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    May 30, 2008

    Greece threatens prosecution if gay wedding proceeds tomorrow

    Posted by: Andoni


    I reported in March, that due to a loophole (gender neutral language) in Greece’s recent civil marriage law, same sex couples were going to try to take advantage of this neutrality to get married. In Greece prior to the civil marriage law, the only option for couples wanting to wed was a religious marriage which was definitely one man and one woman.

    The first same sex civil marriage ceremony was scheduled for tomorrow on the small Aegean island of Tilos where the mayor seemed ready and willing to make history.

    However, after the mayor announced he was going to perform the ceremony, a Greek prosecutor threatened the mayor with criminal prosecution if he proceeded.

    Will this "Big Fat Greek Wedding" proceed? Will Greek history be made this weekend? Or will the loving couple face hostile government discrimination and spend what would have been their honeymoon in prison, but not alone, having to share the cell with the mayor who married them?

    How Obama will cross the finish line

    Posted by: Andoni

    According to the delegate count at the Daily Kos, Senator Barack Obama needs only 41more committed delegates to cross the 2026 threshold needed for the Democratic presidential nomination. There are only 86 pledged delegates left to be had in the final three primaries -- Sunday in Puerto Rico and Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota.  Obama is easily expected to get half of these delegates left or 43.

    There has been a plan here all along. That is to have the superdelegates trickle Obama’s way, one and two at a time to put him in a position to go over the top on a night that he wins a primary or caucus.

    As I suggested previously, it looks much better if Obama wins the nomination as a result of voters voting, than by some superdelegate announcing support which puts him over the 2025 mark. This latter way would feel less democratic than going over the top because people voted for him.

    It is reported by Marc Ambinder that Obama has been banking superdelegates instead of announcing them. and now has over 50 in the bank. I believe these 50 superdelegates (some switching away from Senator Clinton) will come out the moment he goes over the top after Montana and South Dakota. The combination of clinching the nomination with Montana and South Dakota, then adding another 50 or so will make an emphatic and definitive statement that the primary race is over and that he won.

    His campaign has been one of the best run presidential campaigns I have ever seen.

    May 29, 2008

    How to get married in New York state

    Posted by: Andoni

    As of today, the answer to this question effectively is: go to California, Canada, Massachusetts or any other jurisdiction where you can marry as a same sex couple and voila -- you will be married in New York state.

    Davidpatersonblog The New York Times reports today that Gov. David Paterson (the New York Democrat who replaced Eliot Spitzer) has ordered all state agencies to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. For New Yorkers, the closest, easiest place to marry is Canada. Beginning June 17, many can also travel to California to marry. Massachusetts has a residency requirement which precludes outsiders unless they intend to stay and reside in Massachusetts or hail from a state that has no objection to same-sex couples marrying.

    At this point, any New York same-sex couple can become a married couple if they really want to. All it takes is a quick trip to Canada or California. As I noted in "How to get married in Calif.", in California it only takes one day. There is no residency requirement and no blood test.

    As much a 21% of the U.S. population lives in California, New York and Massachusetts. Very soon, one in five Americans will live in states that recognize marriage for gay couples. This is very important news, because  really, it is the beginning of the end of the ban against same sex marriage.

    May 27, 2008


    Posted by: Kevin

    10_mvg_sp_parada06_5 It's almost surreal to stare into the enormity of the annual São Paulo gay pride parade (known here simply as the "Parada") and to see within that image the past, present and possible future of the gay movement in the United States all at the same time.  The picture is a mash-up of self-discovery and self-destruction, incredible power and pathetic weakness, great hope and miserable failure.   And we should all be drawing lessons from it.

    The event is universally seen as the largest gay pride event on Earth -- last year's gathering brought together more or less 2 million people and broke all previous world records.  While the authorities gave up on crowd estimates this year, it was clear from any observer that the numbers either matched or exceeded those of 2007. 

    The success of this event's ability to call on Brazilians from all over the country to come and participate is, in itself, a testament to the potential of the gay Brazilian community nationwide.   And as anyone can attest, the parties that are thrown all over town during the Parada weekend have become world famous, and are attracting hundreds of thousands of gay foreign tourists.  The event has now become an important source of revenue for the city's economy, and politicians are scrambling to ensure it never abates, and the multitudes keep coming every year.

    But with all these incomparable strengths, what is most remarkable about São Paulo pride is its utter failure to articulate even the most basic message.  Beyond a few pronouncements and a banner or a website, a coherent message of any kind fails to reach anyone in the street.  Instead, the Parada is a sea of drunken recklessness, criminal violence and disturbing overcrowding which has begun to actually drive the resident gay population of the city away from it.  The organizers are very competent in breaking world attendance records, but are hopelessly inept at finding some way to truly organize the attendees around any sense of mission or purpose beyond getting loaded, and getting laid.

    Ideas will always be more powerful than mere feet on the pavement.  When people gather, they want to be led.  They aren't motivated to travel great distances just to wander aimlessly in a confused mob.  And if chaos reigns, then only bad can come of it.  The level of public intoxication was so excessive that the medical facilities set up along the parade route were quickly overwhelmed.  The crush of people was so intense that the reserved areas for media were overrun.  The police were either unable or unwilling to stop violent robberies that were happening only feet away from them.

    My understanding of gay pride events is that they provide a zone of safety for gay people to come out and feel more confident and secure against a tide of intolerance in society.  Ironically, at the biggest such event in the world, gay people feel ever more insecure and unsafe.  Last year's Parada was marred by a brutal, anti-gay murder in the heart of the Jardins neighborhood just hours after the event ended.  A gang of "punks" picked out a man at random outside a gay bar/restaurant and stabbed him to death right on the sidewalk.  The police hunted down the perpetrators and began cracking down on gangs as a result.

    But this year, the death of a 25 year old gay Brazilian has come to symbolize the growing failure of this event to leave any sense of greater meaning behind than a sense of insecurity, distraction and self-destruction.

    On Friday afternoon, Lucas Cerqueira Leite Cardoso de França was found dead, face-down in the pool at the Mercure Hotel in the heart of Jardins.  A new resident of São Paulo, he'd been partying the night before, and was a guest of two men staying at the hotel - Rodrigo Vaz, a doctor from Brasília, and Diogo da Sá, a journalist from Recife, who he'd just met at Pacha, a nightclub hosting Thursday night's circuit party (there was one every night from Wednesday through Sunday).  The three men had arrived at the hotel earlier in the afternoon from the party, briefly visited Vaz's room, and then Vaz and Lucas went to the pool.  After dozing on a chair, Vaz awakened to find Lucas floating, dead.  He tried CPR to no avail.  What we do know is that Lucas had taken alcohol and GHB, which is a lethal combination even in relatively small doses (something most gay clubbers know about). 

    It's unclear when Lucas took the various drugs in his system, in what order, or why he was in the pool.  But the jarring reality is thatLucas2_2 by all accounts, he was a happy guy, full of life, and was looking forward to starting a new job at a store in the fashionable Shopping Higienópolis mall.  Not the profile of someone who self-destructs at a hotel pool on a sunny Friday afternoon.  But alas, he apparently did.

    The anguish is evident on a page of mourning ("luto") that his mother, Priscila, has started on the social networking site Orkut.  It is filled with pictures of a very handsome young man with a loving family, as well as messages from openly gay friends from around the country who were just as shocked at his death.  His sister also grapples hopelessly with why this happened.

    And this is indeed why Lucas' death is symbolic of what the Parada has come to represent.  It was big and utterly pointless.  It was a tragic search for pleasure in vain, and a  moment which made a beautiful sense of life and purpose appear worthless in the end.  It left nothing behind but questions.  It made none of us feel prouder, or more secure.  It taught us nothing, and betrayed a sense that we have learned nothing.

    I get emails from American gays fairly often which tell me of a rising level of disgust at gay politics in the United States.  To many of them, it is run by a group of hacks who lack vision and courage, who cater to politicians of both parties that have no qualms about throwing us overboard.  And these critics are not outraged so much as ready to turn their backs on something that was once an inspiring movement full of hope and joy.  One of them, an activist who started in the 1980s, wrote me that she felt like she was watching "my baby, all grown up, just laying there dying and I can't do anything about it."

    Today, I read a comment by a Brazilian posted today on the gay news portal, MixBrasil.  The frustration I saw in it matches the frustrations in emails from back home.  And I wondered, will we end up defeating ourselves more handily than our enemies, simply because we don't have a message anymore? 

    Here is "Mau"'s posting, translated by me into English.  And it left me thinking of HRC black-tie dinners, gay magazines obsessed with straight celebrities, and how circuit parties have filled the void of thoughtful action in the United States.  I share his grief here:

    When I went to my first gay pride (in São Paulo) seven years ago, it was an incredible experience.  It wasn't perfect, of course, but everyone tried however possible to make that parade really be something to be proud of, and set a real goal to gain visibility and tolerance in society.  Last year, when I went to it with a friend, after two hours trying to walk along one of the floats, we decided it was impossible because of the number of people and we gave up and went home.  Now at home, thinking about the parade, we also feel like we don't have that sense of pride when we left the party, as it's no longer the party it was.  Today I live in London and I compare the gay scene of São Paulo with the one here, and I have to say that for all the ways our scene is better, it has a lot of growing up and learning to do.  Along with this, after reading the details here and on other sites, and the comments of some friends, I have to say I'm disappointed to see our parade and it's not even Paulista or even gay, it's been turned into a party that sadly promotes just the opposite of what it proposes.  Tourists coming to São Paulo to hit the parties in the clubs instead of going to Avenida Paulista, people afraid to get up on the floats or dress up for fear of some kind of retaliation - robbery, crimes, violence and breaking the rules of its own participants is shameful.  We have to be more aware and do something that really lives up to being proud.

    How to get married in Calif.

    Posted by: Andoni

    Califgaymarriageactivists June 14 will be the first day  same sex couples will be able to marry in California. Because the state has no residency requirement and no blood test requirement, a couple can get married in one day.

    If you are thinking of getting married in California, here are the official rules.

    Note that the official web page still says one man and one woman, but I'm sure that will be fixed soon

    May 26, 2008

    Gays vs. Christians? Really?

    Posted by: Chris

    Frontpage What's wrong with this headline in today's Washington Times?

    Christians, gays not of one accord

    Well, it's misleading and inaccurate. The article is about "30 conservative black Pentecostals from Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., dining with 30 activists from Soulforce, a pro-gay religious group."

    So why are the conservatives labeled "Christians" in the headline and not the gays? Soulforce is non-denominational but much of its membership is Christian. The group's founder, Mel White, is a Christian minister himself and a former ghostwriter for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

    An accurate headline would have been: "Conservative and gay Christians not of one accord."

    Clearly there's a limit to what we can expect from the "new and improved" Washington Times, still the most homophobic big city newspaper in America.

    May 25, 2008

    Hillary's long-awaited game changer

    Posted by: Andoni

    Hillaryclinton One reason the Clinton campaign had been giving behind the scenes for continuing its mathematically impossible quest for the Democratic nomination is they were waiting for Barack Obama to perhaps make a game-changing gaffe that would convince superdelegates to turn against him. It’s ironic that it was Hillary Clinton, not Obama, who has made that long-awaited gaffe, and it will most likely hasten a stampede of superdelegates the opposite direction.

    Of course I’m talking about Clinton’s now infamous reference to Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassination, in response to a question about why she was still campaigning.

    I am an Obama supporter who has come to view both of the Clintons with much less respect than I had for them only a year ago. That said, I agree both with Keith Olbermann "special comment"  and Maureen Dowd's "All About Eve" column with regard to Hillary's statement invoking RFK's assassination as a reason for her staying in the race. 

    Last night, I had dinner with a friend who is a news editor for CNN, and he shared his belief that this whole RFK assassination episode was simply an unfortunate choice of words by Clinton and has been taken out of context by the media and her opponents. He likened it to Barack Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” statement.

    Rfk If indeed this is simply a gaffe equivalent to Senator Obama’s, then I hope the Clinton campaign suffers the same prolonged period of intense negative media publicity that Obama did, stoked by Hillary Clinton herself, as a result of his remarks.

    However, I really believe this is much more than simply an unfortunate choice of words. I think Hillary's comment gave us a candid glimpse into her innermost soul and private discussions within her campaign, and I didn’t like the darkness that I saw. I would bet that in discussions with Bill and her closest advisors, the likelihood of political assassination was explicitly stated as a reason for her to remain well-positioned as a substitute nominee, or to make sure she became vice president so she could wait out the possibility of Obama wins in November. 

