Saturday, August 30, 2008

Washington Blade has major article on how gays pay more taxes

David W. Unger has an important article “No Taxation without representation: Gays will pay $1 million more in taxes during lifetime than straights,” on p. 34 of the print edition of The Washington Blade, Business Page, for Friday, Aug. 29, 2008 (published weekly). The online does not appear to have the article yet. Maybe we can have a "Boston tea party" in print, at least.

The Media Buyer Planner claims the average gay annual income as between $52000 and $62000, compared to an a national average of $26000. That would certainly support the “discretionary income” “complaint”, but would also lead to higher taxes. More significant are tax rates (the marriage penalty for those with approximately equal incomes is in temporary phase out, but that gets complicated). Survivorship benefits for social security really favor heterosexual marriage, but the biggest tax issue would be children.

To be objective, this gets into one of our most profound public policy debates. One the one hand, we want parents to be responsible for the children they have; on the other hand, it’s almost impossible for them to raise children without a lot of public support, some of which comes from people without children. Unger writes “So, the next time the religious right starts complaining that we are an abomination because we don’t have children and therefore should not be given marriage rights, let’s remind them of how much extra we are paying in taxes to feed and teach theirs on a federal, state and local level.”

Unger also points out that there are many issues with inheritances. Gays must normally have wills for partners (except possibly in states accepting gay marriage), and it is common for angry blood relatives to challenge wills. And in some families, openly gay children may be disinherited, particularly if they left home and did not remain involved in looking after the interests of the family (with caregiving, the tables can be turned sometimes). The culture of the “heterosexual world” always depended on strong social and emotional support for blood relationships for their own sort, as strengthening marriage and protecting other members (even adults) within the family unit. Of course, that cultural norm has become quite a bit weaker in the West (both Europe and the US) in recent decades, and can exacerbate cultural and other international tensions with non-western (including Islamic) countries and non-state groups.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gay journalists: does coming out reflect on expected professional "objectivity"?

I remember, which researching first book, encountering a case where a reporter (Sandra S. Nelson) in Tacoma, Washington was reassigned to copyediting duties (in the 1990s) after her public activism for gay causes. The Washington state supreme court ruled for the newspaper in February 1997, on the grounds that a newspaper needs to protect its public appearance of objectivity in reporting news. (There is a text copy of the opinion on a site called TVW here.)

Fast forward to 2007, and the May 13, 2007 issue of “After Elton” features an article by James Hillis, “Gay Newsmen: A Clearer Picture,” link here. Hillis leads of with “Jason Bellini: It’s not honest.” As of the writing of the article, Bellini is the host of CBS News on Logo. But he spent a fascinating stint with CNN during the “invasion” of Iraq. Some of his CNN work is still available online, as when he was “embedded with the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit,” in a story from Nasiriya, April 2, 2003, link here. The time span of the report corresponds to that covered by a Rolling Stone reporter in the HBO film “Generation Kill”. Bellini’s “assimilation” into a Marine Corps unit (sort of), seems to defeat the idea of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Oh, yes, he’s “just” a civilian.

Other reporters covered in the article include Randy Price, Hank Plante, Craig Stevens, and Randol White.

The idea that gay journalists would compromise their objectivity by "coming out" seems less and less credible all the time. It is true that journalists generally don't talk about their personal relationships.

On the other side of virtue, there is the disturbing story of Miami television meteorologist Bill Kamal (who at one time worked in the DC area), who wound up in prison. He gives his side of the story (he says he was framed) in an interview with a Jacksonville newspaper, May 10, 2005, link here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ellen hosts Hillary Clinton; discuss gay marriage, ending DADT

Today, the day after Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Ellen DeGeneres hosted Hillary Clinton in a show from Columbus Circle in New York. OK, it seemed to be a repeat, because from the conversation on the show, Hillary hadn’t “lost” yet.

They made some jokes about Ellen’s running for President in some future campaign, even to the point of designing some T-shirts. Ellen's seemed to have the branches of the federal government mixed up with the branches of the government of colonial Williamsburg in the 18th Century (they explain how that was pretty well in the Old Capitol tour).

Ellen said, “I’m gay” and Hillary answered back with something like “You’re happy”. They had the discussion about gay marriage, and Hillary spoke for equal rights under “civil unions” (then why not marriage?). Hillary spoke for the idea that the issue should be left to the states, because so are other issues regarding “marriage.”

