Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DC clubs may soon not have even outdoor smoking

Guess what! The District of Columbia wants to expand its smoking ban outside, to spaces 25 feet from an establishment. That would mean that outdoor patios would no longer be available at clubs for “smokers”.

Club owners say that business dropped in 2007 when the smoking ban went into effect. What I notice is that crowds tend to take longer to build up. But some of the problems on 17th Street comes from that fact that Nellie’s and Town over in the U-street area are close enough to provide real competition.

Personally, almost everyone tells me that they like the smoke-free atmosphere. On the dance floor, it enables intimacies. (But so would an earlier last call, if people didn’t have drinks in their hands.)

Over in Arlington, at Freddie’s, I can still smell the second hand staleness of smoke sometimes, because in Virginia, as far as I know, you can still light up in bars. Just drive I-95 south of Richmond and note the companies you see.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

7000 gay men help researchers rein in on HIV over 25 years

An article by Lori Artani in the Tuesday Sept. 29 Washington Post reports “7000 Gay Men Help Study AIDS”, link here reporting on a 25 year study by the Miticenter AIDS study (typical early report of gay men. Gradually, since the 1990s, many men have been able to survive and return to work long term for many years with the help of advanced drugs like protease inhibitors, which have visible side effects on some but by no means all men.

Another area of interest would be “long term non-progressors” and also a cohort of men who never became HIV-positive.

Increasing evidence exists that among other primates natural resistance to HIV-like retroviruses does develop through evolution in nature.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NY Times covers issue of sexual orientation in middle school

The New York Times Magazine has an article Sunday Sept. 27 “Coming Out in Middle School” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, photographs by Brent Humprheys, link here p 36 in print.

The article describes the ambivalence of many school administrators to the issue, and the difficulty they perceive in making any policy at all. But the idea that kids develop a sense of identity by middle school years is indisputable, as is the bullying in some schools (including cyberbullying).

The article does mention that some kids are tossed out by parents, some of whom see homosexuality in their offspring as an affront to their own marriage, because of postulates underneath their belief system, including the idea that biological loyalty to lineage is essential to the meaning of their marriage.

The article is quite detailed (particularly as to GSA's, or "Gay-Straight Alliances"), but I will say that one of my worst years emotionally was seventh grade (age 12, as I was born in July), when I started what was then called “junior high school” (through ninth grade). In retrospect, it seems like I was an over-cautious kid, afraid to take the chance of just diving into the pool.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HIV vaccine trial reduces infection by almost one third

An Australian newspaper and other sources are reporting that for the first time there is convincing evidence that a vaccine for HIV actually works. An AIDS vaccine trial in Thailand (with 16000 volunteers) reduced the risk of infection by 31%. The article is by the paper Heath Editor, Adam Creswell, is titled “Vaccine Cuts HIV Risk by One Third”, link here.

The trial had been sponsored by the US Army (ironically), and by NIH.

I had volunteered for the GP160 vaccine in 1988 but did not go through with it. It was not effective.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ACLU, CSpan, bloggers report on ENDA testimony; note on National Equality March Oct. 11

ACLU is reporting on the testimony before the House today on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, S 1584. The ACLU has a support document from the LCCR, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, link here. A blog called “Susan’s Soapbox” has the testimony of Rabbi David Saperstein, here.

The ACLU has a PDF called "Working in the Shadows: Ending Employment Discrimination for LGBT Americans" here.

CSPAN has a link set up for the content here but the program has not aired yet; I would expect to see the video of the testimony appear there within the next day.

HRC's link on the ENDA hearings is here. Here is the list of House sponsors: Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Michael Castle (R-DE), George Miller (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Todd Platts (R-PA), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). According to HRC, 87% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies as in employee handbooks, and 41% include gender identity.

National Equality March:

Check the following letter from David Mixner on the National Equality March on Washington on Sunday October 11, here. I don't know yet how this will compare to the March events in April 1993 and again April 2000.

SLDN's link for the event is here. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Freddie's" in Arlington invites local theater groups to karaoke

“Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant” (Myspace page)in Arlington VA, near Crystal City, is holding a Karaoke session Monday nights, starting tonight, inviting performers from several area stage theaters. The series is called “Gay and Thespian”.