    Hillary Clinton and the people in her campaign know how much damage has been done by her statement. A report  by Katharine Seelye of the New York Times details how "Friday might have been one of the worst days of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political career."

    I agree and predict the RFK statement will be much more damaging to her career than most outsiders realize right now.

    May 23, 2008

    McCain vs. Ellen on marriage (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    I was apprehensive about how Ellen DeGeneres would do discussing gay marriage with John McCain, but the result was pleasantly surprising. She hit him from the civil rights angle and the personal angle, citing her (now legally recognized) wedding this summer to actress Porcia DiRossi. McCain seemed flat and really had no reasons to offer for his opposition. He just repeated that marriage ought to be for opposite-sex couples.

    Just as nits, I wish Ellen had made clearer that McCain not only opposes marriage but also civil unions and domestic parterships, strong or weak. He opposes any form of government recognition of gay relationships, a view that's out of touch with most Americans, two-thirds of which either back marriage or civil unions.

    Also I was bit confused by Ellen comparing McCain's view to past opposition to giving the vote to blacks and women. That's a bit apples and oranges, especially when a much better example -- interracial marriage -- was a key point to the California Supreme Court's ruling.

    If you'd like to see McCain really get grilled on the issue, there's no beating the pointed questioning by George Stephanopoulus on "This Week" in November 2006. I'm proud to say my cheesy home video has now been viewed more than 16,000 times on YouTube; it's jumpy quality and focus are probably why it hasn't been yanked.

    George was on fire that morning, also pushing McCain on the military ban and even whether homosexuality is a "sin." My full post (with more home vids!) on McCain's "This Week" interview is here.

    May 22, 2008

    GNW 5: McCain vs. Ellen on gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    1. McCain defends gay marriage opposition on 'Ellen'McCain defends gay marriage opposition on 'Ellen': QUICK LOOK: Republican presidential candidate John McCain didn't dance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, but he did field some tough questions on Ellen's upcoming marriage to actress... (MORE)
    2. St. Paul baseball fans get Larry Craig toilet bobblefootSt. Paul baseball fans get Larry Craig toilet 'bobblefoot': QUICK LOOK: The St. Paul Saints, long known for offbeat, sometimes edgy, promotions, have come up with a real doozy for this Sunday's game. While lots of sports franchises hand out... (MORE)
    3. Tabs say affair led to Jodie Foster leaving her partnerTabloids say affair led to Jodie Foster leaving her partner: QUICK LOOK: *WARNING: tabloid source*: Jodie Foster dumped her lesbian lover after falling for another woman on a film set, it was reported last night. The Panic Room star, 45,... (MORE)
    4. Federal appeals court rules against military gay banFederal appeals court rules against military gay ban: QUICK LOOK: The military cannot automatically discharge people because they're gay, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of a decorated flight nurse who sued the Air Force over... (MORE)
    5. Schwarzenegger says gay marriage good for economySchwarzenegger says gay marriage good for economy: QUICK LOOK: Will gay marriage help boost California's economy? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes so. In the wake of the state Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage, the Republican... (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.

    May 21, 2008

    Revising and amending, Oregon style

    Posted by: Chris

    Just days after the Log Cabin Republicans advanced the theory that a ballot measure that would amend the California Constitution to ban gays from marrying was itself unconstitutional, the Oregon Court of Appeals has rejected the same argument in a marriage case there.

    Adopted by voters in 2004, Oregon Ballot Measure 36 amended that state's constitution in a manner similar to the California initiative, which will go on the November ballot if the secretary of state qualifies petition signatures already submitted:

    It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.

    Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 36 by a wide margin, 57-43%.

    Ballotmeasure91sh Gay rights advocates challenged the Oregon measure in part arguing that in violates another constitutional prohibition on ballot measures that amount to "revisions," as opposed to "amendments." They argued that "revision" should include any ballot measure that "excluded a distinct minority group of citizens from the equal benefits and obligations of Oregon law," in derogation of the "fundamental organizing principle" of "justice" that is "inherent in the very framework of the Constitution."

    The Appeals Court not only rejected the standard suggested by the plaintiffs for when a ballot measure is a "revision," it also concluded "the constitutional changes wrought by Measure 36 were not so 'fundamental' and 'far reaching' as to effect a 'revision.'" That was pretty much my take on why the Log Cabin argument won't work in California, either.

    The Oregon court relied heavily on a 1994 decision by that same court rejecting a similar challenge to Ballot Measure 9, another anti-gay initiative. It wound up being rejected by voters, 51-49%. But it made the ballot because the appeals court concluded it wasn't a "revision," even though it was much broader than Ballot Measure 36, which "would have added a new section to the constitution making numerous provisions to deny 'minority status' based on sexual orientation, to restrict education and availability of books 'which address homosexuality,' and to prohibit the state and local governments from granting 'marital status or spousal benefits on the basis of homosexuality.'"

    Today's ruling could still be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, but I'm pretty sure the result will be the same.

    It's almost time, but not yet

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillarybillclintonkentucky I don't spend a lot of time reading "rah-rah" blogs, where those posting and commenting seem always to agree on everything, but I do like the Jed Report because there's a lot of substance amidst the "Amen, brother!"-ing. After Barack Obama clinched the pledged-delegate majority tonight with his win in Oregon and loss in Kentucky, there was another call for Hillary Clinton to step aside.

    Actually, it wasn't so much aimed at her as it was the still-undeclared superdelegates, who have it in their power to finally end The Long Flat Seemingly Endless Bataan Death March to The White House by putting Obama over the top in overall delegates.

    Here are the numbers as of last night, according to NBC News:

    Pledged Delegates: 3,253
    Majority: 1,627
    Obama: 1,639
    Clinton: 1,502

    Total Delegates: 4,050
    Majority: 2,026
    Obama: 1,954 (needs 72)
    Clinton: 1,783

    Clinton claims the magic number overall is 2,210 because she's (somewhat delusionally) counting Florida and Michigan, but Obama is only 256 shy of even that target. There are still about 400 undeclared superdelegates, and the Jed Report argued that now is the time for them to step in:

    Tonight, Hillary Clinton signaled that as long as superdelegates stand on the sidelines, she isn't getting out of the race, and as long as she's in the race, she'll do whatever it takes to win, even if that means undermining Barack Obama's legitimacy.

    So the time has come to push her out the race, and the only people who can do it are the undeclared superdelegates. They are the ones responsible for this mess, and they are the ones who must end it.

    I feel their pain, really, but at this point, I think Hillary ought to stay in until June 3, when the last primary votes will be cast. It's only three weeks, and it will satisfy more of her supporters. So long as she keeps the tone largely positive, as she has for the last week, then I don't really see the harm.

    It's possible that a wave of superdelegates will follow Obama's clinch last night of the pledged delegate majority, since it is the most important metric -- the voters have chosen. My guess is that the Obama camp actually won't allow then, but instead keep them trickling out four or five a day, as they have for weeks now. There's too much risk in alienating Hillary supporters if it appears she's being pressured to quit.

    (Photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton in Louisville, Ky., via New York Times)

    May 20, 2008

    Hang in there, Ted

    Posted by: Kevin

    Ted_kennedy_face Considering the fact that I spent a good part of my political career loathing much of his machine-left politics, and working with the Massachusetts GOP to thwart him and even unseat him in the 1990s, it was with great sadness that I read the news that I'd feared was coming after hearing about his unexplained seizure over the weekend.  Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has a very serious, malignant brain tumor, and we all know what that probably means.

    It's no surprise to read that Democrats and Republicans alike immediately went on the record to say how sad they are to hear the news.  As much as I hated some of Kennedy's demagoguery on a wide range of economic and social issues, and his sharpest of partisan elbows too often, I also have to say (like many Republicans of varying intensities also would) that you could never not love the guy, too.

    Some of us have had the pleasure to work with him in and out (and in again) of the majority in Congress, and while you can fault the man for his partisan stripes, they were no less vibrant than any of ours, and they were not painted on by convenience, but seared on by passion and by guts.  That is one thing you have to admire about any political figure of either party, especially the ones you battle with.  I remember Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), his frequent collaborator or opponent on many issues on the other side of the aisle, doing his Ted Kennedy impersonation for us in private a couple of times, especially of when the old man would start to fulminate during a floor speech.  It was hilarious because it was done with tremendous affection.  Even if you went to war with Kennedy, you couldn't imagine a world without him.

    He was always the Senate leader on gay rights issues, but unlike many of his Democratic colleagues in the House, he was never proprietary about it.  He never acted like he "owned" us and our concerns.  And he was not the type to come around with the slimy attitude of so many Democrats that we owed him anything.  That always made me like him underneath it all.  And behind the scenes, that upright profile held its own and his was one of the few offices among Democrats that often sought out Log Cabin's views and opinions, and put them into the mix.  Not often enough, of course.  But it was never just for show.

    Most recently, there was his dramatic intervention in the Democratic primaries on behalf of Barack Obama, soon after the Clintons raised the race card in South Carolina and made it clear they would trash anything and anyone -- including the values he holds most dear -- in order to win.   I was very moved by his speech the day he endorsed Obama, and the way he sought to pass on a torch of passion, eloquence and visionary dreams to the (now) likely nominee.  Despite being totally outside the Democratic arc myself, it was riveting not because of what was said, or how it was said, but by who was saying it.  I'll confess, I wrote an email to my old war buddy Rich Tafel that afternoon that I'd never enjoyed a speech by that old SOB so much in my life.

    So here's hoping that we're all wrong in what we're thinking today, and that Ted Kennedy will be around and full of steam for a bit longer.  The country still needs to be reminded what honorable, courageous men in politics are like.  There are so few left.

    Desperately hitting 'San Francisco values'

    Posted by: Chris

    Just when you think negative political ads have gone as low as they can go, someone somewhere manages to go lower. This attack ad was actually aired by the incumbent, Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who's fighting off a stiff challenge by former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D).

    We've never seen "San Francisco values" spelled out so homo-fabulously:

    Graves' campaign defended the ad by pointing out that the fund-raiser for Barnes in San Francisco took place the same week as "the California Supreme Court issues the most sweeping liberal, activist, pro-gay marriage ruling in the nation." Well that explains that, then.

    Fortunately, Barnes was quick to fight back, producing this response that calls out Graves' sleazy attack for what it is, while returning to the issues one would imagine voters there actually care about.

    (Via Talking Points Memo)

    Revising and amending, Calif. style

    Posted by: Chris

    Thanks to a tip from reader Steve W., we learned that the Log Cabin Republicans have come up with the unusual claim that the ballot initiative that would amend the California Constitution to ban gays from marrying may itself be unconstitutional.

    The argument, as explained by Kevin Norte on the LCR blog, is one of those that only a lawyer could love:

    The initiative power reserved by the people by amendment to the [California] Constitution … applies only to the proposing and the adopting or rejecting of  laws and amendments to the Constitution’ and does not purport to extend to a constitutional revision. …

    The proposed [marriage amendment] initiative originally sought to limit the Constitutional right to marry to opposite sex couples and, thus as originally drafted, it was intended to limit the right to marry to a man and a woman. But an amendment can no longer accomplish this.  The Right to Marry exists and in light of the recent ruling, the initiative’s unintended consequence is an attempt to revise (as opposed to amend) the Constitution which, as explained in [last week's Supreme Court ruling], is a fundamental Constructional right to “all individuals and couples, without regard to their sexual orientation.”

    Got that? The California Constitution permits voters to pass ballot initiatives that "amend" the Constitution but not those that would "revise" it. Norte argues that originally the ballot measure that may go on the November ballot was "amending" the Constitution to make clear gays can't marry. But after last week's ruling, that same initiative would be "revising" the Constitution, which is not permitted.

    Norte and LCR get points for ingenuity, and I'll say in advance that I haven't researched the issue myself, but based on what Norte himself has said, this dog won't hunt.

    The cases cited by Norte define "revision" -- as opposed to "amendment" as changes that "will substantially alter the basic governmental framework set forth in our Constitution." Re-excluding gays from marrying, even though it impacts a fundamental right, certainly isn't the type of change in the Constitution that substantial alters California's governmental framework.

    Hey, it's worth a shot, guys. I'm personally more fond of my own clever little argument about why the ballot initiative may backfire on its anti-gay proponents.

