Monday, November 30, 2009

DC Agenda reports on harsh anti-gay law proposed in Uganda

I picked up the second issue of “DC Agenda” at brunch at Freddie’s in Arlington Sunday. It’s in black and white, and some of the articles continue onto the web.

One of the most striking stories (by Chris Johnson) concerned a demonstration at the Embassy of Uganda over a proposed anti-gay law that would even make it a crime to form LGBT organizations or publish pro-gay materials in the country. It could also provide the death penalty for sodomy by an HIV-infected person. Some non-democratic or third world societies really do try to pass such laws.

There is also a discussion of an interview by the Senate Armed Services Committee of Retired Marine Corps General Clifford Stanley, who would oversee the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” with a new, conduct-based policy, probably modeled somewhat after the Rand proposal of 1993.

Update: Friday Dec. 18:

Check Michael Gerson's article "Faith, folly and Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill", here in the Washington Post today.

See my International Issues blog March 11, 2010 for an updated story on the Uganda situation from ABC News.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some activists still want to stress civil unions

The AP has a story by Lisa Leff, Nov. 28, 2009, reiterating that some people are still focusing on the practical benefits of civil unions rather than on the use of the word “marriage.” The link is here. One point is that gays concerned about employment discrimination or bullying or attacks have more “practical” concerns that theoretical equality.

Nevertheless, the point about federal benefits (and estate, as in the last posting) is well taken. And one point of “theoretical” equality is to prevent the rights of the unmarried and childless from being expropriated for others with “families.”

John Kerry had said "civil unions" back in 2004.

Monday, November 23, 2009

UCLA Williams Institute publishes study of estate-tax and same-sex couples

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has published a paper by Michael D. Steinberger, UCLA Economics Department, Pomoma College, “Federal estate tax disadvantages for same-sex couples”, link here. The paper says that the total cost to the treasury of equalizing tax treatment would be $238 million, or about 1% of gift tax revenue. “The unlimited marital deduction of assets transferred to a surviving spouse is not available to same-sex couples.” There are real issues Family-owned Farm and Closely Held Business provisions. When the decedent and child of a same-sex couple work together, the child is treated as a conventional employee.

No federal marital tax deduction existed before 1948 and it did not become unlimited until 1981.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are "selectivity" and "aloofness" essential "virtues" in building relationships? The "real" argument for gay marriage?

Back in the 1970s, when I was into the “polarity theory” expounded at the Ninth Street Center (in the East Village in New York City; now it is the “Paul Rosenfels Community” (link)) I took to the idea of “selectivity” in forming personal attachments and relationships. I relished the idea of feminine polarity “submission” if I idealized the person (man) that I would “submit” to. Likewise, the I understood that the masculine personality would want to cherish or value the person in his domain. In any case, the “selectivity” seemed to mean that the psychological mate, the person really “cared about” was “worthy” of such emotional devotion. The fact that one would be so selective would be a hallmark of the “unbalanced personality” (masculine objective or feminine subjective -- it was all combinatorial, like modern physics or cosmology).

I recall a book in 1989, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 90’s (New York: Plume, 1989), p. 360, in the authors proposed a “self-policing social code” in which the gay man pledges “I’ll drop my search for Mr. Right and settle for what’s realistic.”

I also recall that “extreme selectivity” and penchant for spending a lot of time alone was double edged. In Dallas around 1980, I dated a Ph D clinical psychologist who claimed that his best trait was “aloofness” even though he had once been married himself. Other people see introversion and secretiveness as dangerous, a schizoid trait at best, maybe a potential terrorist at worst (in some FBI profiles online).

