Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve at Town DC; ABC soap has big gay scene

OK, this New Years Eve I did Town DC (in the Shaw section of Washington DC). The crowd really thickened around 11 PM and the upstairs filled up. The countdown screen marked down to the end of the 00 decade (with all the horrors bookending the decade). Downstairs the multimedia screen showed – you guessed it – Anderson Cooper on CNN.

But the Town had its share of its celebrities tonight – without the usual drag show. Thankfully, the morning’s ice storm was small, as this week the low pressure system stayed close. Had it tracked 100 miles further East, we would have repeated the 16 inches of snow that closed everything (including the discos) two weeks ago.

Also, on Dec. 30, “One Life to Live” (2 PM EST on ABC) aired a gay love scene, with a slow motion version from YouTube here. Since ABC owns it and didn’t supply the video, I don’t think it’s legit for me to embed it here. Note the order in which both men "get it"; it's the reverse of the usual.

The soap is rather interesting, with actor Michael Easton, and with a couple of characters transported from “Days of our Lives” (Mimi), and a subplot a few years back about a female mystery novelist whose stories get acted out in “real life” after her book is published (or perhaps posted on the Internet). I guess there’s a lesson here.

Note: Metro runs until 2 AM tonight Dec 31; on New Years Day, it runs only until 2 AM instead of 3 AM, as usual for a Friday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

OPM caught in a catch-22 on same-sex benefits for federal workers

Joe Davidson has been following the issue of federal benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees on “The Federal Diary” page of The Washington Post, and today he points out that the Obama administration’s justice department is caught in a catch-22: it says that it must enforce the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, signed by President Clinton, which it would like to overturn (just like it must enforce “don’t ask don’t tell”).

Recently, as Davidson points out, the Ninth Circuit ordered the Office of Personnel Office to allow health insurance companies to provide benefits to same-sex partners of the court’s workers, and the OPM balked, saying it must enforce DOMA. What a mess.

The link is here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UC Hastings Law School v. Christian Legal Society: about discrimination, or about beliefs?

Here’s an interesting editorial in the Los Angeles Times “Christian Legal Society vs. UC Hastings School of Law”, Dec. 15, 2009, link.

The Christian Legal Society, requiring its members to abstain from sex outside of heterosexual marriage, is challenging the UC Hastings refusal to give it the same recognition as other student groups. Hastings maintains that the group effective discriminates against both non-Christians and gays. But is the group really being excluded because of discrimination or because of the beliefs of its members. Is it just an abstract question? Is it a First Amendment question?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DC passes gay marriage in final vote, 11-2

The Washington DC City Council voted 11-2 to pass the same-sex marriage bill Tuesday Dec 15. It was the second of the two votes required to pass the bill. Mayor Fenty will sign it, and it has to pass a 30-day review in Congress, which most observers believe it will survive. The vote sounds like a needed Nationals win.

The NBCWashington (Channel 4) story by Matthew Stabley is here.

Former mayor Marion Barry voted no, as did Yvette Alexander.

Opponents, led by Rev. Jackson, still threaten litigation to force a referendum.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Houston becomes largest city with openly gay mayor

I may be later covering this, but, it’s true, Houston is the largest city (the nation’s fourth largest) to elect an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker.

I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988 mostly during the Reagan years, when AIDS erupted, in a much more conservative climate. Yet Dallas always seemed to be the more cosmopolitan of Texas’s two largest cities. Even so, in 1979 and 1980, police raids of gay bars in Dallas were common, until one defendant, a computer operator, stood up to a false charge and got a judge’s acquittal.

The media makes a lot of Parker’s win in a state that has outlawed gay marriage. But in 1982 a federal judge overturned the Texas sodomy law 21.06; the 5th Circuit would reverse in 1985. Laws like this would be upheld by Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, but finally fall in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, based on 21.06.

Other cities with openly gay mayors include Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., and Cambridge, Mass.

Here’s the Houston Chronicle's main story by Paige Hewitt.

Here’s the AP story by Monica Rhor.

Wikipedia link for USGS picture of Houston.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public relations firms earn ire of gay activists when hired to help anti-gay marriage referendums

Jesse McKinley has an important story on the National page of the Sunday New York Times, “In California companies, a cottage industry for fighting same-sex marriage”, link here.

