Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! I think Cobalt compounds are blue

I picked a “smaller” New Years Eve venue in Washington DC, Cobalt, on 17th St. The dance floor did not build up until about 11:30, and pretty soon the bar broadcast Anderson Cooper on CNN with its coverage of Times Square. I have a feeling that the choice of Anderson Cooper for the broadcast was very good for CNN’s ratings in bars. But this is his regular 360 time slot, right? They had a geography quiz: what is the one country completely contained within another country? Lesoto. They also showed the New Orleans celebration (also, Dallas, San Antonio, and Manhattan, KS). By the way, Bill Clinton (at Times Square) appeared shortly before the ball fell.

We had one extra second of December this year, since the atomic clock in London was adjusted by one second.

The streets in DC were not as crowded as usual, after a day of violent winds, thundersnow squalls, and power outages. It was about 22 degrees outside. The customers were a bit overdressed, not so used to cold in a southern city. Nobody “got it.” In Minneapolis, the boys would go to the Saloon in T-shirts even when it was 3 degrees outside.

Cobalt (with competition from Town DC) has renovated the dance floor, and taken out the platform, but left in the fire pole. I think it needs the central stage, and the couches. Also, some windows have been replaced by mirrors. That’s good for narcissism (for Dorian Gray, perhaps) but you can’t tell if it’s snowing outside. You could before.

I found out that men from poor Muslim countries in Africa attend gay bars. (Actually, the press has reported covert, hidden gay establishments to be common in large Muslim cities, probably paying off the authorities.)

Another observation. I had noticed this in Minneapolis, but it’s true in DC too. It seems that a significantly larger portion of men in gay discos are “very tall” (over 6 feet 4 inches) than in the male population at large. (It’s not true only in “Viking” Minnesota.) With all the theories about genetics and homosexuality, I’ve wondered if there could be some kind of accidental concordance.

This entry will get a 2008 date, because Blogger goes by California time. Almost a day behind Sydney, Australia.

Remember that breathtaking moment in London as January 1, 2000 started, after the tolling of Big Ben. It looked like a great openings scene for a thriller film (maybe mine). I seem to remember that on New Year’s Eve, 1999, ABC played a theme from Amy Beach’s only symphony to celebrate the occasion. That time, I was on Y2K duty, watching a computer cycle, although the company served refreshments, “with”.

Some time in January 2009, Anderson Cooper would tell Kelly Ripa on ABC that he worked on New Years Eve because he is a "social recluse."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Today" show predicts controversy over gay adoption; FL gay adoption ban struck down

This morning, Sunday, Dec. 28, NBC Today (Peter Alexander reporting) did a story on gay adoptions. It presented a lesbian couple with adopted children, and maintained that the United States has about 129,000 children in foster care and only about 65,000 find adoptive homes.

The report predicted that gay parenting and adoptions will become the next battle in the cultural wars after gay marriage. A right-wing pastor was presented, maintaining that children do best in homes with married mothers and fathers of opposite biological gender.

The report says that Florida, Mississippi and Utah ban gay adoptions, but that recently there was a ruling making the Florida law unconstitutional. The Huffington Post has a story dated Nov. 25, 2008 on the ruling made by Cindy Lederman, here. She used equal protection arguments, and counter the state’s claim about a “a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children.” The case involved Martin Gill and his partner who had cared for foster children that they now can adopt. But the state of Florida will appeal the ruling. The New York Times has a similar story by Yolanne Almanzar, also on that date, here. Rosie O'Donnell has fought the Florida gay adoption ban publicly.

Six other states, including Texas and Virginia, have entertained gay adoption bans that have died in committee.

Arkansas dropped it unmarried foster parent ban, targeting gay parents, in October 2008, "365" story here. But, according to an article by Julie Bolcer in the Jan. 13, 2009 The Advocate (p 34), voters in Arkansas approved Proposition 1, which bars unmarried cohabiting couples (gay or straight) from adopting children or caring for foster children (see this link).

The link to the Today story was not yet available on MSNBC.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Gay establishments: police matters are rare compared to straight bars; tragic incident covered on MSNBC show

Christmas night, MSNBC, at 10 PM EST, broadcast a rerun of a rather unpleasant “Crime and Punishment” series, courtroom drama in the style of “Law and Order”, about what seemed like an apparent shooting and killing in a gay bar in San Diego around 2000.

I will not name the bar here (I think I visited it in 1979), but the drama referred to male partners, and the defendant was a middle aged man with AIDS. In the non-fiction story, he brought a 45 caliber revolver, concealed, into the bar, picked a fight with someone who had a tendency to insult people, tried to shoot the person, grazes, and killed a young, obviously attractive man standing some distance away. The prosecution and defense attorneys were both young women. Eventually, he was convicted of 2nd Degree murder and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. He died of AIDS in prison in 2003.

Violence in gay establishments from patrons themselves is extremely rare. I was saw a physical fight (over jealousy?) in bar in London (in Soho) in 1982 and the bobbies came, but no damage was done. Over many decades, however, there have been some attacks from a hostile outside world, such as with arson in New Orleans in 1973, the worst case that I ever heard of (when I was “coming out” a second time this was almost the first incident that I heard of). There is a comic horror film on Logo about such incidents (not exactly funny) called “Dead Serious” (on my movies blog).

In Washington DC and adjoining Prince Georges County, MD. a number of “straight” establishments have been closed (with liquor licenses revoked) because of street violence near their establishments. That’s a bit of surprise coming from supposedly politically “liberal” local governments. I don’t think that any establishment should be punished for behavior on public streets near the establishment unless committed by intoxicated patrons leaving the bar. (Bartenders are supposed to be trained not to serve liquor to intoxicated persons.)

In a few cases around the country (including at least once in Washington DC in the 1990s), discos have had both “straight” and “gay” parties on different nights, and have had incidents only at the “straight” parties.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Louisiana must issue birth certificate for New York gay couple adopting child

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has announced a legal victory in a custody case. Oren Adar and Mickey Smith had adopted a child in New York State. The child had been born in Louisiana, which would not issue a birth certificate to unmarried parents. On Dec. 23 Judge Jay Zainey, using the Full Faith and Credit Clause, ordered Louisiana to issue the certificate, naming both dads on the document. The Lambda link (for Adar v. Smith) is here.

A blog called Mombian has another account ("Major win for same-sex adoptive parents" of the case here.

Lambda also says that it helped a woman in Ohio get shared custody after her female partner tried to bar her from seeing the child.

The Washington Times has an interesting account, dated Dec. 28, here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The pampering of marriage: "logic" demands equality for gays, social interdependence and "community" confound equality

Mathematical logic, when applied ruthlessly to personal and social issues, can lead us into despair, they say. Or perhaps into unavoidable moral sinks. Even Al Gore pointed this out in his book "The Assault on Reason." It seems that way today as I ponder the equality questions underneath the gay marriage debate even more.

Think what happens when two adults (Okay, usually one man and one woman) get married. They commit themselves not only to fidelity but to retaining a lifelong intimate interest in one another “in sickness and in health” and “until death do us part”. We don’t need to be too explicit about the random calamities than can befall one or both partners of a couple over a lifetime. And, yet, intimacy is to remain.

We can talk about the creative experience of a relationship like this, and there was a lot of talk, as at the Ninth Street Center over the years, about enjoying a permanent relationship for its own sake. But most adults have a feeling that making such a commitment or promise would never be “logical” or “rational” unless rewarded by society. That’s where the social supports and approbation, even pampering (as in those notorious soap operas), of marriage figures in. And it is a matter of “ruthless” logic that some of this support is “paid for” or “subsidized” by those who do not make such commitments. It’s also logical to say eventual divorce of a marriage is even more “unfair” to single people who were “forced” into making such as “subsidy.”

It’s not hard to see that this is one major reason that LGBT people want the right to marry adults of their own choosing with equal access to the “subsidy” of the unmarried. Again, that’s logical.

