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  • 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.

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    December 28, 2009

    A GOP gay-baiter and his target's beards

    Posted by: Chris

    Perennial candidate Andy Martin is riding a free media wave by buying a few radio ads repeating gay rumors about his Senate primary foe, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.):

    In the radio ad, which aired today on WGN-AM and WBBM-AM, Martin attributes a "solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual" to conservative Republican businessman Jack Roeser. Martin's ad also claims that Raymond True, the chairman of the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County organization, says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals. The ad says Kirk should address the rumors.

    True has since denied questioning Kirk's sexual orientation, though he admits to some McCarthyist gossip that "there were some people on his (Kirk's) staff that had a special orientation." Isn't that "special"?

    Martin The state GOP dismissed the advertisements as "bizarre," something the party isn't always so quick to do with the gay-baiting is aimed across party aisles. That characterization would seem apropos, given these nuggets dug up by the Chicago Tribune:

    In federal court filings from the 1980s related to bankruptcy proceedings against him, Martin called one federal judge a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race." He also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the Holocaust. …

    Martin gained some attention during last year's presidential contest by contending President Barack Obama was a Muslim and contesting whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

    Nice to see the "birther" claims take their rightful place alongside other ethnic smears. 

    As a practical matter, Martin's 15 minutes should have little impact on the race. Those who would vote against Kirk based on a gay smear aren't likely to back his Democratic foe, whoever that will be, in the general election. What's more, even conservatives are finding it easier to vote for the sinner while hating the sin.

    Mark kirk dates FYI, Kirk's bio on his Congressional and campaign web sites make no mention of a wife or family. Then again, they omit any refernence to his law degree from Georgetown either (too inside-the-beltway?).

    It turns out his divorce from Kimberly Vertolli came through this summer, and Kirk brought along not one but two beards -- ahem! dates -- to a White House luau. Kirk called the ladies, who work behind the snack bar in the GOP cloakroom, "kind of cute" -- which makes me kind of wretch.  But that's just me.

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    November 07, 2008

    Changes in Albany = marriage in NY

    Posted by: Andoni

    Newyorkstatecapitolalbanyny232In a little noticed election result in the same sex marriage battle, the New York state senate switched  from Republican control to Democratic control for the first time in 4 decades. (There was temporary fear that two Democrats would switch to Republican to prevent this earthquake, but that has subsided.)

    The senate change is huge because a pro-active same sex marriage bill has been hung up by Republicans in the state senate for years, never being allowed to come up for a vote. The bill has passed the legislature and governor David Paterson has promised to sign it if it comes to his desk. In fact, the governor is pushing for the bill.

    Now that the Democrats control the legislature, the senate, and the governorship, it should become law in the new session.

    Although Paterson signed  an executive order earlier this year for New York to honor same sex marriages legally performed in other states, this is very different than actually allowing same sex marriages to be performed in New York.

    When New York enacts legislation allowing same sex marriage, it will be the first state to do so pro-actively and legislatively without a court involved. Marriage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut were the result of court actions. California did pass same sex marriage legislation, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill twice.

    It is interesting that the New York senate changed hands in part by diminishing the stranglehold the NRA had on that body.

    So, as depressed as I am over Prop 8 winning in California, it appears we have a chance of opening another door for marriage as the California door closes temporarily.

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    November 05, 2008

    We interrupt this fairy tale for a dose of reality

    Posted by: Kevin

    Alg_chicagocelebration I want to congratulate Barack Obama and add that he will indeed be my President, too.  It's not just a slogan, but it's real and from the heart.  I hope God will bless and protect him, and help guide him in facing the many challenges awaiting him in the coming years.  I share Chris' pride in the historic aspect of Obama's decisive election as the first African American U.S. President - something that I always wondered whether I'd see in my lifetime.  That it has happened, and that American women also advanced so decisively in this political season, are truly wonderful symbols of where America stands in the long march of political and cultural evolution.

    But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend.  The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays.  And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.

    Our defeat on Proposition 8 in California is the biggest, most glaring wound on the landscape, and will be infamous for decades to come.  This is the greatest loss of gay civil rights since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986.  Latino voters came out in huge numbers for Obama, and also voted for Proposition 8.  Worse yet, African Americans clogged California's polling places to vote for Obama with a fervent zeal, and with equal fervency voted overwhelmingly against us (currently as much as 70% voting yes on 8).  Obama won the state by about 2.5 million votes, and Yes appears to be winning by about a half-million votes.  A similarly glaring defeat came in Florida, another state that Obama carried, where a gay marriage ban passed by about 2 million votes.  Nationally, the anti-gay wave just about ran the table in all the states where gay issues were on the ballot.  Only in tiny Connecticut did voters reject the opening of a constitutional convention to throw out that state's court decision legalizing gay marriage earlier this year.

    I understand the emotion around Obama's message of "hope."  Who wouldn't want to be hopeful with all their heart and soul at these moments of great fear and uncertainty about the global economy, two wars overseas and the ever-present threats to us at home?  But exactly why should gays be so bathed in political hope at this moment?  I'd like to see a convincing case made by the Democratic leadership coming into nearly unchecked power in Washington in January.  But I'm afraid the reality will be something else entirely. 

    The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all.  That's about all I can be hopeful about now.

    I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations.  The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level.  That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party.  Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.

    But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts.  It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress.  The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012.  Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years.  And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.

    When I learned on Facebook this morning that dear gay friends of mine in New York were dancing in Times Square, and other friends in Washington were celebrating in front of the White House and actually comparing the experience to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- while gay marriage was going down the toilet in California -- it was astounding to me.  And deeply saddening and alienating.  The level of unreality that seems to be intensifying in the gay urban ghettos back home is just amazing to me; I probably was just as guilty of it before I was able to move away and get some more perspective.  Who knows.

    I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care.  To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore.  Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism.  When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you.  It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation.  Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us.  I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this.  I am, in fact, ashamed.

    The last thing I ever wanted was to write something like this post - and as it comes true over the next two years, the idea of gloating over it is beyond unseemly.  I hate the way things are.  I don't want them to get worse.  I would much prefer to be happy about yesterday's results and the trajectory of gay rights in America.  But the reality that I see that is informed by history, by experience, and by the cold, hard numbers of this election, and it couldn't be shaken off no matter how much I might want to delude myself, and that's why I'm writing this.  And it's also why I am saying goodbye to Citizen Crain.

    Movement politics used to be about strategic thinking, and about making a clear, undaunted moral case for your cause.  It used to be about raising the level of intelligence, grace and tenacity of an aggrieved community and really struggling every day to unite them, body and soul, behind an effort whose might would be its righteousness.  The gay movement used to be about thinking outside the box, including the one we ourselves might be in, and taking nothing for granted.  But something happened over the last several years that changed all that.  Now it's just a huge pathetic joke, a gigantic string of twitters, "status" one-liners, bitchy snits, gossip, celebrity worship and empty groupthink.  A gigantic co-opting of our energies by a political party that does nothing in return.  Besides a whole lot of fundraising.  Where some of its veterans, like Kate Kendall in California, have managed to not just "know hope" but actually make real strides, the wide swath of gay leaders in power right now have done nothing but fail miserably time and time and time and time again in recent years despite having political winds at their backs, and if they don't make a gigantic strategic shift immediately, the next two years will be their Waterloo.

    I'm so dispirited and, frankly, fed up, that I doubt I'll be blogging on this site after today.  I know I won't be missed, and I certainly won't miss the drudgery of the personal attacks.  I've just grown tired of fighting, and I'm far too involved in my new life in Brazil to be of any use to this site anymore.  As much as I love and support my friend Chris in his endeavors, including this site, I find the idea of going my own way, and going back to just my own little blog and my own personal contributions to changing my little corner of the world, very liberating.  I'll be far more useful.

    But if this is where I part company with you, I'll do it with this last thought:  I beg all of you with any energy left in you to wake up.  I beg you to stop deluding yourselves about what it's going to take to really change our situation in the United States.  Stop believing promises and start demanding action.  Stop scapegoating, and blaming 'enemies' and shifting responsibility for all our failures onto others, and take responsibility for everything we face.  Stop living the reality show and start living in reality.  And if you were active in this election cycle, don't delude yourself into thinking that the fight is "won."  It is, in fact, almost completely lost as of this moment if you stand down now.  Do more than just "know hope" -- think different.  Wake the fuck up and see reality, and demand results -- from our gay leaders, from our Congress, and from our new President. 

    That's all I've ever tried to encourage here, and it's about all I have left to say here.

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    November 04, 2008

    Voting machine math

    Posted by: Andoni


    It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there are going be problems at the polls today. In fact a grade school student using simple math could figure it out.

    Consider my state of Georgia where state law mandates that there be one machine per 175 voters at each precinct. This sounds good until you realize that the Georgia ballot this year is rather long, and according to poll workers (based on early voting) it takes the average voter 10 minutes to complete the ballot.

    If each person takes 10 minutes on a machine to vote, that means if everything goes perfectly, 6 people can vote on one machine each hour. In Georgia the polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm, 12 hours. So if 6 people an hour can vote on each machine, that means that each machine can handle 6 x 12 voters, or 72 people on election day in that 12 hour period. However each machine is supposed to handle 175 voters. Opps. Any grade school student can figure out there is a problem.

    Even allowing for the fact that 25% of the electorate voted early, and only 80% of voters after that will turn out, the math still doesn't work for a smooth day. That math works out to each machine having to handle 105 people. That means there is still a 50% overload on each machine.

    Consider the fact that in Virginia the majority African American precincts will only have 1 machine per 400 voters and it gets it gets ridiculous.

    UPDATE: In the Georgia presidential primary earlier this year, there was only one item on the ballot, whom do you want to be your party's nominee for president. You either picked up a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot and then only had one box to check off. The whole process took less than 60 seconds at the voting machine. As a result, each machine could process over 60 voters in an hour or 720 voters during the day. This is much more than the 175 mandated by state law.

    So in mandating how many machines there have to be per voter, the law should also take into account how long the ballot is. Again this is only common sense, something government doesn’t seem to have.

    BTW, Andrew Sullivan and Sean Quinn say watch Georgia tonight.

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    November 02, 2008

    What about an electoral/popular vote split?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Vote_worthToday's New York Times has a great article enumerating the inequalities of our presidential election system. The article entitled "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?" shows the relative weight of each individual's vote (by state) when translated into the vote the really counts- an electoral college vote.

    A shocking conclusion is that theoretically a candidate can win the presidency with only 22% of the electorate's vote, representing only 16% of the population. Go check it out.

    This brings me to a point I have been worrying about for a while. What if Senator John McCain manages to win 270 electoral votes (still possible) while losing the popular vote by a rather large margin?

    This is very possible for two reasons. First, there is the relatively much greater weight of a person's vote in a red state such as Wyoming versus the diluted weight of a voter in a blue state such as California. See the above New York Times map. Secondly, in the blue states, especially the large population blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland, Obama is winning by a very large margin and the margin is growing. In the traditional larger population red states, such as Texas, Florida, Ohio and Georgia, because Obama has run a 50 state campaign, if McCain wins these states, the margin of popular vote victory will not be as large as in the past. Obama will be adding significantly to his national popular vote total, while still losing those electoral votes.

    The scenario would be McCain squeeks by in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes, but Obama blows him away in all the other states. Using today's national polls which show a rather big spread in popular sentiment, this could translate into Senator John McCain winning 270 electoral votes, but losing the popular vote by as much as 10 million votes.

    What would happen then? The Constitution says McCain would be president. However, this would clearly be a dramatically undemocratic result in the eyes of the majority of the nation, let alone the world.

    Do you think the Constitution would survive this debacle?

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    October 31, 2008

    Freedom of speech

    Posted by: Andoni

    I've always said the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is a great example of this principle.

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    October 30, 2008

    Suppressing the vote in Georgia

    Posted by: Andoni

    Long_linesI'm part of a team that drives people to the polls to vote early in Georgia.

    Consider the following three early voting polling places in metro Atlanta: the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, the Dekalb County Fire Headquarters in Tucker, and the Cobb County Galleria in suburban Atlanta.

    In Atlanta, the lines took 4 to 6 hours to reach the voting booth. These people were majority African American voters. In Dekalb County where the population is very diverse and the lines ran about 1/3 African Americans, the wait to vote was 2 and 1/2 hours.

    And finally in the cushy Cobb County suburbs, with mainly white Republicans, there was not wait.

    Was the wait at these respective places proportional to the turnout? NO, the wait was proportional to the equipment at these respective sites.

    Here is a rundown on the equipment. In Atlanta, there were only 2 computers to check people in to determine if they indeed were registered to vote. Because of this, half the voting machines stood empty at any given time because the bottleneck was at the two computers. The Dekalb County site had three computers and 16 voting machines. Again, half the voting machines were unused at any give moment because of the bottleneck at the computers.

    However, good old boy pre-dominantly Republican Cobb County had 10 computers to check people in, and 20 voting machines, 100% in use, leaving almost no wait to vote.

    Why does this all matter? Because many, many of the people I drove to the polls in Atlanta waited an hour or two and gave up. They left without voting. Will they return tomorrow to try again? I don't know? Will they show up on the real election day, Tuesday, after their bad experience with early voting? We'll see.

    The equipment disparity I describe is not illegal under state law. However, I would argue that it is unfair, and if US observers saw this in a foreign country whose elections they were monitoring, they would call that country on it.

    Voting is a right and a duty. Anything the state does to make it easy for some citizens to vote but harder for others is voter suppression as far as I'm concerned. It is wrong and it should be illegal. Oh, and did I mention that the state government is run by Republicans?

    Shouldn't the goal in this country be to make it conducive for everyone who has the right to vote to vote without having to stand in line most of the day?

    We'll see if this trend continues on actual election day.

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    October 13, 2008

    The Left plays the homophobia card in São Paulo

    Posted by: Kevin

    KassabgaybaitingIn the most important election taking place in Brazil this year, the mayoral election in the country's largest city (and my current home) São Paulo, a desperate opponent who once fashioned herself the great champion of the city's gay community is now using blatant gay-baiting in desperation.

    It is a sad and hypocritical plunge into dangerous territory for President Lula da Silva's Worker's Party (or PT, its Brazilian acronym) in a city that remains a springboard to national politics.  And the barrage of television and radio ads blatantly questioning the sexuality of incumbent Mayor Gilberto Kassab comes at a time when vicious anti-gay attacks and murders have been taking place.  And given the current state of politics in the city, the use of blatant gay-baiting by the PT is fanning the very flames of hate that has cost the lives of several innocent people in and around a neighborhood that gave Kassab his largest margin of victory in the first round of voting on October 5th.

    The history which brought us here makes this turn of events even more galling for the city's gay residents.  The PT candidate, former mayor Marta Suplicy, was elected in 2000 as the first candidate for major office in Brazil who openly campaigned for the support of gay and lesbian voters.  She marched in the city's world-record-setting gay pride parades, helping add to the momentum of the event as it became the largest annual gay pride event in the world and a major focus for the whole country's gay population. 

    However, her management of the city was widely seen as a disaster, racking up a huge debt and tying traffic up in knots with badly planned public works and out-of-kilter priorities that seemed designed to favor her base of supporters rather than the whole city.  In turn, she was soundly bounced from office in 2004 by the center-right opposition party, led by José Serra, the likely center-right presidential candidate in the race to succeed Lula in 2010.

    Serra was elected governor of São Paulo state in 2006, and his vice-mayor, Gilberto Kassab of the conservative party, the Democratas (DEM), assumed office.  Kassab is a life-long bachelor, and is a very popular mayor.  He has spearheaded several popular projects, including the Cidade Limpa law which banned all billboards and public advertisement displays inside the city limits and restored a sense of pride and conservation in the city's eclectic architecture.  He also restored São Paulo's finances, and has backed a revival of the city's old downtown, which was a sad hellhole for more than a decade.  Crime is way down in the city and continuing to drop.  The city's health services are being reformed to improve efficiency, and public works priorities seem more sane and less erratically political.  And in a marked symbol of the city's growing pride in itself, a major TV campaign promoting the city as a tourist destination was launched on CNN International earlier this year.

