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  • March 02, 2010

    A third way for the Prop 8 case

    Posted by: Chris

    Judge vaughn walker gay marriage prop 8 case
    With all that's been written about the case brought by Ted Olson and David Boies challenging the constitution of Proposition 8, you would think that the outcome there will decide gay marriage nationwide. In fact, it well could, if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees that it's a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law to deny gay Americans the fundamental right of marriage to the person of their choice.

    We're a long way from that day, obviously, with the matter still before (semi-closeted gay) Judge Vaughn Walker in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. However Walker decides the case, it will be appealed as of right to a three-judge panel of the fairly predictably liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could then decide to hear the case en banc (with all judges participating) if enough of them are unhappy with how the panel rules. Then comes the appeal to the Supreme Court, which will only hear it if a minimum of four justices want to.

    One factor that may help determine whether the nation's high court gets this gay marriage case is how broadly Judge Walker rules, if he strikes down Proposition 8. If he issues a sweeping ruling that gay marriage violates the 14th Amendment and that's upheld in the 9th Circuit, then odds are very strong the Supremes will take the case.

    But David Levine, a law professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law, points out a third possibility:

    If [Walker] writes a more boring factual opinion of the special situation California is in, that would have the least impact nationwide. That argument is that there’s no rational reason to have three categories of unions in the state: heterosexual married people, domestic partners and the 18,000 same-sex married couples who were married in California.

    He could argue, what’s left that separates domestic partners and married couples in the state? If there’s no legal difference, then what is the rationale for saying there needs to be a distinct group?

    Keep in mind that even with Prop 8 in place, gay couples in California can enter into domestic partnerships that carry all the rights and responsibilities of marriage except the name (and the automatic portability to other states and countries). Also, California presents the unique situation where gays could marry for eight months and remain married still. Proposition 8 allowed the voters to amend the state constitution to take away existing rights from a single class of people, making it much more like the notorious Amendment 2 in Colorado that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer vs. Evans in 1996.

    Those unusual facts are very different than those presented by a gay couple in Georgia, for example, who could never marry in the years before the voters there amended the constitution to limit marriage to straight couples, and different also from gays in Maryland, for example, where the constitution is silent on the question and the state recognizes gay marriages from elsewhere.

    Judges (and justices) often like to decide lawsuits on the narrowest possible ground, following the principle of judicial restraint and reducing the risk they'll get reversed or overturned down the road.

    Given the strength of the presentations made at trial in the Prop 8 case, and the predilections of Judge Walker, I would be very surprised to see him choose this narrow, third way. The silver lining of such a narrow ruling, at least from some quarters, would be to stave off the day the Supremes get the gay marriage question, allowing for the possibility that President Obama might fill in some timely vacancies.

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    February 25, 2010

    Defending the wrong marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Doug manchester hotel san diego gay marriage proposition 8 San Diego hotel magnate Doug Manchester, one of the largest personal donors behind Proposition 8 in California, should have spent more time defending his own marriage:

    The legal separation of San Diego hotel developer Doug Manchester and his wife of 43 years is final, but court records don’t reveal how the couple’s substantial wealth was divided — or if it will affect Manchester’s most-ambitious project to date, the Navy Broadway Complex in downtown San Diego.

    Perhaps the eight months in which same-sex couples could marry in California proved too much for Manchester and his wife to overcome. Another straight marriage killed by the gays.

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    February 01, 2010

    Can't Turn the Lights Off on Prop 8

    Posted by: Chris

    Schoolhouse Rock fans will enjoy this cartoon rock video about how the U.S. Supreme Court intervened at the 11th hour to block the judge's plan to broadcast the Prop 8 trial on YouTube. The video tells the story about how a group of actors reacted to the decision by reenacting the trial each day from transcripts so that the public still gets access -- of sorts. (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad users can watch the video after the jump.)

    Kudos to actor Joseph Gordon Leavitt, who didn't exactly set the world on fire when he hosted SNL last fall, for producing the cartoon video. In addition to the sympathetic view on gay marriage, the video breaks down the basic fairness that comes from transparency in the judicial process. Cameras in the federal courtroom is the third rail for most conservative, and some liberal, judges, but it's absolutely essential to ensuring the fairest possible judicial system.

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    January 17, 2010

    The lawsuit that could change everything

    Posted by: Chris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    February 23, 2009

    Dustin Lance Black, award winning speech

    Posted by: Andoni

    If an Oscar were given for best acceptance speech while receiving an Oscar, Dustin Lance Black would win my vote. Black, who won the Academy Award for for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," brought tears to my eyes with a brief description of his own personal struggle of being gay in a hostile world, then gave hope to millions of young gays by paraphrasing Harvey Milk, asking them to love themselves and assuring them that very soon they would have equal rights federally across this land.

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    January 30, 2009

    Judge: No anonymity for prop 8 donors

    Posted by: Andoni

    A federal judge in California yesterday denied a motion from ProtectMarriage.com who wished to keep anonymous the names of donors who supported the constitutional amendment that reversed the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same sex marriage in that state. The ruling affects 1600 people who gave between $100 and $999 since Oct. 18 to help pass Prop 8

    The donors fear reprisal because their names and addresses along with the location of where they live (on a map) appear on web pages such as Prop 8 Maps.

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    Filed in: Prop 8

    January 22, 2009

    The ad that KABC refused to air

    Posted by: Chris

    The Los Angeles TV affiliate KABC refused to air an advertisement about gay families by a group called GetToKnowUsFirst.org during the inauguration. The spot was intended as a general response to passage of Proposition 8 and aired in 42 of the California's 58 counties -- everywhere the initiative passed by 50% or more -- during Tuesday's coverage of the Presidential Inauguration.

    KABC is the only station that refused to sell the ad space, saying "it was too controversial to air during the Inauguration, since 'many families will be watching,'" according to the group's ad agency, which tried to place the ad. The rejected spot profiles two African American men raising five children ages 6 through 25. Ironically, the family lives in Los Angeles.

    KABC's decision is particularly remarkable because the ad itself is very wholesome:

    It's also exactly the type of advertisement that the No on 8 campaign was missing, making the gay issue plain and the desire for marriage equality one in which more people could relate.

    For those wishing to register with KABC their opinion over the refusal, here's the contact info:

    ABC7 Broadcast Center
    500 Circle Seven Drive
    Glendale, CA 91201
    (818) 863-7777
    Send email from here.
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    January 15, 2009

    Did the Mormons lie about Prop 8 $$?

    Posted by: Chris

    A provocative eight-minute piece by the American News Project that provides some revelations about the extent of the Mormon Church holy war in favor of Proposition 8 and against gay marriage. The report raises some valid questions about the veil of secrecy with which churches are allowed to operate in politics while maintaining tax exempt status.

    My reaction was how these internal Mormon documents and satellite transmissions offer up very clear evidence that the motivation of those opposing gay marriage in California was not the preservation of religious freedom but rather the contrary: imposing the theological views of the LDS Church and its conservative allies to deprive gay couples of the basic human freedom to marry.

    The California Supreme Court need look no further for justifications for striking down Prop 8.

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    December 23, 2008

    Watch the Warren bait and switch

    Posted by: Chris

    Solmonesebaldwinfrank A lot of the anger over Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to say a prayer at the inuauguration springs from genuine (if misplaced) resentment over the mega-church pastor's previous pronouncements on marriage, mixed with a disturbing streak of P.C. intolerance that runs through the gay rights movement and liberals generally.

    Part of it is lingering distrust of Obama by gay Hillary supporters, who still revel in the chance to stick it to him, as they did on the (similar and analogous) Donnie McClurkin flap. Another part is from Clinton-haters, who are already bracing themselves for Obama to "throw gays under the bus" the way Bill Clinton did on gays in the military (1993) and the Defense of Marriage Act (1996).

    And then there are the "leaders" of the gay movement, who absolutely love this kind of controversy for an entirely different reason: the gay and gay-friendly masses are exorcised and primed for fund-raising, successfully distracted from the indefensible lack of progress, even backsliding, on the actual push for legal equality. You know who I'm talking about, people, so let's just get to the quote (from Politico.com):

    The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

    “There is a lot of energy and there’s a lot of anger and I think people are wanting to direct it somewhere,” [Joe] Solmonese [of the Human Rights Campaign] told Politico.

    B-I-N-G-O and BINGO was his name-o! A nice juicy controversy with absolutely nothing of consequence at stake, and all those angry gays upset by the humiliating defeat of gay marriage rights in California, Arizona and Florida are distracted from further inquiry into why we lost, or whether there is anything that Democrat-controlled Washington can do anything about it.

    Look at this shiny Rick Warren bauble, gay people! Pay no attention behind that curtain to the deal Joe Solmonese, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and others have cut to give you only hate crime and ENDA crumbs until after the mid-term elections! (And by then, of course, the excuse will be that controversial issues like Don't Ask Don't Tell and relationship recognition must wait for Obama's re-election.)

    Remember Solmonese's "very frank" letter -- we know it's "very frank" because HRC said it was -- to the president-elect calling the Warren invitation "a genuine blow to LGBT Americans"? Does anyone remember HRC sending such a very frank letter when congressional Democrats failed to pass even the most benign form of gay rights legislation? (No, actually, HRC thanked them for giving it the ol' college try -- for the 12th consecutive year.)

    (And why can't the cynic in me shake the notion that Obama's real transition sin was failing to hire more Beltway gays to high White House and cabinet posts? Hillary surely would have emptied out HRC with cushy bureaucratic jobs.)

