Friday, May 30, 2008

HRC Equality presents Obama, Clinton on the GLBT issues (especially DADT)


The Human Rights Campaign bulletin ("Equality") for Spring 2008 has interviews with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In the interviews, the questions are posed as coming from “Equality.”

Both candidates support repealing “don’t ask don’t tell,” and both warn that as president they would have to sell Congress on ending the policy (and removing it from US Code, as passed Nov. 1993). Clinton (p. 12) talks about building the “political will” to do so. She says that she knows that the capacity to serve in the military has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Obama talks about DADT in two answers. First, in a general answer on p 13, he says, “think how far we’ve come from the 1990s in building public support for ending ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’…as he is making the bigger point that building public support for ending all anti-gay discrimination is essential and remains partly a grassroots effort. Om p 15 he gives a more specific answer, as he indicates that he will get being the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that would repeal the policy. He also says that if the policy is repealed, he will develop a policy to reinstate some of those who had been separated under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. He does indicate that a formal action plan is necessary.

A good place to start now is to review the report commissioned in 1993 by Les Aspin, Rand Corporation (National Defense Research Institute). Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment. Los Angeles: Rand, 1993. This is available on Amazon and is expensive. I would think that a new president should hire Rand to update the study with a second volume, take into consideration the record of witchhunts, and also consider the novel problems that might occur when soldiers can discover personal information about one another on the Internet. As we know, commands vary widely in allowing servicemembers to blog, especially from overseas; there are many valuable blogs and YouTube videos from Iraq.

On gay marriage, Obama supports the idea that states can implement “equal rights” by appropriately structuring civil unions, perhaps using the term “civil marriage” (p 13)

Clinton also says that marriage law has traditionally been left to the states, but that she would fight for equal treatment for “same-sex couples” in all federal areas, like social security benefits.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New York state may recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages


The new governor David Patterson of New York State (Democratic) has ordered that state agencies recognize same-sex marriages performed according to the laws of other states (Massachusetts and California, so far).

Patterson took office as governor when Elliot Spitzer resigned after being nabbed in a prostitution scandal.

An organization called “New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms,” which calls itself “New York’s only Christian lobby organization, lobbying on religious, family and moral issues” has tried to mount opposition, claiming that Patterson is circumventing the law. The website reference is brief, blunt, and not too “intellectual”; it reads like an example of what I talked about at the beginning of yesterday’s posting. The link is here.

It’s not clear how Patterson’s order may relate to the Full Faith and Credit clause in the Constitution, or to the 1996 DOMA law.

As it stands now, California may start recognizing same-sex marriages June 17, CNN story here.

Update: May 31

The New York Times
reports in a story by Jesse McKinley,"States Seek Delay in California Marriage Ruling" up to ten states, including Michigan, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Arizona and Utah have asked the California state supreme court to stay is implementation of its ruling sometime before marriages are recorded as early as June 17. Indeed, the attorneys general of the states fear that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would not stand up to constitutional challenge if a same-sex couple in one of their states married in California and returned to the state, expecting the marriage to be recognized legally in the home state. The link is here.

Update: June 3

USA Today reports "Suit aims to stop N.Y. recognition of gay marriages," in a suit in state department to which several Bronx Republicans are party, link here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Moral" thinking on gay issues has long been largely "collective"


Recently, I made a retrospective posting about Lawrence v. Texas (May 12), and then did a review of a book by William Eskridge on the anti-gay criminal laws of the past (see the link on that posting).

I wanted to reiterate a bifurcation in the whole line of thinking that used to justify these laws. The original thinking was entirely collective in nature. Behavior which “polluted” or “destabilized” the cultural support for the family was considered immoral on its face, without regard to the modern notion of “personal responsibility.” Why? Beyond religion, the basic problem is that people thought they needed a cultural climate the reinforced their marriages and contributed to the sense of “reward.” But this led to an odd paradox. The male homosexual, who cannot or will not compete for a man’s wife or girl friend, becomes an “abstract” enemy, but not in the highly personalized sense of a rival who really does take away a man’s wife (a common situation in soap opera). He is a “threat” to a value system, but not to the husband himself. And that value system wants to maintain a myth of "moral perfection" to rationalize the hardships of family life.

