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  • November 29, 2007

    Does Hillary lead among 'real gays'?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillary_and_gays A new survey released today claims that almost two-thirds of likely GLB voters in the Democratic presidential primary support frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama trails with 22 percent and John Edwards with 7 percent. I've posted a much more thorough analysis of the poll on Gay News Watch, but here are a few nuggets:

    • Obama and Edwards register about the same support among gays in the poll as they do with Democrats generally, meaning Hillary's higher GLB numbers represent fewer undecideds among gay voters, who the survey found are much more politically involved.
    • Even as the only candidate backing gay marriage, Dennis Kucinich managed just 5 percent support in the survey.
    • Rudy Giuliani was the top candidate for half of GLB Republicans in the poll, with John McCain managing just 23 percent, Mitt Romney at 11 percent and Fred Thompson at 10 percent. Not surprising results considering Giuliani is the frontrunner generally and his gay rights record and positions are markedly better than the others.

    Even more interesting than the results of the survey, however, are questions about its methodology. The poll was conducted by academics at Hunter College in New York, but for their sample of voters they relied upon a pool provided by Knowledge Networks, the same group that provided the sample for the Human Rights Campaign's controversial survey showing some 70 percent support for Barney Frank's gay-only, compromise ENDA.

    HRC did a poor job of providing information about that earlier survey, and there are some hints about why in this new one -- which was paid for by an HRC grant but conducted by the Hunter College professionals. First and foremost is the demographic information on the Knowledge Networks sample group. According to Hunter College, the GLB respondents were 51 to 49 percent female to male, and 49 percent bisexual.

    I noted in my post about the earlier HRC poll that a 50-50 male-female breakdown about GLB Americans probably grossly overstates the percentage of GLB Americans who are lesbians.  Every indicator I've ever seen, from readership of GLBT publications to participation in GLBT events, has shown 60 to 70 percent (or more) of "us" are men.

    Then there is the 49 percent of the Knowledge Networks pool that is bisexual. Again that is grossly overstated, from information I've seen over the years about the GLBT demographic breakdown.

    Andrew Sullivan sees something sinister in those statistics:

    So the poll is designed to reflect a pre-ordained political "community", rigged for PC purposes to inflate the numbers of bisexuals and lesbians. No big surprise which Democratic candidate won in a landslide: the candidate HRC has been supporting from the start.

    I wouldn't go so far, at least not without additional evidence. But I do see how Knowledge Networks could back themselves into those numbers. Knowledge Networks "recruits its nationally representative sample of respondents by telephone and administers surveys to them via the Internet." So if they simply cull from the general pool of respondents those who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, then the more fluid nature of female sexuality might result in high numbers of both females and bisexuals.

    The question, then, is whether we consider female bisexuals who may well be heterosexually married and not self-identify as part of our happy "LGBT community" to nonetheless "count" as GLB voters, etc. It's a question that brings to mind the earlier debate about transgender issues, and whether heterosexual cross-dressers are part of the "LGBT community."

    My own take is that the information is useful, whether or not we consider it an indication of how "the gay community" feels about an issue, whether it's ENDA or the presidential race. The most important thing is to clearly identify just who the "we" we're talking about is, so that their opinions can be put into proper perspective.

    If my suspicions about the Knowledge Networks system are correct -- and hopefully the LGBT press will delve further into the issue, both as a political story and just to get a better sense of who it is we are -- then we still don't have a good idea about the presidential proclivities of "the GLBT community," at least in the way that most of us mean when we use that (loaded) term.

    As a side note, the Blade has published an interesting report airing criticism about the methodology of HRC's survey on ENDA, though it focuses more on the wording of the questions than on the demographics. Curiously, when the Hunter College folks asked the Knowledge Networks gay pool about ENDA, they got contrary results. Only 37 percent agreed that, "It was right to remove the protections for transgender people from this bill in order for it to pass this year," while 61 percent said, "It was wrong to remove the protections for transgendered people even if this makes it easier for the bill to pass this year." 

    Of course that wording is just as treacherous, focused on "removing protections" for trans workers rather than ensuring protections for GLB workers, and grossly understating the political reality by saying that removing gender identity makes it "easier."

    The survey also reminded us how woefully uninformed most GLB folks are, since fully 40 percent thought GLB workers were already protected from discrimination under federal law.

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    May 24, 2007

    Kinder, gentler evangelicals?

