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    January 31, 2010

    The week on GNW (Jan. 24-30)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Obama in SOTU calls for 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repealObama in SOTU calls for Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal: QUICK LOOK: Reaching out to a skeptical gay community, President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Congress to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, but... (MORE)
    2. Nepal to OK gay marriage, offer Mt. Everest weddingsNepal to OK gay marriage, offer Mt. Everest weddings: QUICK LOOK: Nepal's homosexual community, which is led by Asia's only openly gay member of parliament, will next month host a tourism conference to explore how to attract wealthy... (MORE)
    3. Afghan men in denial about gay sex: military studyAfghan men in denial about gay sex: military study: QUICK LOOK: *WARNING: Anti-gay source*: An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men... (MORE)
    4. Many successful gay marriages share an open secretMany successful gay marriages share an open secret: QUICK LOOK: As the trial phase of the constitutional battle to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage concludes in federal court, gay nuptials are portrayed by opponents... (MORE)
    5. For transgender people, their names send messageFor transgender people, their names send a message: QUICK LOOK: Katherine used to be Miguel. Olin had a girl’s name. And in October, Robert Ira Schnur, 70, became Roberta Iris Schnur, a Manhattan retiree with magenta lipstick and,... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    1. Eight men arrested in Atlanta gay bar raid facing trialEight men arrested in Atlanta gay bar raid face trial: QUICK LOOK: The trial for the Eagle 8—the eight men arrested in the Sept. 10 raid of the Atlanta Eagle—will open Feb. 4 after all, according to the office of the judge overseeing... (MORE)
    2. Stephen Baldwin comes out swinging for 'ex-gays'Stephen Baldwin comes out swinging for 'ex-gays': QUICK LOOK: Stephen Baldwin, the conservative Christian among the Baldwin brothers, came out swinging in an interview with the Guardian, , "Jesus or no Jesus, if my daughter started... (MORE)
    3. Victim testifies of gay bashing by cops on NY subwayVictim testifies in gay bashing on subway by N.Y. cops: QUICK LOOK: In court, Michael Mineo told the story of his troubled young life, reciting the wrongs he had committed against others, and those he said had been visited upon him. But... (MORE)
    4. Gay-friendly fraternity set to colonize at VanderbiltGay-friendly fraternity set to colonize at Vanderbilt: QUICK LOOK: Vanderbilt men interested in participating in Greek life will have a new option in the coming months, following the creation of a new chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a national... (MORE)
    5. eHarmony to match gay singles in lawsuit settlementeHarmony to match gay singles in lawsuit settlement: QUICK LOOK: Online dating company eHarmony will make its site as welcoming to gay singles as it is to other customers looking for dates under a proposed settlement filed Tuesday... (MORE)


    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    The one-woman Saturday Night Live

    Posted by: Chris

    Kristen wiig mindy grayson snl secret word
    When Kristen Wiig first joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live," I wasn't even sure I liked her and never imagined she would rank among the best talents the show has ever produced, male or female. Now I find myself watching the show just waiting for the next skit to feature her.

    I'm a big fan of the recurring characters, of course, especially braggadocious Penelope and so freakin' excitable Sue, and of course the Target lady (especially the episode with Justin Timberlake as her gal pal Peg). But I like Wiig best of all when she takes a modestly funny, offbeat character and through sheer talent turns them into an instant classic.

    Last night she came close with Lillia, an egocentric party host from the 1920s.

    But to be honest, this entire post is just an excuse to share with you this final clip, from an SNL last fall hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Wiig plays Mindy Grayson, a 1960s Broadway star getting her guest turn on "The Secret Word," a send-up of "Password." The half of the skit featuring Gordon-Levitt as a South American singer is pretty much a flop, but Wiig is at her absolute best for her portion, and it ranks among my all-time SNL favorites: 

    January 30, 2010

    Foot-dragging in march for DADT repeal

    Posted by: Chris

    Admiral mike mullen dont ask dont tell gays in the military
    The Pentagon had been expected to announce its "plan" to implement repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell early next week, but now it appears that the plan is the announcement itself (I've highlighted the most depressing bits):

    The Defense Department starts the clock next week on what is expected to be a several-year process in lifting its ban on gays from serving openly in the military.

    A special investigation into how the ban can be repealed without hurting the morale or readiness of the troops was expected to be announced Tuesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    While the review is likely to take the better part of this year to complete, and even more time to implement, its initiation will advance President Barack Obama's goal of repealing the ban and bring a divisive issue for the military back to the fore.

    At the White House, officials continued reviewing options to repeal the Clinton-era policy that the president vowed to repeal. The administration still believes that any repeal should start in Congress and have the backing of top military leaders.

    To that end, Obama and Gates planned a meeting next week to discuss, among other topics, ending "don't ask, don't tell" policies. The president was also likely to speak with Mullen, who has signaled he would carry out a repeal if ordered by Obama and Congress.

    So a full year after Washington welcomed a president and two houses of Congress in the hands of the "gay-friendly" Democrats committed to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, itself signed into law by a Democratic president, we learn that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- has been done to the lay the groundwork for its repeal.

    The "big announcement" next week is the formation of a "special investigation" that will take more than a year to complete. So what is there to specially investigate?

    Can a soldier be forced to room with someone who is openly gay if they are the same sex? Would the military recognize civil unions and how much would it cost to extend benefits to a service member's partner? Would quotas be imposed to ensure openly gay service members aren't passed over for promotions?

    These are the difficult questions? The second and third questions aren't even real issues. The federal government does not recognize gay relationships for any purposes right now, and no one -- no one -- is seriously suggesting that the mliitary has to take the lead in that regard at the same time they allow gays to begin serving openly. Quotas on out gay promotions? Really? This is a far-right, fear-mongering talking point that, again, no one -- no one -- is seriously suggesting.

    The first question does raise privacy issues that are worthy of being thought through, but it is flatly ridiculous to suggest that doing so would take weeks, much less months, to sort through.

    Keep in mind, for those worried about privacy for hetero soldiers and sailors, that Don't Ask Don't Tell is far more invasive of their privacy. Why? Right now, gays are guaranteed the right to serve and straight service members are prevented by law from knowing which of their comrades is homo. So if there's peeking going on in bunkers and barracks, they're far easier when no one knows who's gay.

    Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, "Democrats in Congress are unlikely to press the issue until after this fall's midterm elections." Of course they aren't, and why should they when no one is really holding their feet to the fire. The bottom-down, buttoned-down management of Gay Rights, Inc., almost all of whom are disgruntled Hillary-backers, have blamed the president for everything and let congressional Democrats almost untouched.

    No Excuses? More like No Excuses Necessary.

     Human rights campaign no excuses tee

    (Top photo: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prior to last week's State of the Union address. Photo via Washington Post; No Excuses tee shirt via Human Rights Campaign)

    January 29, 2010

    Opening the door to non-monogamy?

    Posted by: Chris

    Male couple monogamy
    Many gay marriage advocates will no doubt feel on the defensive when they hear about a new study showing many long-term same-sex couples that enter into marriage do so with notions about monogamy and fidelity that differ significantly from the mainstream:

    A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

    New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

    That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

    The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.

    Many who are hostile for religious reasons to any legal recognition for gay couples will of course point to this sort of research to argue that gay couples are unique from heterosexual couples and not entitled to the same government support and protections.

    Not so, at least so far. Gay couples who marry in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa or (soon) the District of Columbia will have to accept the same legal restrictions on monogamy as heterosexual couples do. Criminal prohibitions on adultery aren't really at issue; they are almost certainly unconstitutional after the Supreme Court's Lawrence vs. Texas sodomy ruling, which outlawed the criminalization of private, consensual sex between adults. But come divorce time, adultery can be used to leverage better monetary settlements and in some cases achieve a better verdict from the court.

    Male couple Still, politics and legal impact be damned, let's address the issue head on: Does the monogamy standard to which the vast majority of heterosexual married couples aspire make sense for gay couples as well? I've tried for years to spark a discussion within the community about monogamy and open relationships, based on the differences within our relationships not because we are gay, but because we are men.

    We are part of the first generation ever to try en masse to make male-male romantic/sexual relationships into long-term commitments. We do ourselves no favors by allowing the politics of the gay marriage fight to censor that conversation.

    How many relationships do you know that have failed over this issue, whether because of cheating or disagreements over whether monogamy should be our standard? Do you really believe that gay men could tackle this whole monogamy thing if we could legally marry? There are thousands of gay male couples in Canada, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa who would beg to differ.

    I think we could use all the guidance we can get from studies like this one, preferably not limited to San Francisco, and the advice of professionals and those who have successfully navigated these waters in their own lives. It's high time we acknowledge there are meaningful differences between how two men (or two women) interact in a relationship and how a man and a woman interact. Are those differences of legal significance? Absolutely not. But in terms of interrelationships? Absolutely.

    Men are from mars women are from venus gay men are from uranus There's a reason why sitcoms, dramas and watercooler conversations about relationships usually devolve into the differences between men and women. They matter. Remember "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"? Well, Gay Men Aren't From Uranus but a Mars-Mars relationship is different in ways it is worth our time (and the political heat) to explore.

    And yet the problem most of us have is an information-deficit, without many role models and limited to our own personal experiences and the anecdotal evidence of friends in making these incredibly important decisions. Especially given our trailblazing status as a generation of gay men, I think we can use all the help we can get, especially from broader studies of relationship experiences, the advice of professionals and the sharing that comes from conversations just like this one.

    Are you ready for some football... ads... controversy?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mancrunch gay dating site superbowl commercial
    Remember when the Superbowl was just a football game? Well it got too big for its britches years ago, and the hype over the commercials aired during the game, not to mention its halftime shows, got more attention than the action on the gridiron. This year is no different, as savvy marketers have figured out that merely submitting an ad to air during next Sunday's broadcast guarantees priceless free media exposure.

    Tim tebow university of florida superbowl ad abortion gay You've probably already heard about the antigay group Focus on the Family, which convinced Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of the University of Florida to record an advocacy ad about abortion that makes the unremarkable claim that he's glad his mother didn't get one.

    The Tebow ad hasn't been released yet. Leave it to FOF to blow the marketing piece and miss out on all the free publicity the ad could have gotten by showing it early. But you can see an ABC News report about the ad, complete with coverage of the Bible verses Tebow paints under his eyes before each game, after the jump.

    Abortion rights groups have responded with understandable outrage, since that's the only permissible emotion in that particular debate, but I think Tebow's message is actually rather unifying. Can't all of us unaborted fetuses agree at least that we're glad Mom didn't have us yanked from the uterus?

    Rather than complain, NARAL et al should record their own spot, letting some rival athlete speak up on behalf of really fast sperm, and say how appreciative he is that he was faster than the other sperm that raced toward his mama's unfertilized egg. It would be about as relevant to the political debate as the Tebow ad.

    Then there are the gay ads already rejected by CBS. First, this commercial by website host GoDaddy.com (used by your's truly over the years) was turned down apparently for its use of effeminate gay stereotypes:

    Company CEO Bob Parsons said he was surprised the ad was rejected, considering the racy content of the GoDaddy's other submissions. "Of the five commercial concepts we submitted for approval this year, this never would've been my pick for the one that would not be approved," Parson said. "I just don't think 'Lola' is offensive." I would agree actually; it's just unfunny.

    Speaking of unoriginal and not particularly funny, an ad featuring two macho football fans discovering (shock!) that they're into each other was also apparently rejected by CBS, which told gay dating site Mancrunch (who?) that the broadcast was already sold out.

    "It's clearly a form of discrimination that we're getting the runaround, that we're not being told the truth," said Mancrunch spokesman Dominic Friesen. "Quite frankly, there is a lot of ad space available -- a lot of the companies that typically advertise during the Super Bowl are not advertising this year." Take a look:

    The content is about as original as the site's name, and I'd bet the $3 million cost of airing the spot that Mancrunch didn't have the bucks and is simply riding the free publicity. No harm in that, except the whining they're doing about antigay discrimination only makes the public less sympathetic to legitimate claims down the road

    The Mancrunch ad is about as original as the site's name, and I'd bet the $3 million cost of airing the spot that Mancrunch didn't have the bucks and is simply riding the free publicity. No harm in that, except the whining they're doing about antigay discrimination only makes the public less sympathetic to legitimate claims down the road.