Indeed, this doesn’t make much sense to a world that has a focus on individual choice and freedom, and judges people on their own competitive efforts. It sounds more like the way dictators (in the past, or in many governments today) squash dissent. They need control for its own sake, as its own reward. It’s part of their own system.

After World War I, as Eskridge points out, the theories of Sigmund Freud allowed a new kind of “rationale” to develop. That is, sexuality is so sacred that it must serve the common good – through openness to procreation. Another way of putting this kind of thinking is to say that the individual is expected to share the “risk” of what may follow – rearing a child of uncertain or unknown capabilities. In a sense, this got to be seen as part of “reverence for life” and avoiding “the knowledge of good and evil.” Eventually, with decisions on contraception, abortion, and finally litigation on sodomy laws, this notion receded as it seemed separate from modern ideas of immediate personal responsibility and seemed to violate modern notions of privacy and adult individual sovereignty. However, people in "earlier" societies often did not have the opportunity (or "luxury") to envision themselves as expressing identities that transcended their biological families with their emphasis on complementarity; "personal autonomy" is partly the result of a technological society.

Nevertheless, as “problems” accumulate, more attention in moral thinking goes toward the idea of sharing or burdens and (as in the past) of family responsibility, even among those who did not have their own children. Emotional loyalty to family comes to be perceived as an issue, even in individualistic terms. The idea of remaining aloof and choosing intimate partners by a principle of “upward affiliation” is seen as bad karma, possibly even having “sadistic” motives that could even discourage some heterosexual marriages. The moral idea develops that there is an obligation to be open to “downward affiliation” because one’s parents did that at one time. Furthermore, the idea develops that one should live for the experience of family, even when one does not marry and have children oneself, instead of one’s own chosen purposes, which may become disruptive. Many other partially collective (and often religion-based) moral ideas may follow, such as the notion that every adult should be a cultural role model, even when without children. This circles back to the original cultural problem, that the belief in meaning and importance of the family as a function unit is important for many people in making lifelong marriage work.

This kind of thinking ends around the idea of “second class citizen” (inherent now in the gay marriage debate) because one is supposed to experience blood family for its own sake. Nevertheless, this mindset has to answer for why it expects young men to “compete” to prove themselves worthy “providers” and then does an about face and wants the “waverers” or less competitive men to marry anyway so they cannot disturb or perturb the values of the majority. The mindset also has to answer for how it perpetuates inequality among families.

My own take on this is that it does matter, especially now, how we all share “burdens” or common responsibilities as they develop with historical and demographic change. The capacity to serve the military (in the face of “don’t ask don’t tell”), to raise children, and to provide caregiving for parents all become issues that go beyond the usual sense of being responsible only for the choices that one deliberately makes. That’s one reason why debates on the military gay ban, gay marriage, gay adoption, online “reputation”, and now, increasing concerns about filial responsibility, as well as global citizenship (carbon footprints) are becoming morally compelling.

Update: May 30

Philip Chandler has a link at in his "Gay Equality and the Law" blog at townhall.com discussing the California opinion in detail, and also discussing a disturbing First Amendment case in Holmes County, Florida where a schoolboard tries to suppress support of gay rights among students, link here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

John McCain has "respectable disagreement" with Ellen on gay marriage


“I can hardly wait,” John McCain said Thursday, as Ellen De Generes promised to converse with him about his opinion on the recent California ruling on gay marriage.

McCain is certainly lightening up, appearing on Saturday Night Live with Amy Poehler and Seth Myers. (Democrats, I have to urge you: Do not, in any circumstances, pick a candidate too soon!) Actually, Ellen said “you are a very funny guy.” He also said that “being very old” is an important quality for a President. Indeed, Barack Obama, slender, petite and youthful, looks like he could well waltz onto the dance floor at the Town DC.

