays and lesbians in his remarks. However, in reviewing the published text of his speech to see exactly how he said it, I was astonished to discover that the text as prepared for the teleprompter did not include "the G word." And yet without batting an eye, when Obama came to that portion of the speech that enumerated various groups of Americans, he intuitively realized gays and lesbians were missing and without a pause, he ad libbed and added our community.

    The text of his prepared remarks and a video of his speech are available here, with the ad-libbed portion about 10 minutes into the remarks. Here is the text as written for him:

    And it lives on in those Americans –- young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian –- who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president.

    And here's what Obama actually said, with the ad-libbed addition highlighted:

    And it lives on in those Americans – young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian, native American, gay and straight -- who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president."

    On the fly, in the middle of the pressure of a major speech, it came natural to him to include gays into a speech that wasn't written that way. This is just one simple example of gut level thinking that shows us a lot about Obama, the man --  that gay and lesbian people indeed are internalized in his core beliefs and we are indeed included in his plans for change.

    (Photo of Obama at American University via New York Times/Damon Winter)

    Welcome 'Andoni' to The Citizen

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm happy to announce that another regular reader of The Citizen and a longtime friend and associate of mine will also be doing some guest blogging.  Don George is always in the middle of things in Atlanta's gay and lesbian community and in a wide variety of causes has always put his money where his mouth is.

    Dsc02065 Don is a retired physician who practiced for years in Massachusetts before coming down to Atlanta, where he lives now with his partner. In addition to medicine, Don has worked as an engineer, inventor, teacher and in real estate as well. A lot of the work he does now is in philanthropy, much of it through his own Andonios Foundation.

    Way back in 1996, when William Waybourn and I proposed creating Window Media, a group of gay and lesbian publications, Don was the very first person to get out his checkbook, and it's by no means the only gay business he helped launch.

    In contrast to Kevin, our other guest blogger, Don is a lifelong Democrat, something he attributes to growing up in the inner city in a lower middle class household. He sits on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union and regularly contributes to a wide range of political candidates, including so far in the Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Barack Obama -- with Obama receiving more than the others to date.

    I have long appreciated Don't outside-the-box thinking, even if we don't always agree, and his articulate writing style has put him on the New York Times op-ed pages -- albeit in letters -- more times than I can remember. I know that we'll all enjoy his contributions here; look for them under his blogger nickname, "Andoni."

    GNW 5: N.Y. primary and gays

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Clinton called 'bull dyke on steriods' in N.Y. columnClinton called 'bull dyke on steroids' in N.Y. column: QUICK LOOK: A recent column about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a free weekly owned by Hamptons luminary Jerry Della Femina so infuriated members of the... (MORE)
    2. Resistant staph bacteria, football players and gay menResistant staph bacteria, football players and gay men: QUICK LOOK: It’s not just gay men who are at risk for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a potentially fatal bacterial infection that killed two schoolchildren... (MORE)
    3. Gay pol who posed on dating site urges early sex edGay pol who posed on dating website urges early sex ed: QUICK LOOK: Children in the U.K. under the age of 11 should be given explicit sex education to help reduce teenage pregnancies, a Labor MP has said. Chris Bryant, who made the headlines... (MORE)
    4. In gay-friendly Dem primary, gay rights not an issueIn gay-friendly Dem primary, gay rights not an issue: QUICK LOOK: For the first time in two decades, gay voters find themselves in an unusual, if happy, predicament. The three leading Democrats have staked out similar positions on issues... (MORE)
    5. More gay chief executive officers coming out winnersMore gay chief executives coming out winners: QUICK LOOK: In the buttoned-down business corridors of Philadelphia and other large cities, an increasing number of gay CEOs are not hiding anymore. Some, like Martinez and Sean... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

    January 28, 2008

    The gay case for Hillary, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    I've been remiss in following up on my post from several weeks back about those who've made the case for why Hillary Clinton is a better choice than Barack Obama for gay voters. Due to some unfortunate computer issues -- getting a new Internet connection in Brazil is a slow-motion nightmare -- I haven't rounded up the samples I've found to date.

    Ethangeto I promise to follow up soon, but I couldn't slide let this total gem from Ethan Geto, identified by the New York Times as the Clinton campaign’s senior policy adviser on gay and lesbian concerns:

    We’re going to get the word out best we can to show that Hillary has done more for the community than any other political figure in America.

    You got that, Barney Frank! You hear that, Ted Kennedy? Are you listening, Bill Richardson? I've heard of smoking your own dope, but there's no question whether Mr. Geto inhaled.

    What has Hillary Clinton ever done "for the community?"  She was the first First Lady to march in the New York City Gay Pride parade, although not before she had launched her New York Senate campaign. She coordinated with the Human Rights Campaign to fight the federal marriage amendment in 2006, a vote that was a foregone conclusion and a huge missed opportunity for the movement.

    Her voting record is strong and her positions are favorable, to be sure. But Geto's statement is breathtaking in its exaggeration, especially about a candidate who does not support gay marriage  -- unlike her state's governor and many Democrats in her state's legislator.

    Clearly the commitment to truthiness in the Clinton camp is contagious.

    Ted Kennedy dumps on the Clintons

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamakennedy And even manages to use the "G word"

    With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion. With Barack Obama, we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.

    And so did Barack Obama, in accepting Kennedy's endorsement:

    The dream has never died ... it lives on in those Americans, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, gay and straight, who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president of the United States of America.

    That is the dream we hold in our hearts. That is the kind of leadership we long for in this country. And that is the kind of leadership I intend to offer as president of the United States of America.

    Photo via CNN.

    Gays and Super Duper Tuesday

    Posted by: Chris

    Votingmachines Just to echo Kevin's post about the heightened influence gays are likely to have on Super Duper Tuesday, there's a detailed look by former Blade editor Lisa Keen on just that subject:

    While the gay vote may seem diminished with a large turnout in the general election, it gets magnified in primaries, said political poll analyst Murray Edelman. That’s because most of that gay vote -- 77 percent in the 2004 general election -- goes Democratic. The gay vote impact is also magnified in many of the upcoming primary states, like California, Massachusetts, and Illinois, because of the tendency for many gays to live in or near major metropolitan areas and in states and cities with laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    A pre-election survey in 1996, for instance, found that about eight percent of "likely voters" in California were gay. Census data shows that the states with the highest concentrations of same-sex partner households and the highest percentage of unmarried men and unmarried women include many of the Feb. 5 primary states, including Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and Georgia.

    Countering that additional influence, at least according to yesterday's New York Times, is the tendency of gays in large urban areas to be "post-gay" in their voting choices, especially in the primaries when the differences between the candidates on gay issues are less pronounced:

    For the first time in two decades, gay voters find themselves in an unusual, if happy, predicament. The three leading Democrats have staked out similar positions on issues that resonate with gay men and lesbians. Although none of the three candidates back gay marriage, they all support same-sex civil unions and say they would fight to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And each of them says he or she would champion a federal anti-discrimination law that would protect lesbians and gay men.

    “You would need a magnifying glass to see any real or substantive differences between the three candidates,” said Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights group in New York.

    The story's conclusion is entirely anecdotal, of course, and manages to rewrite history, considering the leading Democrats in 2004 and even 2000 weren't any further apart on gay issues as the top three are this time around. The analysis also papers over important policy differences in this year's primary, particularly on the Defense of Marriage Act -- Hillary Clinton is for half-repeal while Barack Obama and John Edwards favor full repeal -- as well as the more subtle question of which candidate is more likely to carry through on their campaign commitments.

    Gay rights is, of course, one issue among many that gay voters and those who care about our equality will weigh as they enter the ballot booth. While the New Yorkers quoted in the Times piece claim we should consider broader issues more seriously because the candidates are relatively close on gay rights, I would argue the contrary: Since there's little difference between Clinton and Obama on the big substantive issues, our civil rights ought to weigh heavier in our selection.

    What's more, for me the gay issues in the Democratic primary play out along with other major issues as part of the central question of whether Clinton or Obama is mostly likely to bring the country together to win the general election and, afterward, follow through in enacting basic civil rights legislation.

    Too much Billary = Obamomentum

    Posted by: Chris

    Obama_clinton_cropped Barack Obama's landslide success in South Carolina was as much a rejection of the sleazy politics of the Clintons as it was an affirmation of Obama's attempt to chart a cleaner, less divisive course for politics and the country.

    Apparently the good voters of South Carolina had much the same reaction as I did to Bill Clinton's recent emergence as an attack dog surrogate for his wife. A little bit of Bill and you remembered the positives about his presidency and his special connection with African Americans. Too much of Bill -- especially red-faced and finger-wagging -- and you remember the rest, including his willingness to twist the truth to suit the convenience of the moment.

    As many as 60 percent of the voters in the South Carolina Democratic primary said the former president was important in their vote, and more than half of those votes went to Obama or Edwards. That wasn't the hoped-for effect when Hillary left Bill behind in the state to campaign in places with Super Tuesday primaries.

    Some analysts have suspected that the Clintons' strategy all along was to raise racial issues in South Carolina, pigeonholing Obama as "the black candidate" even at the risk of a backlash like Saturday's vote, with an eye toward solidifying support among Latinos and gaining ground among whites elsewhere. I'm not that cynical about the Clintons to believe they would race-bait, but Bill Clinton is doing little to disabuse people of the possibility.

    The week before the primary, he said the race and gender make-up of South Carolina were such that his wife couldn't win. (Never mind, as Bill Kristol points out, that 60 percent of primary voters in the state were women and 45 percent were white; so Hillary certainly should have been more competitive.)