Hillary also spoke up for ending “don’t ask don’t tell” for ending the idea that gay people have to hide who they are to serve in the military. By then, everyone had forgotten about the interesting question that Ellen could pose by running for president. Well, if she won, not only would she be the first female and first lesbian president (we’re not sure about the men – what about James Buchanan?), she would be Commander in Chief of the military with “don’t ask don’t tell” unless it’s repealed. Sounds like a “conflict of interest.”

They went down to the Flame Diner. I presume that’s the restaurant on 57th Street, not the nearby Olympic Flame. I don’t know which Flame ‘The Breakfast Blog” refers to as the “Red Flame Diner” (link).

Picture: Julius's, in Greenwich Village, in a historic building dating to the 19th Century (but rebuilt).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CA: does gay marriage situation help McCain? If so, GOP is desperate

Page 15 of the October 2008 Mother Jones has a short sidebar “The Wed Menace: Does gay marriage help McCain?” The article is not online yet, but refers to The Hoover Institution (sounds encouraging, doesn’t it) and Bill Whalen as saying that the California State Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage (along with the proposition) as a potential gift to McCain. Time has an article Alex Altman back in May 2008 “Will Gay Marriage Help the GOP?” here. If so, in this era of bank failures, fiscal meltdowns and potential terrorism, and energy tap-outs, it sounds like evidence of just how weak and desperate the Republican Party has gotten given Bush’s performance in office and essentially a “minor league” pool of candidates. I was a Libertarian-leaning Republican of the Log Cabin type for years, and I have to agree with Lou Dobbs (who, I believe, once claimed to have been a Republican) of dismayal of the current administration’s recklessness. Some claim that the 2004 Massachusetts decision helped Bush beat Kerry in 2004, but that sounds desperate and tragicomic is so. I remember the day that the “constitutional amendment” was debated on the Senate floor in 2004, when Congress was a long way from a terrorism bill.

According to the Mother Jones piece, Obama supports repealing of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton.

Update: Aug. 27

To answer the comment, I looked this up, and found "Lou Doobs's Independent Convention" here. Wikipedia says Dobbs has switched from "fiscally conservative" to Republican. Wikipedia's reference says "Originally fiscally conservative, Dobbs' views changed from conservative to "Independent populist," etc. It also reads "Dobbs once described himself as a "lifelong Republican,"[16] but has stated that he has switched to being an unaffiliated independent populist, as he no longer openly supports any party."

Wikipedia also says "Dobbs has been generally supportive of gay civil rights." It reports that he was critical of the 2004 attempt to promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and said that traditional marriage is mainly under pressure because of fiscal recklessness of those in power. No disagreement there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CA: physicians cannot use religious beliefs in refusing fertility treatment to lesbian

In a case known as “North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc. et al” v. “San Diego Superior Court” (case S142892) with “real party at interest” Guadalupe T. Benitez, the California Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 18 that a physician (or medical service) may not deny medical services on the groups religious belief, even if providing service accidentally conflicts with religious beliefs, in contradiction to state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or for any other illegal reason. The 18 page opinion was written by Justice Joyce L. Kennard.

The doctors had refused fertility treatment to her because, they said, she was unmarried and that to do so would violate their religious beliefs, which were protected by the First Amendment. The Court ruled that the physicians must either refuse the same service to all patients, or refer to a doctor who will provide the service. The doctors had apparently given her "do-it-yourself" instructions for home.

The same logic would apply to abortion, and obviously has ramifications for pharmacists who don’t want to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, “morning after pills”, or other similar medications for personal moral reasons.

The Los Angeles Times has a pdf copy of the opinion here.

The LA Times story by Maura Dolan appears here. There are plenty of comments. One visitor claims that "liberals are trying to have it both ways with the right of privacy."

I have faced ethical questions in work that I accepted of a different nature, as sometimes discussed on these blogs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wikipedia has comprehensive history of "don't ask don't tell"; I updated it today

I wanted to mention Wikipedia’s entry on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. The account is now quite detailed and covers the subject with some subtlety.