McCain said people should be able to enter into “legal agreements,” like “insurance and other areas” but he said there should be “unique status for marriage behind a man and woman” and he said that he had a “respectful disagreement.” Ellen made the metaphor of making gay people sit in a different part of the room. The obvious reference in my mind was Rosa Parks in Alabama being made to sit in the back of the bus in the 1950s. Ellen said something like, "we are all the same." I recall, in kindergarten in 1949 (in a private home), that the teacher divided the class into “brownies” and “elves”. The elves went upstairs, and I remained a “brownie.” (The term did not refer to race, just to apparent social status; I am Caucasian.) I also wanted Ellen to say something like this: people who do not engage in heterosexual marriage are forced by government policy to subsidize the lives of people who do.

Ellen then asked McCain if he would walk her down the aisle, like a father of the bride. (The father, remember, pays for the wedding, at least in Emily Post’s world.), when Ellen marries Portia de Rossi.

Ellen did not ask John McCain about repealing "don't ask don't tell" for gays in the military. I wish she had. I would love to hear his answer. (Or maybe I wouldn't).

The Washington Blade now reports that there is a $20 million fight coming to beat down a proposed state constitutional amendment to reverse the California Supreme Court’s ruling, here, by Joshua Lynsen.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

CA: state Supreme Court says state must allow gays equal rights to marry


The California State Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 that the state cannot deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The Opinion is available in PDF format on Findlaw here. There probably will be other copies of the opinion on the web shortly.

The logic refers to the California state constitution and seems to be based on equal protection. The judges ruled that sexual orientation "does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” Furthermore they wrote “We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples,” according to chief justice Ronald George. The justices asserted a fundamental right to form a family unit. The dissenting justices made arguments about separation of powers.

The justices ruled that domestic partnership was not the full legal equivalent of marriage. (That was exactly the point of Chris Crain's "piddle, twiddle, resolve" essay in The Washington Blade in March 2004). The ruling overturned a 2000 California law (Proposition 22) passed by voters "strengthening" a 1978 law limiting marriage to one man and one woman (1978 was the year that the Briggs initiative trying to ban gay teachers failed).

A particularly important quote appears at the end of p. 11. "Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise -- now emphatically rejected by this state -- that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects "second class citizens" who may, under the law, be treated differently from and less favorably than heterosexual individuals and opposite-sex couples." Notice that the judges refer to individuals, even those not in relationships, as indirectly affected by the marriage ban as potentially exposed to making the "sacrifices" for the benefit of heterosexual families. My goodness, that's the heart of my 1997 book and subsequent writings. (Maybe they read them. Individual speech does matter.) (On Monday, May 19, on p A17 of The Washington Post, progressive columnist E.J. Dionne would note that previously welcome attempts to offer gays civil unions were now viewed as inherently discriminatory and eventually inviting "second class" status in the eyes of the rest of society. Given our national history, this notion should not be taken lightly.)

The CNN story is here.

Six of the seven judges are Republican. In this regard, the ruling could be interesting, and pressure mainstream Republicans and more moderate candidates (possibly John McCain) into recognizing equal rights, and this could even be beneficial in increasing political pressure to get Congress to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” for the military. Log Cabin will be pleased. Today LCR (http://online.logcabin.org/) has a front page story “Log Cabin Republicans applaud California Supreme Court’s opinion on marriage equality; Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will uphold the ruling.” Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco (himself married and straight and “Irish Catholic”) was celebrating.

The ruling may fuel extreme right wing claims that a federal constitutional amendment is necessary, as the nation’s largest state, in addition to Massachusetts, will recognize gay marriage in 30 days, unless the justices agree to a stay. Furthermore, conservatives could try to force a referendum amendment vote overturning today's ruling in California in the November election (as happened in Virginia in 2006 with Marshall-Newman). Lisa Leff has an article about the future course of such attempts in the AP May 16, link here. It is said that such an amendment would be immune to appeal to the US Supreme Court since it is a state law, but then there was Colorado's Amendment 2 in the 1990s.