But in the 1970s, the key point about all this selectivity (and avoidance of unwanted intimacy) was gay life was still relatively private. In a quasi-commune where some men never ventured north of 14th Street and worked odd jobs in the village (like cleaning apartments) in order to “adapt” economically, some things would get around. Paul Rosenfels, one of the founders of the Center, thought that it was a good thing that the Center remain fairly isolated and that people’s lives be relatively contained and separate from the outside world. But that’s nothing like today, where an open Internet with trolling search engines, and a tendency for many people to cut-an-paste and transmit a lot of things marked private, and a tendency for many people to become Twitter-queens, makes one’s supposedly private standards for people suddenly very public. The whole change in our concept of both “privacy” and “fame” invokes a perturbation of our whole concept of civility, where personally held convictions about virtue stay somewhat inside when around others (especially in the workplace, especially when supervising others). Now, everything is findable and potentially public and pervasive; one has to develop intermediate policies about not mentioning one’s Internet activity at work, for example (to avoid an “anti-selection” problem).

In the 1970s, 80s, even 90s, self-development was somewhat a private matter and one’s own business. Responsibility for others came as a result of one’s choices (such having a baby). Now, the idea of responsibility has become less voluntary, more like it was in the 50s, as we find that public self-indulgence (a feminine vice) leads to a moral backlash. Now, we are reminded that a lot of people, especially in other parts of the world, don’t have the “luxury” of choosing who they will care about. Teenagers are forced to raise their siblings (created by their parents’ intimacy, not their own). Sometimes childless people wind up with custody of their sibling’s kids after a family tragedy (as in the movie “Raising Helen” or the miniseries “Summerland”) ; imagine writing a screenplay where the surviving sibling is gay and perhaps the straight sibling never “knew”. And many people have to deal with the intimacy of eldercare, as parents often live longer with disability than before, with fewer children (and grandchildren) to care for them.

We’ve gotten used to thinking of selectivity of persons for emotional intimacy as a fundamental individual right (in the workplace, not respecting it can constitute sexual harassment); yet a few generations ago, married parents had considerable power in demanding emotional blood loyalty from their descendents as one of the perks of the marital commitment. Today, we face a necessity to recognize filial responsibility as possibly legally driven (by state budget crises affecting welfare and Medicaid as well as general decency and demographics); we see responsibility for others, chosen or not, as part of “paying your dues,” and a virtue in its own right.

It’s well to ponder how the “involuntary” nature of a lot of relationships, sometimes taken on by LGBT people, could drive the argument for same-sex marriage. Equality is about a lot more than just equal benefits for domestic or marital partners. It’s about how singletons, those who didn’t “settle for what’s realistic” fare, too. Maybe aloofness and solitude aren’t such unquestionable virtues after all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DCAgenda officially launches, replacing the Blade

The new “DC Agenda” has launched. Here is the official website, with several articles. The prevailing color is one of long wavelengths, red.

There is also a second site, “Save the Blade”, (link by publisher Lynne Brown. It says “We Did It”.

The most pressing problem may be getting the archives back.

Update: November 22

Kevin Naff has an op-ed in the Washington Post (in the "all opinions are local" page), "Why we need the Washington Blade," here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

DC group will sue DC Council over denying gay marriage referendum

Well, it's back to the grind on reporting the usual LGBT political issues.

Tim Craig and Keith L. Alexander have an important story in the Washington Post Nov. 19, “Gay-marriage opponents sue to force referendum: Congress members grill D.C. officials on decision to block ballot initiative”, link here. The City Council maintains that a referendum would violate Washington DC’s Human Rights Act. But gay marriage opponents plan to sue to overturn the City Council’s ruling to deny a referendum.

Republican congressmen seem to be trying to mix up the gay marriage vote issue with the long controversial Home Rule and more recently DC statehood issue, with racial overtones, which may be less important now than they were a few decades ago. Nevertheless, African American pastors in the District and nearby suburbs (like Bishop Harry Jackson) on the theory that the nuclear family, as previously “understood”, is very important for socialization especially in the African American community. This isn’t just a matter of equality for gay couples; it affects how people not in martial relationships at all are treated, when expected to sacrifice for other family members.

The “Washington Blade” in its last issue (before becoming “DC Agenda”) had reported that the DC Council would vote on gay marriage December 1.