    Despite all the hubbub, I still can't wait for the game. Who dat is gonna be playing anyway?

    Continue reading»

    January 28, 2010

    Let's hear the plan, Mr. President

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of this post.

    President obama tampa gay rights dont ask dont tell
    You knew Barack Obama's townhall meeting today in Tampa might not go well when he started off by giving a shoutout to that "model individual" Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts coach who made headlines in 2007 when he inserted himself into whether Indiana should pass a state constitutional amendment banning gays from marriage, even accepting an award from an anti-gay group for his efforts.

    It went a bit downhill from there, when the president pretty thoroughly sidestepped a question for a college student about how he plans to follow through on his pledge in last night's State of the Union address:

    As someone who has repeatedly defended the president against criticism that he, rather than Congress, is to blame for the lack of progress on DADT repeal and other gay rights advances, I thought the question was completely fair and Obama should have given more than a general answer that pretty much avoided the question entirely.

    What is the plan, Mr. President? Do you support including Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal in the Defense Department appropriations bill, just as DADT was when President Clinton signed it into law in 1993? If not, what is the strategy for bypassing intransigent opposition by House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and getting this thing done?

    UPDATE: Some good news, albeit vague, reported by the AP:

    The Pentagon said Thursday it will work to carry out the president’s wishes [concerning the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell]. Top military leaders are working on a plan for how repeal of the law would be implemented in the Defense Department, said Navy Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Adm. Mike Mullen. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    “The chairman and the (service) chiefs understand perfectly the president’s intent, and they look forward to being able to provide their best military advice about the implementation of repeal,” Kirby said of Obama’s statement.

    Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were expected to address the topic in congressional budget hearings next week.

    Who's really stopping DADT repeal?

    Posted by: Chris

    Ike+skelton gays in the military dont ask dont tell
    As some gay progressives and longtime Clinton allies take potshots at President Obama for not having repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, the real culprits escape scot-free. Consider Ike Skelton, the leading House Democrat on setting military policy:

    Seventeen years ago, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) played a major role in crafting the controversial law known as "Don't Ask Don't Tell." When President Bill Clinton wanted to lift the ban preventing gay people from joining the military, Skelton opposed the move. The end result was a compromise under which gay service members would conceal their sexual orientation.

    Now, after President Barack Obama pledged during his campaign and first year in office to repeal the law, Skelton finds himself on the opposite side once again.

    "I am personally not for changing the law," he said during a C-SPAN "Newsmakers" interview that will air Sunday. … He said the full House Armed Services Committee won't hold a hearing on the repeal of the law. Rather, the Personnel subcommittee will hold the hearing at some point this year.

    It's unclear we have the votes to get DADT through Skelton's committee and to the House floor for a vote, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn't appear spoiling for a fight on this (or any other gay rights) issue.

    As a result, the best chance of actually repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and allowing gays to serve openly in the military is to include it in the Defense Department budget appropriation, as Skelton and Congress did way back in 1993 when they adopted DADT in the first place. There's where we need to apply our pressure, not on nitpicking President Obama's very public commitment in last night's State of the Union address.

    Al Qaeda's anti-gay tool John McCain

    Posted by: Chris

    John mccain terrorist
    At the same time that craven and immoral statement by Log Cabin Republicans slammed President Obama for the mortal sin of committing in his State of the Union address to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell this year, we still await remarks by the gay GOP group in response to the very public pronouncements in favor of the policy by the man they endorsed for president in 2008:

    “In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.
    “This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels.  We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars.  At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

    If, as Log Cabin ludicrously suggests, President Obama favors the rights of foreign terrorists over hard-working, life-sacrificing gay Americans, then by that measure John McCain must himself be a member of Al Qaeda, targetting flag-waving queers for all sort of murder and mayhem.

    Yes, that analogy is completely over the top, offensive, and ridiculous, but no more so than Log Cabin's shameful attack on the president.

    P.S. It goes without saying that McCain is flat wrong in his assertion that Don't Ask Don't Tell, which requires gay soldiers and sailors to lie to their comrades, their superiors and their families and friends about who they are, is "predominantly supported by our military at all levels."

    A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being “comfortable … in the presence of gays,” and only 37 percent opposed repealing DADT.  In July 2008, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that even 50 percent of veterans supported open service by lesbians and gays.

    Up off the mat, gently

    Posted by: Kevin


    With the stakes high for his flagging presidency, President Barack Obama managed not to blow his first State of the Union.  That was a relief, for a failed president with three years left in office is no help to anyone.  In fact, when the 70-minute speech is boiled down to its basic turning points, it was a tale of two speeches, as the Guardian and the Washington Post seem to posit.  Obama was saying he would refocus his agenda, but he would also not be changing course.  Things will change, but I won't.

    And he finally -- FINALLY -- made a concrete promise to the gay and lesbian community that really matters.  He promised "to work with Congress and the military" in 2010 to end the outrageous "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military.  For me, this was a great moment and a long-overdue correction of a nearly 20-year old policy that must be overturned.

    As a very skeptical viewer, I have to say that the rhetoric was too gentle and not inspiring in the least.  The speech was so long and so full of items that I imagine the average angry voter out there was not satiated if he sat through the whole thing.  He was too gentle with his fellow Democrats.  They've done more than just "head for the hills" - they've abandoned all principle and sense of decency largely because they don't believe in anything but re-election.  All this aside, though, Obama's political bullet points on balance were encouraging, even if many of his policy statements were, to me and other center-right-inclined folks, wrong-headed.

    This is where I part company with many of my compatriots on the right, including many gay conservatives.  I don't agree with Obama on most of his policy positions in general.  I don't trust the Democratic Party one bit, and think of its Congressional caucus as a pack of lying slimebags who care only about themselves (with a few notable exceptions too few to influence anything).  I vote accordingly, and as readers of this blog know, I pontificate accordingly.  But I do not want President Obama to fail in delivering on his promises to the gay and lesbian community, nor do I want his presidency to collapse, as it would mean the country will fall deeper into chaos and dissension.

