Friday, May 29, 2009

Mormon role in gay marriage debate questioned; DC Council vote on "external" marriage may go to referendum


The Washington Post has a couple of diverse stories on same-sex marriage today (May 29).

The story by Karl Vick is “The Mormons Are Coming: Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church’s Work Against It”, with web link here. The story talks about an ad that was rejected by some newspapers and websites as denigrating people by religion. But the group “Californians against hate” says it wants to see the Mormons go back to helping hurricane victims and get out of the political struggles where they have no legitimate stake. Some Mormons admit that it is difficult for them to take up the banner against same-sex marriage publicly with credibility. The Mormon church has faced some legal challenges in California for its Prop 8 related activities.

Tim Craig has a story in the Post Metro section today about the formation of a group in Washington DC to subject the recent City Council approval of recognition of external same-sex marriages in the District. The story has web link here. The group is called “Stand 4 Marriage D.C.” (link) (Bishop Harry Jackson) and will seek 21000 signatures by early June.

Dr. Phil says that same-sex couples raise 4% of all adopted children in the United States (about 65000) (show 1291, re-aired today).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In lifting the military ban, understand the difference between "privacy" and "unit cohesion" arguments made by opposition


In reviewing the arguments on how to lift the military gay ban, it’s well to remember the distinction between the concepts of “privacy” and “bonding” (as the latter results to “unit cohesion”) in the military environment.

Back in 1993, Senator Sam Nunn had first made his points about “privacy”, saying that soldiers have “no privacy” and “don’t go home at night like you and I do.” The “unit cohesion” concerns appeared latter, somewhat in the discussions of military sociologist Charles Moskos, but more in the discussions of other military commanders, some of whom were hostile. And the gay community in those days tended to respond to both (as if they were the same) with somewhat lame comparisons to Truman’s racial integration of the military in 1948 (well dramatized by Gary Sinese in the 1996 HBO film “Truman”).

I was struck all of this because of the comparison with my own 1961 college expulsion, which is well documented on my main blog (and in my first book). The analogy there was more about “privacy”. I was in a small, often hot dorm room with a roommate with whom I has certain cultural issues that led to a breakdown – detailed in the book. College classmates are not expected to “bond” in the sense that the Armed Forces mean, even if college football brings out a lot of esprit de corps and even if Greek Week provides a lot of men with the bonding that goes with a “rite of passage” (for that matter, so did the “tribunals” that I talk about in my book).

An interesting comparison could be proposed between military bonding and unchosen bonds between family members (like siblings) set up by the marriage of their parents. As in the latter, the bond is not with someone who is “chosen”, the way a relationship (a “marriage”) with a lover is. But it sill presumably has emotional substance. The military may fear that a straight soldier will feel intruded upon by expecting an emotional bond with a gay servicemember in an environment where access to the normal social opportunities of choice and networking (as in training or deployment) may not be available. But, of course, something like that really could have been said about the racial issue in 1948.

In a practical sense, the military’s concerns would be less with today’s generation, which has been raised in a much more pluralistic society, than it might have been in previous generations. But even in previous wars, as Randy Shilts documented so well in “Conduct Unbecoming”, openly gay soldiers served with distinction and often were well accepted by bunkmates in time of real combat.

Furthermore, the Rand Corporation, in its 1993 study (Rand Corporation (National Defense Research Institute, "Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment") pointed out that military unit cohesion is still largely “task cohesion”; it is not expected to continue indefinitely (as family cohesion is supposed to).

The “privacy” concerns, which President Clinton sincerely thought he had addressed in 1993 with his “don’t pursue,” now seem complicated by the presence of the Internet. As George Washington University law professor Daniel Solove has written, today’s media-driven generation has much less expectation of “cultural privacy” than has any generation in the past.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NY Times "The Way We Live Now": How did Washington miss the generational shift on gay marriage?


Matt Bai has an interesting perspective on p 15 of The New York Times Magazine (Sunday May 24) in the series “The Way We Live Now” called “Queer Developments: How did Washington miss the generational shift on gay marriage?” link now.

The article starts out by a discussion of the election of Jesse Ventura to the governorship of Minnesota (as an Independent) in 1998, when I was living there. Ventura was popular because he gave unneeded tax money back to residents. Ventura said that he didn’t care if a gay couple next door hung a marriage certificate, or, for that matter, defended itself with gun ownership. Hence that is how some gay presence built in the Libertarian Party of Minnesota then, with some interest in the Reform Party. Those were good times for me, as I gave a lecture and onto cable TV with a chance to promote my then recent book.