The critical concept in following the “logic” is lifelong “unconditional” openness to intimacy, not just fidelity. It’s logical that people expect something in return for this, not always, but often, from the outside world. It’s “logical” that one could say everyone (adult) has an opportunity for an arrangement like this with a consenting adult member of the opposite sex – until you get to immutability. Then it’s equally logical to say that everyone has a right to such an arrangement with a consenting adult marital partner regardless of biological gender (but respective of psychological polarity). What about the “birthright” of a child to opposite-gendered married parents? Maybe the right adults of adult significant others as a stable couple (with some social perks) trumps over the automatic assumption of opposite genders. All matters of “logic.”

Then you get into things that just don’t fit so nicely into “logical” paradigms for social justice and equality. The “fact” is, permanent intimate relationships are important not only to raise children but, as is becoming increasingly important because of demographics, take care of the elderly and disabled.

What confounds all of this even more is that human beings vary widely in their own personal need for socialization. (That’s sometimes true of animals, as anyone who has been around pets – particularly cats -- knows.) That’s more than just the truism that there is a big gap between initial “romance” and lifelong interest in intimacy with one person (in either a gay or straight relationship). The initial attraction can keep things going for a long time, until or unless something goes wrong, sometimes beyond one’s control. Then, the partners in almost any relationship consider the delicate matter of balancing the need to be their own independent people with their need for one another. For some people, the need for independence is stronger than in others. Some people do better in life when they are alone a lot, and some people need the social pampering. This may be as much a matter of basic biological wiring as sexual orientation is. It’s obvious that composers or authors, who often work alone, are usually brain-wired differently from sales people, who need the social leads. When a society undergoes economic stress or external challenges, or radical demographic change, people who value their “sovereignty” are finding that others (with more social needs) make demands on them that would have been unthinkable before, and basic moral perspective changes.

Again, think about the “logic”. It sometimes seems as if the social subsidy of marriage seems like a kind of legal and socially approved “prostitution” – it’s a reward and preferential status for those who practice sexual intercourse in societally approved circumstances. Such persons are given the occasional prerogative to make demands on those who don’t practice this. But it’s really not the sexual acts that are generating the preference, or even sexuality itself. It is the openness to making a lifelong emotional commitment (and active promise of intimacy) that “rational self-interest” alone often seems “illogical” for the individual but necessary for society as a whole. And, for reasons of biological wiring, it’s more “illogical” for some than for others, and some persons may feel put upon as a result, by the na├»ve social demands of others. (Look up “schizoid personality” on Wikipedia and follow some links.)

We value independence and self-starting in our culture, as modern virtues. But we’re also finding that interdependence is necessary, too. It seems that all these moral values do have their flip sides. Lately, "they" have been calling this as the necessary imbalance of "living in a community."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recalling a dark day from 1953: Ike's XO regarding all federal civilians

On a night that NBC Dateline interviewed Rick Warren about his views on gay marriage (and the gay community’s affront to Barack Obama’s choice of him for the inauguration), I found, on a site called “Salem Press”, a reproduction from a series called “Great Events in History: LGBT Events” the story “President Eisenhower Prohibits Lesbian and Gay Federal Workers.” The story concerns Executive Order 10450, dated April 27, 1953, which formalized a policy that had been common during the Truman administration. The link is here.

The story is quite chilling now, and it points out that it also affected contractors working with the federal government. The article says “The New York Times reported the next day that, "The new [personnel security] program will require a new investigation of many thousands of employees previously investigated, as well as many more thousands who have had no security check." Apparently the investigatory procedures even in civilian service could amount to outright witch-hunts, later better known in the military. The reasoning was quite circular.

The Civil Service would reverse this practice around 1975, but it would take until the early 1990s for the situation to improve significantly with security clearances, which President Clinton would formalize in 1995. I worked for the Navy Department as a civilian from 1971-1982 (20 months) but left voluntarily when I could not get a Top Secret security clearance.

I hate to say it, but I remember the “I like Ike” buttons even if I was ten years old at the time.

Also, in the 1967 CBS show by Mike Wallace, "The Homosexuals," Secretary of State Dean Rusk, speaking about the State Department (LBJ Administration) said bluntly "When we find homosexuals in our department, we discharge them."

In those days, there really was no difference between Democratic and Republican administrations.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama mulls appointing gay man to civilian post as Secretary of the Navy

Jessica Bennett and Daniel Stone have a Newsweek story to the effect that Barack Obama is considering appointing an openly gay man, Bill White, to the post of Secretary of the Navy. Since this is a civilian post, it would not, according to the story, contradict the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which is supposed to apply only to uniformed service members. It would call political attention to the policy and suggest the idea of a political conflict of interest for the incumbent.

When the debate over gays in the military developed in 1993, I was working for an insurance company that focused on selling life insurance to military officers. When I was well underway with a book that included a lot of material on gays in the military (“Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back”) I applied for an took a transfer to a company in Minneapolis that had acquired the company. I actually discussed the situation with the company (and previously with attorneys involved in the ban) as to what I perceived as a potential conflict of interest and ethical issue.

The link for the Newsweek story ("Gay Man for Navy Secretary?") is here.

Personally, I feel that if Barack Obama makes this appointment, his argument in Congress for lifting "don't ask don't tell" later (with the Meehan bill or a derivative of it) would, however ironic this sounds, be weakened.

Back in 1989, Pete Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs when Dick Cheney was named Secretary of Defense. In 1991, while he was a Pentagon spokesman during the Persian Gulf war, Williams was “outed” by Michelangelo Signorile A source for this is an article in NationMaster Encyclopedia, here. Back around 1992, Dick Cheney himself had told the media (asking "why") that the military ban was an "old chestnut" but that he supported the policy nevertheless (he had to).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lisa Miller has a cover story on the Dec 15, 2008 Newsweek, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage"

Lisa Miller, with Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood, has a cover story on the Dec. 15, 2008 Newsweek, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” The story appears on p 28, “Our Mutual Joy: Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side,” link here.

Miller points out that the Bible, as far as making an explicit case, says next to nothing about the constitutional definitions (“one man to one woman”) proposed in various state referendums including California’s Proposition 8. She does talk about the tortuous dichotomy of the church and state issue. She also points out some historical anomalies – the disappearance of the “man and wife” phrase, and of the concept of “obedience.”

The big hangup still has to do with objection to homosexuality itself, particularly among men, where she admits that a few Biblical passages could be taken as per se condemnations, but probably don’t have to be. (What if we took all of Leviticus literally?) What’s the pragmatic reason? She seems to think it is largely an ick factor. But perhaps I would add, from my own experience, a reaction that some men resent what they see as my “copping out” from communal notions of gender-associated family responsibility, as if I then had a vested interest in showing other men that they can “fail”, too. (Randy Shilts discussed this idea in his “Conduct Unbecoming” book on gays in the military in 1993.) In fact, hyper-individualism fits well with modern notions of gay rights, the notion that every adult is perfectly sovereign and accountable for his or her own actions; in a real world, a lot more skills at familial interdependence are needed from everybody.

Miller finally makes a case for gay marriage in Biblical terms, one that is rooted in the notion of immutability and typing. She does compare denying the sacrament of marriage based on sexuality as comparable to denying it on the basis of race.

By all means, read the article. It helps in these economic times if some people really buy the print editions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fareed Zakaria questions Colin Powell on "don't ask don't tell"

Today (Sunday, Dec. 14) Fareed Zakaria on CNN GPS interviewed Colin Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays in the military in 1993. Very quickly, Fareed asked Powell if he supported lifting “don’t ask don’t tell” now.

Powell answered that the social climate has changed since 1993, and that it was indeed time to revisit the law. He insisted that military leaders be consulted first, however. He said that the military is still very “different.” Zakaria asked if the example of other militaries, like Britain and Israel, matters, and Powell said that their experience is relevant – it “counts” – but it’s not necessarily decisive.

Powell did elaborate on the special circumstances of military life. “Your commander can decide whether you live,” he said. “You don’t get to choose where you live.” No one mentioned how important the military is as a source of employment, especially for minorities or for those raised with economic disadvantage. It's also a source for paying college tuition (leading to the recoupment issue).

