Wednesday, September 19, 2007
On Tuesday Sept. 18 the Maryland state supreme court in Annapolis, by a 4-3 vote, upheld a state law passed in 1973 limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The court claimed that the law served a compelling state interesting providing a sheltering environment to raising children. The court also added that there was nothing in the Maryland constitution that would prohibit the general assembly from authorizing gay marriage or civil unions through the normal political process.
One dissenting judge indicated that he felt that gays and lesbians should be a suspect class, and that marriage laws indirectly add to discrimination against gays and lesbians, who are indirectly forced to subsidize the marital sexual relationships of others through deferential taxes or sacrifices. Culturally conservative opponents of gay marriage argue that traditional marriage needs to provide institutional protection and deferential privilege to married people in order to make raising children (and taking care of other family members) a realistic opportunity for most "average" people.
These states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Lisa Rein and Mary Otto have a detailed story on page A1 print of The Washington Post, Wed, Sept. 19, 2007, here. The story title is "Md. Ban on Gay Marriage Is Upheld: Law Does Not Deny Basic Rights, Is Not Biased, Court Rules."
On Aug. 31 there was a posting on this blog about an Iowa district court overruling its ban on same-sex marriage, and that ruling is under appeal.
As an aside, a politician in Germany wants to give all marriages an "expiration date" of wedding day + seven years. They can "renew" the marriage each seven years. "Till death do us part ... in sickness and in health" goes away. Imagine what Maggie Gallagher will write about this proposal.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Here we go again. On Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, on p A2, The Washington Times presented a story “Gay households under 1% in the US: Census data stable for years” by Cheryl Wetzstein. A survey of about three million addresses indicates that 0.7% are headed by same-sex couples.
The citation can be seen as a bit of a play on semantics. There are many more one-person households of gay singles than there are gay couples. And there are many households, including many legally heterosexually married people, with adults (especially men) who lead double lives, and there are many adults who will not classify themselves as gay who nevertheless attempt gay encounters. (Just look at the recent news.)
In another sense, the report seems a bit self-defeating. If gay couples are so infrequent statistically, why would recognizing same-sex “marriage” threaten real “marriage”? (The Washington Times always puts the word “marriage” in quotes after the adjective “gay” or “same-sex”.) Certainly, even if every state (even Virginia, which would have to overturn its Marshall-Newman Amendment) accepted gay marriage, the overwhelming majority of marriages, over 99% (and including those with children), would still be opposite-sexed. We all have read the arguments – based on institutionalism. But these arguments at least question the judgment of the adult individual to direct the course of his or her own life.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The October 2007 issue of Details has, besides a mandatory picture of Brad Pitt on the cover (Daniel Radcliffe a couple months ago) and story, a great article by Melba Newsome (with photographs by Dan Frobes) in “dossier: The Military’s New Gay Games: Desperate for more troops, the U.S. is hedging on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” on p 122, print. The story starts with a US Navy petty officer who was cashiered out just before his enlistment would have ended, and then he gets a recall letter for deployment. There is the suitable technicality (perhaps ‘queen for a day”) to let him back in. In his 1992 Villard book, “Honor Bound: A Gay Naval Midshipman Fights for the Right to Serve his Country,” (this book has been out of print for some time) Joseph Steffan reports similar incidents during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, under the “Old Ban” from 1981, before the Clinton “don’t ask don’t tell” was codified into law at the end of 1993 after a year of angry debate. Media has often reported that major scarce skills, especially in language translation in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been lost because of the ban.
Details has always been a bit iconoclastic. Back in 1998, a syndicated columnist from Britain almost got a review of my first book published in it, but she reported then that Details was too “hetero.” It doesn’t seem so today. Metrosexual, perhaps. The beauty of the male seems to be an important theme in all of the clothing and accoutrement ads.
This is a good place to reiterate one point about the 1994 administrative regulations implemented by the Pentagon in February of that year. One should go to the Stanford Law School site “Don’t” and follow the links after “statutes and regulations.” The "don't pursue" -- Clinton's words in 1993 -- were supposed to be part of this. In general the regulations say the investigations under “don’t ask don’t tell” should be started only after credible information of violation. Many activities that are personal or “private” in nature (even if they are incidentally public) are not supposed to trigger investigations. These include, being in a gay bar or gay parade in civilian clothes when on pass, or providing professional services to GLBT clients if one is in the Reserves or Guard, or even having a clothed picture of a same-sex partner at one’s desk, or naming a same-sex partner as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Nevertheless, for almost fifteen years, individual military commands seem to violate these rules and get away with it. Any servicemember caught in an investigation should immediately seek legal help, as from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). This is not a do-it-yourself matter.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Recently I strolled P Street in Washington DC, between 23rd St and Dupont Circle, where street and curb reconstruction has, according to local media, disrupted local businesses. The old underground bunker underneath Dupont Circle has been proposed as a possible “adult entertainment” area for some businesses displaced by the Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium and extensive real estate development (condos and office buildings) bear the stadium. The land between the Capitol and Anacostia River Waterfront just became too valuable.
Last night, for the first time, I visited the Apex, at 22rd and P, on a Saturday night. Some time back, after Velvet Nation “circuit party” (that’s a bit of an exaggeration, compared to Palm Springs) club was closed by stadium-related “Monopoly” style redevelopment, Apex replaced it’s “ladies night” (a term that the old Washington Senators used for ball games on Thursdays at the old Griffith Stadium) with a drag show and dance. It actually works, particularly well in the no-smoking environment (I no longer have a cough on the Metro ride home – and that is at risk as there is talk of eliminating after midnight weekend service on Metro). The show this time was about “The O in Ohio” (a recent indie film about The Buckeye State) with the star from Toledo, not Cleveland, and many jokes about the overpriced Pennsylvania Turnpike (I still like the four tunnels). Now, when you consider that the NBC Soap “Days of Our Lives” mentions a number of cities in Ohio all the time (besides Salem, which is near Youngstown), and especially the N-S highway 13 that bisects the state, I think that a drag show could well have impersonated the female stars from the show (Belle, Kate (Katrina), Bonnie, Mimi, Jan, some of them has-beens; on that show most of the villains, besides Stefano, are women).