The article (link), in its “History” section, maintains that in 1942, the War Department was given the authority to expel soldiers for homosexual orientation (regardless of actual conduct) and provide the legal basis for pejorative treatment of them in civilian life after discharge. Later, the article mentions that Charles Moskos, one of the architects of “don’t ask don’t tell” in 1993, as having said ‘"(Expletive) unit cohesion. I don't care about that...I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay [man]." Moskos did not offer any alternative to his DADT policy”.

Today, I edited an article in Wikipedia for the first time, this one, with a paragraph at the end of the History Section. It has the label “Rand Corporation authored a proposal for the Clinton Administration in 1993” and reads as follows:

In 1993, the National Defense Research Institute of the Rand Corporation published Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, identified as MR-323-OSD and with ISBN 0-8330-1441-2, 13 Chapters, 518 pages, paperback. On page 409, "Appendix A" exhibits an “Illustrative Standard of Professional Conduct.” On page 411, "Appendix B" gives a detailed study of “Living and Privacy Conditions in the Military Service.” "Appendix C" analyzes “Legal Provisions Concerning Sodomy.” "Appendices D and E" study foreign armed forces(especially Canada’s), and "Appendix F" gives “Relevant Data from Surveys.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Democratic Party puts repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in preliminary platform

SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) informed the public in an email today (Aug. 14) that the Democratic Platform Committee officially adopted a policy objective of repealing the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military. This agreement was reached Saturday Aug. 10.

The statement is as follows:

"We will also put national security above divisive politics... At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people. We support the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation."

The policy statement will be submitted to the entire Democratic Convention.

The website for the Democratic Convention to start in Denver Aug. 25 is here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NIH will do a study of long term HIV "non-progressors"

The National Institutes of Health (specifically, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases at the Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD) will be conducting a study of HIV-positive persons who live for many years without anti-retroviral drugs and who do not progress into symptoms. Persons must be 18 and meet certain other qualifications, and apparently will be compensated.

The NIH link is here.

It has been long known that sometimes the partner of someone who has died of AIDS lives many years without symptoms. I personally have known of several such couples.

The study would determine patterns of HIV-resistance that may occur naturally because of genetics. Perhaps some people’s T-helper cells are not as easily entered by HIV as others, or somehow do not attract the virus as readily because of molecular geometry.

In 1988, I was evaluated at the Clinical Center for possible participation in the GP160 vaccine. I did not participate because the program would have required considerable presence at the Clinical Center during weekdays, when I had a full time job.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What about transgender and marriage? What happens to "birthright" arguments?

Today, ABC Good Morning America presented a story of a woman who had lived as such but was chromosomally male. The news story is by Mary Hanan, is titled “Women with Male DNA all female; women with rare syndrome learn to live with male chromosomes,” link here.

In this case, the individual had married a man and the couple had adopted a child, with no subsequent controversy. I wondered what the legal literature says about this kind of situation. It seems that generally (maybe always) state laws accept the gender of a person as originally recorded as the legal gender. In many cases, neither a biological determination of different chromosomes or actual voluntary sex change (with surgery, etc.) would lead to change in legal recognition. Some states will not allow a transgender person to change his or her gender or record, but allow the person to remain married legally to someone the person regards as a member of the same sex. So, inadvertently perhaps, the states are allowing same-sex marriage (and probably custody and adoption) in these cases. It seems, to me at least, that “right wing” arguments about a child’s “birthright” to opposite-sexed married parents tend to run into trouble with a situation like this.

However, some states, even before the same-sex marriage debate grew, have recognized the new gender of a person after a change, such as a case in California in 1997. Here is a typical reference on transgender marriage, link.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Obama could force the issue on "don't ask don't tell": look deeper for the moral issues

Major media sources, including Wikipedia, indicate that Barack Obama favors ending “don’t ask don’t tell”. Wikipedia states that John McCain “has made it very clear he is 100% opposed to allowing gay or lesbian people serve openly in the armed forces and has affirmed that if elected he will stand by the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.” One comprehensive report on the candidates appeared in The New York Times by Robin Toner, June 8, 2007, “For ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, split on party lines,” link here.

I’m not able to find a position on the issue on Barack Obama’s own website. In April 2008, ABC News had reported that Barack Obama would not make opposition to “don’t ask don’t tell” a litmus test for appointment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a Secretary of Defense appointment would obviously become sensitive). The ABC blog link is here.