    On the eve of the vote, the ex-president compared Obama's success to Jesse Jackson's primary wins in South Carolina in 1980 and 1984. Jackson won with 7 percent of the white vote, and some pre-primary polls suggested Obama might do as poorly. As it turned out, Obama handily won among white voters under 30 and overall took a quarter of the white vote, with Edwards and Clinton taking about one-third each. Of course, Obama also won in all-white Iowa and was neck and neck with Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada, performing better than her in rural districts of the latter.

    What's so encouraging about South Carolina and the media coverage since is how the Clintons aren't getting away with the same-old same-old. Obama so effectively called them out for erroneously claiming he admired Ronald Reagan's ideas for the country that the Clinton campaign pulled a radio ad that twisted his words to that effect. In Obama's electrifying victory speech in Charleston, he hit back hard on the point:

    We're up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner. It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea, even if it's one you never agreed with.

    That's the kind of politics that is bad for our party, it is bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.

    It's that kind of inspirational idealism that led Caroline Kennedy and Ted Kennedy to endorse Obama as the first candidate they've seen in years who can uplift the country the way J.F.K. did. There's a lot about Ted Kennedy I don't agree with, but his endorsement is especially meaningful because it reinforces that even some of the old party establishment is buying into Obama's "new politics."

    Time will tell whether the ripple effect from South Carolina is big enough to carry Obama through "Super Duper Tuesday," February 5, when 22 states will vote, which includes delegate-rich Clinton strongholds like New York, New Jersey and California. But the Democrats' fairer system of proportional delegate selection means Obama can at least stay close enough to remain competitive.

    It also remains to be seen whether Edwards will stay in the race, even after being thoroughly repudiated in his home state, where he won the primary just four years ago. His only reason for staying in at this point is to play the role of kingmaker at the convention. The potential of someone like Edwards or the other unelected "super delegates" deciding the race remains a significant wild card, although Obama has dramatically closed the gap among the latter.

    Already, the Clintons show signs of not learning their lesson from South Carolina. She is reneging on the pledge that she and all the leading Democrats made to abide by the party's decision to disqualify delegates from Florida because the state is holding its primary too close to Iowa and New Hampshire. The specific promise was not to campaign there, since the delegates have been disqualified. Now desperate to halt Obama's momentum, Hillary will hold a rally on primary night, of course soaking up the "victory" she expects there. Technically, no promise was broken since the rally is after the voting is done, but the tactic just wreaks of Bill's "it all depends on what the definition of 'is' is.

    Just weeks ago, Hillary Clinton was lavishingly promising Iowa and New Hampshire voters she wouldn't mess with their traditional place on the primary calendar. Voters should think about whether the politics of convenience is really what this country needs, and gay voters should keep that in mind if they are somehow convinced that Hillary will remain truer to her campaign commitments than her husband did.

    If the Clintons are smart, they will not only put the attack dog on a shorter leash and stop acting as if they are running to be co-presidents, but they will also move the campaign focus away from trust and honesty -- issues on which Obama far outpaces Clinton with voters, and for good reason.

    January 26, 2008

    A legal headache for PlanetOut

    Posted by: Chris

    Specialtypubsmailer The good folks at PlanetOut just can't catch a break. Fresh off of news that management is pursuing the sale of the company comes word of a bizarre lawsuit out of east Tennessee involving an angry father who claims his daughter opened a gay porn mailer from PlanetOut's softcore Specialty Publications division.

    You can imagine how fair (not) the coverage of the lawsuit was on local TV:

    Think about this. Your young son or daughter gets a big white envelope addressed to them. They open it, only to find homosexual porn. A Powell dad says it happened to him, and his daughter. He's mad and he's taking action. …

    Kent Blackwelder and his attorney filed a lawsuit alleging Specialty Publications sent unsolicited mail with nude pictures inside to his daughter. Blackwelder says he wants to make the magazine company pay and make changes that could keep your family with having to deal with a similar problem.

    (Video of the story, including grainy black-and-white of the flyer, is here.) Buried in the report are important details, like the envelope was addressed to the father, not the daughter and contained a clear warning of sexually explicit content in an interior envelope containing the flyer.

    But Specialty Pubs, which publishes Men (previously Advocate Men), Freshmen, Unzipped and other softcore titles, may have given the Blackwelders just enough wiggle room to bring their ridiculous $3.8 million claim. It seems the exterior envelope was not labelled as well,something the father claims is required by U.S. Postal Service regulations.

    Either way, this is one headache that PlanetOut doesn't need right now.

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

    GNW 5: Heath Ledger anti-gay fallout

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Hillary Clinton addresses gay teen suicide in new videoHillary Clinton addresses gay suicide in new video: QUICK LOOK: Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has posted a videotaped question-and-answer session with the New York senator on YouTube that includes her response to an inquiry... (MORE)
    2. Mel Gibson was miffed by Ledger's 'Brokeback' roleMel Gibson was miffed by Ledger's gay 'Brokeback' role: QUICK LOOK: Mel Gibson has called Heath Ledger's death this week a "tragic loss." But in recent years, Gibson had distanced himself from the risk-taking actor, it's been claimed... (MORE)
    3. Fox radio host sorry for gay jokes about Heath LedgerFox radio host sorry for gay jokes about Heath Ledger: QUICK LOOK: A U.S. radio host has apologized after mocking actor Heath Ledger’s death on air. Presenter John Gibson played the iconic quote from Ledger’s hit gay romance ... (MORE)
    4. Lesbian killers smile as victim's torture is describedLesbian killers smile as victim's torture is described: QUICK LOOK: Two lesbians who kissed over the body of a girl they killed to prove their love, smiled today as a Perth court heard it took the teenage victim half an hour to die. The... (MORE)
    5. Mom prosecuted for neglect after partner's fatal toddler beating: QUICK LOOK: A Manhattan jury began hearing a harrowing child-murder case yesterday - this one accusing a Harlem "momster" of abandoning her 23-month-old son to an agonizing, slow death after he was beaten by... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

    The sound of hateful callousness

    Posted by: Chris

    Melissaarrington You may have heard the awful story about how a woman arrested in Arizona for killing bicyclist Paul L'Ecuyer laughing with a friend in a tape-recorded jailhouse phone call about the fact her victim was gay. A friend tells Melissa Arrington she deserves "a medal and a fucking parade because you took out a fag, a cyclist, a tree hugger and a Frenchman in one shot."

    Now an Associated Press has the chilling audio, complete with Arrington's laughter in reaction. The judge was right. The whole exchange is breathtakingly callous. Arrington definitely didn't get the last laugh, however. The judge refused to buy Arrington's promise to launch a Mothers Against Drunk Driving-type organization after her release from prison; she got 10 years, which is likely more than double what she would have received otherwise.

    January 25, 2008

    Blogger-activist search for purity

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamaebeneezer Politico has a story out today about supposed "wariness' among some gays about Barack Obama because, on the same day he called out homophobia in the black church from the pulpit of Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta he was being endorsed by a black pastor whose church secretary conducts some sort of freelance "ex-gay" conversion program.

    Lost in the back-and-forth about whether Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell knew about or endorses the "ex-gay" shenanigans of staffer Barbara Hicks is any explanation for why gay voters should care about this when deciding whom to support for president.

    My pal Wayne Besen, who launched Truth Wins Out in response to the "ex-gay" movement, is an absolute master at getting press for this sort of spat, and the mind reels when I imagine what those considerable skills could accomplish if he were fighting battles more relevant to the future of the gay rights movement.

    Instead, he's making headlines over a sideshow with absolutely no -- as in zero -- relevance to the presidential race. Obama is just the piggyback Besen uses, again brilliantly, to bring attention to his otherwise noble cause of marginalizing the destructive "ex-gay" phenomenon. And since the Donnie McClurkin nonsense stuck to Obama earlier in the primary, the media bites on the story, while almost entirely ignoring the anti-gay pastors, many of them black, who are backing Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

    Wayne_besen2_large Wayne does his best to connect the dots in a column he wrote this week that (at least) compares Obama to Hillary Clinton on the issue:

    The most maddening -- and absurd -- spin comes from Obama supporters who claim that his flirtation with both gay advocates and anti-gay bigots is evidence that he can bring Americans together. Let's be clear, he has not brought anyone together. The only "cause" that such diverse constituencies have rallied round is Obama's political career. If he were to be elected, I hardly see this translating into any grand coalition to pass pro-gay legislation. Indeed, the homophobic African American leaders are only tolerating his gay-positive positions because their priority is electing America's first African American president.

    Of course no one has ever claimed that the Kirbyjon Caldwells or Donnie McClurkins who back Obama will join in a grand pro-gay coalition, and Wayne knows that. He is absolutely right that the "cause" they have joined in supporting is Obama's candidacy, and that is the point here. If Obama is elected with the support of pro-gay and anti-gay activists, on a record of gay rights support unparalleled among the viable candidates, then how is that conceivably a bad thing?

    If we follow instead the logical conclusion of these purists and throw our support behind Dennis Kucinich or, even more damaging, the Ralph Naders of politics -- then we only make it less likely that centrist pro-gay candidates are elected and, if they are, without the vocal support of gays.

    The only legitimate cause for concern is if the candidate himself appears wavering in commitment because of backing from anti-gay forces. Obama went out of his way during the McClurkin nonsense to reiterate his support for gay rights and his disagreement with McClurkin and others in the black church on gay rights. It was that challenge to homophobia within the black church, made by the candidate himself and not a surrogate, that was the gay news from the Obama campaign this week.

    With Dennis gone, Dems disappointing?

