Friday, December 22, 2006

LGBT leaders need to look at filial responsibility issues


LGBT leaders should pay more attention to a rapidly growing problem for middle-aged gay, childless, and/or single adults: eldercare. Obviously, this will be an issue for gay seniors themselves, but many people are discovering “family responsibility” in the needs of their parents, something that they do not escape by not having children.

Of course, the idea of marriage, child custody, or military service – any of these things have to do with contributing to the “collective” responsibilities of a free society—all of these have become the focus of specific political debates in the past fifteen years. Many older gays have experienced living in urban “exile” away from these things, separated by a society with very circular reasoning when it comes to these “duties.” For me, it has been like living on another planet sometimes. As Clive Barker demonstrates in his novel “Imajica” these cultural value differences finally must be “reconciled.”

One specific issue that gay leaders have not paid much attention to is filial responsibility laws. About thirty states have them. Typically they come into play when a parent gives away assets to get Medicaid funding for nursing home stays. However, they could be enforced even when the parents have no assets if adult children do. There have been a few papers written already on this in the “conservative” community. For the past ten years or so, the insurance industry has been developing long term care insurance products to meet this kind of threat, but this is expensive and takes a long time to become an accepted practice. Childless adults would seem like “sitting ducks” for this kind of exposure. The debate would be complicated by the fact that some gay people were rejected by their families as teens or young adults.

The emotional paradigm matters, too. LGBT people have often lived in separate urban and technological cultures that offer their own emotional rewards outside of the more traditional ties offered by given family blood relationships. Childless people, and professional people often tend to look to areas outside of biological relationships for personal satisfaction. However, many people in religious cultures centered around extended families place enormous emotional importance on blood and kinship (and religious) relationships, and feel that adults who leave their culture are cheating them. This problem was well illustrated by some climactic scenes in the film Latter Days, about a young Mormon missionary who comes out as gay. People from older blood-centered cultures tend to pick up on the idea that modern urban individualism, by centering morality on individual performance rather than relationships within the family, tends to target everyone for “measurement” and tends to threaten the spontaneity of all families. The level of “moral thinking” goes into layers, and attracts the kind of edicts pronounced by the Vatican.

Picture: MCC Nova, Fairfax, VA.

See: Discussion of filial responsibility laws
Editorial on Vatican positions on homosexuality

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CA same-sex marriage ban in state supreme court


On Dec 20 2006 major wire reports indicated that the California Supreme Court has agreed, unamimously, to take a case challenging California's law banning same-sex marriage, as a violation of state equal protection provisions. A ruling is expected in late 2007. Being challenged are a 1977 law and 2000 ballot measure.

Only Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage. Vermont and Connecticut recognized civil unions, and New Jersey, under state supreme court mandate, just passed a civil union law (being signed by the governor about now) giving benefits and responsibilities similar to marriage, a measure that Virginia just banned Nov 7 with the Marhsall-Newman amendment.

Despite the activism of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in adopting poor children around the world, they have refused to marry “legally” until California recognizes same-sex marriage. Story

However Matt Damon married Lucianna Barosso, and told media reports that being from Massachusetts, he comes from a state that recognizes equal rights of everyone to marry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time runs Dobson viewpoint on Mary Cheney and her intended family


The December 18, 2006 issue of Time (p. 123) ran a Viewpoint by Dr. James C. Dobson, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many: Mary Cheney is starting a family. Let’s hope she doesn’t start a trend.” The title of the piece refers to two “gay” children’s books from the early 1990s: Leslea Newman and Diana Souza, Heather Has Two Mommies (Boston: Alyson, 1989).; Michael Willhoite, Daddy’ s Roommate, (Los Angeles: Alyson, 1990).

First, let’s hope that Time will run a contrasting viewpoint on the gay parenting issue soon. Dr. Dobson is head of Focus on the Family, a conservative advocacy group in Colorado Springs, CO, a city which I visited in 1994, when I visited a friend and also corresponded with a gay paper from the 1990s, Ground Zero News, which published some of my pieces. I even recall driving Pike’s Peak, and being glad that my rental car was a stickshift when I descended. Maybe the fictitious Everwood is not too far away.

But let's look at this. Dr. Dobson, after introducing the controversy caused when Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter announced that she was pregnant but would raise the child with her lesbian partner, writes “That’s why public policy as it relates to families must be based not solely on the desires of adults but rather on the needs of children and what is best for society at large.” Dobson talks about gender-specific roles-models for children that parents fill, and then compares gay parenting to no-fault divorce as a reckless social experiment.

True, the supposed “birthright” of every child for a legally married mother and father is a societal good. But so is the availability of adoptive or foster parents at all. There are other goods to consider. These include equality of all citizens, and the idea that people will marry out of love rather than out of a need for social approbation. Finally, a vital good is that everyone share the “duties” of securing freedom by sharing some of the risks and “burdens” (I don’t like to use the word here, but it is somewhat apt) of caring for those of other generations who are not on their own, including both children and some of the elderly. This is that “pay your dues” idea. Oh yes! But a little analytical thought shows that satisfying all of these goals perfectly, even out of “what is best for society,” is a mathematical and logical impossibility. Something has to give.

That is why the political fight over military service for gays and gay marriage and gay parenting is so important. Gays need to participate in meeting these common needs. Without the ability to do so, we are sitting ducks to be chosen to sacrifice to meet the needs of others. It happens, believe me. We become the second class citizens. (Someone has to in this zero-sum thinking.) I can think of some derogatory terms (based on the days of slavery and segregation) but won’t list them here.

You could say that modern society has called undue attention to "equality" with its hyper-individualism, which came about partly because previously "The Family" had provided a convenient shield for preserving unearned disparaties of wealth, and for evils like segregation. Openness about sexuality arguably puts some individually more "marginal" people on the spot. If you keep sexuality confined to the socialization of the family (through the abstinence outside of legal marriage paradigm) and especially if you don't let people talk about it too openly, you may let some people feel that they can function in the family, have and raise children, and be taken care of themselves, whereas in an open, individualistic and globalized society they will be told that they must "compete" before having children. That comports with Vatican ideas about marriage and the priesthood which, as we know, have broken down. Of course, you can try to extend Vatican-style arguments with large scale social programs to address poverty and disparity among classes and races.

Of course, some of you will say, that is why we turn to scripture and faith. Man, it is said, cannot solve all of his problems perfectly with the “knowledge of good and evil” alone. Even God can't change the theorems of mathematics, only the axioms.

Monday, December 18, 2006

8 Episcopal Parishes in No Va defect

Widespread Washington DC area media reports indicate that at least eight Episcopal parishes in northern Virginia have split off to the more conservative Episcopal Church of Nigeria, over concerns about ordination of a gay bishop and of same-sex union ceremonies. One of the churches is the historic Falls Church, in the city by that name, Falls Church VA. I visited the church with a workplace friend on an All Saints Day in the early 1990s.

Many more progressive denominations have conservative splits and churches with a separate reporting structure, and gay issues have caused major splits in these churches, as they seem to lead to intolerable theological controversies.

Bill Turque and Michelle Boorstein have The Washington Post story Dec 18, 2006. This story says seven parishes.

Julia Duin has The Washington Times story on "8 flocks."

Update: The Falls Church Responds

Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness have an op-ed about the Falls Church, "Why We Left the Episcopal Church," and it maintains that the issue is more about the authority of scripture, not gay priests or gay marriage. It appeared in The Washington Post Jan. 8, 2007, p A15, link here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Evangelicals Concerned


Neela Banerjee, “Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance,” The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2006, p A1, discusses Evangelicals Concerned, and mentions some personalities, such as Justin Lee. It also mentions (and shows a photograph of) a stable male couple, Martin Fowler and Clyde Zuber, who lead a Bible study group in the North Carolina home. I knew them when I lived in Dallas and attended some of their Evangelicals Concerned sessions in their mid-Cities home in the mid 1980s. There was a teacher in the group who would have to be satisfied with “I have gay friends,” a kind of “don’t ask don’t tell” idea for teachers. (My blogspot article is Is there a don’t ask don’t tell de facto policy for teachers?). For one session Ralph Blair actually attended and mentioned Paul Rosenfels and the Ninth Street Center in New York, which he credited for keeping gay men in monogamous relationships and in a safer situation with respect to potential HIV exposure.