    GeoffreykorsOn the other side of the country, another gay leader in the hot seat is also trying his hand at the Warren bait and switch. Geoff Kors, the Equality California leader under heavy fire for the horribly mismanaged and poorly strategized No on 8 effort. You think he's gonna miss out on this chance to point the heat in another -- any other -- direction?:

    The head of California’s largest gay civil rights organization has declined an invitation to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama because Rev. Rick Warren will deliver the invocation.

    It is extremely disappointing and hurtful that President-elect Obama has chosen California Rev. Rick Warren, who actively supported Prop 8 and the elimination of existing civil rights for LGBT Californians, to give the invocation at his inauguration,” said Equality California executive director Geoff Kors in a statement.

    “Accordingly, I have decided to decline the invitation to attend the inauguration as I cannot be part of a celebration that highlights and gives voice to someone who advocated repealing rights from me and millions of other Californians.”

    The EQCA home page devotes its premium space to Kors' silly refusal to attend the inauguration, which makes about as much political sense as his silly refusal to meaningfully debate Prop 8. Does he really think we can boycott and refuse to debate our way to equality? He needs to watch "Milk" again.

    There's still time to make lemonade from these lemons. If the uproar over Rick Warren has the Obama folks anxious to mollify the gays, then let's ask for something real -- not simply long-promised hate crime and employment non-discrimination legislation. Something real -- like administration support for pushing a federal civil unions bill.

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    December 18, 2008

    Lowering the volume on Warren-gate

    Posted by: Chris

    Rickwarrenwp I'll admit that my initial reaction late last night to the controversy over Barack Obama naming evangelist Rick Warren to give the inauguration invocation was a bit unfair in characterizing (err, disparaging) the motives of those offended by the decision. I still believe that political correctness and ideological purity underly most of the complaints, but I have heard from some who I would never characterize that way.

    One thing they cite is how supposedly "compared" or "equated" gay marriage to incest and polygamy in explaining his support for Prop 8 in California:

    I’m not opposed to [gay marriage] as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

    This is neither "comparing," nor "equating." In fact, Warren specifically draws a distinction between that which he does not oppose -- gay marriage -- and the parade of horribles he thinks opening up redefinition of marriage will lead to -- incest, pedophilia and polygamy.

    The proverbial "slippery slope" is used when the speaker knows his audience sees no real problem with the proposal at hand, and so must be jolted to attention by what would somehow inevitably follow:

    If you raise taxes, it will slow the economy, put people out of work, throw us into a recession and require socialist bailouts to get us back on track.

    Does that "equate" or "compare" raising taxes with socialism? No.

    Recognizing Rick Warren's argument as slippery slope and not comparison does not make his claim any more reasonable, but it does make it less offensive -- although clearly offended is what we do best on our side, rather than meet arguments head to head, with confidence that ours is the stronger position.

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    Obama's unity call falls on P.C. ears

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamawarrent It hasn't taken the gays long to find fault in the still-transiting Obama administration. You can almost guess from the level of fury that what's at stake isn't something real, like a retreat on policy or foot-dragging on a campaign promise. That's because content- and consequence-free is exactly how the politically correct crowd likes their controversies.

    Barack Obama's offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.

    Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage -- come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a "strategery" role in the No on 8 campaign.

    Never mind all of those things because they do not matters as much as ideological purity, as defined by those who somehow think of themselves as "progressive" despite their own naked intolerance. We must demand exclusion in the name of "unity"!  Isn't that ironic, doncha think?

    A number of critics trace Obama's supposed betrayal to this transition-team promise:

    "The Presidential Inaugural Committee, at the direction of President-elect Obama...will organize an inclusive and accessible inauguration that...unites the nation around our shared values and ideals."

    "Shared values and ideals?" huffs Leah McElrath Renna on HuffPo ("Rick Warren, Obama? Really?"). How dare Obama when we don't share Rick Warren's views on gay marriage!

    Shared values and ideals, Leah. Do please try to focus, honey. You successfully honed in one of those un-shared values. Try to remember that the whole idea behind unity is finding areas of agreement, not disagreement, and focusing on common ground to bring us together as a nation.

    Can you imagine what sort of "unity" party that HuffPo and the "progressive" left would have Obama throw? One in which only other progressives are invited, thereby completely missing the point. Yes, election night was magical, and as a long-time Obama supporter I too was moved and inspired. But recreating Grant Park (or the Denver acceptance speech) will not unify the country.

    This twisted idea of unifying only among the like-minded reminds me of the joke about St. Peter giving a tour of Heaven. "Keep quiet as we pass this next doorway," he tells the new arrivals. "This is where we keep the fundamentalists, and they think they're the only ones here." I hate to break it to you P.C. stormtroopers, but your Obama-America Paradise includes more than gays and gay-friendlies.

    Another predictably knee-jerk response was Queerty shrieking headline -- "Barack Obama's 'new pastor' is a slap in the face to the gay community":

    Barack Obama's decision to allow a direct enemy of gays and lesbians to officiate at his inauguration isn't just alarming, it's outrageous and indefensible. We call on President-Elect Barack Obama to rescind his offer to Rev. Warren immediately.

    I'm sure Obama is quaking in his boots, Queerty. So I best step up to your challenge. I am hereby defending what you call "indefensible" (and "alarming" and "outrageous," those rhetorical handmaidens to lazy left outrage). And I will do so as someone who has closely watched, cared about, cried over and covered the gay rights movement since you were in diapers -- and as someone whose life and livelihood depend far more than yours on Obama living up to his LGBT campaign promises.

    Keep your eyes on the prize, boys. Obama's campaign to unify the country -- which last I checked includes millions of Warren's fellow travelers -- is in the service of an administration whose stated policy positions are the most supportive ever on LGBT civil rights. Winning over support for a pro-gay president from anti-gay leaders isn't just defensible, it's downright brilliant.

    Ahh but the shiny bauble of a controversy will always distract the ideological purists among us, who are spoiling for a fight more than they are fighting for a cause. Still, how disappointing and sad that it is the gays who are first to break ranks and declare some other (much larger group) as untouchable. It's the kind of exclusionary politics we should expect from our enemies, not from ourselves.

    (Photo of Barack Obama and Rick Warren via L.A. Times)

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    December 17, 2008

    'Hide the gays' backlash grows

    Posted by: Chris

    Weho_townhall Those responsible for the monumentally unsuccessful "hide the gays" strategy against Proposition 8 have heard the complaints about failing to connect with the grassroots; they feel your pain. They even held a cyber town hall meeting, although you couldn't participate with an Mac (ahem!) or without a high-speed internet connection.

    Undaunted, some of those dissed grassroots held their own town hall meeting at Ground Zero -- West Hollywood. There was not a lot of love in the air:

    Most of the voices heard expressed frustration and/or anger at what they called the insular and inept leadership of the campaign. Organized by Robin Tyler, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that won Californians the right to marry, and the organization Marriage Equality, on whose board she sits, a panel of long time activists listened to speakers and then opined themselves on the No On 8 campaign’s shortcomings.

    A Los Angeles man, Jerry Johnson, criticized the television commercials the No On 8 campaign ran as not representing the reality of being gay couples or parents. He said that the ads he saw looked as though the gay leadership was trying to hide gay faces rather than showing them, missing a chance to humanize the community.

    Hide the gays they did, so much so that the G-word was never uttered, neither was the M-word ("marriage"), or even the D-word ("discrimination").

    Even Madonna, Janet, Whitney and Liza know that at least a first name is required for people to know what the hell you're talking about. Just ask the Artist Formerly Known As Prince; that is when he's not condeming you gay folk for "sticking things wherever you want."

    (Photos courtesy of West Hollywood News)

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    December 15, 2008

    Quarantining gays from marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    I'm usually a bit loathe to sit and watch the latest Jon Stewart and Keith Olberman video making the rounds of gaydom, even though they both are strong supporters of our equality, because a political preacher exhorting his choir does not make for the most interesting viewing, IMHO.

    But I will pass on Jon Stewart's mini-debate on gay marriage with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee because it is two-sided and touches on a lot of the hot buttons of this issue generally. Huckabee's folksy image and guitar skills have successfully refurbished his image from that of an angry Baptist minister who urged that people with AIDS be quarantined to protect us from "the dangerous public health threat of homosexuality."

    At one point in the discussion, Huck defends treating same-sex marriage differently than interracial marriage because, "There's a big difference between a person being black and a person practicing a lifestyle." Nice try, Mike, but you said otherwise on "Meet The Press" a year ago.

    You can take the Baptist preacher out of Arkansas, but you can't take the Arkansas out of the Baptist preacher.

    I'll also note, in passing, that almost none of the pro-marriage-equality arguments that Stewart voices so effectivly were even attempted in opposition to Proposition 8 -- mainly because doing so would require using words like "discrimination," "marriage" and "gay," which our side's focus groups apparently found too messy.

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    December 09, 2008

    Politically correct window-dressing: A+ ... Actual work: F

    Posted by: Kevin


    For as long as I can remember, the leading national gay rights organizations (and their statewide cousins, in terms of imperial attitude) have made a great deal of noise to indicate they were "working hard" to reach out to the African American community in the United States.  This was often couched in the language of building political coalitions to advance gay rights legislation and policy, as it should be.  We need to do it.

    Well, the results are in.  And to say that their efforts were an abject failure is being kind. 

    The 2008 election proved decisively in California, and hinted strongly in a national way, that all the flowery announcements by Human Rights Campaign directors past and present, as well as the multi-hue-drenched righteousness peppering speeches at NGLTF's Creating Change conferences, amounted to a lot of hot air in an echo chamber.

