Friday, July 27, 2007

HRC Magazine: Article on Iraq war veteran Eric Alva called "Do Ask Do Tell"

In the Spring 2007 issue of the Human Rights Campaign’s magazine “Equality”, Janice Hughes has an article, on p. 18 in print, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Gay Iraq War Veteram Speaks Out on the Military’s Anti-Gay Policy.” The story is about Eric Alva, the first United States Marine to be wounded in the Iraq war. On March 21, 2003 (well before Saddam Hussein fell in April) Alva, 33, was in a convoy in Basra when he stepped on a landmine, eventually resulting in amputation of his right leg. He received a purple heart and medical discharge from the Marine Corps. He was not outed while in the military. He had joined the Marines at 19 in 1990. Earlier, at age 22, he had served in Somalia. He reports constant fear when “don’t ask don’t tell” was implemented and homosexuals in the military was a topic of everyday conversation when President Clinton raised the issue.

The HRC link is here:

The YouTube link of his testimony in Congress -- that is, a press conference in 2005 introducing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that would lift "don't ask don't tell" with respect to gays in the military, is here:

"Do Ask Do Tell" is, of course, the name of my website and two of my three books.

The magazine issue also notes the comments by Gen. Peter Pace, "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

Eric gives a lot of credit for the decision to testify in Congress to his partner Darrell.

The magazine also has an article on page 23 "Bad Education: Protecting Children from Anti-Gay Bullying." "Bad Education" is the name of a famous gay film from Pedro Almodovar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CA: ex-hubby must keep paying alimony to ex-wife in domestic partnership

A judge in California has ordered an ex-husband to continue paying his divorced ex-wife alimony despite the fact that she has entered into a lesbian domestic partnership and even takes on the other woman’s name. A judge in Orange County ruled that the domestic relationship is a cohabitation, not a marriage.

In this case, the refusal of the legal system in most states to recognize gay marriage (and the supposed moral grounds for refusing to recognize it) worked against the financial interests of a heterosexual man and former husband. There is the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

The AP story “Man Must Pay Partnered Ex-Wife Alimony” appeared in the Lafayette IN Nation/World on July 23, 2007.

Alimony, of course, is a relic of the days when most men were the sole support of their wives and children, and where the complementarity of labor and capabilities was supposed to generate the long-term sexual commitment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DC Clubs now have to ponder late night Metro service

Today, Wednesday July 18, 2007, The DC Examiner has a scare cover headline “Metro’s last call on weekends may sound at midnight.” And that’s not the “midnight” of one of Dean Koonz’s novels. This is about the extended service hours on the Metro subway until 3 AM Friday and Saturday nights. Business is brisk then, and no doubt the extended Metro service reduces DUI’s. There are not many 24 hour parking garages near the Dupont Circle area (I think there is one at 19th and L and that is it), and parking on the street in the City is impossible. So businesses, already hit (they claim) by the smoking ban and the forced eminent domain closures near the new Nats stadium and other disruptions, such as water service, now ponder a City that, normally politically “liberal” seems hostile to their kind of business and “entertainment.”

The formal story is by Joe Rogalsky on p 3. “Metro head mulling changes to late-night train service: Buses would replace rail service on weekends between midnight and 3 AM.” The proposal comes from Metro general manager John Catoe. Sure, people will be up for using buses on cold winter nights, he thinks. One reason for the proposal is to make it easier for Metro to do track maintenance.

Compared to ten years ago, the number of delays and slowdowns for single tracking seems much greater these days. Weekend service was extended from 2 AM to 3 AM in 2003.

The article does reassure us that Catoe probably will not make a decision for several months, and the MTA Board could veto it.

The other main story relating to the controversies over clubbing is a proposal to move the strip clubs underground, underneath Dupont Circle Park (where they play chess – like in Washington Square in New York) Even long standing Dupont Circle residents resist it. Yet, in densely populated areas of other cities, it doesn’t seem that these sorts of businesses cause any real problems. Likewise, there has been a proposal to restrict the number of tavern licenses in Adams Morgan (north of the Dupont Circle area) to ten (with a grandfather clause).

