Saturday, June 30, 2007

N.J. -- some self-insured companies use DOMA to get around state civil union laws regarding benefits

Anthony Faiola has a story in the Saturday June 30 Washington Post, “Civil Union Laws Don’t Ensure Benefits: Same-Sex N.J. Couples Find that Companies Cam Get Around the New Rules”, at this link.

The main program is that some larger companies are self-insured, and federal law generally allows self-funded companies to ignore state laws regarding mandated benefits. Companies sometimes cite the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (which Clinton signed) as part of their justification. On the other hand, some larger companies, especially in “bluer” states, have been receptive to public cultural values that trying to do so expresses homophobia and outright discrimination. California has apparently passed a law overriding the federal “override”, and at least company offers gay domestic partnership health insurance coverage in California but not New Jersey.

I worked for a company in Virginia ( a red state) that would not have offered such benefits, but was acquired by a company in Minnesota (a blue state) which did, to all associates, regardless of location Remember that Virginia actually tried to prohibit companies from offering domestic partnerships to same-sex couples, resulting in an outcry.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows most Americans now see homosexuality as immutable

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation study (of 515 respondents) shows a shift in public views on homosexuality. 42% of respondents believe that homosexuality results from the environment, and 39% believe that it has a biological origin. In 1977, a poll had resulted with 13% for that number. 55% now believe that homosexuality cannot be changed, up from 45% in 2001 and 36% in 1998.

78% of respondents said that they supported the ability of gays and lesbians to serve with reasonable openness in the United States military, which is the case in most other western nations now. This finding may be related to public perception of the unfairness of the current "backdoor draft" for Iraq, and the perception that the risk of military service should be shared equitably. The finding may also put more pressure on Congress to accept Marty Meehan's bill to essentially repeal "don't ask don't tell" as it is currently codified into law. Political support for lifting the ban through Congressional legislative democratic process is important, as appeals courts have said several times that the explicit power given to Congress to regulate the Armed Forces makes it very difficult to overturn "don't ask don't tell" constitutionally.

On family issues, 57% said that gays and lesbians should be able to adopt children (that probably incorporates foster care, too), despite draconian laws in a few states (which celebrity Rose O’Donnell has fought in Florida). 24% support gay marriage, and 27 support gay civil unions or domestic partnerships, suggesting that slightly over half of respondents suggest comparable rights for same-sex couples.

The theory that homosexuality, especially in men, has a biological basis has gained traction since the 1990s, especially with the writings (in Atlantic Magazine in 1993 and later the book “A Separate Creation” (Hyperion) in 1996, by Chandler Burr, (review) as well as various credible research studies, sometimes reported in Science or Scientific American. Scientists sometimes see some homosexual behavior in animals, and wonder if it is a natural component of complex socialization, is altruistic for the community as a whole or pressures reproductive processes to be even more selective for the majority who do procreate.

Of course, we get to the existential questions. Some conservatives will maintain that a tendency toward alcoholism is inherited, but that does not “excuse” excessive drinking or negate the need for "treatment". Sexual orientation is much more personal than substance use. Of course, many people find that homosexuality contradicts their religious upbringing, but, as noted before, it is now becoming apparent that some people feel that they need emotional deference and social “loyalty” from others around them and preferential treatment by society in order to raise families in permanent monogamous marriages.

These percentages, especially on political proposals regarding equal rights for gays, are more favorable for equal rights and responsibilities than probably many people (including legislators) expected.

The story is here.

Update: Saturday June 30

Elizabeth Cohen or CNN wrote a story , "Step by step, researcher looks for sexuality clues" about Atlanta researcher David Sylva, and studies trying to relate sexual orientation to gait and even to counterclockwise scalp hair swirls. Some of it sounds stereotyped. The story link is here.

Picture: Another shot of "Ivy Town" in Washington DC, area in controversy over zoning regulations and the need for some DC gay-oriented businesses displaced by the Nats Stadium to relocate.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New bill to add (gay) domestic partners to Family & Medical Leave Act

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) has introduced a bill that would include care for partners in civil unions, domestic partnerships, and same-sex marriages under the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which requires larger employers to give people with a certain amount of service up to twelve weeks unpaid leave to care for a spouse, child or parent. (This would cover maternity leave.) Her bill, to make it more politically acceptable, would include grandparents and blood or adoptive siblings in certain cases. The story appeared on p. 12 of the June 22, 2007 Washington Blade.