We’ve heard that before (Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos back in 1993). It’s true about the military. It’s even true that the military imposes restrictions on its members that would not be acceptable in civilian life. But there is a spillover into civilian life.

There are ways that “forced intimacy” can occur in many other areas, like law enforcement, fire departments (especially), various other potential national service areas, and even teaching (as with handicapped or severely disabled students). And, particularly with the latter, there have been attempts to ban gays before, as in California in 1978 (the Briggs Initiative, covered in the recent film “Milk”). I pointed this out on my website when working as a substitute teacher, and the fallout when schools discovered it became a factor in my having to stop.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gay Equality, Childlessness, and Single People: related, though not identical, issues

Yesterday I took another look at my “instance” on an older book, by Elinor Burkett, “The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless,” published back in 2000 by the Free Press. I had reviewed in on my books blog in March 2006.

I notice a startling passage on p 113, written by an upper-class married woman (Michelle Gaboury) and feminist. It goes like this:

“Children are an investment in the future…There are a lot of risks for people who have kids. Having a family is outrageously expensive. Maybe the childless take the brunt in some ways, but this isn’t about justice. It’s about living in a community.”

Burkett goes on to discuss the paradox of a newer economic consciousness within feminism: that women give up other economic alternatives to have families. But so do men.

A couple pages later, Burkett mentions an economist at Florida A&M who wants to implement a “personal sovereignty tax” (my term) on adults (particularly the childless, I think) to divert some income back to their parents as payback for raising them, or perhaps a lead in to filial responsibility for parents in old age. (28 states have filial responsibility laws, also called poor laws, which so far have been rarely enforced, but that’s likely to change given today’s demographics.) Other measures with similar ultimate effects would be to greatly increase tax credits for dependents, especially minor children.

By and large, although this has changed somewhat in recent years (even with surrogate parenting) gay men in particular have remained childless (although some were married with kids and then divorces). The equality argument, often made to sound like a matter of ideology purity, sometimes gives way to practical considerations about retaining democracy and freedom, especially when it is challenged by external instabilities (like now).

Then there exists that other ideological buttress for gay rights, immutability, or non-choice. Intellectually, as I’ve said, this is unsatisfying for comparative reasons. With gay men, there are several factors that occur in various combinations. One is (sometimes) a disinclination to compete well in the “manly” skills that would enable one to provide preferentially for women and children. A more common factor is a dislike of the gratuitous emotional pampering (at least that it is perceived as coddling) that underlies the social supports of the traditional family (and marriage), and the perceived loss of self and of “personal sovereignty”. A third, more positive factor, is a desire for a “creative” relationship with another adult outside of the realm of social supports (the “polarities” theory).

Along those lines, Gaboury’s idea of “living in a community” sounds scary but it rings true (even coming from an apparent political liberal). The gay person sees this as a warrant to give the parents heading a nuclear family authority to create responsibilities for their kids even into adulthood in order to fit them into a “community” that will protect everyone when individualism “fails” because of external challenges.

And we come back to “gay marriage”. While all the usual arguments (for it) are valid from a social justice point of view, regarding gay couples and their dependents (when they do have them), the practical problem is more fundamental: people who do not marry and/or have their own children (preferably both together) are often called upon to sacrifice for the sake of those who do, and remain silent about it (particularly in the workplace, where the matter is a terrible issue for some employers). The practical solution for many single people is to do well enough in life so that it isn’t a problem to take care of others even when the “burdens” weren’t create by one’s own choices. But that certainly isn’t equality, although it may fit into “living in a community.” We could return to a time when children really become “assets”.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Million Gay March": maybe a big DC event in 2009?

There is a Southern California group called the “Million Gay March” planning demonstrations, and there seems to be talk of a March on Washington in 2009. Is this in planning now?

I remember well the 1993 March, when President Clinton had proposed lifting the ban, and the crowded Washington Metro Saturday night, as well as the Washington Times overhead of the Mall the next Monday morning. I also recall the HRC rock concert at RFK stadium for the 2000 march.

The phrase does recall Louis Farrakhn’s “Million Man March” on a cold sunny Monday in October 1995 (and the Beltway signs warning “Million Man event tomorrow).

Jessie McKinley has a long article on p A22 of the Dec. 10 New York Times “Marriage Ban inspires new wave of gay rights activists”, link here.

There was also a "Day without a Gay" day today ("boycott") to demonstrate the economic clout of the gay community (the disposable income myth).

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ninth Circuit says that Lawrence v Texas could affect how "don't ask don't tell" is enforced; full court lets ruling stand

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in May 2008 that the Lawrence v. Texas case decided in 2003 means that the military must meet a new standard in applying the “don’t ask don’t tell” law in gay discharges. The court had ruled that the service must show that in a specific case a discharge is necessary to promote unit cohesion. That would mean that it is no longer possible to discharge a soldier just on presumption alone. Or, put this way, the “rebuttable presumption” possibility would have to allow serious rebuttal. In many units, obviously, the military would not be able to show that the discharge was necessary, and, particularly, critical personnel like intelligence linguists would not get discharged.

On December 4, 2008, the full court refused to hear the entire order. The Bush administration could appeal to the Supreme Court but the Obama administration could withdraw the appeal.

The case involves a female Air Force officer in Washington State discharged because of a lesbian relationship with a civilian. The court ruling may mean that her suit for reinstatement can be held, or that the Air Force will have to prove she is unsuitable in an administrative procedure under court supervision and held to a higher standard of evidence.

The San Francisco Chronicle article is Bob Egelko, ‘Court's ruling stands on 'don't ask' doubts”, Dec. 5, 2008, link here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day: Some somber editorials and stats

Today is World AIDS day (Dec. 1), but The Washington Post offers a somewhat bizarre op-ed on p A17 by Sanford E. Kuvin, chair of the Kuvin Center for Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, and medical consultant for Kimberly Bergalis, the “first patient to have gotten AIDS from her dentist,” an event that seems like an outlier and that has remained very rare.

The op-ed is called “Our country is failing the AIDS Test,” with link here. Kuvin recommends routine testing for everyone, regardless of consent. He makes a strange comparison to avian influenza, and then half-apologetically notes that avian influenza is casually transmitted (and is not under reliable control in the developing world and badly needs to be answered by a vaccine). He claims that Fidel Castro and Cuba knew about AIDS in the late 1960s because of soldiers returning from Angola. (The Cuban refugees provided a housing and sponsorship need in the gay communities in Dallas and Houston in 1980, before AIDS was well known; I recall that effort well.)

However, the Minnesota AIDS Project today reported in an email that there had been 325 new cases in Minnesota in 2007, and writes “the Centers for Disease Control dramatically increased its annual estimate of new HIV infections in the U.S. from 40,000 to 56,300—more than 40 percent higher than the original estimate.” I got to know the Project well in my six years in Minneapolis in 1997-2003, which includes the “Pride Alive” organization. Pride Alive sponsors activities and talk groups, and in 2000 began offering optional age-segregated talk groups.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roger Ebert gets it right on "Milk" even if "politically incorrect"

In reviewing Gus Van Sant’s film “Milk”, about Harvey Milk, the San Francisco City Supervisor who met a tragic end with mayor Moscone in 1978, film critic Roger Ebert writes “I am openly heterosexual, but this is the first time I have ever said so. Why can't we all be what we prefer?”.

Interesting. Ebert sidesteps the politically correct notion of immutability and gets back to what sounds like fundamental rights, especially when he says “prefer”.

That’s been the question for the past six decades, as far as I am concerned (and even before that). The straight world often looks at the “family” as something everyone must belong to, and pay allegiance to, perhaps because no one can be completely responsible for the self in a world with so many externally imposed uncertainties. The heterosexual marital relationship, to be dependable and stable, needs the social approbation it gets, and the power it gets to control those who don’t create a lineage of their own. Even the “Milk” film seemed to echo that, as when the homophobic Dan White says to Milk, “society can’t exist without the family. Can gays reproduce?”