    I want the policies I disagree with to fail, yes.  I don't want the massive government-run health care hurricane massing off shore to become law and plow over the already hopelessly indebted Treasury.  I don't want populism to overwhelm an already tottering financial system, which would not only affect Main Street, U.S.A., but most of the developing world as well.  I think a spending freeze that doesn't include entitlements is a waste of time and will make some very important programs suffer while upper middle class, golf-playing retirees collect Social Security checks that they don't need.   We can win those fights honestly, and frontally, with the power of better ideas and with courage.  (Too bad the Republicans in Congress seem to possess neither.)

    But I don't want a President of the United States to fail entirely.  I think it reeks of selfish provincialism and borders on a lack of patriotism to cheer rapturously as a President of the United States sinks into political oblivion in his first year in office.  The institution of the presidency isn't a football team.  It has an importance far beyond the person in that chair, and it affects nearly everything in the global economic and political fabric.  If he has committed some sort of crime and must be removed, like Richard Nixon, then fine -- we must carry forward with his nominal defeat if he refuses to go.  But weakening the institution (from without or within) for minor playing field gains in the political realm is the stuff of moth-eaten banana republics like Argentina, Ecuador or Bolivia.  Not the United States of America.

    So, I applaud his promise to "work with Congress and the military" in 2010 to overturn one of the most vicious anti-gay policies ever adopted in American history.  It has sapped our nation's security, ruined tens of thousands of lives, fomented a level of hate and anxiety in one of the proudest and most able institutions of our Republic, and worst of all, it never worked as it was intended to.  It is a giant moral stain on our country.

    The real challenge now, as with nearly every other issue Obama outlined last night, will be the Democratic Congress.  And on that, we must be absolutely relentless from this day forward.

    If the gay community, starting with the Human Rights Campaign and the rest of the national political groups, does not mobilize with an intensity not seen in more than a decade, and use every single tool of pressure on the Democrats in Congress to follow through on this promise in 2010, I assure you it will fail.  And its failure will be a political catastrophe, bigger than Proposition 8.  There will be no room left for political courage on gay issues in national government, and we will be cast aside like a piece of trash for another decade.

    If we don't use threats, if we don't hold campaign money over their heads, if we don't get written, signed pledges and public statements, and set deadlines and hold rallies against the waverers -- if we don't send legions of constituents into district and Capitol Hill offices -- if we don't get the national media to report almost a decade of unrivaled peer-reviewed research from the Palm Center that proves how bad the policy is from almost every possible angle -- then even with effort from the White House, the Democratic Congress will not follow through.

    Yes, we must also pressure the Republicans.  Those who have promised to be with us in the past cannot be allowed to change their position, and should face our united wrath if they do.  Those who hurl tired, anti-gay rhetoric and try to whip up hatred within the military ranks should be condemned loudly, and they, too, must be made to suffer whatever consequence we can affect.  But let's also be honest -- we can do a hell of a lot more damage to a Democrat in almost any district or state in the country than we can do to a Republican senator from Oklahoma or Alabama.  The real firefight has to be with the cowards and the waverers, because they will decide our fate.

    I want to thank President Obama for getting up off the mat last night, albeit too gently.  Let's hope from now on we'll see some fierce activism from him, as well as from our own ranks.

    A new Log Cabin Republican low

    Posted by: Chris

    Log cabin republicans dont ask dont tell
    The initial reaction from Gay Rights Inc. are in to the president calling on Congress to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in the State of the Union address. Not surprisingly, most groups (including the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) give Congress a complete pass, acting as if Obama alone can repeal DADT. The Human Rights Campaign mentions Congress but only in passing.

    And then there's this despicable statement from Log Cabin Republicans, a group I have defended for years but don't even recognize anymore:

    “President Obama is more concerned about protecting the rights of terrorists than he is about the rights of gay and lesbian Americans who are putting their lives on the line every day fighting to preserve peace and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and operate small businesses that are the backbone of the American economy.”  — Charles Moran, a spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans

    Never in more than a decade of covering the gay rights movement have I seen a public pronouncement by a gay political group that is more offensive, more over the top and more worthy of universal condemnation.

    Put aside, for the moment, the conflating of gays in the military with the completely unrelated decision by Attorney General Eric Holder (independent of President Obama) to try some Guantanamo prisoners in Article III courts (as the Bush administration did) rather than in front of military commissions. Put aside even, the gay Republican group's indefensible silence in response to condemnation of the president's promise by leading Republicans, especially sore loser John McCain.

    This president favors the entire range of gay rights legislation put forward by our movement, up to and including civil unions if not marriage in terms of relationship recognition. He is more supportive by far than any previous president and is a complete and total foil for both McCain and the last Republican president, who favored federal or state constitutional amendments making those same gay Americans second-class citizens.

    I don't know who is running Log Cabin these days, and why they are even trying to outflank the GOP apologists over at the oxymornic GOProud, but outrageous and offensive statements like this one convince no one of the rightness of our cause, including the anti-gay Republican leadership, which Log Cabin so cravenly seeks to ingratiate.

    You can tell he worked for Clinton

    Posted by: Chris

    Richard socarides bill clinton gay liaison
    Richard Socarides, who was apologist-in-chief for the disastrous two terms of Bill Clinton for gay civil rights, attempts to rewrite that history even as he takes a swipe at the current Democrat in the White House:

    "In 1999, Bill Clinton became the first president ever to talk about gay rights in a State of the Union address. Eleven years later, not much has changed. [Talking again about ending the policy] without a moratorium on the witch hunts and expulsions and without even a plan for future action, just won't cut it. Look, we are not second-class citizens and our rights are not second-term problems."

    Not much has changed? Let's see. Bill Clinton abandoned his gays in the military pledge like a hot potato in the first months of his first year of his first term, and by 1995 had signed both Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

    If Socarides really wants to talk about empty rhetoric, let's look at Bill Clinton's coded support for gay rights in his 1999 SOTU address:

    Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation is wrong and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.