At the same time, Joe Davidson’s Federal Diary reports on progress in a bill to extend benefits to same –sex domestic partners of federal employees, here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"DC Agenda" (replacing Washington Blade) plans first issue Friday Nov. 20

The “new” “Washington Blade” (in quotes) will be called “DC Agenda” and will have a first edition Friday, Nov. 20, Kevin Naff said at the gathering of the faithful tonight at Hard Rock CafĂ© in downtown Washington, on the second floor. Hors d’oeuvres were served, and at least twice the number of people as were former employees (probably many more) attended. Please follow the tweets in the “DCAgenda” Twitter account blog for up-to-date details. (Yes, if you’re a host at CNN, please follow them.)

The new name of the resurrected company seems to call to mind the gay marriage agenda before the DC City Council. It reminds me of Chris Crain’s former editorial in March 2004, “Piddle Twiddle and Resolve” (Twitter didn’t exist then), a “take no prisoners” (not even Spanish prisoners of the Steve Martin genome) on the need for full equality in gay marriage.

The gathering took place a half block from the Landmark Theater, where my “so far imaginary” movie (“Do Ask Do Tell”) would premier some day (hopefully in Auditorium 1 or 4) if I can ever pull it off.

The paper is still concerned about gaining access to its archives, as pointed out by the Washington Post. It’s hard to imagine any reason why a creditor of WindowMedia would object. What came to mind for me (when Kevin mentioned the archive issue) was an occasion in 1989 when the tiny consulting company I worked for was sold to a “white knight” and I had to go down to Richmond and bring the database (all mainframe tapes) back up I-95 in my own car, securing the company’s future (after copying them carefully). DC Agenda should talk to IP attorneys (as at Electronic Frontier Foundation) about this.

The circumstances of the collapse of the holding company remain a mystery. Normally on Wall Street you sell off the pieces of a conglomerate to pay off a debt. That’s Business Day 101 in the New York Times, every day. Maybe there is some irony. But the publishing business gets trickier all the time. I’ve covered a lot of scenarios and issues in journalism on my main blog.

According to Metro Weekly, web content for DCAgenda should show up at that name (.com) very soon (story here). I would suggest that the paper start a blog by that name on Blogger (there is none now). Other media companies do this, for example theatrical distribution company Roadside Attractions (

Bay Windows has an interesting take on the Window-Media implosion, here. It writes (“What does the death of the Washington Blade mean to Bay Windows readers? “) “When our community is viewed as a marketing demographic rather than a movement, the result should not be surprising. The death of Window Media was self-inflicted.”

If you have a paper copy of the "Friday the 13th" issue of the Washington Blade, hold it; there's a bounty on it.

Advocate reports on Blade, military ban, HIV blood donation issue

Well, for right now, I’m turning to The Advocate for leading edge news.

Three stories are at issue:

First, Julie Bolcer has an article “Newspaper Owner: I tried to save The Blade”, an account of Nicholas F. Benton, owner of the Falls Church News-Press to reorganize the (holding) company according to normal Chapter 11 procedures and keep the Blade and other newspapers operating. The link is here.

The November 2009 issue has a story on p 54 by Michael Joseph Gross, “Straight Guys Tell”, in which he does some on-foot reporting from Fort Lewis Washington, where he describes how homophobia used to be used as a bonding tool, but younger soldiers generally don’t find that semi-open homosexuality interferes with the esprit de corps that military unit cohesion requires, especially after early training. There is also an interview with Rep. Patrick Murphy, himself an Iraq war veteran.