The dance started right at midnight and was allegro -- “gay and lively” which is what my piano teacher called that speed mark before the first word changed meaning. The clubs have had trouble building up their crowds recently; some attribute that to the smoking ban. But at Velvet Nation, the Blue Room was always hopping before 11, and the big floor opened at midnight. I do miss it.
Actually, the best club was Tracks, back in the 90s. There was one huge dance floor with observation balcony, then a smaller floor, and the sand castle volleyball courts. I remember Tracks having a benefit for SLDN in 1994. Why can’t there be a license for a club with dancing (just no nudity) in the stadium area? These clubs always did well because everyone knew the crowd would build up quickly and that their “friends” (or maybe “glances”) would be there.
Monday, September 03, 2007
James McGreevey, who had resigned from the governorship of New Jersey after outing himself and admitting allowing inappropriate influence (on his duties as governor) from a male companion while still married, has a powerful op-ed in The Washington Post today, Monday Sept. 3, “A Prayer for Larry Craig,” on p A15 print.
McGreevey accounts for how he was almost arrested at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey twenty-five years ago, and explains lucidly how the anti-gay propaganda drives many gay men to lead double lives. He calls being gay, “a natural gift of the Creator” and asks “what choice does a person have in being gay?” (He is now an Episcopal theological student.) This does get back to the question of immutability, and, as I have noted before, that seems like the “wrong question,” almost an admission of something “wrong.”
The right question to ask “straight America” is more like this. Why do you need to infringe upon the freedom of others (us) in order to feel good about yourselves, hold your marriages together and raise your families. From a strictly individualistic point of view, the problem is with the straights.
But, as we’ve noted, raising a family and remaining actively faithful is in practice a big challenge for many heterosexually married couples of average means. They need all the loyalty and indulgence and “social approbation” from the surrounding world they can get. They especially need the biological loyalty of everyone in their family, including their kids, even when the kids have become adults (and may want to stay in a permanent emotional adolescence, denying emotional allegiances automatically expected of them). Without that, and given all the cultural distractions of our global culture, it just isn’t “worth it.”
That seems like a “confession” from our point of view. But “they” see it as a collective experience. You live for family before you live for your own self-expression (a notion that is well-challenged by today’s notions of mental health; it you don’t want to fall for soap opera style jealousy, have an inner creative life of your own first). If you break out of the collective mindset, at least prove you can compete “like a man”, so their emotional “thinking” goes, often supported by religion.
It’s interesting to look at another op-ed, in the Aug. 31 Washington Blade, on p 26, by Julie R. Enszer, “Marriage just doesn’t work.” Forget about the equality concerns of gay marriage; forget about marriage; it isn’t good for individuals, it’s just a ruse for the collective good of society (how about raising children and, now, taking care of the elderly). She writes, “regardless of what church and state recognize, we all craft multiple relationships over a lifetime to fulfill multiple needs.”
All of this comes down to the age-old tension between the self-interest of the individual, in the context of the longer term survival and well-being of the group. Religious expression, quite frankly, often accepts a certain communal consciousness to protect the faithful and demands some surrender of one’s deepest interests to the needs of the group.
Welcome to the eye of the cultural hurricane.
Update: On Sept 4, on ABC "Good Morning America" one of Larry Craig's sons maintained that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the Minneapolis airport police were fishing in thin air.
Craig is apparently trying to get the guilty plea withdrawn.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Slate.com has featured an editorial by William Saletan. It was printed in The Washington Post on Sunday September 2, 2007 as “Craig’s Lust: Hypocritical: Don’t Ask,” on p B2, Outlook. One version online is here:
Saletan points out that Craig helped create the notorious “don’t ask don’t tell” law for gays in the military in 1993. (Link: He then points out that, as SLDN has often documented, the effective policy is “do ask don’t tell.” (Officially it was more like, ask, if necessary.) He cites several horrifying examples. A lesbian Air Force Reserve member was outed by former partner. Another man overseas was pursued for being in a gay bar. When he denied that he was gay, he was threatened with prosecution for perjury. The article gives some other examples. One involved a private letter written in a foreign language.
The behaviors cited in the letter probably should not have triggered “investigations” because they would not have met the “credibility” standard of the February,1994 regulations published by the Pentagon.
To study the regs, go here at the Stanford Law School site. Link: and look for “statutes and regulations” for example:
I recall a provision that “going to a gay bar is not a crime.” (One can write a sentence like this with a "straight" face.) The regulations were supposed to be construed to allow gay servicemembers to “have a life.” Of course, in those days, “privacy” was still a concept on top, and no one quite grasped what would happen once there was an Internet and search engines.
Some military commanders, however, simply “pursue” because they believe they can get away with it. There have been other abuses outside of the gay issue, as a female commander ordered into psychiatric treatment for questioning authority,
The editorial points out the irony that Sen. Craig is the “victim” of his own witch-hunt mentality – in his case, he imagines entrapment.
Remember, it’s hard to accept a policy like DADT, particularly the way some commanders “enforce” it, without it having a slanderous effect on gays outside of the military. If the “presence” of a gay servicemember violates the consent or “privacy” of other servicemembers in the barracks or on a submarine (the contention in 1993 of Sen. Sam Nunn), what about the “consent” of a disabled child getting personal care in a school system?