For a review of "Five Lines" a 2001 movie set in the Washington DC Metro system (and has a subplot about homophobia in the US Army), visit this link.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Washington DC: Even in Dupont Circle area, construction seems to jeopardize businesses

Tonight I was at the Apex-DC club on 23rd St in NW Washington DC when it suddenly had to close at 11:30 PM because of no water. They claimed there was construction nearby and that water pressure would not resume until 5 AM. Other businesses seemed to be affected. They had not expected a disruption. As I walked to the 23rd St Metro, I noticed, on 22nd St, a fire hydrant open at O st, a huge WASA construction hole in front of the Marriot, and another dig at N St. It appeared that this was construction associated with condo and office construction and not a water main break. Does that mean that a whole block of businesses several blocks away can be shut for the evening for one or two property owners? Is this what eminent domain means?

Apex-DC did refund the cover charges to the patrons. Business was slow, but typically that club gets busier around midnight on weekends.

Maybe someone in the area can comment.

The controversy over disruption of businesses dislocated by the Nationals Stadium has already been covered in this blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gay Equality: A review

Gay Equality

I would like to take a moment to reiterate what the idea of “equal rights for gays” (symbolized by the HRC “=” (equals) sign on its blue an yellow logo) means, to me at least. I recall the “Equality Rocks” concert at RFK Stadium in Washington in April 2000 well.

Coming from the Cold War era, I am struck by how equal rights has to be correlated with equal responsibilities for others (more or less). Since gays usually don’t create children with their relationships, it’s hard to make that work, and you have the apples and orange problem. But here is a practical guide to what it would mean.

(1) End the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military and replace it with a policy similar to that or our allies, like Britain or Israel.

Of course, I am too old to serve now (although the upper age limit continues to increase), but the policy should be such that, if I weren’t too old or otherwise disqualified, I should be able to serve. However, according to the 1993 law, my open statements in my books and websites (including this blog posting) would make me legally ineligible.

DADT can complicate the service of gays in other areas, like law enforcement, even teaching, or when gays in the military have civilian “spouses” with security clearances.

As noted earlier this month on this blog, a recent CNN poll shows that nearly 80% of Americans favor allowing gays to serve (whatever the constitutional defenses of DADT).

(2) For now, provide equal benefits for same sex partners in most meaningful circumstances, even if the word “marriage” isn’t used.

In my 1997 book, I had suggested that the definition of marriage should be continued to be resolved by the states, and that no state definition of marriage be used for federal purposes. This was a pragmatic proposal (at this link – look for proposed “Twenty-Ninth Amendment” (there is also a proposed 28th). Of course, at the time, I believed that the Internet censorship implicit in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 could be dealt with by adult-id screening, and the prolonged litigation against COPA (1998) proved that to be mistaken.

I also suggested in that book (different chapter) that full benefits of marriage (especially survivorship, or those benefits that are predicated on the concept of one partner supporting another) be (for a couple of two previously unrelated adults) predicated on their being at least one third party in the family (usually a child, but maybe an elderly parent or disabled relative) who was economically dependent on the couple. I also suggested that an individual be able to use a marriage benefit for only one relationship in a lifetime (George Gilder’s “one to a customer” rationing concept applied to marriage). I got mixed comments on this idea, even from the legal community.

According to the CNN poll, about half of those polled favored parity benefit for gay couples, but usually with a “civil union” concept. Most were uncomfortable with the word “marriage” in same-sex couples.

(3) Allow adoption and foster care for children, based on otherwise applicable fitness factors for the prospective parent. A few states do not allow gays to adopt or become foster parents; many allow gay singles to do so but not as couples.

It is becoming increasingly evident, as demographic changes work through – lower birth rates among the more affluent and longer life spans, and longer periods of disability in some people – that sharing of personal hardships and ability to become the breadwinners (if not “protectors”) for others – old fashioned values from decades ago – are becoming important values again, very difficult to discuss cleanly in today’s political and legal scene. The debate over gay marriage has taken a subtle turn – from one over equality (which social conservatives know they cannot win) to one about restoring older ideas of socialization and family loyalty. But this can be translated back into a debate over “responsibility for others.” One problem would often occur in the 90s concerned people without families being expected to cover (sometimes without compensation) on-call duties for persons with kids, who sometimes did not want to be reminded that they were being “lowballed.” Lamda Legal would often argue about “equal pay for equal work” and remark that some employers took advantage of getting “singles at a discount.”

As I will note on some upcoming blog entries, sometimes I have been challenged in certain job or personal situations to act like an authority figure or role model. My feelings about that are generally out of scope here, but it is much easier to fit into that role (as with teaching) if the “government” acknowledges my legal and social equality in the areas noted above.