To accept what Roger Ebert says, you have to embrace the concepts of karma and personal responsibility, and all that they logically imply. But it’s logical consequences that so many people want protection from.

Friday, November 28, 2008

NJ, CA: eHarmony pressured to offer dating services to gays: is government going way too far?

The online dating service eHarmony has drawn media attention, particularly from libertarian as well as traditionally conservative sources, because of legal efforts against it in both New Jersey and California to pressure it to offer online dating for gays.

The Washington Times lead editorial on Friday Nov. 28 is titled “Judicial Imperialism” and the link is here with some emphasis on actions by a New Jersey attorney general. PC Magazine (which we expect to be libertarian in stance) also reports “eHarmony Dispute heads for Mediation,” article Nov. 21, 2008 by Chloe Albanesius, link here, about actions take in California. The Times points out that the service was apparently started by an evangelical Christian to promote dating according to a particular set of values.

These sort of scenarios can be argued to their “logical extremes”. For example, ENDA-like legislation has been opposed because it would force gay bars to hire straights. In fact, straight people do work in gay establishments with absolutely no issues. And there are plenty of small companies and entrepreneurs setting up gay dating services.

Or consider Net Neutrality. Some people fear that ISP’s would get set up that would only accept “certain” content. So far, with large corporations this has not happened. But there is no reason why individual site owners should not be allowed to accept or refuse content according to their own tastes, even if that taste is prejudices. (Bloggers are absolute monarchs when it comes to accepting or rejecting comments on their own sites.) At some level, freedom of expression and freedom of choice can conflict with more egalitarian ideas about social justice.

Some of these kinds of problems stem from looking a LGBT people as a “minority” or as a people with immutable traits, rather than looking at what kind of freedom belongs within the “fundamental rights” umbrella and what kind of responsibilities go with that freedom.

Today, at least on the eHarmony matter, I have to side with the Washington Times (and eHarmony). I feel that New Jersey and California are setting dangerous examples for now completely unrelated areas. But I won’t be using eHarmony myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Was parental lineage a "fundamental right" before Lawrence v. Texas?

One of the processes that explains “homophobia” is, I think, the “idea” that married and committed parents are entitled to a biological lineage as a reward for their commitment (and “opportunity cost”). If the world has finite resources, then at least one should have children or at least raise children or take care of other people somehow to “justify” his full-portion slice of the resource pie.

As I indicated on my main blog (Nov. 12) I was led to feel, because of bullying, that I was less “worthy” of having children than other male competitors. That gave me a psychological incentive to “enjoy” the idea that others could be shown less worthy. None of this is nice or pretty to admit, but it is nevertheless true, and one of the reasons why bullying (and hate crimes) are so particularly repugnant in a society that has embraced human rights. "Right wing" author George Gilder ("Sexual Suicide" [1973] and "Men and Marriage" [1986]) picked up on this idea by claiming that gay men want to capitalize on their own sense of (competitive) "abasement".

It sounds like this says, I’ve admitted that I’m not “worthy” and relish the belief that many others are not. Is this how I “became gay” as a teen? It would seem to suggest I resources that would ordinarily be my property could be expropriated and given to those more “worthy” if I’ve made such an admission. That is a premise of many totalitarian or authoritarian societies in their treatment of homosexuality.

But that’s not quite what happened, at least in my case. I imagined a progeny based on “work”: cultural creativity. In my case, music was to be part of this. There were simply too many other expressions to explore. The idea of an “obligation” to reproduce seemed, say during high school, to be infinitely far away into the future. It was a problem that, if necessary, could be resolved “later.” In the meantime, I became determined and fixed on what I had chosen to be my own goals, and would not tolerate the interference from others in this choice. But relative to this cultural “choice”, sexual orientation came to seem fixed and immutable.

While someone like me defends my “right” to pursue my own chosen goals, a typical married couple may feel the same way, but about their “biological” goals to express their marriage. If neither partner has any special cultural “talents” both may feel cheated or violated if their offspring do not continue the family (particularly if there is only one male heir). Their sense of “loss” or even “family death” is just as great. That’s why openness to procreation (and all its uncertainties as well as responsibilities) used to be viewed as a moral prerequisite for any experience of sexuality at all.

Of course, the law does not support this idea of a parental birthright (except in a few areas like the military’s “sole survivor”). However, in the past, the presence of “sodomy laws” and a prohibitionistic view of homosexuality may have constituted an indirect attempt to protect such a “fundamental right” as bizarre as the concept would sound today, especially after Lawrence v. Texas.

Also, I suppose that the modern possibility of surrogate parenthood (for potential fathers who can afford it) throws a new wrinkle into this chain of old thinking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CA: bus driver turned in for bigoted remark when passing Proposition 8 demonstration

Southern California writer Dan Wentzel probably got a Los Angeles bus driver disciplined or fired by turning the driver in for shouting the “s” word (based on Genesis) while driving a bus (in or to Santa Monica) past a demonstration protesting the passage of California’s Proposition 8. The Washington Post ran his column this morning Nov. 24 (on p. A17), titled “Bigotry on the Bus” with the obvious implicit reference to Rosa Parks. The link is here.

Wentzel says he stood up and challenged the driver immediately, screaming that he was, well, “one of them”. He writes “In a post-Proposition 8 world, it is not OK to enable anyone’s bigotry with my silence.” What if the driver gets fired in a tough economy? Well, he couldn’t have used the “n” or “k” words (or “f” word for that matter).

Free speech? Well, the bus driver is a uniformed public employee, spearking on the public dime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rown Scarborough, of the Washington Times, reports Obama will delay addressing military ban until 2010

Rowan Scarborough, of the Washington Times, reports in an Exclusive story today that Barack Obama probably will not attempt to repeal of substantially replace “don’t ask don’t tell” until 2010. The conservative newspaper made this story a banner headline, “Obama to delay repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’: Advisers see consensus building before lifting the ban on gays,” link here. Curiously, I could not get this story to come up by the writer’s name on the newspaper’s search box and had to find it by hand.

The article summarizes the history of President Clinton’s flawed approach in 1993, leading to the “compromise” now known as the notorious “don’t ask don’t tell.” The story admits that the public as a whole is much more receptive to lifting the ban than it was in 1993, but that conservatives don’t realize that this sleeper issue, now not discussed as often as gay marriage but at one time much more prominent, will come back.

As I’ve noted elsewhere on my blogs, the issue (predicated on situations of “forced intimacy”) can still spill into other issues for gay civilians, like teaching.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CA: Proposition 8 result will be reviewed by state supreme court

Jesse KcKinley writes on p A20, “National”, of the Nov. 20 New York Times, “Top Court In California Will Review Proposition 8.” As expected, the constitutionality of amending the constitution on an issue that affects “equal protection” will itself be tested before the state supreme court. The link is here. The reflexive (or recursive) constitutional challenge was expected.

While progressives often support referendums, the idea that one can deny others rights this way with a simple majority is dangerous.

On Nov. 15, Mc McKinley had written a Times story about the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, from stakes all over the country, in getting Proposition 8 passed.

Dr. Phil will take up gay marriage on his Nov. 21 show.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Over 100 retired military officers support repeal of "don't ask don't tell"

The Associated Press has obtained a statement from over 100 retired generals and admirals calling for repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the ability of gays and lesbians to serve openly, with appropriate rules for professional conduct. The story is by Brian White and the link is here.

The story by Brian White is here.

As I noted previously, the incoming Obama administration is playing this issue carefully, even though the president-elect says he wants to lift the ban, because of the enormous backlash that happened in 1993.

Tim Stalling has an editorial “Everyone should have the right to serve his country,” from the Connecticut Post, on the SLDN website, Nov. 10, 2008, here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HIV treated by bone marrow transplant; study people with genetic resistance to HIV

The AP has a story by Patrick McGroarty giving the medical chronicle of an American living in Germany who has been cured of HIV infection with a bone marrow transplant. The patient also had (possibly unrelated) leukemia. But there had been two reported “cures” before 1996.