Bai points out the shift of younger people not only on gay marriage but on gays in the military, as soldiers (at least with some degree of education) in today’s world are less likely to object to the idea of open gays “bonding” in their units than would soldiers a couple generations ago. Bai talks about the shift in thinking from “emotional disorder” to “biological happenstance”. One picks words carefully (unless one is Dr. Laura).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CA Supreme Court: Prop 8 stands, but 18000 marriages will also stand


The California Supreme Court has let Proposition 8 stand, but has ruled that the 18000 or so gay marriages performed in 2008 before the referendum will stand and remain “legal”. The breaking news story appears at the San Francisco Chronicle, by Bob Egelko, link to brief story here. The ruling went 6-1 and media reports indicate huge crowds at the court.

The opinion should appear at this link shortly. The server traffic is so heavy that I could not yet bring it up online. The case is Strauss v. Horton, No. S168047 (Calif.) The PDF finally started to come up when requested Tuesday night (here).

CNN’s live streaming report is here.

The Daily Kos has an article "California is now a radical experiment in government", link here, comparing Proposition 8 to Proposition 13 in 1978, which rolled back property taxes.

More details as to the legal reasoning should be forthcoming this afternoon. But the Court has apparently ruled that voters in California have acted within the means provided by the state constitution.

Update: July 1, 2009


Lisa Leff has an AP story in the Washington Post today, "Judge favors trial soon on Calif. gay marriage ban", link here.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker favors a speedy trial on the merits of the merits of Proposition 8 according to federal constitutional issues, but declines to overturn the effect of the referendum.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Obama's top advisor says, tread carefully with repeal of DADT


Sunday President Obama’s top military advisor Admiral Michael Mullen said that the Pentagon could implement a replacement for “don’t ask don’t tell” with a policy that allows gays to serve with some openness but that strictly regulates conduct. But he advised that the president should tread carefully about introducing controversy when the Armed Forces are in the middle of two wars. Reading between the lines, it seems that Mullen realizes that many commanders will not try to discharge gay soldiers when deployed in combat and when they are needed. He also seems to suggest that unit cohesion is developed over time, and is very dependent on the overall maturity of the troops.

The Washington Times story on Monday May 25 is by Sean Lengell, link here.

Many observers expect the president to start to discuss the issue quietly with Congressional leaders before speaking publicly about it, since he knows what happened during the Clinton administration.

One problem, often missed, is the “mashup” – that the ban can have a subtle effect on some civilian occupations.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Adam Lambert is a good sign of the new times


Aaron Hicklin has a nice column in the Sunday May 24, 2009 Washington Post, “When the Stage Has No Closet Space,” link here. The latest wrinkle has to do with Adam Lambert on “American Idol”. Hicklin reports a schizophrenic approach to homosexuality on television, sometimes embracing it on reality TV or comedy, sometimes treating it with kid gloves as Donald Trump did once on “The Apprentice” (as a gay candidate got fairly close to finishing in the finals), with talk of whether a lesbian could be nominated to the Supreme Court. He also points out that “conservative: Republicans can no longer count on “opposing equality” as a recruiting tool.

We’re left to sift down to some painful realities, that many of these old chestnuts (as Dick Cheney once called the military gay ban, with well deserved some embarrassment), that many of the old objections to homosexuality came from existential (as well as religious) ends. They came out of a way to socialize people in areas outside of the normal scope of personal expression and choice. Some of us from earlier generations still deal with the legacies of the past. We must overcome them, or we can die with them.

Readers may want to check a New York Daily News story “Clay Aiken apologizes to Adam Lambert of 'American Idol' for 'colorful' blog post” at this link.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NH: House gay marriage vote barely fails; NY: gay marriage seems likely to pass, as opposition is weaker


The New Hampshire house of representatives has narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill, 188-186, partly out of concern over lack of protection for religious institutions. The Reuters story by Andrew J. Manuse is here.

However Jeremy Peters reports in the New York Times today (May 20) that conservative opposition to gay marriage is not getting much traction, and that pro gay marriage forces are actually raising more money.

If New York is able to become the sixth or seventh state to recognize gay marriage, it would probably put considerable political pressure on California, meaning that even if the California Supreme Court lets the 2008 referendum stand, a future referendum probably would accept gay marriage, although narrowly. Slowly, the political process in many more liberal states is starting to accept gay marriage, answering calls that judicial activism is imposing its will on voters, and making court pressure and even potential court appointees less important on this issue. Indeed, New York could totally undermine the original Bush administration claim that a constitutional amendment was needed to protect marriage from judges (as in 2004). The link is this.