On the other hand, the ruling may undercut “collectivistic” abstract notions about “the sanctity of marriage” as meaning that the ability of heterosexuals to experience it to its fullest (in lifelong active monogamy of the “Song of Solomon” type) is undercut by the knowledge that it is now a bit more private in nature and does not allow collective demands to demand psychological tribute from those who do not marry and have children in a heterosexual manner.

It has also been reported that the California ruling may allow out-of-state gay couples to get married by "gay tourism." The Massachusetts ruling in 2004 applied only to in-state same-sex couples.

Update: July 21

Philip Chandler has an interesting analysis dated June 4 in his Townhall blog "Gay Equality and the Law" here.

Picture: not in CA: Charles St. in Baltimore

Public university employee dooced for anti-gay op-ed: how does freedom of speech fit in?


There is another controversy now over a recent Guest Opinion piece by Crystal Dixon in the Toledo Free Press, from April 18, 2008. (Toledo is in northwestern Ohio, in “Days of our Lives” country, south of Detroit.) The piece is titled “Gay rights and wrongs: another perspective” with the link here. As part of the background, the visitor should know that her piece relates to an April 4, 2008 “Gay rights and wrongs” by Michael S. Miller, Editor in Chief of the Paper, link here. Dixon’s piece discusses “morality” in a somewhat simplified “religious” fashion, with reasoning that used to be used to justify sodomy laws (two postings ago). She criticizes the comparison of gay people to African Americans, and hints at the right-wing “demographic winter” argument that gay people usually don’t have families and usually make more money than African Americans and have more discretionary income than families with children (not always true).

Then, according to a story by Peter Winn on Cybercast News Service, Crystal Dixon was suspended with pay from her position as an associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo, which is a state school. Essentially, the university dooced her. The story is “College suspends administrator for op-ed on homosexuals,” link here.

It should be added that Dixon’s article did not mention her work position or even identify her employer. (She did mention she was an alumnus of the school and one sentence could be read as indirectly identifying her as an employee -- a valid point of analysis.) Nevertheless, the University said that her writing did not represent the position of the school and that it was necessary to “repudiate her writing.” Jacobs then spoke directly for the University and maintained that it supports “two pending domestic partner bills in the Ohio Legislature: Senate Bill 305 and House Bill 502” (from the CNS story).

“GayPatriotWest” wrote an op-ed on the libertarian-oriented “Gay Patriot” website “University Suspends Administrator for Op-Ed on Gay Rights” on May 12, link here. He takes the position that, while the op-ed says “silly things”, she, as a public sector employee, can write what she wants on her own time as long as it doesn’t interfere with her job. The posting has quickly accumulated many comments.

Now, for me, that’s the rub. She is a vice-president. Presumably, others report to her in the workplace, and she makes decisions that affect people who report to her. She might have the power to make decisions that affect students. Furthermore, she is a “public official” for the university, and she is known publicly by her stakeholders to be in the position, even if she did not mention the position in the op-ed. In these days of “reputation defender” it’s easy for students and employees at the school to locate her on the Internet with search engines.

It is true, she is a public employee (I think), and if the case is litigated, that could affect the outcome, as it often does for teachers. But part of her job is to make decisions about subordinates. She took that job voluntarily. That means that in some sense she represents the views of the University by taking the job. If she wants to disagree publicly, she should not have taken the job in the first place.

Now, how about the real world? In private business, generally you have to be careful about expressing opinions in public (like in letters to the editor or, now, even on your own blog or profile) that could embarrass the boss or your employer. (That’s how Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce” website, covered recently on ABC Nightline, got started.) It’s particularly important if you have direct reports, grade students, make underwriting decisions about customers, or speak for the organization. In the pre-Internet print world, people generally understood they needed to express care in newspaper letters, and today in this search-engine world you obviously need to bear this in mind on the Internet. Things get found with amazing speed. It happened to me when I was substitute teaching in 2005 (as I have detailed elsewhere on the blogs – check the search engines).