    May 19, 2008

    The ballot measure boobytrap

    Posted by: Chris

    Prop22Every analysis I've read of last week's California gay marriage ruling (including my own) has assumed that the November ballot measure amending the state constitution would "overturn" the decision handed down this week. I wonder about that.

    The proposed amendment will go on the ballot if the secretary of state confirms there are enough valid signatures on petitions that have already been submitted by proponents. The text of the amendment is the same as Proposition 22, the 2000 ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by voters, which changed the state law but not the state's constitution. It reads:

    Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

    If the amendment is approved by voters in November, it would sweep aside the portion of the supreme court's decision that opened up marriage to same-sex couples. But there's no particular reason I see that it would also overturn the crux of the opinion: that having separate legal regimes for gay and state couples violates the constitution (in three different ways no less!).

    In fact, the court specifically left open the question "whether the name 'marriage' is invariably a core element of the state constitutional right to marry so that the state would violate a couple's constitutional right even if -- perhaps in order to emphasize and clarify that this civil institution is distinct from the religious institution of marriage -- the state were to assign a name other than marriage as the official designation of the formal family relationship for all couples."

    There's wiggle room there, but if voters amend the state's constitution to prevent gays from marrying, it's hard to see how the same four justices wouldn't conclude that the only way to pass constitutional muster is to open up "domestic partnerships" to straight couples and eliminate civil marriage entirely in the state.

    Now wouldn't that be fun to watch! Gay marriage foes in California best be careful what they wish for…

    Gay marriage the wrong way

    Posted by: Chris

    I realize that my post the day after the California marriage decision was lengthy and had a bit of legalese (OK, a lot). Several readers have asked me to boil it down for non-lawyers so I'll give it a shot.

    The criticism already leveled by conservatives at the marriage ruling is that a bare majority of the California Supreme Court usurped their authority and essentially legislated from the bench, opening marriage up to same-sex couples when the issue should be left to the democratic process. The court rightly rejected that argument, since state and federal constitutions exist in part to limit the power of "the people" to trample individual rights.

    JusticestatueBut in reaching the correct conclusion -- that having domestic partnerships for gays and marriage for straights violates California's constitution -- the court overreached in two important ways. It devised a remedy that should have been left to the Legislature and it decided important legal questions that should have been left to future justices ruling in future cases.

    Problem No. 1

    The question that should have been left to the people is not the constitutional one that has conservatives in such  lather, but a legislative one. After deciding the constitutional one, the court chose to order county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately upon the effective date of the decision -- 30 days from last Thursday. 

    But the court majority twice acknowledged in the opinion by Chief Justice Ronald George that "marriage for everyone" wasn't the only possible solution to the constitutional deficiency of existing law. The other option would be having the same institution for straight and gay couples but calling it something else: domestic partnerships, civil unions, civil partnerships or whatever.

    The court should have followed the examples set by the high courts in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which all declared hetero-only marriage laws unconstitutional and yet left it up to their respective legislatures to pick what should replace it.

    Problem No. 2

    On that constitutional question, the court struck down the existing marriage/D.P. laws for three separate and independent reasons:

    1. Due process: Banning gays from marrying violates their fundamental right to marry.
    2. Equal protection: There's no compelling justification for how these separate institutions (marriage/D.P.) impinge on gays' fundamental right to marry.
    3. Equal protection: There's no compelling justification for how these separate institutions discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

    Any one of those three reasons was enough to reach the same result. The first one, based upon the "right to privacy" (meaning autonomy) is expressly guaranteed in the California Constitution, would have been the least controversial because it didn't require reaching the whopper issue that deciding based on equal protection did.

    Even ruling based on equal protection didn't require deciding that whopper issue, which is whether sexual orientation should be treated by the courts like race or gender. Since the majority ultimately concluded there was no legal justification whatsoever for treating gay and straight couples differently, they could just as easily struck down the current laws using even under the most deferential analysis.

    Instead, the California court became the first state supreme court in the entire country to decide that sexual orientation is a "suspect class" like race or gender. That's a huge victory for gay rights, and one that's fully justified in my view, but it shouldn't have come now, in this case.

    Winning is always good, but the way you win is also important. The court could have ruled in favor of the gay plaintiffs in ways that were less controversial and less likely to be overturned by the ballot measure in November. A more narrow victory might also have been more influential with other state supreme courts wary about charges of judicial activism and being overturned by the voters.

    May 18, 2008

    Meet the author of Calif. gay marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Chiefjusticeronaldgeorge There are some interesting tidbits in the interview that Chief Justice Ronald George of the California Supreme Court gave to the Los Angeles Times. The conversation was unusually candid for a sitting judge, especially within days of an important and controversial decision like mandating the state marry gay couples. George authored the majority opinion in the case, which was decided 4-3.

    While he refused to discuss specifics about the marriage case, the chief justice did say it "weighed most heavily" on him, more so than any other in his 17 years on the court. He made a striking acknowledgment that his thinking was influenced heavily by recollections of racial segregation:

    As he read the legal arguments, the 68-year-old moderate Republican was drawn by memory to a long ago trip he made with his European immigrant parents through the American South. There, the signs warning "No Negro" or "No colored" left "quite an indelible impression on me," he recalled in a wide-ranging interview Friday.

    "I think," he concluded, "there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe."

    It's an analogy obvious to most gays but one that's rarely made publicly for fear of angering African Americans. Like any analogy, it's useful to gain understanding but certainly incomplete and non-determinative.

    One of my first reactions to the ruling was that the majority opinion had been written by someone who obviously "gets it," and has an obvious familiarity with the real lives of actual gay people, their relationships and their families. I was right:

    George, who grew up in Los Angeles, said he counts gays among his friends. Four years ago, he peered out his chambers' windows across from San Francisco City Hall to watch gay couples lining up to marry. He saw the showers of rice, the popping of champagne corks, the euphoria of the couples.

    Times Reporter Maura Dolan actually characterized the case in a way that's actually very generous to George and gay marriage advocates:

    George's reputation for caution is based on the court's tendency, under him, to decide cases narrowly, refusing to reach issues not necessary to the case at hand. Advocates thrust the central constitutional question of equality for gay people on the court; there was no way to avoid it.

    Advocates may have urged the court to rule broadly, but as I took pains to explain in my post on Friday, George and the majority actually reached and decided a number of very important "issues not necessary to the case at hand." Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one who's noticed.

    (File photo of Chief Justice Ron George from earlier this year via Los Angeles Times)

    GNW 5: Dirty minds at Microsoft

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Calif. chief justice: gay marriage was hardest decisionCalif. chief justice: gay marriage was hardest decision: QUICK LOOK: In the days leading up to the California Supreme Court's historic same-sex marriage ruling Thursday, the decision "weighed most heavily" on Chief Justice Ronald M... (MORE)
    2. Gay and lesbian cruises are soaring in popularityGay and lesbian cruises are soaring in popularity: QUICK LOOK: Despite last year's shakeup among gay travel companies, gay and lesbian cruises are gaining in popularity. Here's a sampling of offerings in the next year from the major... (MORE)
    3. Microsoft bans 'gayer gamer' tag as sexual innuendoMicrosoft bans 'gayer gamer' tag as sexual innuendo: QUICK LOOK: Players of XBox online have been banned from using the name "thegayergamer" by internet company Microsoft. boomtown.net reports: "Many expressed the feeling that there's... (MORE)
    4. Transgender man and woman are first to marry in Mexico: QUICK LOOK: A couple who both changed their sex married today in Mexico's first transgender wedding, as the traditionally conservative country loses some of its inhibitions. Mario del Socorro, formerly Maria,... (MORE)
    5. Atlanta TV station airs exposé on gay sex in theaterAtlanta TV station airs exposé on gay sex in theater: QUICK LOOK: A months-long investigation by WSB-TV reporter Jodi Fleischer unearthed the news that some men have sex inside adult movie theaters, and some neighbors of adult theaters... (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.

    May 17, 2008

    Let's count the states . . .

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryclintonsd Hopefully you didn't miss Jon Stewart nailing the shifting criteria by which Hillary Clinton is (still) claiming she deserves the Democratic presidential nomination. After showing several clips from early in the campaign in which she says "voters will decide," Stewart serves up more recent Hillary, haltingly saying, "Voters are an important part of the process." 

    If you missed it, the clip is at the end of the post; with the Hillary switcheroo about 1:50 in.

    Another Clinton tactic, of course has been to push the Democratic Party to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan, which held primaries in violation of party rules. Both candidates agreed, of course, not to campaign in either state, and Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan.

    Nonetheless, Hillary's latest formulation of the argument surfaced in her Indiana victory speech:

    "It would be a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states," she argued.

    This week, Katie Couric asked, "If Barack Obama declares victory, Senator Clinton, once he reaches that magic number of 2,025 [delegates], will you still hold out if Florida and Michigan have not been counted? "Absolutely," Hillary said.

    Because that's not the right number.  How can we have a nominee based on 48 states?

    And yet that very same day, her excitable campaign chair Terry McAuliffe announced she was officially ahead in the "popular vote." How did he arrive at that conclusion? After noting that Clinton actually trails in four different methods of calculating the popular vote, CNN concluded:

    The only scenario in which Clinton would appear to the lead is a fifth scenario that only counts primary states –- including both Florida and Michigan –- and excludes any votes cast in the party’s caucuses. In that count, Clinton currently holds a lead of about 225,000 votes.

    Ahh yes. It would be "a little strange" to have 48 states pick a nominee, but perfectly valid to have 35 states pick the nominee, since the Clinton camp is excluding the 15 states that held primary caucuses.

    And now, your Moment of Zen (with the Hillary switcheroo 1:50 in):

    (Photo of Hillary Clinton in Bath, S.D., via Associated Press)

    Arnold, even stronger

    Posted by: Kevin

    Arnoldlcr Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) further clarified his stand on the California gay marriage ruling, in a meeting with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle.  And made his position a bit stronger yet:

    "First, I have always said that for me, marriage is between a man and a woman," he told the newspaper. "But I don't want to make everyone else go in that direction."

    In terms of nuance, and the direct political impact it will have, this puts Arnold a hair beyond Obama who compares himself to Dick Cheney about leaving it to the states, but has said he opposes gay marriage and adds that he "respects" those who feel civil unions are not actually equal to marriage (i.e., "tough shit").  It also puts Arnold way ahead of our last 'messiah', John Kerry, who backed a constitutional referendum in Missouri to ban gay marriage while campaigning for president in 2004.

    It gets better:

    "When the people vote, people are not legal experts, constitutional experts or any of that," he said. "I think that's why we have the courts. People may vote with good intentions, but then the court says, 'This is not constitutional.'"

    Finally, a governor of either party that has the balls to say it, in so many words: "I don't care how many people voted for this referendum, because it's against the constitution.  And that's why we have three branches."  And what's more, by also saying he will oppose amending California's constitution to overrule the court -- indeed, he says he will "always be there to fight against that", and he said it before the ruling -- he is adding that it's wrong to ban gay marriage in the state he runs, however you slice it.

    And this is the Republican governor of the largest state in the country who didn't say the "a" word: "activist" judges.

    The extraordinary ripples of this ruling continue to break against the political tides.  The question now is, what will Obama say about California, and what will McCain say?  Will either of them match or do one better than what Arnold has done at this moment in history?

    Is this the same Kevin James?

    Posted by: Chris

    You may have already seen this priceless video clip showing conservative radio talk show host Kevin James making a complete ass of himself Thursday on MSNBC's "Hardball." From the get-go he is hyperventilating -- literally yelling -- about how President Bush was completely justified in comparing Barack Obama, at least by insinuation, with Neville Chamberlain, the infamous British prime minister and other "Nazi appeasers" from the late 1930s.

    Chris Matthews tries 28 times -- I didn't count, but others have -- to ask James to explain what it is exactly that Chamberlain did so it could be compared with Obama's willingness to sit down for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. James tries desperately to avoid answering, except to insist that Obama is "exactly the same" as Chamberlain. Eventually he admits he doesn't know what exactly Chamberlain did and Matthews pretty much lays him to waste.

    I'd almost feel sorry for James, if he weren't so clearly deserving of the humiliation. The video clip is all over the Net -- just one version of it on YouTube has been viewed more than 250,000 times -- but the reaction in gay Washington circles has been more one of jaws dropping.

    Could this really be the same Kevin James, who with his then-boyfriend raised huge sums of money in Los Angeles to support a number of gay political groups, including the Campaign for Military Service -- which later became the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- to support President Clinton's effort to end the ban on gays in the military?