The link for the story is here. The story also appeared this morning on AOL.

But no one is suggesting that bone marrow transplants would ever become practical treatment for most HIV infection. But research associated with the transplant could lead to effective gene therapy, the report said.

Apparently some people inherit a gene that blocks the CCR5 receptor on their T4 cells that makes them resistant to HIV infection. Or, genetic markers may inhibit HIV replication even if one is "infected." It would be logical for genetic resistance to HIV to develop in nature eventually through natural selection, especially in Africa or in areas with high HIV prevelance.

I knew of a gay male whose partner had died in 1982 in Texas but who said he had normal blood counts as late mid 1990s. Natural resistance to infection and resistance to progression ("long term non-progressors") has been reported before. For example, NIH has a 2002 paper on the topic here.

The study of long term non-progressors could hold major clues to much more effective HIV management.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gay veterans have a commemeration at Arlington Cemetery, near stone for Leonard Matlovich

A small gathering of celebrants gathered near the tombstone of Tech Sgt. Leonard Matlovich in Arlington Cemetery Veterans Day. Matlovich, the subject of a 1979 NBC television movie (“Sargeant Matlovich vs. The U.S. Air Force”) directed by Paul Leaf, was expelled from the Air Force under old rules in 1975 after telling the brass that he was gay, and would die of AIDS in 1988. It was organized by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance which also organized and election night party at Rhodes on Election Day.

The Washington Post story, by Neely Tucker, “Gay Veterans Gather to Honor their Own: Military’s Outsiders Commend the Fallen for Sacrifice, Service”, story Nov. 12 appears in Style, p C1, link here.

American Veterans for Equal Rights, and Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America have a page of an commemoration of a Palm Springs CA memorial, here. There is another Gay Veterans site here.

On June 8, 2008 Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an offensive remark to the effect that gay veterans opposed to the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment should leave the state. The Washington Blade story by Steve Koval, “Texas governor suggests gay veterans should leave state; Gay groups demand Perry apologize” is here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama should work carefully to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

How should the new present Obama deal with “don’t ask don’t tell”?

I would say, carefully. He should be pragmatic. It should not be the first issue on day one of his presidency, as it practically was with Bill Clinton.

However, Obama should follow a consistent course toward repeal. First, he should quietly support Marty Meehan’s military readiness bill (HR 1246, The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2007, here. The trouble is, it will have to be re-introduced and revised in the 111th Congress.

Second, he should quietly request an update to the 1993 report issued by the National Defense Research Institute of the Rand Corporation published "Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment" (available on Amazon, although expensive). One major concern would be to update the proposed “Code of Military Professional Conduct” to allow for the Internet, the effects of which were hardly understood in 1993 when this study was written.

A goal of the policy would be removal of the current law from United States Code, because, for one thing, having such a law on the books can have a malignant effect on gays in other areas. While lifting the ban, the military will need an internal administrative (non-statutory) policy with regard to conduct that might occur in circumstances more intimate than those encountered by most civilians, although these circumstances can exist in the civilian world (as with firemen, law enforcement, intelligence, or even teachers). It’s significant that intimate living circumstances can occur with some civilian forms of national service, like the Peace Corps, which Obama wants to expand.

Third, he should look at the experience with foreign militaries, especially in NATO, when they have lifted the ban. The UK Guardian has a story on Feb. 21, 2005 about the British Navy: “Navy's new message: your country needs you, especially if you are gay: Admirals shed centuries of repression with pink press adverts”, link here to a story by Patrick Barkham. Aaron Belkin, of the Palm Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, and now running a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" project) at the University of California at Santa Barbara has published a lot of material about foreign militaries, especially Israel, as in this Ynet News story by Itamar Eichner, “Follow Israel's example on gays in the military, US study says; California University study concludes America needs to learn from 'tolerant Israeli model' regarding homosexual soldiers, officers; 'you can be a very brave, creative officer and be gay at the same time,' former IDF officer quoted as saying”, link here

During the coming weeks, hopefully we’ll see more thought-provoking pieces in mainstream literary and policy means discussing how, in the United States, the ban would be lifted.

This would be the appropriate time for Hollywood to jump in. There have been several television of cable films on the ban (“Serving in Silence”, “Soldier’s Girl”, "Any Mother's Son," and recently the independent documentary “Ask Not” by Jonny Simons). There is another project “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” from a group called Dream Out Loud films (blog: ). But I think it is time that “real money” from some of the more liberal-minded players in the film and television production and distribution world ought to be forthcoming, with A-list stars and directors. I don’t need to “name names” but we all know whom in the media Barack Obama listens to.

It bears mention again, that in these perilous times (a new Al Qaeda threat appeared in the news this morning as I wrote this) we need to keep every language translator we can.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

After the Proposition 8 loss: recapping issues on "equality"

Although the LGBT community shows justified outrage at the behavior of the religious right in lobbying for Proposition 8 in California, it’s important to keep the concept of “equality” in a certain perspective. Recently, on the books blog, I reviewed law professor Daniel Solove’s book on privacy, and I think equality is in a sense somewhat like privacy: it is a pragmatic concept that gets expressed in different ways in different cultural circumstances. Even so, HRC (Human Rights Campaign) has practically trademarked its blue and yellow equality symbol.

Two broad observations strike me.

One observation is to consider an unpleasant thought experiment. Imagine a world in which no one (an adult over a certain age) can have a good job, own his or her own home, or speak out on his own publicly on issues (as on the Internet) unless he or she is responsible for supporting others. In some ways, that was the world we had a half century ago, when I was a teenager entering high school. The way a grown-up took responsibility for others was to marry and have children. That reinforced a chain of loyalty and socialization for the extended family which took care of the elderly, who at the time did not live that long past retirement.

In that environment, I was not allowed just to live the life I wanted, and I did not have the freedom that modern liberal ideas of freedom say I should have had. I clawed out to a life of relative freedom in the early and mid 1970s with my “second coming.” I had to put a great deal of attention to my own needs. But I had my own life, and did well enough, I thought, just taking care of myself, working as an individual contributor in computer programming, planning ideas of a future second career as a writer or some kind of novel journalist.

Here I come to my second “big” observation. What I thought I had achieved was individual sovereignty. In a sense, I perceived it as a kind of equality. It was tied to an older notion of “privacy” that Solove discusses in his book. But there were subtle problems. I was interested in my own world, and advancement according to conventional norms was not an objective. The biggest threat to our “way of life” was AIDS, which we had to learn to manage (and fend off the religious right).

The idea of a more modern kind of equality came about in the 1990s. I started first with the debate over gays in the military, and was followed quickly by debates over gay civil unions and marriages. (In fact, the 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law mentions the possibility of gay marriage in the service.) That has progressed to the court rulings (on gay marriage) and backlash referendums of today. All of the ideas like military service, marriage and adoption (as in the Arkansas referendum) reflect a belief that equal rights ought to be accompanies by equal responsibilities and equal sharing of common uncertainties and risks. But it is no accident that these ideas came to be debated about the time that the Internet and World Wide Web were becoming accessible and even cheap for members of the general public to use and self-publish on. The meaning equal “personhood” was no longer just a manner of independent life in a relatively covert or separated world (like urban “gay paradise ghettos”). It meant openness and expressiveness, public pride in who one was. In some cultural areas, this became threatening to people who found meaning in the more collective ideas of family and who perceived it (and the structured privilege it could confer) as part of marriage.

With more media coverage and more lively discussions on the Internet, the adaptive problems of traditional families also became more visible. In the civilian workplace, especially salaried positions with on-call duty, tension developed over who should make the personal sacrifices. More public attention came to be focused on other inequities in areas of family responsibility. But one of the biggest problems was that life spans were getting longer, without corresponding extension of vitality and ability to continue working. People who had never married and had children of their own might face heavy eldercare burdens and family responsibility despite not having created it with procreation. The financial crisis could lead states with filial responsibility laws to start enforcing them, and hitting childless and lgbt people particularly hard. (See the “Bill retires blog, July 2007 archives, particularly.)