For me, at least, part of the moral issue is the “loyalty” that helps justify a paycheck in some kinds of jobs (related, again, to “reputation defense”). That’s why I’ve said before that those with those kinds of job responsibilities should probably let others participate in managing their online presence. I suspect that over time many employers will insist on it. (There are companies, like Ziggs, coming into being that do just that.) I was somewhat “fortunate” when I was working in information technology in that I was an “individual contributor” but even so I had to be careful and I did a job transfer in 1997 partly to get away from the military side of the business (since I was writing about gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell”). Since I “retired” I have been outspoken, but I realize that at some point in the future I could have to take down my own presence if I take certain kinds of jobs. I just don’t know whether that will happen, but it could. There are no specific plans now. But it’s like wondering if there will be a merger.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Details" reports on the gay fatherhood boom, often with surrogacy


Details, which has always been a hetero magazine with a lot of gay-appealing fashion pictures, talked about dads of gay sons in April (blog entry here on March 27, see archives), and in May 2008 ran (on p 78) a big story by Edward Lewine on gay male surrogate parenthood, “The Gay Baby Boom: using adoption or surrogacy, more homosexual men than ever before are becoming fathers. It’s not a novelty – it’s a movement. Look for it at a playground near you.” The link is this.

Men (such as gay men in a relationship, or sometimes single men desiring to be parents) create a “genetic cocktail” which is implanted in the surrogate mother, through IVF. The procedure is expensive, ranging from $50000 to $150000 (including compensating the mother) and tends to work only for the affluent. Some clinics report that 90% of their business comes from gay men. There seems to have occurred a major sea change on the idea of gay men becoming parents in the 1990s, as behaviors changed as a result of HIV and as social policy debates centered more on service and personal commitment (ranging from gay marriage and civil unions to gays in the military). This probably was much too late for those of my generation.

Gay men may see surrogacy as emotionally more desirable and adoption, and they can avoid intrusive investigations about "fitness" from social workers (as well as laws in a few states like Florida that prohibit gay adoptions -- something Rosie O'Donnell has fought).

I've wondered, if a man donates his sperm to a woman desiring children and does not agree to be the father, could he be held responsible later, at least without a contract? Maybe a visitor knows.

One can imagine that surrogate parenting does partially answer ideological moral objections (regarding homosexuality, as from the Vatican) concerning "openness to new life" and participation in raising the next generation, although it does not connect these with sexuality would not answer claims that children have a "birthright" to opposite gendered parents.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lawrence v. Texas; Bowers v. Hardwick: a historical retrospect


Once in a while it’s a good idea to go back and brush up on a bit of history—today on a matter that we have probably become complacent about – so-called “sodomy laws”.

The two best known Supreme Court opinions on the matter were Bowers v. Hardwick, reaffirming the Georgia law (which applied to homosexuals and heterosexuals) in 1986 (link here), and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down Texas statute 2106 that applied to homosexuals only (Cornell link) Note: it seems from my experience that the Supreme Court's own links drop off after four years.

Much has been written about all the controversial legal concepts discussed in both decisions. Included among these are not just equal protection, but more fundamentally: standard of review (“rational basis” or “strict scrutiny”) and “fundamental right” and whether the Ninth Amendment (penumbra clause) essentially protects unenumerated individual rights as “fundamental rights.”

There has been history before this. In 1982, Baker v. Wade had struck down the Texas sodomy law (and been followed by a supplementary opinion), but the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans would override that opinion in 1985, actually saying that “regulating morality” was a “legitimate state interest”.

In fact, in both major Supreme Court decisions there were ruminations on “morality” that, in the case of Justice Burger in 1986, turned into an outright rant. Justice Scalia’s dissent in 2003 turned into a curious piece of circular logic (about how liberty interests are established by “tradition”) and then a speculation that the majority opinion would require the Court later to accept gay marriage. Really? No, I don’t believe today for one instant that the Supreme Court would strike down Virginia’s Marshall-Newman amendment.