On p 50 there is an article by Steven W. Trasher, “Blood, Sex and the FDA: Despite recent policy changes in other countries and technological advances in screening for HIV in donated blood, the FDA stands firm: Gay men pose far too great a risk to give blood. Will we ever be allowed to donate again?” The last words are in a red box. The window after exposure until antigen tests can reliably detect infection is down to less than one month. There are calculations and simulations, and legitimate questions as to the results of comparisons to other high-risk behaviors from heterosexuals. There are also hypothetical concerns about as yet undetected or undiscovered infectious agents, an argument that NBC science reporter Robert Bazell had made back in the 1980s.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Washington Blade rebirth seems to be shaping up quickly; meeting on Wed. night

For those who want to get the latest on the new gay paper in Washington DC, here is the Twitter address (link). Some staffers learned of the demise Monday through Twitter. The latest news (updated late Tuesday) is here. “Hope to see you 6 p.m. Wednesday at Hard Rock Cafe (999 E St, NW). We promise to make it worth the trip.” That is about one block from Landmark’s E Street Theater, which has hosted many films for Reel Affirmations.

I don't know if domain names and trademarks go away with a Chapter 7 liquidation. In this circumstance it sounds counterproductive. I wonder if it is possible for the paper to use the same name and domain after all, since there would be no business entity competing with it (by the very definition of Chapter 7 bankruptcy; it seems like a paradox).

The Washington City Paper has a photo account of the last day at the Blade, here.

The paper will not be able to use the old name, apparently. A new name has not yet been decided. But it sounds likely there will be some kind of new issue shortly after Thanksgiving.

The Washington paper did make a profit, but not enough to save the holding company.

From a financial perspective, this sort of problem was common in the late 1980s with leveraged buyouts on Wall Streets, where profitable operating companies were treated poorly to pay of the leverage of their owners. I went through that when I worked for Chilton, which was acquired by Borg-Warner and then “taken private.” But usually public companies can be carved up into “pieces” and resold. With LLC’s and private companies there is a lot more danger.

Nov. 18

Check the Washington Post editorial today "The Blade's hard times: A Washington paper provided a critical voice", link here. The editorial mentions the Blade's archives, which technically the bankruptcy judge could impound. Hopefully the court will release the archvies to the public immediately.

At least I keep all my own archives totally separately. I think I "really" do own them! Bloggers, learn a lesson from this.

The Twitter Account for the Blade changed to "DCAgenda" (it was "WashingtonBlade" before the paper closed). Again, it seems to me that the courts ought to allow them to continue using the name "Washington Blade". From a normal trademark perspective, the name is not valuable to the creditors at all. Attorneys could be working on this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Company that owns Washington Blade, and some other gay papers, shuts down

Television station WJLA, ABC affiliate in Washington DC, reports at noon Monday Nov. 16, 2009 that the company that owns the Washington Blade is shutting down immediately. That company is Window-Media (link, no relation to Microsoft's product); and as of noon today none of the links to papers that the company owns were working; all were timing out.

The WJLA story appears to have come from the AP (by Dorie Turner) and the web url link is here.

The Washington Blade had operated since 1969, when it opened with a one-page entry.

No details are available yet as to the reasons for the shutdown, but they could well be economic.

It would sound plausible – I would say likely -- that the local papers would be able to restructure locally and continue and resume operating. That would include the Washington Blade, which is very important to the LGBT community. I will monitor this and see what I can find out, or if I could do anything about it. I’d have to get down to Lambda Rising in DC and see what is going on.

If the Blade cannot continue operations, that leaves Metro Weekly web url (link) as the major LGBT paper in the Washington DC area. As of noon Monday it did not have this news yet.

Here is a more detailed account on She-Wired, with discussion of SBA issues, by Laura Vess.

NBC Washington has a story "Washington Blade Suddenly Shuts Down; Blade's Parent Company Closes," by Jim Iovino and Abbey Lee, link here. The story predicts a new employee-owned paper.

Update: Nov. 17

The Washington Post has a front page story by Paul Schwartzman "Gay weekly Washington Blade closes: Storied 40-year-old paper among sister publications abruptly shuttered", link here.
WindowMedia's equity holder, Avalon Equity Partners, had been placed into receivershio by the Small Business Administration, and WindowMedia was forced into Chapter 7 liquidation to attempt to pay off creditors. In such sudden circumstances, a publication can be closed immediately because its physical assets are seized. That can make it even harder for employees to reopen a publication, althouugh new digital assets are much less expensive today to purchase new. It is possible for publications to close suddenly because of various kinds of legally binding events. The Window-Media website was not functioning Tuesday morning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Catholic Archdiocese might cut social service contract with Washington DC if gay marriage bill passes

The Washington Post has an important front pages story (from its "On Faith" series) Thursday Nov. 12 by Tim Craig and Michelle Boorstein about the proposed same-sex marriage law for Washington DC. It is titled “Catholic Church gives D.C. ultimatum: Same-sex marriage bill, as written, called a threat to social service contracts”, with link here.