    I'm not familiar with James on-air schtick, but I'm mighty curious whether he feigns opposition to gay rights or if his Ditto Heads even know he's a big ole homo. Or maybe he's Tammy Bruce in drag?

    May 16, 2008

    Let's count the ways to be 'inclusive'

    Posted by: Chris

    Donnanarducci The Atlanta Pride Committee did. The result? Only one:

    The Atlanta Pride Committee decided last week to decline a [$5,000] sponsorship from the Human Rights Campaign over the national gay political group’s support for a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act that did not include “gender identity” as a protected category.

    “We knew that it was almost a no-win situation,” said
    Atlanta Pride Executive Director Donna Narducci. “Do you take the money, or do you not take the money? Do we need the money? Yes, we need the money. … But do we need to take the money from an organization that is not inclusive."

    Apparently inclusiveness is measured only by adherence to the political views of Narducci, the Pride Board and Atlanta's very vocal trans activists. The disagreement here wasn't even on substance -- all involved support protection for trans workers -- but legislative strategy.

    How does Atlanta Pride now demonstrate its own inclusiveness toward the thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual Atlantans -- and even some transgender folk -- who supported going forward with the only version of ENDA that stood a chance of passage?  Are they still a part of the community? Is Barney Frank also unwelcome at Atlanta Pride, then? What about Tammy Baldwin  -- she voted for Barney's GLB-only version of ENDA, after all.

    Somebody, please, make the political correctness stop!

    Concurring in part, dissenting in part

    Posted by: Chris

    That's how I would have voted if I were a justice on the California Supreme Court. (To channel Judy Tenuta for a sec, "It could happen!" OK, not.) Anyway, having had time to read and digest all 172 pages of opinions on the constitutionality of excluding gay couples from marriage, that's where I come down.

    There's much to admire and respect about the majority opinion: the unflinching analysis, the clear-headed logic, and particularly the way Chief Justice Ronald George expresses the majority's views. He obviously "gets it," in the same way as Anthony Kennedy did in Lawrence vs. Texas and Margaret Marshall did in Goodridge, the Massachusetts marriage case from five years ago.

    Take this passage from yesterday's decision, for instance:

    California has repudiated past practices and policies that were based on a once common viewpoint that denigrated the general character and morals of gay individuals, and at one time even characterized as a mental illness rather than as simply one of the numerous variables of our common and diverse humanity.

    This state's current policies and conduct regarding homosexuality recognize that gay individuals are entitled to the same legal rights and the same respect and dignity afforded all other individuals … and, more specifically, recognize that gay individuals are fully capable of entering into the kind of loving and enduring committed relationships that may serve as the foundation of a family and of responsibly caring for and raising children.

    That was written by someone who has an obvious familiarity with real lives of actual homosexuals, including their relationships and families. That so many men and women in black robes share that knowledge is a victory won not by lawyers and lobbying groups but by regular gay men and lesbians, willing to live their lives openly. There's no more powerful form of activism.


    The majority's opinion is most surprising for how far it goes. After concluding that existing law unconstitutionally infringes on the fundamental right of gay Californians to marry, the court could (and should) have stopped there; it didn't.

    Instead, the majority went on to conclude that separate institutions for straight and gay couples also violate equal protection. Even in reaching that conclusion, the majority did more than it needed to. Having agreed with the plaintiffs that these separate institutions impacted a fundamental right (to marry), the majority could (and should) have moved on to apply a heightened standard of review; it didn't.

    Instead, the majority also decided to consider an alternative argument by the plaintiffs (two of them, actually), and in doing so decided a quetion that was of first impression and enormous importance -- whether to treat an equal protection claim based on sexual orientation in the same way as race and gender.

    If a law makes classifications based on race and gender, the burden is actually on the state to demonstrate (1) a "compelling interest" served by the law and (2) that the challenged classification is "necessary" to achieve that end. In suits challenging less "suspect" classifications, the plaintiffs bear the burden of proving there's not a single legitimate state interest at stake, whether or not the legislature was actually motivated by it. If one is identified, the classification must bear no rational relationship to said purpose.

    The Lawrence and Goodridge decisions, along with most others in favor of gay rights challenges based on equal protection, sexual orientation is either deemed too different from race or gender to deserve "strict scrutiny," or the issue entirely is avoided entirely -- by concluding the challenged law fails even the more deferential analysis.

    It was a clear exercise of judicial activism for the California Supreme Court to decide the case in three different ways, when one would do. It's not the type of "judicial activism" that so animates right-wing radio and Republicans politicians; they're outraged by the entire idea of "unelected" judges thwarting the "will of the majority" -- except when it decides a presidential election in their favor or affirms their right to bear arms.

    But deciding unnecessary legal questions, especially enormously important ones of first impression, is activism of the type that rightly concerns scholars and jurists. And I say that even though I'm delighted with the conclusions the majority reached in all three of its alternative avenues to the same answer; but it shouldn't have even "gone there" in the first place.

    This form of activism doesn't usurp the role of the legislature so much as it does that of the men and women who will sit on the California Supreme Court in the future. Now that these four justices have ruled on all these extra questions, future justices are now bound by the precedent or face the daunting prospect of overturning yesterday's decision. That's unlikely for conservative judges who practice true judicial restraint -- witness how Justices Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor eventually acquiesced to Roe vs. Wade despite their clear misgivings about it.

    Kenji Yoshino, an openly gay Yale law professor, is thrilled with the majority's naked power grab, and lays out nicely the ripple effect (think tidal wave) of this legally superfluous decision sexual orientation is a "suspect class":

    To my knowledge, California's is the only state high court to have come to this conclusion (the federal Supreme Court has not weighed in). For gays, this pronouncement is critical because it is portable—that is, gays can now challenge any California state policy that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation; … in its own right is a signal advance for gay people.

    The magisterial conviction of Thursday's opinion would be extraordinary no matter what court had delivered it. But its issuance from the high court of California is nothing short of revolutionary. Recent polls show that the California Supreme Court is the most respected state high court in the country. This suggests that other courts may borrow its strict scrutiny standard, under which most bans on same-sex marriage would fall.


    The other example of judicial activism in yesterday's decision is potentially even more dangerous, and may have even set up gay folks -- and the court itself -- for a devastating backlash. In the brief, three-page section that concludes their opinion, the majority decides "the proper remedy" for the unconstitutional wrong done by the separate institutions o marriage for heterosexual couples and domestic partnership for gays.

    Without citing any precedent, the majority concludes it's left with only two options: extend marriage to gays or withhold both forms of recognition from everyone. Between the two, obviously, the former makes far more sense.

    But of course there was a third option; and one with which the majority was clearly familiar -- since it's the remedy ordered by the supreme courts in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Having laid out what the state constitution requires, those courts left it to the popular branches to decide how to implement their ruling.

    Doing so wasn't just prudent politically, and a smart recognition that the popular branches have a legitimate role to play here, but was especially justified because of the range of ways to address the constitutional deficiency. Choosing among those ways ought to be left to the popular branches.

    Chief Justice George himself acknowledged on two occasions that opening up marriage to gay couples wasn't the only way of satisfying the constitution. The state could "assign a name other than marriage as the official designation of the formal family relationship for all couples," perhaps in order to "emphasize and clarify that this civil institution is distinct from the religious institution of marriage." Doing so would also be a way to bypass the emotionally freight surrounding the word "marriage," while still treating everyone the same.

    Maybe "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" for all wouldn't fly politically, but maybe the legislative debate itself might reconcile more Californians to the idea that marriage for everyone makes the most sense. But these four justices robbed the public of that debate, as well as the democratic freedom of selecting which constitutionally acceptable form of legal recognition they wanted.

    It's just so unfortunate that the court steered such a clear and, yes, "majestic" course through so many minefields in the first 119 pages of its decision, only to veer off into an abyss in the last three. But now their judicial activism has set two high-speed trains on a crash course: one with clerks handing out marriage licenses to ecstatic gay couples, and the other with enraged conservatives gearing up for a November ballot measure to overturn the court's ruling.

    That's a recipe for more divisiveness of the sort of that has plagued the abortion debate for a quarter-century, and places in grave jeopardy the very fundamental right that the majority sought to vindicate.

    May 15, 2008

    My report on the Calif. decision

    Posted by: Chris

    Lesbiansclerkmarriage NOTE: Here's the first draft of my report on today's California Supreme Court decision. I'll be revising and adding to it later, but it provides a nice summary of the ruling and the dissents, along with reaction and likely impacts.

    The California Supreme Court handed down a landmark victory for gay rights today, ruling on a 4-3 vote that it was unconstitutional for the state to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples only. The impact of the decision will be swift and powerful.

    Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for marriage, meaning that in about 30 days, clerks will issue valid marriage licenses to gay couples from across the state and across the country.

    Three of the four justices in the majority were appointed by Republican governors, including Chief Justice Ronald George, who wrote the 121-page opinion. They struck down a 1977 state law that defines marriage as limited to opposite-sex couples, as well as ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 that reiterated the point.

    “In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation,” wrote Chief Justice George, “and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

    As a result, the majority concluded, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

    The case before the California court was very different from those decided elsewhere because state law already provides for “domestic partnerships” for gay couples that are the equivalent of “civil unions” in the Northeast, guaranteeing essentially all the rights of marriage except for the name. The court decided today that it was unconstitutional to designate the legal union of straight couples “marriage” and that of gay couples “domestic partnerships.”

    For one thing, the majority opined, it’s unnecessary to exclude gay couples from “marriage” to protect all the rights associated with that institution for heterosexual couples. But it does do real harm to gay couples and their families, the justices concluded, because it “casts doubt on whether … same-sex couples enjoy dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples” and “is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationship are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex couples.”

    Even so, the justices left open the door to one alternative approach, suggesting the Legislature could change the name of the institution itself, perhaps to distinguish it from religious marriage, so long as the new name applies to straight and gay couples alike. Like the landmark 2004 ruling by the high court in Massachusetts, today’s decision was based entirely on the state constitution and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The decision also broke ground by being the first by a state supreme court holding that any type of legal classification based on sexual orientation, including separate institutions like marriage and domestic partnership, must be subjected to the same rigorous "strict scrutiny" as classifications based on race and gender. Even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court didn't go so far, holding in its 2004 ruling the exclusion of gays from marriage lacked any "rational basis," a much more lenient standard.

    Court exceeded authority, says dissent

    Three justices dissented from the ruling, all Republican appointees. Writing for two of them, Justice Marvin Baxter said the majority overstepped their authority and should have left the decision of whether gays can marry to the Legislature and governor to decide.

    “Nothing in our [state] Constution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old undestanding of marriage – an understanding recently confirmed [by the ballot measure voters approved in 2000] – is no longer valid.”

    The third dissenter, Justice Carol Corrigan, wrote separately to state her view that the California Constitution requires only that the state offer equal rights and benefits to straight and gay couples. The high courts in Vermont and New Jersey reached conclusions similar to Corrigan’s in their gay marriage decisions, and those states now recognize gay couples with “civil unions” – as do New Hampshire, Connecticut and Washington state.

    Justice Corrigan noted that California domestic partnership already meet that standard and while she personally favors full marriage for gay couples, the issue should be left to the people to decide.

    Although California Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the governor, they are required to win re-election from the voters. All seven current justices have been approved by voters subsequent to their appointment.

    Celebrations followed announcement

    Gays across the state held impromptu and organized celebrations, and among those gleeful at the decision were the legendary lesbian couple Phyllis Lyon, 83 and Del Martin, 87, who were plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits decided today.

    “We have waited more than 50 years for the opportunity to marry,” said Lyon, “We are thrilled that this day has finally come.”

    Shannon Prince Minter, the transgender Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued the case before the court and said, “This is a historic and landmark day for those who value fairness and opportunity. The court’s decision today upheld the highest ideals of equality that are embodied in the California Constitution.”

    Opponents move to delay, overturn ruling

    The conservative groups that had defended the existing definition marriage quickly announced that they would ask the court to delay the implementation of its decision until November, since a ballot proposition that would amend the state’s constitution so as to oveturn today’s ruling may be on the ballot then.

    “It benefits no one to redefine marriage for three to four months,” Folsom attorney Andrew P. Pugno of ProtectMarriage.com told the Sacramento Bee.

    The Secretary of State’s office has not yet certified the petition signatures submitted for the ballot measure, but expect a huge battle for votes if the proposition does go forward.

    One of those who will speak out against changing the constitution is Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed bills that extended marriage to same-sex couples.