President Obama has tended to favor letting states tackle this issue one at a time, and tended to favor civil unions instead. Ultimately there will be a question about federal tax treatment, social security and other benefits. Kathy Beige has an interesting column on About.com here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is Obama's next Supreme Court appointee likely to face questions about gay marriage?


The Washington Post has an already “most viewed” story this morning (Sunday, May 17), “Gay-Marriage Issue Awaits Court Pick: Same-Sex Unions Supplant Abortion As Social Priority for Conservatives,” link here. Much of the story concerns the expectation that eventually the Supreme Court will have to take up the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (wikipedia), which "Republicrat" President Clinton, not that reluctantly, signed.

The law focuses on exempting states from what normally would become a “Full Faith and Credit” obligation and denying certain federal benefits (such as social security survivorship) to same-sex couples. When it was passed, I did not see it as a threat, as I thought the best that could be expected at the time was incremental progress among the states.

I am not as convinced as others that DOMA would necessarily come up, but it is much more likely to come up before the Court than is the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.

It would, to me, sound inappropriate for Congress to grill a prospective Obama appointee on specific positions about same-sex marriage. Moderate Democrats have supported state-by-state approaches and civil unions as a whole. Gay activists have emphasized the benefits not available to same-sex couples.

The real problem of “inequality” concerns the tension between those who marry and those who don’t as to making “sacrifices” – especially (not necessarily the same populations) those who have children and those who do not. As the population ages, people who lived productively without marriage and children (gay or not) will find caregiving commitments and sometimes sacrifices demanded of them. To me, all of these issues ultimately tie in.

Picture: At the Apex-DC last night.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New York State General Assembly approves gay marriage bill


A complex story by Jeremy W. Peters, posted on May 12 in the New York Times, reports that the New York State General Assembly has passed a bill that would make the Empire State the sixth to fully recognize same-sex marriage. Five Republicans supported the measure.

It’s interesting to peruse the snazzy websites of a number of organizations on both sides of the issue. All of them take the position that they have to show people how to support or oppose a social policy change by stating “simple” principles concerning an issue that has essentially become existential, challenging basic precept about the point of one’s life on both sides.

The main organization supporting gay marriage in New York State is the Empire State Pride Agenda.

An important conservative and oppositional player is New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Another anti-group is the Alliance Defense Fund, which says on its home page today that it opposes “radical anarchist group that openly advocates the use of riots and crime to further its views in favor of homosexual behavior.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Liberal" politicians sometimes walk a tightrope on gay marriage (and ending DADT)


On the Raw Fisher blog by Marc Fischer on the Washington Post, there is an entry “Barry, Obama & The Winding Road To Gay Marriage” posted at 8:25 AM on May 11, 2009“, (Metro Section, p B3) link here.

Fisher makes the point that “liberal” politicians, especially African Americans, have to walk a political line in handling the social values of their constituency. There is, according to some, an element of the African American community that views homosexuality as a threat to the social “meaning” of the family, a reaction that’s familiar around the world. There was a poll on the blog post, and a vast majority of recipients said that Marion Barry’s statements about gay marriage (and his no vote last week) reflect political expediency, not personal morals. Barry used to be supportive of gay rights when it had been put in terms of privacy.

Obama’s unwillingness to embrace gay marriage as a legal construct (civil unions instead) follows suit, as does his invitation of Rick Warren (“The Purpose-Driven Life” and the “it’s not about you” line) to speak at his inauguration. Obama has slow to pick up on his promise on ending “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military (because he knows what happened to Bill Clinton in 1993), but Fisher seems to feel Obama will move on the military issue before the marriage one. I rather agree.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Gay servicemembers have to be careful with letters, internet, profiles


Chris Johnson has an important story in The Washington Blade (May 8) “‘You have to be careful’: With military monitoring e-mails, gay troops get creative in writing home,” link here.

Troops, especially when deployed, have to use great discretion when writing to same-sex partners back home, especially by email on military computers, and possibly with physical mail. It’s unlikely that the military could intercept physical letters, given the volume (unless a servicemember was already on a radar screen) but military email is quite often monitored. Some servicemembers use “gender neutral” language in personal letters from overseas.