Much of the music that got performed tonight came from the show “Wicked” by Stephen Schwartz, especially the exhilarating song “Defying Gravity” (not to be confused with the recent ABC series). These were sung by Marc and Matt. Another song was “No Good Deed,” whose lyrics went into existential territory, suggesting people “do good” in order to get noticed and live in the limelight. “David” sang from “Songs of the New World.”

In 2004, I attempted to do the Karaoke of Smallville’s “Save Me” on Eager Street at Baltimore Pride.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Same-sex marriage debate in Washington DC fractures along racial lines, which no one likes to admit

Robert McCartney has an important lead-off article in the Metro Section on p C1 of the Washington Post, Sunday September 20, 2009, “Same-sex Marriage: Exploring the Racial Divide”, link here.

Caucasians in the District support same-sex marriage by a classroom ratio of 8:1, whereas African-Americans oppose it by a proportion of 24:17. The City as a whole supports gay marriage 27:17 (these sound like football scores). It’s pretty obvious that there are cultural differences, and that the “collective” notion of the nuclear family (as explained in the Carlson "Natural Family" book I reviewed Friday on my books blog) is more important in the African American community. And demographically, young gay men often prefer to live in cities or close-in suburbs (like Arlington, which (as a “Blue” zone in a “Red” state) obviously has a large gay population), often in apartments, condos or townhomes, rather than in larger homes farther out suitable for raising large families. So a larger proportion of a white urban population (especially younger men) is likely to be gay. On the other hand, the District has a large African American majority, as it has long had, although the margin of majority has decreased somewhat with aggressive real estate development including “gentrification” of previously poor neighborhoods (some of them torn up in 1968 with the riots) like U-Street or Shaw and SouthEast, near Nationals Park, where many new condos for relatively high income people, often single, have been built. (Unfortunately the poor people have been driven to low-income sections of Prince Georges County, MD.) Look at “Demographics” on Wikipedia here for a history.

The McCartney article today does lead to some interesting expansion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gay equal rights means equal responsibility for "sustainability": watch filial responsibility laws

The push for “equality” or “equal rights” for gays has a backside that we need to start to account for: equal responsibility. If we win gay marriage, gay parenting rights, and the “right” to serve openly in the military, the other side of the bay is there’s an obligation to share in some of these “generative” obligations that involve uncertainty or unchosen risk, loss of sovereignty or enlistment, and emotional commitment. That all goes along with the idea that we need to pay heed to notions of “sustainability.”

One of the biggest problems occurs when a childless person is “selected” for family responsibility for someone else, a process that occurs naturally in more closed, religious communities. This kind of situation will occur much more often in the future because of demographics: smaller families and fewer children, along with longer life spans. The natural result is that many LGBT people will get called back from their independent lives to care for aging parents.

In past generations, the “non marrying kind” (especially women) stayed home and looked after their elders, who usually did not face the long periods of disability that are more common today with the way medicine (under Medicare) is practiced. Before, no one saw this as impacting freedom or “equal rights” as we understand them today. Medicare pays for (most) medical care for elders, but it does not pay for custodial care or caregiving (at home, in assisted living or in nursing homes), generally speaking. That falls back to the parents themselves, Medicaid, and the “extended families.”

That brings us to “filial responsibility laws”, which about 28 states have, and which are likely to see a lot more enforcement in the near future because of the budget pressure on states.

There is a conception that these laws deal only with Medicaid recipients, and while that is usually what triggers them, that’s not really true at the base. The law in many states, from previous centuries, presumes “loyalty to blood” or (generative or reproductive loyalty) to one’s own genes as an intrinsic “moral obligation”, subsuming the better known idea that you have to support the kids that you sire, which happens as a result of choice (for men at least), and which helps drive an ancillary debate on abortion and the “right to life” – and now that we find that the moral issues of the “right to life” at the end when tremendous expense is required are curiously related.