Andrew Sullivan, in his book The Conservative Soul, characterizes much of evangelical christianity in terms of fundamentalim, and the need to have an external reassuring truth. It's instructive to go back and recontruct the "zero tolerance" idea in "christian" opposition to homosexuality of past generations. The concept can be understood as a kind of existential argument that comes from man, not scripture. Christian morality is concerned with taking care of and saving every member of the group. Early Christianity was socialistic. With the family, the idea of a kind of individualism and self-promotion in terms of providing for and "protecting" other blood family members in one's domain was introduced. The "morality" comes from maintaining an obligation to provide for others. The male homosexual, in particular, is seen as the purveyor of the perception of "the knowledge of good in evil" in labeling some men as more desirable than others. The upward affliation, paradoxically, reflects the value of another person as a potential father of a family, and (to anti-homosexuals) looks like a deliberate repudiation of one's own blood and lineage (because of a lack of interest in giving the family children). The homosexual is still seen as promoting the idea that power and merit "matter", but spurs resentment in straight men who feel belittled and feel like they are being told that they would be undesirable fathers. The "homophobic" community will retaliate by taking away the homosexual's freedom, or by trying to challenge the gay man to "act like a man" in the terms of the straight world. I call this the "father role model paradox."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Same-sex estate financial planning is big business


On the way back from New Orleans after a long weekend in February, 2006 I picked up a copy of Robb Report Worth. On page 100 there is a detailed article by Frederick P. Gabriel-Deveau, "The Puzzling Problem of Same-Sex Estates: Gay couples confront a host of unique challenges when crafting their estate plans." The summary reads "There are also legal ambiguities that family members of the deceased can exploit to challenge the distribution of assets to the other partner. Careful planning, using iron-clad wills and, where appropriate, trusts, can ensure same-sex couples achieve their estate planning goals."

The article discusses DOMA (the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act) and how it prevents the extension of benefits and protections to gay couples. This seems to niche present business opportunities for lawyers and financial planners, to duplicate the 1200 marriage rights granted under federal law. A surviving gay partner can face federal taxes of up to 48% on estates over $1.5 million. The trust attorney discussed in the article is Richard C. Milstein, from Miami.

In June 2005 I considered the possibility of becoming an agent for New York Life. The application form emphatically stressed that the company does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in placing agents and financial planners. However, a new agent is not allowed to have any outside income for three years (at least if he or she takes the training bonus). That was a show-stopper. The business also requires heavy personal (not web based!) social networking to get new clients, something that I do not do, and a lifestyle paradigm that fits those raising families more than singles (although it would fit same-sex families). So I did not go on with it. In 2003, I had looked at a post-retirement business opportunity with Primevest. Again, the twelve years as a computer person in life insurance applications had interested them. The paradigm started with converting families from whole life to term, and then could move onto other kinds of financial planning. Primevest did show up at a LGBT job fair in Minneapolis about that time. One financial planning issue that would interest me in all of this is long-term care insurance. But you can see where this is heading. Financial planning and agenting appeals to people with heavy social networks that they can manipulate through their positions in the "community", not for bookish introverts like me. But, they could work in the gay community if the mass of gay couples, especially those raising children, were large enough in a geographical area. But gay marriage and gay adoption then become pertinent issues again, and the political fight continues.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Adolescent pruning and sexual orientation


The recent research into the growth and biological maturation of the brains of teenagers might be interesting in considering sexual orientation. The November 2006 issue of The Walrus (a Canadian magazine) has an article “Your Teenager’s Mind” by Nora Underwood, and it bears reading. The maturation process goes beyond the legal ages, to about 25.

I was aware of being “different” at around age 8, when I suddenly had conformity problems in elementary school. A somewhat moralistic third grade teacher kept pushing me to behave like a boy, and learn to play sports and stand up for myself at “recess.” About the same time I became quite aware of my musical talent. The music would provide a world of emotion and feeling but would abstract it in such a way that ongoing and complementary social contacts were not as necessary. So, while neurons in my brain grew (and before much pruning and “tuneup” could start), certain skills and processes became more important internally than others, and the physical competitiveness expected of young boys did not develop. I was becoming what some people would see as a “sissy” or “chicken.” Peter Wyden, in his infamous 1968 book "Growing Up Straight" would have later characterized me as the stereotyped "pre-homosexual child," needing special pressures to return to the path of growing up "sexually normal." Understandly, there were many efforts to "train" (or "socialize") me to perform physical and manual chores to please the expectations of others, even when these "tareas" served no logical purpose.

What caused this differentiation? I could say that it is a random occurrence, producing psychological diversity that any society needs. I had the measles around my seventh birthday, and measles is known to produce lasting and subtle neurological or developmental damage or at least changes. There could be a genetic influence. Maybe there is a congenital. My feet were in braces when I was very young and I did not run as early. We really don’t know. But the process of being “different” – for better or for worse – got started early and could not really be prevented. There was no abuse as people normally understand that kind of problem today.

I became more aware of erotic interests in “attractive young men” by about age 12. The details of fantasy don’t matter here, but the timeline does. That is about when the pruning starts. Boys start the neural pruning process about age 12 or 13, roughly as puberty starts to be reached. From my point of view, normal social interaction, responsiveness and ordinary everyday empathy and the competitiveness that could later be expressed in heterosexuality – girl friends, dating, wife, children, lineage, “pedigree” – all of this was superfluous. I had what I needed, but others did not what from me what they felt they needed or were entitled to in return, reciprocally.

The pruning process makes the personality focused and efficient on its “core business” – it is very much analogous to a company’s shedding workers when it downsizes and focuses more narrowly on its strengths. This sort of thing is always morally controversial, whenever done by either individuals or institutions. It is indeed ruthless. Perhaps this is related to what we recognize in medical and development circles as Asperger Syndrome, and what in more extreme forms becomes outright autism, especially in boys. Even so, my own experience with sexual orientation suggests that orientation starts during the brain growth process, when the initial wires are growing, and even before pruning.

By early adulthood, the seats of passion were well established. There was no real emotional tie to women or to the idea of being a parent. (I did try dating women for a while briefly around 1971, and if anyone who remembers this about me stumbles upon this blog, she will probably agree that it was better for me not to try something that would end up in consumatory failure and divorce or even annulment.) The heterosexual world then did seem to include a lot of superficial manipulation, doting and pampering that put me off. I had plenty of feeling in music, ideas, and persons who could be idealized (“upward affiliation”) to take its place. I remember a girl friend saying that one time in my apartment as an inexpensive recording of Beethoven’s Pastorale symphony (not my favorite) played.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had pursued my piano abilities even more vigorously. When I entered William and Mary in that forlorn Fall Semester of 1961 (details here), I was a chemistry major and had earned advanced placement, starting with qualitative analysis. It would have taken even more practice, intensity, and teenage recital performance than I did, but it could have happened. One reason that I didn’t was the Cold War, and the feeling that a science career could protect me from becoming cannon fodder. This takes on a moral dimension (of playing chicken) and that makes it painful. (It’s easy, of course, to blame History for moral choices.) I wonder if I had negotiated a music career (and I recall admonitions at age nine or so from my private piano teacher that I grow up as a “normal boy”), if I would have developed different emotions about women, family, and parentage. Maybe, but that assertion seems to contradict the “pruning” theory. An interesting comparison occurs with the program “Everwood” where the prodigy Ephram blows away his chance to get into Julliard by trying to prove himself a “man” at sixteen and getting a college-age girl (Madison) pregnant.

Christianity (especially in its Catholic forms – even as I was raised Baptist) seems to be trying to address this by saying, neglect of the everyday needs of others, even through one’s own intrinsic nature, is sin (the actual sin of “Sodom and Gomorrah”) and some people are less inclined to respond socially than others, and are thus victims of an “objective disorder” (however offensive this sounds). That is why they need God, why they need Jesus, and why there is salvation by Grace. But then, because of his own demons, whatever they are, anyone needs God. Is this the message of someone like Mel Gibson?

I’m struck by the fact that some of us need a “moral” interpretation of all of this, and that is probably because these differentiations of ability and performance do have downstream consequences for others, sometimes for other family members -- but that in turn is partly because of long-standing external prejudicial thinking of others about family and bloodline matters.