    Posted by: Chris

    Denniskucinich1_2 News that Dennis Kucinich has dropped his vanity candidacy for the presidency comes perfectly timed with an Associated Press report that about growing discontent among gay activists about the rest of the Democratic field, and Democrats generally.

    Kucinich and fellow fringe candidate Mike Gravel were, of course, the only two presidential candidates to back full marriage equality, marking little change from four years earlier, when Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun were the only ones in support. That lack of progress masked real improvement in positions from the leading candidates on issues on which the federal government can make a difference -- since marriage is defined at the state level. For the first time, all the leading Dems back federal recognition of civil unions and, in a less well-defined commitment, other committed gay relationships.

    But those commitments came months ago, last repeated in August at the Human Rights Campaign-Logo forum, and serious gay issues have largely dropped off the radar screen since. The AP reports:

    "They don't want to broach civil unions, marriage, equalizing benefits for same-sex couples," said Jennifer Chrisler, head of the Family Equality Council, which supports gay and lesbian families. "The vast majority of politicians don't lead, they follow."

    There are other frustrations as well. Activists were dismayed that the Democratic-led Congress failed to approve two much-anticipated bills late last year - one defining anti-gay assaults as a federal hate crime, the other prohibiting anti-gay job discrimination.

    And at a time when they hoped to be making advances, gays and lesbians are on the defensive in at least two states - facing a likely ballot item in Florida that would ban same-sex marriage and a measure in Arkansas aimed at banning them from adopting children or serving as foster parents.

    There's been no effort by HRC or other gay lobby groups to pressure the leading Democrats into greater specifics about federal recognition of gay relationships; not surprising because HRC clings to employment non-discrimination and hate crimes as the items of first importance on "the gay agenda."

    The nonscientific Vizu poll on this blog and Gay News Watch only confirms what most gay folk would tell you: legal recognition for our relationships (cited by 57.1% percent) and equal health benefits (10.7% percent) are far more important to gay voters than workplace rights and hate crimes, which taken together were only cited by one quarter of those taking part in the survey.

    Clintonsolmonesereport But HRC will stick to the ENDA-hate crimes schtick because that's what the Democratic Party leadership has agreed to, even though the divisive battle over transgender inclusion made clear that workplace rights have lost their appeal as the easiest form of gay civil rights to enact.

    Sure enough, there was HRC in the AP report, in its customary role of defending the Democrats and their vaguely-worded and rarely-kept commitments:

    The president of the largest national gay-rights organization, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, is upbeat about the campaign. His group co-sponsored a televised forum last August in which the Democratic candidates addressed gay-rights topics, and he believes most gays and lesbians remain enthusiastic about the Democratic field despite some impatience.

    Solmonese also sees an easing of anti-gay rhetoric across the political scene - a contrast to 2004 and 2006 when voters in more than 20 states approved measures to ban gay marriage.

    "Among those people who use the politics of fear, there's typically an element of American society that's put forward as a wedge issue, and in this election it's illegal immigrants," Solmonese said. "It doesn't seem to be us."

    This is progress, as measured by HRC: "illegal immigrants" (I thought people were never illegal) have now replaced the gays as political punching bags. Break out the champagne, people.

    Because HRC is so captive to the Democratic Party, the group has invested huge sums in ill-defined "get out the vote" efforts even though the group hasn't endorsed anyone in the primaries. Those resources would be better spent pressing the candidates for specifics on their gay rights commitments, especially in the area of relationship recognition, but then that wouldn't be in the Democratic Party's interest, would it?

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

    January 24, 2008

    Romney fends off tolerance allegations

    Posted by: Chris

    The Onion did sarcarm before Jon Stewart made it cool…

    Mitt Romney Defends Himself Against Allegations Of Tolerance

    Hat tip: Blog Cabin

    True grit from a great actor

    Posted by: Chris

    Heathledger_3 The tragic news of Heath Ledger's untimely death has left many of us remembering just how affected we were by his Oscar-nominated performance in "Brokeback Mountain." The movie had a singular impact on gay viewers not simply because of its high profile actors, the quality of Ang Lee's filmmaking or the emotional poignancy of the story.

    Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal convincingly portrayed the passionate heat of a real gay couple and also the heartache that comes from being driven apart by a society not ready for them. Credit author Annie Proux with the emotional complexity of the characters but Ledger and Gyllenhaal for pulling them off in a way that never came across as stereotyped or fey.

    As I thought about just how powerful those performances were in "Brokeback," it occurred to me again just how rare it is to see gay roles done so well, despite their proven career-making, Academy Award-winning potential. So I came up with my own list of the 10 best performances by straight actors portraying gay men and I've posted them in Vizu poll on the Citizen and on Gay News Watch. The polls appear randomly on both sites, but if you visit often enough you'll get the chance to vote on which one you thought was best.

    My list was obviously incomplete and likely neglects obvious choices. But here's what I came up with (in no particular order):

    • Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
    • Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"
    • Antonio Banderas, Almodovar's "Law of Desire"
    • Daniel Day Lewis, "My Beautiful Laundrette"
    • River Phoenix, "My Own Private Idaho"
    • Michael Ontkean, "Making Love"
    • Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia"
    • Matt Damon, "Talented Mr. Ripley"
    • Will Smith, "Six Degrees of Separation"
    • Kevin Kline, "In & Out"

    Even looking at that very distinguished list, Heath Ledger stands as among the best. That his life and career were cut so short is indeed a tragic loss.

    Race gets thrown into messy DNC mix

    Posted by: Chris

    20070419_leah1low More and more dirt is emerging from the suit by Donald Hitchcock challenging his ouster doing LGBT outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and with it more light is being shed on the way Howard Dean's unlikely obsession with evangelical voters has come at the expense of gay interests within the party.

    The particulars of the latest revelation are in a report posted today by the Washington Blade and involve more nasty skirmishes among party insiders over how issues of race vs. sexual orientation were handled, both in the selection of party convention delegates and in a controversial Alabama state legislative race.

    In the thick of things in both battles was Dean's chief of staff, Leah Daughtry (pictured), a Pentecostal pastor who grew up speaking in tongues -- and now employs her own forked tongues while wedging black Democrats against gay Democrats at every available opportunity. Daughtry's machinations apparently reached such a point that an unnamed Stonewall Democrat said angrily in an email to Hitchcock's successor, Brian Bond:

    Imagine what Dean could do if people like Leah were confronted for their bigotry and fired. … I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best when he said "I'm sick of these mother fuckin' snakes on this mother fuckin' plane." It may be time to drive the snakes from the DNC.

    It's no wonder, then, that Howard Dean went on "The 700 Club" and erroneously asserted that the Democratic Party platform opposes gay marriage. Daughtry no doubt planted the pipe dream in Dean's head that he could be the evangelical pied piper for the party and pretending official opposition to gay marriage was just a convenient, if inaccurate, way of finding common ground.

    More DNC revelations are sure to follow…

    Why Al Gore didn't come out sooner

    Posted by: Chris

    Gorethumbsup An interesting post from Democratic activist and filmmaker Rick Jacobs on Al Gore's announcement via video this week that he favors full marriage equality:

    Two years ago, Al was honored by the Human Rights Campaign here in Los Angeles. He thought long and hard about whether to say that he supports the right to marriage for gay people. He shared with us his process by giving us a scintillating, unscripted history of civil rights in our country, with the inexorable conclusion put up today on Current.

    So we know that Al Gore has backed gay marriage in private for at least two years now, but chose not to say as much even when receiving an honor from the Human Rights Campaign. Left unsaid in Jacobs' obsequious recollection is the obvious reason Gore didn't come out of the marriage closet back then: to preserve his political viability for a 2008 presidential run that was still very much under consideration and discussion.

    As when gay athletes or entertainers come out after their careers are largely over, Al Gore's overdue acknowledgment of what he has long known to be true is important, if not particularly courageous.

    Jacobs' post on Gore's gay marriage coming out is titled, "Why Al Gore isn't president." The more accurate title, as I suggested yesterday, would really be, "Now we know Al Gore isn't running for president."

    SLDN on Clinton's military memory

    Posted by: Chris

    Aubreysarvissld Aubrey Sarvis, the new executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, has responded to my request for comment from the group on Bill Clinton's recent statements mischaracterizing the history and legal effect of his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military.

    To recap (my previous posts are here, here and here), the former president erroneously argued while campaigning for Hillary in Nevada that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" actually allowed gay service members to "freely live their lives" so long as they didn't go in uniform to Gay Pride parades or gay bars. The policy actually allows either, but does not allow a soldier or sailor to "freely live his life" in or out of uniform. Discharge is mandated if a service member comes out to absolutely anyone at anytime, or any engages in any "homosexual acts" -- even holding hands -- no matter how private.

    Clinton went on to blame unnamed "anti-gay forces" within the military for abusing the policy after Colin Powell retired in September 1993, while never explaining why as commander in chief for the subsequent seven years he did nothing to address those abuses.

    I asked SLDN for comment on Clinton's statement and to explain why the organization, which has fought for repeal of DADT, had said nothing in response. In an email reply, Sarvis had this to say:

    As you point out, there were, indeed, some factual inaccuracies in President Clinton’s statement about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Indeed, regardless of the intention behind the law, the reality is that it has not served the best interests of service members, our country or our national security.  Since its implementation, nearly 12,000 men and women have been dismissed under the law.  Since 2001, that number has declined significantly, as it historically does during a time of war.  During the years 1994-2000, a total of 6741 service personnel were dismissed under the law.  Between 2001 and 2006, that total declined to 4988.  Still, an average of two people are fired under the law every day… which is two too many.

