Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sustainability: what old fashioned mores really demanded, especially from the childless

As I noted last Sunday in discussing a recent op-ed, occasionally we see social conservatives apparently arguing the case that having and raising children is a moral responsibility, and that gay marriage will make a mockery of the social and emotional commitment that such efforts require.

The recent discussion in the media and in books about “sustainability” could be linked to ideas that reproduction is a basic obligation, to tie one to concerns for one’s progency – even if such social mores didn’t create a “sustainable” world in the past.

I came of age in a social system that seemed to think this way (call it the “Marty” mentality, from the 1955 film). It’s important to parse what this really meant. Because it indeed invades our modern sense of individual rights and responsibilities that go with the exercise of these rights, as well as our aims at “equality,” the notion doesn’t seem credible, but people generally don’t understand what drove this kind of thinking, beyond religions conviction.

The socially conservative world of the 1950s did understand that many adults do not have children. Unmarried older people (both men and women) were common. Many couples had an only child, and many had no children. Unmarried women became teachers or stayed home and took care of the elderly, a need which is much greater now with longer life spans and fewer adult children. Unmarried men (outside of Catholic priests) were perhaps more problematic. There was respect, if limited, for the idea of control of one’s body and for not having unwanted intimacy. However, there was considerable social pressure that those without children (especially unmarried adults) remain socially, politically and biologically loyal to their blood families, and interface with the outside world only in a manner that represented the family’s interests. Such an expectation might sound laughable to a generation raised on the Internet and Myspace, but it was breaking down even three decades ago as young adults (Baby Boomers) became more mobile and were tasting the “me generation”.

This sort of expectation was reinforced with the “Vatican morality” of no experience of sexuality outside of marriage with possibility (and risk) of procreation. That was a simple way to put it in those days. The intention was to reinforce marriage and parenthood with an elevated social position and access to sexuality so that it would be attractive, with the proviso that the families so created would take care of those who were less inclined to reproduce themselves, but with the expectation that those would also remain loyal. It was thought to be a system that “solved everything.” Therefore, respecting its mores became as essential a part of morality then as fidelity would be today. It was a whole system that could not tolerate violation of its process of socialization. The integrity of the motivational foundation of the family as as granularity of society was essential to ward off totalitarian schemes (notorious in history -- those "isms") that forced "equality" or weeded out people by some philosophy of elitism.

There were other issues, too. The system, with some confusion at times, tried to make most “average Joe type” men comfortable with the idea that they could have and raise families. True, that set them up for class exploitation. But it did not tolerate outside cultural expressions (male homosexuality) that could be seen as making fun of some of them who were already more marginal. The end result was a social system that people thought was “sustainable” and – as we know – it wasn’t. It started to break down in the 60s.

I often wonder, when I read a story like former New Jersey governor McGreevey, a particular riddle, even if intellectual in nature. What would the Vatican say his greatest “sin” was – infidelity, or some sort of disloyalty to his own social and biological destiny. He did have children, but one could imagine that his behavior, or inclination, suggests he was more interest in his own upward affiliation than his own progeny, setting up a paradox that would make it hard to justify what he “has” in life. The Vatican would probably be more concerned about the latter from its view of “sin.” It’s a least a philosophical question. His ex-wife claims that she was deceived from the beginning since he didn’t tell her he was gay. The Vatican way of thinking probably would not care about her point.

We can imagine, of course, a world with gay marriage and adoption, where having formal custody of children gives the same sort of emotional and social perks. What some would miss is the management of intercourse itself, enough to give it the rewards they need. The notion (as expressed once on the WB "Seventh Heaven" show) that "sex is only for married people" conveniently encapsulates the problem of how you get people to provide for one another beyond the parameters of their immediate choice; mainstream society doesn't want that, so you have to come up with other models (not predicated on manipulating sexual intercourse into using it to provide a layered society that hides relative "competitive" abilities) of how to get people to share risks, burdens and responsibilities and still deal with the logical consequences of disparaties responsibility -- the "second class citizen" problem.