What’s useful, at least for educational and background purposes, is to try to construct what they thought they meant by “morality” (we now call it "public morality") but wouldn’t articulate. They can’t appeal to religion in a republic that is supposed to separate church and state. What strikes me is they reflect the sense of an earlier society that did not embrace the idea of individual sovereignty, because the underlying political, social and international environment was not stable enough. Also, people needed a lot of intra-family interdependence in order to survive at all. Society, with all its glaring faults (like racism) accepted the idea that some people would “have” more than others, but that in order to “have” one needed to accept responsibility for raising a family. Doesn’t everybody want one anyway? Well, not always. Human beings do other things or an artistic, cultural and expressive nature besides procreating. They actually may have adult relationships for their own sakes, rather than for lineage. In such an intrinsically pluralistic world, there is a fear that some people, less competitive physically and “reproductively”, will “cheat” the system and undermine the emotional stability, integrity and sustainability of the family unit for others who are also somewhat marginal but who try to participate in having and raising kids or taking on other family responsibility. This sounds like the “waverer” argument of Pattullo and others. It sounds gratuitous today because we have a technology driven culture that generally encourages individualism (although we are learning that that culture can become vulnerable to asymmetry). But a half century ago this sort of thinking was taken very seriously. It bit me. It was thought to be as an important part of “morality” as ideas of fidelity and supporting the kids that you do have. It links to militaristic thinking, and ideas that young men owed service to their country (the draft) and a willingness to render themselves fungible and risk their own lives, before they had full rights as citizens. Libertarianism, which started growing in the 1970s, aimed at this type of thinking at a conceptual level, where as typically leftist liberalism was more concerned with exploitation of classes of people, among whom homosexuals could be such a suspect class.

Sodomy laws were a way of encapsulating this type of “everyone serves” thinking, perhaps concerned with sharing risks that others take for one's behalf, but evading the verbal arguments that tend to run into contradictions. No one seemed to know how to even question them until the 1960s (as in 1967 when Britain’s law fell). Conservative writer George Gilder (when writing humorously about “the perils of androgyny”) would term such expectations as “non rational” rather than “irrational.” There seems to be a difference.

One particularly striking contradiction occurs with the way “people like me” were to be treated. We were taunted and teased as youths about our lack of masculine competitive ability and portrayed as cheaters or malingerers (in a “draft conscious” world), as if we were being told that we weren’t suitable future parents or ancestors and therefore “deserved” subordinate, second-class or perhaps even slave status to others who were. So we “hit back” by stepping on the toes of other men, trying to be straight but not too “competitive” themselves, by putting ourselves on public pedestals as judges of who the “real men” were. Even the psychiatrists at NIH during my 1962 stay made a lot of this, but they never could complete the contradiction that they were posing, and I wasn’t mature enough at 19 to force them to. The “straight world” discovered that it was more facile to reverse itself and try to encourage people like me to somehow prove we could become male role models in our own way than let us continue holding up others for everyone to be compared to. Yet, as I have noted, that still gives me still another contradiction. I never was a competitive role model. The only way to become one is to succeed at something.

Another contradiction, apparent to modernism, is the idea that these old fashioned ideas of collective morality sound like an admission of personal inadequacy or inability to take responsibility for one's own reproductive choices. That notion, quite frankly, was hidden away by religious thinking, that some areas of life are beyond the control of the "works" of any individual and should be predicated on some deeper obligation to the biological continuation of human life for its own sake.

Almost no court opinions mentioned AIDS or HIV in the 1980s in trying to justify their “moral arguments,” but in 1983 a Texas representative (Bill Ceverha) from Amarillo introduced a draconian extension of the sodomy law (2138) that would have banned gays from most occupations involving “public trust” and especially food handling or child care. In my own mind, that is think that is similar to today’s “don’t ask don’t tell”. And remember, the UCMJ Article 125 (the military sodomy law) has not been overturned. The prospect of 2138 (supported by the notorious "Dallas Doctors Against AIDS") was quite terrifying to the gay community in Texas in 1983 (I remember xeroxing it at the old MCC on Reagan St. in Dallas) but, thanks to heavy lobbying by the Dallas Gay Alliance, it never got out of legislative committee.