Hence, we get to a “third observation”: that the open flow of information inherent in the Internet might bring back more of the social mentality of previous generations. Not only is it important to own up to one’s choices, it is also necessary to be accountable to someone, before one’s own expressive life means anything. “Find a need and fill it.” That doesn’t logically follow from the first statement (and the law no longer says that), but pastors say it all the time.

In a practical sense, there are things a single person (gay or not) can do to control the situation, which include planning for it, doing well enough in life competitively, and being able to provide for others in one’s own home. The kind of world we face tomorrow, with longer life spans, reduced government benefits, and decentralization associated with global warming or fuel scarcity could amplify these problems and the need to plan for them. Without planning, the “singleton” who tries to maintain his public life could be chased into dead-ended existential questions. “Equal responsibility” would have fangs, but it would need equal authority and resources.

Many of the common arguments for equality in marriage focus on benefits that are necessary when one partner needs to depend on the other. The straight world is used to this kind of “complementarity” and used to view it as biologically driven. In the gay world it is sometimes driven by psychological polarities. But in many adult gay relationships, both partners are self-sufficient most of the time and don’t perceive a burden from marriage laws. It is when one depends on the other, or when they have other dependents (it could be an eldercare issue as well as adopted or previous children) that the equality issues, as they are usually posed, become more pressing. And the world that is coming may place more emphasis on personal interdependence than the once we have gotten used to now does.

A particularly upsetting situation occurs when gay men are “accommodated” by being asked to “pretend” to be "protective" heterosexual male role models to appease traditional communal norms. That is sometimes offered as a kind of “pseudo-equality.” I expect to say more about this in time.

We often throw around the phrase “second class citizen”. In the past, the concept related to being born into servitude in some way. Now, curiously, with the “meaning” of the nuclear family diluted by individualism, the concept may apply to gays (or many singles) if their individual interests can be sacrificed to the needs of those who do commit themselves to a “gender complemented” intimate relationship, and accept the responsibilities and priorities that such a relationship creates.

In sum, it is true, that legal affirmation of equal marriage rights would “cover” these issues (particularly of how “sacrifice” or unchosen family responsibility is shared), even for people who do not want to get married.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

CA: Proposition 8 is immediately challenged in court, could be overturned

There is a possibility that Proposition 8 in California is itself unconstitutional. Gay activists are developing arguments to the effect that the original equal protection clause in the California state constitution (as it was interpreted by judges in striking down the anti-gay marriage law) prohibits an override with another amendment passed by a simple majority.

To a novice, it sounds dangerous that a state constitutional amendment like this could be passed by a simple majority introduced as an initiative and voted on in a referendum. Yet, progressive writer Naomi Wolf, in her recent book “Give Me Liberty” encourages more direct democracy and referendums. But this process is dangerous when dealing with minorities.

Karen Ocamb has a story on Alternet, “Gay Marriage Ban Looks to Have Passed, But Is It Legal?” here.

Wednesday two lawsuits were filed to invalidate Proposition 8, within the California judicial system. One was filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (LLDEF) and the other was filed by Rocky Delgadillo joined yet another lawsuit filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Santa Clara County Counsel Anne C. Ravel.

In the 1990s, Colorado’s state constitution “Amendment 2” was overturned by the United States Supreme Court (Evans v. Romer). A very negative amendment in Oregon was turned down by voters in 1992.

California Attorney General (and former iconoclastic governor) Jerry Brown says that the 18000 or so gay marriages performed in California such June will stand (this includes Ellen DeGeneres), but Jeffrey Toobin, on CNN, says that whether the amendment invalidates these marriages is still a legal condundrum.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CA Prop 8 to ban gay marriage appears to be passing; Arkansas tries to ban gay adoption and foster parents; Obama is positive in speech;CA ban passes

At 20:38 PM PST the San Francisco Chronicle (in an article by John Wildermuth) reported that California Proposition 8 was leading 55-45 with 11% of the votes in. That makes it highly probably that the Proposition will pass. The link is here.

Tonight, besides the contentious California Proposition 8 vote, there are other anti-gay initiatives around the country.

In Arkansas, early results indicate that voters will pass a law preventing gays and other unmarrieds adopting children or serving as foster parents. The bill is apparently SB959, link here.

In October 2008, the state of Arkansas had put plans in place to drop its “unmarried” foster parents ban, AP story here (on "365 News") .

Update (Nov 5): Jon Gambrell of the AP reports that the Arkansas ban on unmarried couples becoming adoptive or foster parents passed, story here. The AP link is here.

And the gay marriage ban amendment in Florida appears to be passing. Ditto for Arizona. Florida added a Virginia-like (Marshall-Newman) provision that seems to target civil unions, too: "No other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

The Arkansas and Florida situations are outlined in a story in “Hot Topics”: “The early news is bad for equality,” link here.

However, in his acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago this evening, President Elect Barack Obama mentioned "gays and straights" as being included in an American rebirth, very early in his speech (which started just before midnight EST). That could be taken as a hint that he will pursue lifting "don't ask don't tell" very early in his administration.

UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2008 1:45 PM EST

The California gay marriage ban has passed, 52.2%-47.8%. The San Francisco Chronicle story by Wildermuth is here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Alternate families and personal sovereignty: could same-sex marriage affect "singles" in unexpected ways?

On the night before California Proposition 8 votes – and I add that I don’t live or vote in CA – I just have one “devil’s advocate” thought.

Remember my book review blog (Sept 21, 2008) about a book on “Valuing all Families under the Law” by Nancy Polikoff. I was particularly shocked by her proposition of asking a gay man with no partner to be selected, among siblings, to move in with an aging parent or grandparent for caregiving. If someone does that, others may want to view the resulting arrangement as a “family.” The caregiver, however, wants to keep a degree of personal sovereignty not normally found in marriage (at least marriage as in the movie “Fireproof”).

A culture that tries to mimic “marriage” wherever a quasi-forced personal interdependence exists (however desirable socially) might deny the person his sovereignty, and make an essentially compulsory or coerced relationship his highest priority.

So it may be important to accept the idea that domestic arrangements exist that require some support in some areas but that are not “marriages”.

Furthermore, some gay couples want to keep more autonomy. They may not want “marriages.”

I thought I heard McCain articulate this point somehow on a TV interview. He tried to make it sound that gay marriage could be used to undermine personal freedom for people who expected to keep it. He tried to put it in “libertarian” terms.

But libertarians, in fact, generally want marriage to be a civil contract, with the psychological bonding left to churches or the culture of the couple’s choice. Remember that 1996 essay “License Expired” by Gene Cisewski in GLIL newsletter “The Quill”?

All of this might sound like a pail of red herrings from some Minnesota ice fishing hut. Don’t get me wrong. Same-sex couples and their children need the same benefits as straight couples. What we have here is a problem of “reflexivity” (George Soros's buzzword). Like it or not, we’re heading for a world where people may have to accept more interdependence and take care of one another more. Once we accept that, it seems we can’t accept the idea of separate classes of people. Because then someone will go to the back of the bus.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Clubs have Halloween parties on "All Saints Day"; "Michael Phelps II" wins a costume contest at CobaltDC

Since Halloween occurred on Friday this year and daylight savings time ended Sunday morning Nov. 2, a lot of clubs had a second Halloween Party on “All Saints Day” Nov. 1.

Remember that, “For All the Saints” is always the first hymn in Church following Halloween, in almost any protestant denomination.

Last night, CobaltDC held a small costume contest at about 12:45 AM EDT. Just nine contestants. No, I didn’t carry my Samsung so I have only the outdoor picture of the place from 2007.