Maloney said “The Family & Medical Leave Act is an extraordinarily successful measure that allows families to provide much-needed care to loved one. Current law unfairly penalizes same-sex couples who also seek to care for family members.”

The United States Department of Labor has a website on the FMLA here:

Many critics say that the FMLA is inadequate to be effective in practice, and ask why the United States cannot offer force larger employers to offer paid leave like some European countries. (Some larger companies do so, especially for maternity, for longer term associates.) This gets into a discussion about the job market, the use of contract employees, small businesses, taxes, and related topics that is hard to unscramble. Nevertheless, many international companies (including insurance giant ING, from which I was “retired” in a settlement at the end of 2001 in a downsizing) have been able to be competitive in Europe. I did not ever use the FMLA, but I was in a circumstance in 1999 when I might have been pressured to use it.

In practice, people with families and kids have tended to take more leave than single people, an issue discussed by Elinor Burkett in her 2000 book "The Baby Boon" (review). In a salaried, exempt environment, sometimes people do not get paid for overtime in which they fill in for those needing family leave. This has become a cause of hidden resentment on both sides -- equal pay for equal work, the idea that childless or single people are available "at a discount," which can undermine labor agreements, encourage "lowballing" and contribute to layoffs.

The new underbelly of all of this discussion, of course, is eldercare, which many GLBT people are starting to face (the problem is increasing exponentially compare to the experience of past decades), and which childless people suddenly are shocked by the demands of. The FMLA does cover caring for parents, but people who had not born their own children may not be prepared for the “sacrifice” (although in past generations childless adults stayed close to home just for this reason). From a psychological point of view, it is much easier to fight for one’s family if one (because of personal competitiveness and/or personal emotional connectedness or balance) had children oneself (and to get more help in doing so). The FMLA is partly about meeting obligations to those one does not necessarily choose to have a responsibility toward, as well as to spouses and children. GLBT psychology has sometimes involved being able to make one’s own absolute choices about what one will care about in others, and the eldercare crisis certainly challenges this psychology, and even raises spiritual questions about how much control one should have of one’s life (individual sovereignty) and how one is judged in religious terms involving salvation. This is one of the reasons why homosexuality and religion presents such a divisive conflict, and why some people perceive homosexuality as a challenge to the idea of the value of human life for its own sake (2 posts down).

Correlated posting: USA Today begins major series on eldercare June 25.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

CNN reports study on percentage of population that is gay

Today CNN has done a couple of stories on gay issues.

One was a CDC study that tried to estimate the percentage of the general population that is gay. The soft percentages among men were: 90% heterosexual, 2% homosexual, 2% bisexual, and 6% refused to answer. The non-heterosexual responses add up to the proverbial 10%, but conservatives have for years tried to debunk claims that the gay percentage is anything close to one in ten. What would be more interesting would be a study to find out what percentage of non-heterosexual responders were married, or had been married and divorced, and had fathered biological children, and, finally, had adopted children or cared for foster children.

CNN also covered a controversy in Santa Barbara, CA between different “factions” within the Episcopal Church over ordaining gays or accepting open gays. Two different rectors with different points of view were interviewed. Here is CNN's reference. The gist of CNN's story was to update the overall public controversy over homosexuality and religion.

There were many stories about controversy when Gene Robinson was ordained in 2003. Here is a typical story, “Episcopal Church torn by gay issue as more churches leave” in USA Today by Martha T. Moore, March 2, 2006, link here. There are many other stories found by search engines.

On Sunday June 24 CNN reported an African American pastor in a conservative congregation in Tulsa, OK was severly ostracized by his congregation and lost speaking engagements after accepting an openly gay physician as a member.

Picture: The Falls Church (Episcopal), in the city by that name in Virginia, near Washington DC. I attended one service there with a friend on All Saints Day in the 1990s. Apparently this church left the main Episcopal Church over this issue last year; the story appears on "The World Now" Dec 8, 2008, here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MI, NE, OH: Domestic partnership benefits being lost

As in Virginia with the Marshall-Newman Amendment (to the Virginia Bill of Rights) that passed last year, amendments and laws banning gay marriage around the country are affecting domestic partner benefits for “unmarried” couples.