    To his credit, Kassab's government signed a landmark cooperative agreement one year ago with the state government which would join public defenders in both jurisdictions to provide more resources to citizens who seek redress for any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It was perhaps the most significant move by any executive branch in the country in recent memory to more concretely safeguard the rights of gay citizens in Brazil in the most meaningful way.  And despite some initial criticism (including from me) during the spate of anti-gay murders last year, the state and municipal police forces managed to apprehend every one of the perpetrators of these crimes and put them behind bars.

    In the first round of voting, Kassab leaped into the top position, eliminating a fellow center-right opponent and a scattering of minor candidates.  His approval rating tops 60%.  Marta Suplicy came in second place, and a picture emerged of a city sharply divided between the bairros of the city center (Kassab) and those in the poor periphery (Marta).  Marta is polling as much as 17 points behind Kassab in the latest published surveys.  Her only hope of squeaking to victory is to manage an enormous turnout in the periphery, and cut into his support in some parts of the city center.

    And alas, she is playing the gay card as a key element of her strategy in the second round.  As the two candidates participated in a tense debate on the Bandeirantes TV network last night, Marta's campaign launched a TV and radio ad campaign which asked voters about what they "don't know about Kassab." The screen has a pixelated black-and-white picture of Kassab's face, and it asks a number of questions about him, the last of which is: "Is he married?  Does he have children?" And the tone is clearly meant to suggest the mayor is gay, and that it's a dirty, shameful thing that should disqualify him as mayor.  And quite rightly, Kassab has filed five separate motions with the electoral commission to force Marta and the PT to take the ads off the air. 

    This comes only a year after a wave of anti-gay attacks and murders hit the Jardins neighborhood in the city center, in and around where many gay residents and gay hangouts are concentrated.  (I've written on this anti-gay crime wave extensively here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) Jardim Paulista is, ironically, the bairro where Kassab won his biggest margin of victory anywhere in the city in the October 5 first round (and I'm proud to add, it's where I live and work).  And the attackers in nearly all of the murders and beatings have been skinheads and self-described "punks" who purposely come into this neighborhood from the poorer periphery neighborhoods, the very areas to which Marta is directing her gay-baiting message, and where Marta won every bairro in the first round.

    So the so-called champion of São Paulo's gays is now throwing us to the wolves in a desperate ploy for the votes of the homophobic periphery.  She is intentionally dividing the city along lines that have flared with murderous violence for years.  And she and the PT have the gall to still claim the mantle of being the protector of gay Brazilians.  Que merda essa.

    While I cannot vote in Brazil, I am giving all I have to volunteer and agitate for Kassab's re-election.  In this case, to say this election is a matter of life and death for the gays of São Paulo is no exaggeration.

    UPDATE: This has exploded into a major story on the front pages of all the city's newspapers and websites, with near universal condemnation for what Marta's campaign is doing.  This is a huge relief, but alas the journalists of this city are not from the periphery and, in turn, are often seen as only a partial voice of the full electorate.  It is very heartening, however, to hear that highly respected political analyst Alberto Carlos Almeida told the Estado de São Paulo newspaper that Marta has "committed a fatal error that will mark her entire career" with the ad campaign.  And columnist Ricardo Noblat, who blogs for the #1 newspaper in all of Brazil, O Globo, wrote today that her ad campaign "is indeed bigoted, and is indeed sexist.  As it would be similarly sexist and bigoted to run an ad insinuating that Marta cheated on her first husband [Senator Eduardo Suplicy] before she left him." Even her own (second) husband, Luis Favre, has posted on his own blog that personal lives should be off the table in this election.  (And then defended her campaign in the very next post.  Bizarre.)

    But at an editorial meeting today with the #1 newspaper in the city, Folha de São Paulo, Marta spoke out of three different sides of her mouth, and deepened the controversy by repeating the charge, then saying she's the real victim, and then denying she even knew about the ad to begin with (my translation from Folha's report):

    "I am someone who is against bigotry.  You will never hear a single prejudiced word from my mouth.  [...] But I think that you're interpreting this all too much," Marta said, when questioned as to whether the content of the ad wasn't invasive and prejudiced. 

    The candidate denied that the ad made insinuations about the mayor's life.  "For me it's just as important is he's married, widowed or single.  People have to know." [...]

    "I think people ought to know about the candidate.  My whole life, the person with the most invaded privacy has been me.  For this reason I'm against it," affirmed the PT candidate, who said that the TV ad was the responsibility of the marketing director for her campaign.  "The decision is with the marketing director [...] I didn't even see the ad."

    This has now become, perhaps, an even more profound decision for São Paulo's voters over what kind of city this will be going forward.  Not just a question of economics, public works or taxation -- but about the very soul of this city.  Will division, resentments and hatred win, or will São Paulo take another step forward among the major cities of the world and toss this kind of manipulative politics into the trash?

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    August 22, 2008

    It won't be Nunn

    Posted by: Andoni

    S_nunn Relax everybody, former Senator Sam Nunn will not be Senator Barack Obama's running mate. He is scheduled to be out of the country through Monday and Obama is scheduled to appear with his chosen running mate in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday. So, it's not going to be Nunn. Of course, if the Obama campaign was really intent for the press not to guess the VP's name, this would be the ultimate head fake.

    Lesbians and gays became apoplectic when Nunn's name arose as a possible VP for Obama. As we remember he was instrumental  in getting the punitive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" through Congress. Additionally, he was anti-gay in most of his stances and even let a staffer go because he was gay.

    In a post yesterday, I was hoping it would be former vice president Al Gore, but I would also be happy with Senator Joe Biden, especially after reading David Brooks' column today in the New York Times. Also, according to the Human Rights Campaign, Biden has a fairly supportive history on gay issues, although he is not a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act.

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    August 16, 2008

    Convention Preview: The Republicans

    Posted by: Kevin


    The Republicans will converge on Minneapolis barely a breath and a half after Barack Obama's stadium acceptance speech in Denver.  But the event beginning on September 1 will probably -and sadly- be predictable.  As with the Democrats, the Republican National Convention has evolved into an enormously irrelevant exercise beyond the likely debut of the vice-presidential pick, and the chance for John McCain to capture the attention of the American people (and actually hold it for more than a few minutes if he can manage to ditch his alarmingly wooden delivery from various primary victory nights). While McCain is not likely to physically bolt the convention hall for his one appearance before the delegates -- like Obama wisely will -- in his gut he probably will want to.

    McCain is just as likely as Obama to be more hurt than helped by the confab of his party's activists - probably a lot more.  In fact, despite waving signs with his name all over them, most of them loathe their nominee deep down for his middle-of-the-road views on many issues, and are thinking more of their desperate hopes to hang onto the White House than their real feelings. The GOP doesn't have superdelegates per se (although state party chairs and national committee members are guaranteed delegate status), but several states select delegates for the national convention in a similarly bizarre manner under state rules that were adopted to make sure that no matter who the nominee is, there would still be an overwhelming number of extreme-right conservatives in enough delegations to ensure that the party's platform will remain an enjoyable read in the original German.

    And that's another thing.  While the Democratic platform is a huge camouflage operation intended to hide the contempt that its party's base has for the rest of the country, the Republicans put all the hate and contempt and twisted ideas of their extremists right out on paper for the world to see - and for the hapless nominee to waste time trying to shake off like a piece of toilet paper glued to his shoe.

    The Democrats might pay lip service to gay rights now and then (although they decided to give up on the "g" word this year) without really caring at all about the issue as a national party, but the Republican conventioneers have cared a lot, a LOT, about gay rights since it started popping up at conventions in the 1980s.  Gay marriage, gays in the military, gay adoption, employment discrimination, partner benefits, even the rights of domestic partners in the District of Columbia, and gays in the Boy Scouts - you name it.  Gay rights is always in the GOP platform, in that the document usually reflects the abiding hatred that the religious right and its convention soldiers hold for any kind of progress we have made or might make in legal or political terms, written in often lurid ways that depart from the majority thinking of the American people.

    The evolution of the abortion issue is an interesting illustration of the horrendous shortcomings of the GOP Convention in ever reflecting the reality of American opinion, thanks to its delegate selection rules in most states.  While the American people might be queasy about unfettered abortion, they long ago closed ranks against a constitutional amendment abolishing it.  Yet, the Republican platform still trumpets an abortion plank out of the political dark ages, and if even a pro-choice Republican somehow win the nomination he or she'd have to stay away from that sacred plank or else.  The same attitude has encrusted around all things gay, despite polls which put public support as very high for lifting the military ban, very high for employment non-discrimination laws, and even heading upward for gay marriage.

    This has always put Republican advocates for gay rights (and movement to the center on abortion) in a tough position inside the party machine.  In my years on staff at Log Cabin Republicans, we always looked at taking on the platform somehow and even on years when we were blessed with scores of gay rights supporters in the state delegations -- even openly gay delegates -- and even with some state leaders ready to go to bat for us in platform committee meetings, the math was clearly never going to be remotely  with us.  No matter what the vast majority of Republican primary voters even believed, the delegate selection rules were cooked long ago.  Rudy Giuliani or William Weld could have won 100% of the vote in the Texas primary, for example, and the Texas delegation would still have been made up mostly of hateful activists aligned with the religious right movement.  In 1996, Bob Dole gave up on his effort to adjust the platform on social issues, and just quipped to a reporter that he didn't read the platform and didn't intend to.  I expect McCain will do the same, whether he says so or not.

    I spoke with a number of Log Cabin activists in the past few weeks, and I saw a remarkable level of focus around the realities of the 2008 election campaign.  It's not the hopeless 2004 election, but it's also not the idealistic 2000 campaign either, where Bush had a public meeting with gays and said he was "a better man" for it.  One longtime member was very direct. He said the gay community is kidding itself if it thinks the gay vote will make a difference one way or the other: 

    "Look at the 2004 vote - with [Log Cabin] openly against Bush, and the gay Democrats in full attack with their vote-or-die scenarios, the vote was still about the same as in 2000.  Bush still got 20 to 25 percent of the gay vote.  And Kerry's gay vote didn't make a difference one way or the other.  So this isn't about kidding ourselves that gays matter to either party.  It's about whether gays are positioned to have an impact on the next administration whoever wins."

    That jarred me.  To me, this was a departure from the idealism we come to expect from political activists.  At least, the way gay Democrats talk about the need for a virtual one-party regime as a matter of life and death, you'd expect some kind of idealistic thought to motivate the gay political leaders of today.  But what I heard from a number of gay Republicans I talked to this month was consistent: Log Cabin's endorsement isn't about getting gay votes, or about promoting a set of gay rights legislation.  The gay GOP vote will be there no matter what, and the legislative goals will be dictated by the Democrats (if they care to even talk about them).  In 2008, it's a question of having a chance to impact a McCain Administration, or being on the outs (as it has been the last four years with the current one) at a time when the so-called leading groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, are in the GOP freezer in just about every corner of the nation and will stay there for years to come.

    I remember that the hope, back in the formative 1990s, was that Log Cabin would be able to raise the bar every four years and slowly leverage public opinion and moderate voters to pressure Republican candidates to go further than the last one.  As another gay Republican leader told me last week, gay marriage has landed on that vision like a bomb, both for bad and for good.  It led to a permanent break between Log Cabin and the Bush Administration, and from that moment on things largely collapsed after some promising developments in the first two years.  And in just the past four years, the bar on gay rights has been raised so high -- especially after the arrival of gay marriage in California -- that the incrementalist path and the various legislative vehicles for traveling down it (ENDA, the federal hate crimes law, etc.) must be totally reviewed and adapted for the new reality.  I agree with that notion -- and I think it also can be seen on the somewhat panicked faces of many national Democrats looking at California and wondering what it will lead to.

    One thing I'll give the Log Cabiners credit for -- they have a grip on reality.  Their party's convention and much of its base activists form the center of opposition to gay progress, and yet they are still marching into that convention hall, have a history with McCain, they are going to declare a set of goals before the election, and they're going to make themselves accountable for them after it.  They are going to try to collect political capital, even if it is pocket change, and they are going to spend it all.

    Say what you want about gay Republicans, but despite the enormous difference in atmosphere in their own party, I don't see one single gay Democratic organization -- de facto or de jure -- doing the same for this election cycle.  Perhaps the experience of promising a rainbow revolution with a Democratic Congress, only to see it pop like a balloon in practice the last two years, has jarred them about overpromising.   But are things that bad behind the Wizard's curtain that they can't make any set of public goals at all?  Have they no political capital at all to spend, even in 2008?

    I don't want to believe that the gay Democrats are all hot air -- I know and admire many of their leading lights, and know many to be serious people.  Why are they allergic to clear, public goals on gay issues and accountability for them?  If Log Cabin - with all the limits and challenges they face - can be sanguine about their endorsement process and their role in the big picture, albeit small, why can't there be some outside group of gay Democrats (like HRC) who set forth a clear agenda that they intend to carry out in an Obama presidency?

    After the hundreds of millions of gay dollars raised and spent over the last 20 odd years of this stuff, it would be a horrendously depressing conclusion if all it has bought us is a gay Democratic establishment that, behind the expensive glitter, exists only by the permission and good humor of its party's leaders, and a small gay Republican insurgency, battered as it is, which would be the only channel of information for a GOP administration that itself would be a minefield whether the Oval Office was inhabited by a friendly face or not.

    Let's see.

    [Photo from The Simpsons (Fox).  Note:  Sorry this is a day late, but we had an internet outage in our building last night. -K]

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    August 13, 2008

    Convention Preview: The Democrats

    Posted by: Kevin

    Simpsonsdem_conventionThe Democratic National Convention will convene in Denver on August 25th to nominate Barack Obama as their presidential standard-bearer in the fall election.  However, the concept of standard-bearer has morphed, in reality, to be the opposite.  In truth, Obama will be speaking in Denver on August 28th in order to try to make the Democratic Party as much his own standard-bearer as he can for the fall race -- and whatever failing the party cannot overcome, he will simply fill in with his own campaign's enormous resources.

    Indeed, the party conventions have evolved on different paths toward a very proximate destination: utter irrelevance, if not a net negative on their respective nominees.  I'll deal with the GOP side in Friday's post, but for the Democrats it has been a sleek and steady evolution much like a snake changing its skin.  The colors are rearranged, and the camouflage is more up-to-date, but the animal hasn't changed a whit.  The national Democratic Party has been, and still is, an amalgam of disparate, self-obsessed interest groups who believe only in power and have no idea (nor care to learn) how to govern this country properly.

    Barack Obama steps onto the stage on the 28th, and quite tellingly he will do it far from the convention hall -- at Invesco Field before 60,000 cheering fans.  But until then, the show on stage will be classic Democratic Convention stuff.  It starts with the party's platform, which as usual is a document which puts lipstick, a skirt, manicured nails and a lovely hairdo on the party's inherent vacuum of core beliefs, and the deep contempt that its hackdom has for anyone outside their political ghetto.  True to form, this year the platform scrubbed any use of the words "gay" or "lesbian" (heaven forefend "trans-"anything), and the national voice of the gay Democratic hacks promptly pronounced it "the strongest platform on gay and transgender issues ever approved by a major U.S. political party."  This after years of burning into political gospel that use of the "g" and "l" (and sometimes "t") words are the lowest bar you can set for acceptability.  Not since Mitt Romney landed in Iowa has there been such a head-spinning political u-turn, but I digress.

    The point is that the Democratic Convention seems to always be a giant masquerade show to hide the contempt its core activists feels towards anyone outside their narrow cantons of special interests, and to somehow con independents and moderate Republicans into thinking they believe anything really.  It's always a myriad of acrobatics and frantic semaphore-waving from a party base that is hopelessly tone-deaf in connecting with the average American but still knows they have to try if they want to win (which is all they want).