    No mention of the dreaded "G word" and a tepid request of Congress to back two inoccuous pieces of legislation that -- nudge nudge, wink wink -- only the gays knew were for our benefit. Clinton's throwaway reference contained no time commitment and one of those two bills still languishes in Congress, despite a supermajority in both chambers.

    I'm all for keeping the Democrats feet to the fire on gay issues, but rather than whine about a president who actually did something meaningful, let's hear from Socarides and other FOB/H's about the MIA congressional leadership.

    (Pictured with then-President Bill Clinton: "awkward old maid" Janet Reno (far left) and gay liaison Richard Socarides (holding red notebook)).

    January 27, 2010

    Obama's SOTU promise: End DADT in '10

    Posted by: Chris

    President barack obama repeal dont ask dont tell gays in the military
    As expected, President Obama recounted passage of the hate crimes (without mentioning Matthew Shepard) and committed himself to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell this year:

    This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.

    You don't get higher profile than the State of the Union and it took political courage to take his on in an election year where Democrats look in trouble. This was not a throwaway gay mention in a run of the mill speech. It was a public commitment complete with a deadline in the speech where Obama set his highest priorities for what will be a difficult election year. That is not nothing.

    Some no doubt expect more from President Obama on this issue, including an executive order staying prosecutions under the policy. That expects too much, and would set a dangerous precedent if he even attempted it. Only Congress can repeal DADT; an executive order attempting a de facto repeal would be patently illegal. We had more than enough of this sort of abuse of presidential power in the last administration.

    Even if he could halt DADT by executive fiat, I do not think he should. That wasn't his campaign promise, and it would set off an entire side debate on executive authority and interference with the military, not to mention separation of powers. We don't need to risk moderate and independent support this way, especially with clear and historic Democratic majorities in both houses.

    It's way too easy to focus all our impatience on the president. The fact remains that it's up to Congress to pass DADT repeal, and it's up to groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats to hold their feet to the fire until they do. And it's long past time for Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud to bring more public pressure to bear on the minority party not to block this and other gay rights bills by use of the anti-democratic filibuster in the Senate.

    Enough talk, it's time for action. Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is only one item on a list of promises candidate Obama made in 2008 and the Democratic Party has made for years. Success on that single issue doesn't even correct the reversals in gay civil rights from the last time Democrats controlled Washington -- that would require repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well.

    Now it's time for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to step up and act.

    Apple's new iPad version 0.0

    Posted by: Chris

    As Apple launches the release of the iPad, let's recall that two years ago, MadTV came up with its own version:

    Is there a President in the house?

    Posted by: Kevin


    The New York Times and the Washington Post today seem to have boiled down the meaning of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address tonight.  Or at least they've captured the national mood hanging over the event.  Assembled before him (and for some people, behind him on the dais as well) will be probably the most hated group of people in the United States today.  And given their sweeping campaign finance ruling that stunned everyone this week, that includes several justices of the Supreme Court among some folks.

    The country is in a state of boiling anger that no one person or political party can either take credit for, be blamed for entirely, or truly ride as a wave to unfettered power.  Joel Achenbach in the Post said it best when crunching the poll numbers: "The state of the union is obstreperous. Dyspepsia is the new equilibrium. All the passion in American politics is oppositional. The American people know what they don't like, which is: everything."

    Frankly, it's easy to figure out where all this started.  The U.S. economy is in the toilet.  It's as bad or worse as the most agonizing period of my lifetime, which was the 1990-92 recession, which hit just as I graduated college and saw as many as half of my friends fail to find decent employment for months on end.  The stories of wholesale collapse of businesses, careers, housing situations, marriages and even a few lives have piled up in the past few years, and I haven't escaped the dark news from friends and family even from 5,000 miles and a completely different economy away.

    When Americans feel a sense of hopelessness setting in, they don't go quiet.  They get anxious, for good reason.  And when they open a newspaper or turn on the news every day and see their government (which sends them a regular tax bill, only adding to the anxiety for many) not paying attention to what they say are their priorities, that anxiety turns to anger.  And when the leaders in government have the nerve to push back, to hector them about what their priorities should be instead, that anger turns white hot, and it blows up in the voting booth.

    And to use my native New York bluntness, when things are this bad in everyone's lives, they don't wanna hear whose fucking fault it is -- they wanna know what the hell you're gonna do about it.

    It's not rocket science.  The voters gave a mandate to the current government in 2008 on a wave of hope, the almighty Hope.  It was a hope based in the feeling that their concerns were not being addressed by the previous President, that he had been arrogant, wrong-headed, lost in a fog and incapable of humility in the face of countless disasters and mismanagement.  They were, indeed, sold a package of hope that things would be different, very different.  And immediately.

    Well - say what you will about this government, but the anger boiling out in the country across the whole political spectrum for everyone in power right now is the political equivalent to Rome on fire.  Too many Democratic hacks and pundits are basically fiddling to it -- blaming Fox News, blaming the Republicans, blaming Wall Street and even blaming the American people themselves for not being smart enough to realize what is good for them (which is, of course, what those same hacks and pundits say is good for them.)

    From the narrow perspective of the gay community, the anger is also there.  I don't know of any gay person who has a mild opinion.  They're either fuming mad at the Democrats or they're furiously trying to defend them.  (That's always telling.)  But the bottom line is that the Democrats said they needed the White House and 60 votes and they would enact our agenda.  They lied.  Indeed, they now are trying to claim that it was somehow a ridiculous notion that 60 votes meant anything.  Jeff Zeleny got this version of "I meant to do that!" from Vice President Joe Biden: "When we had 60 votes, there was the expectation left, right and center that we could do everything we wanted to do, which was never realistic. Never.”

    Oh really?  Then how is it that the Republican Congressional majority from 1995 to 2006 got almost everything they ever wanted, whether they had the White House or not, and never had 60 votes?  Indeed, remember George W. Bush and his tie-breaking Vice President in the Senate?  They exercised unrelenting power with a whisker's margin.  This gang of idiots couldn't get anything done with a supermajority.  (And that, my friends, angers a whole lot of Democrats.  So Biden's comment served no purpose other than to raise ire even further.)