However, it is reasonable to believe that if Barack Obama wins the election in November 2008, right now, a greater than 50-50 probability, there will be a push to end the policy that, on the surface, would seem to recall the debate in 1993 during President Clinton’s First Term. This time there may be much more ammunition to overturn it in Congress, not the least of which include the experience of foreign (especially British and Israeli military), 15 years of SLDN data on discharges, and public opinion polls that suggest favoring repeal. The public is more willing to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” than to accept gay marriage, and I think one reason is that, even without a formal draft (although there is constant talk of it), many people see availability and “moral fitness” for military service, at least as a contingency, as a basic requirement of citizenship. That sentiment would remain even if Sen. John McCain wins the election.

As to how to lift the ban, much has been written. I wrote about it in my first book at length (1997), but the best known source that the Congress could accept is probably Rand Corporation’s massive 1993 study, already mentioned in this blog. Most sources propose codes of military professional conduct and the nuances involve. One area not well covered back in 1993 is the potential for “exposure” through the Internet, social networking sites, and search engines, But the military already needs to develop policies regarding these matters for other security reasons.

The idea that citizens have a background, implicit obligation to maintain a readiness for sharing the burden of defending freedom is still very important to me, and probably more important to many Americans than most people want to admit. This part of our moral lives is one of the reasons that I wrote the first book in 1997, and connected the arguments regarding the military ban back to McCarthy era Cold War antigay attitudes that I experienced in college, and to the moral controversy over student deferments during the Vietnam era draft The idea of the obligation to share burdens can influence many of our other areas of public policy debate today. Both candidates know that and have mentioned strong carrots for national service as a result.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FL: Log Cabin praises Republican's remarks against state's "amendment 2" regarding same-sex unions

Log Cabin Republicans have advised readers that Florida has its own “Amendment 2” (recalling the notorious measure in Colorado in the 1990s, to be overruled in Romer v. Evans). This time, the “amendment” would ban state recognition of same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.

LCR has also praised Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for speaking out against the proposed amendment, in a press release dated July 28, here.

The Miami Herald has a photo blog of the event for the Congressman’s remarks (“Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida”, here.)

Florida is also notorious in prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting children, as Rosie O’Donnell has publicized. For example, see the story by Ann Rostow, “Court upholds Florida gay adoption ban”, Jan. 29, 2004, link here, on the 11th Circuit’s 2004 ruling. Strangely in that ruling, Judge Stanley Birch had ruled “that Lawrence [v. Texas] did not articulate a "fundamental" right to personal and sexual autonomy for same-sex couples.”

Monday, August 04, 2008

Faith-based organizations, charities, taxes, and discrimination: CA ruling really does not affect this

The Washington Times has an editorial on p B2 of the Sunday (Aug. 3) paper called “Religious Liberty” in which it claims that the California state supreme court’s ruling on gay marriage (blog entry here May 15) rules that “sexual orientation is a matter of discrimination” and that therefore religious organizations that receive government grants to provide services will have to stop providing the services to remain faithful to their beliefs. It pointed out that Catholic Charities in Boston had stopped its 103-year-old adoption program rather than comply with a Massachusetts law saying that gays be allowed to adopt children.

Actually, the ruling from the California court was more to the effect that California marriage law could cause gay individuals, even those not trying to marry, to be treated as second-class citizens when competing with heterosexual individuals, usually those with marital and familial commitments related to legal marriage.

In any case, there is a real problem when faith-based charities depend on taxes rather than private contributions, which can more easily take into account personal moral beliefs without running into government. But we know that problem from the Boy Scouts of America.

I’m not sure about the details in Massachusetts, but in most states, religious charities that provide social services with their own privately raised donations and particularly church offerings are free to follow their own religious teachings in administering their programs. That’s how it should be.

There’s an internal contradiction in the desire to prohibit gay adoption. I thought the trend was to get more people involved in raising the next generation. The message sent in religious doctrines that ban gays from raising children is that gender sexual conformity and performance itself has moral weight – perhaps intermingled with the personal development that leads up to it. That, after all, was one of the points of the second of three “Colors” films by Krzysztof Kieslowski (called “White”).

Sunday, August 03, 2008

CDC reports spike in HIV in all populations, higher incidence than had been expected

The Centers for Disease Control has reported a larger than expected increase in the incidence of HIV infection. A study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006, instead of 40000.