    So, the platform will mean nothing.  The keynote speech will be great theater and maybe a hint at future leaders.  The quota of gay delegates - whether it met the 'targets' or not - will be irrelevant.  The only thing that will be telling is if someone goes off script and says what he/she really thinks in prime time and lets his/her contempt really rip.  Otherwise, frankly, we will glean nothing about what Barack Obama will do as President -- on gay rights or anything else.  (That is, unless he decides to give a speech that says something important rather than is delivered importantly.)

    Beyond the Denver masquerade party, it must be noted that it's been Democrats who've been most of the real champions on gay rights wherever we've made progress.  These individuals and local parties have been limited mostly to scattered municipalities and some states holding the largest cities-- mostly thanks to openly gay elected Democrats who truly understand and care about these issues, and represent concentrated gay constituencies.  Occasionally, we've seen Barney Frank or Ted Kennedy have their moment to shine (sadly not often enough, and rarely with success under Democratic rule).  Also, the state Democratic Party of California must get a major tip of the hat for its tremendous courage on gay issues.  They really have delivered in ways no other Democrats in the nation can claim to have.  One only wishes California's Democrats were so evolved on fiscal matters, but alas.

    But the truth is that the national Democratic Party never cared all that much about gay rights, nor does it today.  To them, it's a money-maker, a loyalty builder in urban areas, and useful so long as the Republicans are as hateful and loathsome on the issue as is humanly possible.  This attitude will not cut mustard in 2008, however.  The bar on gay issues has been raised so high in comparison to every preceding year, particularly with gay marriage breaking out in California, that both parties seem befuddled at how to keep pace.  The national Democrats know that if they back specifically-gay families, they are getting behind gay marriage, no two-ways about it.  That means real policy changes.  So they got out the eraser.

    And we need only to look at the fact that the Democratic Congress, led by a Speaker from San Francisco no less, has done jack-shit on gay rights since it came to power after a decade of exuberant promises of "fighting 'til hell freezes over, and then fighting on the ice" for gay Americans.  It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now.  It's a party led by Chairman Howard Dean, who had no trouble apparently breaking the very employment protection laws which his party claims to be the champion of, in firing openly-gay Donald Hitchcock from his staff.  And the real contempt he and many of his senior staff hold for the gay community outside their little hack-ghetto has been uncovered by subpoena.  No surprise.

    The Republicans are a whole other animal, of course (and I'll get to them on Friday).  But this notion that the Democratic Party would care more for our issues if it had littered its platform with every rainbow letter in the alphabet is a joke.  They never cared, and they won't start caring now, and what the party hacks think about this issue is really not the point anymore.  The onus is on the gay Democratic leaders (self-appointed or otherwise) and Democratic-aligned organizations like the Human Rights Campaign to tell us exactly what they are going to push for in an Obama presidency (no cute versions of Nixon's secret plans and promises, to be revealed after the election), how they are going to hold Obama to their goals, and how they, Obama and a Democratic Congress will accomplish those goals together.  That will take humility at admitting the limits they face, and it will mean being held accountable should they fall short.

    I'm still waiting to hear, and I doubt such talk will surface meaningfully in Denver.  Let's hope sometime before Election Day.

    (NOTE: On Friday, The RepublicansPhoto from The Simpsons (Fox))

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    Filed in: DNC , Elections

    August 11, 2008

    Mark Penn: Obama not fundamentally American

    Posted by: Andoni

    "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."

    What the fuck? This is an email from Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, planning ways to attack Senator Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Talk of the politics of personal destruction, this is it and from people within his own party. (An article containing hundreds more internal emails from the Clinton campaign will be published by The Atlantic magazine tomorrow.)

    What does Penn's quote mean? How do you measure thinking and values? The fact that Clinton and Obama had nearly identical positions on the issues and as well as nearly identical voting records tells me this is not really about thinking and values - at least objectively. Objectively there is very little difference between the two candidates. So what does Penn mean? Penn is using code claiming that Obama is different, not like us. As gay people we should understand this message perfectly well because we have repeatedly been accused of not having the same values as straight people. It's disgusting as well as untrue.

    Saying Obama "is not at his center fundamentally American" is a clear attempt to paint Obama as un-American. What proof can they produce that Obama's thinking and values are different from Clinton's? None. The differences are that Obama had a foreign born parent and his skin color is black. Does this make his values and thinking different and un-American? I guess if you keep repeating that claim you will find some fertile ground in a sub-section of the electorate who will believe it.

    If you're thinking, oh, but what about Reverend Wright.... let me respond that there is not one shred of evidence that Obama ever repeated, internalized or proposed any of Wright's outlandish ideas. So you cannot use Reverend Wright to say that Obama is not "fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."

    I cannot tell you how contemptible I find Penn's actions. It's disgusting and reflects very poorly on Senator Clinton and her campaign. I believe public apologies are in order by both Clinton and Penn.


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    July 04, 2008

    The Crist nuptuals

    Posted by: Kevin

    Regarding the timely announcement that Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R) is getting married, Andrew Sullivan gets it right.  I, too, am a Crist fan on many issues (not on his waffling on the marriage amendment ballot measure).  I have no idea if he's gay or not, but I know what it's like to get married later in life than you thought you would.

    And if it plays out as it seems it will, this will be an even more peculiar and fascinating race than its first act proved to be.

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    June 20, 2008

    In the tank

    Posted by: Kevin


    It seems like left-leaning readers of this blog love to comment up a storm, while the right-leaning ones tend to send emails.  I've gotten more than a few lately about whether it's time for me to attack the mother ship -- i.e. Citizen Crain himself -- over the perception that despite his so-called "independent" label, he is not only backing Barack Obama for President, but he's firmly in the tank for him.

    Given the recent "pissing match" Chris got into with the bitches at Queerty, which might soon drag Dan Renzi into the ring as well, I thought - why not? 

    Let's all go for his throat, shall we?  Let's bring the pissing match home!  (Yee-hah!)

    First of all, there are the tit-tat lists marked SUPPORTS and OPPOSES that try to compare Obama and McCain on a host of issues that Chris selects as the decisive ones.  Most recently, he made this list in order to castigate Log Cabin Republicans for even putting out a message to their members to get feedback on their endorsement decision.  He also went out of his way to point out that Log Cabin was "ignoring" recent statements that cast much doubt on the firmness of McCain's opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, but he didn't mention that Log Cabin's own summary of McCain's record includes his positions on all the major gay issues. 

    There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to distinguish "why" McCain was opposed to FMA versus "why" Obama is, as if to show a world of difference between the fact that both of them voted against it.  That has irked some friends of mine, who say that is the mark of a tank soldier rather than a critical observer - someone who accuses others of "tortured" arguments when he himself is waterboarding the context of a significant and "brave" action by McCain.

    Chris has also been accused of really going on a tirade against Log Cabin for months, even criticizing them for their ad campaign against Mitt Romney, a man who all of us can agree had to be stopped.  That made some resentful and confused.  That he also dug up a racist pin that some vendor was peddling at a state GOP convention led one fellow blogger and friend to comment in an IM: "Give me ten minutes and I'll find you 100 vile buttons from Democrats and left-wingers about "Bush and Dick" as well as others attacking religious faith, calling Bush a terrorist, etc.  Doesn't make any of it relevant."

    And finally, there is the attack on McCain's personal life, and convicting McCain of having committed adultery against his first wife with his now-wife with mere hearsay evidence.  That has enraged some people that don't even like McCain, and raised the question (in their minds) about "how far up Obama's ass Chris Crain has gone," as one friend said in an IM to me.

    Amidst the daily barrage of criticism of McCain from the Citizen in question, there have been little to no questions or perspective or pondering of what might come next on the Democratic side, the natterers say.  Almost as if scrutiny of Obama should now end, and we should all drive towards the breach and open fire on the enemy until November.  But so many questions remain. 

    • Will Obama campaign against the Florida anti-marriage amendment?  Will he be willing to stake his his presidency on it?  Because if not, then why should McCain?  Frankly - that's a fair question from a purely objective standpoint.  What's our answer?  We need independent voices out there demanding one, and putting Obama to the test.
    • Do we want to push McCain further in our direction on gay issues before the election?  If so, will going after his personal life achieve that?  What could achieve that?  I would hazard a suggestion, based on the man's entire political career thus far: independent voices would.
    • Do we want to really follow through with Andoni's excellent post on the need for the gay community to throw out its outmoded and failed political strategic framework and forge one more in line with today?  If so, does rushing off to the Obama army in June achieve that, or does it just cause the gay issue in general to evaporate?  Tell you what - independent voices are what this community's political leadership has almost none of today, and you can see what it leads to.
    • Is it even wise for us to pretend that the national gay vote is going to mobilize around gay issues alone in 2008?  Sure, we must rally with ruthless discipline in California.  Everyone knows that.  But what about the rest of us?  And what about all the other issues that we all care about?  Is the gay community truly made up of happy left-wing New Deal Democrats who want more farm subsidies, less free trade, presidential summits with Iran and Venezuela, and a dialogue with Hamas?   Come on.  The debate led by an independent gay blog should recognize the reality that we are definitely NOT.

    So, with all of this evidence of his blameworthiness, and the power of the torch-holding mob behind me, I therefore say that yes, I shall now render judgment on Chris Crain's head. 

    I point my fist at thee and cry: GUILTY!  GUILTY! Get thee from that tank!

    (Now stop bothering me y'all, and have a nice weekend everyone.  It's June.  Go to the damn beach.  And use the comment feature more, will ya?)

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    June 15, 2008

    The Pinocchio's on "Meet the Press"

    Posted by: Andoni

    PinocchioToday’s “Meet the Press” was devoted to remembering Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief and host of the show since 1991, who died Friday.

    Over the years, one of Tim’s favorite questions was to ask aspiring politicians who came on the show if they were going to run for president. Today there was a fascinating montage of Tim asking this question to prominent guests and most of them denying it. Tim was skilled in trying to pin these people down with a yes or a no, and most of them said no. The clip included former Representative Richard Gephardt, Senator John Kerry, former California Governor Gray Davis, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, and Senator Barack Obama.

    It was very amusing to see many of these people give a “no” answer, knowing that they later ran for president. Their answers varied from “I have no plans to run” to “I do not intend to run.”

    Of note, Senator Clinton responded to Tim’s “Do you want to be president?” with “No.” Pressed further, Senator Clinton replied, “I have no intention of running for president. I do not intend to do that.”

    Senator McCain dismissed the question with a laugh and said, “You’ll hear it here first.” It came across as a don’t be silly, but if I do decide, I tell you first. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. When McCain announced his candidacy, he did it on Letterman’s “Late Show” instead of “Meet the Press.”

    To their credit both Ralph Nader and Senator Barack Obama gave the most direct and honest answers. Nader told Russert, “After careful thought…… I have decided to run as an independent candidate for president.”

    Senator Barack Obama did not play games either.

    Russet: “But it’s fair to say you are thinking about running for president in 2008?”

    Obama: “It’s fair, yes.”

    It’s refreshing when a politicians give straightforward answers.

    If a video of this montage becomes available, I will try to add it to this post.



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    June 14, 2008

    It's the economy, economy, economy

    Posted by: Andoni

    Depression As I've noted before, voters, including myself, tend to vote their values over their economic interests. It takes really bad times to break this pattern. In order to ascertain that the Democrats wrestle control of the White House from the Republicans and also win a huge filibuster proof majority in the Senate, I'm still hoping for the economy to keep tanking. The economy has to get to the point where it really hurts. This happened in 1932 and provided a new era of Democratic control after a long period of Republican economic mismanagement similar to today. I know that a severe economic downturn is devastating to lots of people and it will harm me as well. But it's the economy that gets voter's attention more than anything else.

    Bob Herbert provides evidence in today's New York Times that the economy is indeed tanking and may provide the the deep and broad voter dissatisfaction that will help re-align politics for another generation. As a person interested in gay rights, this would be very welcome. A McCain victory will throw cold water on a gay rights movement that is about to break out with its biggest advances in our country's history. All we need is a gay friendly president and large working majorities in Congress.

    To this end, I don't trust the voters to make the right choice on their own. However, when the economy is foremost on their minds, we just might get the results we are looking for and we deserve.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Filed in: Elections , HRC

    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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    March 31, 2008

    Those people in Kansas and me

    Posted by: Andoni

    Dorothy I went to my accountant today to discuss my taxes and while driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about people in Kansas. You know, those people in the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank. This is the book that asks the question why the majority of people in Kansas continue to vote Republican when it is not in their economic interest to do so.

    Republicans do not have a track record of protecting jobs for the middle class, expanding health care, or benefiting the typical worker economically. Yet middle class and working class Kansans don’t seem to care and keep voting GOP. Kansans seem moved more by Republican positions on social issues like gay marriage and abortion than their own economic interests. Why can’t these people see the light?

    Then, while driving home I realized that I’m a Kansan, too. No, I don’t vote Republican for their social values, I vote Democratic for theirs. But voting Democratic for me also puts me in the same category of those Kansans we love to criticize. It goes against my economic self interest.

    Let me explain. I’m retired and my entire income comes solely from capital gains. Thanks to George W. Bush’s tax cuts a few years ago, for the third year in a row, my final total federal tax rate is 15% -- lower than Warren Buffet’s. The Democrats want to end this tax give away for the wealthy. McCain and the Republicans want to renew it. My economic interest would be to vote Republican to continue saving all this money in capital gains taxes -- a very, very sweet deal.

    However, social issues like gay rights are what more important to me than my own economic interests. As a result, I’ll be just like those Kansans I used to like to criticize so much. I'll vote my “values” instead of my economic interest. Count me as irrational as those Kansans. This demonstrates to me that as much as I would like to think otherwise, values can trump economics and make people act "irrationally."

    The question for this November is, will a severe recession cause enough Republican "values voters" to switch into economic voters; that is, to suddenly become rational?

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    February 13, 2008

    Will he or won't he?

    Posted by: Kevin

    Mccainn_2We are at a stage in the Republican nomination process where symbolism, code language, and posturing matter more than almost anything else.  It's a tentative, tension-filled moment where the various constituencies in the GOP begin biting and angling for place and dominance as the ranks begin to consolidate behind a presumptive nominee.

    With any run-of-the-mill GOP nominee-in-waiting, there would be a whole lot of calculated hugging, genuflecting, back-slapping in order to "unite the party".  It can sometimes lead to craven promises, nearly always to the religious right, which morally stain the Republican Party's march forward in the eyes of the rest of us.  The question now remains - with a candidate as unusual as John McCain, who is openly reviled by the core religious right and its fanatical amen-corners on talk radio, and the pressure of an almost suicide-mission campaign from the right by Mike Huckabee in state after state, will John McCain kneel down, too?

    It's usually been a kind of an awful display of politics over principle, one which anyone who seeks a power base of any size in the GOP must angle toward participating in.  It's often said that Republicans are from Mars, and Democrats are from Venus - and when it comes to inter-party politics, that's definitely the case.  The push-pull of this moment in the GOP campaign is classic, and everyone who wants to be a player has to, well, play.

    As a GOP organization, Log Cabin Republicans did so in 1996 and 2000 - two election campaigns in which I played a senior staff role.  The group made a public decision from the outset in both cases to create leverage by positioning itself from the beginning to have some eventual say at this same tentative moment of "party unity" - not to mention a possible role in an eventual administration. 

    With Bob Dole in 1996, we were breaking new ground.  And it was quite an adventure from start (a returned campaign check and the resulting international media furor) to finish (a request for our endorsement, a convention free of anti-gay rhetoric, a pledge to maintain non-discrimination policies in federal employment). 