When the William and Mary debacle occurred in 1961 (mentioned above), I was struck by how my presence in a dormitory could be perceived as "contagious" to other less than fully mature men, and now the same concept undergirds the "don't ask don't tell" policy for gays in the military.

I have a related posting about pruning and COPA here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

National Enquirer does some outing of celebrities

A December 2006 issue of The National Enquirer reads "Who's Gay ... and Who's Not: The ultilmate Hollywood tell-all".

I don't know if this would be libel if the information were untrue about a particular celebrity, but supermarket tabloids have been sued over false outing in the past (especially in Europe). Again, there is an "invasion of privacy" issue, but I don't know if it would apply to celebrities. We've also seen other forced outings, as recently on ABC's The View.

The problem with this is that kids will see these tabloids in supermarkets and convenience stores, and believe that "outing" people is a cool thing to do on Myspace. This has already been an issue for school systems (as on a Dec 6 2006 episode of NBC's Dr. Phil). It's not cool.

Younger celebrities (and even older ones) are often more comfortable being seen in gay surroundings today than in past decades. Nevertheless, I don't publish names associated with specific "glances" or "sightings" unless the particular individual has decided to announce his situation or sexual orientation himself or herself.

There is an blog discussion teachers and this issue here.

The National Enquirer is a publication of American Media, a company (in Florida) that was a target of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Other publications include the black-and-white rag World Weekly News (with all the alien abduction stories that truly are made up), to more upscale publications like Men's Fitness.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Frank Kameny archives at Library of Congress create controversy


Dr. Franklin E. Kameny is one of the most famous fighters for gay rights. He was an astronomer working for the government in 1957 when investigators approached him and said, "We have information that you are homosexual. Do you have any comment?" He was fired and lived in poverty for some years, but would found the Mattachine Society in the 1960s, well before Stonewall.

In those days, civilian government employees were discharged more vehemently than were members of the armed forces who (in comparison to the later controvery over the military gay ban and "don't ask don't tell") often feared that recruits would try to use homosexuality to get out of the draft for war. In 1965 or so, Dean Rusk said in the State Deparment, "when we find homosexuals in our ranks, we discharge them." In 1966 the Civil Service Commission would publish reasons why homosexuals were unfit for civil service, but in 1973 would overturn the policy and allow gays in federal employment (how condescending!) "Sexual perversion" had been listed as one of the reasons you could be fired from the government when I had my first job with the National Bureau of Standards (at what is now the University of the District of Columbia campus) in 1963, and I had to explain my own "psychiatric history" with the William and Mary explusion to the medical officer. They let it go.

His papers have been donated to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. They are not yet visible to the public. However, Peter LaBarbera of "Americans for Truth" wants a caution sign next to the collection.

The story is Yusef Najafi "Historic Controversy: Anti-gay activist launches campaign against Kameny's acceptance at Library of Congress," Metro Weekly, Nov 30, 2006, at this link.

In 1993, Kameny was a guest on Scott Peck's radio talk show (Mr. Peck was the son of the Marine Colonel who was outed in Sam Nunn's hearings on President Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military), and he discussed civilian security clearances for gays, which he said had gotten much easier since about 1990 (the time of the first Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein).

Kameny was honored at the HRC National Dinner Oct 7, 2006, and a short film about his life was showm.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

MN: Fire department foreshadowed military issue


Bob Von Sternberg, “No simple solution in fire chief case” Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec 2, 2006, link here relates the story of openly lesbian Minneapolis fire department chief Bonnie Bleskachek, who has generated at least four lawsuits because of allegedly favoristic personnel practices, bringing back old stereotypes of gays from McCarthy days. Kari Lydersen has a story in The Washington Post Dec 5, 2006, here. Females started to appear in uniformed fire department services in the 1980s.

But walk back in time. In the mid 1970s gay firemen was a controversial topic in New York City (Daily News or Post editorials), with arguments made about the intimacy of firehouses (ironically, GAA was in the "Firehouse" at 99 Wooster St.), ideas that would foreshadow the debates about lifting the ban on gays in the military in the 1990s.

Monday, December 04, 2006

MD: same-sex marriage law (anti) before state Court of Appeals

An article in The Washington Post by Mary Otto, "As Md. Court Weighs Same-Sex Marriage, Plaintiffs Hear Echoes of Previous Fight," Dec 4, 2006, in the Metro section (link here)
continues a debate that we have heard, and that has indirect ramifications in other areas. We have already covered the passage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment in Virginia.

The case is before the Court of Appeals in Annapolis, and according to the story, this is the state supreme court.

In Januaray a Baltimore judge ruled that tradition alone cannot create a state interest that counters equal protection. (It's interesting; I remember a sermon at the Crystal Cathedral in California about the importance of "tradition".) However Donald H. Dwyer, Jr. (R) wants to introduce a constitutional amendment in Maryland, and fears that same sex marriage will cause homosexuality to be taught in public schools as a normal lifestyle. So the basic existential debate continues.

Also, there is a story about homosexuality in the Muslim world. Negar Azimi, "Prisoners of Sex: In Egypt and across the Arab world, homosexuality is becoming a political issue. But as gay people become more visible, they could wind up even less free." The New York Times Magazine, Dec 4, 2006, p. 63. The article maintains that the Koran is ambiguous on homosexuality when read literally. However, there have been many busts in Egypt, with the police encouraging antigay violence, and in Saudi Arabia the government wanted to give hormone treatments to people arrested at a "gay wedding."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

VA and PA: Custody cases (lesbian couples after separattion)

On Thurday Nov 30, 2006, The Washington Post featured an editorial, “Justice for a Parent and Child: Virginia Court of Appeals does the right thing for common sense and custody laws.” The editoril is here.

The case is Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins. After a lesbian couple cemented with a Vermont civil union broke up, the biological mother Lisa tried to shield her daughter from the other parent’s visitation by taking her to Virginia. The lower court allowed this (on the theory that a biological parent's rights always trump under Virginia law), but the appeals court held that federal law prevents Virginia from interfering with the custody proceedings of another state, here Vermont. This means that couples cannot do state “forum shopping” to take advantage of anti-gay policies in other states with respect to child custody issues.

Here is another perspective from a libertarian blogger, at this link.

There was a distantly related case from Pennsylvania about the same time.

http://www.center4civilrights.org/
Specifically, here.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Nov. 29 2006 refused to hear a challenge to an appellate decision which affirmed that Pennsylvania’s non-biological, non-adoptive same-sex (here, lesbian) parents have the right to primary custody of their children. The case involved a lesbian couple, Patricia Jones and Ellen Boring, who had lived together for several years and had twins together through alternative insemination. While not he biological mother of the children, Patricia Jones took on all the responsibilities of a co-parent to the boys. In 2000, after four years, the couple separated. In 2001 a Bucks County PA court entered a custody order that recognized that Jones had acted in the place of a parent and consequently gave her visitation with the children.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NY Times Magazine on gay parenting


The Sunday Nov 19 2006 issue of The New York Times Magazine has a long article by John Bowe, "Gay Donor or Gay Dad: Gay men and lesbians are having babies and redefining fatherhood, commitment, and what a family can be," on p. 66. Artwork and illustrations are by Christopher Silas Neal. A variety of detailed stories are presented. The idea that not having children is "selfish" appears and one gay man wants to be sure that he does not have an "only child." The legal complications are explored.

When I researched my first DADT book in the mid 1990s, I found that there was quite a body of support for the ideas that gays should try to become parents, as in the book by Dr. Kenneth Morgen, Getting Simon (1995, Bramble Books).

When I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003, I saw bus stop benches with advertising signs looking for adoptive and foster parents, and claimed that singles were welcome. A few states, however, ban (or have tried to ban) gay adoptions.

The political issue comes up in the sense that if you want full equality, you have to take on equal responsibilities for others. Yet this would contradict the ideal of a mother and father (married) for every child.

One could imagine public policy could be engineered to encourage more heterosexually married couples to adopt, especially minortiy children. But that may be daydreaming.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Catholic Church takes "don't ask don't tell" stance on gay parishoners

We've read a lot in recent months about the Vatican's pseudo-ban of gay applicants to the seminary, and about their attempts to blame their recent enormous problems on homosexuality among priests.

