Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bishop Hope Jackson leads anti-gay-marriage rally in DC: linked to "home rule" politics?

Marc Fisher, of the Washington Post, reports in Metro on p B3 (April 28) that Bishop Hope Jackson from Bowie, MD will hold his “Same-Sex Marriage ‘Armageddon’ in D.C.” at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave. (near Archives) at 10 AM Tuesday (today – apparently a rescheduling). He claims he will have 1000 church members and 100 pastors at a rally for a DC Council proposal that he says is an affront to the cultural integrity of African Americans, who make up a majority of DC residents. The link is here.

The gay marriage recognition vote has triggered secondary debates on DC representation in Congress, subject of a documentary film “Un-Natural State” in FilmfestDC last week. (See my Movies Blog for April 21.) One the one hand, Congress is likely to gut the DC Council proposal, undercutting home rule on a civil rights issue. On the other hand, Jackson is hinting that the council does not represent “average” DC residents anyway.

Bishop Hope Jackson appears on YouTube a lot, as with this Nov. 11, 2008 posting by “Florida4Marriage” of his speech supporting Florida’s Amendment 2.

He says he is not against gays, but sees this as an issue of cultural stability. The problem is, the satisfaction that many couples experience in marriage is connected to the external meaning that society gives if for others. It gives a certain reverence not available to those who do not get married, and even the right to disrupt the lives of the unmarried to meet their needs.

Also, Tuesday morning, the Post has a p B1 article by Rosalind S. Helderman, “Brian Moran Gambles on Same-Sex Union Issue”, link here.

Moran is a gubernatorial candidate who, alone among three Democrats, says he will work to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment in Virginia. Brian is a younger brother of Congressman Jim Moran for the Eighth District of Virginia, a generally moderate Democrat.

Later Tuesday, The Washington Blade has a story by Lou Chibbaro, "Barry calls gay marriage immoral at rally", link here. "Barry" is former mayor Marion Barry (arrested for drug possession in 1990). The link includes another YouTube video of Jackson speaking, today.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does the swine flu outbreak threaten the gay community or gay businesses?

Does Swine flu create a “threat” to the gay community or to gay businesses?

We’re talking about a viral infection that is transmitted person-to-person by casual close contact and obviously by kissing and moderate intimacy. So it would be transmissible in any crowded indoor space, including a dance club (gay or straight).

I wondered about this when pondering the wild intimacy and the “dirty dancing” so popular in bars (including straight bars, too – just watch enough movies). The intimacy does not transmit HIV, or Hepatitis B or C, or any blood-borne disease; it does transmit flu.

Unmarried people who congregate may be in close proximity socially to others than are many people settled into “middle class families.” That sounds unhealthful, but it may actually be healthful. What happens is that a population is exposed to many viruses and bacteria all the time by routine close contact, and becomes immune to almost all of these agents. So normally people are not at risk from routine close contact in crowds or even by intimate dancing in discos – it may make them gradually more resistant in time. Many people, by the time they reach their late 20s or so, become less susceptible to most infections (like norovirus) that made them very sick as kids. The risk of meningitis also goes down. It seems that by age 30 most people have been around long enough to be relatively immune to most things.

But swine flu is different – maybe – although it may be getting milder as it spreads person to person. It’s the novelty that is dangerous. And, H1N1 viruses (like the 1918 Spanish flu) sometimes cause “cytokine storms” that can be fatal to young adults – just the population in dance floors. Hopefully, this virus is already becoming weak as it comes into the United States. It’s almost impossible to stop anyway, and an exposure now this summer to most people might prevent a much worse epidemic in the future (even from the dreaded bird flu), by building some natural immunity now.

So I say, don’t do what Mexico City did. Don’t close anything down.

April 28:

The medical or public health term for this economic threat is "social distancing". See my issues blog for April 28.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Perez Hilton plays up Miss California USA "gay marriage" flap

Well, Perez Hilton seems to want to make as much of the ambiguous, equivocal answer of Miss California USA Carrie Prejean. He’s carried on with Larry King Live, and this article on “Popeater” really plays it up.

Carrie did make it sound like we can choose to live where we want to, and somehow we get to choose everything that happens to us, and that’s great – except that this is hardly true for real people.

Of course, a good question is whether a question on gay marriage was appropriate at all – should “political correctness” become a litmus test for beauty pageants. Since they’re private affairs, they can do what they want. Remember how Bert Parks used to give an oral exam to each Miss America contestant back in the 1950s. And think what political correctness meant back then. Oh, yes, Parks would then sing the saccharine, "Here she is!" How women became idols then!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Connections between Army Reserves and civilian govt. jobs -- means that legacy discrimination from DADT really matters! (ENDA wouldn't stop it)

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection will sign an agreement with the U.S. Army Reserve to fill many of its 11000 positions, according to a story in the Washington Post by Steve Vogel, April 21, 2009, p. A8. The story link is here.