Although the bill does not require churches to perform same-sex weddings against their will, it does require faith-based social service agencies with contracts with the City, such as the Catholic Archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, to practice non-discrimination in employment and in partner benefits. The Archdiocese says it would have abandon its social service contracts. Here employment and marriage discrimination merge, in a sense. It’s not clear if the law on the books now (regarding out-of-state marriage recognition) could create similar problems.

Back in 1980, Catholic Charities in Dallas, where I lived at the time, ran a placement program for Cuban refugees, but would not accept gay men as sponsors. I recall that from a personal conversation at the Charity.

Update: Nov. 13

Metro columnist Petula Dvorak writes "Catholic officials shouldn't forsake D.C.'s poor in gay marriage fight", link here. She writes "Charities are telling our city's most vulnerable people -- homeless families, sick children, low-income mothers -- that they are willing to throw them on the table as a bargaining chip."

I recall that conversation with a representative at Catholic Charities in Dallas in 1980. He said, "the fact that you say you are gay ends the discussion." It seems that "don't ask don't tell" in other areas has been around for a long time, especially in the charitable organization world. What was the Salvation Army like in the old days?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Would legalizing gay marriage prevent gay men from trying straight marriages?

Theresa Vargas has an interesting perspective on gay marriage in the Sunday Nov. 8 Washington Post, “A quiet voice for gay marriage: legalization could avert doomed relationships, straight ex-spouses say”, link here.

The anecdotes here may be exemplified or exaggerated by the story of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who wrote up his own experience in a book named “The Confession” (2006), while his ex-wife wrote “Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage” (2007).

ABC 20/20 had a story about three years ago to the effect that “this is happening to millions”. But back around 2003, before the Massachusetts decision in 2004, some commentators opposed both gay marriage and civil unions so that “existing marriages [with gay spouses] had a chance,” as if legalization would encourage the breakup of existing marriages.

Of course, one is left with the debate: often gay men have children in traditional marriages, for whom they remain responsible after divorce. But some people believe that everybody has a moral duty to have children if possible! Look at the Philip Longman crowd!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The US Army does have a document stating the official version of "don't ask don't tell" for recruiters

In researching a story related to the general lowering of fitness of recruits into the US military, I tracked down the US Army’s own statements about its requirements for eligibility to enlist, and I did find this link. This leads to a dynamic PDF file load whose URL cannot be saved, but the file can be converted to text and saved on one’s home or office computer.

Section 8 (that sounds like a pun, doesn’t it) in this PDF file (or as converted to text) does discuss the issue of homosexuals in the military. The wording of the policy is clever and bears repeating here in a long quote. (Yup, it’s in the public domain, so it’s not copyright infringement to reproduce it.) Notice that the policy (written in early 1994, after Congress codified “don’t ask don’t tell” into law in late November 1993 as part of a Defense Authorization bill; much of the language comes directly from the statute) tries to have it both ways. Sexual orientation as an abstract matter has no effect on service entry or retention, but the occurrence of “homosexual conduct” does normally lead to denial of entry or to discharge, even if the conduct occurs “off duty” with consenting adult civilians. (A soldier is “on duty” at “all times and all places”, even according to President Clinton (1993 speech), despite Barney Frank’s suggestion to the contrary.) Notice that the wording here makes a lot of the word “propensity” which it says is more than an abstract interest, it is a credible likelihood that acts will occur. The best comparison to “propensity” would be an insurance concept called “anti-selection”. Certain behaviors or statements, to an insurance company, lead to the concern that an unfavorable event is really likely to occur. “Volunteering” one’s orientation in a military setting is normally regarded by the military as such a statement. Unfortunately, some commanders have interpreted this concept as an excuse to go out on witch-hunts, which the policy, as written, seems to discourage.