All of this is troubling, as we keep hearing about calls to give up our own sense of personal sovereignty because the world is spinning out of control, demanding more emotion, more interdependence (which we always had but didn’t recognize it). Maybe some emotion and feeling, not welcome in an atmosphere of psychological defenses, are what is needed to keep freedom going when it is challenged.

Friday, June 27, 2008

CDC reports on HIV spike in young gay men

The Centers for Disease Control has released a report indicating that HIV infection is spiking in younger gay men, especially African Americans.

The CDC “Trends in HIV/AIDS Diagnoses” apparently appears at this link from the MMWR Weekly.

In fact, the CDC is promoting “National HIV Testing Day” with the mantra “take the test” on June 27 with this link that even offers “cool videos on HIV testing.” The CDC has a page that explains the acronym “MSM”.

The Washington Post reported on this matter today on p A14 with a story by David Brown, “HIV Rate Up 12 Percent Among Young Gay Men” and referred to ages as low as 13, which would invoke questions about illegal activities with minors. The link is here.
The 12% annual increase compares to an increase rate of 1.5% among the male homosexual community as a whole. Younger men may not be as aware of the traumatic period (the 1980s) that people of my generation went through (I was in Dallas with its “two year waiting period”), and may believe that it is easily controlled by protease inhibitors and other (expensive) medications (sometimes with many undesirable side effects). I snickered when I saw CDC's pages on HIV testing. In the 1980s, the Dallas Gay Alliance actually issued advice "don't take the test" for a while, right after it first appeared.

Update: June 30

The Washington Post today has a major editorial on p A10: "A Persistent Scourge: HIV-AIDS continues to ensnare young gay men.," link here. The editorial indicates that epidemiological data from the District of Columbia, stratified by age groups, follows the national trends reported by the CDC.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DADT: does it still creep into quasi-military civilian areas?

Can the military “don’t ask don’t tell” apply to "quasi-military" civilian jobs? The presence of a federal law (passed in 1993) designed for the military but partially predicated on the idea of “privacy” in situations of same-sex forced intimacy does sound like it could generate a malignant potential in civilian life.

SLDN’s Survival Guide (PDF) does give some hints on pages 14-15.

SLDN does warn that DADT applies to the reserves and could be applied to members of the individual ready reserves even for behavior in civilian settings, even if these cases are very rare. While the national guard is often federalized, state defense forces cannot.

State and municipal police departments often used to exclude gays (and “ask”, particularly about sodomy law violations), but these problems have become much less frequent since Lawrence v Texas and were coming under disrepute even in the 1990s (such as policies that used to be in place with the Dallas Police Department and Fairfax County Police Department). In some cities, police departments have LGBT liaison units.

Legally. DADT need not be applied to “uniformed services” if they are not “armed services”. So uniformed services in the NOAA and PHS (public health service) do not have to follow DADT unless their officers are deployed with military units. So far, officers in these services have been able to decline such assignments. The PHS was militarized during the Korean War but has not been since. The pressure for manpower in Iraq (if it does not abate in the current political and international situation) could eventually pose a problem, however, particularly for the PHS. There are no known cases involving these services so far.

For example, DADT does not apply to the Merchant Marine. However, graduates of the Merchant Marine academy have reserve commissions in the Navy or NOAA. If they enter the Navy, DADT applies.

The Civil Air Patrol is a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force and DADT is not supposed to apply.

DADT would not apply to junior ROTC members (as in high school) until they are actually enrolled in the military. However, ROTC scholarship students in college are considered members of the military and subject to DADT. Because many colleges and universities have gay and lesbian groups and have a social climate sympathetic to gay issues, this is a particularly egregious problem and has led some schools not to want to accept ROTC on campus, running into the Solomon amendment, discussed elsewhere on my websites. (I’ve cover that more soon.) In practice, on many campuses, gay students in ROTC may not actually run into any difficulties participating in campus organizations on their own, and would have considerable First Amendment claims. The whole legal climate around ROTC and DADT still sounds confounding and litigation-prone to me.