In the past fifteen years or so, the CDC has emphasized reporting of HIV infection rather than reporting “cases of AIDS” based on opportunistic infections or malignancies (like Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is considered “multi-focal”) or multiple symptoms of what used to be called “ARC”. For a time in the early and mid 1980s, these cases counts were expanding geometrically, doubling every six months, before starting to level off later in the 80s.

Between 53%-57% occurred because of sexual activity in gay men, but this percentage is substantially lower for this population than it was in the United States in the early to mid 80s. According to CNN, 60% if all cases occur in the African American community. Heterosexual contact, usually (but not always) male-to-female, accounts for 31%, but has rapidly become a very dangerous problem for women in some communities. In Africa (where it is a catastrophic pandemic), most transmission seems to be heterosexual and is bidirectional, probably because of the previous existence of other STD's to facilitate transmission. A typical recent Lancet story is discussed in Medical News Today here.

Protection greatly reduces the risk of transmission but is not “perfect.” The ability of companies to provide protection information online was actually an issue in the COPA trial (follow my postings on this other blog, particularly in late 2006).

The link to the CDC report is here. The abstract for the JAMA article is here. A paid subscription is required to see the full text.

In the 1980s, AIDS assistance programs run by volunteers and non-profits like the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (New York), the Oak Lawn Counseling Center (Dallas), and Whitman Walker Clinic (Washington) often used many volunteer “buddies”, a program in which I participated in Dallas. The need for this seemed to diminish in the 1990s (partly because better medications enabled Persons with AIDS to remain active and often remain at work) and tended to shift to specific other volunteer areas like meals (Food and Friends). Now, eldercare and Alzheimers, for demographic reasons, is becoming an issue for many adults who did not have their own children, and the psychological aspects of eldercare are quite different (and long-lasting and more demanding in some ways) from buddy programs of the 80s.

There was an earlier story about an earlier CDC report on this blog June 27, 2008.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Town DC has talent show #2: MC shows how to discipline a booer

Last night, the Town DC (at 8th and U Sts NW Washington) did hold its talent show, hosted by drag queen Tony Moran. Now, it seems, this is a monthly event, the first Friday of every month, and this is talent show 2. The club’s Myspace page “Thistownhastalent” seems to have expired.

The downstairs floor was pretty well packed as the show started about 10:15. There were about 8 contestants, and four judges. There was no Ryan Seacrest (“my job is to make pop stars: that’s how I make my money) and no Simon Cowell. There was no voting by text message; the judges picked the three finalists, and the audience picked the winner on applause vote.

The second performer, a male African American singer with genuine professional voice talent, finished in finalists but was not chosen. There was a guitarist, who would lose his shirt. A highlight was a pantomime of an aria from Puccini’s La Boheme (an aria you usually hear on Smallville in scenes involving Lex or Lionel Luthor). There was a vigorous dance that came in 2. But the winner was an old-fashioned drag pop pantomime.

But the highlight of the evening was provided by Tony’s “classroom management” skills. A guy booed one of the performers. Tony says, “we don’t boo here.” Soon, “for that, I think you need to take your shirt off.” She helps him unveil and soon we see, well, nothing. That became her point.

The contest was all done by about 11:30. Upstairs, it was business as usual. Disco music always seems to be in quadruple time, and doesn’t adjust to changing meters and heavy syncopation of modern settings of folk dance music. Yet, disco could be adapted to concert performance. There is a certain ritual to The Dance, that has a certain meaning. Some values that we grew up, that may oppress us, really have meaning to us after all.

Pix are in development. Here they are:

Tony and the finalists:

The judges:

The three finalists:

The contest winner, according to audience applause:

In my opinion, the best voice talent with respect to musicianship:

The "teacher" installs classroom "discipline" -- look toward the back of the picture; I didn't take it quickly enough

Friday, August 01, 2008

MA: out-of-state same-sex couples can marry

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has signed into law the repeal of a 1913 statute that had banned marriages in Massachusetts that would not be legal in the states of residence of the couple. The AP story is by Glen Johnson and appears here.

The state believes that about 30000 same-sex couples will come, mainly from New York State, spend about $111 million and help create 300 jobs. In other words, economic self-interest seems to be starting to carry the banner for the gay marriage debate. Will the same happen for the referendum in California this November?

Apparently, according to an emergency preamble, the same-sex ceremonies can start now.