There is discussion of companies like Mar/Com Services in San Francisco (link), enlisted by anti gay marriage forces in Maine, and Schubert Flint Public Affairs (link) in Sacramento, hired by Maggie Gallagher from National Organization for Marriage.

What’s disturbing to me is probably nothing new, since “public relations” has been around as a business forever. But people get paid to be biased. To earn a living they give up their rights to use their own heads. This could get more dangerous if Internet freedoms were to be clamped down upon in the future because of all the hard-to-control risks. I see this as an existential moral issue.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lambda Rising, DC's gay bookstore, closes at the end of 2009

Lambda Rising, a gay bookstore chain in Washington DC and Rehoboth Beach DE, announced Dec. 4 that it will close at the end of 2009. The store’s own account is here.

It was founded in 1974 by Deacon Maccubbin and the founder, 66, says that it is time to “move on.” It was not totally clear why the business simply was not sold; it seemed to be holding its own despite competition from the chains and Amazon because of its specialty stock.

Just Nov. 16, the Washington Blade was closed by the bankruptcy of its holding company, although its employees have re-phoenixed it as DC Agenda. On Tues. Nov. 17 Lambda Rising was one of the first places I checked on foot to find out what was going on.

In Dallas, where I lived in the 1980s, the Crossroads Market, at Cedar Springs and Throckmorton in Oak Lawn, apparently closed in February 2009 (link)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Marriage progress in New Jersey; shame on the DC archdiocese for taking political hostages

The New York Times has an important editorial “Uphill Toward Equality” (which sounds like a paraphrase of a Robert Bork book title that we need not repeat) about the New Jersey gay marriage vote, web link URL here. As so often, the voting seems all too partisan, with little attention to principles.

The Washington Post Metro columnist has a stinging article about the Catholic Archdiocese by Robert McCartney, “wedded to anti-gay stand on marriage”, link. The writer says that this is a matter of “principle” for the Church, but the practical effect is to deny services to the poor. This is a well known tactic of the Left: take political hostages.

As it is, the Church will have to make a pragmatic peace, inasmuch as it has almost no requests for same-sex benefits anway, as DC goes thorugh its Congressional waiting period.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Democratic Reps want to grant gay soldiers immunity if they testify in Congress about DADT

Again, two days after The Washington Times announced its major downsizing, it has a major story, from Stephen Dinan, “Dems want temporary ‘don’t ask’ immunity”, a top-headline in the Friday print edition, link here. The headline caught my eye today as the last paper in a hospital newsstand caught my eye as I left after scheduling my own minor surgery next week.

Alcee L. Hastings, D-FL, introduced as bill in the House to grant immunity (at least for a specified time) from the provisions of the 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law to gay soldiers and sailors who testify on the policy before Congress. The Senate Armed Services Committee has postponed hearings on the matter until 2010, particularly after the Fort Hood tragedy (that’s ironic, as the military did not respond to warning signs about a member of its own venturing into radical Islam). The Committee, under Sam Nunn, pursued vigorous and sometimes vindictive hearings in 1993 (Nunn: “if you have stated your status, you have described your conduct”).

Mexican cardinal makes negative comments about LGBT people and afterlife

A Mexican Roman Catholic Cardinal Javier Barragan has said that gays and transsexuals cannot go to Heaven for essentially metaphysical or existential reasons, in a statement reportedly rebuked by the Vatican itself. Is it up to him to decide where people go at the end of eartlhty life? Apparently he thinks so. The story appeared in Reuters, link here. His remarks may have been fueled by the continuing controversy over gay marriage.

Barragan denies that the question of "choice" or "fault" (or immutability) matters. He claims that homosexuals have “not developed their identity during adolescence” and that they have violated St. Paul’s teachings by “going against the dignity of the body”.

Barragan reportedly put the statements on a conservative Catholic website in Italian called "Pontifex". That site is here, but I could not find the article. The Vatican does not consider opinions expressed there as (necessarily) official Church teachings.

However the news article goes on to discuss the Catechism of the Catholic Church which now says many people “have innate homosexual tendencies” and “should not be subject to discrimination.” The article claims that the Catholic Church distinguishes between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts in its official statements (rather like the US military).

Some Vatican statements from back in the 1980s (the “objective disorder” fiasco) seem to be concerned that everyone share in the “risk” or procreation (except, of course, “celibate” priests and nuns).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Will a federal fight over Proposition 8 put all gay equality at risk?