As discussed in other sites, the services have sought recoupments from active duty persons discharged from service academies or from the services when discharged before serving out commitments made for tuition assistance (as for medical school).

SLDN writes that there are no known examples of where DADT has applied to retirees, although there are theoretical scenarios where retirees can be recalled to active duty and prosecuted under the UCMJ. As a practical matter, the services have had no interest in trying to apply DADT in such scenarios, and would be challenged in court if they did.

DADT does not apply to civilian employees of the Defense Department. The treatment of civil service employees and of security clearances has steadily improved since the early 1970s and some additional protections regarding clearances were put into play during the Clinton administration. It is true that this has been a big problem in the past (as it was for me). There have been some concerns, already discussed earlier on this blog in relation to GLOBE, that the current Bush administration could have weakened these protections. (I discussed this on this blog on May 7.)

The FBI Academy at Quantico VA would have some close-in situations resembling the military, yet the FBI maintains that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. See this USAJObs listing.
This observation perhaps provides some ammunition for challenging the idea that the presence of gays by definition is invades the “privacy” of military members in other circumstances (like service academies).

There would be other situations in intelligence services (like the CIA) where quasi-military environments occur, but the CIA apparently does not have any formal policy in this area.

Participants in NASA space missions are often military officers, but some civilians (like teachers) have been selected, and there seems to be no policy regarding sexual orientation. It’s easy to imagine that a question like this would come up in the future with long manned space voyages (as in the 2001 Space Odyssey movie).

Back in the 1970s, New York City debated an ENDA-style anti-discrimination ordinance, and the New York Daily News ran doomsday scenarios of what would happen in firehouses, where firemen bunk together. Ironically, the GAA headquarters at 99 Wooster in those days was called "The Firehouse."

Civilians sometimes work in close quarters. NBC Nightly News (June 26) showed the employee bunks on oil rigs offshore in the Gulf (and these would include support personnel), and employment like this is likely to increase since the spike in oil prices probably will lead to increased drilling offshore and in remote, primitive areas like the arctic. The movie “Armageddon” also showed these living circumstances.

Civilians also might work in difficult situations overseas, such as contractors in Islamic countries. The media have not reported any problems with sexual orientation. In fact, gay reporters are known to have traveled with military units without incident. However, it would sound that in countries with intrusive local religious authorities (Saudi Arabia) there could be risks for openly gay contractors.

When I was substitute teaching, I found myself in situations where I might have suddenly been asked to provide custodial care to disabled persons not capable of consent. I was not comfortable with the idea of doing that when I knew there was a federal law on the books that was predicated on the problems of “forced intimacy,” and wrote such on an older website. This comment was found and contributed to my eventually leaving. However, with certain kinds of students I also found it problematical to perform as a “male role model” when the federal government says as a matter of law that someone “like me” may not share the responsibility of defending the country. Becoming a teacher with a “career switch” also means investing in tuition and time, and investment I did not want to make in the current political climate. The military DADT policy is based on old chestnuts from the past (Dick Cheney even called the military ban such) that still provide many practical difficulties today. Perhaps, call it the law of “unintended consequences.”