This was pointed out in a page 1 USA Story today June 20, 2007 by Marisol Bello, “Unmarried couples lose legal benefits: Laws on gay marriage also apply to domestic unions”.

In Michigan, a state court has ruled (in Feb. 2007) that unmarried partners of state employees may not be offered domestic partner benefits, due to the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (and apparently approximations of marriage).

A US Court of appeals upheld Nebraska’s amendment preventing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex partners of state employees. And in Ohio there is a lawsuit preventing Miami of Ohio University from offering same-sex dp benefits.

Camilla Taylor, from Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said “Anti-gay organizations have tried to attack currently existing protections for gays and lesbians and unmarried couples for a very long time. They don’t want to limit marriage between a man and a woman – they want to attack the protections that exist and make life difficult for non-traditional families.”

Make difficult indeed. They want to glorify sexual intercourse in lifetime monogamous traditional marriage, so that traditional couples have an incentive to marry, stay together with activity, and have and raise children. That cuts both ways, because, while bowing to institutionalism, it admits that most people are not strong enough on their own without social approbation that amounts to penalizing those who don’t participate by making them subsidize the marriages of others. It’s rather like mandatory health insurance. Semi-mandatory heterosexual marriage.

Update: On June 21, 2007 Tim Craig posted a story in The Washington Post, p B5, "University of Virginia: Gym Benefits Extended to Same-Sex Couples. Link is here. These minimal benefits are not considered a violation of Marshall-Newman in Virginia.

Also, media sources report on June 22 2007 that a bill authorizing gay marriage passed the New York State general assembly, 85-61, Long Island Newsday article "Gay marriage bill adopted by Assembly" by James T. Madore, link here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why some people call homosexuality "evil" -- recalling a dinner in Dallas in 1986

I recall a later summer day in 1986 when I munched on a tomato-pasted meatloaf in the trendy Bronx Restaurant on funky Cedar Springs Road in Oak Lawn, the gay section of Dallas, TX, having a surreptitious dinner with evangelist and author Roy Abraham Varghese, who at the time had been connected with Campus Crusade for Christ. At the time, I was focused on a PWA (person-with-AIDS) who had recovered miraculously, however temporarily, from Kaposi’s Sarcoma (he would eventually succumb and I would see his Quilt entry in Washington in 1989), someone whom I knew I could have loved. The dinner turned into a gentle confrontation as Mr. Varghese said that, after all, homosexuality is an essential or intrinsic evil, and why was I so determined to defend it? (Here is a typical web reference today to the Varghese's works.)

I want to back up a bit (no, there will be no detailed response to the usual clobber passages in the Bible here). During the 1970s, in the period after Stonewall, society had started accepting the view that marriage and family are essentially private matters, and that success in life (as the public views it) no longer needed to depend on family. I recall, when living in Greenwich Village in the 1970s, taking elevated subway lines to the “real world” outer boroughs, where the universe changed from one of individuals back to extended families with children, for the most part. When I moved to Dallas in 1979, I heard a lot about the cultural split in the area, with most upper income families trying to live in the Richardson and Plano school districts, to “get away from the blacks” in the Dallas Independent School District. Families looked after their own first. Then, on a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, I recall reading some kind of newspaper article about how the cultural difference between California and Texas was the difference between emphasis on individuals and on families. And I recall someone giving me a tract in LA maintaining that sexual appetite is very easily undermined by reverse conditioning; if one is immersed in a fantasy world, over time the fantasies get harder to meet.

In the 1970s we gradually started migrating to notions of right and wrong based on ideas of individual sovereignty or personal autonomy. Of course, it is morally wrong to aggress upon someone else. There was no controversy about accepting the idea that a married mother and father was the best environment to raise kids. If you chose not to have kids, that notion did not need to affect you. Different strokes for different folks? Right? We could have this peaceful coexistence of family and individual cultures. But sometimes people who were married with children would do wrong things (to others in the outside world) in attempts to pamper or protect others within the family for whom they had accepted responsibility. This is the classic "soap opera" scenario.