Filial responsibility really has three parts. The most familiar part lives largely at the federal level and is familiar to financial planners in terms of the “look back” period that was recently (around 2006) increased, meaning that parents could not give away assets to kids and then use Medicaid for nursing home expenses (partly because the federal government usually has an FPP share of the expenses). Of course, we all know from the gay marriage debate that probate and wills are a sensitive matter for LGBT people, and that at least in rare occasions wills contain “dead hand” clauses that require marriage and lineage to get and keep a bequest.

The second part is what we call “poor laws”, which do not necessarily get limited to senior-aged parents. They can be invoked by states to require adult children to support indigent parents who would otherwise use Medicaid services. When there are multiple children, a state has to take the adult kids to court, and a judge determines the fair share – and you guessed it, the adult child with no family or adult children of his own is likely to be assessed the largest share. (Somehow this reminds me of condominium special assessments by homeowners’ associations.) If you have “deadbeat dads” you can have “deadbeat adult children”, although the element of choice is not the same. Pennsylvania, back in 2005, moved its poor laws from the welfare code to the family code, as if to send a “culture war” message.

The third part may be the most troubling and nebulous, which has to do with neglect of adult parents known(by medical records – HIPAA protected, and that can present a Catch 22) to be disabled, which can bring out wrath similar to neglect of kids. Generally, if a parent has savings or resources, these are used to meet these needs, but the adult child (or children) have the responsibility to see that the resources are used prudently and that appropriate care actually is given. Neglect laws often have the notion of a party “responsible in fact” which can be nebulous (it doesn’t require custody) and these are generally the laws that can be used to prosecute babysitters for letting kids play with matches. But, following a complaint, a court could order the adult child to conduct himself as a provider of “his family” just as a father or mother. In a few states, adult children can also be required to provide for needy adult siblings, also.

It’s possible to deal with all this by having an attorney draw up the appropriate powers of attorney and then, in some cases, draw up living trusts. However in neglect cases POA’s could themselves be challenged, as well as an observation called “lack of affection” on some states’ guidelines. Naturally, family caregiving, like parenting, involves risks at becoming the targets of snipes from others; but one of the whole points of the “new old morality” is that risks and burdens must be shared and not everything is a matter of “choice” (as with hyperindividualism) in a “sustainable” society. When there are financial resources available, family members will try to move parents into care facilities, but this is not always done easily. The “childless” will not “get out of things”.

States vary in the way they define guardianship and conservatorship in relation to caregiving, but the legal recognition of these relationships may not be as critical as what is happening "in fact."

LGBT and childless adults who believe they may face responsibilities like this should become pro-active, developing "sovereignty" agreements with other family members in advance. It may be better to care for an elder in your own home (with a spouse) than to move back into a home owned by the parent.

LGBT leaders, like the HRC, ought to pay much more heed to the filial responsibility issue as part of the equality debate. Maybe one reason they do not is the fear that publicity will tempt budget-conscious states to crack down in enforcing their filial responsibility laws. The demographics of eldercare could well turn all our issues upsidedown.

Check my "Bill Retires" blog in Jully 2007 for links to state filial responsibility laws.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RMA: "Respect for Marriage Act" will be introduced to repeal DOMA

Three representatives (Jerry Nadler of New York, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jared Polis of Colorado) will introduce the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009 (RMA), to repeal DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The bill would allow federal benefits for gay marriages performed in states that recognize them, byt would not compel any states (or religious groups) to recognize them. A typical story has web URL here.

HRC has a page that cites the 1138 examples where marital status matters in federal law here, on an HRC Backstory page.

The press release from “Freedom to Marry” is here.

I'll provide the HR number is soon as it is published on Thomas or in govtrack.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Census in 2010 will report same-sex couples for first time, but may provoke public policy fights

The 2010 U.S. Census will be the first in which the number or percentage of same-sex couples is publicly reported, according to a comprehensive article by Carol Morello on p A7 of the Sunday September 13 Washington Post. The title is “Census count of same-sex couples to stir policy fights” and the link is here.

In 2000, the Census Bureau privately kept a tally of same-sex couples, but the Bush administration nixed the publication of the data, citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by president Clinton. The motive for suppression of data obviously was to avoid certain kinds of political pressure.