Update: August 18, 2008

Britain's top spy agency M15 is supposedly trying to recruit gays. I can imagine why (that's a pretext of my own "unpublished" novel). The AP story today is by Jennifer Quinn and appears here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Canadian study focuses on brain differences among gays and straights, detectable with MRI's

While yesterday, a Washington Times commentary argued that gay freedoms and equality would undermine civilization for everybody, today (June 23 2008) the Washington Post presents a Monday morning science column on p A12 by Rob Stein. The story is called “Brain study shows differences between gays, straights,” link here. The Post also provides an online discussion with Rob Stein today (June 23) at 11 AM on the topic. The print version of the newspaper had pictures of MRI brain-scans in the four possible combinations of gender and sexual orientation. Much of the work had been done at the University of Ontario. The brains of gay men and straight women resemble each other in certain ways, as do straight men and gay women. In the former combination, a region of the brain called the amygdala, linked to processing emotions, connects more to verbal-skill areas of the brain, in the later, more to the motor skills area. This sounds stereotyped. Gay men are more likely to have cognitive skills like those of women—with a lot of emphasis on verbal communication. Men are supposed to be better at math (perhaps a dubious claim) but perhaps gay men process mathematical concepts in a more verbal way (how do we explain Alan Turing’s gifts, which may have made an enormous difference in World War II?) I could wonder if there could be clues in penmanship. I remember one day in high school history class when a boy (not a good student) sitting in front of me looked at my penmanship on one of that teacher's famous (graded) essay tests, and said to me, "real boys write regular."

The article supposes that the development of the amygdale could be influences by prenatal hormones, as well as conventional genetics. There have been some suggestions that non-first-born men may be more likely to be gay. Oprah Winfrey recently presented a large family in which four brothers were all gay.

Even so, many people have always been determined to attribute moral significance to homosexuality, as in yesterday’s column. Why? It seems to be important to share risks and burdens equitably, and to come up with a moral rationalization for outcomes in which some people are better off than others. That happens in any society. “Anti-gay” arguments, like it or not, seem to focus on the idea that “openness” and “permissiveness” about sexuality tends to undermine the ability of marginal straight men (often among the less educated and, in a “class” sense, “exploited”) to make and keep conventional marriages with children.

Update: June 24

Peter Tatchell offers another viewpoint, saying that genes could relate to "predisposition" but not to final adult interests and behavior, in this article offered by the UK Green Party. The article goes on to suggest using genetic or biological arguments alone is not a good strategy for equal rights for gays.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gay marriage and family values: an op-ed gets quite blunt

Today (June 22) the Sunday Washington Times offers on op-ed by Jeffrey Kuhner (a regular columnist) on p B3, titled “Marriage Madness.” The link is here.

Some people may perceive this piece as a rant, and it starts out with the usual arguments about judicial activism and gay marriage (after a baroque preamble about Toynbee and the self-destruction of civilization). Kuhner has faith that “direct democracy” in California this fall will support his views, which is no sure thing in practice because it seems like gay marriage right now is good for California’s floundering economy. (He claims 55% support for the initiative right now.) But then his tone turns brutal, and perhaps that’s refreshing, or at least necessary. He says that the issue of same-sex marriage “concerns defending the basic institution of society: the family.” Okay. We hear that all the time. Later he criticizes the super-rationalism of the Western sexual revolution as aimed “to privatize morality, to remove traditional moral constraints, such as duty, family and responsibility.” He gets more blunt when he writes “Homosexuality is also a form of destructive sexual behavior.” And later be invokes the notion of bad karma and lack of sustainability: "a society of homosexuals cannot perpetuate itself...." That is, in his moral thinking, we are individually responsible for the collective implications of our personal behavior (whether or not our inclinations are "chosen"). Yet, early on, he refers to the relationship of the nuclear family and "bourgeois moral order" and therein he seems to generate an internal contradiction in his own mind.

However, soon he gets to the smoldering old argument that is indeed most unpleasant, what others call “demographic winter” (particularly for western Europe, although this may be changing in fact). He writes “same-sex marriage is an oxymoron. Marriage is about having children and reproducing – one generation transmitted to the next. The crisis of our age is that we no longer understand this – or care to.”