Older ideas about “public morality” had been founded in preserving certain institutions (most of all, marriage) that make it easier for most people to raise children and carry out intergenerational responsibilities. The idea that these responsibilities must exist and should be shared by everyone had been largely reversed. In the 1990s, as issues like gays in the military and gay marriage and adoption started to be debated more openly, the notion that these responsibilities must be shared by everyone started to become more credible again. Laws regarding public "decency" (as against lewdness, nudity or indecent exposure) have always been related to the idea that some aspects of sexual interest need to stay partially out of sight for the sake of maintaining the psychological integrity of marriage (or of any private adult relationships).

So, in the 1980s, we had fought off the idea that male homosexuality could pose a long term threat to the public health of everyone (because of AIDS). Now, the idea was re-emerging that, by expressing our expressive freedoms, we were distracting those with responsibilities to raise kids, and renouncing obligations that we owed to our own families. As people had fewer children and the elderly started living longer, the idea that eldercare could become family responsibility for anyone, regardless of the “choice” to have children, emerged.

But all of this has to do more with the idea of sharing obligations. Political debate has long recognized it, with liberals emphasizing government programs to redistribute wealth and responsibility among groups according to fairness and need, and with conservatives (however clumsily) emphasizing the role of the individual in sharing meeting the needs of others. Therefore, “wrong” could incorporate failing to meet pre-existing obligations to others within a family or community. Earlier generations (as when we had a military draft) had understood this, but the idea started to get lost after the 60s (especially with the involvement in Vietnam and the politics of Nixon got discredited).

Of course, the nuclear family is one of the most efficient ways to deliver the services from shared obligations, without the undue interference of government. The moral problem with this, as we saw it in the 70s, is that families have vastly different and unequal circumstances, that ought to be fixed. Individualism, where the individual rises above the circumstances of his own blood birth, seemed like part of the moral answer. Nevertheless, for most of history, families have accepted that deferential blood loyalty (regardless of external political injustices typically beyond the control of the individual) is essential to survival.

When I was a teenager, I was quite fascinated with the idea of the “ideal” young male role model, who was good both at academics and at looking like and being a “man.” I felt attracted to such persons, as I personally had been a bit of a sissy. It did not make sense to feel attracted to women, who would (in my view at the time) become dependent on me. My emotional world related to music and aesthetics; the idea of a biological lineage and babies had no emotional meaning, even though I read about them in novels and saw it in the media all the time. Heterosexism was just so much pampering of other people’s emotions. It did not need to involve me. Psychologists call this mindset "upward affiliation" and it can lead to certain existential consequences if one insists on inner integrity. Men (if they develop heterosexual interests) usually refocus their emotions upon familial and progeny concerns when they let women tame them. I simply never went down that path of socialization.

So I would up in a situation of negative karma. Attention was given to me and my needs. Now, later in life, particularly with respect to some family matters that I cannot choose, I am expected to become responsive to others. That would be a lot easier if I had begotten my own children, so the existential question of why I did not want them comes up. Did I not think enough of my own family to want to continue it? That is how some people would see this kind of question.

Here you get closer what some people see as the Biblical or religious aspects. Romans mentions something like “abusers of themselves with mankind” – a text subject to various interpretations. The male homosexual may relish the idea of “submission” and this could be a legitimately creative experience, psychologically, or it could just, as part of psychological defense, turn into an exercise of expressing one’s own values as to what other men are “desirable” – that is, potentially as ancestors. The male homosexual may be perceived as someone who has failed to “become a man” himself but as setting himself up as a semi-public judge of the masculinity and suitability of other men. We often hear banter in the male gay community about who is “cute” (with various jokes about physical attributes). Call it “lookism” if you want, or even “body fascism.” Actually, the standards vary from person to person (as the notorious June 21 1999 “Weekly Standard” essay “Notes on the Hairless Man” by David Skinner). But some less secure heterosexual men see this as a cultural exercise in passing judgment on them and potentially emasculating them. After all, straight men generally are used to the idea that women should be "perfect" in appearance but that they do not have to be "noticed" for how they look (until metrosexuality came along). I think that this is part of what drives what we call “homophobia” or “homo hatred” and it can be a particular problem in some commands in the military. As a boy, I remember being very conscious and resentful that others insisted that I "compete" in society "like a man" as they had to (given the Cold War culture of the times), rather than as a proto-artist.

