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.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

CA: Obama might accidentally help Californians outlaw gay mrriage

Californians opposing gay marriage believe that Obama’s popularity will have the unintended consequence (from his viewpoint) of making it more likely that California’s Proposition 8, nullifying the state Supreme Court’s opinion, will actually pass. That is because Obama will draw out more African American voters, who are likely to be conservative on issues like what defines marriage.

CBS Evening News has a story “Gay marriage ban supporters thank Obama: Californians who hope to ban gay marriage are counting on Obama supporters to give them a boost,” Oct. 5, link here. The news correspondent is John Blackstone.

The story has a video and pictures of children carrying posters saying “Prop 8 = Free Speech”. The story also refers to the Genesis command “be fruitful and multiply”, as if not having children (eg avoiding heterosexual intercourse) disobeyed the Bible.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

SLDN, Reel Affirmations to screen the new film "Ask Not" about "don't ask don't tell" in October 2008

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network now has an online petition for repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” through the Military Readiness Enhancement Act proposed by Marty Meehan, HR 1246. The link is here.

SLDN will have a panel discussion about the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy at the Lincoln Theater in Washington DC on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 at 12 Noon, after a screening of the new documentary film “Ask Not”, which runs for slightly less than 90 minutes. The event is sponsored by the Washington DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in October 2008, called Reel Affirmations. The link, which includes a trailer with some excerpts from the film, is here. There is a link for ticket purchase ($10). It is likely to sell out, so I would advise purchasing tickets in advance. The film is directed by Johnny Symons and comes from a company called Persistent Visions. The website for the film is this. The film is related to a book by Nathaniel Frank, “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America,” published by Thomas Dunne, available for pre-order at Amazon here and due in March 2009.

A tagline for the movie is “They went into the closet to serve their country. They came out of the closet to save it.” The title of the film seems to come from former President John F. Kennedy's famous inauguration speech (Jan 20, 1961): "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!" It sounds like John McCain's "Country First." Yet the Republican platform would keep the military ban, where as Barack Obama says he supports lifting it.

The other “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” documentary (with that exact working title) in production by “Dream Outloud Films” still seems active, link here.