The link on 2138 is here (look at appendices 6 and 8).

Update: May 17

I have just reviewed William Eskridge 's new book "Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America 1861-2003", from Viking, here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Office of Special Council failed to enforce anti-discrimination laws, protect whistleblowers.


Washington DC ABC affiliate WJLA Channel 7 reported today that the FBI raided the office of U.S. Special Councel Scott Bloch on allegations of deliberately violating the federal whistleblower law regarding federal employees. Bloch has also been accused of failing to enforce Civil Service rules against discrimination against federal employees for sexual orientation, in effect since 1973.

Computers and materials were taken both from Bloch’s office and from his home in suburban Virginia. The story was carried on WJLA during the noon break today. The official charge could be obstruction of justice.

The story is titled “Special Counsel’s Office Raided Amid Obstruction Probe” and the link is here.

Here is a link on the whistleblower law for federal employees.

Here is a reference from Questia on the history of GLBT employees in civil service since the Cold War, link here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Washington DC television station revisits whether homosexuality is a "choice" or is immutable; APA cancels symposium out of fear of protests


WJLA Channel 7 in Washington DC (actually Arlington) ran a controversial story tonight (May 5, at 5:45 PM EDT), “Can Someone’s Sexual Preference Be Changed?” with reporter Greta Kruez. A symposium at the Washington DC Convention Center sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association was cancelled, partly out of fear of protests. The symposium was to be “balanced.” In 1973, the APA, recall, removed homosexuality from the list of “mental illnesses.” That was too late for me, as I was cajoled into undergoing treatment in 1962 (some of it at NIH) after my William and Mary expulsion in November 1961.

The WJLA link is here. The video link is here.

The report maintains that there is no reliable explanation for homosexuality. There is some evidence of genetic and birth order influences, but it is far from conclusive. The watershed book on this issue was published by Hyperion in 1996, "A Separate Creation," by Chandler Burr (also author of the 1993 Atlantic article "Homosexuality and Biology"), and the book stimulated religious protests against the publisher's owning company, Disney. Scientific American has published some studies that suggest but don't prove biological influences. A biological cause of something does not by itself end moral debate if there is "harm" from the behavior at issue; it's touchier when what is at issue is that other people (like families) simply feel collectively slighted (as to loss of "loyalty") or socially undermined without actual harm to the individuals involved. (That's more how it is.) Some anthropologists believe that homosexuality may serve an "altruistic" purpose by supporting society in a broader cultural way without the specific responsibilities of reproduction (sort of a "Da Vinci" or "Renaissance" effect), or it may play a "monitoring" role in encouraging those who do have children (still the majority) to be more selective with mates. Even in many other animals species, not all members reproduce.

The report showed protests at Brown University (oddly enough, subject of “Seth ‘s” college search on the Fox series The O.C.) over such a debate, against author Ryan Sorba and his upcoming book “The Born Gay Hoax,” which does not yet show up on Amazon (at least when I look for it). I recall that John Stossel has chastised Brown for its "speech codes", and it seems that in many areas activists do not want to allow debate on personally emotional issues, when the debate could expose them to personal criticism.

The report mentioned the ex-gay movement, but presented the right wing as spinning this more as a matter of “personal freedom” rather than “morality.” The report did mention the famous passage from Leviticus. But, when people are so concerned with changing homosexuality (there was a book in the 50s titled something like “Changing Homosexuality in the Male” and another book in 1968 called “Growing Up Straight”), there has to be something they “want” or “need.” I’ve always thought that some parents believe that they need to have their kids continue their family marriage in order to ratify their own marriages. I’ve discussed the “reasoning” in some detail on earlier postings on this blog.

I could not get the reported website trustwinsout.org to come up. REV: The URL is this, according to a comment I received (below). It's "truthwinsout."

Arlington resident Scott Mendelez was interviewed, and he supported the idea that one is the way one is.