    In 2000, we were courted by the McCain campaign, which had several openly gay Republicans in its leadership doing the wooing along with the candidate himself, and while we took actions to remind Karl Rove that his political dalliances with anti-gay groups who demanded all sorts of promises would not be overlooked by us, and there would be pain inflicted on the Bush campaign if it even whispered anti-gay rhetoric on the stump. 

    McCain's early trouncing of Bush in some primaries opened up that leverage, and we smacked Bush with negative radio ads ahead of the 2000 Super Tuesday to hit back for his behavior in South Carolina.  The result was to force Bush to hold the first-ever meeting with a group of openly-gay Republicans -- albeit ones that Karl Rove chose in order to snub LCR's leadership.  But that didn't matter.  We got our leverage, and we used it.  Other 'firsts' resulted -- the first openly-gay national AIDS director, the first federal prosecution of an anti-gay murder as a hate crime, and the first real global AIDS initiative.  Small potatoes for some, sure.  But progress for the GOP circa 2001-2002.  It was enough to infuriate leading religious right organizations, who in 2001 launched an effort to "expose" the "gay Republican agenda" at work inside the Bush White House (and I was named personally as a conspirator in some reports).

    The point of recalling all this is not to extol the virtues of Bob Dole or George W. Bush by any means; far from it.  It's a very different world in 2008, and as it should be, the bar is far higher for both parties than it was then.  But it's to point out how leverage is the name of the game in politics, and how power is gained or lost inside the GOP through leverage.  And why this is a very tense moment for gay observers of the McCain campaign, because of the leverage trying to be exerted on him now by some of the gay community's biggest enemies in politics.  Will he be different?  Will he fight off the religious right kitchen-sink that is currently flying at his head?

    Chris asked very understandably for someone to explain what the attraction is for John McCain among some gays.  It's not easy to explain in sound bites.  McCain does represent a milestone in the journey that gays have made with the Republican Party, either on the inside or on the outside.  Because he will be the nominee, we will have a presidential contest in which neither candidate supports the Federal Marriage Amendment.  True, neither will support gay marriage; indeed both will have been on record opposing it.  But we should all agree that this is still progress.

    If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she will carry with her some nice rhetoric and very little substance on gay issues.  Obama is a very new product, and the radioactive wattage of his rhetoric is all we really have on him.  McCain has a long record, and it contains both legislative and political memories of all types. 

    He stood with gay Republicans against the ugly tactics in South Carolina in 2000 and the early pandering by the 2000 Bush campaign to anti-gay groups.  He voted against the FMA in the Senate, and spoke against it on the Senate floor, but he also voted for DOMA, against ENDA, supports "don't ask, don't tell" and backed the Arizona anti-gay marriage referendum (but so did John Kerry back such a measure in 2004).   

    He led the fight with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-OR) in 1996 to repeal the repulsive Dornan Amendment, which sought to create witchhunts to drive soldiers out of the military who tested HIV positive after enlistment and cut off all their benefits.  I remember meeting with him that year in the Senate and seeing the blood in his eyes over how unfair it was as he laid out their strategy for getting the votes to repeal it.  And when I raised "don't ask, don't tell" in the same conversation, and again when it was raised in our meeting with him as a presidential candidate in 2000, he had the same political (almost Hillaryesque) answer: "When General Colin Powell says it's time to repeal it, we can do it."   

    Conviction, politics, bravery, skittishness -- all rolled up in one.  It was good from a conservative Republican in 1996 and 2000; it's frustrating today coming from anyone wanting to be President, even if it's an improvement over the last guy who ran.

    He would certainly appoint openly gay people in a McCain Administration, and probably in some senior positions should the right people come along.  I have no doubt about that.  And he would get his back up and defend them against even a whisper of anger from the (shrinking) GOP minority in the Congress over their qualifications.  But I don't know if he'll ever be with us on ENDA.  I'd like to think he will be.  But that's not enough for most people to make a decision in November, if that's their big issue. 

    He'll never be with us on marriage, though.  There aren't enough years left in life for that kind of conversion, I'm afraid, as much as I like him personally.  At least he'll never lie to us in the face about it, like many Democrats.  But how good is that a reason to vote for him?  I guess it depends on his opponent, who will also oppose gay marriage.  Here's where it gets muddy, yet again.

    So, in that melange of answers and ruminations, you see where McCain fits into the bigger picture for some gays.  And you also see how tenuous this moment is for those who hope he will continue to be "different", albeit imperfect, in terms of Republican nominees.  He already went to Liberty University a long time ago, and much like he did at CPAC last week, he didn't give them anything other than very polite attention and a restatement that he is who he is, take him or leave him. 

    If McCain faces down the pressure of Huckabee's challenge and the ravings of the talk radio set, and refuses to kneel in any way to that pressure, then we shift our focus to the GOP convention in St. Paul and beyond, and begin to wonder what a Clinton or Obama challenge would bring out in John McCain next fall.  And if he wins the presidency, whether we voted for him or not, what will it mean for the Republican Party that a tough man stood up to our community's biggest political enemies, told them to go to hell, won the nomination, led the party to victory and never regretted it for a moment? It could finally embolden gay rights supporters in the GOP to get off their asses, come out of hiding (and the closet) and do the right thing in abundance once and for all.

    For many of us who look at the U.S. political spectrum far beyond the meetings of a few gay Democratic clubs in a handful of major cities, it would be a gigantic step forward for the United States.  And there would be a duty for Log Cabin Republicans to build leverage over the McCain Administration and to use it for the right ends -- legislative and policy outcomes that we want as a community, and progress that we can measure and hold up to the next president and the next.

    If you don't get it, well, sorry.  That's just the way it is on Mars.

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    February 07, 2008

    One down; one to go...

    Posted by: Kevin

    Clintonromney1_3Today, Mitt Romney gave up his effort to lead a soulless borg of hacks into power in Washington, and the gay community is better off for it.  If nothing else, all those people that he flipped-off to launch his flop of a presidential campaign can rejoice -- he was taken down.

    And he was taken down by a candidate who is seen as enemy number one by anti-gay monsters like James Dobson and Pat Buchanan.  John McCain is the anti-borg; he's a man who inspires Democrats and independents because he revels in telling the psychotic wing of the Republican Party that it can eat shit.  (And I think that's actually a quote...)  Regardless of whether any of us should vote for him in November, it is clearly a welcome development for the GOP and for gays in general.  (Log Cabin Republicans are celebrating, and with good reason.  They had a score to settle with Romney, and a message to send to any GOP gay rights supporters that there will be pain if you flip-flop on our issues.)

    Now, with the GOP race decided, it's time to go after the other corrosive element that is holding our community back politically.  It's time to take out Hillary Clinton, and the soul-crushing hack-o-rama that she and her husband are gathering off the coast to lead back into power.

    A McCain-Clinton race would be the worst of all worlds.  Clinton will have to "run to the middle", and in the universe of the Clintons that means throwing gays overboard on just about everything except the most antiseptic, unnecessary fluff of rhetoric and no action.  And their surrogates (e.g. the Human Rights Campaign) will microtarget the same tired Elizabeth Birchian message that if gays don't vote for Hillary, masked gunmen will essentially break into their houses the day after the election and march them off to camps.  (And, as so many of us are just as dumb as any other machine demographic, it will work with a lot of gay voters.) 

    Hillary will drone on and on about nothing during the general election campaign, slowly beginning to resemble the sound of an adult speaking in a Peanuts animated cartoon, and leave McCain a wide berth to simply point to her and say, "I'm not that."  The end.  No debate, no pressure and no oxygen for gay issues.

    However, an Obama-McCain race is the one that the borgs dread like a vampire dreads the sunlight.  What seems clear now is that it would be a race that would smash all the usual claptrap of machine politics and test the limits of the left-right, Democrat-Republican, conservative-liberal continuum.  They are honorable men with ideas, spiritual groundings and true charisma, but they are also men with flaws, weak spots and shortcomings. 

    I can't imagine McCain ever embracing the rhetoric of the anti-gay movement, or the cowardly cavings to groups like Focus on the Family.  He has taken some brave moves, like voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment, and speaking against it on the floor.  But on a wider range of legislative issues that have come up, like ENDA, he has stubbornly stood aside for a long time.  Obama has been called by many, including Chris, as the best candidate on gay issues.  I confess that even I am taken by his soaring speeches, and not just on gay issues but even on the war and the economy.  He is like booze - tastes great, and makes me almost forget what my convictions are.  Dangerous, but not necessarily in a bad way.  Who knows?  But no matter how taken any of us might be with Obama, let's not forget that this man is a novice.  And the presidency is the most awesome office in the world, especially now.  It's not just the prize on the season finale of a reality show.

    So, let's table the question on the vote in November for now, and unite behind this important principle -- it's time to annihilate the machine politics that have held the gay movement back for too long.  Romney has been stopped.  Time to stop Hillary.

    Then we can have the race we deserve as a community, and as a nation.

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    February 01, 2008

    For gay GOPers - now what?

    Posted by: Kevin

    070517_lincoln_memorial_hmed_3phm_3 With the exit of Rudy Giuliani, who by any reasonable account was the biggest gay rights supporter to ever have a decent shot at the GOP nomination for president, a lot of air has come out of the balloon for gay Republicans this cycle.  What comes next is still a very open question.

    Some things are very clear.  The vast majority of gay Republicans I know were either declared or undeclared Giuliani supporters, many of them registered on his delegate slates to the GOP convention.  That was logical.  He was a Republican worth fighting for in the gay community for many years.  I backed his mayoral campaigns in 1993 and 1997, and I was lucky enough to speak with him a few times during my time on staff at Log Cabin Republicans.  At an event after the 1997 election, I saw him get booed at a high school in Queens because he had proposed an expansive domestic partnership law for same-sex couples after the election.  He didn't blink, and he lectured the hecklers about respect for people who are different, and why it made not only New York a great city, but America a great country.   I marched with him down Fifth Avenue on many a Gay Pride Day.  I never dreamed he'd run for president.  And just from the level of vitriol and attacks the partisan New York gay Democratic hacks stirred up from the moment he announced (if you understand New York City politics at all), you can be sure Rudy was indeed a stand-out Republican on our issues.

    Right off, as the campaign got serious, he started hedging on some important things.  It was very disappointing.  And it wasn't excusable.  Had his primary election strategy succeeded (i.e. had John McCain vanished early), he would have had to answer to the gay community, not the least of whom his many, many gay supporters, for his equivocations.  I was betting that he would come clean and be with us forthrightly before November.  But that's in the what-if category now.

    The other sure thing is that Mitt Romney must be stopped.  He is, embodied in one man, everything that is reprehensible and destructive inside the Republican Party of which I am a member.  Romney's lies and flip-flops on gay issues run the gamut so widely that he literally should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most heinous backtracking on more gay issues than any other politician in history.  But it goes beyond our community.  Mitt Romney has shown that he is not only incompetent as a potential commander-in-chief (see his laughable answers in the last debate),  but he is willing to say or do anything to get ahead politically, and the combination of the two at this moment in time could lead to the worst imaginable consequences for the world.  Romney in the White House is just a dangerous, frightening concept to imagine.

    Mike Huckabee is already a footnote in the race, and given the fact that he depended on a lot of rabidly anti-gay supporters to even peak his head out in this election it would be ridiculous to think we could count on him to be rational on gay issues.  His last minute, pre-Mega Tuesday fumbling to sound tolerant in San Francisco is more a sign of him being lost on the road to oblivion than anything else.

    And then there is John McCain.  He's a man I also supported very strongly in 2000 before he was knocked out of the race.  I also got to talk to him on occasion in my old career, and the balls he showed to Karl Rove, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell alone in the 2000 campaign will always make me proud to call him a friend.  The fact that many on the anti-gay right have said they hate him so much they'd vote for Hillary instead of him, frankly, is because his contempt for their politics is real.  But it isn't 2000 anymore.  And McCain is not with us on a lot of issues, even if he's with us gay Republicans on the fight against a common enemy.  In the end, the enemy-of-my-enemy adage just doesn't cut it anymore.  It's not good for HRC's boot-licking of the Democratic Party, or to let the Clinton Borg hack-o-rama off the hook for their uselessness.  So it can't be the reason for voting for McCain for president in November either.  He's going to have to do more.

    It's only February, yes.  But stay tuned.  If you haven't noticed, gay Republicans don't fit neatly into any box, despite the relentless trashing that we get from a few trolling gay lefties on the internet.  We're also not represented by a wide measure by friends of mine like Bruce Carroll, founder of GayPatriot, who despite my strong affection for him as a longtime friend, sometimes scares me with the intensity of his devotion to leaders who are unmistakably and unabashedly unreachable on whether gays should have any equality under the law now or ever.

    The 2008 election has the chance of being a real party-bender of major proportions, depending on who emerges from the ashes of the primaries.  With the gays, too.  I'm not close to deciding who'd I'd want in November myself.  But if the gay blogosphere is any indicator, don't be surprised if a surprising number of other gay Republicans decide to make history and get behind a man who (I must confess) has inspired many of us more profoundly than we expected, and has us all considering our options more widely than we'd ever considered before. 

    And I'm not talking about Mike Bloomberg.

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    January 30, 2008

    Kennedy hit with bitter NOW backlash

    Posted by: Andoni

    It’s the politics of gender now.

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

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

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

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

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    January 23, 2008

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

    Posted by: Kevin

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    You tell me.

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    January 22, 2008

    Economic Panic: Good or Bad for Gays?

    Posted by: Kevin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    February 11, 2007

    Turning away from the D.C. Dems

    Posted by: Chris

    Howarddean Regular Citizen-reader Andoni makes an interesting comment to my post yesterday about Tim Gill:

    It's a continuation of the spat between Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel. Is the money best spent at the top or building a party at the state level? Well both, but each half has to acknowledge the contributions of the other.

    Indeed, Dean was pushing to invest many in all 50 states, while Emanuel wanted to concentrate limited resources in the races he thought would flip control of Congress.  Dean did things his way, as he is wont to do, and the Dems won both houses anyway, though by smaller margins than Emanuel et al claim they would have.

    I'll buy into the analogy so long as it stays an analogy.  Dean and Emanuel were squabbling over how to spend limited resources on Democratic Party priorities.  In the same way, Gill and Jeff Soref (and his Dem-first, gay-second friends at the Human Rights Campaign) are partying ways on how to spend limited resources on gay rights priorities.

    Dean may have had the better long-term argument for Dems, but that doesn't mean gay money should back his "50-state" campaign.  This confluence of Democratic Party priorities and gay rights priorities has been one of the central strategic errors of the gay rights movement over the last decade, and rathern than be corrected, it's been enshrined in Joe Solmonese's decision to model HRC after (of all things) organized labor.

    I have made no secret of my great disappointment in how Dean morphed from the civil union champion who rode gay money to become the early leader in the '04 Democratic primaries into the curmudgeonly, anti-marriage technocrat who abolished the Democratic National Committee's gay outreach desk and treated gay Democrats as if they were nothing more than glorified pocketbooks.

    Dean was so miffed by my paper's tough coverage and my editorial pressure that he called the Washington Blade the "New York Post of the gay and lesbian press." "They’re not credible and they have somebody there who has an agenda which is clearly not favorable to the Democratic Party so we simply don’t give them any credence," he told an interviewer last summer.

    Hitchcockyandura Exactly.  Like so many other Democratic Party leaders, Dean expects gay people and gay groups to treat the Democratic Party agenda as if it were their own, and he bristles when the gays get uppity.  Take, for example, Donald Hitchcock and Paul Yandura.  Dean fired Hitchcock as the head of gay outreach after Yandura, his partner, sent out a blistering email criticizing Dean for refusing to fund the fight against statewide mariage ballot measures.

    But Hitchcock is keeping up the pressure, evidenced by a letter in this week's Blade that critiques Dean's performance at the recent Democratic LGBT Caucus meeting:

    After attending the recent Democratic National Committee LGBT Caucus meeting, it reaffirmed for me my reasons for standing up to Howard Dean’s reluctance to treat our community with dignity and respect, an action for which I was fired. I claim that firing as a badge of honor.