    “I respect the Court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling,” he said in a statement. “Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

    Presidential hopefuls tred lightly

    The three remaining presidential candidates all issued cautiously worded statements about today’s decision. None of them supports marriage for gay couples, although Democrat Barack Obama favors full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks federal recognition of marriages entered into by gay couples and allows each state to refuse to recognize them as well.

    Obama reiterated his support for civil unions with full federal recognition as well, and indicated he “respects the court’s decision.”

    New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s views are similar except she supports repealing only the portion of DOMA concerning federal recognition. Her statement mirrored Obama’s but offered no opinion at all about today’s ruling itself.

    The gay marriage issue puts Republican John McCain in a political bind. Social conservatives are angry that he voted against and spoke in opposition to a federal marriage amendment, though his reason was that the issue should be left to the states. One prominent conservative website, Belief.net, argued that the California decision offered McCain “an opportunity to make common cause with the Christian Right,” by reversing his position on a federal amendment.

    McCain’s position on the amendment has Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group, optimistic about him as the party’s nominee, but his campaign reaction steered clear of the issue.

    “John McCain supports the right of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution sanctioning the union between a man and a woman, just as he did in his home state of Arizona,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds. “John McCain doesn’t believe judges should be making these decisions.”

    Bounds’ reference to Arizona was McCain’s vocal support for a ballot measure two years ago that would have amended the state’s constitution to ban not only gay marriage but civil unions and even limited domestic partnerships as well. The amendment remains the only gay marriage ban ever rejected by voters.

    The marriage ban expected on the November ballot in California, along with another in the crucial swing state of Florida, may offer the McCain and Republicans with a vehicle to motivate turnout among dispirited conservatives, much as President Bush and his chief strategist Karl Rove used the issue as a “wedge” in Ohio and other states in 2004.

    (Photo of lesbian couples in San Francisco City Hall today, making appointments for marriage licenses, via Associated Press)

    California gay marriage reax

    Posted by: Chris

    Last updated: Friday May 16, 3:09 a.m. ET

    Gay_marriage_la113Reaction has run the gamut to today's landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court decision ordering the state to marry same-sex couples. From a strongly supportive statement by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to somewhat surprisingly tepid reactions from the three remaining presidential candidates. This post will be continuosly updated, so check back for more.
    For analysis of the opinion itself, click here).

    *   The photo above, including my pal Robin Tyler (in black) and her partner (soon to be wife!) Robin Olson and other victorious plaintiffs in the California lawsuit (as well as the Gavin Newsom photo, below), is among those compiled by Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald.

    "Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law," AP reports Robin as saying. "We're going to get married. No Tupperware, please."


    *    Go Arnold!

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement immediately after the opinion was issued saying he would uphold the ruling.

    "I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling," he added.

    Contrast this with Mitt Romney, then-governor of Massachusetts. The California governor deserves real credit here.

    *    Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for marriage, so same-sex couples from across the country can go west, get married, and return home to legal limbo.

    *    The high court's ruling will be effective in 30 days, so unless there's some intervening order, marriage licenses should be available for same-sex couples at that time. Expect huge media attention (of the good kind, may I add, since I think it's always good to show real gay couples joyful at the prospect of marrying).

    *    Expect gay marriage opponents to ask the court to postpone the effective date of its order until after November, so that they can put the question to voters:

    "It benefits no one to redefine marriage for three to four months," said Folsom attorney Andrew P. Pugno of ProtectMarriage.com, who said he would seek a stay while pursuing an initiative to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

    *    Barack Obama campaign statement (Via Politico), represents real progress John Kerry, the party's nominee in 2004, who threw his support behind state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage (a position Kerry himself has now abandoned):

    Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president. He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage.

    *    Nothing yet from John McCain, but remember he's on record opposing a federal marriage amendment as antithetical to Republican values -- not because it's anti-gay, mind you, but because it violates states' rights. He has hinted of late, however, that he might support a federal amendment if judges in more states push the gay marriage button. He already supports state-level constitutional amendments that either preempt or overturn judicial rulings like today's in California.

    *    Click on the jump to this post for a peak at an ad featuring McCain in 2006 backing an Arizona ballot measure that would have amended that state's constitution by banning not just gay marriage but civil unions and even domestic partnerships. This extreme measure supported by McCain is the only one ever nationwide to be rejected by voters.

    *    A statement from McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, very mild considering his Arizona history (above):

    John McCain supports the right of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution sanctioning the union between a man and a woman, just as he did in his home state of Arizona. John McCain doesn’t believe judges should be making these decisions.

    *    This in from Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic Party:

    The Supreme Court of California today took a step forward in the long march toward protecting equal rights under the law for every American. This should not be a matter of politics or partisanship; it is a matter of protecting the rights and dignity of all American families.

    Dean has come a long way, baby, since going on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" and reassuring viewers that Democrats opposed gay marriage. The former Vermont governor said recently (in his deposition in a lawsuit claiming gay bias in his firing of a party staffer) that he now personally supports gay marriage.

    *   Gay activist-blogger Michael Petrelis, reacting to Howard Dean (above), is "damn pissed the Donkey Party failed to say the word gay once" in its statement. Point well taken, Michael, but you're always damn pissed, right?

    *    From the victors:

    "This is a historic and landmark day for those who value fairness and opportunity," said Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who argued the case on behalf of 14 same-sex couples and two organizations, Equality California and Our Family Coalition. "The court's decision today upheld the highest ideals of equality that are embodied in the California Constitution."

    "There is no more important and deeply personal decision than whether to take on the commitment of marriage," he added. "With today's ruling, the California Supreme Court declared that lesbians and gay men have an equal right to make that cherished commitment."

    For you LGBT kumbayah'ers out there, I'll note that longtime legal advocate Shannon Minter wasn't always a "he," meaning this tremendous victory for "GLB" rights was argued by a "T."

    *    Legendary lesbians Phyllis Lyon, 83, and Del Martin, 87, were among the plaintiffs who won today in California and even received special notice in the majority opinion:

    "We have waited more than 50 years for the opportunity to marry," said Phyllis Lyon, on behalf of herself and Del Martin, who are plaintiffs in the case. Lyon, 83, and Martin, 87, have been together 56 years. "We are thrilled that this day has finally come."

    *    Former GOP Congressman Bob Barr, author of the Defense of Marriage Act and recently-announced Libertarian candidate for president, has a hands-off reactions likely to please those he's now courting:

    Regardless of whether one supports or opposes same sex marriage, the decision to recognize such unions or not ought to be a power each state exercises on its own, rather than imposition of a one-size-fits-all mandate by the federal government (as would be required by a Federal Marriage Amendment which has been previously proposed and considered by the Congress). The decision today by the Supreme Court of California properly reflects this fundamental principle of federalism on which our nation was founded.

    For the record, I'm not buying this "new and improved" Barr. His DOMA went far beyond simply "ensur[ing] that each state remained free to determine for its citizens the basis on which marriage would be recognized within its borders, and not be forced to adopt a definition of marriage contrary to its views by another state," as he claimed in today's statement. First of all, the U.S. Constitution already does that in the Full Faith & Credit Clause (or doesn't, as the case may be), so a federal statute doesn't change that reality. But DOMA did go much further, prohibiting any federal recognition for those states that do decide to marry same-sex couples. Where is the respect for states' rights there? It's bullshit, just like Bob Barr.

    *   Conservative Christians are already goading McCain to use the California ruling as his justification for reversing position on a federal marriage amendment:

    If John McCain wanted an opportunity to make common cause with the Christian Right, he's just been handed it: the California Supreme Court's decision to overturn the state's gay marriage ban. One of the Christian Right's biggest grievances against McCain is his steadfast refusal to get behind a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. This is a moment when McCain can reverse that opposition and make a plausible case that circumstance, rather than raw political calculus, forced his hand.

    Given McCain's tepid response so far (above), the Christian right may well be further alienated. I predict it will take about a campaign nano-second for strategists at the Straight Talk Express to realize the California ballot measure (along with another expected in the key swing state of Florida) are like gifts from Karl Rove to drum up dispirited conservative turnout.

    *   Now this in from Hillary Clinton (h/t: Queerty):

    Hillary Clinton believes that gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans and believes that civil unions are the best way to achieve this goal.

    As president, Hillary Clinton will work to ensure that same sex couples have access to these rights and responsibilities at the federal level. She has said and continues to believe that the issue of marriage should be left to the states.

    She mostly follows the same wary line as Obama, with the one important difference that she manages to make any explicit reference to the California ruling itself. At least Obama said he "respects the decision." Heck, even Arnold said that! But not our gay rights champion, Hillary.

    Gavinnewsomsctreax *    San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had been earlier rebuffed politically and by the state's Supreme Court for ordering his city clerk to marry gay couples in February 2004, is now vindicated by today's decision, which agrees with him that state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional:

    As San Franciscans, we have taken an irrevocable step toward resolving one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation, and the state's highest court has done the right thing with their ruling.

    San Francisco is the first government entity in American history to challenge the constitutionality of state marriage laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. I believe that the path San Francisco pursued was not merely right – it was inevitable. It is America’s path – the road to true freedom and equality.

    *    Familiar "shock and appall" from the anti-gay Concerned Women for America:

    Today the California Supreme Court imposed, through judicial fiat, so-called "same-sex marriage" on Californians, thus totally disregarding the sanctity of marriage and the will of the people.

    A few nits with that statement. The court didn't create "so-called 'same-sex marriage,'" it ruled that gay and straight couples should be treated equally under the same institution. If Californians want to limit the word "marriage" to a religious context, they can (and should, in my view) enact "civil unions" or "civil partnerships" for gay and straight couples alike. The state just can't create one water fountain for the whites and another for the coloreds, even if the water tastes the same.

    *    The venom from Matt Barber, the CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues, was particularly poisonous:

    So-called 'same-sex marriage' is a ridiculous and oxymoronic notion that has been forced into popular lexicon by homosexual activists and their extremist left-wing allies.

    If people who engage in homosexual behavior want to dress up and play house, that's their prerogative, but we shouldn't destroy the institutions of legitimate marriage and family in order to help facilitate a counterfeit.

    Anyone wondering whether those opposing marriage for gays are actually motivated by hate, and a desire to treat us as second-class citizens, need look no further than Barber's statement for proof.

    *    President Bush, who responded to the 2004 Massachusetts decision by throwing his support behind a federal marriage amendment, reacted similarly to the outcome in California:

    “President Bush has always believed marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman,” said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary. “Today’s decision by the California Supreme Court illustrates that a federal constitutional amendment is the best way for the people to decide what marriage means.”

    *    VoteYesMarriage.com, the oxymoronically named group that wants to overturn the California decision, chose to fear-monger instead. "This is what the California Supreme Court has said: Children have a new role model — homosexual marriage, aspire to it," said the group's Randy Thomasson. "This is a disaster."

    *    Gay Republicans appear split in their reaction. Patrick Sammon, who heads up Log Cabin Republicans,  defended the decision. "This ruling is a conservative one. The justices have ensured that the law treats all Californians fairly and equally. Two people in a loving and committed relationship deserve the support and dignity that come with marriage."

    B. Daniel Platt, better known as Gay Patriot West for those who know the GayPatriot blog, was less complimentary:

    To some degree, I am grateful that this issue has received the attention it is getting, but I’m also troubled by the decision. To be sure, the court makes some valuable arguments about the merits of recognizing same-sex unions, but I believe those arguments should be made to the citizens of the Golden State, 62% of whom voted in 2000 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. …

    It’s not just the court’s bypassing the people’s will that troubles me, it’s also some things the court said about marriage. The court refuses to rely upon the “historical” understanding of marriage, noting that “prohibitions on interracial marriage” are also part of the historical record. What it neglects to mention is that those laws were statutory creations, while the historical understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman goes back for millennia.

    Continue reading»

    The California ruling's 'money quote'

    Posted by: Andoni

    Califgaymarriagereax Here's the "money quote" (as Andrew Sullivan would say), from today's California Supreme Court decision on marriage:

    Furthermore, in contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation—like a person’s race or gender—does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

    My partner and I are in Hawaii. When I watched the news on TV, I began to cry. Finally a court clearly, succinctly, and oh so beautifully recognizes our equality.

    (Photo of reaction outside San Francisco courthouse via Associated Press)

    If Log Cabin didn't exist...

    Posted by: Kevin

    ...this would not have happened:

    Any questions?