Some of the motive for the agreement seems to be related to a desire to make sure that jobs are held for soldiers getting out after returning from deployment, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the development is important because it shows how military service can be an important stepping stone to many civilian jobs, especially in law enforcement or with defense contractors.

Therefore, the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays can result in indirect legacy discrimination in the civilian sector, too. Passing ENDA would not eliminate a weaker competitive position created by the practices of the past. That is certainly true of me (given my merry-go-rounds with security clearances in the early 1970s after my own college expulsion in 1961 – remember I served in the Army without incident 1968-1970, but twice had clearances held up, and was transferred out of the Pentagon in 1968 partly because of this problem).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Republicans start to warm up on gay issues; Log Cabin holds convention in DC

Gradually, more figures in the Republican Party are seeing the light in rethinking their views on gay issues, especially gay marriage, reports Perry Bacon, Jr. in an article in the April 18, 2009 Washington Post, “GOP Urged to Rethink Gay Marriage: Strategist Who Handled McCain Campaign Says Party Risks Becoming 'Sectarian'”. Steve Schmidt, a political strategist from California, spoke to a DC area Log Cabin gathering yesterday. The story is here.

And Megan McCain, daughter of former Republican candidate John McCain, will speak to Log Cabin Republicans at a dinner tonight.

The Log Cabin Republicans have been holding a National Convention &
Liberty Education Forum National Symposium at the Westin Washington, April 16-19, with link here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Congress could upend DC gay marriage recognition vote; NY governor introduces gay marriage bill

The Washington Blade reports (in a story by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.) on April 17 that Congress will most likely try to foil a DC measure to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. The methods will be to attach riders to the District’s appropriations bill.

Democratic leaders in Congress have said that they will try to support the council.

Once again, there is evidence that a lack of full “home rule” pits the rights of individual District residents against the whims of people in other parts of the country.

The link is here. A key figure will be Stephen Lynch (D-Mass), who chairs the relevant US House subcommittee.

The New York Times is reporting on the front page today, in a story by Jeremy W. Peters, that New York State governor David A. Paterson has himself introduced a same-sex marriage bill, link here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tennessee school districts block access to LGBT organizations, allow ex-gay content

The ACLU has demanded that two school districts in Tennessee stop blocking information about gay political organizations while allowing material on ex-gay conversions to pass through.

The ACLU story is here.

The organizations blocked GLSEN, PFLAG and, unbelievably, HRC (Human Rights Campaign).

The link contains a secondary link to ACLU’s demand letter.

I don’t recall that such sites were blocked when I was substitute teaching in northern Virginia. I know that even my own site was not blocked (because of an incident that happened in 2005 -- I can find and trace the accesses from the school district on my server logs).

However, many school districts block Facebook, Myspace, and Blogger (maybe Wordpress) from school computers because they feel it is so hard to determine what is inappropriate content. Sometimes kids come up with schemes to get around the blocks (proxy server techniques – and that’s still another issue).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Washington Post airs op-ed opposing lifting miltiary ban; what about the effect on civilians?

I have to say, it is to the credit of The Washington Post to present “all points of view” on controversial or debatable issues, so today on p A19 I had to deal with the op-ed Gays and The Military: A Bad Fit” by four retired officers and “founding members of our Flag and General Officers for the Miltiary”, James J. Lindsay, Jerome Johnson, E.G. "Buck" Shuler Jr. and Joseph J. Went. The link is here.

I see that I’ve not given the link to HR 1283, introduced by Ellen Tauscher, D-CA, “The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009” link here.

For the most part, the arguments are circular: the ban should be kept because most soldiers, from a “generative” and gender-biased culture, would object. They do mention the Nunn-Moskos 1993 arguments and concerns over “privacy” in the barracks.

They also say that US military is “better” or more critical to world security than foreign militaries (including now Britain’s) which have lifted the ban. It sounds snobbish. That would not look good overseas or with NATO.

They don't quite say so, but I guess they would want to go back to "asking" directly. (The law, Section 654, says, "ask if necessary" essentially.) I remember some field grade officer telling me that in the rain in 1993 at a Koons dealership as we waited for cars. "I think we should ask. We aren't a second-rate military like everyone else."