    Dean barely addressed the LGBT caucus with only five minutes worth of comments and he took no questions from the floor. And unfortunately, his talking points had shifted from the comprehensive plan to address the anti-LGBT state ballot measures offered last year to throwing only “a little bit of money” into the states at the end of the fight. 

    So much for the strategy to combat them that he touted in the LGBT press prior to the elections. A recent survey shows that the DNC gave states less than $20,000 in total, despite having raised almost $2 million from the gay community in 2006. But we will never know the exact amount given to state groups since the DNC is embarrassed to officially release the numbers. …

    At the meeting, gay finance staff and key fundraisers did sit at the caucus table, as before, but what is different is that lately we seem to be treated solely as an ATM for the party, with our civil rights seeming an afterthought or burden.

    Kudos to Donald for holding Dean to task, even if groups like HRC and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have swallowed Dean's dogma hook, line and sinker.  Let's hope gays with money pay heed to Hitchcock's criticism and give close consideration to Gill's new approach.

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    February 10, 2007

    An independent voice in Washington

    Posted by: Chris

    Tim_gill_jpg Kudos to Atlantic Monthly for luring reclusive gay philanthropist Tim Gill out for a long-form interview that adds a much-needed perspective to how gay Americans might best strategize for equality. Gill, who made his fortune on Quark software, has been devoted full-time to philanthropy through his Denver-based Gill Foundation since selling his stake in the company six years ago.

    But after dissatisfaction with the results from donating large sums to existing gay groups and political parties, Gill hired his own political strategists and embarked on something of an experiment.  First motivated by anti-gay ballot measures in Colorado, Gill invested his money directly where the action was: trying to stop statewide constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. 

    But seeing the long odds there, he and his advisers looked more closely at the situation and saw that, although these measures get broad support at the polls, they are typically generated by only a few local politicians who use the social issue of gay marriage to drum up dollars and build larger political careers.  As they advance, they only wreak further havoc on gay people at a higher level. Think Rick Santorum.

    So beginning in 2004, Gill aimed at cutting off these careers early on, identifying the loudest anti-gay politicians from the most vulnerable local districts, and he poured large sums of money into knocking them off.  And after years of networking with other gay philanthropers, he got them to follow suit.

    The result, according to Atlantic Monthly, was extraordinary:

    In 2004, [Gill] quietly targeting three anti-gay Colorado incumbents; two of them went down. Through the combined efforts of a host of progressive interest groups, including many supported by Gill, Democrats captured both chambers of the legislature for the first time in forty years. Gill’s decision to back Democrats in Colorado was the only choice that would produce the gay-tolerant leadership he’s pursuing. But ten years from now, he told me, he hopes he’ll be able to give evenly to Republicans and Democrats.

    In 2006, Gill went even bigger, targeting some 70 vulnerable anti-gay incumbents and other races that might affect who controls a state legislature. The results were even more extraordinary:

    In the 2006 elections, on a level where a few thousand dollars can decide a close race, Gill’s universe of donors injected more than $3 million, providing in some cases more than 20 percent of a candidate’s or organization’s budget. On Election Day, 50 of the 70 targeted candidates were defeated … and out of the 13 states where Gill and his allies invested, four—Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington—saw control of at least one legislative chamber switch to the Democratic Party.

    Even with the strong anti-incumbent, anti-Republican electorate, those are impressive results.

    Two factors that set Gill and the Gill Action Fund, his political action committee, apart from dinosaurs like the Human Rights Campaign are GAF's constituency of one, and its independence from the Democratic Party.  GAF has been headed since last year by Patrick Guerriero, the smart and talented former director of Log Cabin Republicans.

    Patrickguerriero Gill and Guerriero harbor no illusions that money is well spent today on the anti-gay GOP leadership, but their independence means — and this is most critical — that their money is spent on gay rights priorities, not Democratic Party priorities. There are many times, of course, when these two interests coincide, often in deciding control of state legislatures and in many individual races.

    But one key principle preached by Gill and GAF is that gay money is better spent down in the trenches, like conservative Christians have for decades, than on "the shiny bauble" of national politics, even when sirens like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are calling.

    That sort of strategy doesn't sit well with the "Massachusetts Gay Mafia" that runs HRC, or with leading gay Democrats like Jeff Soref, who complained to Atlantic Monthly that Gill's approach drained needed resources from Democrats:

    "One of the problems with Tim’s strategy is that he’s turning people away from national politics at a time when Democrats have just achieved a big victory — one that we weren’t as big a part of as we might have been, perhaps because of his steering gay money away from the national level. I’ve personally gotten calls, pre- and postelection, from Democratic leaders who feel the gay community has not been as supportive in this election as in previous ones. There’s a tangible downside to disengaging. In a competitive environment, our issues may not get the attention we want them to get."

    Soref has been an important critic of weak-kneed Democratic Party strategy on gay issues, but I couldn't side more strongly with Gill's independence over Soref's apologist thinking.  Let's hope Democratic Party leaders noticed the missing pink dollars.  It's frankly galling to hear that party leaders are paraphrasing Ms. Jackson — "What have you done for us lately?" — when that's exactly what we gays should be saying to them.

    And as Gill Action Fund opens up a Washington office, the contrast with HRC couldn't be more striking.  As HRC adopts a strategy modeled after labor unions beholden to Democratic Party crumbs even as the party fails to deliver on its priorities, Gill and GAF are putting their money where the action is: ballot measures that deal directly with our equality and races where our money can make the most difference.

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    November 14, 2006

    Will Dems pick power over principle?

    Posted by: Chris

    Within hours of realizing they'd lost control of Congress in last week's elections, Republicans were talking about returning to their true principles.

    The party that came to power 12 years ago promising limited government had, under a Republican president, gotten into bed with sleazy lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and gone on a spending spree, racking up huge deficits.

    Worse yet, the party of so-called family values instead was home to a predatory closet case who trolled the Capitol for congressional pages. Once GOP leaders learned what Mark Foley was up to, they valued protecting his congressional seat over protecting the teens who work in Washington.

    As one conservative Richard Viguerie  put it, "When Tom DeLay and his bunch first ran, they campaigned against the cesspool in Washington. After a while they looked around and said, 'Hey, this isn't a cesspool, it's a hot tub.'"

    Because power became more important than policy, the Republicans failed to deliver for their core constituency — conservative Christian supporters — giving their issues lip service rather than legislation. Karl Rove and company called them crazy in private, and by the time they finally got around to voting on a federal marriage amendment, the family values crowd could see through the charade.

    So the so-called "values voters" credited with keeping George Bush in office two years ago weren't so willing to vote Republican this time around. Exit polls showed the Democrats did better than they have in years with evangelical Protestants and even beat out the GOP with Catholic voters.

    No one's saying the religious right has been born again Democrat, but when they could see their Republican champions were really just chumps, their loyalty crumbled and they acted more like other (rational, sane) voters and cast their ballots based on other (more important) issues than what's going on in their neighbor's bedroom — like, for example, the wayward war in Iraq.

    So after 12 years in the wilderness, it's the Democrats' turn again, and we'll learn soon enough whether power is more important than principle for them as well. Nancy Pelosi, the new House speaker, has announced a modest agenda for her "first 100 hours" in office that includes a minimum wage hike and congressional ethics reform.

    Among social causes, only stem cell research made the "Six in '06" pledge for the Democrats' first priority. No one expected gay rights legislation to make that list, especially Democrats who remember how gays in the military ended Bill Clinton's  honeymoon within weeks after he took office back in 1993.

    But we still should be watching for early signs of whether the Democrats decide they were elected to advance an agenda or only advance an agenda they think will get them re-elected. If the first week is is any indication, the forecast could be for stormy weather ahead.

    Legendary Democrat power broker James Carville is promoting Harold Ford, Jr., the Tennessee congressman who lost his bid for a Senate seat, to replace Howard Dean as the head of the party. Ford is young, African American and incredibly charismatic, and talks more about loving Jesus than Jerry Falwell does.

    To Carville, that means he's a star fund-raiser who can talk about "faith and values." Never mind that Ford's faith and values mean he takes positions earning dismal marks on the Human Rights Campaign's congressional scorecard, including support for federal and state amendments to ban gays from marrying.

    Meanwhile, Pelosi's first bold decision since becoming speaker-elect was to back another intra-party rebellion, this one by Iraq-war opponent John Murtha to be the next House majority leader instead of Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the heir apparent for the position.

    Murtha makes Ford look like a liberal, and not only has a rotten record on gay rights, but is anti-choice and anti-gun control. Hoyer, on the other hand, is pro-choice, pro-gun control and scored perfect 100's from HRC the last three sessions of Congress.

    Even if the Dems don't lurch to the right with the likes of Ford and Murtha, HRC and other gay groups should keep the pressure on Democrats to remember the principles supposedly behind the party. Two gay rights bills — employment non-discrimination and hate crimes — already enjoy overwhelming public support. Getting them both through Congress and onto George Bush's desk should be a no-brainer, and happen sooner rather than later.

    And if the party really wants to prove itself to its core constituencies, it should remember during the coming debate on immigration reform that gay Americans have no rights, right now, to keep their loved ones in this country. Enacting the Uniting American Families Act, which has bipartisan and growing support, would speak volumes to voters that the Democrats aren't Republicans in sheep's clothing.

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    November 12, 2006

    What's the Frequency, John?

    Posted by: Chris

    Count me as one more disillusioned John McCain fan. He is the REM of politics: I liked his early stuff, but when he tried too hard to be commercial, he lost his soul.

    First McCain kissed up to Jerry Falwell, whom he'd called an "agent of intolerance" back in 2000. He even gave the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University, despite school policy there to expel students who date within their gender. In 2000, McCain's "Straight Talk Express" slammed George W. Bush for speaking at Bob Jones University, which expelled students for dating outside their race.

    Mccainmeet_1Now in addition to changing his tune, he's turned tone deaf. If today's "Meet the Press" appearance was any indication, he certainly did not get the message from voters last Tuesday. Tim Russert asked, "What did you hear from the voters on Tuesday?" McCain responded by saying voters were upset that Republicans had strayed from promises of fiscal conservatism and become immersed in scandal. Certainly true and the issues where McCain still impresses the most.

    But when McCain got around to mentioning the war, which voters in fact listed as most important, you would think it was denial, and not the Tigris and Euphrates, that run through Baghdad:

    The Iraq war obviously is very frustrating. I know we’re going to talk more about that, but there’s—very frustrating to the American people. But I would submit, if they were all against the Iraq war that you probably would not have seen my friend Joe Lieberman, who I’m sure will talk about it, re-elected.

    Actually, his friend Joe Lieberman was almost un-seated by a first-time candidate, who beat the former veep nominee in the Democratic Party primary, almost solely because of the war. Both McCain and Lieberman were vocal supporters of the war, haven't recounted those positions, and neither offers a realistic exit strategy.

    On Iraq, the "Meet The Press" transcripts almost write themselvesl. Over and over to mind-numbing repitition, Iraq War supporters, and many Democratic critics, have gone on the Sunday morning talk shows to say that "the next 60 days, " or "the next three months," or "the next [fill in the blank]" will be absolutely critical, and will determine the outcome of the war. First it was the Iraqi draft constitution, then the elections, then the formation of a government, then the efforts to build an Iraqi security force. Now, four years later — longer than it took for the U.S. to beat both the Japanese and the Germans in World War II — the violence is escalating and there's no end in sight, or even signs of major progress.

    McCain's answer? Send in more troops. If this man hadn't been a prisoner during the Vietnam War you would think he was unfamiliar with it, as much as he persists in thinking victory at this point is achievable militarily, as opposed to politically. In Iraq as in Vietnam, the people have made clear, through the ongoing insurgence and unwillingness to come together in one government, that they do not want the solution we are imposing on them. And yet the idea of involving Iraq's neighbors to achieve a political solution is, to McCain, almost an afterthought:

    And by the way, I think the Baker Commission is going to recommend a area-wide conference, which is fine with me. But there’s no Rosetta Stone here, there’s no magic formula for success.

    If McCain has been this wrong, for this long, about something so important, than he ought to be disqualifying himself for the higher office he seeks. In 2004, a lot of us held our noses and voted for John Kerry because he was better on social issues and because the Bush team had been so divisive and had run the war so incompentently. But John Kerry had voted wrong on both Iraq Wars and never offered a viable exit strategy, relying instead on a "Bush-lite" approach that was mind-numbing in complexity. McCain is offering more of the same and as if to put an exclamation point on it, backs the John Bolton nomination to the U.N., even though the man personifies the arrogant, divisive Bush foreign policy that has discredited the U.S. with our allies and embolded our enemies.

    Whether McCain shares the famed Bush aversion to introspection or he can't politically question a war and keep conservatives on his side for the GOP primaries, he's playing with fire, not just politics.
    Memo to McCain (and Hillary and others who backed this wrong-headed, poorly run war): There are certain issues — war and peace and civil rights, to name two — that you can't triangulate your way to the White House on, not if we the people and the media are doing our job.

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    Two out of three ain't bad…

    Posted by: Chris

    Three would-be presidential runs hit brick walls the last few weeks, and good riddance to two of the three casualties, although the third one will be sorely missed.

    Georgeallen_1 Republican George Felix Allen expected to coast to re-election as a U.S. senator from Virginia, positioning him for a White House run in two years. Then came his "macaca" moment, his bizarre reaction to learning he has Jewish family heritage, and all those stories about him being a big ole racist.

    Even if he'd squeaked by last week, his presidential ambitions were toast. Having lost, the best he's hoping for is perhaps a return to the Virginia gubernatorial mansion. Considering his born-again adherence to an anti-gay line after early Senate years as GOP moderate, he won't be missed. Here's hoping his coterie of gay staffers choose their champion more wisely next time.

    Johnkerry John Forbes Kerry, the Democratic nominee in '04, had been making lots of noises about running again in '08, despite his abysmal campaign two years ago in a race he should have won. Then a week before the election, he botched a joke about the president and came off sounding like he was insulting the intelligence of our troops in Iraq. The Republicans had a field day, and although it didn't stick to Democrats generally, it reminded everyone why this velcro candidate isn't electable.

    No big loss for gay Americans; although Kerry has a generally strong gay rights record, he completely blew it on marriage. Like the other major Dems, Kerry opposes a federal marriage amendment and backs civil unions rather than marriage, but he went the next step and also backed state constitutional amendments banning gays from marrying in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Two years later, the Democratic National Committee is calling such ballot measures "hate-filled," and yet Kerry hasn't renounced his support for them. Nice work to be on the wrong side of history so fast.

    Russfeingold Then today came the sad news that Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has ruled out a presidential run. A staunch oponent of the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, Feingold was well-positioned to be the go-to progressive candidate in 2008. He is also one of a handful of senators, and the only likely presidential candidate, who backs full marriage equality. But he announced in a letter on his PAC website that with the Dems back in control of the Senate, he wants to concentrate his efforts there.

    So where does that leave gays and our supporters for 2008? The likely field of Democrats is much like the one two years ago.  Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack and Bill Richardson should all be fairly progressive on basic gay rights issues, though all the money and excitement will likely get lapped up by superstars Barack and Hillary, if they run.

    Johnmccain732728 On the Republican side, John McCain's candidacy looks even stronger with the repudiation of the right in last week's election. For a Republican he has been moderate on gay issues, though that says more about his party than it does McCain. His HRC scores over the last four sessions of Congress (17, 14, 25, 33) reflect his opposition to a federal marriage amendment and his office non-discrimination policy. On every other gay and HIV issue charted by HRC, McCain's been on the other side.

    Losing Allen from the field means one fewer attempt at faking "compassionate conservativism," and Kerry's ineptitude won't be missed either. But Feingold, who would have pushed the Democrats to be true to their party's principles on a whole host of issues, including marriage, is a real loss. Will a new progressive emerge?