    President Clinton’s comments also miss a key part of serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Military members cannot be out to anyone, at anytime, while serving under the law.  Statements to friends, family members or anyone else are grounds for dismissal from the armed forces, as they have been since day one.  The law, indeed, practically prevents any gay American, who is out in anyway, from serving in the military.  And, as Senator Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates have said, the law does not work, and should be repealed.  Our next commander-in-chief should work with Congress to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

    SLDN has, of course, made all of the candidates aware of our views on the law, and the reality of serving under it.  In this particular case, we have made sure that Senator Clinton’s campaign is aware of our concerns regarding the president’s remarks.  And, as always, we are committed to making sure that the facts about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the very compelling reasons to support its repeal, are at the forefront of our elected officials’ minds.

    Well said, although late and entirely too quietly. One obvious question facing voters who support gay rights is whether Hillary Clinton will follow through on her promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and half-repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, both signed into law by her husband, the former president.

    It's incumbent on SLDN and other gay groups to correct the record when the former president misstates his own record or the legal effect of what he signed into law. SLDN ought to have issued Sarvis' statement as a news release and still should do so.

    Did he say it? You decide.

    Posted by: Chris

    BishopalvarezUPDATE: At the end of the post (before the jump).

    The Roman Catholic Bishop for Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands is now denying that he ever linked homosexuality with child sexual abuse, an issue which has of course crippled the Vatican's moral authority on issues of human sexuality (and more).

    "I have not in any way compared, nor wanted to compare, nor do compare homosexuality with the abuse of minors," Tenerife bishop Bernardo Alvarez told a Canary Islands television station on Tuesday. "The abuse of minors is morally a very serious sin and judicially it is a crime," he explained.

    Not only did Bishop Bernardo Alvarez in fact compare homosexuality to the sexual abuse of minors, he tried to dig himself out by blaming the victims of child sexual abuse for seducing their abusers. In the earlier interview, published last month in the newspaper La Opinión, Alvarez argued that homosexuality is actually a sort of sexual novelty like, according to him, sexual interest in minors.

    When the reporter called him out on the obvious difference between a consensual gay relationship and child sexual abuse, the good bishop went on to make the outrageous claim that a good number of 13-year-olds clearly desire sexual relationships with adults and can, in fact, seduce them. How an institution with so fundamentally twisted ideas about sexuality can continue to stake a moral claim on any subject relating to human sexuality is beyond me.

    Here's are the bishop's own words. Caveat: the translation from Spanish is my own, and they last sentence or two was especially tricky for me. The excerpt in original Spanish follows after the jump.

    What do you think about homosexuality?

    I think that the first thing to do is to distinguish people from the phenomenon. People are always worthy of the greatest respect. If a person, for some physiological reason chooses this way of life, they deserve my highest respect. Another issue is whether or not homosexuality is or is not a virtue. We must be very careful now because it cannot be said that homosexuality is suffering or suffers. It is not politically correct to say that homosexuality is a disease, malnutrition, or a distortion in the natural way of being. That was the reading in any dictionary psychiatric ten years ago, but today we cannot say it.

    It is crystal clear that in this connection, my thinking is that of the Church: maximum respect for the person. But logically, I believe that the phenomenon of homosexuality is something that harms people and society. Eventually we will pay the consequences as they have been paid by other civilizations. I am not suggesting that homosexuality be repressed, but there is room between suppressing it and promoting it. I believe we must promote education. The values of femininity and masculinity must be inculcated in children. You can tell us these values are backward, but we believe that these values respect freedom but at the same time guide people.

    Can sexuality be guided [by the church]?

    People cannot be left to fend for themselves. Why not do the same with violence or with other impulses human beings have? Furthermore, only 6% of homosexuals are the result of biological issues. We must not confuse homosexuality as an existential need of a person, with that which is practiced as a vice. The person practices [homosexuality] like child abuse is practiced. He does it because he is attracted to the novelty, a different form of sexuality.

    The difference between a homosexual relationship and abuse is clear.

    Of course. But why is the abuser of children sick?

    To begin with, an abusive relationship is not consensual.

    But there can be minors who do consent, and in fact, such do exist. There are teenagers who are 13 years of age and are perfectly OK with it, and in fact wish it. Included are those who can provoke you if you're not careful. This thing of sexuality is more complex than it seems.

    UPDATE: Rex Wockner, whose Spanish is definitely better than mine, offers what I'm sure is a better translation of the bishop's last answer:

    There can be minors who consent to it and, in fact, there are. There are 13-year-old adolescents who are minors and are perfectly in agreement and, what's more, wanting it. Including, if you're not careful [if you let your guard down], they provoke you. This thing of sexuality is something more complex than it seems.

    The original interview excerpt (in Spanish) follows after the jump.

    Continue reading»

    January 23, 2008

    Foreman winds up mixed bag tenure

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforemanhand Matt Foreman announced today that he'll be leaving as executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force in April, a position he has held since 2003. His half-decade tenure at "the Task Force" -- which he successfully rebranded from its NGLTF days -- will probably be looked back upon as something akin to Elizabeth Birch's decade at the helm of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Both leaders put their organizations on stronger financial footing. As with Birch's HRC years, the result has been a blossoming -- some woudl say bloating -- of budgets and full-time staff, to the tune of $10 million annually and 54 employees in Foreman's case.

    And, unfortunately, as with Birch, Foreman has precious little beyond institutional strength to show for the work. A press release trumpeting his departure credits him with raising the Task Force's visibility, but that was largely this year in the bruising, divisive fight over transgender protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    It was largely Foreman who organized the "United ENDA" coalition of GLBT groups that announced their opposition to historic gay rights legislation because it did not also include "gender identity" protections; the fact that the votes weren't there was beside the political point.

    The Task Force has always been the more grassroots-focused of the national GBLT rights groups and always more left-wing and "social justice"-minded -- meaning it is a part of the organization's mission to align with other progressive groups on non-GLBT causes. Ther'es nothing wrong -- and much that is right -- with that strategy, except that it's almost invariably accompanied by some admonition that a narrow focus on gay rights is somehow unjust and retrogressive. Foreman did more than his fair share to reinforce, rather than to dispel, that unfortunate and wrong-headed attitude.

    Whether Foreman really smoked his own United ENDA dope, is still trying to purge his guilt for having successfully lobbied for New York's trans-excluded Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), or whether he just saw a clever wedge strategy to use against HRC, the whole trans-or-bust ENDA push will go down as one of the most counterproductive and divisive tactics ever waged in a movement that has a long history of them.

    Foreman was a talented and charismatic leader for an organization that has long been in need of one.  It's too bad that he deployed his considerable skills to the detriment of the movement as a whole and the interests of 90-plus percent of his own constituents -- but that often is the price of uncompromising identity politics.

    From the mouth of a gay Republican

    Posted by: Chris

    From this report by Southern Voice on outreach by the presidential campaigns to gay voters in Georgia comes this gem from Georgia Log Cabin Republican President Jamie Ensley:

    Ensley has met Romney and Giuliani at their campaign stops in Atlanta and described very different reactions from the candidates.

    When he introduced himself to Romney as the president of Georgia’s LCR, Ensley said Romney “looked like a deer caught in headlights, and then mumbled something awkwardly and smiled. I told our national office after meeting him that if Gov. Romney is the answer, then it was a stupid question.”

    Jamie is a friend and the first banker to give some cred to a fledgling Window Media some 11 years ago. I can just hear that Georgia drawl when I read that quote, and I'm happy to hear he's around and as quippy as ever.

    When a Clinton lies about gay rights…

    Posted by: Chris

    … and no gay rights group makes a sound, did it ever really happen?

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Yes it did, and now Log Cabin has posted the video evidence of Bill Clinton misstating the history and legal effect of his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military. The clip is short, so have at:

    Still nothing public in response from the Hillary fans at the Human Rights Campaign, even though HRC hasn't hesitated to interject itself thus far during the primaries when it would benefit "the other HRC," Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    In fact, the gay media and blogosphere generally has ignored the issue. So far all I could find was a post on Gay Patriot and a small story on PageOneQ (that doesn't test the validity of his comments).

    Also conspicuously silent is the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization whose work on gays in the military I greatly respect. SLDN owes it to gay soldiers and sailors kicked out during the Clinton administration and since to correct Bill Clinton's gross rewriting of the history of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," not to mention the basic structure of the policy -- which was never intended to allow gay service members to "live their lives freely" so long as they didn't march in Gay Pride parades in uniform, as Clinton suggested.

    I've asked SLDN for comment and am awaiting a reply.

    UPDATE: Pam Spaulding did post in response to Bill Clinton's selective memory, concluding, "The long legacy of triangulation and the Clintons is too familiar not to make this new statement sound like another bit of Bill revisionist history going on."

    Still nothing in the gay or mainstream media, and no reply from SLDN or its spokesperson Steve Ralls, who apparently spends a good portion of his day blogging off-topic over at the Bilerico Project. Since when did gay activism get so boring that they need to moonlight as journo-bloggers, anyway?

    Al Gore endorses gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Anyone with lingering hopes that Al Gore will enter the 2008 presidential election should greet with mixed emotions the latest news from the former vice president and popular vote victor of the 2000 election. In a homemade video for his own Current TV network, Gore has fully embraced marriage equality for gay couples:

    The clip is very short and worth viewing. Here's the gist of what he said:

    I think gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women to make contracts and to have hospital visiting rights and to join together in marriage, and I don't understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage to allow it by gays and lesbians.