    Calif. supremes order gay marriage now

    Posted by: Chris


    NOTE: This post includes analysis of the court opinion itself. For reactions to the ruling, click here.

    So much for splitting the baby. The California Supreme Court by a 4-3 vote struck down Proposition 22, passed in 2000, that defined marriage for opposite-sex only, and basically ordered clerks across the state to start marrying gay couples. Three of the four justices in the majority were appointed by Republican governors, including Chief Justice Ronald George, who wrote the opinion.

    Their decision did not offer the Legislature or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the opportunity to change the law in accordance with their ruling, in the way the high courts in Vermont and New Jersey did:

    Accordingly, in light of the conclusions we reach concerning the constitutional questions brought to us for resolution, we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union "between a man and a woman" is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 [Proposition 22] can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand.

    Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court.  Further, as the prevailing parties, plaintiffs are entitled to their costs.

    Full opinion here.

    More initial observations:

    *    The majority pointed out that since the state's domestic partner law includes all the rights and responsibilities of marriage except the name, then really the only question before the court was whether it's constitutional to reserve the name itself to opposite-sex couples.

    *    Even though marriage becomes open to everyone with this decision, the majority did leave open "whether the name 'marriage' is invariably a core element of the state constitutional right to marry so that the state would violate a couple's constitutional right even if -- perhaps in order to emphasize and clarify that this civil institution is distinct from the religious institution of marriage -- the state were to assign a name other than marriage as the official designation of the formal family relationship for all couples."

    That was the wiggle room I had hoped for in my post earlier today, allowing the Legislature to compromise if it wants and call the institution some other name -- "civil unions" or "civil partnerships" -- if the pushback on "marriage" is too strong.

    Ronaldgeorge*    Chief Justice George (pictured) also wrote on behalf of the majority that the state appeals court was wrong in refusing to apply a rigorous "strict scrutiny" to whether the state was justified in treating couples differently based upon their sexual orientation. The appeals court had said the exclusion of gays from marriage need only have a "rational basis."

    That's a big victory since most courts have (inexplicably) concluded that sexual orientation, unlike race or gender or other classifications, isn't the type of official discrimination that courts should take seriously. Those other courts -- even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- have said that a law that discriminates against gays need only have a "rational basis" to pass constitutional muster.

    "Strict scrutiny" means the state must have a "compelling interest" for treating gays differently and its classification must be "necessary" to serve that interest.

    *    Applying "strict scrutiny," the majority reaches four conclusions:

    1. Excluding gay couples from marriage isn't necessary to  preserve all the rights of marriage for opposite-sex couples.
    2. Using "marriage" for straight couples and something else for gay couples "is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples."
    3. Given the history of anti-gay disparagement, separate designations is "likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature."
    4. Separate institutions for gay and straight couples perpetuates the notion that gays are "second-class citizens."

    *    The majority rejected the argument by the gay plaintiffs that Proposition 22 -- the ballot measure passed in 2000 that reads, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California" -- only applies to out-of-state marriages by gay couples and not those in California itself. That finding is important because it means the two gay marriage laws passed by the Legislature (though vetoed by Schwarzenegger) -- would have had to be submitted to voters to take effect.

    The other reason that interpretation is important is the new ballot measure, which would amend the California Constitution, uses the same language -- meaning it would overturn the court's opinion today if the Secretary of State validates the petition signatures already submitted and voters approve it in November.

    *    The majority also rejected the Court of Appeals decision below, which had argued rather circularly that the plaintiffs sought not a "fundamental right to marry," which all agree exists, but "a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.'" That sort of circular reasoning dates back to the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous decision in Bowers vs. Hardwick that there's no "fundamental right to sodomy." The Court in Lawrence vs. Texas rejected that offensive claim, accepting that gays sought the fundamental right to sexual intimacy with the partner of their choosing.

    The California court majority noted that history and concluded similarly:

    The right to marry represents the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one's choice, and, as such, is of fundamental significance both to society and to the individual. …

    In light of the fundamental nature of the substantive rights embodied in the right to marry -- and their central importance to an individual's opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society -- the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all individuals and couples, without regard to their sexual orientation.

    The majority also dispensed nicely with the reasoning relied upon recently by other state supreme courts rejecting gay marriage challenges, including in New York and Washington state. Those courts claimed that limiting marriage to straight couples was reasonably related to the goal of "responsible procreation," meaning that heterosexual couples can accidentally have children so society is better off encouraging them to marry so the unexpected babies are raised in established homes. Gay couples, it's been noted, can't have accidental children, so excluding them is justified. The California in effect noted the novelty of this defense of hetero-only marriage betrayed it as a pretext:

    None of the past cases discussing the right to marry -- and identifying that right as one of the fundamental elements of personal autonomy and liberty protected by our Constitution, contains any suggestion that the constitutional right to marry is posssessed only by individuals who are at risk of producing children accidentally, or implies that this constitutional right is not equally important for and guaranteed to responsible individuals who can be counted upon to take appropriate precautions in planning for parenthood.


    *    Three justices dissented from the ruling, all Republican appointees. Writing for two of them, Justice Marvin Baxter said the majority overstepped their authority and should have left the decision of whether gays can marry to the Legislature and governor to decide:

    Nothing in our [state] Constution, express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old undestanding of marriage – an understanding recently confirmed [by the ballot measure voters approved in 2000] – is no longer valid. California statutes already recognize same-sex unions and grant them all the substantive legal rights this state can bestow. If there is to be a further sea-change in the social and legal understanding of marriage itself, that evolution should occur by similar democratic means. The majority forecloses this ordinary democratic process, and, in doing so, oversteps its authority.

    *    The third dissenter, Justice Carol Corrigan, wrote separately to state her view that the California Constitution requires only that the state offer equal rights and benefits to straight and gay couples. The high courts in Vermont and New Jersey reached conclusions similar to Corrigan’s in their gay marriage decisions, and those states now recognize gay couples with “civil unions” – as do New Hampshire, Connecticut and Washington state. She added, on a more personal note:

    In my view, Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the [state] Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the [state] Constitution does not. Therefore, I must dissent.

    California here we come

    Posted by: Chris

    Califsct I noted late Tuesday that the California Supreme Court will issue its long-awaited decision later today on gay marriage, and -- as Andoni pointed out earlier -- the impact will likely be huge.

    I've been closely following lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of hetero-only marriage laws since the mid-90s, when the Hawaii and Alaska high courts were set to strike them down until the voters preempted them with amendments to the constitutions in those states.

    Since those early days, it's been crystal clear to me that laws that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples are unconstitutional -- on federal and state grounds -- based on the same principles of equality under the law established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia, the landmark 1967 case striking down laws limiting marriage to those of the same race. In a decade of subsequent litigation, conservatives have yet to offer any convincing state interest for excluding same-sex couples from such a fundamental right as the freedom to marry. Whatever justifications they offer -- child-bearing, child-rearing, "traditional values," etc. -- either make no logical sense or boil down to moral disapproval of homosexuality, which is invidious and unconstitutional discrimination.

    All that said, we cannot blind ourselves to the horrific backlash on gay marriage in the last decade. Dozens of states have written gay marriage bans into their constitutions and for a while there was a genuine risk that the Congress might do so as well. That's unthinkable since the Democrats took over the House and Senate and will solidify their control in November. But already in California, conservatives are perilously close to putting an amendment initiative on the ballot that would overrule whatever good the state's high court may do later today.

    That's why, in one of my first posts on this blog, I applauded the attempt by the New Jersey Supreme Court to split the baby: requiring that gay and straight couples be afforded all the same legal rights and responsibilities, but leaving it up to the popularly elected branches to devise exactly how.

    I'm hoping that's what we see later today. The California Supreme Court could strike down the ballot measure passed in 2000 -- Proposition 22 -- which defined marriage in state law as between a man and a woman, but then leave it to the the Legislature to determine how best to define the identical rights to be extended to straight and gay couples alike.

    Unlike New Jersey, which had a weak domestic partnership law, California's D.P. rights are already the equivalent to marriage. But the California court could one-up the New Jersey court and affirm that "separate is never equal." Straight and gay couples are entitled to access the same institution with the same name, whether it's "marriage," "civil unions," "domestic partnerships," or "civil partnerships" like they have in the U.K.

    The California Legislature has already twice passed legislation that would open marriage up to gay couples, only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he wanted to defer to the court ruling expected today. If the Legislature again passes a law opening marriage up to everyone, it'll be in the hands of the Governator. Should he veto, then the only alternative would be to create a new institution, called whatever, for gay and straight couples both.

    My bet is that he would sign the gay marriage law, and that democratic process would give the result more legitimacy than if the court simply rules it so.

    May 14, 2008

    'There is one man...'

    Posted by: Chris

    NOTE: I've updated this post because the more I thought about it, the more I think Edwards' choice of language was not a gender slight, but a subtle hint to Hillaryland and her supporters that his heart isn't in it. Trying to have it both ways, like Edwards has attempted on the Iraq War, gay rights and many other issues over the years.

    EdwardsobamaREVISED POST: Is it just me or was John Edwards' endorsement of Barack Obama either lukewarm or rather tone-deaf toward women? The punch line announcing Edwards' decision repeated four times the line, "There is one man…" and concluded, "That man is Barack Obama":

    There is one man -- there is one man who knows and understands that now is the time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change, that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man that knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two, and that man is Barack Obama.

    Given the other candidate in the Democratic primary is most definitely not a man, is Edwards even saying he believes Obama is better than Hillary Clinton? And if he is, what kind of signal does it send to say Obama is "the man" for the job?

    The message is subtle, but I read this as Edwards chiming in only because the race is over and he's angling for a role in Obama's administration -- probably attorney general. In that sense, the former senator from North Carolina is displaying the same absence of political courage that has been his signature for years.

    Full video of the Edwards endorsement speech here:

    Hillary, time to 'reject and denounce'

    Posted by: Andoni

    Clintonwvorderingcrowley Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton pressured Barack Obama to "reject and denounce" Louis Farrakhan because of his views that most Americans find detestable. The interesting thing is that Farrakhan had simply stated that he supported Obama -- Obama had not asked for Farrakhan’s support. Nonetheless, Obama was forced to “reject and denounce” him.

    Obama repeatedly tried to distance himself from Farrakhan by denouncing Farrakhan’s views, but that wasn’t enough for Hillary Clinton. In the Cleveland debate, she made him publicly reject Farrakhan’s support as well.

    We now learn that a large percentage of Hillary Clinton’s supporters in West Virginia consider race as an important factor in their decision to vote for her. Exit polls show that at least 25% of Hillary’s votes came from people who felt race was important in their vote. The media even quoted Clinton supporters saying they could never vote for a black man.

    Others may quibble, but I consider these people to be racists. I also believe that just like Farrakhan’s views, most Americans find this sort of thinking to be detestable.

    In contrast to Obama's distance from Farrakhan, however, Hillary actively courted the support of these people. She rewarded them with her presence and supportive words, praising their values and calling them good, hard-working Americans. I wonder, knowing what we know now about so many of her supporters from the exits polls, are they really good Americans? In my opinion, there is not a substantial difference between them and those hard working “good Germans” in the 1930s with their detestable views of racial superiority. Today we actively condemn those good people as well as the politicians who used those people to gain political power.

    I believe Hillary knew very well the views of many of her West Virginia supporters. Still, she actively courted these people. This puts her in a category far more deplorable than Obama, who by chance got the support of Farrakhan.

    This is a year where the pundits, media, and candidates have tainted candidates by association -– however loose and casual. This happened to Obama with respect to Farrakhan, and it was Hillary who pressured him to reject Farrakhan’s support because of his views. It's only fair to apply the same standards of association to Hillary herself, especially since she actively courted the support of people with these views.

    Personally, I don’t think guilt by association is a valid campaign issue, but to give Hillary equal treatment as well as some of the same flak she gave Barack, I have a question for her: 

    "Senator Clinton, it’s been demonstrated that a lot of your West Virginia supporters are racists. The American people overwhelmingly find these views abhorrent. Will you now publicly denounce the views of these people as well as reject their support for you?"

    (Photo of Hillary Clinton campaigning in West Virginia via New York Times)

    May 13, 2008

    Big news Thursday morning?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: The California Supreme Court has now confirmed that its decision on gay marriage will be released tomorrow at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT). Hold on tight, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

    To update Don's post from earlier this week on the all-out war over gay marriage expected in California, that state's Supreme Court will announce a new round of decisions on Thursday morning (10 a.m. PDT, 1 p.m. EDT). My understanding is that the marriage decision is expected in the the next several weeks and that the court announces rulings on a weekly basis each Thursday. Rumor has run rampant that the gay marriage decision is imminent.