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    November 10, 2006

    The South Falls Again

    Posted by: Chris

    Confederate_flagno When my liberal Yankee friends laugh dismissively at my backward, redneck region, I enjoy reminding them that the South has produced not only their sworn enemies, like George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott — but some of their most prized leaders, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore. In fact, Democrats haven't elected a president from outside the South since JFK, and when the South went Republican "red" in the '80s and '90s, so too did Congress.

    Now comes a report from the Washington Post that the rising South within the GOP may have pushed the party too far to the right for those in the Midwest, especially. This week's election effectively ended the South's regional rule over Congress:

    Of the 28 House seats that Democrats picked up in the midterm elections, 10 were in the Northeast and 10 more were in the Midwest. They added five seats in the South and three in the West.

    The results produced a historic shift in the balance of regional power in Congress. The majority party in the House is now the minority party among Southern states for the first time since the 83rd Congress in 1953-1954. The same holds for the new Democratic-controlled Senate, except for a brief period in the 1980s.

    Being Southern is a central part of my identity, as it is for most native sons and daughters, but I welcome the waning influence nationally of our politicians. Their track record throughout American history, at least on social issues, is backward and mean-spirited.

    Even though the social conservatism of the Republicans' Southern leaders may have cost the party control of Congress, they may nonetheless wield greater influence in the GOP, further marginalizing the party. Many of the Republicans who lost their seats were moderates and liberals, including nearly half the members of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a caucus of moderate GOP members.

    Some of my gay Republican friends, like Cyd Zeigler over at Dooryard, are hoping the Republicans see the election as a repudiation of the party's right-wing. But the loss of so many moderates in swing districts leaves the GOP congressional caucus more firmly in conservative hands. Still, if they're smart, they will focus their "return to Republican roots" on the fiscal conservatism  and robust foreign policy of Ronald Reagan, as the folks at Gay Patriot hope, rather than the divisive social conservativism of Karl Rove.

    The Democrats, on the other hand, are much more likely to move to the center. They know they owe their slim congressional majorities to a lot of first-term (i.e., vulnerable) members from swing districts, many of whom are moderate or even conservative on social issues:

    "We have to constantly remind everybody that members-elect have about 24 hours to celebrate, and then they are targets," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). "They have to defend their seats, and they cannot do that unless they have performed for their constituents," who are not as liberal as many of the party's activists.

    Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said: "If you look at the folks who were elected around the country, we were contesting swing districts. By definition, candidates in swing districts lean to the middle. They ran in districts that clearly had Republicans" in large numbers.

    If conservatives solidify their hold on the GOP and moderates are ascendent among Democrats, then the ironic outcome of Tuesday's election would be a weakened position for liberals, including those who support gay rights legislation. Reaction among Democrats like those from Tauscher and Hoyer are typical, already warning progressives not to expect anything dramatic as long as Bush is in the White House and their control of Congress is so tenuous.

    Progressives' best bet would be to focus party attention on the Iraq War, while picking a few  less controversial bones to throw to the liberal base in the Northeast. Employment non-discrimination and hate crime laws would be two natural options.

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    New values for voters

    Posted by: Chris

    Jesus More evidence that the divisive agenda pushed by social conservatives may be less appealing now to the religious, "values voters" than a broader agenda that includes the environment and social justice issues. This from the Wall Street Journal:

    Exit polls suggest that Democrats made significant gains among several religious demographic groups, including both Catholics and evangelical Protestants. While the party's 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry won barely 20% of white evangelicals, for example, almost 30% voted Democratic this year. Democrats won the backing of 55% of Catholics this year, compared with 47% in 2004.

    Two years ago, conservative religious groups claimed credit for putting President Bush over the top in his tough re-election battle, and were rewarded with two conservative Supreme Court justices. Now, however, much of their political agenda and even a measure of their strength have crumbled with the loss of Republican control in the House, and probably in the Senate. …

    Democrats and their allies were touting the changes, saying they point to religious voters' growing concerns about the environment and social justice as well as traditional family values. If the theory holds, it could fundamentally reform the electoral landscape, particularly at the presidential level, Democrats believe. "When you look at...evangelical and these values-first voters, we made inroads there that probably even surprised Republicans," said party chairman Howard Dean. …

    They also pointed to an organized effort, particularly in Ohio, to address religious voters' concerns about social issues, such as ameliorating the effects of globalization. "It appears people are thinking more complexly about the issues," said Sister Simone Campbell, national coordinator of Network, a national Catholic social-justice lobby on Capitol Hill.

    In fact, there were independent signs that social concerns were catching fire with voters. Ballot initiatives across the country to raise the minimum wage were approved by lopsided margins. Environmentalists helped secure the defeat of Rep. Richard Pombo (R., Calif.), a friend to oil and mining interests. …

    Democrats and liberal activists held out hope that the changes evident in Tuesday's results, particularly those affecting religious voters, could translate into lasting gains. They predicted that wedge issues such as gay marriage would become less potent weapons for Republicans in the future, and that Democrats could attract enough white voters to prevail in future presidential elections.

    One reason the marriage issue is losing potency is that it's been pounded into submission in the states where it is most effective for Republicans as a wedge issue: 45 states either have statutes banning gay marriage or statutes and constitutional amendments. Having used belts and suspenders, how can they still claim gay marriage might leave us caught with our pants down?

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    A wedge turns into a wedgie?

    Posted by: Chris

    If "Man Bites Dog" is the kind of reversal that turns an ordinary canine-human encounter into front-page news, then "My Dogma Got Run Over By My Karma" should have the same ironic-twist, headline-grabbing effect. That may be exactly what happened George Allen on Tuesday.

    Georgeallen A once-moderate Republican who backed hate crime laws that included "sexual orientation," and opposed as unnecessary a federal marriage amendment, Allen decided to run to the right for his '06 re-election — not because the race was expected to be close so much as he wanted to warm up social conservatives who will be influential in the GOP presidential primaries of 2008. So despite a large coterie of longtime gay staffers, Allen saddled up his horse and galloped hard to the right.

    He reversed himself on hate crimes and a federal marriage amendment and began stumping on behalf of Virginia's uniquely cruel ballot measure on gay marriage. The Marshall-Newman Amendment wrote into Thomas Jefferson's state constitution a ban on not just marriage for same-sex couples, but civil unions, domestic partnerships and any and all other recognition for unmarried couples. The ban is so broadly written that it even calls into question private contracts entered into by unmarried couples, gay and straight.

    The amendment passed but rather than wedge the gay issue to a strong re-election and a White House run, Allen may have given himself a career-ending wedgie. The Falls Church News Press reports:

    An analysis of the voting pattern Tuesday in Virginia suggests that the so-called “marriage amendment” on the ballot as Question 1 might have cost U.S. Senator George Allen the election. If true, it would mark an ironic twist, the backfiring of an effort Republicans hoped would spur a stronger turnout for their incumbent. It would also be consolation for opponents to the Constitutional ban on gay marriage, which passed by a 57% to 43% margin statewide.

    It seems the well-funded effort to block the marriage amendment, though ultimately unsuccessful, did spur a lot more progressive voters to the polls than normal in Northern Virginia and the state's university towns:

    In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, the “No” vote on Question 1 prevailed with 77% of the total, the highest percentage in the state. University towns of Lexington, Williamsburg and Fredericksburg also voted against the measure, indicating a trend among younger voters statewide.

    In Northern Virginia, the “No” votes prevailed by 73.81% in Arlington, 70.5% in Alexandria, 69.17% in the City of Falls Church, 54.17% in Fairfax County and 52.91% in Fairfax City. They also prevailed in Norfolk, Richmond and Petersburg.

    Since Allen lost by less than 8,000 votes those additional progressive voters, turned out by a $1 million lobby against the gay marriage amendment, most likely provided more than opposition to unseat Allen.

    The even bigger irony, of course, is that Allen's loss in Virginia cost the Republicans control of the Senate, meaning now Karl Rove and George W. Bush will ultimately pay the price for the wedge that backfired into a wedgie.


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    November 09, 2006

    The verdict on 'values voters'

    Posted by: Chris


    It was a rough Election Day for so-called "values voters." Their party of choice was thrown out of power in both houses of Congress in what all the exit polls indicate was a strong repudiation of their president. Their most vocal supporter in the Senate, Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, was trounced by almost 20 points.

    For the first time, voters rejected a statewide gay marriage ban, and in the red state of Arizona, at that. In two other red states, South Dakota (52-48%) and Virginia (57-43%), the vote was much closer than the 70-30 lopsided margin of years past. In South Dakota, voters roundly rejected an abortion ban. A majority of Virginia voters said in an exit poll that they support either marriage or its near-equivalent, civil unions, for gay couples.

    Voters in Colorado only narrowly (56-44%) passed a marriage ban and even more narrowly (47-53%) rejected a broad domestic partnership referendum. Only in South Carolina, Idaho and Tennessee, where the marriage ban measures weren't seriously contested, did they pass by the margin they have in the past.

    Still, the Christianist conservatives are in denial. Stanley Kurtz proves denial is a river running through the National Review Online:

    So voters everywhere still see marriage as the union of a man and a woman. They are more closely divided on the matter of civil unions and domestic partnerships, yet lean against these as well.

    Actually, the exit poll in Virginia and others nationally show a clear majority back marriage or civil unions for gay couples.

    Despite all the evidence, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council claimed the Republican repudiation was still a mandate from values voters, though he had to morph them into the "integrity voters":

    The message is that values are not just something you talk about at election time; values should guide public policies and personal conduct. This should be a clear message to both parties that values voters vote values, not party. Their focus is not on party politics, but rather on government guided by core values.

    As a "Fox in Socks" rhyme, Perkins is quite lyrical. As a post-election analysis, Perkins' take has the weight of a "Fox in Socks" rhyme. The GOP pushed their "values" issues in Congress, including a federal marriage amendment, and it only compounded their basic problem. The corruption issue did, in fact, hurt the Republicans, but the wound was made deeper by the hypocrisy it laid bare in their leadership.

    The Republicans lost Congress despite a strong economy because voters were angry about Iraq and the direction the GOP was taking the country, stubbornly focused on divisive social issues instead of the issues that mattered to the voters.

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    Indecision 2006

    Posted by: Chris

    Jonstewartelex OK so I caught it a day late on iTunes, but here were a few of the best lines from the "Daily Show/Colbert Report" special election night coverage on Comedy Central:

    First, Jon Stewart, running through early returns:

    "Let me give you the results in a couple of other House districts we're watching. In Florida, Mark Foley's district, the 16th District, although Foley swears it was 18 when he first ran…"

    "In Connecticut, it was a three-way race, which like most three ways ended up with one person looking on awkwardly and not really involved — Joe Lieberman opened up an arc of the covenant can of whoop-ass on his foes."

    Colbertreportelex Then later, in an angry rant from Stephen Colbert, first interviewing Florida Democrat Bob Wexler and later lecturing viewers for giving the Democrats control of Congress:

    "If you do retake the House, what's the agenda? Tax and spend? Cut and run? Or man on man?"

    "Don't think you're off the hook, voters. You're the ones who made this bed. Now you're going to have to move over so a gay couple can sleep in it."

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    November 08, 2006

    Voter confusion in Virginia?

    Posted by: Chris

    Curious data from the exit poll conducted Tuesday by Edison/Mitofsky for a pool of major mainstream media outlets.


    A majority of voters in Virginia supported either marriage or "a legal partnership similar to, but not called, marriage" for gay couples. A total of 52% backed one or the other, with 23% for marriage and 29% for civil unions. Only 47% wanted no legal recognition at all for gay couples.

    So why did 53% of them vote the other way, in support of, the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which wrote into the state's constitution a ban on not only marriage and civil unions, but all forms of domestic partnerships and perhaps even private contracts between gay and straight unmarried couples? It just proves the power of the "M" word, which must have convinced enough voters to support the amendment even though they thought it went too far.

    Other nuggets from the national exit poll, which included precious little gay-related info: 3% of voters nationwide self-identified as gay or lesbian. Democrats won the vast majority of the "out" gay vote — since a certain percentage of gay voters won't self-identity to pollsters— by a margin of 75 to 24 percent. That's pretty consistent with past elections, including the 2004 race, when one-quarter of gay voters backed President Bush's re-election.

    It is striking, however, that the party split of gay vote seems immune to moves by either party on gay issues or otherwise, unless the stances taken in total have the coincidental effect of resulting in the same split each time.

    The only other gay issue polled for the MSM pool was in Tennessee, which also had a gay marriage ban on the ballot. The exit poll there tracked much more closely with the ballot measure results, though the ban and the poll question were limited to marriage and did not address civil unions or other forms of recognition.

    Haroldford787453_1 The Tennessee exit poll showed 85% opposed gay marriage, while 15% supported it; the ballot measure passed 81 to 17%. The exit poll also asked for Tennesseans' views on mixed-race marriage, probably because of the controversial ad run by Republicans featuring a white Playboy bunny whispering, "Call me, Harold," to black Democratic candidate Harold Ford, Jr.

    Not surprisingly, mixed-race marriage is more accepted in the Volunteer state than gay marriage, but is still backed by only 70% of voters. Also not surprisingly, the vast majority of voters who approve of gay marriage voted for Ford, and the vast majority opposed went for Corker — even though Ford made a point of reminding voters he opposes gay marriage and supports federal and state constitutional amendments to ban it.

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    A day of big victories

    Posted by: Chris

    Here's what HRC had to say about the election results:


    Here's my complete run-down on yesterday's election results:

    The national wave that swept Democrats into power in the U.S. House and perhaps the Senate has brightened the prospect for gay rights legislation in Congress and thrilled activists by knocking off one of the country's top anti-gay incumbents.

    Gays also celebrated the defeat of a broadly worded ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Arizona — the first time that's happened in 25 states where such measures have been tried.

    "Symbolically, [the Arizona result] is as important as the Massachusetts marriage decision," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Ballot measures banning marriage and civil union passed in five other states, though activists in Colorado held out hope until Wednesday that a pro-gay domestic partnership might eke by after votes were counted from Denver, where massive problems with ballot machines slowed the process.

    Haggardpoints_2 Some hoped that the spectacular fall of Colorado Springs evangelist Ted Haggard, accused by a male escort in Denver of paying for sex and crystal meth, would turn the tide against the ban, but former Colorado Gov. Bill Owen (R) told Fox News on Wednesday that he think the scandal "may have actually helped it pass."

    "The whole issue of a male prostitute and the seedier side of that story made some people think, 'You know, I don't want anything to do with that,'" said Owen, who backed the marriage ban and opposed the D.P. initiative.

    Efforts to defeat marriage bans came tantalizingly close in South Dakota (52 to 48 percent) and Virginia (57 to 43 percent), two traditionally "red" conservatives states. In past elections, such ballot measures have typically passed by lopsided support at 70 percent or higher.

    "It's clear that fear-mongering around same-sex marriage by the GOP and the extreme Christian right is fizzling out," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. "It doesn't have the juice it had just two years ago — people are getting sick of it."

    The most crushing defeat was in Wisconsin, where an amendment banning marriage, civil unions and perhaps other legal recognition for gay couples passed easily, 60 to 40 percent, even as Democrats there took back the state Senate and handily won a contested gubernatorial race.

    The Task Force cheered the passage of a local non-discrimination ballot referendum in Ferndale, Mich. — the third attempt since 1991 to pass a human rights ordinance. A city charter amendment banning bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity passed by a lopsided margin in Corvallis, Ore.

    Moderate Republicans fare poorly in House races

    The Democratic takeover of the House could dramatically brighten prospects for gay rights legislation, including on hate crimes and a new version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that also includes protections based on gender identity.

    The GOP House leadership deposed by voters on Tuesday has been markedly more conservative and opposed to gay rights legislation than their Senate counterparts. Republicans expected the resignation from leadership and even from Congress of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who has been under fire for how he responded to complaints about inappropriate contact with pages by Republican Mark Foley of Florida.