You can pose this kind of question as a pseudo “right to life” issue. The homosexual is refusing to take the “risk” to creating his own biological progeny but is, instead, claiming to have “the knowledge of good and evil” (which, in Christian terms, is seen as inherently “evil” – a trend that might ultimately lead to something like Nazism, or at least the mentality of ancient Sparta and the elimination of those deemed “unfit”). But this does not track well to the usual moral arguments about abortion (or even stem cell research). With abortion, one is talking about a fertilized embryo, with everything necessary to become a human being. With avoidance of conception, one is simply wasting sperm and eggs – which happens in all species in nature all of the time. Vatican morality has, of course, regarded “openness to transmitting new life” when engaged in sexuality as an important part of moral balance (necessary, it thinks, to prevent dangerous societal political trends even like Nazism or at least eugenics). Openness to procreation, in this view, is, beyond a primary biological responsibility, a fundamental component of living at all and of eligibility for eternal life. This idea was reinforced with a code of abstinence outside of marriage. However, it was always ethical to abstain from sex altogether. But even this might not be good enough for some people, as when debating adoption of children by single men, where even asexuality might become an issue. It may be difficult for some adults who did not have their own children (for lack of assertiveness) to fight for the needs of other family members if their blood loyalty is tested or demanded. The whole theory, related to "natural law," seems now a bit arrogant in the view of modern science, which unfolds and buds like a Mandelbrot set, always finding "exceptions" that turn out to reveal deeper natural laws never before understood. Rosenfels dealt with that in his theory of psychological polarities, apart from biological gender.

None of these ideas (of pseudo-mandatory procreation) have much legal traction any more. Laws prohibiting contraception have been unconstitutional for almost a half century. Despite Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) on the Georgia sodomy law (about the time of that dinner at the Bronx), Lawrence v. Texas (2003) on the homosexual-only Texas sodomy law would repudiate (by appealing to "rationality" and various constitutional scrutiny levels) the notion that the law should deal with “public morality” concerns over the indirect effect of homosexual expression on the stability of heterosexual marriage as an institution. But the changing demographics certainly mean that filial responsibility laws, even for single people with no children, are going to become issues in the future. Parents may, of course, withhold wills (or condition them on post-mortem behavior – the so called “dead hand”) for childless offspring if that suits their values, and libertarians would assert that this should be their legal right, to express their values this way (the far Left, of course, wants to confiscate all “undeserved” inherited wealth for “the People”!); but the philosophical question remains, are parents really entitled morally to expect their adult children to continue their biological lineage (with grandchildren) regardless of the probably biologically driven temperaments of the adult children?

One reason, then, why challenging the social supremacy of the nuclear family is so difficult for some people is that this is what they grew up to live for. Many people do not develop the psychological skills to live totally independently without the pampering or reassurance and approval of others. Many people believe that they cannot raise children and remain actively faithful in monogamous marriages in a culture that bombards them with so many distractions and compares them constantly to “better” or “more attractive” people. This gets way beyond the usual concerns about pornography (itself often a serious distraction to some married men and disruptive of many marriages), to a broader concern about the value of people “as people” itself – something that marriage and the family is supposed to uphold. Now, a libertarian might say, this demand of an emotional shell protecting one’s marriage (with social approbation) is an indirect admission of lack of personal responsibility. A social or religious conservative would insist, the emotional carapace is what the institution of marriage is all about, and non-married people are poking too many holes in it. That, again, is part of the “evil.” Of course, from the viewpoint of individual adults, social supports could corrupt their relationships; the whole reason for institutional support is for the sake of raising kids and, to some extent, caring for other dependent related family members.

The insult that some "homophobic" people perceive from the presence of gay people in their midst is not just bigotry against someone that is different and therefore a potential competitor or enemy. It is also a feeling of being "cheated" out of emotional solidarity that they could count on, and a feeling that others can can undermine their own ability to have and raise families. People who feel this way often to not perceive themselves as "competitive" either but expect a protective environment (often religious) that can nurture them if they remain within social conformity. In their world experience, the see the protective emotional shell of the traditional family as a source of "freedom" from the insecurity that results from exposure to the judgments of others in the outside world, and that sense of "freedom" comports with their idea of "family values."