    Shouldn't we be promoting the kind of faithfulness and loyalty to one's partner regardless of sexual orientation? Because if you don't do that, then to that extent you're promoting promiscuity, and you're promoting all the problems that can result from promiscuity. And the loyalty and love that two people feel for each other when they fall in love ought to be celebrated and encouraged and shouldn't be prevented by any form of discrimination in the law.

    That's the conservative case for gay marriage that Andrew Sullivan has been making for years, and now Gore joins former President Gerald Ford as another prominent politician backing civil marriage for all couples after leaving politics.

    Gays have long suspected that a whole host of gay-friendly politicians -- from Gore, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards to even Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwazenegger -- privately support gay marriage but lack the courage to say so publicly. Credit Al Gore for getting there when he is still very much in the public eye, if not while still in politics.

    I wrote an editorial back in October 2000 making the (rather obvious) case that Al Gore was the clear choice over George W. Bush in that election (the column isn't online but it's available in full after the jump to this post). It reminded me that Gore did come out in favor of civil unions during that campaign, even though they were still very new (only in Vermont at that point) and very controversial.

    "To be sure," I wrote then, "Gore isn't the dream candidate. He opposes gay marriage and gives no good reason besides politics for doing so." Well I guess I was right about that one.

    Hat tip: Towleroad

    Continue reading»

    GNW 5: Police probe tragic deaths

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Boston police probe stabbing death of gay hairstylistBoston police probe stabbing death of gay hairstylist: QUICK LOOK: Daniel A. Yakovleff, 20, was found last week with a fatal stab wound in a multifamily house that was not his own in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. He was pronounced... (MORE)
    2. Some 14% of teenagers in study admit same-sex attractions: QUICK LOOK: A new study of teenage sexuality has found that 86 percent of girls said they were attracted to boys only, while 87 percent of boys said they were attracted to girls only. The research, published... (MORE)
    3. Gay groups quit Carnival in Panama over censorshipGay groups quit Carnival in Panama over censorship: QUICK LOOK: Gay groups have withdrawn from this year's Carnival parades in the Central American country of Panama after official efforts to censor their particpation. "We do not... (MORE)
    4. Heath Ledger found dead in apartment at age 28Heath Ledger found dead in apartment at age 28: QUICK LOOK: Heath Ledger, the talented 28-year-old actor who gravitated toward dark, brooding roles that defied his leading-man looks, was found dead today in a Manhattan apartment,... (MORE)
    5. Wash. bill would stregthen domestic partnership lawsWash. bill would strengthen domestic partnership laws: QUICK LOOK: Lawmakers are looking to expand the state's domestic partnership law by granting same-sex couples more than 170 of the benefits and responsibilities given to married... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

    The "Karl Rove" candidate - is this what gays want?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Billary_2Today's Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece laying out exactly what happens to you when you become inconvenient to the Clinton Borg.

    Keep watching what they're doing to Obama, and learn what they'll do to us the moment we become similarly inconvenient to their pursuit or retention of power.  I mean, after "don't ask, don't tell," the HIV immigration ban and the Defense of Marriage Act, what more do you need to see the nose on your face?

    But alas, the Washington Post saw Clinton's trajectory as "the Karl Rove candidate" of 2008 back in August of last year.  She was, indeed, anointed by the man himself:

    Even Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, seems to agree, effectively vowing to run her operation much as Rove did his two successful national campaigns. "She expresses admiration for the way George W. Bush's campaign team controlled its message, and, given her druthers, would run this race no differently," Michelle Cottle writes in New York magazine. "'We are a very disciplined group, and I am very proud of it,' she says with a defiant edge."


    Rove and the Clintons have circled each other warily these last eight years, exhibiting a mix of grudging respect and deep bitterness as the central if competing political strategists of their era. Rove singled out Hillary Clinton's campaign in his parting interviews in the last few days, predicting she will win the Democratic nomination and be a tough opponent in the fall of 2008.

    I can personally attest to the dangers of putting your trust in someone who campaigns and plans to govern in the way that Karl Rove did.  The central organizing principle of this approach is to win at all cost, promise anything and yet step over anyone's dead political body (including your closest friend's), even attempt to change reality if necessary, to triumph or survive, depending on your fortunes today.  And no - that isn't the way everyone governs.  It's something that inevitably leads to Watergate, the Clinton impeachment, and Iraq.  That's the kind of country it produces.

    Is this what gay Americans really want?  Haven't they already had enough?

    You tell me.

    January 22, 2008

    Somebody cue Mike Huckabee

    Posted by: Chris

    Mikehuckabeebeforeafterpic Check out the level of cynicism in a new statement from Matt Barber and the anti-gay group Concerned Women for America, gleefully piggybacking on the media hysteria surrounding MRSA staph infections:

    Because Concerned Women for America (CWA) cares deeply for the health and well being of all Americans, CWA is sending letters inviting the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD and Lambda Legal to put aside profound ideological differences with CWA — for the sake of the lives and health of their members — and to call for commonsense steps to help curb the spread of a potentially deadly strain of Staph infection. …

    "We're asking HRC and other groups to denounce, through word and deed, 'sex with multiple partners,' 'group sex [parties]' and to actively promote the notion that it is never okay to 'use methamphetamine and other illicit drugs,'" said Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues.

    This is, of course, the same Matt Barber who just days ago issued a statement about MRSA that took an entirely different tone:

    The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease. In recent years we have seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves ‘gay.’…

    Well, now the dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population. It’s not only frightening, it’s infuriating.

    Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, ‘No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.’

    Never mind that MRSA can be spread through any kind of direct skin contact, not simply sexual contact (gay or otherwise), and never mind that this drug-resistant strain of staph had already infected women, children and heterosexual males in hospitals, sports facilities and other environments before it was ever reported among gay men.

    It's easy to dismiss Barber and the CWA since their patronizing, cynical tone ultimately does their cause more harm than good. But the media ought to at least be asking GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee what he thinks about what Barber and the CWA are saying.

    It was Huckabee, after all, who called in 1992 for gay men to be quarantined because they presented a "dangerous public health threat," even though it was broadly accepted years earlier that HIV/AIDS couldn't be spread through casual contact. Now an organization from within the bowls of his evangelical base is once again perpetrating the myth that we are infectious and dangerous and the infection can, in fact, be spread through non-sexual contact.

    What does Huckabee think we should do now?


    Economic Panic: Good or Bad for Gays?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Panic6tf_2 This morning, there is a palpable sense of panic across all the world's financial markets.  It can't be ignored by anyone.  Certainly, if you're an investor, a homeowner or you own a business, it's likely you're already hurting.  But from a purely political sense, is the economic crisis good or bad for gay issues in this election season?  Does it factor in at all?

    Strangely enough, at first glance seems that economic downturns have been good for gays in recent election campaigns, while booming economic times have been largely bad.

    It's conventional wisdom that when people are worried about their jobs or their pocketbooks, they don't really want to hear about homosexuals, abortions or the ACLU.  Blaming gays or abortionists for the loss of one's job just doesn't wash, but someone who comes across as the one who cares the most about your job loss will get room to be nice to other people, even the gays.  In boom times, when the average voter is content and fairly disinterested in voting, both sides tend to throw cultural bombs to turn out their bases in a zero-sum game.  That's when the pitchforks tend to come out for us.

    The 1992 presidential campaign was seminal for gay rights as a national campaign issue, at least where gays were at once condemned and courted.  The U.S. economy was lurching into a recession as the primaries began that year, which launched the populist campaign of Pat Buchanan through his crushing defeat of incumbent President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire.  Polling showed that Buchanan's harsh, angry economic message pitched to those most harmed by the economic downturn helped fuel his victory there, and built a national sense of resentment against Bush.  However, when that message expanded into lurid far right cultural attacks on gays, 'feminists', immigrants and pro-choice voters, it ran out of steam with the general public.  The momentum of Buchanan's insurgency culminated at the horrendously anti-gay 1992 Republican National Convention, which the GOP never recovered from. 

    As the economy worsened, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot seized the middle ground and captured the public's concern with economic visions for change.  Clinton ultimately connected with the middle on their economic fears ("it's the economy, stupid"), which gave him room to make an unprecedented play for gays, making a list of promises unheard of by a leading presidential candidate in history.  By all accounts, Clinton won that election on the basis of earning the trust of a nation worried about its wallet.  The gays, in political terms, won along with him.

    From March 2000 to October 2002, the dot-com crash shook the world economy.  It didn't have the same impact on average Americans the way the '92 recession did (or the current mortgage meltdown has), but it hit dynamic tech sectors very hard and raised fears about the long-term solvency of Social Security as the baby boom generation began to age.  There was a budget surplus and plenty of room for the nation to maneuver.  In the end, both sides were faced with making the argument as to who was better at making those maneuvers against the looming end to good economic times. 

    It boiled down to "who do you trust?" and "who is the better leader?", factors that see-sawed all year between the two.  And it devolved into a war over the favor of independent voters.  This meant both Al Gore and George W. Bush had to blur and bland-out anything that independents would view as "sharp edges." 

    Gore boldly chose conservative (then-) Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate.  Bush, the "compassionate conservative", took hits nationally for going too far to the right in South Carolina in his struggle to eliminate insurgent Senator John McCain; weeks later, Bush met with gay Republicans and said he was "a better person" for it.  Both parties had openly gay speakers at their conventions in prime time (Elizabeth Birch for the Democrats, Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) for the GOP).  Meanwhile, an anti-gay third-party campaign by a diminished Pat Buchanan fell completely flat.