    Nancypelosi Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat expected to be the first-ever female speaker of the House, has a strong pro-gay record, though she has not mentioned ENDA or hate crimes as among her earliest legislative priorities.

    The Democrat takeover of the House came at the expense of a number of moderate Republicans backed by both HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans. Two Connecticut incumbents — Republicans Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons — were among the casualties, though longtime gay rights supporter Chris Shays (R) survived a close vote.

    Only two out of eight embattled Republican House members backed by Log Cabin won on Tuesday, although 11 other Republican veterans backed by the gay GOP group won handily.

    Races were too close to call in the two House districts where HRC endorsed Democrats challenging Log Cabin-backed GOP incumbents: Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R) is trailing his Democrat Patrick Murphy, while Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), who was caught up in the Foley scandal, has a narrow lead over her HRC-endorsed challenger.

    "Foley-gate" cost Republicans the once safe seat formerly held by the disgraced gay congressman. Voters chose Democrat Tim Mahoney over Foley, whose name remained on the ballot although his votes went to Republican Joe Negron.

    Jim Kolbe, the other openly gay House Republican, announced his retirement months before he learned he also faces investigations into whether he had inappropriate contact with congressional pages. His seat flipped to the Democratic side as well.

    The two openly gay Democrats in Congress — Barney Frank (Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) — easily won re-election.

    Openly gay candidates fared well in races at the state and local level. Some 67 candidates backed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund won on Tuesday, including 34 elected to state legislatures. A lesbian was also elected in a statewide race to the Oregon Supreme Court.

    "This is the tipping point election for openly gay candidates," said Chuck Wolfe, the Victory Fund director. "We're proving that qualified, well-prepared candidates matched with committed donors means gays and lesbians can move from having a stake in policy to actually making policy. There's no reason to sit on the sidelines with our fingers crossed anymore."

    Santorum defeat cheered

    SantorumconcedesGay rights supporters nationwide savored the defeat of several high-profile anti-gay incumbents, and no prize was larger than Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who lost by double digits to moderate Democrat Bob Casey. (Concession photo via Wonkette).

    Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, was a leading proponent of a federal marriage amendment and made headlines three years ago when he warned that a Supreme Court ruling that struck down sodomy laws would lead to legalization of "man on dog" sex.

    Marilyn Musgrave, the Colorado Republican who has been the lead House sponsor of a federal marriage amendment, survived a strong Democratic challenge backed by gay groups.

    Three other House Republicans targeted by HRC for their anti-gay records were ousted by voters on Tuesday, including Congressman Clay Shaw of Florida. The race was too close to call in another race, where HRC-backed challenger Patricia Madrid was slightly trailing GOP incumbent Heather Wilson of New Mexico.

    Another leading anti-gay incumbent, John Hostetler of Pennsylvania, was defeated after a controversial campaign where he aired ads warning voters, "Nancy Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank's home."

    Log Cabin said social conservatives like Santorum and Hostetler within the GOP bore responsibility for the party's dismal showing on Tuesday.

    "Social conservatives drove the GOP's agenda the last several years," said Patrick Sammon, interim director of the gay GOP group. "Their divisive agenda alienated the mainstream Republicans and independents who determined this election's outcome."

    Lincolnchaffee Elation over Santorum's defeat was dampened by the loss of the Senate's most pro-gay Republican. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island (pictured), the only GOP member of Congress to back full marriage equality, was defeated by Sheldon Whitehouse. The Democratic challenger also supports full marriage rights.

    Elsewhere in the contest for the Senate, gay activists cheered the defeat of anti-gay Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in Ohio. His Democratic challenger, Congressman Sherrod Brown, has a very strong record in support of gay rights.

    All eyes now are focused on Virginia, where control of the U.S. Senate may ride on whether voters there have ousted Republican incumbent George Allen, who jettisoned a moderate gay rights record in the last several years to back a federal marriage amendment and oppose even employment protections and hate crime laws.

    His challenger, moderate Democrat Jim Webb, was leading by three-tenths of one percent, and an expected recount could take weeks. Webb was backed by HRC, and is largely supportive of gay rights, though the former Secretary of the Navy for Ronald Reagan opposes repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    HRC stayed out of Senate races in Montana and Missouri, where anti-gay Republican incumbents appear to have gone down to defeat by small margins.

    Pro-gay candidates win races for governor

    Devalpatrick_1 In gubernatorial races, two Democrats who back full marriage equality won their races on Tuesday. Activists hope Deval Patrick, the first-ever African American governor of Massachusetts, will help beat back efforts to amend that state's constitution to reverse the marriage victory won three years ago there.

    Gov.-elect Elliot Spitzer has vowed to introduce gay marriage legislation in New York, where the state's supreme court upheld laws there limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

    The Task Force also cheered the election of pro-gay Democrat Ted Strickland as Ohio governor, against anti-gay Republican Ken Blackwell.

    "We saw Republicans and Christian right extremists trying to use an anti-gay family amendment to help win Ohio for Bush-Cheney in 2004," said Foreman. "Yet in 2006, Ohio voters have rejected the politics of division and elected a moderate who opposes scapegoating gay and lesbian families for political gain."

    Incumbent Democrat governors who are pro-gay were also re-elected despite strong challenges in Wisconsin, Michigan and Oregon.

    Log Cabin cheered the re-election of several moderate Republican governors, including Jodi Rell, who signed Connecticut's civil unions law, and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who has signed several gay rights bills, though he vetoed a landmark gay marriage law passed by state's legislature.

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    November 07, 2006

    Election watch: U.S. House

    Posted by: Chris

    All eyes are on the U.S. House today, where experts say Democrats are likely to gain between 20 and 40 seats. They only need 15 to take control, which could mean a green light for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes legislation, and possibly even repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The first two pieces of legislation face better odds in the Senate, no matter who contorls there, than does the third. All bets are off as to whether President Bush would use his veto for the second time in six years on any of the above.

    1.    Vulnerable pro-gay Republicans: To win back the House, Democrats will have to knock off a lot of Republicans, and the weakest will inevitably be those running in moderate to Democrat-leaning districts, and those Republicans are likely to be the moderate in the GOP.

    Case in point is in Connecticut, where three Republican incumbents — Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Chris Shays — are all endorsed by both HRC and Log Cabin, and are trailing or are very vulnerable.

    Several other Log Cabin-endorsed GOP incumbents are also in trouble. Deborah Pyrce has been the victim of a nasty smear campaign by Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy over her non-role in Foley-gate, all with HRC's imprimatur. Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania's 6th District is also in trouble, though HRC chose not to endorse either the GOP incumbent or Lois Murphy, his Democratic challenger.  HRC and Log Cabin go head to head in one other race, pitting moderate Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R) challenged by Democrat Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania's 8th District. Fitzpatrick opposed the federal marriage amendment and backed hate crimes legislation but opposed repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    2.   Vulnerable anti-gay Republicans: The biggest anti-gay target among House incumbents is Colorado's Marilyn Musgrave, who has been the lead sponsor behind the federal marriage amendment. Polls show her in much more trouble than expected, though still with a slight lead going into Election Day.

    Other key races with vulnerable Republicans challenged by HRC-backed Democratic challengers include Clay Shaw facing Ron Klein in Florida's 22nd; Gil Gutknecht facing Tim Walz in Minnesota's 1st; Heather Wilson facing Patricia Madrid in New Mexico's 1st;  Steve Chabot facing John Cranley in Ohio's 1st; Curt Weldon facing Joe Sestak (Pennsylvania's 7th); and Dave Reichert facing Darcy Burner (Washington's 8th).

    3.    Key open seats: In a number of closely contested open seats, HRC has endorsed the Democratic candidate: Gabrielle Giffords over Randy Graf in Arizona's 8th District; Ed Perlmutter over Rick O'Donnell (Colorado's 7th); Christine Jennings over Vern Buchanan (Florida's 13th); Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth over Peter Roskam (Illinois' 6th); Bruce Braley over Mike Whalen (Iowa's 1st); Patty Wetterling over Michele Bachmann (Minnesota's 6th); and Michael Arcuri over Ray Meier (New York's 24th).

     4.    Vulnerable pro-gay Democrat: Even in this very pro-Dem election year, there is one: HRC-backed Melissa Bean in Illinois' 8th District, who is being challenged by Republican Dave McSweeney. Log Cabin has not endorsed in the race.

    5.    The gay seats: Openly gay Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Barney Frank (Mass.) will coast to re-election. The only out gay Republican, Jim Kolbe of Arizona, is retiring, and HRC is backing the Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, running for his seat. The Washington Post has listed the race as one of 35 close contests nationwide.

    The other openly gay House Republican, Mark Foley, came out a few days after resigning his seat in disgrace. HRC has backed Democrat Tim Mahoney against GOP write-in Joe Negron. Republicans initially wrote off the race, but kicked in money the last week as polls showed it close.

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    Kinky gets kinky

    Posted by: Chris

    Kinky Friedman, the maverick independent running for Texas governor, was just interviewed on MSNBC by Tucker Carlson on MSNBC. Here's the video clip:


    So I get the Ted Haggard reference, but what's up with the hand gestures? Does Tucker get some inside joke that's lost on me?

    It brings to mind a few Kinky yucks from the past on gay marriage:

    "I think gays have every right to be just as miserable as the rest of us, so I support gay marriage."
    (NBC's "Meet the Press," Aug. 21, 2005)

    "The zit on the end of my nose here — the Lord has punished me for supporting gay marriage."
    (Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2005)

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    Election watch: U.S. Senate

    Posted by: Chris

    The big question in the Senate is, of course, whether the Democrats can win six additional seats and take over the majority. Some of the close races that will be key to that quest would be net-gain on gay rights issues, while others would be a wash or arguably a net loss.

    The key races for gay election-watchers:

    1.    Pennsylvania: Republican incumbent Rick Santorum may have a chief spokesman and key aide (Robert Traynham) who is gay, but he's otherwise a complete nightmare on gay issues, from his support for a federal marriage amendment to his infamous warning that a Supreme Court win on sodomy laws would lead to "man-on-dog" sex. Right now he's trailing Democrat Bob Casey, who is anti-abortion and moderate on gay issues (opposes federal marriage amendment, supports Defense of Marriage Act), but still managed the Human Rights Campaign endorsement.

    2.    Virginia: A few hundred miles south in Virginia, George Allen is almost Santorum-lite: He also has several senior aides who are gay, and in the past supported inclusive hate-crime legislation and opposed as unnecessary a federal marriage amendment. Then he started thinking about a White House run and quickly reversed field on both issues. A disastrous re-election campaign has eliminated any chance at national office, and may cost him his re-election, as Democrat Jim Webb is polling dead even or slightly ahead going into Election Day. Like Casey, Santorum's opponent, Webb is a moderate with a moderate gay rights record. He opposes amendments at the federal and state level to ban gay marriage, though he also opposes gay marriage as well. Webb was Ronald Reagan's naval secretary, and has frustrated some gay Democrats in Virginia by refusing to support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    3.      Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee is yet another Republican incumbent in trouble but he's night/day compared with Santorum. Chafee is the only GOP member of Congress that I'm aware of who has publicly backed full marriage equality for gay couples. He also got the HRC endorsement. Polls have shown him trailing Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, who also backs full marriage equality, but the race is a dead-heat going into Election Day. A Democrat win would help them wrest control of the Senate but would deprive gay rights backers of their best GOP advocate in the Senate.

    4.    Ohio: GOP incumbent Mike DeWine backed the federal marriage amendment and has a dismal gay record: His positives on HRC's scorecards over the last six years have been mostly on HIV policy. Compare that with Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, who as a congressman over the same six years has a near-perfect gay rights record, and the HRC endorsement. Polls show Brown with a runaway lead.

    5.    Missouri: Another anti-gay GOP incumbent, Jim Talent, is vulnerable here, as polls show a dead heat with Democrat Claire McCaskill. Talent has campaigned heavily on his support for a federal marriage amendment, which McCaskill opposes, although she does not support marriage equality for gay couples. HRC has not endorsed in the race.

    6.    Montana: HRC also took a pass in Montana, where GOP incumbent Conrad Burns has a very anti-gay voting record, including support for a federal marriage amendment. Democratic challenger Jon Tester opposes a federal marriage amendment and, while also opposing gay marriage, does back some legal recognition for gay couples.

    7.    Tennessee: Democrats are rooting for Harold Ford, Jr., but he has gay-baited like a Republican in his rush to the right. Republican Bob Corker has tried to paint Ford as more moderate on gay issues, but the truth is they're both horrible.

    8.    Maryland: This vacant Democratic seat is being contested by Democrat Congressman Ben Cardin, who has a near-perfect gay rights record and the HRC endorsement, vs. Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, an African-American who has been a vocal gay marriage opponent. Polls show Cardin ahead but Steele gaining.

    9.    New Jersey: The same dynamics are in play in the tight New Jersey race, where Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez has a strong gay rights record and HRC's backing. In the wake of last month's New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, Republican opponent Tom Kean Jr. has come out in favor of a federal marriage amendment. Menendez is vulnerable but holds a slight lead going into Election Day.

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    No 'boy pages' for Harold

    Posted by: Chris

    Haroldford787453 As a native of Memphis, Tenn., I was originally pleased by how Harold Ford, Jr., has been a rising star in the Democratic Party. Racial division has long plagued politics in Memphis, which has fallen far behind its cross-state rival Nashville for largely that reason.

    Now Ford is running for the seat vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a craven anti-gay Republican, and yet Ford is proving just as craven in his gay-baiting, proudly trumpeting his two votes in favor of federal marriage amendments.

    Today, on MSNBC, Ford couldn't stop talking about how much he loves Jesus, his risen Savior. Yes, the GOP ads that smeared him for the Playboy parties were revolting; but so is his self-righteous response.

    And then this gem, totally unsolicited by interviewer Tucker Carlson, on how he'll bring his Christian values to bear if elected:

    "You dont have to worry about me hitting on boy pages on the Senate floor."

    Nice, Harold.

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    Election watch: the amendments

    Posted by: Chris

    Midterm elections are usually fairly modest affairs, with only us political junkies glued to the tube Net for the results. Not this time around. So here is the first in a series of posts on what gays and our allies should look for in election results tonight (and tomorrow, and next week, as the ballot-counting continues). I'll also be posting results later tonight and tomorrow, as I learn them.

    The most direct way gay issues are on the ballot is, of course, in the eight states voting whether to amend their state constitutions to block gay couples from marrying and, in some cases, from receiving other forms of legal recognition, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. Twenty states have already passed measures like these, in one form or another, most by a 70 to 30% margin.

    The surprise this time around is that the polls show things very close in Wisconsin, Colorado and maybe even Virginia, and the measure failing in Arizona and South Dakota. Here are the eight states, along with some additional info:

    1.    Wisconsin: The ballot measure here bans gays from marrying or being given "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage," which would block civil unions and perhaps other forms of legal recognition. Both sides have invested more money here than elsewhere, including a high-profile donation from Sir Elton John. Polls show it will be close, with recent surveys showing a slight lead for those favoring the ban.

    2.    Virginia: The broadest of the proposed bans, the Marshall-Newman Amendment in Virginia blocks marriage and civil  unions for gay couples, as well as preventing state or local governments from recognizing "any union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage." Opponents of the ban say that blocks even private legal arrangements entered into by same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples; proponents dispute that claim. Most of the state's leading Democrats, including Gov. Tim Kaine, have come out against the amendment as over-broad, even though also oppose gay marriage. The vote could be closer than expected in a red state like Virginia; a Mason-Dixon poll showed the margin favoring the ban tightening from 56-38% in July to 49-45% now.