At the end, the authors say “Everyone can serve America in some way, but there is no constitutional right to serve in the military.” But that’s the rub. Let’s say, society needs more teachers. I was a sub for a while, and pretty out and well known. Teachers sometimes need to be respected just for being in a position of authority over students. If the US government says that, as a matter of federal law, I am unfit to share the risks of defending our freedoms and our country because of what amounts to an internal “gender deficit” made public (and when that means someone else may "sacrifice" in combat instead of me), then how can I expect students to respect my “authority”? They will believe that I am “not good enough” to be in charge of them/ OK, you say, this is a paradigm that I have created. But I have lived with it all of my life, since my 1961 expulsion from a civilian college as a freshman for admitting homosexuality, under pressure, to the Dean, who, among other things, feared the “corruption” of the forced intimacy in a cramped dormitory environment. We didn’t go home for four months. I would come of age in a world where my psychological background made me suspect, considered a security risk. I would go on to take the draft physical three times, going from 4-F, 1-Y and then 1-A and serve two years honorably in 1968 in order to "redeem" myself.

Remember, too, there are other "civilian" situations where people share intimacy: the Peace Corps, the FBI Academy. We don't seem to have "this problem" there, do we?

Update: April 17, 2009

According to The Washington Blade, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that it could take "years" to nix "don't ask don't tell". He says he needs "one to one conservations" on what is an emotional, existential topic. The link is here.

Update: April 20

The Washington Post printed two letters in response to the column, the second an ironic put-on, in "Anti-Gay Sentiment That Smears the Military", link here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mass. tragedy highlights problem of antigay bullying in schools

ABC News this morning has a major story on anti-gay bullying in schools (especially middle schools) after a suicide by an 11 year old boy at a well-regarded Springfield, MA charter school. The story is by Susan MacDonald James with link here. This incident happened in the first state to give legal recognition to gay marriage.

The story reports anti-gay taunts in schools against students who had not identified themselves as gay, over gender stereotyping. They have also involved students whom one would think are too young to be subjected to this sort of gender-related attacks. Some of the problems may be as related to male “competitiveness” as to gender-specific behaviors. That is pretty much what I experienced in the tween grades in the 1950s. The story discusses a lawsuit over another tragedy in Ohio. In the Massachusetts case, however, the boy played football (I did not) and was a boy scout (I never went beyond Cub scouts).

Administrators in many schools find this problem very difficult to deal with and seem to have a hard time enforcing anti-bullying (and anti-cyberbullying rules), perhaps because they feel or fear that they would antagonize many parents if they enforced them.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is sponsoring a national Day of Silence on April 17, as explained on its website here. GLSEN has a story about the Springfield incident (by Daryl Presgraves) here.

I would add that the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, when heard about by kids, just furthers stigmatizes those among their peers whom they perceive as “gay”.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Republic assistant editor notes that some gay organizations may say "mission accomplished"

James Kirchick, an assistant editor of the New Republic, has an interesting column to lead off the Outlook section of the Easter Sunday Washington Post, “Are Gay Activists Too Wedded to the Cause?” link here. The welcome page for the Post online Sunday morning offered the whimsical link name, "Should gay activists quit the cause?"

The organization Love Makes a Family, originally formed to promote the capability for gays to adopt children in Connecticut, and then civil unions and finally full gay marriage rights in that state, will close its doors at the end of 2009. Mission accomplished, maybe. Here is its announcement.

On the other hand, MassEquality still goes strong for the indefinite future. It’s web page this morning reads “Victory in Vermont.”

The article seems to be na├»ve in assuming that it will be easy to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military and pass ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) because of widespread popular support among younger adult Americans. The “can” of DADT right now is still getting kicked down the road. I don't think that the repeal of the military ban is easy at all. Just ask SLDN. And the ban still has implications for the rest of us.

I recall some time around 1980 that the Dallas Gay Alliance predicted that some day it would just be a social organization. Little did it know then what was just around the corner. Take nothing for granted!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Faith based groups have to comply with anti-discrimination laws when they become public accomodations

One of the most popular stories at the Washington Post today (Good Friday, April 11) is one by Jacqueline Salmon, p A4, “Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights”, link here.

Although the law has generally allowed churches to follow their own beliefs in their own internal personnel policies (and exempted them from anti-discrimination laws), anti-discrimination laws have been enforced once faith-based groups become public accommodations and sell to the public. I suppose that would mean that “Christian” bookstore in a shopping mall in a city with an employment discrimination ordinance would have to follow the ordinance.

In some cases, courts have ruled that individual employees or even individual pharmacy stores, for example, can’t refuse to sell items for which they have religious objections, such as, in some cases, contraceptives, or assistance with artificial insemination.