    Critics will argue that neither the 1992 or 2000 elections resulted in a sea-change of positive federal legislation for gay Americans.  In fact, the Clinton presidency brought openly gay appointments, the first White House gay liaison (who was straight), pride day proclamations and favorable speeches, but it also brought "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.  Bush's presidency brought the first (two) openly gay national AIDS directors at the White House, a historic global program to fight HIV/AIDS, the first federal anti-gay hate crimes prosecution case (which was later dropped for lack of evidence), as well as its own smaller list of gay appointees.   But Bush's presidency also launched the Federal Marriage Amendment to the top of the agenda, creating a cataclysmic split with gay Republicans and setting off an ugly campaign of "outing" closeted gays that (so far has) ended the political careers of two Members of Congress and soon a U.S. Senator.  Both presidents also lost majorities in Congress they enjoyed early in their terms.

    So what might the current economic crisis do for gays?  Follow the jump for more…

    Continue reading»

    Bill Richardson regret?

    Posted by: Chris

    Billrichardsonblog Whatever supporters of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama may say or believe about their candidate following through on promises to push gay rights legislation, today's news brought a reminder that only one candidate in the entire Democratic presidential campaign had a proven record of accomplishment.

    Bill Richardson dropped out of the race after a poor showing in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, and we all remember his gay campaign gaffes -- from defending his use of "maricón" on the Don Imus radio show, to lionizing anti-gay and anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White, to telling Melissa Etheridge that homosexuality is a "choice."

    But the New Mexico governor was also the only candidate who had actually pushed gay rights -- and transgender rights, even -- into law. And today, even though he's no longer a candidate for national office, he is showing once again that he actually works to get things done on our issues.

    With Richardson's support and encouragement, a bill for domestic partnerships -- essentially civil unions -- passed the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee yesterday. He tried calling a special session of the legislature last year to pass the bill and failed by a single vote. He promised to try again and, sure enough, he is.

    Richardson may yet reemerge as a vice presidential pick for whoever wins the party's nomination. Considering his resume and his potential appeal to Western and Latino voters, either Clinton or Obama could do much worse.

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

    The threat from the gays

    Posted by: Chris

    A new survey highlights just how skewed the evangelical view of gays is from that of other Americans, including even Christians who are "born again" but not fundamentalists -- believing the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

    Asked which of a list of social issues were "major problems" for the country, those named most often by Americans generally were poverty (78%), the personal debt of individual Americans (78%), and HIV/AIDS (76%). Four other issues were named by about half the general population: illegal immigration (60%), global warming (57%), abortion (50%), and the content of television and movies (45%).

    Only about one-third of Americans generally listed us gays as a "major problem," whether defined as "the political activities of homosexual activists" (35%) or "homosexual lifestyles" (35%).

    Evangelicals, on the other hand, listed abortion (94%) most often as a "major problem" for America, followed by personal debt (81%), the content of television and movies (79%), and the gays -- activists (75%), and our "lifestyles" (75%). Doesn't that just about sum up the fundamentalist Christian worldview: an overarching concern that someone, somewhere is having too much fun?

    The survey did reach a few additional interesting conclusions:

    • party affiliation matters, even among evangelicals, confirming that there are very religious folk who nonetheless separate out their own theological beliefs from politics;   
    • the same holds true for born again Republicans, who are significantly more concerned than born again Democrats about homosexual activists (61% vs. 38%), and homosexual lifestyles (58% vs. 43%)

    There's a caveat in how the Barna Group, an organization affiliated with evangelical causes, identified "born again Christians" and "evangelical Christians." Rather than allowing them to self-identify, respondents were asked if they agreed with a series of theological beliefs and the Barna Group decided if they qualified (how perfectly fundamendalist of them!).

    Regardless, I can't help but ask which list looks more like the one by Jesus of the Gospels?  The evangelical obsession with abortion, sex on TV and gays, or the average Americans' concerns about poverty, personal indebtedness and HIV/AIDS?

    January 21, 2008

    More addition, not division

    Posted by: Chris

    539w Twice today, Barack Obama reminded us that he is not only willing to talk more often to general election audiences about equality for gay, but in admonishing evangelicals -- black and white -- for mistreatment of gays. First in his uplifting address at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he said:

    For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

    And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

    We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

    (Video of the speech is available on the jump.)

    Then tonight, in the rough and tumble South Carolina debate, Obama talked about how Democrats have not reached out to evangelical voters. And he made clear that in doing so, he would continue to call them for their opposition to gay rights.

    When have we heard Hillary Clinton speak out like that -- much less her attack-dog spouse?

    Continue reading»

    Election math: addition not division

    Posted by: Chris

    Kirbyjoncaldwell2 The queens over at Queerty have their panties in a wad today because Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a black minister known as one of President Bush's "spiritual advisers," has endorsed Barack Obama for president. Not surprisingly for an FOW, Pastor Caldwell is anti-gay and actively promotes a "cure" for homosexuality.

    The insinuation here, just as it was during the overblown controversy over "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurckin, is that Obama should be stained because our culture war enemies are backing him. Lest we forget, Hillary Clinton had won endorsements from her own set of "Donnie McClurkin"-type anti-gay religious leaders.

    Considering the whole point of election math is addition and not division, someone will need to explain to me why it's a bad thing if either Clinton or Obama manages to win the backing of anti-gay leaders. So long as the candidate does not flinch on his or her commitments to our issues, it can only be a good thing that their broader appeal as a candidate overcomes the gay issue.

    Would we rather have Caldwell, McClurkin and the rest of them backing a Republican like Mike Huckabee?

    Mr. Gay International needs a recount

    Posted by: Chris

    Mrgaybeach It's a small gay world, or so they say, and I would agree with "them" today. I had to shake my head when I read just now that Mr. Argentina, Carlos Fabian Melia, was selected "Mr. Gay International" in Hollywood last night.

    (That's Miela in the photo on the far right, next to Luciano Lupo, the gorgeous Brazilian named the pageant's most popular contestant. I'm really not sure the difference between most popular and the winner -- perhaps it was the sand-castle construction competition. I'm not making this up.)

    Carlos was a last minute stand-in for the actual winner of the Mr. Gay Argentina pageant, who was disqualified when it was learned he had worked in the adult film industry. Apparently you can work in gay porn and go on to become a Cosmo calendar boy, an "American Gladiator" or even a blogger-hero for conservatives -- but it'll keep you off the squeaky-clean stage of Mr. Gay International.

    Jorgent Anyway, I happen to know both Miela and his booted Argentinian predecessor, Jorge Schmeda. (That's Jorge at the right.) Both were regulars at our gym in Buenos Aires and out in the bars as well. Jorge, for what it's worth, couldn't be nicer, always smiling and friendly. Carlos, on the other hand, runs a local gay travel agency and as such you would imagine would be friendly and outgoing. In fact, was the singularly least friendly person we met in our three months in Buenos Aires.

    It's funny because I never even connected Jorge or Miela as the guys from our gym until I saw photos from the contest posted online. But this is the guy -- and you all probably know one -- whose nose is so far in the air that even a casual "hola" or smiled acknowledgment never goes returned.

    Of course the entire notion of a "Mr. Gay International" contest is about as silly -- actually much sillier -- than mainstream beauty pageants that thankfully are finally falling out of favor with the general public. Bu this particular pageant just goes to show you that beauty really can be only skin deep…

    We invested $100 million, and all we got was this lousy T-shirt

    Posted by: Kevin

    Tshirt_2_3 The Democratic presidential race has come perilously close to devolving into a fight over identity-loyalties and fear-mongering rather than a debate over the issues and the future of our nation.  Supporters from both campaigns have been appealing to "loyalty" to one's race (Obama) or one's gender (Clinton) rather than debating the issues in depth, fearlessly.   While Obama has taken clear steps to stop such efforts on his behalf, the Clinton machine has been going into frantic overdrive since their defeat in the Iowa caucuses to fan its flames to their advantage.

    Appeals to the lowest common denominator are usually a sign that you really don't want to compete on vision or policy, nor that you really want to be held accountable for your record or your ability to deliver on your promises.  This is no purely Democratic tendency.  The Republican far right has used fear-mongering to hide its shortcomings and mendacity since the Nixon Administration, and the GOP deserves to pay a price every time it cleaves to such tactics instead of telling the truth.

    It's becoming a tendency of the gay movement as well.  This is sad, because on the core ideals of what we say we stand for, we are right.  We deserve to prevail.  But the most powerful among us, as they compete for our attention, our votes and our money, too often fall into the same trap of demanding loyalty in the face of being held accountable.  And in turn, the soul of the gay movement is ripped out.

    Much like their eponymous and clearly-favored candidate in the Democratic primaries, the unquestioned behemoth among gay political organizations -- the Human Rights Campaign -- has spent the past several months boasting of the resources and staff it is devoting to primary states and campaigns, without even explaining what they're doing there or what their measurable goals are.  This is troubling, given the enormous policy challenges we face as a community.  There is no question that HRC and its allies delivered votes in 2006 that helped install the Democratic leadership in Congress, raising expectations that have been dashed as of now, since the same Congress has delivered on none of its promises to gay voters after a year in office.

    It's common knowledge that HRC is a major player in the Democratic Party among outside organizations.  Its then-executive director, Elizabeth Birch, was given a prime time speaking slot at the 2000 Democratic Convention, and the group has given the overwhelming share of its money to Democratic candidates, the national Democratic Party, national Democratic PACs and organizations, and to state Democratic parties for nearly two decades.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation from searching out public statements on their various annual budgets, plus their PAC and foundation spending, puts the total amount of money they've spent at about $100 million since their founding.

    HRC has earned the right to make demands on the Democratic Party, and to hold it accountable for its failures.  But has it done so?