We've also read a lot of the circular ideology about homosexuality, about whether it refers to "inclination" or "orientation" and the claims that it is not a sin until acted upon. We have felt particularly disturbed by their calling homosexual inclination or orientation (right now I forget which) an "objective disorder." The gay person is supposed to accept this as an almost biological handicap to draw him or her to God! I discuss this in detail at this link.

A recent convocation of US Catholic bishops passed a resolution on the pastoral care of homosexuals, and it has been widely reported, and criticized, in the media. A typical story is in The Washington Blade, here.

What is most disturbing is that the Bishops "ask" gays not to discuss their sexual orientation or inclinations publicly outside of the home. In fact, this request borders on offensiveness. It seems that they are trying to protect "normal, ordinary people" from the distraction of competition from today's culture. A large portion of heterosexual married couples do have difficulty maintaining active interest ("in sickness in health, for richer or poorer" etc) in the face of a media-focused competitive culture that is always trying to measure people against one another in terms of certain ideas about attractiveness. The fear is that homosexuals, when they talk about their interests, will make heterosexual men feel less secure about themselves. The other main fear, of course, is that their public disclosures will disrupt the socialization of children. Yet, it seems disturbing to silence people because of the individual weaknesses or vulnerabilities of others. This one you have to call as you see, and speak bluntly.

I wonder, of course, if the Catholic and religious emphasis on collective solidarity is really good for traditional marriage, when that is conceived as a commitment and expression of personal responsibility between two adults. The Church obviously has its problems with its track record. They do have one point, however. By keeping certain things toned down, they appear to be trying to make it easier for people to function in helping one another in a practical manner, by letting them remain less self-conscious (of their own universal shortcomings). That is their world view, and they are free to express it. They see it as their own form of social or even political solidarity, which may seem ironic to the GLBT community, given all of their statements.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

DADT appeal to 1st Circuit


Twelve lesbian and gay veterans filed an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the lower court's ruling (on a case called Cook v. Rumsfeld) upholding the constitutionality of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as implemented in a 1993 Defense Authorization Bill passed by Congress, and subsequently by Pentagon administrative policies (the most important being published in February 1994).

The SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which I have supported since 1993; it had been preceded by "the Campaign for Military Service) press release is here.

The District Court opinion (PDF file) is here.

As I have argued two postings down in this blog, the military DADT policy has the capability of affecting civilian areas, like security clearances and teaching.

(The picture is of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service building in the Washington Navy Yard, where many of the Navy's DADT cases have been investigated.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

MA keeps same-sex marriage for now


Pam Belluck has an important story in The New York Times, "Massachusetts Effort to End Same-Sex Marriage Is Dead for Now," On Nov. 10, 2006, p A14.

The legislature decided to recess a constitutional convention until after Jan. 2, 2007. The regular session of the legislature will have ended by then, permanently postponed a divisive constitutional amendment process indefinitely.

In Virginia, as I note in the preceding blog, the Marshall-Newman amendment passed on Nov. 7, which can lead to legal complications even for those who do not directly seek a same-sex union.

However, a subsequent story in The Washington Blade (Nov 24) indicated that Gov. Mitt Romney asked the state supreme court to force a counter gay marriage amendment onto the 2008 ballot for referendum.

UPDATE: On Jan 2, 2007 the Massachusetts legislature took two votes that would result in the same-sex marriage ban being placed on the November 2008 ballot after all. The ban would apply only going forward from that time, and would not affect existing gay marriages. The Washington Times likes to gloat about this. The story is by Cheryl Wetzstein, "Same-sex 'marriage' measure advances", at this link. The Washington Times always uses the word marriage in single quotes in this context. Would that fit The Chicago Manual of Style?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Is there a "don't ask don't tell" de facto policy for teachers?




"Don't ask don't tell" and public school teachers:

A small amount of testimony at the COPA trial referred to the possibility that teachers could be fired or reassigned in some cases if they discuss ("abnormal") “personal information” with students. Does this mean that a teacher could be removed for making “personal stuff” available at a public place on the Internet where kids could find it with search engines?

School boards regulate what teachers present in the classroom, and of course this has been politicized, especially by parents and pressure groups who fear that the religious or filial socialization of their children can be compromised by pluralistic exposure. Teachers generally have more freedom to say what they want on their own time and with their own resources, especially since they are public employees. Generally, teachers’ first amendment rights have been honored, for example, if they are seen by television cameras attending gay events.

There is a long audit trail of case law about this, both within school property and outside the school system. The issue is muddied by the Internet and World Wide Web, with the issues presented by search engines and by “free entry.” There is a balancing between the legitimate First Amendment rights of teachers (and students) and the need to preserve order and, frankly, safety and security in the school systems. There is a legitimate point that teaching, by definition, involves taking responsibility for the behavior of others who may be less cognitive and less competent in accounting for their own actions or in understanding what they find than are adults. After all, that is why the kids must go to school. The issue becomes much less important in practice for teachers who have only honors or AP students, but the reality of the teacher shortage today is that the challenge of dealing with average and special education students should be shared by as many teachers as possible.

The recent controversies, litigations, and constitutional amendment referendums about gay rights – most specifically gay marriage and civil unions – brings up a troubling point. Issues like gay marriage and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military draw attention to the reality that gays are often (by circularity) cut out of “paying their dues” and taking responsibility for others in normal family and service settings. Sometimes, persons who do not have these responsibilities may be expected to “sacrifice” for the food of people who do have these responsibilities. In this sense, then, gays (and lesbians) are not the equal of heterosexuals in practice.

What happens if kids ask a gay teacher about his home life? If he or she reveals a same-sex domestic partner relationship, is this violating school policy of disclosing “personal stuff” to students? A number of states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, and a few (like Virginia, which passed the rather punitive Marshall-Newman amendment on Nov. 7) have gone so far as to ban civil unions from any legal recognition. Since a same-sex relationship cannot have legal recognition, such an answer could be seen as an improper disclosure of personal information to students.

There have been cases in some states where teachers have disclosed gay marriages or unions in class and have not been disciplined, but these have tended to occur in states, like California, with a more pluralistic social climate. In many cases, it may be all right for teachers to "tell" if they refer to sexual orientation as "status" (Bill Clinton's word) rather than as psychological interest or a propensity for "conduct." They could refer to a biological or genetic hypothesis, but not to anything deeper about personal choices. That starts to sound like a content-based speech restriction.

The issue bears comparison with the military “don’t ask don’t tell” where, by law, a statement (even in private) that one is gay triggers the presumption that one has a propensity to engage in prohibited acts. Persons have been discharged from the military for disclosing homosexual orientation on personal websites or on social networking sites.

With teachers, a comparable but less draconian situation seems to exist. In fairness to school systems, one must note that their sensitivity to "personal stuff" is a community standards issue; in their world, content that is legitimate in an open adult world might be interpreted, and unfavorably legally, in their protective community, even when discovered accidentally.

There is also a similar problem if a teacher’s statements (in a public place) indicate to others (such as parents or administrators) a “propensity” to show an undue interest in the attractiveness of minors. This would be likely to affect many more heterosexuals than homosexuals (most people caught in chat room stings, as on NBC Dateline, have been heterosexual). This problem is existential: an older person who does not have an intimate relationship with someone his own age (and show complementarity) is likely to be viewed as more vulnerable to “temptation,” even though admitting to “temptation” itself is not defamatory. Teachers (even subs) could get into serious legal trouble (possibly attracting passive solicitation charges) with statements that they view as existential but that could be viewed as self-defamatory by others. There is little experience with this in the law with respect to the World Wide Web, and it is tangential to COPA, but the trial and opinion might give some guidance as to how the open access and search engine issue (and filters or labels) plays out with disturbing or ambiguous speech found by minors. For a gay person, the lack of legal equality (in recognition of adult relationships) could become relevant, because it could make a statement be regarded as “personal” and therefore indirectly solicitous or motivated by illegal intentions. On the other hand, if this legal conundrum is rolled out, we see a lot of deference to "prejudicial thinking" which amounts to a content-based restriction on free speech.

I found, in my own case when I was substitute teaching, that it was very difficult, with certain disadvantaged students, to maintain classroom discipline (“poor classroom management”) when they did not see me as an “equal” who had faced their kinds of life challenges and “manhood” experiences. How does one answer this, as an exercise of faith? The Catholic Church has tried to build a whole priesthood culture around men who do not reproduce, to make them credible as authority figures, as long as they give up their freedom and preach only the Church’s teachings of socialization for “normal people.” Ironically, unmarried women have always been well regarded, often preferred as teachers, and “authority figures” for small children.