Applied to me, all of this moralizing would mean that, when I was a teenager, if I was to focus so much attention on myself (the music, the books), then any participation in sexuality should have been conditioned on emotional openness to others in a fashion demanding complementarity -- abstinence except for marriage -- so that it would be easier to meet the emotional demands of others when called upon to do so later in life, as well as raise children. This sidesteps the "choice" vs. "biologically immutable" question and tries to bring sexuality back to a universal moral standard -- openness to procreation and emotional complementarity. Is this the only reasonable way to think? No. But it needs to be understood that many people see things this way. To answer them, one must expect more "personal responsibility" from everyone for his or her own emotional stability for an entire adult life. So many people are just not capable of this, because they are socialized into interdependence on others.

What is a moral issue, it is becoming clearer, is how individuals (whatever their own genetics or biological or environmental "wiring") share common burdens. This sharing ranges from everyday responsiveness to others, to maintaining practical skills and interdependence (that could become suddenly necessary in a social crisis caused by terrorism or a natural disaster or pandemic), to actual family responsibilities between generations. The "homophobic" claim of "evil" (in the minds of people who see things this way, through the collective and protective view of religion or some kind of psychological communism) seems to come down to the notion (with religious overtones factored out) that gay people (especially men) are cheating on their loyalty obligations to their families and perhaps short-circuiting their ability to share common burdens with others, although that idea is predicated on a lot of circular "reasoning." The idea does get exacerbated when gay men enjoy being "the power behind the throne" and sometimes come across to family people as "playing God" or practicing psychological (usually not physical) sadism.

There is no such thing as moral utopia. There is no way to have perfect individual freedom, perfect sharing of responsibilities, and a mother and father for every child. Something has to give. Hillary Clinton calls this “political consensus.”

Related post on gay adoptions.

Related article on abstinence.

Friday, June 15, 2007

MA: voters will not get to ban gay marriage in 2008

Widespread media report that a proposal to put a state constitutional amendment stopping gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2008 (that would ban gay marriage on a go-ahead basis) failed to the the 50 votes it needed. The proposal lost 151-45. Over 8,500 gay couples have married in Massachusetts since 2004.

Massachusetts is still the only state that allows gay marriage, called as such. Social conservatives have repeatedly argued that allowing some states to do this will eventually (with Full Faith and Credit) cause the institution of marriage (as a childrearing and lineage building institution) to disappear in all states. An effort to ban gay marriage with a federal constitutional amendment failed in the United States Senate in the summer of 2004.

USA Today ran a story Fri June 15 by Ken Maquire, "Next battle ready for Mass. Gay Marriage," about repealing a 1913 law forbidding honoring same-sex marriages from other states, here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Will "don't ask don't tell" really be repealed -- finally? Not completely, but it can be changed

Today the NBC Today show interviewed Colin Powell, and asked him whether now is the time to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell”. This comes after the two 2008 presidential candidate debates last week. All eight Democratic candidates were willing to raise their hands to the idea that DADT should be repealed, and all eight Republican candidates said, essentially, leave it alone. Remember that John Shalikashvilli had recommended that we seriously reconsider the policy.

Powell said that the country has changed some more since 1993, and it was well to look at how the policy is being enforced. But he also added that we’re in the middle of a war (as did the Republicans) and that a change could be dangerous. “The military is different,” he insisted. “It is the one organization that applies state sanctioned violence.” Yet Powell here is indirectly conceding that it is legitimate to yield to the emotions and sometimes illogical prejudices of others in making public policy if the security concerns seem compelling enough (and we all know that now since 9/11).

It’s important to realize, that before the November (Defense Authorization) 1993 law officially codifying DADT into law was implemented, the official policy was to “ask” first. Anyone with homosexual tendencies was, as a matter of DOD policy, to be excluded upon accession. It seemed like an advance, however modest, when Bill Clinton took office to stop asking. On his July 19, 1993 speech at Ft. McNair in Washington DC, Clinton called the new policy “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue”. He even indicated that it would take an “open statement” to start discharge proceedings. The DOD regulations published in February 1994 seemed to give covert gay people some breathing space. Going to gay bars would not, in itself, violate the rules and should not trigger discharges.