"Equality" to some (straight) people defeats what they perceive as the heart of their lives: a specialized communal meaning given to what they do in "marriage." But a lot of that has to do with family responsibility and the idea that it really is not completely voluntary. Maybe strengthening filial responsibility laws at the same time as support same-sex unions and child rearing (given the need for adoptive parents) actually makes practical sense.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Immigration reform debate brings up issue of political asylum for LGBT people

Debate over immigration reform (and the unwillingness of the Senate to approve round 1) may indeed affect GLBT immigrants. Today, July 10, 2007, page A06, Pamela Constable has a story in The Washington Post, “Persecuted Gays Seek Refuge in the U.S.: Foreigners’ Abuse Increasingly Seen as Grounds for Asylum.” Link is here.

In 1994, President Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno (herself from Miami, a background that had given her considerable knowledge of Cuba) had ordered that an asylum case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as legal precedent. I’ll add that in 1980, when I was living in Dallas (and before AIDS had emerged as a public issue), Cuban refugees had been seen as a political issue in the gay community, as the local gay churches (including MCC, then on Reagan in Oak Lawn) encouraged people to take refugees in. I even thought about it and took a course in Spanish down town (the refugees were refugiados cubanos). It turned out that sponsored needed to be able to stay home from work to look after them.

The story maintains that generally, to win a political asylum case, an immigrant must prove (within one year) that gays are singled out for unusual oppression by government. But some cases are winnable if the country in question has widespread political corruption that leads to de facto persecution, as is the case with Brazil (documented in a recent Vanity Fair issue) or Kosovo (that protects gays in theory but not practice). Persecution by family culture generally will not make a case winnable, although there may be exceptions. Many Muslim countries and many poorer countries in the Third World have moral cultures in which procreation is believed (partly as a result of religion) to be mandatory and where “blood loyalty” and “family honor” are absolute concepts.

The book Damages, by Bazhe (iUniverse, 2003) is a monumental, harrowing autobiographical story of a gay immigrant, saddled with eldercare responsibilities, from the Balkans. Review.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Isaiah Washington rebuts apparent homophobic slur that got him fired from "Grey's Anatomy"

Isaiah Washington did an interview on Larry King Live this evening Monday July 2, about his firing from Grey’s Anatomy allegedly for a “homophobic” remark on the set, which was thought to be directed at Minneapolis (Guthrie Theater) actor T. R. Knight. He claims that he was in a conversation with Robert Dempsey that got out of control, and that much of the anger culminated over Mr. Dempsey’s tardiness on a couple of occasions, which Mr. Washington felt embarrassed him on the set and in front of other union members. Mr. Knight later reported that he was forced to “out” himself when he had not intended to. Washington says no comment was intended to be directed at Knight.

He also reportedly tried to retract the slur in the backstage area of the Golden Globes in January 2007.

Disney’s reaction to the apparent use of a “homophobic slur” was emphatic, and resembles the reaction to Don Imus for his slurs regarding an African American basketball team. Mr. Washington is himself African American. Washington claimed that he was gagged from defending himself to the press, that he sought counseling, and that he tried to resign from the show twice and was not allowed to before he was “fired” on June 7 (his contract was not renewed).

Washington claimed that the f- word, in his mind, connotes “weakness” and a “lack of being worthy of respect.” Part of the altercation escalated when Mr. Dempsey said, “I can act,” and that was taken by Mr. Washington as irony, meaning that Mr. Washington could not. The word was compared to “sissy” in the program, invoking stereotypes from the 1950s.

If is common for openly GLBT people to appear at film “mainstream” events in different cities festivals), even with domestic partners, without the subject being mentioned directly unless there is a context.

Until Stonewall (1969), however, Hollywood had its homophobia, with stories of a massive firing of gay employees at Technicolor in 1965. In 1967, CBS had aired a documentary “The Homosexuals: Eye on People” in which Mike Wallace interviewed gay men anonymously, and in which Secretary of State Dean Rusk (in the LBJ Administration) said, “If we find homosexuals in our employ, we discharge them.” Ironically, the Army, when there was a draft, was (whatever the Army regulations) sometimes in practice more hospitable to gay men than many civilian areas. Story is here.

Mr. Washington has done announcements for GLAAD.

Show business is very sensitive to inappropriate remarks. In the director’s contest “On the Lot” one short film was thought to be insensitive to the disabled, but the incident blew over.