    3.    Colorado: The recent revelations about evangelist Ted Haggard, who like Focus on the Family's James Dobson is based in Colorado Springs, could have a wildcard effect in Colorado. Voters there will get the chance to split the difference on gay relationships, if they so choose. On the one hand, Amendment 43 writes into the state's Bill of Rights that marriage is limited to straight couples; it's silent on civil unions. On the other hand, Referendum I provides for statewide domestic partnerships that offer some legal recognition for gay couples, including hospital visitation, inheritance and health-care decision-making. Haggard's outing may leave conservatives feeling dispirited, or it may galvanize them, since the Denver escort who ratted out the evangelist admitted his political motives. Polls show both measures may pass; voters are evenly split, or slightly in favor of, anti-gay Amendment 43, while two recent polls show pro-gay Referendum I with a 4-5% lead.

    4.    South Dakota: Political observers are surprised that this solidly-red state is in a dead heat on Amendment C, which bans the state from recognizing same-sex couples with marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships or other similar arrangements. This is, after all, the state that dumped Tom Daschle two years ago, even though he was the Democratic Party leader in the U.S. Senate, in a campaign where gay marraige was an issue. This time around, the gay marriage issue has flown a bit under the radar, since both sides on the culture wars are more focused on the abortion ban that is also on the ballot.

    5.    Arizona: Proposition 107 here blocks marriage, civil union and other legal recognition "similar to that of marriage," which proponents claim includes even domestic partner benefits. The polls here are stronger than anywhere else: two recent surveys show opposition over 50% and support in the 30s.

    6.    Tennessee: All eyes have been on the U.S. Senate race, where both Republican Jim Corker and Democrat Harold Ford, Jr., have fallen all over themselves in support for Amendment 1, which blocks the state from marrying gay couples or recognizing marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by other states. Proponents argue that it might also block D.P. benefits and the like, but the wording doesn't support that. An even sketchier claim hsa been made by Corker in TV ads that paint Ford soft on gay marriage. In fact, the Memphis Democrat backs Amendment 1, voted twice for a federal marriage amendment, and even issued a statement saying he disagreed with last month's New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, which stopped short of ordering that state to marry gay couples. Not surprisingly, Amendment 1 is expected to sail to victory; a recent MTSU poll shows the margin at 74-21%, similar to the lop-sided margins these ballot measures have been decided by in the past. One glimmer of hope: 33% of Tennesseans in the same poll back civil unions, though 59% oppose even that level of recognition.

    7.    South Carolina: The amendment here bans any form of legal recognition by state or local governments for same-sex couples, effectively blocking marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Unlike Virginia's broadly-worded ban, however, South Carolina's specifically provides that private parties (e.g., couples) can still enter into their own private legal arrangements. The measure has not been hotly contested in this very red state, and gay groups are hoping for 30% in opposition to the measure as a "symbolic victory."

    8.    Idaho: Another broadly worded measure here; HJR2 would ban marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships or any other form of legal recognition for gay couples, as well as D.P. benefits by public universities and local governments for same-sex or unmarried straight couples. Don't expect any miracles in this red state; a poll last week showed support for the measure at 59%, with 36% opposed and 4% undecided.

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    October 31, 2006

    'Marriage' Seems to Be the Hardest Word

    Posted by: Chris

    Why does the pro-gay side have such a hard time saying "the 'M' word" when the anti-gay side is trying to ban us from 'M'-ing?

    Eltonjohn Take Wisconsin, for example, which is shaping up as the top battleground state among the eight that have gay marriage constitutional amendments on the ballot next Tuesday. Both sides have sizable advertising war chests. Even Sir Elton John got into the action, donating $20,000 to Fair Wisconsin, the group that's fighting the measure, which would also block the state from offering civil unions.

    Polls suggest the vote may be very close; a survey released Monday showed 50 percent favoring the measure and 46 percent opposing, within the margin of error.  Unfortunately, polls have historically undercounted those who end up against gay marriage in the only poll that matters, on Election Day.

    Even more unfortunately, both sides are reverting to their usual tactics, which will likely yield the usual result: a lopsided victory for gay marriage opponents, who are 19 out of 19 states thus far. As in the past, well-intentioned gay marriage advocates in Wisconsin are afraid to make their own arguments, so instead they try to convince voters that the measure goes too far. The Associated Press reports:

    One Fair Wisconsin ad features a McFarland farmer named Arlyn, who says he's opposed to gay marriage. "But I'm not here to judge somebody else," he says. "I think this ban on gay marriage goes too far, affects too many people and is unfair. They're not hurting me, why should I hurt them?"

    I've criticized this strategy ever since the Human Rights Campaign first tried it during the Hawaii marriage battle almost a decade ago, in an ad featuring a popular retired general who opposed gay marriage but also opposed "writing discrimination into the constitution." These amendments are about gay marriage, and we can't run from that fight. As Evan Wolfson, who won Hawaii marriage in court only to see his victory overruled on the ballot, has written:

    So far, too many of our state campaigns — both the short-term election efforts and the longer-term public education work — fail to offer the voting public real content and an authentic engagement. Too often they have not used the airtime of an election battle to talk about gay people and marriage — the two things these ballot measures are most about — instead relying on generic appeals to fairness.

    Too many of our side's campaigns have chosen to emphasize collateral effects on non-gay families, as if voters will really be persuaded that what the media will always refer to as "the marriage amendment" is somehow not about gay people's freedom to marry. Worst of all, many campaigns and activists have gone with the message that people should vote the measure down simply because it is "unnecessary" or "goes too far." That subliminally suggests — unintentionally, but in a way that is still damaging to our long-term movement — that some discrimination is OK and that it would indeed be a problem if we really did have gay couples marrying.

    That's exactly the mistake they're making in Wisconsin, probably led astray by partisan political strategists who are really interested in making the marriage amendment about anything other than gay couples marrying because they're more afraid of motivating evangelical conservatives than they are of swaying moderates.

    Worst of all, as Evan points out, this strategy of changing the subject leaves the education effort we must do on marriage for another day, when the public is focused on the issue here and now. Having ceded the real subject of the debate, all the anti-gay side has to do is play to the "yuck factor." In Hawaii, it was two men walking on a beach wearing tuxedos, holding hands. In Wisconsin, it's all about the children. Again, from AP:

    One ad, which hit the air Monday, shows children struggling to explain same-sex relationships. "[God] should have created Anna and Eve," one child says, while another concludes, "I'm confused."

    Yes it's political demagoguery at it's worst. It's also likely to be very effective, especially when the pro-gay side is giving over precious airtime to likable Wisconsinites who also oppose gay marriage. As Andrew Sullivan put it:

    We will not win until we are unafraid. I believe civil marriage for gay couples is moral, it is right, it is good for society — and anything less is immoral, wrong and bad for society as a whole. … Let us make this case - calmly, honestly, openly. And we will win — for one reason only. Because we are right.

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    October 27, 2006

    There he goes again…

    Posted by: Chris

    Georgebush It took about 24 hours before Karl Rove had President Bush distorting Wednesday's New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, which ordered the state to provide gay couples all the rights and benefits of marriage but left to the Legislature whether to open up "traditional marriage" to same-sex couples.  In a half-hour speech in Des Moines that mostly focused on Iraq and taxes, Bush briefly addressed the decision, according to this Radio Iowa report:

    Bush told the crowd in Des Moines that traditional marriage is a "fundamental institution" of civilization. "We had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage. I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman," Bush said.

    Bush in the past has said he believes states have the authory to enact laws creating so-called "civil unions" which extend some legal rights to gay couples, but Bush supports passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would declare the only legal marriages in America are those between a man and a woman. "I believe it's a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families and it must be defended," Bush said. The crowd applauded, and then Bush moved on to another topic.

    It's easy to see how the New Jersey opinion is a weak substitute for the landmark Massachusetts decision when it comes to riling up evangelical conservatives; more like a bland chicken marsala than the red meat they were thrown during the 2004 campaign.  The New Jersey ruling "raises doubts about the institution of marriage"? Not particularly effective, as fear-mongering goes, especially considering the court refused to order the state to marry gay couples, instead leaving the issue to the democratically elected Legislature.

    It's also ironic that Bush would call marriage a "fundamental institution," since it was the three dissenters in the New Jersey case who agreed, arguing that all Americans (yes, including gay and lesbian Americans) have a "fundamental right to marry," making any limitations on marriage subject to higher scrutiny than ordinary rights and freedoms. They went on to conclude that they would have ordered the state to begin marrying gay couples.

    It was the New Jersey court majority, on the other hand, that argued — rather circularly — that the right sought by the seven gay couples who sued there was the "right to same-sex marriage," effectively concluding at the beginning what they decided at the end: that "gay marriage"  is an entirely different institution from heterosexual marriage.  Since "only rights that are deeply rooted in the traditions, history, and conscience of the people are deemed to be fundamental," it was easy work for the 4-3 court majority to conclude the "right to same-sex marriage" is not fundamental.

    That's one of the ways the court majority was wrong on the law: by concluding there is somehow a fundamental right to heterosexual marry but no fundamental right to gay marry.

    Follow the jump for what how the U.S. Supreme Court feels about this:

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    October 26, 2006

    The great gay election scapegoat

    Posted by: Chris

    For being a minority that exists in every American family, and whose civil rights are supported by a growing majority of the U.S. public, gay men and lesbians sure come across as the election millstone for whichever party is too closely associated with them (err, us).

    Democrats blamed "gays in the military" for wrecking the first half of Bill Clinton's first term, and with it the loss of Congress to Republicans for the first time in generations.  It's accepted wisdom today that Karl Rove successfully used gay marriage as a wedge issue in key swing states (especially Ohio), proving crucial to George W. Bush's re-election.

    Then came Foley-gate, which pundits of all stripes declared was the last nail in the coffin for GOP hopes of retaining the House (and maybe the Senate) in this year's mid-term elections.  Like gay marriage two years earlier, the Foley issue is seen as crucial in only a handful of locales, but in a closely divided House, that can be the difference between Speaker Hastert and Speaker Pelosi.

    Then yesterday, we got our "October surprise": the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state's heterosexual-only marriage laws.  The timing wasn't political; it was forced by the mandatory retirement of Chief Justice Deborah Poritz — who turned out to be Chief Protagonist for gay couples — and whose 70th birthday happened to be yesterday.

    Rove and company — including his closeted cohort Ken Mehlman at the GOP's helm — were surely disappointed by the ruling.  Not because the New Jersey justices unanimously ordered the state to extend to gay couples all the rights and benefits of heterosexual marriage.  No, these partisan hacks — like their counterparts James Carville and company on the Democratic side — have always cared much more about power than policy.  Their true disappointment was no doubt that the decision didn't go further, and order the state to begin actually "marrying" gay couples.

    As it stands, the New Jersey justices aren't likely to be smeared too successfully as "activist judges," considering they left the question of what to call the institution to the democratically-elected Legislature (and governor).  It's the name "marriage," after all, that is the rub for all but the most conservative Americans.

    As Conor Clarke details nicely for The New Republic, General Rove and his troops will no doubt try to use the New Jersey ruling as a wedge where they can, especially in states like Tennessee and Virginia that feature both a tightly contested U.S. Senate race and a gay marriage ballot initiative.  But those two races already featured highly charged racial issues, making homosexuality an unlikely deciding factor.

    New Jersey voters will also decide a closely fought Senate race, but both Democrat incumbent Robert Menendez and GOP challenge Tom Kean, Jr., oppose gay marriage and back civil unions, so conservatives probably can't do much with Kean's additional support for a federal marriage amendment.  That's especially so since Gov. Jon Corzine and his fellow Democrats in charge of the state House and Senate are also on record opposing "marriage" for gays.

    Republican strategists will instead risk appearing mean-spirited (which they are) if they try playing politics with civil unions the way they have marriage and self-righteous (which they are) to boot,  given what the Foley mess has taught the U.S. public about the influence of gay Republicans within the Gay Old Party. Not to mention that the GOP-In-Chief, President Bush, is on record backing civil unions for gay couples, as Andrew Sullivan reminds us.

    No, it looks like no matter who wins — or more importantly, who loses — on Nov. 7, they won't have us gays to blame for it come Nov. 8.  And who knows, maybe one day, in that shining city on a hill, being associated with the basic equality of our little subset of Americana will actually be credited with winning  an election or three.

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    October 25, 2006

    Bubba got it wrong on gay weds

    Posted by: Chris

    Devalpatrick That's the colorful headline on a story in today's Boston Herald about Deval Patrick, the Democratic candidate for governor in Massachusetts, taking a shot at his former boss, Bill Clinton for signing the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996

    “I think it was a terrible mistake by the Clinton administration,” Patrick said of the Defense of Marriage Act. The act was signed in 1996 by Clinton, who will stump for Patrick and his running mate, Tim Murray, this afternoon in Worcester.

    Patrick, who calls his opposition to banning same-sex marriages “a civil rights issue,” said he was left out of Clinton’s decision-making process, even though he was the president’s civil rights chief in the Justice Department.

    “I wasn’t a part of that internal debate or legislative initiative at all,” Patrick told the Herald yesterday. “And I think it was because they knew where I was on that subject.”

    “They didn’t get everything right,” Patrick added.

    Patrick, who is expected to retake the governor's mansion in Massachusetts after a string of GOP chiefs in the bluest of states, comes only hours before we learn whether the New Jersey Supreme Court follows the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in opening up marriage to gay couples.  It also comes two weeks before a Constitutional Convention resumes on Nov. 9, two days after Election Day, which may deal with efforts to amend the state's constitution to overturn marriage rights for gay couples.

    Not surprisingly, his GOP opponent Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey is backing civil unions but not marriage, citing the state's leading Democrat, Sen. John Kerry, as her natural ally on the issue.

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    October 21, 2006

    Charlie Crist, meet Mark Foley

    Posted by: Chris

    Cristfoley1 Earlier today I posed the question whether gay politicians are essentially disqualified from office in conservative, "red" states due to the bias of their constituents, and if so, does that justify running for office from inside the closet? 

    Charlie Crist, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida, has apparently been pondering this question for some time, according to this report in Fort Lauderdale's Express Gay News:

    In 1985, Max Linn took a three-month program called Leadership St. Petersburg that focuses on grooming future leaders in business and politics. One of his classmates in the program was Charlie Crist, who is now Florida’s attorney general and the Republican nominee for governor.

    Linn, who is running against Crist on the Reform Party ticket, said there were only about 20 people in that 1985 class.  “So you got to know everybody,” Linn said.

    According to Linn, during the course of conversations with Crist he learned that the future attorney general is gay. The two talked about “what would happen if [Crist’s sexual orientation] comes out” during a political campaign, Linn said.

    Linn kept quiet about Crist’s alleged gay secret for more than 20 years until he launched his third-party bid for governor. But on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, Linn “outed” Crist on WFTL, a South Florida radio show.

    “Charlie, come out, come out from wherever you are,” Linn said on the radio show.

    Crist has been dogged for years by rumors that he is gay, despite repeated denials and a 1979 marriage that lasted seven months.  His record on gay issues, Phil LaPadula of the Express reports, has been a mixed bag of shifting positions, which makes him no worse than most politicians from either party and a decided moderate in the Florida GOP.

    On the plus side, Crist has said that civil unions for gay couples are "fine" with him, a surprising position as strong as that taken by the leaders of the national Democratic Party, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.  On the minus side, he opposes gay marriage (as does Dean) and signed a (failed) petition to put a gay marriage amendment on the November ballot, a position no worse than John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president two short years ago.

    Crist has danced around whether he favors repealing Florida's uniquely cruel ban on single gay adults adopting children, and whether he favors basic non-discrimination legislation.  But he has come out in favor of hate crime laws and school bullying protections that specifically target anti-gay harassment.

    That gay rights record is in the same ballpark as another closeted Florida Republican: disgraced Congressman Mark Foley.  In fact, the two have known each other for decades.  The thumbnail photo here was snapped by Ocala Pride, an ironically named non-gay publication in Ocala, Fla.

    Follow the jump for what Crist and Foley have in common:

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