In February, I reviewed a book “studying” the ex-gay conversion issue by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

GLIL: Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty: the nexus between individual rights for gays and libertarianism


My previous posting was about the concept of “gay conservative,” but the natural potential nexus between “gay rights” (in the loose sense) and libertarianism started to become evident in the 1990s, and was particularly expressed in Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL), whose website is http://www.glil.org.

In February 2008, GLIL, along with pink pistols, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in upholding second amendment rights in the recent constitutional challenge to the District of Columbia’s handgun law, now before the Supreme Court. The story is on the left side of the GLIL home page (inside a frame). Pink Pistols is here http://www.pinkpistols.org/ and the splash page cover image shows some lesbian forearms (I hope) with a handgun.

The guns issue is a bit of a microcosm of the whole thing.(I seem to remember a Libertarian Party of Virginia convention in Richmond in 1995 when it was the entire agenda.) Self-defense is a more effective defense to “gay bashing” and street hate crimes than police reports, yet many communities (including DC) make it illegal to carry pepper spray or mace. It was common for men to carry them at night in Dallas, as there were serious problems in the 80s between Cedar Springs and Maple Avenues sometimes. Likewise, in some neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Logan Circle in Washington, residents find it necessary to defend themselves against invasions and break-ins even while sleeping. A weapon and knowledge of how to use it is an effective deterrent. Gun control usually leads to situations where the criminals and drug cartels have the weapons, illegally.

But the nexus between “gay equality” and libertarianism was much broader than this. The most obvious place to make the connection is the elimination of sodomy laws, and it took until 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) to overturn them. It’s in marriage laws that libertarian approaches get the attention today. Libertarians, in theory, tend to believe that marriage should be a private contract, voluntarily entered, between two adults. Period. They do not believe that the state needs to recognize any religious notion of marriage. The end result of marriage laws, libertarians argue, is that the unmarried are forced to subsidize the married, and the childless are expected and forced to sacrifice for the sake of families with children.

Of course, in a sense, that is the rub. Social conservatives argue that marriage with children cannot work unless it is pampered. It’s a good question whether the pampering supports or eventually undermines civil marriage. I’ve written about it before on this blog at some length. In general, many people of older generations experienced the external social supports as intrinsic to marriage, and when that support is weakened, there is less incentive to stay married long enough to raise kids, and divorce increases.

It’s this sort of thinking that leads to coercive attempts to force those who are “different” to conform and fit into majoritarian social patterns. Sometimes the Left will vary this by trying to get the “outliers” to fit into normal patterns of socialization and familial competition with “anti-discrimination” laws. Libertarians oppose these efforts, and endorse a culture where, in practice, individuals are much more on their own and less dependent as adults even on their own families. Sometimes, however, libertarians will simply criticize government efforts to force-equalize things (even affirmative action as commonly understood), and maintain that adults should live in social cultures of their own choosing, and admit that each culture has its own rules (often religious) as to "sustainable" interdependency.

It may seem odd to some to view the "don't ask don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military as a libertarian issue (particularly in crowds where the mantra is "end the income tax and replace it with nothing"). On the surface, the military is interfering with "privacy" rights of soldiers, rights whose existence poses a philosophical question. One has to look deeper, however. Military service is an important career-starter, especially for minorities and the disadvantaged, and being capable of serving in the military is a way of saying one is capable of sharing the risks and responsibilities of defending freedom, even when there is no draft (or when there is a "backdoor draft"). That would be true even for those who disagree with the current administration's policy in Iraq (and most libertarians would oppose our intervention there).

I was the editor of the GLIL newsletter, The Quill, in the middle 1990s, before moving to Minnesota in 1997. The GLIL articles are in the “Archives” link on the top, which opens a new frame with an index to the articles. The visitor may want to look at Gene Cisweski’s 1996 “License Expired” about marriage laws. GLIL is a group on Yahoo! and anyone can join the listserver. The links there point to my old Hometown AOL page which is how doasktodell.com.

GLIL typically has met at various locations on 17th Street in Washington, sometimes Chaos, sometimes Windows, sometimes JR's, often the first Tuesday night of the month at around 6:30 PM.

Picture: Atlanta Pride, 2004