It is also important that, given the supposed teacher shortage, that new teachers making a "career switcher" move after retirement still have to invest about $4000 in tuition for licensure before getting a permanent job in most cases. For a gay man, in a political climate in a state that goes out of its way to say that he is not the equal of other more "manly men" as a role model, this does not sound like a sound private investment. (Of course, again there is an existential problem: if one is drawn to other men who he perceives as "better," what does that say about him?) So there is a chilling effect. At the same time, we watch the spectacle of school districts desperately trying to recruit teachers from third-world countries because Americans are appalled by the political climate (as well as the pay) in public schools. That reminds me of the circularity problem that the military has created for itself in recruiting and keeping linguists (with "don't ask don't tell").

It's important to note that some teachers (including subs) can face contingent responsibilities to deal with intimate custodial care issues (as with some special education students), and for an openly gay person, the "DADT" doctrine codified into federal law in 1993 might have legal repercussions even outside of the military. I once was asked if I would mind "helping out in the locker room" and, as a sixty-year-old man, wearing only swimming trunks myself and manning the deep end of a swimming pool on a surprise field trip. I declined. (And I don't swim.)

All of these concepts (regarding speech, legal status for relationships, and forced-intimacy occupations like the military and teaching – all becoming more important as society contemplates ideas like national service) bear parallels that are rather scary.

It's well to review the history of attempts to ban gay teachers in the past, such as the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978, or the Washington State bill in 1986, which defrocked Republican Spokane mayor Jim West had supported. See my footnote link, note 157, and tv link, notes about the PBS Frontline show "A Hidden Life".

Related review of book on teachers' legal rights and free speech rights (Feb 2007).

Follow-up: my last day as a sub in 2005.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Marshall-Newman "anti-gay marriage" amendment passes in Virginia


NBC4 is reporting as of about 10 PM Nov 7 that the Marshall-Newman amendment passed the referendum, which would amend the Virginia Bill of Rights to limit marriage to one man and one woman, and ban civil union benefits. You can verify results at this website.

However, the Commonwealth Attorney had provided the election board and voters (with hardcopy handouts at the polling places--I could not find this tonight on the web) with an explanation that maintains that the amendment will not preclude non-married couples from manually exercising their wishes, which such isses as
. durable medical power of attorney or advance medical directive in case a partner is incapacitated
. application of domestic violence statutes
. ability to enforce wills (which have to be specifically written in advance)
. ability to own real property with joint tenancy, with or without survivorship rights

With the other states,
Arizona rejected its gay-marriage ban amendment.
Seven other states (Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin) approved them. Colorado defeated its Amendment 1, which would have approved civil unions, AP Denver Post story by Colleen Slevin here.

The Washington Post, on Nov. 20, has a story by Sonya Gets, "New Tactic in Fighting Marriage Initiaites: Opponents Cite Effects on Straight Couples." In Arizona, many senior heterosexual couples do not marry because of the "marriage penatly" and fear loss of visitation rights and loss of other benefits if civil unions were forbidden. Proposition 107 was defeated 52%-48%.

On related stories, South Dakota rejected a ban on almost all abortions. In Missouri, a ballot measure to approve stem cell research barely won.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rev. Ted Haggard and what his fall means


Right before the 2006 mid-term elections, the media has feasted over the fall of another religious right pundit, Rev. Ted Haggard from the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, home of, as we know, Focus on the Family. Colleen Slevin has a major AP story on Sunday Nov 5, 2006.

There's not need to dwaddle here on the details. Of course we're concerned about the hyporcrisy, in a state where there are two amendments on the ballot by referendum concerning same-sex unions.

Haggard is shown in a media clip as saying that everyone should "find a partner of the opposite sex and make a lifelong commitment." Haggard himself was married with five children. All of this means that (in religious right views) it's not just that homosexual acts are wrong, there is a positive duty to carry on a biological lineage if biologically able. I saw this in the subjunctive mood, of course. This kind of comment ("be fruitful and multiply") does indeed come out of a mindset that looks for an external source of Truth (the Bible, or any scripture) that does not require independent intellectual verification by man.

That idea (of a moral obligation to be open to procreation, the way the Vatican talks about it, despite its own priests and nuns) has always been the center of my own concern. There is an existential mishmash of other concerns over the idea that, among men, homosexuality is a way (for a less "competitive" male) of rejecting your own biological family, of saying, through upward affiliation and a kind of self-abuse, that another lineage is superior. That is, one, like a free agent, wants to play on another team. One does not have the psychosexual drive and maturity to continue one's own lineage adequately. That's the impression I sometimes have of what I see in the writings of other conservatives, like in George Gilder's book Men and Marriage in the 1980s. I do understand the consersative Christian pseudo-claim that outflanking one's own competitive weaknesses with upward affiliation (instead of "turning to God" and Christ) could indirectly put other "non competitive" people (who depend on the automaticity of family connections) in a weaker position. When does one have to be his brother's keeper? The Gospels seem to say, pretty often.

But Haggard himself would refute, or at least complicate, this idea. After all, he did have a full home life with a wife and five kids. What was he looking for?

It's about more than just biological destiny. But in a mainstream church yesterday, a middle-aged married heterosexual Sunday school teacher said, "Marriage is a great institution. But as a young man, it was years before I was ready for it."

(Picture: Market St in downtown Philadelphia, PA; the COPA Child Online Protection Act) trial, which could affect LGBT websites, is going on the the James A. Byrne US Courthouse building on the right.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Piddle and twiddle: watch those Republicans choke on gay marriage


Okay, the ante is up, as social conservatives think they have their ammunition handed to them by “activist judges,” the latest from the New Jersey State Supreme Court. (No matter the activism of our own Supreme Court in Bush v Gore and the 2000 presidential election).

So the eight state constitutional amendment referendums (the most notorious being the Marshall-Newman in Virginia) might actually get an unwelcome push from “conservative” voters.

But what, really, does the “normal married person” want out of this? A young man who is now a prosecuting attorney in the Midwest told me, “something to feel superior about.” Think about it. If the rest of your life, especially career and work, doesn’t go that well, the social approbation of your marriage gets pretty important. You feel that society has ratified you as a grown-up person with full rights once you’re married with your own kids. You have proven psychosexual maturity. The social support is integrated into your marital experience. It helps provide the social safety net for relatives and kin. If push comes to shove, you have the right to demand a tribute from a freer but less “mature” person who never took the dive. After all, the immature man wanted access to sexuality for free, without openness to new life, blindfolded socialization, or filial responsibility.

Turn this around, though. You go to gay discos like Cobalt or Apex in Washington (or the Velvet Nation, that got overrun by the baseball Washington Nationals) or say the Saloon or the Gay 90s in Minneapolis, and see the ritual celebration on the dance floor, the love trains, and you see this is a kind of public expression of what (or who) is perfect, or what (or who) deserves emotion. It’s meant to have an effect on things. Nothing is that private any more. It helps to reach one’s biological solstice and enter a time machine so that you can remain perfect forever. Note that there is a movie “Children of Men” coming. There was even a Smallville episode based on this idea. There is another lesson in this: the celebrant on the dance floor is saying that he makes emotional connections to other people on his own terms only. That sounds like his libertarian right (no pun), but that puts a lot of other people into a losing position.

So both sides of psychological divide want to feel superior in some way.

Then you look at the Foley scandal again, that a couple weeks ago seemed to deep-six the Republicans (including Log Cabin). They seem to deserve it, for their pretense of hiding under their own “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Fred Berlin of the National Institute for the Study and Prevention of Sexual Trauma drew a ring around the whole problem that deals not only with the minors issue, but with the difficulty in keeping marriages together, when he suggested that people who “show no interest in people their own age” are disordered. That kind of hits the nail on the head. Maturity is supposed to merge the need of others with emotional interest. Maybe failure to do that is a reason to look at someone as immature and less “equal” (sic). But conservatives want to equate this with being able to form and stay in a heterosexual marriage and raise one’s own children.