    When you read the latest Gallup Poll on African American moral and political attitudes on homosexuality, you can't help but think of the bullshit events on "diversity" sponsored by your state's left-wing gay rights juggernaut, or the dumb multi-racial hack love-ins among left-wing Democrats under an HRC logo-banner over the last 15 or so years.  In reality, any statement by HRC or NGLTF today boasting of their outreach to the African American community smacks of Kenneth Lay telling investors that Enron was solid bet, just before the truth was revealed that he knew it was a sinking ship.  Enron's stockholders had bankruptcy, we have the lovely Proposition 8 - and whatever else awaits us.

    This is not to say that building a strong political coalition with black Americans isn't absolutely necessary.  It is.   But what this Gallup poll says is that our current and past gay leadership did nothing effectively, and continues to be a total and complete failure at this.

    Since Prop 8 and the key fact that 70% of a tidal wave of African American votes in California voted against us on it, the issue of race has resurfaced for good reason.  The gay African American voices have run the gamut from pointing the finger where it belongs -- at those hypocritical gay organizations with money and clout who pay lip service to this hard work but never listen or apply themselves to do it right -- to the same old blaxploitation songs of "gay whitey" this and "gay whitey" that.

    But what is so interesting about the Gallup poll to me is the headline: "Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues."  In a white liberal context, that headline must be like the sound of hand grenades going off:  "conservative" (boom!)..."Republicans" (bam!)....."Moral" (ka-BOOM!).  Because left-wing political hacks don't let themselves hear, say or deal with those three words in any real way.  And now we're all paying the price.  Because just like the way HRC did its "building bridges" with "fair-minded Republicans" after the 1994 election basically forced them, the gay establishment's outreach to the black community has been a front.  Not real.

    I will never forget one moment at the 2000 Creating Change conference in Oakland, California.  I think it was the only one I ever attended, basically because I was a speaker on a panel.  But I sat in on a different panel on "people of color" issues, and behind me were two folks who I guess were local gays from Oakland.  The panel was the usual suspects whose jobs it seemed (to me) were to blather endlessly in person and in print in talking point-ese about "POC issues" (I always cringe when I hear that term).  The panel moderator beamed regally while a usual suspect gushed about some meeting in what sounded like the most marginal, way-left church-of-the-misfit-toys in some mid-sized city, where "we melded in song" about "the equality of peoples."  One of the folks behind me said in a stage whisper to his friend: "What the hell are they talking about?"  I chuckled to myself, in agreement.  It was funny to see these left-wing hacks talk about religion and morals the way an alien might discuss life on Earth.  Or the Republican Party.

    And here's where a gay Republican with a lot of experience with this now-generalized brand of incompetence can give advice to any African American gay activist who wants to channel their anger effectively right now.  First step is to wake up.  This isn't about racism - it's about competence. 

    The reason they failed is because they didn't do their jobs.  The reason they didn't do their jobs is because they have no fucking clue how to build political coalitions outside their extreme political comfort zone -- be they white, black or fuschia in skin tone.  They know how to hire people with the right color skin to run around saying "look at me, I'm Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank) Outreach!".  And as circumstance would have it, they've never been pushed to the wall so blatantly the way the Prop 8 results have nailed them.

    So, don't lobby for them to hire some token staff person or launch some bullshit "outreach campaign".  You'll just be participating in the ongoing failure.  Think of the gay movement like a business - someone isn't do their job, you fire them.  Demand the heads of those responsible, and demand they be replaced by someone of any race, any gender, who has the political and intellectual and moral skill to do the job in the African American community that nobody has been doing in this movement for decades.  Someone proven.  Someone who would be honorable enough to look at Prop 8, and at the Gallup poll results, and resign in disgrace. 

    Right now, this movement is all about electing Democrats, with this as the only result worth any real investment of time and money and effort.  You see what that has gotten us.  So let's make it about advancing the gay cause again, and let's leave absolutely nothing to window dressing or lip service anymore.  Let's be bold and courageous, and demand leaders who get the job done.

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    December 07, 2008

    Hillary as president = no Prop 8?

    Posted by: Chris

    Prop8bigtentlarge_2 An interesting op-ed in today's New York Times engages in some familiar analysis concerning the growing cracks in the progressive coalition opened up by the passage of Proposition 8:

    Left-leaning California’s horror about this newly revealed schism between two of its favorite sons is a situation that cries out for a villain, but the one that liberal white Hollywood has chosen for the role probably won’t make it all the way to the third act.

    “It’s their churches,” somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election; “It’s their Christianity,” someone else hissed, rolling her eyes. Apparently the religion espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now the enemy, at least among the smart set, and if this sounds like a regional issue, it’s not.

    But this intriguing little notion was news to me:

    Many gay activists have begun quietly to suggest that had Hillary Clinton been the Democratic nominee, Prop 8 would not have passed.

    I'd say that's a hard case to make stastically and smacks of never-ending bitterness that even Clinton herself seems to have admirably gotten over. Considering that black voters were only 6% of the total in California, it would have taken more than depressed turnout of their numbers to have brought down Prop 8, which passed by 4 percentage points.  Remember that black voters alone were not responsible for the gay marriage ban's margin of victory.

    That said, I can't help but chew on the question. Which would you prefer: President-elect Obama and Proposition 8 (e.g., what we have now), or Hillary as president-elect and Prop 8 voted down?

    To read Kevin's repent (which I am as thrilled as you to see), I am guessing he'd pick Hillary/No 8, despite his antipathy for all things Clinton. I share many of those same sentiments -- multiplied by years of exposure due to my Arkansas roots -- and probably as a result I'm happier with what we got.

    For one thing, the activism unleashed by the combination of Obama's empowering victory and anger over Prop 8 has the potential to transform a movement that has badly needed it for years. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I would also expect Prop 8 to live a very short life, whether gutted next year by the California Supreme Court or rejected by voters in 2010 or 2012.

    Of course, President Obama could still bitterly disappoint us the way the Clinton I administration did in the 1990s, but despite early worries I like our prospects -- and certainly more than under a Clinton II regime.

    (Prop 8 illustration via New York Times)

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    December 05, 2008

    Proposition 8, The Musical

    Posted by: Chris

    It apparently took only one day to write, one day to cast, and one day to shoot, but a few celebs with a sense of humor actually managed to take on Prop 8 and even put it to music:

    See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

    I'm not saying this little video would have won the day if it had been created before Election Day. But "Proposition 8, The Musical" does manage to do what the massive No-on-8 campaign did not: get at the heart of the Prop 8 debate, including Biblical distortions and, most importantly, church-state separation.

    No on 8 didn't just squander the money advantage here. We had the better argument, too.

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    November 20, 2008

    Dancing while gay America burns

    Posted by: Chris

    Solmoneselauper It wasn't enough for "the nation's largest gay political group" to pat itself on the back as one of "the top five winning member interest groups" in this year's election, despite the passage of four more anti-gay ballot measures, including Proposition 8 eliminating gay marriage in California.

    Now word has it that out-of-touch "leadership" at the Human Rights Campaign is also planning a GLBT "inauguration ball" for next month. It was bad enough that HRC refuses any responsibility for the abysmal "hide-the-gays" strategy they trotted out once again in California, or its 0-30 record fighting anti-gay ballot measures. They can do their denial in their dancing shoes.

    As boneheadedness goes, this rivals even the Big Three automaker CEOs flying corporate jets to Washington with their hat-in-hand to taxpayers.

    If HRC follows through on rumored plans for their ironically named "Equality Ball," they will have fully mastered the art of self-parody. Even "hockey mom" Sarah Palin's small fortune on clothing can't compare to Joe Solmonese and company donning tuxedos and ball gowns while the rest of us are taking to the streets -- no thanks to HRC, of course, which offered no resources or assistance for the National Day of Protest.

    Seeing as how every good party craves a theme, let me suggest one for HRC's Equality Ball, should it come to pass: Irrelevance.

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    Filed in: HRC , Obama , Prop 8

    November 19, 2008

    A chance to ask why we lost

    Posted by: Chris

    Three of the leaders behind the effort to defeat the gay marriage ballot measures will be answering questions during a live blog event on Thursday over at Bilerico.

    You'll almost never see actual criticism of GLBT leadership at Bilerico, likely because founder Bil Browning fears he'll lose access for events like this, and because many gay group E.D.'s (excuse me, "presidents," though next to none of them were actually "elected" by "members") are regular contributors and guest-bloggers.

    Hopefully we'll see some tough questions of Kate Kendall, of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, about why the promised "big ol' homo" campaign against Prop 8, full of visible gay voices, never materialized.

    Others answering questions on the live blog include Equality Florida's Nadine Smith and Equality Arizona's Barbara McCullough-Jones.

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    Growing chorus for change at HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcnotequals A number of influential voices are echoing the view raised here (and here) about the need for fundamental change of mindset and personnel at the leadership of the gay rights movement:

    • Andrew Sullivan: Why are non-gay Mormons more capable of organizing and fund-raising on a gay rights measure than HRC, the biggest national gay rights group? I mean: HRC claims (absurdly, but bear with me) 725,000 supporters and members. … They are supposed to have "expertise" - but the ads that ran in No on 8 were the usual fearful, focus-group driven, conviction-free pap. So in the biggest national struggle in the history of gay civil rights, this organization - which has vacuumed money from the gay community for years - were by-standers. Why is that not a scandal? How many struggles do we have to wage with these people always, always failing to lead - before we demand accountability and reform?