    Posted by: Chris

    Randybrinson From a Washington Post story at whether we'll look back at Jerry Falwell's death as a turning point in the political focus of evangelical Christians:

    Redeem the Vote, a group formed in 2004 to register young evangelicals to vote, is campaigning with black churches in Alabama for capping the interest charges on short-term "payday" loans, which can hit 400 percent a year. The group's founder, physician Randy Brinson, said he finds that young evangelicals are intensely interested in practical ways to help their communities and are little swayed by issues such as same-sex marriage.

    "These kids have gone to school with people who happen to be gay, and they don't see them as a direct threat. They may think that lifestyle is wrong, but they don't see it as something that really affects their daily lives," Brinson said. "The groups that focus only on a narrow agenda, especially gay marriage and abortion, are going to decline."

    It's an encouraging view, and one that is buttressed by another survey — this one by the Pew Foundation — that shows that people who know their close friends or family members are gay are much more likely to be accepting and supportive of our equality. Among those with close gay friends or family — 41 percent of all those surveyed — support for gay marriage (55%) was more than double that of those who don't (25%). 

    The important number here isn't the percentage who support gay marriage as much as the percentage who know that a close friend or family member is gay.  And while 41 percent might seem encouragingly high, we all know it's pathetically low.

    The take-away message here? Come out, come out, wherever you are — and to everyone you know! Not in some big dramatic, policial speech.  Just talk about your life the same way they talk about theirs. Stop using gender-neutral pronouns and censoring water cooler talk about how you spent your weekend.

    It's not a new idea but it's every bit as true: If every gay person fully came out tomorrow, the debate over our rights would be over by the weekend.  We do control our own destiny.

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    May 13, 2007

    Sunday Survey: Abortion a gay right?

    Posted by: Chris

    Not a lot of disagreement among visitors to this blog about Jim McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey who announced his "truth" that he is "a gay American" and then resigned because he was cheating on his second wife with a member of his staff.  In response to last week's Sunday Survey, more than three quarters of you (82.4%) said he was an embarrassment to the rest of us, while the remainder (17.6%) were proud to call him a fellow traveler.

    McgreeveywifeI count myself among the majority of you.  I am happy to see a governor come out of the closet, but the messy circumstances more than made up for whatever social advance we could claim.  I would place McGreevey in the same category as any number of other celebrities, including Mark Foley and George Michael, who only come out after years of hiding when the news that they're gay is intended to help deflect even worse publicity they face for their personal misconduct.

    I am sympathetic to how the closet might have led these men to their ignominy, although in George Michael's case his conduct hasn't changed since he was free of the closet.  (In fact, he's claimed "cottaging" — as public sex in the bushes is known among Brits — as some sort of gay right.)  And the closets of McGreevey and Foley have too long a body count, in misled wives and manipulated teens, to simply forgive and forget.

    You need look no further than McGreevey's latest round of divorce filings to see his claim to being a "changed man" is as big a sham as his years of pretending to be heterosexual.

    On to this week.  I was happy to run columns by freelance writer Jamie Kirchick during my tenure at the Washington Blade and its sister publications.  He is a thoughtful conservative with often provocative opinions.  He has kept it up since my departure, penning a column in last week's New York Blade that argues against gay rights groups treating abortion rights as if it were a gay rights issue.

    It might surprise you to learn that I wrote an editorial years ago making the exact opposite argument.  I'll post my thoughts soon, but in the meantime, what do you think?  Is abortion a gay rights issue?  Vote on the Vizu poll to the right, and as always, you won't be transported off the site or have to deal with any pop-up ads.

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    May 07, 2007

    Sunday Survey: Proud of McGreevey?

    Posted by: Chris

    Surveyprezissues Last week's Sunday Survey was the most popular yet, so thanks for voting. I asked what issue is most important to you in the 2008 presidential election.  From the looks of things, about half of you should be pretty happy with the commitments already made by the Democrats in the White House hunt.

    Every Democrat in the race is already on the record backing both of your top two choices: "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal (22.7%) and employment non-discrimination (19.7%).  They've already committed as well on the two smallest vote-getters: hate crimes (4.5%) and domestic partnerships for federal workers (1.5%).

    The other half focused on forms of legal recognition for gay relationship.  One-third of the total survey voters wanted stronger commitments through either full-fledged marriage equality (18.2%) or federal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships (15.2%).  Another 7.6% — God bless you every one! — singled out immigration rights as the form of legal recognition most important to you.  The same percentage (7.6%) listed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act as your top priority.

    Finally, 3% of you remembered that HIV/AIDS remains with us and listed it as your top priority.