Of course, we all know from history (with thousands of discharges) that these regulations, which were crafted cleverly to sound benign, have not been followed in good faith in many commands. There have been plenty of witch-hunts, and people have been sacked to satisfy the perceived emotional needs of commanders and their commands.

One major reason why “don’t tell” has become an inoperable idea is the Internet. The world, with globalization, has changed in a way that gives private lives public significance to others. Maybe this was always true (look at the way families viewed their “reputations” a couple generations ago), but the Internet has made individual people’s personal values (including sexual values) have much more significance to others with whom they can come in contact. This would be especially true in the military, as Powell points out.

Is the military that completely “different” as Sam Nunn, and then Charles Moskos and eventually Colin Powell would say? It is and it isn’t. The 1993 law (look at it online at the Stanford Law School library) says (in words like this) that there is “no such thing as a fundamental right to serve in the military” and that the special conditions in military life require strictures on conduct that would not be acceptable in civilian life. Yet many of these issues can occur in civilian areas like law enforcement, fire departments, the merchant marine, even some areas in teaching (where intimate attention to disabled kids can be necessary) and even medicine. To make the distinction for the military sounds like drawing a line in the sand. From a constitutional perspective, maybe Congress can do this, because the Constitution gives it the express power to regulate the military (hence the doctrine of “deference to the military”). From a practical social perspective, however, having a law like this on the books can make gays and lesbians second class citizens (and we see similar debates with gay marriage).

One issue that has come up repeatedly as a teaser is the possibility of returning to the draft, or conscription, possibly to include women this time. Of course, this is partly motivated by the “back door draft” of the volunteer force and guard and reserve troops with repeated tours in Iraq. But the issue of social fairness, as we saw in the 1960s with student deferments from the draft during the Vietnam era, become compelling to many people, and affect how different populations of people are viewed. Politicians like Charles Rangel certainly know this and want to exploit it. Even Charles Moskos has argued that we should reinstate the draft as a model of social fairness and, at the same time (reversing some of his concerns over forced intimacy in the military) repeal the current form of "don't ask don't tell".

Of course, we all know that what is more likely would be a kind of enhanced national service, with some strong carrots (like paying college tuition) somewhat comparable to what the military can offer. But even in some of the other services, forced intimacy issues (like what worry the military) can come up, especially overseas when one works in cultures that may be hostile to people outside of the normal idea of family values. The concepts of “rebuttable presumption” and “propensity” are codified into the DADT law in such a way as to invite dangerous precedence for other areas.

The military ban, and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy the way it has been implemented in practice, have a way of slanderizing GLBT people, especially men (the draft applied only to men and the Supreme Court has said that can be constitutional). Freedom should not be taken for granted, and the DADT policy, as understood today, implies that GLBT people cannot do their part in sharing the burdens of defending freedom. Therefore they would deserve to have fewer rights than others and be the first to be asked to sacrifice in other ways. Given the problems we face this kind of thinking has to be taken very seriously.

Will the policy be changed? Because of the performance of the Democrats in the debate, and even the lukewarm nature of the nod that most Republican candidates gave it, it sounds like there may be more political pressure (although not necessarily constitutional pressure, although there are a couple of cases in the pipeline) to change it than we had thought.

Because the policy (with its dangerous concept of presumption) is codified into United States Code, the policy would either have to be removed, or rewritten in such a way to allow a kind of non-public “telling” when not made in a manner to disrupt military discipline. This was be concept favored by the Rand Corporation in its 700 page report (calling for a “code of military professional conduct”) published late in 1993. It would certainly be tricky to reword the 1993 law in order to apply Rand’s recommendations, but that ought to be done. Doing so would restore some better faith in other Congressional efforts to protect the equal rights of gays, such as ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also proposed in 1993) for civilians. (And there certainly should be no federal constitutional amendment defining marriage for states.)