    Following up on Andrew's point about who wanted it more, it turns out that James Dobson's Focus on the Family is facing layoffs of more than 200 staffers because it pumped $539,000 into the Proposition 8 battle in California. Can anyone imagine HRC giving till it hurts like that? In fact, HRC claims to have donated $237,409 in "staff time." (HRC claims to have given $3 million, but it's counting bundled money from HRC donors).

    • Markos_moulitsas Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas: As a gatekeeper, the Human Rights Campaign sucks. Sullivan calls for the organization to be abandoned and defunded. But something worse is happening -- it is being rendered irrelevant by current events, and with irrelevance, it will shrivel up and die on its own. … The anti-Prop 8 campaign was an exercise in frustration. What we're seeing now, straight out of Taking on the System, is brilliant. And the movement is spreading far beyond California's borders. These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of it's so-called, self-appointed "leaders" to give them permission to engage.
    • Gw200h267 Robin Tyler (quoted by AP): The movement's leaders "were very timid. They were too soft," said Robin Tyler, a lesbian comic who created a series of celebrity public service announcements with the slogan "Stop the Hate, No on 8" that were rejected because they were deemed too negative. "We were lightweights on our side."
    • Queerty: In our struggle to change the mind's of others, we may have to change our own. The grassroots, "everyone has a voice", web-centric nature of the campaign that started after Prop. 8 passed is a direct response to the hierarchical, "here's the plan, get on board or go away", "shout from our bubble" effort that preceded it. Madness is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response. It's clear that the strategy (or lack thereof) of the HRC and No on 8. campaign did not work. … To the people who feel that questioning our gay leaders will only make us more divided, I point to our defeat and ask, "What makes you think we were ever united?"
    • Rexaz2_2Rex Wockner: Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born."? Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."? It was.
    • Hrcspanight Michael Petrelis: After all the hard work HRC did shoving gays back into the closet during the No on 8 campaign, … HRC is now giving the San Francisco community what it truly needs at this point as we pick ourselves after being knocked down by the voters. It's HRC Spa Night! … What's next? Get a face-lift and HRC gets 10% from the plastic surgeon, to fight the next ballot proposition? … One thing that is surely not next from HRC is an achievement of any significance for gay Americans. What would happen to the gay movement and its quest for fairness and equality if we once and for all stopped giving even a dime to the worthless Democratic Party hacks burning through $40 million community dollars annually?
    • Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway: The HRC’s tepid response to ballot measures is now 0-30, their accomplishments on Capital Hill are minuscule — they are in serious danger of becoming completely irrelevant. With this, they are now reduced to self-parody. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.
    • Andytowle2 Andy Towle: Voices are ringing out from all areas (liberal and conservative, some more critically than others) in the wake of the grassroots-organized protests around the nation, that national gay organizations, which have been the well-funded standard bearers for the gay movement for decades, must adjust to the new activism we've seen these past few weeks. Voices are ringing out that the national gay organizations must … adjust to this new reality" or "wither and die." Or perhaps, as we witnessed last weekend, they already have in many ways.
    • Waynebesen Wayne Besen: There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona. ... The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... Up until two weeks ago, major GLBT groups instructed people to write a check and then essentially instructed donors to check their activism at the door. Sometimes, one was asked to take their commitment a step further by sending e-mail or attending a dinner. I think this week's protests mark the end of the Passive Era of gay politics. A sign at protests, "No More Mr. Nice Gay", highlighted this monumental change. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die.

    The commentary from Towle and Besen is noteworthy because Towle rarely uses his über-popular Towleroad blog to criticize gay groups and Besen was a long-time staffer in the HRC communications department during the Elizabeth Birch years, working with HRC lifer David Smith, who remains at the org.

    It's particularly disappointing to see how behind the curve HRC is on the use of technology to push grassroots advocacy, given the dozens and dozens of young, tech-savvy staffers who work at the agency. It just goes to show you how the top-down approach to politics pushed by Smith, Joe Solmonese and other HRC leaders results in in-house management that further cripples the group's effectiveness.

    Change may well be coming to HRC, for no other reason but that many of its leaders are no doubt jockeying for jobs in the incoming Obama administration. (Query whether they will be embraced by the White House, given how obviously they sided with Hillary Clinton during the primaries. It's noteworthy that none of the seven out gay politicos with roles in the Obama transition team hail from HRC.)

    Either way, the gay rights movement is moving on with a retooled HRC or without it. The question is whether the D.C.-based gay groups want to remain relevant to the constituents and the movement they claim to lead.

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    Filed in: HRC , Prop 8

    November 18, 2008

    A modest marriage proposal

    Posted by: Chris

    With the click of a mouse and boots on the street, hundreds of thousands of newly minted activists across the country last weekend declared independence from the top-down, black-tie, this-cutesy-logo-brought-to-you-by movement for gay civil rights.

    Gw270h405 It took the political perfect storm: the “Yes We Can” spirit behind Barack Obama’s election, running smack up against the “Oh No You Don’t” passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California.

    The result was Stonewall 2.0. No corporate sponsors, no tony Washington, D.C., offices, and not a single poll or focus group. Just tech-savvy young activists pulling off day after day of street protests in California, followed by a massive mobilization on Nov. 15, a National Day of Protest in big cities and small towns across these United States.

    In handmade signs signed off on by no one, gay and straight alike made their case for equality, and rejected en-masse the inane “strategery” of avoiding words like “marriage,” “discrimination” and “gay” because they didn’t poll well.

    “No More Mrs. Nice Gay”
    “OMG CA, WTF?”
    “Keep your church out of our state”
    “Would you rather I married your daughter?”
    “You get married in your church, I’ll get married in mine.”
    “Hey California, Jim Crow called. He wants his Proposition 8 back.”

    Gw320h240These protesters weren’t buying the namby-pamby “gay agenda” our so-called leaders have already agreed to behind closed doors in Washington. Those Beltway-based Democrats have collected our checks and counted our votes for a decade with promises to pass hate crime and employment non-discrimination laws. Belatedly keeping their word is a beginning, not the end.

    What do we want, then? Repealing Proposition 8, of course, but that’s not even an option until 2010, at the earliest, and may well be taken care of by the legal eagles already challenging the ballot measure in the courts. Even if Prop 8 is reversed, we are only back to where we were on Nov. 3, leaving the vast majority of same-sex couples across America with little or no recognition for their relationships or prospects for same.

    Gw333h500 That’s why a growing number of us have our own modest marriage proposal. Call it Proposition 9, or Prop -8, if you’d like. It would instantly confer more than 1,200 rights and benefits to same-sex couples in every single city, state and small town in the U.S., and it’s already supported by two-thirds of Americans.

    What is it?
    A federal civil unions law.

    What would it do? A federal civil unions law would say that all the rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples under federal law would be extended to same-sex couples whose relationships are recognized under state law.

    What kind of rights are we talking about? Hundreds and hundreds -- 1,269 to be exact, according to the G.A.O. -- including “real life” benefits like equal access to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, veterans and disability survivor benefits, access to health insurance, rental and other housing insurance, education grants and programs, first-time home buyer credits, property transfer rights, consumer credit protections, domestic violence protection, and a wide range of tax benefits and protections.

    Gw610h547_2 It also includes immigration and asylum rights, which means no more “love exiles,” LGBT Americans forced to make a heartbreaking “Sophie’s Choice” between remaining in the U.S. and the non-American partner they love.

    Who would it include? Everybody! It doesn’t matter where you live. There are no residency requirements for lesbian and gay couples to marry in Massachusetts or Connecticut, enter into civil unions in Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey, or domestic partnerships in California, Hawaii, Washington or Oregon. For the price of a round-trip ticket to any of these places, a same-sex couple can solemnize their relationship under state law and receive the same recognition under federal law as a heterosexual married couple.

    What about the Defense of Marriage Act? What about it? A federal civil unions law does not run afoul of foul-smelling DOMA, and does not require its full or even half-repeal. DOMA says only that the U.S. government can’t use “marriage” or “spouse” for gay relationships, and one state can’t be forced to recognize another state’s gay marriages. A federal civil unions law does neither.

    Gw404h325_2 What would the public say? A federal civil unions law does what the people say they want, since for years surveys say two-thirds favor gay couples having the rights and benefits of marriage, just not the “M-word” itself. Even a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention this year told pollsters they support civil unions for same-sex couples.

    What would Obama say? The president-elect and his running mate don’t support gay marriage, but both have been on record for months supporting fair and equal treatment of gay couples under federal law.

    The "Obama-Biden Plan" on Civil Rights, announced on the transition team website (change.gov) includes this promise: "Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to … enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions."

    Even Sarah Palin didn’t object when Joe Biden in effect promised federal civil union protection in the vice presidential debate.

    “Look,” Biden said, “in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.”

    Say it’s so, Joe. The Prop 8 protesters couldn’t have put it better.


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    November 17, 2008

    Prop 8 and common sense (II)

    Posted by: Andoni

    Dsc03905Last week I suggested some common sense reasons why the California Supreme Court should invalidate Prop 8. Here's one more they should consider.

    Conceivably pro-same sex marriage advocates could put the question on the ballot again in 2010. This time for numerous reasons, including that it is not a presidential election year, same sex marriage may win by the same narrow margin by which it just lost. Same sex marriage would once again be legal. That of course would provoke the anti-same sex marriage folks, including the Mormons, who would redouble their efforts in the presidential election year of 2012 to once again outlaw same sex marriage. They might be able to win again in 2012.