    Mcgreeveyxlarge Now on to this week's topic.  I'll post more about this later today or tomorrow, but former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey is back in the news this past week.  The twice-married father famously announced in 2005 that he is "a gay American" and then resigned over an affair with one of his staffers. He wrote a memoir last fall, but now it's his ex-wife's turn.

    Dina Matos McGreevey took time off from increasingly nasty divorce proceedings to pen her own memoir disputing McGreevey's claim that she must have suspected he was gay. In an interview with Oprah, she of the frozen smile at the press conference went even further, "It's a cliche that the wife is always the last to know, and it's true." she told Oprah. "I'm not in denial, but I don't think he's simply gay. I think he's bisexual. I mean, he was married twice. He has two children. And, you know, I never saw him checking out men, but I certainly saw him checking out women."

    Dear, dear Dina. Slick Jim was slicker than that, for sure. Despite her ongoing denial, Dina is the understandable object of a great deal of sympathy.  How do you feel?  On the one hand, her husband admits kissing her goodnight at the hospital after a particular difficult pregnancy delivery, then bopping off home to bop his male paramour.  On the other hand, she's screaming that in so doing he exposed her to AIDS.  (Eye roll.)

    FullfrontalOn the one hand, she's fighting for custody and citing among the factors that prove he's an unfit parent that he has a full-sized poster of a naked man (pictured) in his bedroom.  On the other hand, the man in the poster is his partner's ex.  (Eye roll.)

    McGreevey has raised conservative hackles with his academic appointment to the faculty of Kean University in New Jersey — as an ethics professor.  Then the lifelong Roman Catholic raised everyone's eyebrows by announcing that he's begun the process to enter a new profession: as an Episcopal priest.

    McgreeveyxWhat do you make of all that? Are you proud of James McGreevey as "a gay American" fighting for the right to raise his daughter and build a new life with his partner?  Or are you embarrassed by the former governor for coming out when it was expedient, cashing in on his scandal and family pain with a big book deal, and making all sorts of very public bad choices ever since?

    Vote now and vote often — OK all you're allowed to do is change your vote. And as with all Vizu polls, voting won't transport you away from this site or open any annoying pop up windows.

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    May 01, 2007

    Love thy neighbor…unless he's gay

    Posted by: Chris

    Gayneighborgraph Who wouldn’t want a homosexual for a neighbor?

    Our interior and exterior decorating skills are legendary. We keep a tidy lawn and a colorful garden. And in city after city, we renovate and update, raising property values for ourselves and those around us.

    To top it off, we’re avid neighborhood activists, throwing ourselves into better policing, stricter zoning and removal of “unsavory elements.”

    Who wouldn’t want a homosexual for a neighbor? Plenty of people, as it turns out.

    Asked who they would not want as neighbors, one in five residents of Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand said “no” to the gay next door. That’s fully double the number who said they wouldn’t want Jews or someone of a different race for a neighbor.

    The papers may be full of stories about resentment toward immigrants and foreign workers, but gays are less welcome to the neighborhood by more than 50 percent. Even Muslims, with all their bad press, are 25 percent more accepted.

    The somewhat surprising findings are from work done by researchers at universities in Northern Ireland and New Zealand. Since few among us would admit outright to being a bigot, these academics found that the best way of measuring bigotry is a more indirect inquiry into what types of people you wouldn’t want to live nearby.

    If you believe, as many of us do, that homophobia is the last acceptable prejudice, you’ll find support in the study. In two-thirds of the countries surveyed, gays were rated the least desirable neighbors, including in the U.S., Canada and Australia, where the numbers who disapproved of gay neighbors were more than double that of Muslims, the next group down the list.

    Only in a few countries in Scandinavia and northern Europe were we welcomed by almost everyone. A special thanks to Sweden, Holland, Iceland and Denmark — the only places where fewer than one in 10 respondents were homophobic.

    As bad as that looks for the gays, it’s clear that bigotry loves company. In every country at least one in four residents didn’t like the idea of at least one minority group in their neighborhood, and in strife-torn Northern Ireland and Greece, almost half were bigoted against at least someone.

    Still, we homosexuals are the most despised group among bigots generally. In most major Western countries, including the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, more than three-quarters of those who object to at least one minority group include gays on their list of phobias. That gem led the researchers to conclude that, “Homophobia is, by far, the main source of bigotry in most Western countries.”

    What, in turn, is the source of that homophobia? Not a person’s level of education or income, as it turns out. Age and gender were much better indicators. A New York Times poll released last week backs that up, showing only 25 percent of Americans under the age of 30 opposed to any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, while opposition among those over 30 ranges between 35 and 45 percent.