The other curious feature of the policy is the mention of gay marriage, all the way back in 1993, before it was legal anywhere (it was started to get litigated in Hawaii then, and later Vermont would have a civil union law).

Still one other curious sequence of words , near the end, where a statement will not result in discharge if it is made for the “purpose of avoiding military service.” That could refer to an attempt to get out of an enlistment contract, but it also could anticipate a political environment where the draft (conscription) has been reinstated by Congress—the environment in which my own service took place in the late 1960s. There is also a “queen for a day” rule, where discharge does not occur if the conduct is not part of a person’s usual deportment.

It's useful to review the Army's own words and keep them as a reference. Here follows the quotation of the policy as in the Army PDF:

"8. Provision Related to Homosexual Conduct :

a. Sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter, and homosexual orientation is not a bar to service entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. Applicants for enlistment, appointment, or induction shall not be asked or required to reveal their sexual orientation. Applicants also will not be asked or required to reveal whether they have engaged in homosexual conduct, unless independent evidence is received indicating that an applicant engaged in such conduct or unless the applicant volunteers a statement that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect. Applicants will be informed of separation policy. (Section 654 of reference (a)).

b. Homosexual conduct may be grounds for barring entry into the Armed Forces. Homosexual conduct is a homosexual act, a statement by the applicant that demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts, or a homosexual marriage or attempted marriage. Propensity to engage in acts means more than an abstract preference or desire to engage in homosexual acts; it indicates a likelihood that a Person engages in or will engage in homosexual acts.

(1) An applicant shall be rejected for entry into the Armed Forces if, in the course of the accession process, evidence is received demonstrating that the applicant engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts, unless there is a further determination that:

(a) Such acts are a departure from the applicant's usual and customary behavior;

(b) Such acts, under all the circumstances, are unlikely to recur;

(c) Such acts were not accomplished by use of force, coercion, or intimidation, and;

(d) The applicant does not have a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts.

Such a determination will be made in the course of the normal accession process. A homosexual act means (i) any bodily contact, actively undertaken or passively permitted, between members of the same sex for the purpose of satisfying sexual desires, and (ii) any bodily contact that a reasonable person would understand to demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in an act described in subparagraph (i).

(2) An applicant shall be rejected for entry if he or she makes a statement that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words effect, unless there is a further determination that the applicant has demonstrated that he or she is not a person who engages in, attempts to engage in, has a propensity to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts. Such a determination will be made in the course of the normal accession process.

(3) An applicant shall be rejected for entry if, in the course of the accession process, evidence is received demonstrating that an applicant has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex (as evidenced by the external anatomy of the persons involved).
c. Nothing in thes
e procedures requires rejection for entry into the Armed Forces when the relevant Military Service Command authority determines:

(1) That an applicant or inductee made a statement, engaged in acts, or married or attempted to marry a person of the same sex for the purpose of avoiding military service, and

(2) Rejection of the applicant or inductee would not be in the best interest of the Armed Forces."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gay marriage loses in ME; MI and WA returns appear good; VA elects two anti-gay GOP candidates to state office

Tuesday, Nov. 3 was not a particularly rewarding day for equal rights for gays. In Maine, voters passed Proposition 1 to nullify the state’s law permitting gay marriage. The AP story appears on the Washington Blade here. Actually, project Maine Equality raised more money than did opponents of gay marriage.

Kalamazoo MI voters approved a law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in most areas.

However, in Washington State it appears that Referendum 71, giving domestic partnerships “everything but marriage” was probably going to pass; Seattle Times story here. (Lormet Turnbull, Janet I. Tu, Susan Kelleher authors). We’ll have to check back on this one.