    I think you get the picture. With the margin of victory or loss being so close, there could be a ridiculous back and forth legal mess. The Supreme Court should consider the possibility of on again, off again civil rights and all that implies before they validate Prop 8. Civil rights by a simple majority that could change every couple of years would be a disaster.

    One final point. In its 4-3 decision to legalize same sex marriage in California, the court said there was a fundamental right in the constitution for gays to marry. They used sweeping language placing sexual orientation in the same category as race and gender. Going beyond marriage, they generalized that there was no legitimate basis in California to deny or withhold legal rights on the basis of sexual orientation . Here is just one quote from the decision (emphasis mine):

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

    In my common sense law book, that 4-3 decision inserted the fact that gays are equal everywhere in the constitution of California. So by my simple minded thinking this has to be the starting point for all seven justices (even the three who voted against same sex marriage last May) as they deliberate the current lawsuit to invalidate Prop 8. Gays are now equal in every aspect in the constitution -- so said that 4-3 decision. We are equal in the marriage clauses, we are there in the equal protection clauses --we are everywhere in that constitution.

    So for the justices to conclude that defining marriage as between a man and a woman is a simple small change (an amendment - requiring only a simple majority) that doesn't fundamentally change or unbalance the whole constitution (a revision - requiring a 2/3 vote by the legislature before going to the people) would be a stretch and a dishonesty. You can't have gays along side blacks and women in the equal protection clause (everyone has to be equal in this state), and then strip gays of some rights a few paragraphs later. That would be an incompatible situation. That would also be a major change (revision) to the constitution and Prop 8 was not done properly to be a revision or major change.

    I can see the three justices who voted initially against same sex marriage want to vote that Prop 8 was done properly, but that would be dishonest. If truly a supreme court decision on constitutional matters becomes part of the constitution, then the marriage decision in May wove us quite deeply into that constitution and it would take more than a simple majority to take us out.

    I'm told the decision will come within six months. We'll see if the justices (especially the three who dissented in the original marriage case) are intellectually honest with themselves honoring stare decisis (prior decisions) or if they revert to their preconceived ideologies (don't approve of gay marriage, no matter what) and vote that Prop was simply a minor change to the constitution.

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    November 16, 2008

    Stonewall 2.0 news round-up

    Posted by: Chris

    SECOND UPDATE: Adding in reports from New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    3035862343_f6c6aedf26 Through my job updating Gay News Watch, I see a lot of gay news headlines, so I thought I would round up the articles I've seen about the National Day of Protests yesterday -- dubbed by Rex Wockner as Stonewall 2.0. The sheer number of protests is staggering, especially considering the bottom-up organization, lack of corporate sponsors and lack of backing from big-buck national GLBT groups.

    National round-ups:

    SandiegoprotestLocal stories:

    Outside the U.S.:


    This round-up isn't necessarily comprehensive, though I did do my best to track down stories in larger urban areas and college towns. A few notable states/cities missing from the list, at least so far:

    • Alabama
    • New Jersey
    • Wyoming
    • Delaware
    • New Orleans
    • Nebraska
    • South Dakota

    If you come across articles or reliable blog posts from these states, or from cities missing on the big listing, please let me know.


    Thanks to readers, I've added the following links to the complete list (above):


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    Protest for the punctuality-challenged

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphisprop8protestca As it turns out, showing up an hour or so after the scheduled start time for the Prop 8 protest yesterday here in Memphis meant that I was seeing the second wave, of fellow punctuality-challenged protesters. According to the Commercial Appeal:

    More than 150 people ignored the chilly winds to protest Downtown in front of the Memphis City Hall, bearing signs that said "Love makes a family," "Support love not H8" and "This is what democracy looks like."

    "Because of our history in civil rights we felt it was particularly important for Memphis' voice to be heard," said Amy Livingston, a board member with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, which co-sponsored the protest with the Women's Action Coalition.

    I had felt OK about showing up at 1:30 or so because Facebook invite indicated the downtown Memphis event would run from 12:30 to 3 p.m., and given how protests can be a bit disorganized and the gays like to be fashionably late -- (right about here, those who know me well usually roll their eyes and change the subject, so I'll just stop).

    Since none of the folks pictured the photo above, from the Commercial Appeal, were among the crew I witnessed, I'd say total turnout for the protest topped 200. Impressive and encouraging, especially for a grassroots rally protesting an election result so far away -- geographically and politically.

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    November 15, 2008

    Protesting far from Prop 8

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphisprop8protest Memphisprotesters Several dozen young protesters showed up outside Memphis City Hall today to join the National Day of Protest in response to passage of gay marriage bans in California, Arizona and Florida -- as well as the ban just across the Mississippi River in Arkansas on gay couples adopting or foster parenting.

    Memprop8proThe most striking thing about the protesters -- besides the fact that there actually were protesters in a conservative city with a very closeted gay community -- was just how young they were. By the time I arrived, the initial gathering of around 100 and dwindled a bit, but I'd guess not a single one was much older than half my age (22, for those of you doing the math at home).

    The other thing that impressed me was just how many of them were straight and there simply to support their friends -- at least a third, I would guess.

    Did the protest make a difference? Well, downtown Memphis is fairly deserted on the weekend, and the temps were unseasonably cold -- easily in the 30s as the wind gusted down Mid America Mall. So City Hall was empty and the protesters far outnumbered curious passersby.

    Memphislogo_2But that's beside the point, in my mind. The primary benefit of protests is to energize and activate the protesters, and the young crowd was definitely not lacking for energy. Plus, the local media showed up, so Memphis will hear their voices.

    Finally, on a personal note, I got a lump in my throat as the protesters decided to walk down Mid America Mall, and we passed a landmark from my own past -- the William Len Building, where I lived almost 20 years ago, in the summer of 1990, when I worked for a law firm here.

    WmlenbuildingI was still deeply in the closet, and at least one year away from confiding in absolutely anyone in my life. To file past that same building with a group protesting for gay marriage made me smile. I've come a long way, baby.


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    Mo' money to hide gays = equality?

    Posted by: Chris

    Smithsteve That's essentially the message from one of the brilliant strategists who decided the way to beat back a discriminatory ban on gay marriage was to never mention "discrimination," "marriage," or "gay."

    The excuses offered by Steve Smith, a (heterosexual) principal in the Dewey Square consulting firm that managed the "No on 8" campaign, are maddeningly illogical and unconvincing:

    • He blamed money woes, even though he had $2 million more at his disposal than "Yes on 8" did.
    • He complained about being "under-resourced" while acknowledging "we ended up spending very nearly $40 million dollars, more than anybody had ever spent on this kind of race."
    • He was clueless about the tech-savvy grassroots that energized the Obama campaign and the Stonewall 2.0 protests, admitting the No on 8 website was "pathetic" until volunteers from Google fixed it. The result: In the months prior, No on 8 raised "only about $1 million in Internet contributions"; after the site fix, "we raised approximately $22 million" from the Net in just 6 weeks.
    • Despite the fact that turnout in San Francisco was under 50%, Smith concluded, "We lost because we missed seven or eight points in L.A."
    • He joined the chorus of finger-waggers warning protesters not to blame the Mormon Church, even as the N.Y. Times confirms, "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage."
    • He admitted "No on 8" failed to define the issue, but disagreed with criticism that avoiding terms like "marriage," "discrimination" and "gay" might have something to do with that.
    • He lamented that "Yes on 8" successfully defined the issue, even as he dismissed early pro-Prop 8 ads as "real screamers" that "actually didn't say almost anything at all" and "the other side won by bullshitting."

    Let us hope that if nothing else comes out the National Day of Protest in response to losing three more marriage ballot measures, we can move beyond the focus-group driven, over-strategized leadership that thinks somehow we can wink-nod clever our way into full equality.

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    The Mormons and us on Prop 8

    Posted by: Andoni

    MormontempleBottom line, they fought as if their lives depended on it, we did not.

    Today's New York Times, reveals how the Mormon Church thought it was going to lose Prop 8 with less than two weeks to go before the election. In the 11th hour they pulled out all the stops, marshaling unprecedented money and rallying their troops.... and won. The Times concludes that it was the Mormon Church that tipped the scales on marriage in California.

    The article quotes Mormon leaders saying that Prop 8 was the largest social issue campaign ever undertaken by the church, larger than any anti-abortion effort. They realized what the stakes were for the rest of the country should same sex marriage be validated by the public in California.

    By all accounts, both first hand communications from people in California as well as media reports, our side did not mount the same kind of effort that the people who feared same sex marriage did. The only good news for us is that in spite of all the massive effort by our opposition, we only lost 52 to 48. This bodes well for a proactive measure in the future.

    I think both sides knew that importance of winning Prop 8 in California, but it's sort of like the Super Bowl....the team that wants it more usually wins. It seems as if the Mormons wanted to win more than we did.

    What can we do now to show how much we want this thing? Well today we all go can go to a National Day of Protest rally. They are happening all over the country and you can find one near you here. Maybe if there are hundreds of thousands of people protesting Prop 8 from coast to coast, the Justices of the California Supreme Court will be impressed with how important same sex marriage is to our community...and find the backbone to overturn Prop 8.

    Let's start wanting this more than our opposition. That's the most important key to victory.

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    November 13, 2008

    This finger-wag brought to you by HRC

    Posted by: Chris


    MLK and Solmonese -- For Whom Does the Finger Wag?