    It’s impossible to say whether the 23 percent of Americans who don’t want gay neighbors form the bulk of the 35 percent of Americans overall who don’t want our relationships to receive legal recognition — but it’s a pretty safe bet.

    I’ve always resisted the idea that opponents of gay rights are bigots. It has struck me as a cheap shot that polarizes the debate, rather than attempting to reason and address concerns. There’s not much point in reasoning with prejudice, of course; the whole idea is that’s animus without any logic to it.

    Religion can be as impenetrable to reason as prejudice, and gay rights opponents have long cited their moral beliefs as justification for our inequality. Sill, since I come from a loving, religious family that is steadfastly opposed to my equal rights as a gay man, I’ve always taken the anti-gay Christians at their word when they swear it’s the sin they hate and not the sinner.

    So how do they explain the “good neighbor” study’s most surprising finding? That being deeply religious made Christians less prejudiced against Muslims and immigrants, and much more prejudiced against gays? Being deeply religious was the single most significant factor in predicting whether someone would reject the idea of having a gay neighbor.

    Do these churchgoers simply ignore Jesus’ central commandment to “love thy neighbor”? Or are they figuring if they do have to love their neighbor, they hope for Christ’s sake their neighbor isn’t queer?

    Welchfamily As more lesbians and gay men live their lives openly, there’s hope the number of anti-gay bigots will someday soon drop down to the same levels we see for race and religion.  The short-lived ABC reality show "Welcome to the Neighborhood" effectively tested out the findings of the “good neighbor” study, allowing a group of mildly bigoted Texas neighbors to award a house on their block to either a black family, a Korean family, hippies, Wiccans or a gay couple. The series was yanked because it touched on too many racial hot-buttons, but the gay couple won over their skeptical neighbors and won the house, too.

    One objection to the show was from "fair housing" advocates, who pointed out federal law prohibits discriminating on the basis of race, religion, and national origin in the housing market. Of course that law doesn't include sexual orientation as a protected category, and absolutely no one is talking about amending it anytime soon.

    But as the gay couple on "Welcome to the Neighborhood" proved, although no one got to see it, the answer to this level of bigotry may not be in changing laws, but in changing hearts and minds. We have always been our own best ambassadors, and perhaps if we keep extending our welcome mat, one day more "deeply religious" folks will do the same.

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    April 29, 2007

    Sunday Survey: Rank the issues

    Posted by: Chris

    Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that more than two-thirds of you support hate crime laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected category, but I am. Not because I thought this blog's readers didn't back gay rights, but because I know quite a few of you are libertarian or conservative, and there are principled reasons to oppose hate crime laws (so long as you oppose them for all categories, including race and religion etc.). There are even states' rights reasons.

    But the vast majority of you (71.4%) said hate crime laws correctly punish the wider impact of bias-motivated offenses, a position that I espouse as well. Almost a quarter of you (21.4%) oppose hate crime laws on the ground that all crimes involve hate to some degree, while much smaller percentages oppose them because they infringe on free speech (4.1%) or the free exercise of religion (2%).

    Since surveys show overwhelming public support for hate crime laws that include sexual orientation it's no surprise that all the Democrats running for president are on board as well.  But the continued mushiness from the contenders about how they feel on other gay rights issues raises a good question for this week's survey:

    What gay issue do you think is most important in the presidential race?

    I've done my level best to come up with a good list, and it's up to you to pick the issue that's most important to you.  Remember this is not the gay rights issue that's generally most important to you, but the one you think should be most important in the presidential race.

    As always, vote in the Vizu survey on the right column of the blog.  Voting won't transport you to another site or open any annoying pop-ups.  Thanks and happy voting. 

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    April 23, 2007

    The kids are all right on marriage

    Posted by: Chris

    Nytpoll Speaking of surveys, there is an encouraging new New York Times/CBS News Poll on gay marriage.  It shows a plurality (40%) of those under 30 now support gay marriage; while another 29% back civil unions; leaving only 25% opposing any form of legal recognition for gay couples.

    Support for gay marriage drops with each successive age group: 28% among 30-44, 25% among 45-64, and only 18% among those over 65.

    There's a bit of a surprise on civil unions, since by 38% to 28%, a good deal more of those age 45-64 support C.U.'s than those 30-44. 

    Two final positive notes: only among those over the age of 65 is there less than majority support for either marriage or civil unions, and even among this group it's almost half (48%).  Overall, 60% of Americans back marriage (28%) or civil unions (32%) for gay couples, while only 35% oppose both.

    That should be more than enough cover for the leading Democrats running for president to back federal recognition of civil unions for gay couples.