    Lambda Legal is already planning its reaction, whether the news be good or bad:

    The California Supreme Court is nearing a decision that will affect all of our lives.

    As we're sure you're aware, the California Supreme Court is preparing to issue a ruling on marriage that will change our lives and the course of our fight for full equality for years to come.  Sometime within the next few weeks, the justices will decide whether California's thousands of gay and lesbian families should have the same rights and benefits through civil marriage as their straight friends, family members and neighbors. The ruling will have national implications and will attract international attention.  Bring your convictions and a Californian flag.

    Come join us -- tell your friends to join us -- at 7:00 the evening the ruling is announced, to find out directly from community leaders what the decision -- whatever it is -- means to you, and what happens next.

    WHEN:  At 7:00 the night of the decision, win or lose

    WHERE:  At the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevards

    For more information contact Jason Howe at Lambda Legal:  (213)382-7600, ext. 247

    Via Rex Wockner

    Dissecting West Virginia

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm not a snob. Really. I'm originally from Arkansas, after all, so I've felt the brunt of redneck jokes and the like.  But now that Barack Obama has a mathematical lock on the nomination, it seems a bit silly for CNN's Bill Schneider to dissect the exit poll data from the Mountain State as if it were Iowa or New Hampshire (or even North Carolina or Indiana).

    Up till now, Schneider has come up with only one data point from West Virginia that speaks to me:

    Is Barack Obama's former pastor still an issue for voters? We asked West Virginia Democrats whether they think Barack Obama shares the views of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    Just over 50 percent say Obama does share Wright's controversial views while 47 percent say he does not.

    Whatever you think about Obama's judgment remaining in Wright's congregation, etc., to believe he shares Wright's twisted values requires actual malevolence toward the Illinois senator -- or, more likely, a sense that "those people" are all alike.

    One other West Virginia nugged, this via Politico's Ben Smith:

    "I'm going to vote for the colored guy," said Henry Ford -- "no, not that Henry Ford," the 87-year old retired carpenter in the Napa Auto Parts hat pointed out. "I don't dislike her, but I don't think a woman can be president of the United States. I don't think she can handle the job."

    Even Borat couldn't have said it better.

    Saturday Night Live - Appalachian Emergency Room

    'Anatomy' does 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

    Posted by: Chris

    "Grey's Anatomy" has become one of my iTunes "season pass" picks, after I just couldn't wait the 6 to 8 months for the show to show up with subtitles down here in Brazil. I've been a fan since the show's premiere, just for the range of characters and heart-tugging storylines.

    A recent episode featuring a gay soldier and his platoon boyfriend was no exception. Enjoy the clip from YouTube while it lasts:

    Hat tip: My pal Steve in D.C.; also David Mixner.

    Speaking of possible running mates…

    Posted by: Chris

    Tedstricklandfrances Among the names being floated as possible VP picks for Barack Obama is Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who offers several potential advantages:

    1. As a fervid Hillary Clinton supporter (he's even still insisting the race isn't over), he could help unite the party.
    2. He could deliver Ohio, among the key general election, swing states. He certainly proved the potency of his political machine in the state's primary.
    3. He's a moderate (even earning an "A" from the National Rifle Association).
    4. As a former congressman and now a governor, he offers some gravitas and experience of the type Dick Cheney provided for George W. Bush; though let's hope the analogy ends there.

    Strickland also has some rather far-fetched gay rumors trailing him. For one, he only married in his 40s, and despite being one of nine children has none of his own. During his campaign in 2006 to unseat Republican Gov. Ken Blackwell, right-wing talk show hosts honed in on a 1998 trip he took to Italy alone with his then-26-year-old campaign manager. It seems his traveling companion had been arrested several years earlier for exposing himself to a child.

    Never mind that there's no link whatsoever between homosexuality and sexual misconduct with children, or that the child in question was a nine-year-old girl. It's all damning evidence of sexual perversity for those who want to believe it.

    I doubt the rumors harm Strickland's chances of being picked by Obama; unlike, say, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as a possible veep for John McCain. Strickland also kept a generally good record on gay issues as a congressman, though he didn't sign up as a co-sponsor for the Permanent Partners Immigration Act -- the pre-cursor to the Uniting American Families Act. Then again, neither has Obama, though he's on record supporting its passage.

    As governor, he signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, though he disappointed activists by exempting insurance and other benefits. He also appointed the state's first out lesbian judge.

    Even so, Strickland doesn't offer much in the way of foreign policy experience, something Obama could use on his ticket. I still say New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson would be far and away the best choice.

    (Photo of Frances and Ted Strickland via AP)

    A little lesbian humor…

    Posted by: Chris

    Timpawlenty … from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who's regularly named as a possible runningmate for John McCain:

    "I have a wife who genuinely loves to fish. I mean, she will take the lead and ask me to go out fishing, and joyfully comes here," the governor said before adding, "She loves football, she'll go to hockey games and, I jokingly say, 'Now, if I could only get her to have sex with me.'"

    The governor quickly clarified, "It's a joke, it's a joke."

    Nothing particularly racy there, but it's unlikely that social conservatives, already cool to McCain, will find it very funny.

    Via TNR, via Politico, via WCCO.com.

    May 12, 2008

    GNW 5: Hypocrisy worth talking about

    Posted by: Chris

    The item No. 2 below about conservative Republican Congressman Vito Fossella represents a type of hypocrisy on gay issues really worth talking about.  It lacks the lurid sexual details of stories about sexual hypocrisy that so animate the gay blogosphere. But it's so much more telling to me that this man, who has virulently opposed anything that smacks of gay rights and treated his own sister so hatefully, was violating all his own rules in his own life. 

    We can only hope he defies party elders and runs for re-election. Either voters will send him packing, opening the door for a (hopefully more moderate) Democrat, or he'll be sent back to Washington, devoid of any pretense of moral authority.

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    5. Pro-life MPs threaten limits access to in-vitro in U.K.Pro-life MPs threaten to limit access to in-vitro in U.K.: QUICK LOOK: Single women and lesbian couples could lose the right to have in-vitro fertilisation treatments if pro-life MPs succeed in their bid to hijack the Human Fertilisation... (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.

    May 11, 2008

    Coming soon, the mother of all battles

    Posted by: Andoni

    UPDATE: Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, notes that the California ballot measure is actually sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and its California arm.


    “I think there is a good chance we are about to face what could well be the single most important battle we have ever seen in the LGBT rights movement.”

    That’s how Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project describes the epic battle we will face should the California Supreme Court decide in our favor on the same sex marriage case later this month. This major conflict will result from the confluence of two events:

    1. The California Supreme Court strikes down state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
    2. Almost simultaneously, voters will weigh in on a ballot initiative sponsored by VoteYesMarriage.com to amend the state's constitution to outlaw same sex marriage -- undoing the Supreme Court decision.

    Many astute observers think there is a very good chance the court will approve gay marriage. Matt was initially concerned about our chances, but after hearing the oral arguments and weighing the justices’ reactions, Matt is now cautiously optimistic. You can listen to the oral arguments  and decide for yourself if there is a good chance we’ll win.

    It appears that VoteYesMarriage.com has collected enough signatures to place on the November ballot the amendment to negate the court’s decision, but we won’t know for sure until June, after the signatures have been authenticated.

    A victory for gay marriage in the California Supreme Court would be an earth-shaking event because:

    1. The California Supreme Court is one of the most respected in the country. The New York Times recently ran a story saying it is easily the most influential state court in the country. If we win in California, things will be quite favorable for us in other states going forward on this issue. The California Supreme Court was most instrumental in ending this nation's anti-miscegenation laws by ruling them unconstitutional in 1948 and the rest of the nation soon followed. Let's hope a same sex marriage ruling follows a similar trajectory.
    2. California alone represents the 8th largest economy in the world and over 12% of the U.S. population. In short, what happens in California has tremendous influence economically, politically, socially and culturally. California has a long history of starting new ideas in the United States.

    Our opponents know all this, so it will be a do-or-die situation for them. They will want to punish the court if they rule our way to send a message to other state courts not to do the same. If they lose the ballot initiative in California, they know the same sex marriage war is all but over.

    Our side knows that if we sustain a court victory by the people in a ballot initiative, it will be a short time before gay rights victories spread across the country. So in a sense, the California battle will as crucial as the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Both sides will throw everything they have at it because they know that the ultimate outcome of the gay rights war will turn on this battle.

    Matt told me he sees the California battle this way:

    If we win the case and the initiative qualifies, we’ll be in the largest, most expensive, highest stakes political fight we’ve ever seen or are ever likely to see.  Our opponents will understand that if they lose, and the voters in effect ratify the court’s decision, their fight against marriage in America will ultimately be unwinnable. They’ll put everything they have into the election.

    So get ready for World War-like battle for gay rights that we have no choice but to fight as if our lives depended on it. Certainly our future does. It will involve the LGBT community throughout the nation. We can argue about whether marriage was the right issue at the right time. But we’re here now, and we have no choice but to fight as hard as we can. This isn’t just about marriage -- it's about ending legal discrimination against gay people on any issue you can think of.

    Matt sums it up:

    The prospect of a ballot initiative is scary. But we have no choice but to face it. And in facing it, we should keep one thing in mind. A win at the California Supreme Court, confirmed by the voters, followed up with a smart strategy building on the wins and persuading the public, would put in our grasp an end to legal discrimination (against gays) in less than a generation.

    May 08, 2008

    Don't cry for her, Democratic Party

    Posted by: Kevin

    Clintonx_2The festering Clinton boil is finally being lanced within the Democratic Party, at least for this election cycle.  It's a tremendous bit of luck not only for the party -- despite its idiotic blindness to this fact.  It's a relief for the country, given the brand of politics that this couple would practice if it regained control of both the party and Washington.

    I haven't written much since Hillary Clinton entered the fatal win-at-all-costs phase of her doomed presidential campaign a couple months ago, frankly because there wasn't much more to say.  The ship would inevitably sink, it was just a matter of whether enough of the remaining idiots in her camp would get into the lifeboats and save themselves in time from the wake of her titanic disaster.

    A lot of tripe is thrown around about gay Republicans in the gay media, and has been for over a decade.  But not enough has been written about the toxic impact that Clintonism has wrought on the gay community and its political leadership.  The cravenness of it, the poisonous combination of raising hopes with glistening promises, and dashing them at the first sign of political risk -- all the while shifting the blame to others -- has done more to destroy what was once a potentially powerful movement than anything a small band of hapless, closeted gay Republicans on Capitol Hill (now "cleansed" for the most part) could ever have done.

    And if the rich content of her presidential campaign was any indication, Hillary Clinton would have been even worse for us as president than her husband.  Unlike him, she didn't have the touch when it came to using the charming lie on gay rights.  She speaks in half-tones, half-measures and platitudes with little heart in it, and made it fairly clear by the way her campaign did gay outreach that it was all about hack-o-rama appointments and personal ambition within the gay political community.  Basically -- get on board, or be cut out.  Very Karl Rove, and very lethal for those who sign up for it.  I can attest to that personally, as can nearly every Republican of every stripe in politics right now.

    Indeed, her brand of politics seems to have divided the gay Democratic camp into two clear factions -- those who envy the Republicans so much that they want to emulate them (all the while bashing and personally destroying gay Republicans, interestingly enough, to cover their own shame), and those who are fed up with calculation and ruthlessness in politics that they are willing to try almost anything that is new and different.  (A third, unregistered group simply has walked away and taken up new interests in frustration.)