    It's particularly galling that so much was promised and so little action has been taken.  Gay Americans have grown so weary of sweet words (lest I remind you, the Clinton presidency began almost 20 years ago), and patience is very thin for good reason.  The staggering lack of courage on display in the Democratic supermajority, and the blaming of others even then (!), was just too outrageous to be spun favorably.  As we say in Brazil, the Democrats "queimou o filme" - or 'exposed the film', which is to say, the damage is done and something very concrete and serious has to happen or the mood will not improve for gay Americans.

    It was also the Democrats' choice of priorities that sent a lot of Americans scattering to the barricades, not for ideological reasons, but out of sheer desperation.  When unemployment was hitting double-digits and the nation's fiscal deficit was plunging towards Hades, the Democrats chose two battlefields to die on: climate change and a massive health care reform bill.  And as of today, barring some incredible turn of political events, both initiatives appear dead in the water despite the gynormous majorities they continue to enjoy in the Congress.

    At the end of the day, the idiots of both parties in that chamber are not the focus of tonight's event.  They are just the peanut gallery, which will elicit plenty of angry scorn hurled at TV sets across the nation.  No, the one this all revolves around is someone about whom many of us are wondering - where did he go?  Where is that galvanizing figure who presides from atop a bully pulpit, with a clear, undisputed mandate to lead? 

    Indeed, where is the President of the United States?  Where is the leader amidst this spiraling disaster of unfocused time-wasting in the government?

    In that sea of loathsome characters filling the House chamber tonight, he should be easy to spot.  It would take so little lift to soar above their heads in the public eye.  The mood is so low, so sour, that should Obama manage to seriously reconnect with that anxious, fearful public out there - not only with promises, but with accountability, humility, determination and details - and even manage to inspire, it could set our hair aloft with its electricity.  But given the crater he'll be speaking from, it's a high hurdle to jump. 

    If he blows it entirely tonight, it will be as if Ronald Reagan, in the nadir of the 1982 recession, gave a speech about malaise rather than spoke confidently of a morning in America, a shining city on a hill, all the things he sold the country when they embraced him in 1980.  Had he veered off that road, Reagan's presidency would have largely ended in one term, deservedly so.  As might Obama's.

    Mr. President - where are you?  Or better yet, where the hell have you been?  Here's hoping we find out tonight.

    Five reasons the Democrats are losing this independent

    Posted by: Chris


    5. Even in the throes of a grave economic crisis, Democrats in Congress could not resist converting the stimulus into an orgy of pork barrel spending that targeted neither job growth nor speedy infusion into the economy. How can you make the case for the capability of government to solve intractable problems when your own leaders are incapable of any fiscal self-restraint?

    4. President Obama and the Democrats run so scared of GOP charges of being "weak on defense" that they double down on nation-building in Afghanistan masquerading as war, even though neither project ranks high enough in our national interest to justify the additional lives to be lost, much less the outrageous sums to be spent.

    3.  Conservative Democrats in the U.S. Senate (and a Connecticut independent bought and paid for by the insurance industry) may well have killed historic health care reform by their willingness to join with Republicans in the rank abuse of the filibuster so as to grease their own parochial pockets.

    2.  The party's congressional leadership appears prepared to throw universal health coverage under the bus to satisfy labor unions and abortion rights absolutists.

    1.  Despite controlling the White House and commanding supermajorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have almost completely failed to deliver tangible progress toward basic equality for gay and lesbian Americans. This government, firmly in control of the gay-friendly party, still refuses even to correct the horrors of the last Democratic high tide -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.

    Great Moments in Freudian Metaphors

    Posted by: Chris

    "Yury-luzhkov-social whip banning gay pride

    We need a social whip or something like that, not a liberal ginger cake."  — Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, on why he's banning the "satanic" Gay Pride Parade

    January 26, 2010

    My man (and daddy) the H8-monger

    Posted by: Chris

    Cindy mccain meghan mccain

    What other message can we take from the participation of Cindy and Meghan McCain in the NOH8 campaign to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage in California? Even before John McCain ran to the right for the Republican presidential nomination, he filmed TV ads backing Arizona's Prop 107, which was far more draconian than Prop 8 ever dreamed of being.

    Whereas Prop 8 banned same-sex couples from legally marrying, it nonetheless preserved domestic partnerships, a brand of California civil unions that is pretty much marriage except for the name. McCain-backed Prop 107, on the other hand, banned not just marriage, but also civil unions, domestic partnerships and other forms of legal recognition for gay couples, including even DP benefits for state and local government employees.

    John McCain also "strongly supported" Proposition 8 itself during the 2008 campaign:

    If Cindy and Meghan agree that Prop 8 was motivated by "H8" then what must they think of John McCain's motivation for backing Propositions 8 and 107? H8-baiting political opportunism at its worst.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy when a prominent heterosexual, especially one with Republican ties, backs marriage equality. But it's supremely ironic to see these two ladies with duct tape over their mouths, "symbolizing their voices not being heard," according to the NOH8 website. Where were those voices during the 2008 campaign, when Proposition 8 was actually on the ballot, backed by Daddy/Hubby McCain?

    Colbert hikes his leg on Harold Ford

    Posted by: Chris

    Harold Ford, Jr., and I go way back. OK, not personally, but his dad (that would be Sr.) represented Memphis in Congress for pretty much all of my childhood there, and his uncle John was repeatedly arrested during my stint in Nashville for college and ultimately went to prison a few  years back. Harold Jr. famously ran for Senate in 2006 and almost won, derailed by a blatantly racist commercial that featured a white, blonde Playboy bunny saying, "Harold, call me!"

    It was during that Senate run that Junior veered sharply to the right, pledging not just his opposition to gay marriage and most other gay civil rights legislation, but his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying nationwide. I shed no tear when he went down to defeat, however despicable th race-baiting tactics of his Republican rival.

    Since then, Junior took on "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council and moved back to NYC, where he had lived till Senior left Congress in disgrace and Junior swooped in to take the family Congressional seat. is making noise about challenging Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate seat. Leave it to Stephen Colbert to slice and dice this opportunistic carpetbagger extraordinaire as his "alpha dog of the week":

    The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
    Alpha Dog of the Week - Harold Ford Jr.
    Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

    I wouldn't be quite so harsh on Ford for switching sides on gay marriage, considering Kirsten Gillibrand made the same switch in time for her appointment to take Hillary Clinton's Senate seat last year. I'm more pleased that the politics of gay marriage have shifted such that a viable Democratic candidate for statewide office in New York must be on record supporting full marriage equality.