I was criticized, when a substitute teacher, for being unwilling to enforce discipline with certain kinds of disadvantaged students. I ask, why should they respect me when they “sense” that I am not the equal of other men, even in the eyes of the law. Or is this just a matter of disorder and emotional immaturity?

Piddle. Twiddle. And resolve.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey state supreme court rules on same-sex couples


On Wednesday, October 25, 2006 the New Jersey state Supreme Court (in Trenton) ruled that couples consisting of two adults have the same rights whether a couple's members are of the same or of the opposite biological gender. The vote was 4-3.

The Court gave the state legislature six months write legislation putting this in to effect. But it stopped short of ordering the legislature to create "marriage" for same sex couples (I sound like The Washington Times here in putting the word into quotes!). It would be acceptable to create a civil union and call it that but give the same rights and obligations as "marriage."

It is my take that the court is sensitive to the possibility that gay individuals can find themselves in second class status, at the whim of the needs of heterosexuals to have others support their marriages, without explicitly equal rights.

New Jersey does not have a law prohibiting recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, so in this sense it is a more critical testing ground that is Massachusetts. However, right now Massachusetts is the only state that recongizes "marriage" for same-sex couples and can call it that.

The name of the case is Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al, (A-68-05).

Findlaw has made the opinion available at this
link,
on a PDF file.

An important quote from the Opinion:

"Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state constitution," as written by Judge Barry Albin.

The AP/CNN news story is at this link.

The Washington Post has a story on Oct 26, 2006 by Michael Powell and Robert Shulman, "N.J. Ruling Mandates Rights for Gay Unions: State Court Does Not Specify 'Marriage'". at this link.

The New York Times has a story by David W. Chen, "New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights for Gay Couples, But Justices Direct Legislature to Decide on Issue of Marriage," on the same date. The NY Times has a brief editorial, "A Ruling for Equality in New Jersey," that is guarded but points out the practical and financial disadvantages of gay couples.

On Dec 13, 2006, New Jersey passed a bill allowing civil unions with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. Story by Robin Shulman in The Washington Post, Dec. 15m 2006, at this link.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The “gay marriage” amendment in Virginia – a more personal take


"It just wasn't meant to be." So say some people about gay marriage. Of course, we are human beings with reasoning powers, and we can design what we mean to happen. There is always a fault line when we test the limits of "nature" and see that there are layers of human behavior underneath the surface. But let's move on to the main stuff here.

A local Northern Virginia church, from a mainstream Protestant denomination, plans to do a door-to-door campaign soon to encourage voters to vote “No” on the Marshall-Newman amendment, which in Virginia would not only limit marriage to one biological man and one woman, but prohibit recognizing same-sex relationships as approximating marriage.

I generally do not like to contact people personally about specific political candidates or issues. I generally do not go door-to-door or call or “bother” people. With the web, I prefer to write my thoughts and be found by search engines. That has been a very effective way to be heard, although I cannot be sure that it will always be available.

I can run through some observations that may be old hat now. One of the most obvious is that the focus on “gay marriage” is a diversion from both political camps. It seems to be trying to encapsulate complex and disquieting discussions about personal socialization into words that, viewed through the lens of rationalism, have little practical meaning. It’s easier to talk about a political slogan than it is to face personal obligations to others. It also forces both camps to run treadmills, keeping them from making real progress with more fundamental problems.

The surface practical question is, who will be affected by this? A recent New York Times article indicated that there were less than a million same-sex couples in the country. If gay marriage were legal everywhere, not that many people would use it. Nevertheless, there have been outrageous abuses of people who are in relationships, such as with hospital visitations and particularly during probate battles from jealous blood relatives. (Some of these problems should be resolved outside of the institution of marriage, but the Virginia amendment might even interfere with these in some cases, leaving ill persons unable to receive visitations from partners in hospitals, for example.)

Furthermore, from a legal perspective, there is almost no chance at all that higher courts in this country would uphold challenges to traditional marriage statutes on constitutional grounds, despite the anomaly in Massachusetts. And the homosexuals are certainly not going to interfere with heterosexual marriages on an individual level, right?

It’s ironic, too, that in Virginia the Marshall-Newman amendment is inserted as a provision in the “Virginia Bill of Rights.” That may have been intended to get around the idea that constitutional provisions normally should be about governance, not about regulating individual lives or rewarding various social behaviors. Nevertheless, we are seeing the underbelly of this whole problem: that many old-fashioned heterosexual people see the social approbation for marriage as part of their “rights.” It goes beyond this. Many people see the social supports for marriage as part of the “family bed” experience. The privileged status is what makes it worth staying together for a lifetime, despite the media distractions and reminders that there are more “attractive” or “competitive” and (usually, following the mentality of Oscar Wilde, younger) potential partners out there. The social rewards of marriage are part of a "collective" package that enables people to maintain a deep emotional bond "in sickness and in health" -- that maintains that a partner can remain worthy even though he or she is much less than perfect.

Here it becomes personal. We have to go beyond the areas where conventional rationalism and objectivism take us. My own coming out was a long and complicated process, documented elsewhere on my sites, but the end result is that I spent about thirty years living in urban areas tending mainly to my own needs. That took most of my attention. I was not prepared to support anyone else. My life sat on that moral knife’s edge for three decades.

But as long as I had my own life and could execute my own “private choices,” I did not care that much about abstract notions of equality. In the 1980s, we had to deal with all of the political and personal threats from the AIDS epidemic, and we were fighting to keep our private space.

In the 1990s, as AIDS came to become perceived as socially manageable (largely because of new drugs and more careful behaviors), a new perspective on gay rights developed as Bill Clinton raised the issue of gays in the military, and as the battles over same-sex unions brewed in Hawaii and Vermont, and then other states. There was more attention to the idea of participation in broad social responsibility: being able to help defend freedom by serving the armed forces (or by holding a security clearance or by working in law enforcement, for that matter); being able to participate in raising children, and being there for a lifelong partner, whether of the same or opposite sex. The debates, in the 90s, began, somewhat under the table in various magazines at the newsstands, to recognized social obligations as a real moral requirement, somewhat as they had up to the 60s. A person's "status" as an equal person can be affected by the perception that he/she "pays his dues" and shares the burdens fairly.

Any legal doctrine that interferes with someone's ability to participate in these essential activites then makes someone a "second class citizen," and through circularity drives the person away from sharing responsibilities. One can see how a constitutional amendment like Marshall-Newman can make a single person with no prior intention of personally attempting gay marriage or a domestic partnership into a second-class citizen, interferring with his contributions to others. So the amendment can affect singletons as well as those in relationships.

During the 1990s, there was an odd dichotomy in the workplace. Sometimes single, childless people like me were expected to fill in for a greater share of the on-call responsibilities (without compensation in a salaried environment) when people with families and children had problems at home. People would get very uncomfortable with discussing the “unfairness” of this development openly. At the same time, with the growth of the Internet, I was seeing “complaints” that less economically or socially advantaged families had a hard time staying together and raising their kids in such a media-saturated and expressive culture. Remember, people of that mindset don't want to hear about things that can distract them from their families -- that's part of the bargain.

Just before 2000, there was a serious medical issue in my own family. I don’t want to discuss private matters here beyond what is necessary to make my point, but eldercare and answerability to the needs of others, even when requiring sacrifice from me, became a very real issue. All the sudden, family responsibility wasn’t just something that starts with conceiving children. It’s something that we all can be expected to share. Many people learn that with other (especially younger) siblings; I was an only child so I bypassed that socialization.

After a corporate buyout and “retirement” at the end of 2001, I tried a number of odd jobs, and one feedback that I got a few times, especially when I worked as a substitute teacher, was that I am not “assertive” enough. Particularly in the teacher situation, I was unwilling to present myself as an “authority figure” over non-intact kids.

So here we have a picture. I am supposed to validate myself by “protecting” other people. The way most men do this is by courting women, marrying and having children. It’s easy to make the connection: the preferred status for heterosexual marriage makes it easier to provide for other people—if you get heterosexually married. But if you stay outside the marriage system, you’re fair game to be nabbed to make more sacrifices to help those with families. Your life is not as important as the life of someone raising a family. You must validate yourself by meeting the needs of others in some socially approved way before embarking out on your own expressions.