    Unbelievable. Just when I think "the nation's largest LGBT political lobby" can't make itself any more irrelevant to the lives of its supposed constituents, Joe Solmonese et al somehow manage to go the extra mile.

    After failing to lift a finger to help organize days of protest following the passage of Proposition 8 and three other anti-gay ballot measures, the feckless leadership of the Human Rights Campaign finally acted.

    Are you ready? Drumroll, please. Solmonese issued his "weekly message" one day early!

    Normally, I would wait until Friday to write to you, but with all that’s going on right now, I felt it was important to speak to you today.

    Yeah, I was shocked, too!

    But simmer down, folks. It's not like Joe is interested in speaking truth to power, our offering some actual plan to mobilize the protesters' grassroots energy into achievable goals. No, no, no. That would conflict with the Beltway bargain HRC has already struck with the Reid-Pelosi-Frank-Baldwin contingent in Congress to take our ENDA and hate crimes and hush up till 2011.

    So instead it is the protesters themselves -- how dare they act from the bottom up! -- who are treated to a classic P.C. finger-wag in this Very Special Episode of Solmonese Speaks:

    To reverse the outcomes of November 4, we must embrace our passion and anger, and redirect them to tasks that have as yet gone undone. We must take this election as an occasion to look inward.

    Inward? I remember Obama saying that "we are the change we are waiting for," but surely Solmonese isn't blaming gay folk for HRC's "No on 8" hide-the-gays strategy that has failed all 30 times it's been tried before. Oh yes! It seems that minority voters were justified in stripping gays (of all races) of our fundamental rights because we have not sufficiently bankrolled a broader social justice agenda.

    In our California, Arizona and Florida campaigns, we asked diverse communities to hear our stories and respect our rights. But have we heard the concerns of the people we asked to listen to us?

    We assert that equal marriage rights are basic human rights. We must also show that our concern for human rights does not end with marriage. We must make clear alliance with those we seek as coalition partners. As we ask communities of color and religious communities to engage and partner with us, we must demonstrate our commitment to the people and issues they care about.

    Specifically, Solmonese calls on the gay rights movement, already tiny in number and overwhelmed financially and politically, to devote out energy to "forty-seven million uninsured" Americans and "legions of children are denied equal opportunity by failing schools, violence, and racism."

    Putting aside, for the moment, that gays have always contributed time, energy and (especially) money to the political party organized around these other social justice issues, Solmonese's primary goal here is the ole bait and switch.

    HrcnotequalsStop rabble-rousing in the streets on an issue HRC has already agreed to put on the backburner! You're only reminding everyone how badly our smartest focus-group strategists have failed our movement!

    Finally, as the pièce de non-résistance, there is the classic call to action that accompanies the Solmonese missive. He begs us to "join with [him] and thousands of others and pledge to become an 'extremist for love' and fight to overturn these amendments."

    That's you, Joe, a tuxedo-clad "extremist for love" with a quarter-million dollar annual paycheck. And the accompanying "take action" link? You guessed it -- a web form that captures your contact info and email address for the HRC database, consigning you to a lifetime of fund-raising solicitations.

    With "activists" like this, who needs the bigots? I wonder if he'll even show up for a protest.

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    November 12, 2008

    Where to aim 'Second Stonewall' anger?

    Posted by: Chris

    Mormonprop8protest It's been absolutely inspiring to watch the groundswell of daily -- sometimes hourly -- street protests throughout California since the passage of Proposition 8 last week. So much for the cynicism about Obama-mania on Election Night eclipsing the gay marriage defeats.

    Rex Wockner and Andy Towle have done a fantastic job of chroncling it all, and Rexo offers this prescient analysis:

    Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born.

    It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.

    I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots.

    For the sake of the movement, I hope Rex is right. The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again. And it's clear from the HRC's radio silence about the Prop 8 protests that they have no idea what to do with gays who are energized enough to take to the streets.

    Gw200h258_2 Our so-called "leaders" at HRC and the Task Force aren't alone in their blank-face reaction to the week-long "Second Stonewall" protests in California, which will culminate in a National Day of Protest this Saturday. It's easy enough to see why the Beltway Boys are confounded by it all:

    • The protests are grassroots, from the ground up, and the HRC (Activism 3.0) model is top-down, controlled by strategists wedded to focus group data.
    • Because the anger and emotion is real, it's often misdirected, and D.C.-types can't associate themselves with protests that don't toe the line of political correctness.
    • The focus of the protests is marriage and relationship recognition, which is not on "the gay agenda" that HRC et al have already acquiesced to: hate crimes in '09, ENDA in '10, and maybe -- just maybe -- federal D.P. benefits and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in '11-'12.
    • Some of the protest anger is directed at HRC itself, and its top-down cohorts at Equality California, which ran a lackluster No on 8 campaign that refused to allow gay couples to be seen, much less make the case for their own equality.

    To see just out of step the D.C. gay groups are with their supposed constituents, consider that the only real response so far to seven consecutive days of gay activism in the streets is to scold protesters about who they shouldn't be angry at.

    Remarkably, the "Events" and "Take Action" links on HRC's website still list only the upcoming fund-raisers for the organization itself. It's unconscionable that a group that claims to be leading a movement is not at the very least leveraging its resources to get out the word for those who want to participate in the protests. Instead, HRC's only response to eight consecutive days of street protests has been to praise a memo from People For the American Way that calls activists to task for blaming minority voters.

    Daughterprop8protest In similar fashion, those on the crunchy Gay Left at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have been almost a caricature of themselves, ignoring the power of the protests to conclude what we really need is, you guessed it, to "get thee to an anti-racism training! Let’s learn how attending to our own internalized racism can bring new awareness to our work with colleagues of color." Yes, that's an actual quote. Could the Task Force be more calcified and paleo-liberal?

    Those on the gay right, for their part, are warning the protesters not to blame the Mormon and Catholic Churches, despite their obvious leading role in funding the devious Yes on 8 campaign. Conservative gay law professor Dale Carpenter warned that it's bad politics -- and risks proving Yes on 8's claims about the threat to religious freedom -- to protest outside Mormon temples.

    Carpenter's criticism is somewhat ironic, coming just weeks after he claimed he was quitting the gay rights movement. He's fundamentally wrong, in my view, to suggest that protesting the critical organizational role in Yes on 8 played by the church. In fact, he turns logic on its head to suggest the protests threaten religious freedom.

    Prop8protest1 The First Amendment guarantees the Mormons' right to preach against gay marriage and refuse to perform them in their own churches. The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.

    Carpenter argues that a better strategy for the protests would be to borrow a page from the black civil rights movement, and hold sit-ins in marriage license bureaus. Not only would such a strategy fail to make full use of the spectacular number of gays and allies energized to action, it's also misplaced. The government is not to blame here.

    Clearly the judicial branch isn't to blame, having vindicated the marriage rights of gay and bisexual Californians. The California Legislature twice passed gay marriage laws, so their hands are clean. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, but he opposed Prop 8 and since its passage has called on the state supreme court to once again declare gay marriage the law of the land.

    No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.

    H At some point, of course, these protests will die down and all these newly-minted activists will be looking for where to invest their energy. Neither HRC nor the Task Force has ever been about actual activism -- members are typically encouraged only to donate money and write emails and letters -- so it's my hope that the Join the Impact infrastructure will take on a life of its own.

    Perhaps this new generation of gay activists can take the fight to Washington and demand the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House do more than the absolute minimum for GLBT Americans.

    (All photos except lesbian couple are by Fergal O'Doherty via Rex Wockner's blog)

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    November 11, 2008

    Prop 8 strains gay race relations (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Prop8policeprotesters Clearly this is going to get uglier before it gets better. Both sides are stepping up the angry rhetoric as our Prop 8 firing squad forms a nice, tight circle.

    As someone who rejects the view popularized by Dan Savage that somehow black Californians are the, or even a, primary culprit in the passage of Prop 8, I can only shake my head at how easily some black gay voices have taken the bait.

    Over on the Rod 2.0 blog, a black UCLA student reported the "N bomb" was being thrown around by some of the white gay Prop 8 street protesters:

    It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. "YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger."

    Talk about your sad commentary. It's hard to know where to start -- the ignorant white gay man who shouted obscenities, or the offended black gay man who responded by labeling the entire gathering as "a klan rally." Or, for that matter, the fact that only the reactive bigotry of the black gay student went unchallenged or even commented on by Rod himself or Pam Spaulding, who subsequently posted the same snippit on her blog. How depressing, then, that it took the National Review to point out the reverse racism.

    I wasn't the only one gobsmacked by Jasmyne Cannick's angry L.A. Times screed. Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff labeled it "shockingly racist" in his own blog post:

    Perhaps the most egregious passage in Cannick’s opinion is this: “There's nothing a white gay person can tell me when it comes to how I as a black lesbian should talk to my community about this issue. If and when I choose to, I know how to say what needs to be said.”

    It would have been helpful for Cannick to share her all-knowing and powerfully influential ideas before Nov. 4. These are the words of someone suffering from extreme delusions of self-importance.

    Cannick suggests the marriage movement is about white gays who are “racist and clueless.” Tell that to the multiple black gay and lesbian couples that have been plaintiffs in marriage lawsuits across the country.

    The sad personal truth about Cannick is that she's long prided herself as some sort of "gatekeeper" whose ring must be kissed before access to her people is granted. I don't agree with Kevin that it makes her racist, but he's spot-on that she suffers from "extreme delusions of self-importance."