In Virginia, voters swept in GOP candidates Bob McDonnell for governor and Ken Cuccinelli for state attorney general. McDonnell is controversial for having written in a thesis twenty years ago that women who work outside the home undermine the family, and Cuccinelli, as the Washington Post pointed out, views homosexuality as against “natural law”, that is, both candidates look at homosexuality in existential as well as religious terms. Cuccinelli even hinted at a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for officials in his department (Oliver North once said that in the 1990s about his own employees on his radio talk show); but he can surf the Internet as well as anyone for applicants.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Major votes on gay marriage, other rights in six states take place today!

A strong editorial in The New York Times Monday Nov. 2 came out for the principle of LGBT equality, as it covers the issues in six places: New York, New Jersey and Washington DC, which it characterizes as “tantalizingly close to securing legislative approval for measures ending the hurtful and unjustifiable exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage.” At the same time, voters in Maine, Washington State and Kalamazoo, MI may be close to revoking advances, with the Michigan problem dealing with the more basic problem of individual discrimination in housing and employment, a kind of battle known since Anita Bryant’s heyday in the 1970s.

Then today, Nov. 3, Cheryl Wetzstein has a piece on p A16 of The Washington Times, “Polls show turn to civil unions”, link here. She traces the increase in public acceptance, or at least “tolerance”, of the manually processed rights for same sex couples in a civil union. Only a few years ago, John Kerry thought he sounded progressive when he favored “civil unions” rather than gay marriage. But, then, remember Chris Crain’s absolutist piece in the Washington Blade in March 2004, “Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve.”

Monday, November 02, 2009

Marine Corps Commandant publicly opposes lifting military gay ban

Well, after the merriment and spectacle of a public defrocking (or “tribunal”) on All Hallows Eve, when the “holiday” falls on a Saturday, guess the Monday morning (Nov. 2) greetings of The Washington Times, in a “supra-headline,” catching your (or my, anyway) vision as you walk into a suburban DC 7-11 store and scope the news racks.

It’s “Marine leads ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” fight,” in an exclusive story to the Washington Times by Rowan Scarborough, link here. The Marine in question is Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, who has spoken out against lifting the ban, while other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, out of respect to the President’s wishes for the moment, have remained silent.

There’s an issue of perspective and terminology here. Back in 1993, “don’t ask don’t tell”, as Bill Clinton had argued it at Fort McNair in July, was an “honorable compromise”, an “advance”, sort of lifting the ban in private. Now, “don’t ask don’t tell” has become synonymous, in the public’s thinking, with The Ban itself. Legally, that’s not quite true. But the legal bridge is built with nebulous concepts like “propensity” and “rebuttable presumption” that set dangerous precedents for civilians in other areas and with respect to other issues. Does Conway want to go back to “asking”? The article doesn’t say, but Newt Gingrich had blurted something like that out back around 1995.

It’s becoming more apparent in this Internet age that the whole problem is more than conduct as we usually view it: it seems to delve deeply into the area of self-concept, the internal contradiction in the phrase of “An Army of One.” People whose social bearings depend on the group (as is usually the case in the military – but in today’s high tech world, by no means always) feel they are being “scoped” by those who seem themselves as standing alone. Yup, that does bear on the unit cohesion argument. The verb “scope” seems apt here – it comes from some clever writing of a WB Smallville episode a few years back, where the analogy between having secret extraterrestrial origin with observational “powers”, and homosexuality seems clever and clear.

Nevertheless, we have an individualistic society where notions of equality (as in the gay marriage debate, playing out now in Washington DC over a Council law -- TV station WJLA reported today that long lines were forming for the debate where 150 people will speak -- check this story "Council Takes Up Same-sex Marriage Bill in 2nd Public Hearing") cut on both sides: equal rights, and equal responsibilities. If you don’t share risk or uncertainty equitably, someone else has to. The whole question of national service and the possibility of restoring the draft forms the other side of this debate.

Note, also, a gay marriage vote in Maine tomorrow, as well as hearings on benefits in Montgoemery County MD today. More news will come.