I have always been very sensitive about this point. When growing up, I noticed that when a man would die in war, his memory would be validated by mention of his wife and kids as if it justified his existence. But if we value human life (enough to oppose abortion), why were we so nonchalant about drafting young men and sending them to battle? Why were men expendable this way, until they married and fathered kids?

I think this takes us back to the observation that biological lineage is the one “achievement” that is supposed to be available to most people, regardless of other talents or political injustices. Even the Gospels try to deal with the “unfairness” of live at economic and political levels by emphasizing the importance of blood relations, which are, however, supposed to lead to community socialization. The privileged position of traditional marriage, even if it made second-class citizens of the unmarried, was always integrated into what the conforming married person experienced, even “in the bedroom.” That is what is threatened by “gay marriage.” It is what some people see as an intrinsic part of heterosexuality. Yet it is essential mainly for people who don’t have expressive talents that they can call their own.

I sometimes get a reaction that protecting one’s parents is as vital a responsibility as raising children (look at the Fifth Commandment!), and one should accept that lot if it comes one’s way. Indeed, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 did recognize that parental eldercare could be a justification for asking an employer for (unpaid) leave, just as would child care.

This is a very difficult observation for me to take. Even in the 1950s, a lot of adults were not “of the marrying kind” and often accepted the idea of staying home to look after the elders of a family. Non-marrying women were openly welcomed, often preferred, as grade school teachers (even as “old maids”). The Catholic Church developed a whole system for non-procreative men and women to serve the church and teach – and at least for men, the priests, we have found out that Church covered up a huge problem (hence all of the recent antigay seminary bans and pronouncements from the Vatican about “objective disorders”, etc.) We all know that some people are more “appealing” as partners (and as potential ancestors) than others, and a meritocratic society is likely to see attractive people as “better” than others. I am left holding the bag as someone who was not “competitive” enough as a man to procreate (at least the way soap operas like “Days of our Lives” would see things), so I am supposed to be there for others who were. You can see that I envy the life that Truman Capote lived and his output.

Marriage, though, is cast in exactly this biological web. Its privileged status is justified (not with airtight intellectual arguments) as an institution for procreation, for biological creation (or adoption) of children and raising them. But those who do not procreate (or who are not inclined to engage in the physical activities that generally lead to having babies) are almost by definition forced into a socially subordinate position, whose sacrifices can be commanded at the “needs” of families. Or, at least, they are forced to subsidize the tax benefits and privileges of legally married people because of this connection to the "ideal environment to raise children." (Oh, yes, there is the marriage penalty, though, which is supposed to be going away.) Do we deliberately want to make some people subsidize the life choices of others based on social utility? It seems as though a lot of people raising traditional families can't stand even being made to think about this!

Having gone through all of this candor, we come back to facing a social and practical reality. Given the problems that are coming (global warming for openers), we have to face how we will share responsibilities and even sacrifices. Equal access to marriage, whatever one’s choice of an adult significant other, and even to adoption and child rearing, will help move in that direction.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Update on VA Marshall-Newman same-sex marriage amendment polls


Chris L. Jenkis, The Washington Post, writes on Tues. Oct 17, 2006, that 53% of Virginia voters back the constitutional amendment (the Marshall-Newman amendment) to the Virginia Bill of Rights, that would limit marriage to a legal arrangement between one biological man and one woman, ban civil unions, and refuse to recognize relationships intended to approximate marriage. But in Northern Virignia counties (probably just Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon), voters reject the amendment 55 to 42. The total sample size was 1004. Arlington is probably the most liberal of these counties, and is likely to vote No heavily.

Other states with similar proposals are Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Tennessee has an amendment limited to marriage definition only, and Colorado offers domestic partnerships separately. It is reported that in Wisconsin there is a good chance that the amendment can be defeated.

Somehow this all brings to mind Washinton Blade editor Chris Crain's March 2004 editorial (before the federal amendment debate, which failed that summer), "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve." Remember the sorry debate in the Senate, when Santorum spoke, and then Diane Feinstein stated that they were spending hours on gay marriage when they hadn't passed any much more pressing legislation. During the intermissions, C-SPAN played the first movement of the Bruckner Symphone #5 in B-flat, giving the whole debate a pompous resolution.

The local "conservative" newspaper, The Washington Times, always puts the word "marriage" in quotes when following the parole "gay." That is, the newspaper always prints it as -- gay "marriage" ---.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Statistics on marriage, same-sex couples, and the never married


Sam Roberts has a story on p A14 of the Oct. 15, 2006 New York Times, “It’s Official: To Be Married Means to be Outnumbered: Data Suggests that More Couples are Waiting.”

According to the Census Bureau, 49.7% of the U.S.’s 111.1 million households in 2005 comprised legally married (heterosexual) couples. In 2000 the percentage had been 52%.

There were 413,000 male couple households, and 363,000 female couple households. This is about 0.7% of the households. In San Francisco, about 2% of the couples were same-sex couples. Presumably these are the households than can benefit from domestic partnership or civil union or even gay marriage legislation. These percentages sound much lower than what I would have expected.

Presumably, a lot of households consist of never married, divorced, and widowed adults. This would include the majority if gays and lesbians (and some transgendered).

According to Penn State, 5% of elderly adults have never been married. (“The never married elderly: what do we know?”) I do recall that singleness and childlessness of other adults was much more common in the 50s than people probably realize today. The link is this.

According to a Cox New Service report from Nov 2005, 44% of all adults have never been married. The story is by Katherine Heine: “Has marriage lost its luster?”

The story also reports that 40% of unmarried couple households have children.

This is some of what the gay marriage battle must deal with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pension Protection Act and GLBT couples

At the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington DC on October 7, 2006, president Joe Solomonese mentioned the improved benefits for same-sex couples as a result of the Pension Protection Act signed into law on Aug. 17, 2006. Previously, same-sex partners had to withdraw an entire inheritance from a partner's IRA, with heavy tax penalties. Now, apparently partners will be able to transfer funds to their own IRA's and withdraw over a five-year period or over a lifetime. There are also hardship distribution provisions.

A good writeup of the provisions is from Ramon Johnson, "You Guilde to Gay Life," at this link:

HRC's writeup is here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

GA: gay parent cannot be denied visitation or custody

On September 28, 2006 a Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a parent cannot be denied custody or visitation rights of a child solely because of sexual orientation, absent other information that the child could be harmed.

The news release is available from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, at this link.

CA: California appeals court rejects challenge to anti gay marriage law

In a 2-1 decision, a California appeals court rejected a challenge to a law that prohibits same-sex marriage in California.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has a major release at this link.

The case is Woo v. California.

From the release:

"In 2005, the California Legislature enacted AB 849, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act sponsored by Equality California, which would have ensured equal treatment under the law by allowing same-sex couples to marry in California. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill."

Bob Egelk of the San Francisco Chronicle has an article on this, "Same sex marriag r ban upheld by court, Ruling says change can only come from voters or legislature," Oct 6, 2006, link here (subscription may be required).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

SLDN reports four new sponsor for HR 1059, bill to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell"


Servicemembers Legal Defense Network had 4 additional Representatives sign on to H.R. 1059:
Bill Pascrell, Jr (NJ-8) [Dem]
John Conyers, Jr. (MI-14) [Dem]
Richard Neal (MA-2) [Dem] – the full Massachusetts delegation has now signed on to H.R. 1059
Rob Simmons (CT-2) [Rep] – we now have 6 Republicans on the bill.

Link to my letter to Rep Jim Moran (D-VA 8th Dist) July 26, 2005, including Mr. Moran's reply.

Link to original sponsor Marty Meehan's page on HR 1059

Bill summary link on Thomas

text of bill

The picture here is a photo of Fort McNair in SE Washington DC, where President Clinton first announced "don't ask don't tell" on July 19, 1993

EVENTS

Log Cabin and SLDN are also partnering for a party event late Saturday afternoon in Washington Oct. 7. The details are here. This apparently happens just before the HRC Annual Dinner also in Washington that evening.

House Parties to Vote No on Marshall-Newman in Va.

The Commonwealth Coalition of VA reports that it raised $30000 at house parties across Virginia On Thurs. Sept 21 to Vote No against the Marshall-Newman amendment, which would not only ban same sex marriage in Va, but legal recognition for any arrangements that approximate marriage. Former Governor Mark Warner appeared in Alexandria, and Andrew Sullivan appeared in Arlington.