    I found myself caught up in a similar debate on a gay rights list serve, when another black gay leader argued, as Cannick had, that marriage is somehow irrelevant to most African American gays, since marriage rates in general among U.S. black hover below 50 percent.

    Huh? I'm not sure where he got his data but that certainly does not square with the U.S. Census. As of 2001, more than 60 percent of black men and women had married by their mid-30s, and almost 97 percent had married by the time they reached their 70s.

    Ever_married_in_us_by_race_2 Considering life expectancies for both whites (78 years) and blacks (73 years) fall into that final column, it's safe to say that almost everyone marries at some point in their lives. Even factoring in declining marital rates, it's just not factual to argue that African Americans aspire to marry at dramatically different rates than white Americans do.

    Divorce_rate_by_race_2 In fact, marriage rights and relationship recognition are arguably more  important for African Americans than for other racial/ethnic groups. Many of the most critical rights that bundled in marriage and relationship recognition are the property protections that arise in divorce, and this chart shows, the higher divorce rate among black men and women.

    But then again, what does a white gay guy like me know about the lives of black same-gender-loving Americans?

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    Prop 8 strains gay race relations

    Posted by: Chris

    Sarah Palin isn’t the only one facing flying fur after last week’s historic election results. While bitter McCain campaign aides accused their erstwhile veep of not knowing Africa is a continent, some bitter white gays were accusing African Americans of not knowing civil rights extend beyond race.

    Prop_8_by_race So much for Barack Obama’s election transcending racial politics in this country. Exit polls showed that increased turnout among black voters energized by his candidacy actually helped enact Proposition 8, the ballot measure that amended the California state constitution to take away same-sex marriage rights.

    Most whites voted against the divisive measure, while black Californians supported Prop 8 at the polls by a margin of more than two to one. Those shocking numbers have prompted a white gay backlash, and sex advice-cum-political columnist Dan Savage was typical in his vitriol.

    Dansavage “I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there — and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum — are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color,” he wrote.

    Not everyone was ready to pile on. Kathryn Kolbert, the partnered lesbian mother who is president of People For the American Way, warned against “lashing out at African Americans” as “deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.”

    Kolbert argued that even factoring in higher turnout, black voters were too small a percentage of the California electorate to have made the difference on Prop 8.

    She’s right about the electoral math. Black voters contributed only 3 percentage points to the “Yes on 8” vote, which passed by a margin of 4 points.

    Prop8_by_sex_race_2 If anything, Savage ought to look a lot closer to home – like in the mirror, for example. It’s true that whites overall voted 51 to 49 percent against Prop 8, but white male voters backed the measure by a similar margin. Given their higher percentage of the electorate, it was good ole white guys – not African Americans – who actually provided Prop 8’s margin of victory.

    Savage and others nonetheless vent that black voters ought to better appreciate the importance of civil rights issues, and the way marriage laws can be used to discriminate. Unfortunately, no one was making that case, at least according to Mario Solis-Marich, who wrote in Huffington Post that the “No on 8” campaign all but ignored black and Latino voters.

    Would a more effective outreach to African-American voters have really made a difference? Not according to relentlessly self-promotional Jasmyne Cannick, who claimed in a venomous Los Angeles Times column that black gays view marriage equality as a white gay issue anyway.

    Jasmynecannick200 “I am a perfect example of why the fight against Proposition 8 … failed to win black support,” wrote Cannick, who is herself a lesbian. “Why? Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please.”

    Here was Cannick, happily projecting her own unsuccessful love life – about which she blogs frequently – on everyone else, never stopping to consider whether homophobia in the African-American community might be responsible for disinterest in same-sex marriage. Tying the knot doesn’t exactly fit the “down low,” “gay thug” lifestyle.

    Conveniently, Cannick prefers the grievance/victimization route, claiming economic worries were more important to black voters. Well, duh. They were for white voters, too, in California and across the country. That’s why a black man is now the president-elect.

    It’s divisive and simplistic for Cannick and others to present economic trauma and gay marriage as zero-sum options. Voters of every race could have voted their pocketbook in the presidential race without voting their bigotry further down the ballot.

    The failure of so many whites and blacks within our “community” to see past their own race is discouraging proof of just how much remains to be said in our national “conversation” on race. We elected a black president, and still we can’t just all get along?

    What’s worse, the cultural conservatism that seduced African Americans on Prop 8 was profoundly against their own interests, which is usually the way bigotry works. Because while Cannick may not see immediate marriage prospects, her black gay brothers and sisters do.

    The statistics don’t lie: African Americans marry at the same rate as the rest of the population – more than 96 percent will tie the knot at some point in their lives. The extensive bundle of fundamental rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and divorce, at the federal and state level, often determine on which side of the poverty line many will live.

    Marriage equality and relationship recognition aren’t simply the clearest example of our own government discriminating against us. In the real world, no single item on anyone’s “gay agenda” has a greater impact on real lives, of all races.

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    November 10, 2008

    Prop 8 and common sense

    Posted by: Andoni

    Prop_8_hateCalifornia Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger thinks the battle of Prop 8 is not over. Yesterday on CNN  he said preventing gays from marrying was "the same as" preventing interracial marriages in 1948.

    In fact, he seemed to urge the California Supreme Court to again lead  on the rights of people to marry the person they love by invalidating Prop 8:

    "It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end. I think that again maybe we will undo that, if the court is willing to undo that and then move forward from there and again lead in that area.

    I'm with Arnold. The court should lead again just as it did earlier this year  and in 1948.

    From the very beginning I could never understand how Prop 8 could be valid if it passed. From a strictly intuitive point of view, how could it be that a simple majority can take away the rights of a minority? In its landmark decision the CA Supreme Court said that the right for gays to marry was found in the state constitution as a basic civil right. How can a fundamental right  be stripped away by a mere simple majority of the voters?

    Looking at this absurd situation from a different angle, in the year 2000 Californians passed Proposition 22 which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It passed 61.4% to 38.6%. That proposition was invalidated as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court (above) earlier this year which then opened the door to same sex marriage.

    Jump forward to Prop 8. It was the exact same wording as Prop 22, only this time they labeled it a constitutional amendment. It passed by only 52% to 48% --- much much less support support than Prop 22. But this time they called it a constitutional amendment instead of a ballot initiative. The same wording passed with less support. Does it make sense in any legal scheme that simply changing what it is labeled on the ballot (and getting fewer votes) should allow it to "stick" this time? Not in my law book of common sense.

    The lawsuit by the ACLU and Lambda Legal bases it challenge on the fact that Prop 8 was a major change to the constitution rather than a minor tweak, therefore the procedure for getting Prop 8 on the ballot was invalid. That makes sense too. An explanation of the lawsuit as well as links to the legal briefs can be found here. Additionally, my friend David Cruz has a nice blog in the Wall Street Journal explaining the aftermath of Prop 8 here.

    I certainly hope the California Supreme Court finds its backbone to invalidate Prop 8 after making its landmark decision that the right for gays to marry is a fundamental right under the state constitution. Surely, such a fundamental right cannot be allowed (either from a constitutional law point of view or a common sense point of view) to be revoked so easily.

    UPDATE (after an email from Evan Wolfson) : All judicial decisions have a political component and we need to make sure the political climate is as good as it can be to empower the court to do the right thing. To help the court find its backbone, we need to engage the public, our communities, and our families on how important this fundamental right to marry is for us. The bottom line is that we have a role in this too. We can't smply sit back and expect the court to do all the heavy lifting.

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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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    A first look at the exit polls

    Posted by: Chris

    Glb_pres_vote CNN has posted the exit polls with an extraordinary degree of detail. For lots of reasons, exit polling of GLB voters can be suspect, especially on a nationwide scale, but these numbers suggest about the same split between Barack Obama and John McCain as there was four years ago between Democrat John Kerry and Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

    Here are some nuggets I found during my initial look-see:

    Presidential race:

    • Openly GLB voters (4% of all voters): Obama (70%). McCain (27%).
    • Straight voters (96% of all voters): Obama (53%). McCain (45%).

    Calif. Prop 8 (overturning state supreme court's gay marriage ruling):

    • Prop_8_regionOverall: Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • Obama voters (61% overall): Yes (32%). No (68%).
    • McCain voters (36% overall): Yes (82%). No (18%).
    • Male voters (46% of all voters) Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Female voters (54% of all voters) Yes (50%). No (50%).
    • White (63% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%)
    • African-American (10% overall): Yes (70%). No (30%).
    • Latino (19% overall): Yes (51%). No (49%).
    • Asian (6% overall): Yes (47%). No (53%).
    • Age 18-29 (20% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Age 30-44 (28% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 45-64 (36% overall): Yes (53%). No (47%).
    • Age 65 and older (16% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Democrats (43% overall): Yes (35%). No. (65%).
    • Republicans (28% overall): Yes (81%). No (19%).
    • Independent (29% overall): Yes (44%). No (56%).
    • Married (62% overall): Yes (59%). No (41%).
    • Unmarried (38% overall): Yes (36%). No (64%).
    • Children under 18 (40 % overall): Yes (63%). No (37%).
    • No children under 18 (60% overall): Yes (42%). No (58%).
    • Clinton Democrats (16% overall): Yes (37%). No (63%).
    • Obama Democrats (23% overall): Yes (31%). No (69%).
    • Straight voters (95% overall): Yes (52%). No (48%).