    (Hat tip: Don in Atlanta, one of my very best sources)

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    Sunday Survey: Bias on bias crimes?

    Posted by: Chris

    Some surprising results from last week's Sunday Survey, on the nature of sexuality among (not necessarily between!) the genders. The poll was based on the latest report on controversial sex researcher J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, who argues that men are generally straight or gay and women are mostly bisexual.

    Visitors to this blog disagree with Bailey about both genders. Given the option of saying that each gender was "generally either straight or gay," "along a spectrum from hetero to bi to gay," or "mostly bisexual," a near majority of you selected the second, along a spectrum option, for both genders: 49% thought so of men; 47.1% thought so of women.

    Bailey's view came in second for both genders: 37.3% thought men were either straight or gay, while 39.2% of you thought women were mostly bisexual. Trailing far behind were the beliefs that men are mostly bisexual (13.7%) and women are either straight or gay (3.9%).

    I say the results are "surprising" because they run counter to my own experience; so apparently I need to get out more…

    This week's survey is on hate crimes.  I'll be posting later today on the subject, since it's the piece of gay rights legislation most likely to be enacted by Congress this year, having been reintroduced last week as the Matthew Shepard Act.  Hate crime laws are controversial among conservatives and libertarians, including gay conservatives and libertarians, because they make bias, or thoughts, into a crime. 

    Some say that impinges on free speech, others say free exercise of religion. Still others argue, as the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese wrote in this week's Washington Blade, that "the hate crimes bill sends a strong message that society does not tolerate hate violence against our community."

    What do you think?  Vote in the Vizu Poll to the right, and as usual voting will not open annoying pop-ups or navigate you away from the blog.

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    April 15, 2007

    Sunday Survey: gay vs. lesbian

    Posted by: Chris

    Glaadawards It's time for a new Sunday Survey, and before I introduce a new topic, let's look at how the last poll turned out.  Well it was up for several Sundays, but it looks like almost a bare majority of you (48.8%) agree that the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation should respond to the recent criticism it's received by creating special categories for "niche media" aimed at a gay and lesbian audience. 

    I like that approach because it preserves the primary purpose for the awards (outside of raising money for GLAAD), which is to influence and recognize non-niche media to present fair and inclusive representations of gay people. At the same time, gay media — whether it's here! TV, Logo or the gay print press — can also be recognized for its outstanding work. That said, I think editors who work within gay journalism should guard against being compromised by the awards process. The watchdog role played by the gay press, including over movement organizations like GLAAD, is much more important than any award recognition.

    Coming in second in the poll at 29.3% were those of you who preferred to see gay media included in the same categories as "mainstream," non-niche media.  This is the approach called for by here! TV and others who claim they've ghetto-ized by being excluded.  Finally, 22% of you preferred to see the awards remain as they are currently, open only to non-niche media. On the one hand, that's less then one-quarter of you for the status quo; on the other hand, almost three-quarters of you accepted GLAAD's explanation of why full inclusion of gay media would conflict with the organization's mission.

    GLAAD President Neil Giuliano has said the board will be reviewing the policy after this year's awards, and I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of change is instituted.  Speaking of the awards, the Los Angeles ceremony was held this weekend and the big surprise was that "Grey's Anatomy" received honors for "outstanding episode." The show has very gay-friendly content and has been very supportive of actor T.R. Knight, who came out last fall. But GLAAD was vocal in criticizing actor Isaiah Washington after he called Knight a "faggot" during an on-set feud.

    More surprising to me was that Jennifer Aniston received the "Vanguard Award" for her work on GLBT visibility. The GLAAD website doesn't explain why, though a bit of on-site sleuthing suggests it was because of her "girl-on-girl kiss" with Winona Ryder on "Friends" and again with Courteney Cox on the TV show "Dirt."  According to Hollywood.com, "Aniston also appeared in lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge's 'I Want To Be in Love' video and was the first guest on gay comedienne Ellen DeGeneres' talk show." I'm not exactly sure all those snippets add up to a Vanguard, but it's more than Lance Bass had done before being honored by HRC.  Too bad Aniston locked lips with presenter Jake Gyllenhaal (above) at the ceremony.  Query whether either would have greeted a same-sex presenter the same way — now that would be Vanguard territory.

    OK now for this week's survey. I posted yesterday about a New York Times report on the difference between gay male and lesbian sexuality.  The article relied on the controversial research of Northwestern University psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, who concluded that men are either straight or gay, while most women are bisexual.

    What do you think? Register your answer on the poll to the right. And as usual, clicking on the poll won't take you away from the site or subject you to any annoying pop-ups.

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