The organization is looking for 100 hosts in an effort to raise at least $100000 quickly. Volunteers may email houseparties at voteNOVa.org.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

HRC has National Dinner on Saturday Oct 7 2006 in Washington DC


The Human Rights Campaign will sponsor the National Dinner on Oct 7 2006 at the new Washington Convention Center at 801 Mount Vernon Pl NW, Washington DC, in the Grand Ballroom. The website is here.

Guests include former Mississippi-raised and 'NSync member Lance Bass, who receives an HRC Visibility Award. Bass came out publicly recently and was featured in People I actually attended an 'NSync concert in the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis on June 24, 2001, which ironically was the Sunday night of Gay Pride Weekend in Loring Park. (I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003.) The concert was called "Popodyssey" and featured many circus-like acts with the five men working as an almost military-like team. (One of their videos featured them pretending to be toy soldiers, which again may have had a hidden political message.)

Frank Kameny will also be present. Kameny was fired from the government as an astronomer in a civilian civil service job around 1957 after he was called in and asked if he was a homosexual. Kameny has been particularly active in the civilian security clearance issue over the years.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Military would probably look at social networking sites, especially with ROTC students


We've heard a lot of media reports in the past six months about employers checking the social networking site profiles, personal weblogs, and search engine tracks of job applicants. I think it is pretty obvious that the military can do this with soldiers. College students on ROTC scholarships or graduate students on military pay (to go to law school or especially medical school) would be at particular risk.

I haven't heard a lot of specific reports about this yet. But back in the mid 1990s even there were visible discharges for soldiers and sailors for "outing themselves" in AOL profiles (which at the time were the rage, much like facebook and myspace today). One famous case around 1996 was a sailor Timothy McVeigh (a different person than the individual associated with OKC), who actually had an anonynous profile in which he outed himself, but was disclosed by a civilian. A judge actually enjoined his discharge.

Today, a military-sponsored student or cadet who outs himself or herself on a profile and is on a scholarship might, in some situations, face a tuition recoupment suit.

All of this begs the question about what the original policy should have been. The Clinton administration, with its Feb 1994 Pentagon memo, had tried to portray the DADT policy as relatively benign, that it would not "pursue". We all know that such a "promise" would be repeatedly broken over the years with various witchhunts. But also think back to that time, which was just before it was becoming more common for people to use the Internet to promote themselves.

At the time, I even imagined a "don't publicize" policy as being reasonable. A person in the Armed Services could reasonably be expected not to publicize a gay sexual orientation because that could create a disturbance within a otherwise cohesive military unit. Such was the Powell/Nunn/Moskos theory that many have questioned.

Since then, the technology for online self-publishing, personal domains, weblogs and social networking sites (let alone chat) has exploded. People feel that if they are online at all, they want to be candid about who they are. Anything else would show a lack of integrity.

Maybe we should bite the bullet and simply say that people with sensitive jobs should not identify themselves online at all, at least on their own. I have explored that idea elsewhere. Nevertheless, we all know that blogging by military members from combat areas, especially Iraq, is common, and has added valuable journalism to the public.

This is a bit of a conundrum. But so is the larger debate over the way the public and employers are perceiving personal weblogs and social networking site profiles. It is reasonable, perhaps, to expect teens and young adults to show some restraint as they are starting their careers and making themselves credible. One notion that I hear from older people is that younger people should not be heard from in public (and should not make themselves known as individuals in public) until they have some responsibility for others. Who owns one's right of publicity? His employer? His family? Himself? Herself?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

NYTimes revives some debate on military "don't ask don't tell"


Some visitors may be familiar with the fact that I got in to book writing and publishing in the 1990s because of this issue. Specifically, not just the notorious military "don't ask don't tell" policy codified into law in 1993, but the fact that the policy traces to other paradigms known from civilian life, such as my own expulsion from William and Mary in 1961 for telling the Dean of Men that I was a "latent homosexual". Some visitors are familiar with my doaskdotell website that has many of the details.

The 1993 debate brought up a lot of difficult concepts that we think of as "thoughtcrime" (or perhaps "pre-crime" as in the famous 2002 science fiction film Minority Report). That is, that a "propensity" to commit a forbidden act can be legally acted upon, although the mark has the right to "rebuttable presumption."

The other big issue was personal identity and openness. In earlier times, gay rights were defended as a "right to privacy" issue. The psychology of all of this has turned around in the age of the Internet, where openness and personal pride about one's psycholgoical goals become paramout.

The DADT policy has been challenged in court, but so far it has always lost at the appellate level. There is a long detailed history, but there are more challenges.

Today (9/14/2006), The New York Times has a story on p A12 by Lizette Alvarez, "Gay Groups Renew Drive Against 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'". In Madison, WI (not exactly a bastion of red state social attitudes) John Alaniz, Derek House and Justin Hager showed up at an Army recruiting station, announcing their sexual orientation openly. By law, the recruiter had to turn them away.

Military recruiters no longer may ask recruits their sexual orientation, but recruiters may given them a policy statement to sign that they understand the DADT policy. The newspaper article goes on to render an effective summary of the debate today. The military is practicing essentially a backdoor draft with forced return tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, even with National Guard enlistees. Today, the military needs quality recruits, and might be able to take someone with a record when it cannot take an openly gay person with no record. The military is often the most effective career opening opportunity for minorties and the economically disadvantaged. And sometimes the Policy invites persons who do not want to stay in the service to declare that they are gay just to get out. About 85% of those discharged had declared their sexual orientation openly, according to the story.

The article mentions the major legal services organzation dealing with this issue: the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I have been a supporter since 1994, and once a year SLDN has an "end the witch-hunts" fundraising dinner (now in May).

Other resources in include the Center for the Studies of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Stanford's Law Library on DADT, Service Academy Gay and Lesbian, Alumni, and the Military Education Initiative.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CA school bill watered down

In an attempt to overcome the governor's veto, SB1437 has been watered down just to prohibit materials that go out of their way to portray people negatively based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the law already for many other categories.

Greg Lucas, of the San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau, has a detailed discussion at this
link at sfgate.com (the Chronicle website).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Opposing Viewpoints series: I have a contribution

I also have an essay in Greenhaven Press's "Opposing Viewpoints" series, about teaching about gay issues in high school.

The book title is "Teenage Sexuality". The publisher is Greenhaven in Michigan, and the editor is Ken R. Wells.

I have the pro side; the con side is quite graphic and emotional. The Amazon link is at this link.

The Library of Congress link is this.
(I am on p. 183).

I have more discussion about this and the opposing essay at this link.

AK Supreme Court overturns ban on gay foster parents

In June 2006 the Arkansas Supreme Court turned down a regulation that bans gay foster parents, but polls show a lot of the public still would have favored the ban. There is an account by Betsy Turner in the Arkansas News Bureau at this link.

I understand that an appeal of the ruling is not likely, but I am trying to find out more .

VA Marshall-Newman Amendment on same-sex marriage


The Commonwealth Coalition of Virginia is mounting a vigorous attack against the Marshall Newman amendment referendum, which would prohibit any legal recognition of any arrangement between any two persons other than a man and woman that approximates marriage. There is a lot of concern about unintended consequences of the amendment.

The Commonwealth Coalition has worked heavily with Equality Virginia.

Various judges and conservative groups have argued that a constitutional amendment trying to define marriage is bad for "governance" and could actually harm businesses or other persons outside the GLBT community or drive business away from Virginia.

There is a more detailed posting on my "Major Issues" blog.

CA School Bill non-discrimination bill vetoed

On Sept. 7 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Senate Bill 1437, the Bias-Free Curriculum Act, authored by Senator Shelia Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA). A simple nondiscrimination measure, SB 1437 would have extended existing laws prohibiting discrimination on the bases of race, sex, disability, nationality, and religion in textbooks, instructional materials, and school sponsored activities, to include sexual orientation and gender identity (as categories of people for whom discrimination would not be allowed).

On May 24, 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger had announced that he would veto an earlier version of this bill. The earlier bill would have required inclusion of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in history and social science curriculum.

For details, go to Equality California.

Presentation of homosexuality as a topic for social studies or even biology class materials has always been controversial. Groups opposing such presentation potentially have a large effect on textbook publishers.