    Arkansas Initiative 1 (ban on unmarried/gay couples as foster/adoptive parents):

    • Male voters (45% overall): Yes (61%). No (39%).
    • Female voters (55% overall): Yes (54%). No (46%).
    • Obama voters (38% overall): Yes (45%). No (55%).
    • McCain voters (58% overall): Yes (66%). No (34%).
    • Age 18-29 (17% overall): Yes (46%). No (54%).
    • Age 30-44 (27% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • Age 45-64 (38% overall): Yes (58%). No (42%).
    • Age 65 and older (19% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Democrats (36% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).
    • Republicans (32% overall): Yes (67%). No (33%).
    • Independents (32% overall): Yes (57%). No (43%).
    • White evangelical/born again (55% overall): Yes (64%). No (36%).
    • Other than white evangelical/born again (45% overall): Yes (48%). No (52%).
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    November 04, 2008

    A variety of No on 8 ads

    Posted by: Andoni

    As I write this I am doing my part in the GOTV. I have the list of new voters I registered and am now making sure they vote. About half already voted in early voting and the rest I'm on top of today. Ninety percent of my people have voted, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get the other 10% to the polls today.

    As amusement between calling people, I just looked at the variety of ads the "No on Prop 8" people have put together. Matt Coles of the ACLU's LGBT Project just emailed me from San Francisco. He's biting his nails and says it's going to be close on Prop 8, so if you have influence with people out there, now's the time to call them.

    It will be interesting to see if Californian's can learn from history or whether we humans are destined to continue repeating the same types of mistakes and injustices we have caused in the past? It is now almost universally agreed that the discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II and the discrimination against people who wanted to marry a person of another race were wrong, but at the time the majority did not see it that way.

    Tonight we wil find out if the majority of California voters have been able to learn from these lessons of history.

    BTW, my favorite anti Prop 8 ad is below in case you haven't seen it. The others linked above are quite good too.

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    October 28, 2008

    Feinstein says "No on 8!"

    Posted by: Andoni

    Diane_feinsteinIn a long awaited move, California Senator Diane Feinstein came out against California's Proposition 8 in an ad released tonight.

    Feinstein says, "Proposition 8 would be a terrible mistake for California. It's about discrimination and we must always say NO to that."

    You can view the ad here.

    Also, now groups opposing Prop 8 need more money to air the ad in this crucial week before the vote and you can help with that here. I have given multiple times and am giving again tonight because of this powerful ad. I hope you will do the same.

    Many thanks to my ACLU board colleague Robert who is Feinstein's next door neighbor and I believe had something to do with getting Senator Feinstein into action.

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    October 23, 2008

    Feinstein and Prop 8

    Posted by: Andoni

    Prop_8As an indication of how outmatched people who oppose California's Prop 8 are (our side), when I did a Google search for images on Prop 8 to accompany this post, the first five to pop up -- and an overall large majority of the images, were vote YES on Prop 8 images. Not a good sign.Vote YES on Prop 8 would overturn the CA Supreme Court decision that legalized same sex marriage. Vote NO would preserve same sex marriage in CA.

    Joel makes a good point in the second comment of my previous post about the Harvard Club seemingly hiding their photo of George W. Bush. He thinks that there are more serious issues we should be discussing on this blog. He is correct, although "all serious all the time" is not is not my style.

    So here goes again. The battle for marriage equality in California is our Battle of Normandy. We have established a beach head in the most populous state in the union. If we can hold it, freedom (to marry, to live without discrimination, to be left alone, etc.) will continue its march, and soon the whole continent will be liberated (from the tyranny of anti gay laws). The "Nazi" goal is to keep the tyranny. They want us off the beach head, and out to sea. If they succeed, our cause is thrown back 10 to 30 years. They are fighting as if their lives (and way of life) depended on it. We are not. We have been outspent in this battle two to one. Even the LGBT residents of California are lax. By one report I read, fewer than 2% of the LGBT population in California has contributed to the anti-Prop 8 campaign. This is shameful.

    This thing can still be salvaged, but it is going to take money.....lots of it because the Mormon Church has poured up to $20 million into passing Prop 8 and ending marriage equality. I have given multiple times, and here is where you can give too. Every little bit helps, even if you can only afford $10, please give now. If you need more info on why this is important you can read this by Matt Coles, director of the ACLU LGBT Project.

    Furthermore, if you have contacts with any high ranking CA state officials, urge them to speak out against Prop 8. Last weekend at my ACLU meeting in NYC, I asked a fellow board member Robert who happens to live next door to Senator Diane Feinstein to ask her to come out against Prop 8. He was surprised to learn that she hadn't and promised he would speak to her. I don't know if it was Robert's actions or a combination of actions, but yesterday Andrew Sullivan reported  that something is in the works with Feinstein.

    Now we need to work on Arnold. He said he would oppose Prop 8 early on, but to date has not done anything. We need to hold him to his word. If anyone has contacts with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, now is the time to make that call.

    This is a turning point in history for LGBT rights. Are you doing all that you can do?

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    September 08, 2008

    Log Cabin's McCain mistake revisited

    Posted by: Chris

    Johnmccainsketch Just as I expected, Kevin has made by far the strongest argument I've seen anywhere in favor of the Log Cabin endorsement of McCain-Palin. His general point is that the decision was necessary for Log Cabin to retain any influence within the Republican Party, and to preserve access in a McCain White House.

    Fair enough. I certainly understand that motivation and guessed as much before they announced the endorsement. Also, I will defer to Kevin's far superior knowledge about the control (or lack thereof) that GOP presidential nominees have over the platform process.

    Still, before I respond to Kevin's argument, a word about motives. Kevin says he "can only speculate as to why [I've] been on such a tear" about the Log Cabin endorsement, although he believes I was motivated by "truly want[ing] more progress in the GOP" because I know he knows "as absolute fact that [I don't] want Log Cabin to fail."

    Of course he's right on both counts -- I believei that I recognize more than most gay non-Republicans how critical support from the GOP will be to hastening our full equality under the law. I regularly defend Log Cabin in part because I know how critical they will be to bringing the GOP around. In fact, that's precisely why I went on "such a tear": because I see Log Cabin mishandling what should be an enormous opportunity, not just to its own detriment but to the movement's as a whole.

    Kevin agrees with me that Log Cabin needs to raise the bar each election cycle, and yet he somehow misses that in reality LCR set the bar in roughly the same place as 2004 and only infinitesimally higher than way back in 2000.

    Eight years ago, Kevin reminds us, "Karl Rove did meet with Rich Tafel face-to-face at the 2000 GOP convention, and came to an agreement on a number of items in return for an endorsement, [but] he never -- EVER -- would have given a speech before our organization that convention week." Kevin doesn't let us in on what "items" Rove agreed to, and we've got no indication what "items" McCain's camp signed off on -- so comparison there is rather difficult.

    The only visible difference we can see between eight years ago and now is the brief public appearance made by two McCain campaign officials at Log Cabin meetings during the convention, as well as the official credentials LCR received in St. Paul. Do those differences really amount to raising the bar -- commensurate with the growth in support for gay rights in general, and among Republicans in particular? It certainly doesn't to me.

    Kevin portrays these mini-advances as achievements made in spite of the non-endorsement four years ago, bu I would argue that's got the politics backwards. The LCR refusal in 2004 served notice that an endorsement this time around was no sure thing, and the McCain camp had to worry about a repeat, along with a series of press appearances that to distract from wooing moderates and independents.

    Most disappointing for me, however, was Kevin's failure in almost 1,800 words to say anything at all about how McCain in reality failed to chin even the meager bar that he says Log Cabin set for presidential candidates this cycle: opposition to a federal marriage amendment.

    To make their case, Log Cabin and Kevin are still reaching back before this campaign season to a time when McCain fervently opposed an amendment as "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." That's ancient history, as they know far too well. A fair and objective assessment is that McCain is at best "conditionally opposed" or, I would argue, "conditionally in favor" of amending the nation's founding document to ban states from marrying same-sex couples.

    As I've written until blue in the fingertips, McCain has been backing away from his opposition to a federal amendment throughout this campaign season, just as he backed away from condemning the Pat Robertsons of the party as "agents of intolerance." McCain's slow-motion flip-flop climaxed last month in pledge to support a federal marriage amendment if even one judge rules the notorious Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

    My issue with the Log Cabin endorsement isn't just the way it papers over what is supposed to be its line in the sand. I think those inside the Log Cabin bubble -- and those who spent years there -- underestimate their own potential to influence the party and the debate. Kevin would measure LCR's political power by the size of membership rolls orby the number of gay Republican voters.

    They're forgetting the percentage of committed party activists -- like Republican delegates -- and GOP-leaning who are sympathetic to gay rights.  Not to mention those who see scapegoating the gays as a sign of Republican intolerance and judgmentalism, however they feel about gay rights itself.

    If Log Cabin were to play it's P.R. cards more effectively, it could play a major role in defining whether Republican candidates -- at whatever level -- are perceived as hard core conservatives or those of the "compassionate" variety.

    That's why I think Kevin is off base in imagining Log Cabin would have been "declared finished" if it had "endorsed McCain by press release and gone home" to fight Proposition 8 in California. To the contrary, if Log Cabin had withheld its endorsement and done the media rounds to explain why, the media would have eaten it up -- just look at the press the hardcore Hillaryites got. The message would be clear thata candidate like McCain will pay a serious price for opposing every form of gay rights protection ever proposed, and backing away even from opposition to a federal amendment.

    Instead, I'm afraid, the take-away message for GOP politicians and operatives is the one I took last week: opposing our equality doesn't really matter, even if like McCain the record is grossly out of touch with Republicans generally, so long as they say a few placating words.

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    November 07, 2006

    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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