Libertarians have opposed anti-discrimination laws in some cases, and turned things around by saying, for example, that gay bars should be able to hire only gay bartenders and barbacks. In practice, straight men (and women) often work in gay bars without any problem.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Vermont legislature votes to recognize same-sex marriage, overiding governor's veto: first state to do so with "political" process; also, DC acts

Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage today, as its legislature voted to override the veto of Gov. Jim Douglas 100-49.

The AP story by Dave Gram is here.

This is the first state to legalize gay marriage with the legislative (that is, political) process, without the requirement of a state supreme court. So this development defuses right wing arguments that “activist judges” will force gay marriage on the majority.

Vermont had legalized “civil unions” back in the 1990s, when that was seen as an unusually progressive development.

Washington DC City Council moves on out-of-state partnerships and gay marriages:

Furthermore, today (April 7), the District of Columbia City Council approved a measure to recognize domestic partnerships from other states, and this may lead to recognizing full same-sex marriages from elsewhere (New York State has also done so), or even a push for full gay marriage recognition in the District. The Washington Times story by Gary Emerling is "D.C. looks at nuptials for gays; Council plan broadens law" link here. The print story is not quite as explicit as online ("D.C. Council recognizes gay marriage") (apparently appearing later Tuesday as "updated", which says that the Council has actually approved recgonition of out-of-state gay marriages as such.

The Washington Post has an editorial, Wednesday April 8, "Triumph for Equality: Common decency wins out in votes on gay marriage", link here. The Post writes "There may be understandable arguments for refusing to define same-sex unions as marriages, but there are no legitimate reasons for denying legal protections to an entire group of people simply because of who they are and whom they love. One hopes the votes in Vermont and the District augur better things to come."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Iraq is extremely dangerous for gays

CNN this morning (April 6) reported on extreme anti-gay prejudice and violence in Iraq today, even as the sectarian conflict has started to settle down. Particularly in Shiite areas, squads of men seem to be hunting gay men down in the larger cities, according to the report. During Saddam Hussein’s reign, even after the Gulf War, homosexual groups did meet in private with some safety, according to the story.

The report talked about tribal “honor killing” and public slow hangings. The treatment was made to appear even worse than in Iran, notorious for persecution of gays.

The specific news story on CNN is “Six gay men shot to death in Iraq by tribe members”, by Mohammed Tawfeeq, link here. The incidents have taken place in the past ten days.

On Wednesday, April 8, The New York Times ran a front page story by Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher, "Iraq’s Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder", link here. The story reinforces the very disturbing allegation that sometimes even relatives have committed the murders of gay men, out of a sense that their own "bloodlines" have been shamed because gay men (supposedly) do not want to continue them.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Iowa state supreme court upholds same-sex marriage

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is reporting “The Iowa Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in Iowa” in a broadcast email.

The case is Varnum v. Brien and LLDEF has its court papers and legal arguments at this site. Iowa state supreme court justice Cady wrote:

"We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."

Lambda Legal had “filed this case in 2005 on behalf of six same–sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Iowa, and on behalf of three of their children. Dawn and Jen BarbouRoske of Iowa City are one of our wonderful plaintiff couples. They have been together more than 18 years and have two children, McKinley and Breeanna.”

That would seem to mean that Iowa will join Massachusetts and Connecticut as states allowing same-sex marriage. In all three states, as well as California, state supreme courts have ruled that bans on same-sex marriage violate the state constitution. California would rejoin the list if Proposition 8 is overturned, or if (more likely) another referendum is held in 2010, which many felt would go for same-sex marriage through “political process.”

Picture: St John's Church in Richmond, VA, site of Patrick Henry's "give me liberty" speech.

The Des Moines Register story today ("Unanimous ruling: Iowa marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman") is here.

Update: April 15, 2009

The Washington Post has a long article this morning by Keith B. Richburg, "How gays won a marriage victory: for 7 years, activists eyed a seemingly unlikely target: Iowa", link here. The article mentions that activists may press for gay marriage in Rhode Island in 2011 when Gov. Donald Carcieri, leaves office because of term limits.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Defense Secretary Gates kicks the DADT can down the road

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush Administration, was asked by Fox News about ending “don’t ask don’t tell” and he reportedly said “"Let's push that one down the road a little bit." That sounds like President Obama’s proverbial “kick the can down the road”, when the road dead-ends.

SLDN’s reaction is this petition.

Bill Sammon’s story for Fox News is here. The long title is “Administration Delays Change to Military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Policy: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the military has too much on its plate right now to alter the policy of relieving openly gay service members from duty.”