The upstairs disco has had trouble building up a crowd Saturday nights since the TownDC got started in Shaw, still only a 15 minute walk away. In the earlier days, when the “Big Disco” was Velvet Nation (or even earlier, Tracks, complete with sand volleyball court, which I miss) near the site of the now floundering Nationals Park (at least the floundering baseball team), Cobalt would be packed by at least midnight. Last night the disco floor seemed only half full even by 1 AM (EDT).

So the club removed a lot of furniture and remodeled, and essentially simplified, the upstairs disco. But I think it was better the way it was before, with some nooks and crannies (like Fenway Park) and seats and couches.

The contest had nine entrants. Two of them merged to produce a winner. There was “Michael Phelps” (slender and maybe four inches shorter than the “real” person), sandwiched between Arthur and Lancelot. (That is, all three contestants shared first place.) The Phelps costume was complete with speedo and hairnet cap reading “Phelps”, and some model medals. There some other subtle differences. The contestant did not have to “peak” before a real swim, or worry about fluid resistance. Oh well, a lot of gay men (at least in terms of surface features) don't survive Halloween at all.

Other finalists included Batman and Robin, and a workup of one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean," with implements right out of "Deliverance."

I actually talked to him. He is a medical student at Georgetown, and he hadn’t heard about the “JuicyCampus” "online reputation" controversy among the undergrads, which I wrote about Thursday on my main blog. It seems that med students have to be ready for a scantron multiple choice test in every course at least every other week. It’s tough. One good exam question is based on something like this: how can an RNA virus (like H5N1) still not be a retrovirus (like HIV). [As an aside, I note that Wikipedia tells us that the 1918 Spanish flu was not caused by H5N1, but by H1N1.) Our community still has plenty of psychological incentive to go into medicine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

CA: Attack reported on "No on Prop 8" donation website

LLDEF (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund) reports that the “No on Prop 8” website was temporarily shut down by an apparent denial of service attack. It is rather shocking that such tactics could be used. LLDEF also reports the airing of a one-minute video of a speech in California that tries to make a bizarre comparison between allowing gay marriage to continue in California and the rise of Hitler in Germany. All of this can be seen here, a web page which also asks for emergency donations again.

Apparently donations over $10000 to any state initiative or race require extra paperwork, described here.

The mailing address is "No On 8, c/o ML Associates, 8581 Santa Monica Blvd., #504
West Hollywood, CA 90069".

The link for the California ballot propositions is this. The exact wording of the state constitutional amendment is "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." About 11000 same-sex couples have married in California since June.

ABC World News Tonight covered the vote tonight and showed a religious rally in support of Proposition 8, and indicated that to some religious conservatives, this close "race" is more "important" than the presidential election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CA, CT: gay marriage news continues; existential arguments start to burn out of control

We make a lot about “equality” in our debate these days, and throw around the label “second class citizen” as if we were willing to field ultimate existential challenges for our use of the term. But, the California supreme court indeed hinted that it took the legal ban on gay marriage as putting all homosexual (or even unmarried heterosexual) adult citizens into a second-class category, vulnerable to being pushed to be back on an imaginary bus in a second life.

The term is meaningful, we think, today because we say we have a meritocratic society. Everyone worth something relative to a global universe. We “measure” people by FICO scores but then entertain science fiction novels or movies where people’s souls have a measurable worth that could make a new kind of gold standard.

Then I recall my own boyhood, with its maze of contradictions. In fact, I perceived the world as one that put boys through a rite of passage to prove their “worth” – to survive to have a progeny, or to be worthy of respect as authority figures, whether teachers assigning grades, heads of families or bosses in the workplace. It really was like that in the 1950s, even if we had fought (and won) a World War against where that kind of thinking can lead. With the way we handled the draft and deferments, we were slipping inevitably toward that kind of thinking ourselves.

I sort of knew, intellectually, at least, that the “family” was supposed to be the antidote to this. The family was given the power and responsibility to give every family member a sense of self worth, at least locally. You put your family first, and the idea of “second class citizen” didn’t come up. (Of course, you wondered when you heard more about segregation, and learned the history that had led to the Civil War.) Of course, this leads to the conclusion that seems to drive the opposition to gay marriage: a married couple is given a lot of “power” over the lives of others – including adults – and the perks, responsibilities and powers are essential to keep the marriage not just faithful (the hard part) “earthy”, “organic” (the rewarding part) and stable for a few decades.

Now, in the 21st Century most of mainstream America really wants to develop and keep an individualistic society, so it's harder to have your cake and eat it too, when you have to take care of everyone.

Today (Oct. 29, 2008) The Washington Times has another piece, by Star Parker, on p. A19, “Marriage Ballot Test,” again about the paper’s favorite topic, California Proposition 8. Now the argument is advanced that if gay marriage stands, public schools will have to teach that gay relationships and even marriages are a normal part of the world. Heterosexual marriage will no longer have the elevated status (and control over others) that it needs to remain stable and able to provide for the everyday mundane needs of civilization (not just raising children but assigning family responsibility for everybody). The Times doesn’t seem have the article online yet (sometimes the paper is a day behind with some pieces), but I found it at GOPUSA (“bringing the Conservative Message to America”) here.

The Times did post the AP story by Susan Haight, “Gay Marriages Begin Next Month in Conncecticut, here; the original AP link is here.

I somehow still remember Chris Crain's Washington Blade editorial from 2004 "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve" (see this blog July 30 2008 for link). You give a little ground, the support level gives out, just as with the stock market in souls.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CA: Proposition 8 "gay marriage" fight is attracting beaucoup $$$

Laurie Goodstein has an important story on p. A12 of the New York Times today (Oct. 27, 2008), under “National”, “California, a Line in the Sand For Same-Sex Marriage Foes”, link here.

California’s Proposition 8 has taken on huge psychological importance, overshadowing other amendments in Arizona and Florida. Remember, in Virginia the Marshall-Newman amendment passed in 2006.

Both sides are spending a lot of money, bringing in money from out-of-state, and enlisting support with rather childish or brainless email and form letter campaigns.

Social conservatives, as usual, call Chicken Little. They claim that the California Supreme Court ruling last May would lead to lawsuits against churches for refusing to perform same-sex marriage, or cause churches refusing them to lose tax-exempt status. Of course, the experience with issues like this is that churches have always been allowed to follow the tenets of their own religious beliefs without interference from government. As with the Boy Scout case, there is an issue once private religious or cultural entities want to use public spaces and public expense.

Again, I think there is something deeper here, with all these claims that the institution of marriage is so vulnerable if even less than 1% of marriages were for same-sex couples. The real problem is that the “institution” as we know it confers a lot of pampering an privilege, even to affect the lives of unmarried adults and demand subservience from them, and that privilege becomes integrated with what couples perceive as essential to long term marital sexual interest and commitment. To be perfectly blunt, they need to keep glbt people and the chidless and unmarried as second-class citizens, at their beckon and call, as social crises and changes (like eldercare) demand more sacrifice from everybody.

Update: Nov. 6

Alternet has an important story (Nov. 4) by Max Blumenthal from "The Daily Beast" on "The Man Behind Proposition 8", link here. The article particularly discusses Howard F. Ahmanson.

Believe it or not, one of the ads for the measure said "vote yes, restore traditional marriage." What, traditional marriages have stopped being formed or are falling apart because of gay marriage? People fall for this?

Monday, October 20, 2008

HRC warns voters about Sarah Palin

The Human Rights Campaign has a disturbing web page on Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Most of the attention has been focused on her “tolerance” during the vice-presidential debate, and that seemed to fool the media.

Her quote was, remember:

Palin: I am, in my own, state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage. I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage and that's casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage that, that instrument that it's the foundation of our society is that strong family and that's based on that traditional definition of marriage, so I do support hat.

But HRC’s Michael Cole travels to Alaska to interview her supposed “gay friends.” He particularly stops in Wasilla. The HRC gives us a five-minute video “Coming out against Sarah Palin.” The video shows the Wasilla Assembly of God and talks about ex-gay ministries. The tone of the video becomes increasingly alarming.

The HRC link is here.