It's important to be able to step through all of the reasoning cogently. The Constitution gives Congress the explicit authority to regulate the Armed Forces, which so far (at the appellate level at least) has provided constitutionally acceptable rational basis for the discriminatory nature of DADT, and this authority includes the ability to conscript again, and maintain mandatory Selective Service registration (for males) now. The end result is that Congress can claim that some males, at least, are unfit to do their "duty" in participating in the defense of liberty and are potentially, in some cultural sense, undeserving parasites.

In my own case, because of my history of public association with the policy even though I served in the Army without incident (1968-1970) despite my civilian expulsion from William and Mary in 1961 for admitting to the Dean that I am gay – there have been some effects. During the 1990s, while working on my first book (partly about DADT) I was employed, though only as individual contributor (computer programmer) for a company that specialized in selling life insurance to military officers -- a situation that could call up certain moral or ethical questions about me and my entire background. I won’t give more details here yet. But I would say, I “retired” from information technology at the end of 2001, and if it weren’t for the DADT policy (and my public connection to it), I might well be a math teacher now. And we do need teachers.

Other postings on DADT on this blog (see archives): May 3, March 26, Feb. 28, Jan. 31

Update: June 18:
New film about DADT and linguists (blogger reference here.)

(Master list for Stanford University Law School documents library is here.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

eHarmony dating service sued for excluding those seeking gay relationships

Gay listservers today have made a lot of hay with the lawsuit against the dating service eHarmony for refusing to offer services to those seeking same-sex partners. Reportedly, this may become a class action law suit. The Reuters story is by Jill Sergeant, "eHarmony excluded in California for excluding gays," at this link.

This reminds me of the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts if America by James Dale. The Supreme Court eventually upheld BSA's right to exclude members because if is a private organization. Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, GLIL, wrote a brief in support of the right of any private organization to exclude members on any terms it wants. The practical problem is that the BSA had always received a lot of indirect government support, from school systems and local governments all the way to military services. Since the "win" (perhaps a pyrrhic victory) , many local governments have withdrawn permission from the BSA to use their facilities, at least for below-market rents.

GayPatriotWest has an editorial today "Suit Against eHarmony Threatens Freedom of Gay Websites", at this link.
I'm not sure its the websites themselves that are threatened, but the businesses that the sites promote are. Publishing sites on their own are certainly not affected. But as visitors to these blogs know, the philosophical paradigms can take us down dangerous roads quickly when we have to "protect" everybody.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

DC Council reaches compromise on relocation of clubs displaced by Nationals

Well, actually it's not just the Nats, it's all the real estate development that was inevitable south of the Capitol, as the poor people and "red light" businesses are driven out for office buildings and condos. Nobody mentions that the land is low-lying and might be more flood exposed than many other areas of the City.

The Washington DC City Council today voted 9-4 for a compromise bill that would only allow up to two "red light" clubs in any one of Washington's eight wards. It is not clear yet whether this would apply to bars and discos that do not offer nudity; apparently it would not affect a business that does not serve alcohol.

The club "The Wet" near the Navy Yard Metro allowed male nude dancing, without touching (which has sometimes led to citations). In Minneapolis/St Paul, by comparison, dancers had to wear very minimal attire but "touching" was allowed.

There will be many reports in the Washington DC media; a typical one is on NBC4.

The Nats, for what it is worth, have been playing better, going 5-2 on a recent road trip but are 2-4 on a current home stand.

I still think that owners need one larger dance club somewhere in the Dupont Circle or perhaps U-Street Cardoza area (as large a floor as the Velvet Nations was). I wish the VN management could do this. There needs to be a nearby parking garage that is open 24-7 (since street parking is impossible in the City) and a dance club needs to stay open at least two hours after stopping serving alcohol, in order to encourage safer driving. My experience is that gay dance clubs have very few security problems compared to those of other straight clubs that have been widely reported in the Washington media (such as a recent club that leased space on DC property in the upscaling Cardoza area).

Earlier posting on this blog, discussing eminent domain, appeared May 12.

Pictures: Homemade baseball stadium as a board game (around 1955); old Griffith Stadium that was on Georgia Ave. (last use, the 1961 season with the then "new Senators"). Visit Another picture shows Alexandria, which had two gay bars in the early 90s (one was the French Quarter) but both failed. The nearest in Northern Va is Freddie's in Arlington, near Crystal City.