I certainly get where this come from, but my ultimate concern is that it defines me as a second-class citizen. If differential sacrifice is needed, it should come from me, because I have not taken on the special responsibility (and taking the genetic risk) of providing human beings for the next generation. (Perhaps that is related to the harsh fact that as a teenager I did not see myself as "competitive" enough with other men to marry.) That potential stepdown logically follows from what he says. It seems that I lack the emotional receptors to make me welcome the “non-rational” intimate contact from others (the opposite sex) necessary to focus on starting and raising a family. Some of us are wired very differently. Lions and tigers are almost the same genetically, but wired differently and therefore have very different social behaviors and “family values”. (No wonder that I love big cats.) Andy Warhol, in a mid 70s book on his philosophy, wrote that he lacked “responsibility hormones” and “reproduction hormones.” You see how this takes on a moral edge. Philip Longman ("The Empty Cradle", 2004) has written that today's "me generation" is too self-absorbed to be interested in having and raising children! There is no escape from it, other than accepting psychological diversity is good for a population as a whole.

One can propose that, to have equal rights, one must be willing to invest in the next generation (and provide care for the past, which is itself a bigger problem with longer lives and fewer babies). In this line of thinking, those who will not invest themselves in the emotions of intergenerational responsibility should not be seen or heard from, but simply exist within a family hierarchy. But accepting gay marriage and gay adoption could actually help encourage the sharing of family responsibility.

Last night, PBS aired a one hour film “The Great Pink Scare” (reviewed on my movies blog) that depicted a government witchhunt for gay college professors, carried out by opening the mails back in 1960 – carried out, ironically it seems now, in Massachusetts. The film got close to the mark, but didn’t quite say what really drove the incredible ostracism that homosexuals faced in previous generations. That is to say, gay men were seen as a threat to the public emotional climate that many men seem to need to marry, become fathers, and stay with their families.

Monday, June 16, 2008

CA: Marriage bells at start of business Tues (legal 17:01 PDT today); MA: marriages drop off

According to many reports, at 5:01 PM PDT today Monday June 16 (8:01 PM EDT), gay marriage will be legal and recognized in California again. The stroke of a grandfather clock, however, doesn't necessarily start playing Mendelssohn's Wedding March. The legal event had meant that gay marriage licenses could be issued at the start of business tomorrow Tuesday June 17 in California. (The AP story that clarifies this appears on Fox News here.) According to some stories, the clerks' offices may stay open tonight (Monday), although there are likely to be more variations on this story as it unfolds today. (CA residents: stay tuned all day; the opening of offices may vary from county to county.) In any case, there will be a rush to the altar, reminding one of the Gavin Newsome Day in 2004. Apparently, from news reports, there will be a referendum on the ballot Nov. 4 that could undo these marriages.

AP has a story by Lisa Leff, “Lesbian couple of 55 years ready to say ‘I do’”, a story that recalls an era when gays and lesbians “risked being arrested, fired from their jobs and sent to electroshock treatment,” are at least the pseudo-reparative “therapy” that I underwent at NIH in the fall of 1962. The link is here.

The New York Times ran a front page story Sunday June 16 by Pam Belluck, “Gay Couples Find Marriage Is a Mixed Bag,” link here.

The story relates the experience that, socially, gay marriage seems to work well in Massachusetts, with gay marital partners being able to use marital vocabulary with other family members and in public, without the feared social tensions. However, year by year, fewer gay couples are getting married in Massachusetts, and some are getting divorced, for some of the same reasons that heterosexual couples do.

The gay marriage debate does demonstrate how some people depend on the belief that others share their values and return emotional loyalties.

Evening: Breaking News

The Advocate has 24/7 coverage of this event with Steve Kmetko here.

Lisa Leff of the AP reported tonight (Monday June 16) "Dozens of gay couples wed in Calif. after ruling," link here. This included a couple in their 80s.

California, unlike Massachusetts, now allows same-sex couples residing in other states to travel there to marry. This feature is reported to causing a mini-economic resurgence in the catering businesses in the San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego areas. The LA catering business really needs this because of the losses from the WGA writer's strike and threatened SAG strike in the entertainment area. Of course, any sort of economic recovery is welcome as California is also hit very hard by the subprime crisis.