    Let's do some comparative analysis among what some HRC partisans have inferred are "lesser" organizations:

    • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with an annual budget ranging somewhere around 10% of HRC's, gives no money to candidates or political parties.  Its then-executive director Torie Osbourne participated in a White House meeting with Bill Clinton, but did not flinch from condemning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it was adopted: "It says something about his character that he sparked the debate and then ran," she said publicly of the sitting president.  That has come to typify their leftish-independent streak.  Merciless with Republicans not only for anti-gay positions, but on things like economic policy, foreign affairs and affirmative action, NGLTF also stood for years in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA.  Say what you want about their beliefs, they stood by them on every occasion and doled out criticism to those they felt deserved it.  Did NGLTF flinch ever from holding the powerful to account for failure to keep promises?  In my 20 years of activism, I don't remember an occasion.
    • The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that opened a national office in 1993 (full disclosure, one I worked at for 10 years), has less than 1/30th of the budget of HRC.  Its mission has always been a narrow one, and its role within the bigger picture very distinct.  It is a partisan organization seeking to impact the GOP from the inside on gay issues, by both accountability for bad things and praise for good things.  Log Cabin has gotten worldwide media attention, and since its founding has been the one gay organization to have any real impact on the GOP at any level.  When it came to taking on their own political party,  Log Cabin wasn't shy in praising local, state and national Republican officials when they did the right thing - from backing marriage rights, to signing pro-gay executive orders or legislation, joining as co-sponsors on pro-gay bills, making pro-gay public comments or gestures like marching in pride parades.  They were often alone in that praise among gay groups.  But when it came to holding Republicans accountable, Log Cabin also did so.  Some examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  To name a few.
    • Then there are gay Democrats themselves.  No one ever expected the Stonewall Democrats to hold the Democratic Party accountable for anything it did.  Nor did anyone ever expect gay staffers at the DNC to consider putting anything but their party first.  But when Paul Yandura, one-time leader of Stonewall, publicly criticized the DNC for its failure to take any action against the wave of anti-gay referendums appearing all over the country in the 2006 election cycle, the DNC retaliated by firing his partner, Donald Hitchcock (a former HRC staffer), as its gay outreach director.  As reported by the Washington Blade and this blog, Hitchcock's lawsuit against the DNC for their retaliatory action has revealed internal communications among gay staffers at the DNC which speak to a contempt for the independent gay press, for lesbian columnist Deb Price of the Detroit News, and an overriding need to do whatever was possible to keep DNC Chairman Howard Dean from ever having to face the gay marriage referendum issue in public.

    So amidst this background sampling, and considering its gigantic size, budget, staff and public profile, what has HRC comparably done to ensure the accountability of the party it has invested so much in for so, so many years?

    I'd like to know.  Cuz I couldn't find anything.

    I did stumble across an open letter that Log Cabin wrote to Birch in 2000 as she prepared to give her history-making address at the Democratic Convention, asking her to hold that party accountable and listing its many shortcomings.  Then I re-read the speech she later gave.  Then re-read her recent comments about whether anything had been accomplished in the decade leading up to her historic moment on prime time television.

    To paraphrase Torie Osbourne, the juxtaposition of it all says something about character.  Perhaps it's off-base to question Elizabeth's character; I know her to be a nice person, and a caring person.  But this one juxtaposition is part of a broader question about whether the biggest, the richest, the most powerful among the gay movement's organizations, after all that money invested, is even interested in -- or at this point, genetically capable of -- holding the Democrats accountable.

    One or two readers call this "beating a horse" or "HRC bashing".  But others calls it accountability. They call it democracy.  And I call it incredibly important stuff for gay Americans to be doing in every election year.

    AIDS and Elizabeth Birch?

    Posted by: Chris

    In response to my post about a leading lesbian volunteer for the Democratic National Committee joining in the trashing of the gay press and Dem gay activists who question the party, a reader writes:

    The two worst things to happen to the gay equality movement were AIDS and Elizabeth Birch. AIDS killed most of those who might have stopped, or at least diminished, her takeover of national LGBT politics, or so emotionally debilitated those who did survive, that combined with a series of disastrous leadership choices by the older and once dominant NGLTF, a vacuum was created that she and her huge intellect and even greater ambition filled. She was the original Borg queen. And, trans rebellion notwithstanding, resistance is still futile.

    While she did bring some much-needed organizational structure and marketing skills to the movement, making it like a corporation became the end and not the means to an end. Two, she enshrined the philosophy that one-time “Advocate” owner David Goodstein had started—exclude by structure and “door charge” the average gay person who think that putting all of our proverbial eggs into the basket of politicians that MIGHT fight for us was a gamble at best. A wiser, more diverse policy somewhere between the understandable barring of well-intentioned but totally unstable personalities like Sylvia Rivera who once was arrested trying to climb over walls into a New York City Council meeting and the activities that have resulted in references to the “Human Rights Champagne fund” is still sorely needed. …

    With very rare exception, the “educational” efforts of HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, et al., amounts so often to preaching to the choir that their “leaders” should qualify as ordained ministers by now. This would be bad enough alone but it is criminal given that the Antigay Industry spends millions demonizing us in dozens of languages around the world through their own print organs, radio, and television.

    Yet our “leaders” brag about opinion polls that show growing “support” for gay equality even as most antigay ballot initiatives pass again and again at the polls that really count. The strategy of hoping politicians you support to deliver only makes sense if you empower them in other ways to do it with impunity.

    AIDS certainly did rob the movement of a generation of would-be leaders and followers and has a singular place in our history, but it was also the slap in the face that woke gay people up to the reality that our government treats us as second-class citizens and only we will ever change that.

    I spent the better part of a decade criticizing Elizabeth Birch for the monumental misjudgment of linking the Human Rights Campaign and the gay movement generally too closely with the Democratic Party -- not because the Republicans were any better, but because she robbed HRC and the movement of the independence needed to aggressively lobby our "friends" when they failed to defend us or follow through on their promises.

    I do not share in criticism of her "corporatizing" of the movement, however. Yes, it went too far and HRC is horribly bloated, its building a huge waste of resources and its salaries ridiculously padded. But the movement was badly in need of professionalizing and Birch deserves credit -- along with others like William Waybourn at GLAAD and Rich Tafel and Kevin Ivers at Log Cabin -- for making that happen.

    If Birch's overextended tenure at HRC had been followed up by a new leader with more vision, greater political independence and less inside-the-beltway thinking, the house-that-Birch-built could have been leveraged to produce real change. Instead we got Cheryl Jacques, who was more partisan than Birch, followed by Joe Solmonese, who is a classic D.C. lobbyist with no business running a civil rights organization.

    The reader is absolutely right, on the other hand, that "education" efforts by HRC and the other leading gay rights groups have been so stripped of substance by marketing experts and focus groups that they fail to inspire, lead, cajole or even guilt the public into adjusting its views on gay equality.

    The debate in 2006 over the federal marriage amendment is a classic example of how these two misjudgments crippled the movement's effectiveness. Facing a vote that everyone involved knew we would win, HRC's Hillary Rosen (Elizabeth's then-partner) bought into the Democrats' partisan strategy of avoiding the gay marriage "hot button" in favor of attacking President Bush and the Republicans for pressing a "non-issue," which was only a distraction from "real issues" like Iraq and rising gas prices.

    It was colossal missed opportunity for a gay rights group to agree to the Democratic Party's self-serving strategy of avoiding gay marriage linkage and instead calling the movement's signature issue a distraction -- thereby punting on the free-media opportunity to educate the public about why we want to marry in the first place.

    January 20, 2008

    Keep up the tirade, Bill

    Posted by: Chris

    The more that red-faced Bill Clinton rails dismissively against Barack Obama's "new politics," the more he reminds those not already in Hillaryland that a break from mean-spirited, win-at-all-costs partisanship is exactly what this country needs.

    This was his latest tirade:

    There is this whole business of the new politics. Well I got a taste of the new politics today. We need a new politics where we all love each other. You’ve heard all that. There’s a radio ad up in the northern part of Nevada telling Republicans that they ought to just register as Democrats for a day so they can beat Hillary and go out and be Republicans next week and vote in the primary. Doesn’t sound like the new politics to me...

    I will say it again – they think they're better than you

    Ditto Hillary's shrill Nevada "victory" speech -- in quotations since she actually lost the state's delegate tally -- and her repeated exhortation to "beat the Republicans" in November.

    She may have tried to expropriate Obama's "change" theme, but there's no chance she could pawn that kind of partisanship off as anything but old-fashioned partisan politics, the kind that she and her husband and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove and George W. Bush play so well.

    The contrast with Obama's unifying message couldn't be more stark.

    With friends like these…

    Posted by: Chris

    Chetculverwalks The pressure has been mounting in Iowa over something other than this month's presidential primary caucuses. The Iowa Supreme Court is also due to hand down soon its ruling in a lawsuit challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.

    Local press reports dissect public appearances by the state's chief justice for clues on how her court will rule, and conservatives are already rallying in favor of an amendment to the state's constitution that would decide the question once and for all.

    The governor of Iowa, Democrat Chet Culver, has a moderate gay rights record, having signed an anti-discrimination measure into law. But he's no moderate on marriage; not only is he in favor of "traditional marriage of one man and one woman," he has vowed to defy any adverse court ruling by agreeing to a constitutional amendment.

    “We’ll do whatever it takes to protect marriage between a man and a woman,” he has said, including a special legislative session if necessary.