    From my vantage point here in South America, it is amazing how parallel the Clintons are to the political couple that is running Argentina at the moment -- Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.  He was president last, and now she's president, while he is about to take the chairmanship of the main Peronist party.  They, too, rail at big business, count on labor unions and blue-collar workers as their base, and spin all sorts of webs to scapegoat, capture and destroy all political opponents, from inside their movement or outside it.  They, too, deflect any and all blame for their policies that do harm, and refuse to even acknowledge reality at most junctures.  (Sound familiar?)  They came from a backwater province in the south of the country, which Néstor ran as governor, and Cristina launched her own presidential campaign last year from a Senate perch she'd recently captured outside Buenos Aires city.  But Argentina is sinking into, perhaps, its worst social, economic and political crisis since the nervous breakdown it suffered in 2001 -- completely at the hands of this self-obsessed, knuckle-breaking political machine government that the Kirchners are running.  And Cristina, pig-headed to the end (The Economist says she lives "in the land of make-believe") is mobilizing unions to beat down protesters in the name of fighting big business.  The galloping 25% inflation rate is something she blames on "greedy rich corporate owners" who won't voluntarily lower prices, raise wages, and pay for it all out of their profits.  (It has nothing to do with her, of course, nor market economics.)   She answers the new crisis with gimmicks (hello, gas tax holiday?) and populist rhetoric, not because she's incompetent.  It's because the entire raison d'etre of Peronism - like it's North American cousin in Clintonism - is to win at all costs.  To say anything, do anything, blame anyone, and never surrender to win out in the end, at the expense of anyone outside the walls of their marital union.  Over the last half-century, it has destroyed a once powerful country, probably for good.

    Ask any gay Hillary supporter to say, in plain words, exactly why Hillary would be best for the country.  You will never -- I repeat, never -- get anything in response but platitudes mixed with venomous stabs at either Obama or the GOP or both.  ¡Que peronista!  And all her most prominent gay defenders are lifetime gay Democratic hacks simply hoping for a job.  Period.  They defend the Clintons in the face of the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and stand ready to defend them again to the teeth -- and the do-nothing Democratic Congress, and the "fight-on-the-ice" DNC -- should four or eight years pass without any movement on either under their watch.  ("It wasn't the {lying, hypocritical} president's fault! It was [insert blame here]!") They are the worst detritus of the Bill Clinton era of gay Washington, and would bring a sense of blind loyalty to power more dangerous and insidious than the paradoxical, circus-freak brand that has been trotted out in hit pieces on gay Republicans who still love George W. Bush.  Because it would have the air of respectability, and could not dare be questioned without reprisal.

    So breathe easy, gay Democrats.  Hillary is finally being shoved out the door by the length and breadth of the selfishness she represents.  Whether it's soon, or after the inevitable rejection of her 900th attempt at game-changing party rules on May 31st (nuevamente peronista), it's been in the cards since February. 

    Whether you realize it or not, it's good for you.  Embrace it.  And get back to work in making your party something other than a gigantic waste of money, hope and effort.

    May 07, 2008

    Stay in, Hillary

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Marc Ambinder offers seven reasons for Clinton to stay in the race. No. 2 and No. 7 are similar to the points I make here; No. 3 and No. 5 make good additional arguments; No. 1 and No. 4 made me vomit a bit inside my mouth.

    Also, Ben Smith reports that Clinton stayed positive in her West Virginia appearance today. Know hope?

    Hillaryclintonindiana After Barack Obama's impressive victory margin last night in North Carolina and a near-win in Indiana, it seems almost everyone not residing in Hillaryland has concluded the Democratic presidential race is over. I will even admit mild surprise (shame on me) when I read the Clinton campaign claimed today there had been "no discussions" about her dropping out, despite the prohibitive delegate math.

    Late last night I actually thought Hillary might drop out, especially when Tim Russert (who flatly declared the race done in his view) reported that she had canceled morning talk show appearances so she could huddle with advisers. I was surprised by my reaction to that possibility, which was much more relief than glee. My reservoir of goodwill for the Clintons was sapped weeks ago by their duplicitous, scorched-earth campaign to build her up by tearing him down -- especially given her odds of success were already so long.

    But I also know her candidacy has been as important and inspirational for many of her supporters as Obama's has been to his. Whenever this "long slow bataan march," as Jon Stewart called it, finally comes to an end, one side or the other -- ok, we know which side at this point -- is going to be deeply disappointed. Whatever I think about the Clinton campaign, and it isn't much, I respect the impact a loss is going to have.

    The other reaction that surprised me is that, now that the nomination is a lock for Obama, I don't really see the urgency for Clinton to quit the race. Obama will have sown up the pledged delegate majority by May 20, after the Oregon primary, and the superdelegates should follow in short order.

    There is a big "if" to that sentiment, however. If Hillary could manage to stay on a largely positive message like the one she delivered last night in Indiana, she could run out the clock with dignity in much the same way that Mike Huckabee did on the GOP side. She would still preserve the possibility of an Obama meltdown, lobby behind the scenes to seat Florida and Michigan, and make all the fear-based, subtly racist, overtly classist arguments she wants in private to the superdelegates.

    But she would have to step back from the onslaught of negative advertising and speechifying that paints Obama as an elitist Dukakis clone out of touch with average Joe. Otherwise she's establishing once and for all that she places her own ambition and sense of entitlement outweigh the good of her party or the very common folk she talks so often about wanting to help.

    Yeah, I know, there's about as much chance of that happening as Hillary pulling out the nomination.

    (Photo of Hillary Clinton giving Indiana victory speech via New York Times)

    Couldn't happen to a nicer…

    Posted by: Chris

    … right-wing ideologue.

    Blochscottlarge Scott Bloch, a Bush appointee who heads up the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, made headlines a few years back when he decided unilaterally to ignore the executive order put in place by Bill Clinton that protects federal employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Even a surprising White House rebuke did not deter him from abandoning his responsibility. (More background here.)

    Now this darling of Christian conservatives is in some deep doo-doo:

    Nearly two dozen federal agents yesterday raided the Washington headquarters of the agency that protects government whistle-blowers, as part of an intensifying criminal investigation of its leader, who is fighting allegations of improper political bias and obstruction of justice.

    Agents fanned out yesterday morning in the agency's building on M Street, where they sequestered Office of Special Counsel chief Scott J. Birch for questioning, served grand-jury subpoenas on 17 employees and shut down access to computer networks in a search lasting more than five hours.

    May 06, 2008

    A nonsensical non-endorsement from HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Kay Hagan won today's North Carolina Democratic primary by a landslide, taking 61% of the vote to Jim Neal's 20%. Keep in mind there were five candidates in the race and Neal placed second, but still it was a blowout. No doubt Neal's very long odds played into HRC's decision not to endorse -- echoed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which also steered clear of the race.

    I still view those decisions as unfortunate and short-sighted, not to mention self-fulfilling. Neal's candidacy was credible and generated a great deal of grassroots excitement among LGBT folks and a number of progressives in and out of North Carolina. With the assistance of groups like HRC and the Victory Fund, Neal would no doubt have performed better -- laying the groundwork for himself and others.

    In the last two decades, the LGBT groups in Washington have become incredibly more sophisticated politically, and that's mostly a very good thing. But sometimes their inside-the-Beltway mentality prevents them from taking risks and investing in the future, even when conventional analysis sees a particular contest as a huge longshot.

    JimnealbigORIGINAL POST: I'm behind the curve commenting on the recent decision by our blinded-by-the-Beltway friends at the Human Rights Campaign not to endorse any candidate in the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary. Controversial endorsement calls have actually been one of the few areas historically that I've generally agreed with and defended HRC (yes, publicly).

    But the "no nod" in the race between openly gay businessman Jim Neal and veteran state Sen. Kay Hagan is a head-scratcher of an entirely different sort. By most accounts, Neal has run a smart campaign and against the odds has polled well enough to appear viable in the contest with Hagan to see who will challenge vulnerable GOP incumbent Elizabeth Dole.

    Hagan apparently has a strong gay rights record, but there's a fundamental difference between a gay candidate and a gay-friendly candidate. History has shown over and over just how more effective and instrumental openly gay elected officials can be; just look at Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin in the House.

    The election of an openly gay U.S. senator, especially from the Deep South, would be ground-breaking and historic. And even if Neal should fall short, a primary victory or even a respectable finish lays important groundwork for the future -- for Neal himself and other out contenders as well as politicians still cowering in the closet.

    The smart folks over at HRC know all this, of course, but as on so many issues they are loathe to rock the boat for fear of offending Democratic party chieftains, who are backing Hagan, or mucking up their cherished win-loss record in endorsed races -- a tally artificially propped up by backing a buttload of completely safe incumbents.

    It's time for HRC to grow a pair, to use a testicular metaphor of the sort being tossed at Hillary Clinton of late, and show the big-equals-org isn't simply the tool of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign. Committee.

    May 04, 2008

    On the radio

    Posted by: Chris

    Through the magic on modern technology, I'll be on the radio tonight, joining the good folks at OutLoud Radio between 10:30 and 11p.m. (Eastern Time) to talk about gay issues in the Democratic presidential primary. Info about tonight's entire show is available here.

    That means I'll be in Rio De Janeiro using my Internet-based Vonage telephone to talk with the hosts in San Francisco while the show is broadcast live on the Net as well. Nifty. If you miss the show, no problem; it'll also be available on podcast.

    If you get the chance, tune in. Even better, call in (1-866-365-4758) and put me on the spot.

    May 02, 2008

    How does America get its great presidents?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Abrahamlincolnbw14 Does America get its great presidents because the voters have a good eye for choosing those who eventually become great? Or do we get great presidents because the well-oiled machines in our political parties offer up great candidates who then become great in office?

    I would argue that neither the voters nor the political parties deserve credit for our great presidents.
    We get our great presidents when the system is bypassed -- either because of extenuating circumstances or luck, but not when things are politics as usual.

    Our first great presidents, obviously, were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They ascended to the presidency mainly because they proved themselves during the founding of our country, so let's put them aside.

    Most historians agree that after that, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were great or near-great presidents. (I’m leaving out the last four presidents because not enough time has passed to evaluate their historical standing). As to the other four, I would argue that it was not the astuteness or brilliance of the American electorate or the good stewardship of the dominant political parties of the time that gave us these great leaders. It was really a matter of luck.

    In 1860, a majority of U.S. voters did not perceive Abraham Lincoln as the best person to lead the nation through the impending crisis. He was a relatively obscure candidate from a new party, the Republican Party. His competitors, Stephen Douglas of the Northern Democratic Party and John C. Breckenridge of the Southern Democratic Party, were established party favorites of the time. Luckily for Lincoln (and us), the Democratic Party split in two over slavery. Had that not happened, one of these two would have been elected. Douglas and Breckenridge were established party favorites from the same broken and deadlocked system that produced Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, Lincoln’s immediate predecessors and two of the worst ever according to most rankings.

    Lincoln was therefore not a product of the normal political system of that time. The Democratic Party split opened the door to an untested newcomer who otherwise never would have had a chance of becoming president. Lincoln actually received only 39.9% of the popular vote, which means that 60% of the country wanted someone else. The person most historians think is our greatest president won office only because of the anomaly of that 1860 election. He was elected by luck -- given the special circumstances of 1860 -- and certainly not because voters or the dominant parties recognized his potential.

    Follow the jump for more…

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    May 01, 2008

    More Obama-Clinton on gay rights

    Posted by: Chris

    With the pivotal (aren't they all?) North Carolina primary just days away, the gay paper there tried a different tactic for getting answers from the candidates on gay rights. Rather than press for phone interviews, Q-Notes apparently sent questions to both campaigns and published the answers.

    I say "apparently" because the stories don't say so specifically, but they're credited to "Q-Notes staff" rather than a particular reporter and the answers (especially Hillary Clinton's) read very much like the work of a campaign staffer. This isn't the first time a prominent e-mail/fax interview in the gay press masqueraded as the real thing, and Q-Notes really should have said so explicitly.

    That point aside, there are some new nuggets there. In the Clinton Q&A, I was struck how plainly the answerer dodged two direct questions I hadn't heard before. First "she" spoke in generalities when asked whether she would personally introduce legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act -- both wreckage from the first Clinton presidency -- should she lose the nomination and return to the Senate. She also stayed vague about whether she would commit to appointing an openly LGBT cabinet member.

    The Obama Q&A broke less new ground, though he also dodged the question about personally introducing bills to repeal DOMA and DADT. Andrew Sullivan did took note of an interesting contrast. Asked to explain how he will keep our interests at heart, Obama turned the tables a bit:

    I have always said that I don’t think that the LGBT community should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. Real change comes from the bottom up, not the top down.

    Andrew liked what he heard:

    This is a core difference between Obama's and Clinton's philosophy, it seems to me. Clinton believes government can save people and she, as the benign representative of government, can bestow equality on minorities. You just have to vote for Democrats, give money to the Democratic party interest groups (like the Human Rights Campaign) and your equality will come eventually (but always later than they say). I prefer an approach that tells gay people that they need to get off their asses, talk to straight people, build their relationships, support their community, empower themselves and win the argument for inclusion and integration.

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