    Is 'our moment' coming in the SOTU?

    Posted by: Chris

    Word is that President Obama will specifically address repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military in his State of the Union speech tomorrow night:

    The Obama administration has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to delay hearings on the fate of the military’s controversial “con’t ask, don’t tell” policy, because the president expects to discuss it in Wednesday’s address to Congress, the committee chairman said today.

    Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat and chairman of the committee, told reporters that senior Pentagon officials asked him to postpone the hearings, because they do not want to be put in the position of discussing or defending a policy that the White House might abandon.

    While there are way too many qualifiers packed into those two short paragraphs, if true this could mean (another qualifier) that the president is finally read to stake some political capital on gay civil rights, something so many of us expected long before now.

    Let's be clear about a few things, however, the DNC and gay groups pressed for pink money waaay back in 2006 on the premise that a Democratic-controlled Congress would move on hate crimes, employment non-discrimination and repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  So passage (not hearings, not votes in one house but not the other, but passage) of the remaining two of three of these low-hanging fruit is the absolute minimum we should expect from Obama and a Congress controlled by a super-majority of Dems.

    There's something painfully ironic about the administration telling Congress to go-slow on DADT repeal, even if only for a day or two, considering that our "allies" on the Hill has moved in microscopic ministeps toward any meaningful form of gay rights legislation. (No, I don't count the almost entirely symbolic hate crime bill.)

    We await our president to reawaken our faith that our trust in him (in the primaries and general election) was not misplaced.

    January 20, 2010

    Democratic Super-Baloney

    Posted by: Kevin

    Pelosi_reid0110 The Democratic Party promise since the 1990s: Give us all your money, all your votes, and we'll "fight 'til hell freezes over, then we'll fight on the ice" to deliver for the gay and lesbian community at the national level.

    Well, that was a lie.  Pure and simple. They had the power, and they didn't use it.

    And as the much vaunted Democratic supermajority comes to a bitter and self-destructive end, it's become fairly obvious to everyone now what a lie it was.  (I won't say I told you so.)

    Tens of millions of dollars in wasted donations and almost two decades of furiously slavish political loyalty to the national Democratic establishment yielded passage of a mostly symbolic hate crimes law that had gone moldy on the dais for more than a decade, and nothing else.  Indeed, we got more admonitions than action on all fronts, being told to wait even longer and not 'endanger' the prospects for totally unrelated legislation that ended up bombing anyway.  I mean - what are they going to tell us next, that they need 75 seats and a 100-seat majority in the House to pass ENDA?  Don't even think about repealing the military ban or the Defense of Marriage Act.  (Oh, and send a check, please.  'Your life depends on it,' etc. and so forth....)

    Indeed, allowing the Democratic leadership to shove aside reforms that go to the heart of being gay in America today, in favor of their disastrous legislative fiascos of the past three years, didn't get us anywhere.  Their bumbling cost them the Senate supermajority that our community invested so much in building as part of this deal they offered us almost a generation ago.  And now we get nothing.  Again.

    And even the way they lost the supermajority is like an anvil to the head.  It was Ted Kennedy's seat.  It was in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage.  And it was at the hands of a Republican so conservative, so 'out-of-step' on paper with that state, that even I can't believe he won, or better, that the Dems lost.  Could this be any more violent a wake-up call for all for all of us, finally yielding to a shift in gay national strategy?  Will it be the moment we finally decide to end our toxic dependency on partisanship?  Or is this just going to be like Lindsay Lohan crashing her car and saying it was an innocent mistake and not the pound of cocaine up her nose?

    First, we need gay leaders with balls once and for all.  Or just gay leaders, period.  Joe Solomonese is chief among the fulsome, useless enablers of this failed bargain we've made, and frankly you should stop giving the Human Rights Campaign money until he resigns.  What in hell has he accomplished in Washington worthy of the salary he receives?  Getting Lady Gaga?  How can you even bear to look at his insipid email missives now after all this?  I certainly can't.

    And while I agree that activism and commitment at the local and state level is probably more important, we cannot completely ignore the national imperatives.  Don't just turn your head in disgust at what a joke HRC has become, or what a disaster the Democrats have been as a governing party.  Do something about it.  Register your opinion with them.  Stop giving money to gay groups that fail to lead, and to party organizations that fail to deliver.  Remove yourself from HRC's useless email lists (do you get anything other than requests for more money anymore?)  Demand new leadership.  Post comments on blogs, on Facebook, and in the few remaining gay newspapers around the country.    Talk to like-minded gay and lesbian friends (especially longtime donors).  Share ideas with each other and make a plan - any plan.  But for God's sake, don't just turn your heads.  Don't just sit there

    Wake up, people.  The period between now and the 2010 elections will be the greatest test of whether we get action, or we wait another decade or two for a bus that is not going to stop here again.  If we don't get anything back after all that we've invested, and all this community has done to deliver for them, explain to me why the Democratic Party should ever feel obliged to deliver for us in the future.  We'll have proven ourselves the cheapest date in the history of party politics.

    We are spinning our wheels until we push out the old and demand something new.  Something real.  Something courageous and honest at the front of this movement, who will live and die on results in the next 10 months.

    It's time for someone to start fighting on the quickly hardening ice, and it had better be you.

    January 17, 2010

    The lawsuit that could change everything

    Posted by: Chris

    Ted olson david boies proposition 8 suit
    Ever since Ted Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides of the infamous Bush vs. Gore case, announced they were marshaling forces to challenge the federal constitutionality of Proposition 8, I've been mightily encouraged by their prospects of success.  It's so effective and utterly refreshing to see two straight men, one of them with unquestionable credentials as a conservative, who "get it" so completely.

    Take for example this exchange from an entertaining profile of the two men penned by Maureen Dowd for today's New York Times:

    I asked the lawyers if they were disappointed that the president who had once raised such hope in the gay community now seemed behind the curve.