Update: June 18

The Los Angeles Times had an important editorial June 17, "The right to love; Same-sex unions do not diminish the bonds of marriage, they uphold them," and this URL was circulated on list-servers this morning. Here is an important excerpt on the referendum coming this November: "The question won't be whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong -- that's a matter of personal conviction -- but whether those who believe it is wrong should have the power to deny marriage to those who seek its protections."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

DC Capital Pride 2008: no problems with the storms

The annual DC Lesbian and Gay Pride (“Capital Pride”) took place this weekend, despite threatening weather Saturday night. I waited the storms out at home, but it turns out that the Dupont Circle and near NW Washington area was sandwiched between areas of heavier storms (which, this time, weakened as they moved east) and the parade came off. JR’s had its usual parking lot party, with another bachelor auction this time.

Cobalt DC has changed a bit since I was last there. Upstairs, all the seats have been taken out, the disco area has been moved, and there is more room for the dancers. They started getting on the floor about 10 PM, whereas on normal Saturday nights it was taking until after midnight, with the competition from the near Town DC (replacing Velvet Nation) in the nearby Cardozo area. The seats and sofas upstairs have been ripped out, and in some quarters there is a lot more light. It was pretty lively, with a continuous demonstration of a fireman’s carry on the near end of the floor.

Sunday afternoon, the annual street festival on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Newseum, took place. This year there seemed to be two major themes: corporate America, and the 2008 election. The west entrance of the festival presented the placard for Southwest Airlines, “the symbol of freedom”. Indeed, Southwest seems to be the only major airline (not a “legacy carrier”) that had the sense to negotiate a fuel price deal before the spike. Soon the visitor encountered a booth for Rogaine (Minoxodil), the famous treatment for male pattern baldness (on the pate). The major banks had booths, as did Met Life and realtors.

Log Cabin Republicans were very conspicuous, with a booth advertising John McCain. Barack Obama’s fundraising supporters were farther down, closer to the Capitol, and not as visible. HRC had its usual huge booth and attractive pages. SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) and LLDEF (Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, heavily involved in the California gay marriage decision) had adjacent booths, with petitions. LLDEF gave out cloth shopping bags that would have please Oprah.

Capital Pride has been held on Pennsylvania Ave. at Freedom Plaza (near the Naval Memorial and National Archives Metro stop) for a number of years. AIDSWalk also commences there in the fall. The Pride festival used to be held at a park at 22nd and N Streets near "P Street Beach."

In Minneapolis, where I lived 1997-2003, Pride was always held in Loring Park for two days the last weekend of June. In 2002, the temperature reached 102 in the shade on Saturday during the event.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pride Weekend: Bachelor Auction at Remington's in DC

Last night, Thursday June 12, Remington’s (in SE Washington DC on Pennsylvania Ave, a few blocks from the Capitol) held its Annual Capital Pride Bachelor Auction. The event took place relatively early (9-11) since it was a “school night” and the Metro (very troubled lately with breakdowns) closes at midnight. Remington’s is often known for offering country and western, like the Roundup in Dallas.

The program started with the usual drag show (tips accepted) and moved into the auction after about an hour. The proceeds went to Capital Pride. It seemed that, for making the winning bid, the purchaser was rewarded with a dance with a bachelor. It sounded like some of the bidders had some deep pockets, maybe enough to be a Christie’s. Among the contestants, the “Marky Mark” (on a weekend where an M. Night Shyamalan horror film featuring that popular icon opens) look was common, whether artificial or not. The drag queens made a little ceremony about unveiling the prizes.

This was an event where height conferred a competitive advantage. People were standing on chairs and elevating themselves to see the dance floor, which is hard to see in many parts of an oddly shaped property with narrow spaces.