The December 2009 issue of The American Prospect has an important piece by Gabriel Arana, “Gay on Trial: why more than marriage is at stake on the federal legal challenge to Prop. 8”. The cover of the magazine is even more alarmist: “The Gay Gamble.” It’s worthy of note that the magazine calls itself “liberal intelligence” (maybe to go against “The Nation” or “Mother Jones”). The link for the Arana article is here.

Arana analyzes what is likely to happen in the federal challenge, especially if it goes to the Supreme Court. It’s likely to weigh heavily on traditional arguments about immutability, suspect class, and equal protection. “Suspect class” is particularly nettlesome because its use in constitutional law has become a bit unprincipled (at least in the eyes of conservatives). Sometimes religion counts and sometimes it doesn’t. Using it for sexual orientation is a more complicated intellectual challenge than for race. We know that from our experience with the military. But if “we” fail, then other issues could be affected, like rolling back employment discrimination, or overturning “don’t ask don’t tell”, maybe even issues with civilian security clearances.

I think there is a whole other area to argue, that we got through with Lawrence v. Texas, that of fundamental rights, self-expression, and still (even if a guarded notion in the Internet age) privacy. That get back to the substance of my “notorious” “do ask do tell” 1997 book.

There’s a whole “acute angle” on this that I could introduce by mentioning a script line in a recent NBC “Days of our Lives” episode, where likeable straight teenager Will (Dylan Patton) mentions his duty to protect “his little sister.” It caught my ear, even though I was busy on the computer. Why is he responsible for someone who is not his own child? It wasn’t his own voluntary act (intercourse) that created the responsibility; it was that of his parents. (In the soap, I know, it gets complicated, with Sami and so on, but back to the argument.) But think it through more. Some day, society assumes, Will should get married and have kids himself. Among his own kids, he will have the social power to expect a similar kind of loyalty and protective responsibility. (Dr. Phil has barely touched on this in his show.) But the point is, the responsibility for others (kids, and now especially elderly parents or other disabled family members) is partly a communal one, originally created by parents but passed on to others. This sounds like Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” thing.

You see how this mediates the “equality” argument? Married people get to create responsibilities that can be passed on to unmarried people. The lack of equality doesn’t just come from spousal benefits, although that matter (see my Nov. 23 posting on estates). Single people are infringed upon, as almost a direct logical consequence of special privileges for the married. No wonder libertarians want to reduce marriage to a private contract, with no special benefits (like the famous 1996 article by Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, “Licensed Expired”).

Here we get into existentialism, religion, metaphysics, and Rick Warren. Yes, sometimes (within the family, or in the workplace), people without kids are expected to “sacrifice” for those who have them, and there is a rough parallel to marriage. (This is the moral mindset determined that nobody "gets out of things.") This fits the 1990s arguments from Jonathan Rauch, that sees marital privilege as a necessary thing, and that gays should partake in both the privileges and responsibilities that go with it, and get away from so much emphasis on fantasy and “Mr. Right” thinking (and perhaps lookism, as in one particular email I got in 1999 from someone directly impacted by DADT – yes, I still remember it’s tone – and I do apologize for something I had said at the DC Pride celebration that year.)

There’s something about giving (Warren style): it’s more than sacrifice, which is sometimes a perceived infringement which in reality is more like repaying a hidden debt or working off some negative personal karma.

Rauch argues in the right spirit on these matters: equality means equal responsibility as well as equal rights. Think how this could apply to overturning “don’t ask don’t tell”.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of California capitol in Sacramento

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Washington DC Council approves same-sex marriage bill 11-2

According to a story by Tim Craig in The Washington Post today (Dec. 1) the Washington DC City Council has voted to approve same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. The bill will go to Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has said he will sign it. It then must survive a “Congressional review period” (30 days). The link for the story online is here. It's interesting to ponder all this in relation to the DC Home Rule debates of the 1960s.

The print version of the Washington Post has a Metro story by Michelle Boorstein, “Archbishop takes a reluctant turn in the spotlight, about Donald W. Wuerl. The story discusses his “use” of Catholic Charities as a “bargaining chip” in the negotiations.

Dec. 2:

The New York State sendate defeated its gay marriage bill today 38-24.