    “Damned right,” Boies snapped. “I hope my Democratic president will catch up to my conservative Republican co-counsel.”

    Olson added: “I’m not talking about Obama, but that’s what’s so bad about politicians. They say, ‘I must hasten to follow them, for I am their leader.’”

    Yes you were, Ted, along with Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid and dozens and dozens of others.

    January 15, 2010

    The Uganda backstory

    Posted by: Chris

    Behind all the headlines the role American evangelicals played in bringing about proposed legislation in Uganda that would impose the death penalty for gays and imprison anyone not turning in a known homosexual lies this tidbit from the country's history:

    King mwanga In 1886, Ugandan King Mwanga ordered some two dozen male pages to have sex with him, and when they refused because of their Christian faith, he ordered that they be burned to death. Every year on June 3, Ugandans celebrate a national holiday honoring the Christian martyrs and deploring the pedophile king.

    The anti-gay bill continues to treat any form of gay sex and rape and/or pedophilia, which at least goes part way toward explaining the draconian punishment it carries. That's not surprise:

    "The gay movement is an evil institution," Scott Lively, an American evangelical and president of Defend The Family International, told Uganda's Family Life Network last March. "The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.

    "Male homosexuality has historically been, not adult to adult; it's been adult to teenager," he said. "It's called pederasty — adults sodomizing teenage boys."

    It brings to mind what can happen when disturbed souls here in the U.S. take literally the vicious pro-life rhetoric claiming that abortion is "murder." In both cases, those responsible for such hateful rhetoric deserve the very public black eye they receive, even if they did not foresee the consequences of their campaigns.

    Top: According to Ugandan history, St. Charles Lwanga was executed for trying to protect male pages from being forced to have sex with King Mwanga (below).

    January 08, 2010

    Latin States of America lead US of A

    Posted by: Chris

    Jose socrates gay marriage
    When I was a senior in high school, homosexuality was a crime punishable in prison in Portugal. Today, that country's parliament adopted a gay marriage law. Passage of the marriage equality legislation comes as welcome news just one day after the New Jersey Senate defeated a similar measure, with Democrats splitting 13-10, much as they had in the New York Senate last year.

    Alex jose argentina gay marriage It's ironic to see so much progress in Catholic-dominated Hispanic countries. Portugal follows Spain, of course, in extending marriage to same-sex couples. Just last month, Argentina married its first gay couple, and the Districto Federal in Mexico, containing the largest city in either America, beat our nation's capital to the punch with its own gay marriage law

    Even Portugal's former colony, my beloved Brazil, is moving faster toward gay marriage than the good ole U.S. of A.  This week Presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva presented a proposal for remaking Brazilian human rights laws and contained within was a provision for same-sex marriage. Already Brazil recognizes gay relationships for immigration purposes, albeit through a complicated judicial process.

    As groundbreaking as the election of Barack Obama was, he now lags behind the president of Brazil, which matches our own country in macho culture and in the influence religious conservatives.

    Lula obama gay marriage
    (Top photo
    via Associated Press: Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates threw his goverrnment's support behind the gay marriage proposal adopted today.)

    January 03, 2010

    The face of Muslim tolerance of gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Gay muslim schlolar blog pic
    What happens when the war against terror and fundamentalist Islamists runs head-on with political correctness? There's a dangerous silence about how the aims of fundamentalist Christianists find siilarity in the more extreme dreams of theocracy in their Islamist foes, for one.

    Also lost is any real discussion about how stubborn resistance among many Muslim leaders has prevented the growth of a "moderate Islamic view" on subjects like the role of gays in society, as it has on questions like religious freedom and pluralism. The Canadian National Post tells the story today of Junaid Bin Jahangir, a gay Muslim grad student who used his own struggle with homosexuality into important academic inquiry in the area.

    His conclusions are not that surprising, since prejudice against gays in Islam -- as in Judaism and Christianity -- is based upon a misreading of scriptural stories of male-on-male rape. What's more surprising is that even in progresstive, tolerant Canada, this young scholar refused to be photographed for the article, no doubt in part because of the treatment he's received from the Islamic Studies department at the University of Alberta:

    Jahangir was asked to contribute a chapter to a new anthology on homosexuality compiled by a noted Australian academic. The book, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers, appeared recently in bookstores.

    But he remains fearful of talking about the subject. He doesn't want his face shown in photographs, and when he agreed to do a presentation at the University of Alberta in the run-up to the book launch, organizers asked campus security and a local newspaper to attend in case someone wanted to cause trouble.

    The meeting went well, and it appeared that some Muslim students attended, judging by the half-dozen head scarves among the crowd. But he still complains no Imams or professors with the university Islamic Studies department will speak with him or about the topic.

    So-called academics who refuse to speak to a colleague or address a such an important topic, whatever their views, have no place in academia. They lack a basic commitment to open-minded inquiry that should lie at the heart of every area of intellectual study.

    It's a depressing reminder that whatever the growth of moderate or mainstream Islam in the West, gays growing up Muslim or in Islamist-dominated cultures face a long wait toward anything approaching tolerance and fair treatment, much less acceptance.

    I was reminded of an article I assigned on the subject at the Washington Blade some six months after 9/11. Despite the reporter's best efforts to portray a window of opportunity for gay Muslims -- the complete article is after the jump -- this passage best summarizes the situation:

    Mona Eltahawy, a Muslim feminist and freelance journalist born in Egypt, … said in some ways, Islam is not being interpreted today like it was in previous centuries.

    “During [Mohammed’s] time, women engaged in battle, literary criticism, and in conveying his sayings to the community,” she said. Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. “I think Muslim male interpreters [of the Koran] these days have really narrowed down [the roles of women] to just a few,” Eltahawy said.

    Khan said the same is true of homosexuality.

    “I don’t know of any imam … or reform-minded scholar who has written anything that would create a theological understanding of a safety place for gays and lesbians,” she said.

    Eltahawy has said, in the Washington Post and in other media outlets, that Muslims must take “a long hard look at where we are today with modern eyes.”

    Amen -- or, Āmīn -- to that.

    (Photo of Junaid Bin Jahangir by Greg Southam/Canwest News Service)

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