The Huffington Post has (embedded in an article by Bruce Wilson) a nine minute video “Sarah Palin’s Churches and the Third Wave”. Check this out. The get close to speaking in tongues, and they try these cellphone conversions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HPV virus (cancers) can be dangerous to gay men (even when HIV negative) as well as women

Good Morning America on ABC reports that oral cancers (tongue, tonsils, and throat) has increased rapidly in younger and middle aged people in recent years. The culprit is thought to be the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a DNA virus. Some forms of it cause warts, some forms cause cervical cancer in women, and some may cause encephalitis HIV-infected patients. It is more common in men and women, but does occur in young women and even teens. It is thought to be related to unprotected oral sex. It is speculative as to whether it is transmitted through saliva. Biologically, the oral cancer seems to result from mechanisms similar to those of HPV-associated cervical cancer in women. The virus interferes with the ability of cells to determine that they should stop growing. It is sometimes first noticed by dentists.

Of course, this is usually what is said about HIV. But these oral cancers have occurred in largely HIV-negative individuals.

The link from the Centers for Disease Control is here.

The anti-HPV vaccine is recommended for young females, and recommending it for all sexually active young teens and adults, including (gay) men could become politically controversial.

Early during the HIV epidemic, anal cancers were also noted in young gay men, but these were thought to be related to HIV infection. They could be related to HPV or to even herpes viruses (like type 6).

There was no evidence, however, that HPV was spreading "geometrically" as HIV had done in the 1980s.

The ABC link was not available yet; watch for it today at Dr. Tim Johnson appeared and spoke about the need for "protection".

Friday, October 10, 2008

Connecticut: State supreme court upholds gay marriage

In the case Elizabeth Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health in Connecticut, officially to be published Oct. 28, 2008, and argued May 14, 2007 the Connecticut state supreme court has ruled that the state must recognized same-sex marriages. The 85-page PDF file for the opinion is here.  
The arguments are fairly traditional or conventional in nature, and refer to the long but changing social history of the disapproving attitude of society toward homosexuality. The opinion quotes a sentence from Lawrence v. Texas that mentions the older concerns over “respect for the traditional family” (that is, “karma”).

AOL carried the AP story and runs a poll that shows only a 54-46 range of disapproval of same-sex marriage in 10000 responses.

The majority opinion was written by Richad N. Palmer. A dissenting opinion by Peter T. Zarella wrote that traditional marriage law was a mechanism for society to “privilege and regulate procreative conduct” but the word “privilege” admits that the resources of persons who do not procreate can sometimes be compromised for the benefit of those who do.

Connecticut is the third state to officially recognize gay marriage, after state supreme court wins in Massachusetts and California. Civil unions are recognized in these states: Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The AOL copy of the AP story, by David Collins is here.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (LLDEF) has a story here.

The AP link, this time featured on the AP home page today, is here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ABC, GLSEN report on anti-gay bullying and teasing in schools

On ABC Good Morning America this morning, Chris Cuomo reported briefly that anti-gay harassment and bullying (or "teasing") continues in the nation’s high schools and especially middle schools, and that in many cases school officials look the other way. Cuomo expressed some disgust reporting the story. ABC News does not have the story yet on its website, but it does have a similar story from July 16, 2008 by Susan Donaldson James, which reports much larger problems in middle school than high school. The link is here.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports a marked recent increase in requests for education programs. A 2007 National School Climate Survey found that 9 out of 10 GLBT students experience harassment, link here.

My own experience from 1955-1961 was much better in high school than in junior high school. In my own experience (as a sub in northern Virginia), problems with this issue are much more common in low income students.

Monday, October 06, 2008

What drives the "don't tell" mentality?

Just as I relayed the announcement about the new film “Ask Not” last week on this blog, I have to ponder the real reasons behind the concept “Don’t Tell.”

Of course, we first associate that phrase with the military policy for gays. But in many parts of our society, particularly in families, people still don’t want to see gay people “tell”. Sometimes they get nosey and halfway ask, and then resent it when someone “tells.”

I grew up in a different time (the 50s and 60s mainly) and I often get the impression that many modern gay activists really don’t understand what is behind this attitude of “homophobia.”

Or perhaps they half do understand. After all, the most popular argument for justifying gay equality seems to be immutability. The nice thing about the argument is its simplicity. It cuts short any calls for more justification. Nevertheless, the argument, when applied in other areas (not race) where “behavior” matters to some people, seems incomplete.

Because the real problem, in the minds of many people, does get existential. And it matters a lot more to men than women.

Remember how it was back in the 50s and early 60s. Most men believed that they owed primary loyalty to their own biological families and that they needed to have families of their own in order to be respected in dealing with the outside world. (People “incapable” of marriage and children were supposed to stay home and look after the elders and be taken care of by the more “competitive” men in the family, but they weren’t allowed to be publicly visible.) It’s true that straight men started out with a “double standard” view of sex. Marriage tended to tame and socialize them. An important point is that “most” men learned to be intimate in situations the demanded emotional complementarity. The morality was a lot more than just faithfulness to a wife or raising the children you sire. There was an unspoken assumption that you owed the world continuation of the family, or at least homage to the family that had mad you possible. You took care of your own, and you couldn’t really do this without a wife and children of your own, who became a social and sometimes economic asset. This way, you justified what you had in view of your indirect dependence on the sacrifices of others. Of course, marital sexuality was given the power to dominate the lives of whole families, as a way of making long term commitment and fidelity “rewarding” enough. It kept things stable, but, yes, it was so unfair! And, since men believed that they had to keep their families intact or else, it led to terrible jealousies and to the tribal, patriarchal behavior that we see both in soap operas and today in fundamentalist religion of any kind. New involuntary family responsibilities, as eldercare becomes a pressing issue, can reinforce the need for "domain" and lineage in the minds of many men.

In this kind of world, it wasn’t thinkable for a man to submit to another man. So for a man to admit that he was attracted to men was seen as a way of capitalizing one’s own sense of abasement. Since this couldn’t be “rational” according to the moral world of the time, the only motive for someone’s doing this was to make other men aware that they, too, can fail to “compete” physically and be brought low. How existential! But that’s how it is. You don’t tell people things with the not-so-hidden intention of making them feel vulnerable. In dangerous or perilous times, people look for hidden motives behind everything and see enemies among any who don’t “conform.” Male homosexual interest might even (paradoxically) be interpreted as a sign that societal male competitive values really matter on some personal level, reinforcing the sense of insult. You can imagine who that kind of social thinking would live today in places like the military. Understandably, today, it sounds easier to derail all of this by just saying “I was born gay and that is all.”

In fact, that sort of “thinking” would seem self-effacing by today’s notions of radical individualism and “personal responsibility.” If you are inadequate, that is your problem. I didn’t create it. I didn’t harm you. But, remember, in earlier times, family was the one sanctuary for emotions based on collective rather than individual values. The “emotional sanctuary” was seen as a matter or religious or moral necessity. It was the one area for non-rational changes in self-definition, without question, to meet the needs of other flesh and blood.

We have a similar dichotomy today with respect to personalized self-expression on the Internet. Content, viewed by itself, might be acceptable, but we’ve learned from the “reputation defense” problem that people very much care about why someone puts something up (especially about oneself) for others to find.

The values of individual sovereignty and localized personal responsibility worked well in arguing for gay rights when times were good. The obvious danger is that today’s economic calamities and sustainability claims will bring back the calls for people to accept the emotional interdependence that families used to take for granted. It’s important to understand how this whole system of familial “emotional capital” used to flow because it could come back again.

Societies often believe that they need “simple rules” (perhaps religiously based) to get people to live up to their “karma-like” obligations to others. In the past, we had the idea that a “no sex out of marriage” rule would get as many people as possible to get involved in parenting stable families and reduce the need for government to intervene in making things right. We know how that failed, eventually: it encouraged class and race differences and stifled individual psychological diversity. Now, it seems, we need a “pay your dues” kind of moral paradigm, and implementing it can bring back government in most unwelcome and possibly repressive ways.