Obviously, active duty military and even reservists could run risks for what they post on social networking sites, blogs, message boards or other sites, even from their own computers. The military would become an important case of the problems or controversies reported in recent years about employers trolling the Internet for “reputation” problems for job applicants (often drug use or underage drinking or nudity, in the civilian world).

The Blade article mentioned an anonymous gay Naval judge advocate, who mentioned that a “sympathetic command” is important in practice.

Certainly, when President Clinton proposed “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” in 1993 at Fort McNair, he would have thought of looking at personal correspondence as “pursuit.” But the 1994 regulations probably would permit it.

“Annoy.com” has a webpage (that it says originated with SLDN in 1998) in which it reports that the military sometimes tries to question civilians about correspondence they receive from military members or about their interaction with military members. The military has no jurisdiction over civilians (except possibly contractors overseas) and the civilians have no obligation to answer any questions. Such intrusions in recent years seem to have been rare. Here is the reference.

There was a notorious case with an AOL profile in 1996.

Arab Linguist (Dan Choi) may be discharged under DADT:

Also, today, CNN posted a video where Lt. Dan Choi, an Arab linguist and West Point graduate, has been confronted with the possibility of discharge under "don't ask don't tell" for announcing his homosexuality on television. The mailed letter, referring to moral dereliction and conduct prejudicial to "good order and discipline" was partially read on the video. He may work with SLDN and go to the administrative hearing rather than resign for an "honorable discharge."



He was interviewed by CNN's Carol Costello.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Maine, NH vote for gay marriage; Maine governor signs, face "people's veto"


The governor of Maine (John Baldacci) has signed into law a bill recognizing gay marriage in his state. And the legislature in New Hampshire has passed a bill authorizing gay marriage, but the governor John Lynch has not yet indicated if he will sign the law.

The latest AP story is here.

The Washington Blade has a story by Chris Johnson indicating that the Maine law can be overturned by quick referendum. The story title is “Maine is latest state to approve gay marriage: But 'people's veto' could prevent measure from becoming law” The bill cannot take effect for 90 days, allowing the possibility of a “People’s Veto”. The link is here.

The Equality Maine statement is here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

DC Council passes recognition of same-sex marriages is other states, 12-1


The District of Columbia city council has approved recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages by a 12-1 vote Tuesday. Former mayor Marion Barry cast the sole dissenting vote.

The matter must now move to Congress. The prospect is troubling because Congress could mix the matter up with other national matters, such as ENDA or the Military Readiness Act that would end “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military.

There were moderate demonstrations by both sides of the issue today, at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. Later media reports indicated strong demonstrations at the Wilson Blvd, necessitating security to maintain order. The anti-gay-marriage forces were particularly vehement.

The WJLA story is here.

The bill appears to be Item #3 “Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage” 18-66 on the May 5, 2009 agenda today in the Consent (B) section.

Update: May 9, 2009

Mayor Adrian Fenty has signed the bill. The Blade story by Chibbaro is "Fenty signs same-sex marriage recognition bill: Measure next goes to Capitol Hill for review," link here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Gay clubs should bring back Sunday tea dances


Given the “impending pandemic”, is the gay community affected by the notion of “social distancing”?

Well, I didn’t get out until Sunday, and I found JR’s in Washington as packed as ever. But around 5:30 PM I tried the Green Lantern, which had advertised a tea dance, and it was practically deserted. Later, I tried the delicious half-price burgers (whether or not red meat is “bad for you”) at the Level One in the Cobalt, which now faces stiff competition from the nearby Town DC. The name of the place does remind one of a space ship.

The Sunday afternoon tea dance used to work at a lot of clubs back in the 1970s (I seem to remember that at P-town). I wish the clubs could really bring it back. I haven’t seen it take hold anywhere recently, since it seems that gay disco time gets later and later, usually starting after midnight, it seems. It may start a bit earlier when they play 80s music.

The adult world is, indeed, in a separate space from the world displayed in the mainstream media, or workplaces, day care, and schools. There is a bit of a Darwinian attitude, that you have to be strong enough to get over anything, and go about your life. In the “real world” of families with children, everything is casually contagious, and there is zero tolerance for any kind of risk of exposure of one’s own kids to anything. Everybody forgets that most children get stronger and less sickly as they are exposed to and get over things. That’s just basic biology.

Of course, HIV disease is a totally separate thing. It’s still out there. You don’t see it, you don’t hear about it like you did in the 80s and early 90s. People can generally manage it with the super-expensive drugs. But it’s definitely there. It’s interesting to see how our perceptions of public health change depending on which communities are affected.