    And yet you would search in vain for any evidence that the legions of staffers sent to Iowa by the Human Rights Campaign were at work lobbying the governor or legislators on the issue -- even though we all know it may be upon us in a matter of weeks. No, they were too busy having fun with the presidential primary, even though HRC hasn't endorsed anyone and the Democratic candidates are roughly equivalent -- at least in terms of where they stand on gay rights.

    Ironically, HRC has gone out of its way to brag about its influence on the Iowa Democratic Party and politics in that state, without ever once acknowledging (that I could find) the looming battle on gay marriage or one iota of effort to prepare for it.

    Nothing like declaring victory and going home to Washington.

    Bill Clinton hoisted on his own petard

    Posted by: Chris

    BillclintondadtThe video clip of Bill Clinton misstating the legal effect and history of his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has turned up over at PageOneQ. CNN's Situation Room broadcast the excerpt, and here's exactly what the former president, stumping for votes for his wife in Nevada, had to say:

    "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as it was articulated, as I worked it out with Colin Powell, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meant literally that -- that people would be free to live their lives as long as they didn't go march in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform -- in uniform -- and talk about it on duty they would be all right. Now, as soon as he left, the anti-gay forces in the military started using it as an excuse to kick people out.

    The impression from the video is that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was limited to a service member's conduct "in uniform," and they were free to "live their lives" out of uniform, in private. That is a gross misstatement of the policy, as I outlined in a post yesterday, which makes no meaningful distinction between conduct in uniform and out.

    As constructed by Bill Clinton's Defense Department lawyers, led by Jamie Gorelick, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was falsely cast as a "homosexual conduct" policy that far from allowing gay soldiers and sailors to "live their lives," required that they actively lie in inevitable banter about personal lives and engage in absolutely no "homosexual acts," which includes not just sodomy but kissing, holding hands or anything indicating romantic interest in someone of the same gender.

    And there is no evidence to support Clinton's claim that Colin Powell's departure from the military in September 1993 had any impact on the way his policy was implemented. For one thing, Bill Clinton remained the commander in chief for the proceeding seven years, and groups like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network painstakingly documented abuses in the policy, as well as its basic unfairness. The buck stopped with Bill, not simply the Pentagon, to stop the witchhunts. Instead, discharges increased annually until after Bill Clinton left office and the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon's "stop loss" policies allow gays to die during war, even as they would be discharged during other times.

    Just so we're clear, I know of what I speak. One of the first things I did after coming out at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling in 1993 was to bring a constitutional test case representing Navy Lt. Paul Thomasson, a decorated pilot working then in the Pentagon for the Navy admiral in charge of enforcing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    Even though the admiral testified at Paul's discharge hearing that he was a model lieutenant whose homosexuality didn't bother the admiral or any of Paul's coworkers, the panel ruled against Lt. Thomasson and his military career came to an abrupt end. The point of Thomasson's case was two-fold: that the policy was unconstitutional and that the Clinton Defense Department was irrational to conclude that merely stating, "I am gay" was presumptive evidence that a service member was violating policy by engaging in "homosexual acts."

    I left Covington and Washington at the end of 1994, but the firm continued to represent Paul, whose case was the first gays in the military challenge to be rejected (without comment) by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    It would be one thing for Bill Clinton to argue that he was sandbagged by the pushback he got on his promise to end the ban on gays in the military, so he agreed to a "compromise" that in retrospect was wrong and discriminatory. That would at least be closer to the truth, although it wouldn't capture just how little Clinton tried to defend himself and gay service members at the time.

    But Bill Clinton under pressure is not a pretty sight.  So like his shifting positions on Iraq (and those of his wife), he tries instead to weasel his way out of responsibility, rewriting history and, no doubt, doing some damage control on his own legacy.

    It is incumbent on the media and gay rights groups, whatever their presidential candidate affiliation, to call Bill Clinton out on his misrepresentation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and correct the record once and for all.

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    January 19, 2008

    Experts rethink staph stories

    Posted by: Chris

    Newsweekstaph Kudos to the gay press editors and blogger Michael Petrelis for blasting the sensationalist media coverage of the "flesh-eating" staph epidemic infecting gay men that's now supposedly "threatening the general population."

    A report by the University of California at San Francisco about the multiple-drug resistant staph infection known as MRSA resulted in headlines around the world that recalled the initial AIDS panic of the '80s, along with the predictable conservative finger-pointing in response.

    Cynthia Laird of the Bay Area Reporter was among the earliest to question the coverage, pointing out in an editorial that the staph infection story has been reported in the gay press for years. We reported the initial outbreak among gay men on the front page of the Washington Blade way back in February 2003. (I couldn't find the story online but you can read it in the jump to this post.)

    Duncan Osborne of Gay City News asked in an open letter to the New York Times, which also covered the MRSA "outbreak," to justify how it could report the infection is spread through gay sexual contact when the UCSF researchers specificall concluded, "Specific sexual behaviors were not assessed or documented in clinic charts; we therefore cannot comment on the association between multidrug-resistant USA300 infection and specific male–male sexual practices." In fact, experts told us at the Blade back in November 2004 that "manscaping" -- cosmetic shaving of body parts -- might be responsible for the spread of MRSA.

    Now that Newsweek has joined Laird, Osborne, Petrelis and others questioning the direction of early coverage, let me ask another complaint:  Why aren't more journalists pressing the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to explain why, a half-decade after these cases were first being reported, we still don't know more about MRSA, including what causes it, how to treat it and how it can be prevented.

    It's not enough for the CDC to belatedly defend gay men from accusations of infection-spreading. You would think that after the CDC's criminally slow response to HIV/AIDS, the agency would have learned its lesson and would have moved more aggressively in response to MRSA.

    It's incumbent on the media, including the mainstream press now that it's discovered the story -- to ask the same hard questions that should have been asked in the dark early days of AIDS.

    Continue reading»

    Rethinking spending on AIDS

    Posted by: Chris

    Cleanwater The Associated Press has an incredibly one-sided report out quoting public health experts who question whether too much money is being spent on HIV/AIDS globally in proportion with basic health problems like sanitation, malnutrition and clean water that are responsible for more deaths annually:

    "We have a system in public health where the loudest voice gets the most money," said Dr. Richard Horton, editor of Lancet. "AIDS has grossly distorted our limited budget."

    This is the same old saw we've heard for years, of course, although in the past its proponents were anti-gay conservatives whose compassion is limited to one sexual orientation. Now the doctors and researchers who have benefited from billions (spent far too late in the epidemic) are lobbying for more funds to deal with other health problems. No issue there but it's wrong to take from Peter to give to Paul.

    Unlike these other basic health problems, HIV/AIDS is an incurable epidemic already responsible for killing millions and infecting tens of millions more. The nature of the virus and the cost of adequate treatment mean it poses a health threat out of proportion to the number of its victims.

    Surely the AP could have found someone to make that case.

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    Déjà Bill all over again

    Posted by: Chris

    Powellclinton It's beginning to feel a lot like the '90s. All of Bill Clinton's campaigning on behalf of Hillary has allowed to us to relive some of the highlights and lowlights of his two terms in office, including his (very instructive) betrayal of campaign promises on gay rights.

    Now the Log Cabin Republicans have issued a statement condemning Clinton -- Bill, not Hillary -- for rewriting history on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  According to LCR:

    On the campaign trail Thursday for his wife, presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former President Clinton said, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' as articulated as I worked it out with Colin Powell, who was then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meant literally that...that people would be free to live their lives as long as they didn't go march in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform...in uniform...and talk about it on duty, they would be all right.  Now, as soon as he [Colin Powell] left, the anti-gay forces in the military started using it as an excuse to kick people out."

    The entire Log Cabin press release, which hasn't been posted to the group's website, is available in the jump to this post. Kudos to LCR for raising the issue, but demerits for not offering a link to Clinton's comments or some hint of where they can be found. (My own Internet search turned up squat, so let me know if any of you find it.)

    If the Log Cabin quote has it right, then Bill Clinton definitely got it wrong. LCR leader Patrick Sammon hits the former commander in chief and would-be first gentleman pretty hard:

    "President Clinton's latest attempt to re-write history and deny the reality of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an insult to the thousands of gay and lesbian service members who have been kicked out of the military because of the failed law he signed in 1993," said Sammon. "President Clinton either didn't understand the legislation he signed or he's lying."

    If anything, I would hit Clinton even harder. His recollection of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has things completely bassackwards. In fact, the policy makes a point of saying that service members can go to a gay bar or march in a Gay Pride parade without violating the policy. What they cannot do is acknowledge that they are gay or, as Clinton put it, "live their lives." Because if they had a same-sex boyfriend or girlfriend -- even kept in private -- then they violated the policy.

    Why? Because Clinton and Defense Department lawyers led by Jamie Gorelick portrayed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as a "homosexual conduct" policy. A soldier or sailor who acknowledges they are gay is in violation not because they are gay -- that's not prohibited under the policy -- but because by publicly acknowledging as much, they are presumed to be engaging in "homosexual conduct" -- i.e., sodomy, same-sex kissing and other gay yucky stuff (protected by the U.S. Constitution).

    This fig leaf rationale was employed to hide the real reason for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": the Pentagon brass knows gays can serve honorably but was worried about the effect on "combat readiness" if bigoted heterosexual soldiers became aware of gays with whom they served. So rather than acknowledge and deal with anti-gay bigotry, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell gave it the effect of law (another constitutional violation), and punished the gays for it.

    Not surprising, then, that Clinton is misremembering reality today, as even his wife advocates the repeal of his policy -- albeit while defending its enactment as a necessary "transitional" measure.

    This is what you get with the Clintons, folks. Why would we want a repeat?

    Continue reading»

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