During the event an odd thought occurred to me. What if the sound system were interrupted and some dead serious music (like the opening theme of the finale of Brahms ‘s Third Symphony) were piped in? It would make a great effect in a movie.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Military policy: Former Senator Sam Nunn, an architect of "don't ask don't tell" says he is open to reviewing the policy now

Planet Out is reporting that former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), one of the original proponents of “don’t ask don’t tell” in 1993, says now that he personally feels open to reconsidering the policy in view of social changes during the past fifteen years. The obvious inference is that he positioning himself for a possible appointment in the administration if Barach Obama wins the election. Obama has supported lifting the ban, as has Hillary Clinton. The link is here.

Nunn started attacking the idea of lifting the ban in the media, as with a “Good Morning America” appearance, right after Bill Clinton won the election in November 1992, well before the inauguration. His original argument was something like, with respect to military members, “they don’t go home at night like you and I do. They have no privacy.” Shortly after Clinton’s January 1993 inauguration (I was at the parade that day) Nunn started calling for hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Later, before the Senate (shortly before President Clinton’s July 19 1993 speech at Fort McNair) he screamed in front of the Senate, “if you have stated your status, you have described your conduct.”

Since leaving office, Nunn has become active with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and helped produce a 45-minute dramatic film “The Last Best Chance” about the dangers to the public from loose nuclear material around the world, especially the former Soviet Union. I have obtained a DVD from the organization and the film is compelling.

Charles Moskos, Northwestern University military sociology professor, was also an architect of "don't ask don't tell" but has, since 9/11, argued that the policy should be repealed and that a draft should be considered.

Picture: Former headquarter of the Campaign for Military Service, an organization that preceded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and that lobbied to lift the ban in 1993, near Dupont Circle in Washington.

VA: state supreme court prohibits "forum shopping" in interstate custody battles (gay or not)

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in Jenkins v. Miller, that a person in a dissolved domestic partnership cannot engage in “forum shopping” and move to Virginia to keep sole custody of a child and deny the former partner visitation rights.

One of the partners, Lisa, had filed action in Virginia in 2004 when the Virginia Affirmation of Marriage Act went into effect, attempting to cut off visitation by her former domestic partner, Janet. The civil union had been established after moving to Vermont in 2002, and dissolved in 2003. At issue was whether a former marital or union couple may move to another state just to get a more favorable custody arrangement than in the original state. This would seem to violate Full Faith and Credit.

Equality Virginia maintains a FAQ page on the details of the case here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

CA will have referendum on supreme court gay marriage ruling; Americans may be changing opinions

On Monday, June 2, the California secretary of state announced that a referendum measure to limit marriage to “one man and one woman” by amendment to the state constitution would be on the general election ballot on November 4.

However, for voters to do so would, given the wording of the court’s opinion, codify into law the idea that people who do not marry opposite sex members may sometimes, even as individuals, be treated as second class citizens and be expected to make sacrifices for those who do (see posting May 15 on this blog).

USA Today this morning (June 4) reports a Gallup poll that claims that 63% of Americans view marriage as a private choice. Only 33% believe that the government may regulate such a “choice: and 4% had no opinion. So a referendum this time might really fail. (The Briggs initiative to prohibit retention of gay teachers failed in California in 1978 by a 3 to 2 ratio.) The story also gave references to other stories in Massachusetts and Virginia. The story indicates that voters are beginning to see that life has not changed that much in Massachusetts as a result of the state supreme court opinion forcing legal recognition of gay marriage. The story (“Most say gay marriage private choice”) is by Cathy Lynn Grossman and the link is here.

There are multiple media reports to the effect that later today (June 4) the California state Supreme Court refused to stay its order in view of a likely referendum, and indicated that marriage licenses could be issued June 17.

Update: July 16

The California Supreme Court refused to stop the referendum, known as Proposition 8. The CNN story is " Californians cleared to vote on same-sex marriage ban," link here.