In 1990, the Census Bureau actually took the silly step of changing the gender of one person in a same-sex partnership.

Government, in the past, could not be counted on for reliable social information, it seems. That belongs to the people. No wonder Washington had a Tea Party yesterday.

Bring on the book of Numbers!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

VA GOP candidate McDonnell's 2003 remarks about gay "conduct" come to the fore

Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has drawn even more flack recently, because of some 2003 comments to the effect that “active” gays might not be fit for judgeships because the violate Virginia’s “crimes against nature” laws, since invalidated by the Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas ruling in June 2003. The comment seemed to play on the "conduct" v "status" dichotomy articulated by Bill Clinton in the early days of the 1993 debate over gays in the military.

This follows on the heels of a 1989 master’s thesis in which he insinuated that homosexuals and singles should make sacrifices for conventional families with children, a point of view that gets articulated in conservative circles but seems to stay out of the attention of the mainstream media. However, should states start enforcing filial responsibility laws under budget pressures during the recession, such thinking style could come back.

The NBC Washington story on Sept. 9 is here.

However the Blue Virginia blog (“Think globally, blog locally”) quoted David Lampo, president of Virginia LCR, as saying he didn’t believe that McDonnell holds these 1950s-style views (on “family values”) now, and that the views contradict the libertarian principles upon which this country is based, link here.

Here's a website of "Bob McDonnell's blueprint to take Virginia backwards", link.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

LLDEF reports cases on whether "gay" is potentially "defamatory", and on Alabama pride

Let me guide the reader to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund’s home page, and note the Help Desk on the right. The help desk divides LLDEF into geographical regions and has state-by-state links to explain the situation with respect to gay marriage, domestic partnerships, and parenting. Virginia, for example, is described as generally “hostile” in climate.

LLDEF has a major story, Aug 12, that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected Howard Stern’s claim that being called “gay” is defamatory per se. This ruling could be important in cases where tabloids or even bloggers incorrectly identify some celebrities as “gay”. The link is here.

Also, LLDEF announced a settlement in a case where Central Alabama Pride litigated against the Mayor and City of Birmingham for interfering with and trying to stop a permit for a Pride March, link here.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

HRC takes to the streets; TownDC makes partking an adventure

Yesterday (Friday Sept. 4), I saw, for the first time, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) volunteers, in blue shirts with the “=” sign, in an outdoor public venue, around the Ballston area in Arlington, raising support for gay equality. I don’t recall seeing a group raising support before outside of an urban or resort neighborhood generally regarded in real estate terms as “gay”.

Like SLDN, HRC holds annual dinner fundraising events in most cities. The 13th Annual HRC dinner is in Washington Oct. 10, link here.

Last night the Town DC had a pretty active crowd, despite the holiday weekend. However, the main parking lot next to the club was already full at 10:15 despite the fact that at the time there were relatively few customers in the club (which would start filling around 11 during the drag show. However, the Club directed patrons across Florida Avenue (with its cross traffic) to another empty lot, where cars could be tucked away. If you look at Google Maps, you’ll find that Florida Ave meanders through that area of Washington DC with a stop-and-go course.

The show, which started around 10:30, was pretty much like others; it’s time for some new ideas.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

DC may have (anti) gay marriage initiative after all

ABC affiliate WJLA in Arlington VA is reporting that same-sex marriage opponents will again try to force the gay marriage issue onto the ballot for DC voters. They plan to introduce a new measure to let D.C. voters decide the issue through an initiative.

The link is here. The story appeared at the very end of the network GMA broadcast on Sept. 1, 2009.

The Sept 2. Washington Post has a story by Tim Craig "Wuerl Ups Opposition To Gay Marriage: D.C. Archbishop Mobilizes Priests", link here. I guess we all are familiar with the Vatican's moral theories about "openness to taking on the responsibilities and risks of procreation", which priests, cardinals and the Pope himself want to avoid.

Update Sept. 3

The DC Examiner has an op-ed on p. 22 by Marcel Dupree, "District residents have no voice in gay marriage", link here. The commentary plays up the "home rule" issue for the District of Columbia.