Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DC Health Department releases startling study on HIV in the MSM population

The District of Columbia Department of Health has release a study of “MSM” and HIV, with some startling conclusions. They were recently summarized by DCAgenda, but here is the original PDF source document for DC HIV Behavior Study #2, link

The document deserves careful reading. Some of the specific findings, related to specific practices, are startling. Of the 500 MSM study participants, more than 14% were HIV-positive, and 75% of these were older men. The percentage that was HIV positive was substantially higher among African Americans.

Generally, younger and well-educated men are tending to behave with a degree of caution (for example using condoms) however, as has been apparent ever since HIV appeared in the 1980s.

However, the “14% number” is still very alarming. I didn’t think it was that high.

I was living in Dallas when the HIV-AIDS epidemic broke. The cases in Dallas exploded in 1985, about two years after they had in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Right-wing forces made a fortunately unsuccessful attempt in 1983, however, to “strengthen” the Texas sodomy law (now overruled in Lawrence v Texas, 2003), then section 2106, with a proposed section 2138 which would have banned gays from many jobs in a manner reminiscent of the military ban even before DADT.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Opinions disagree on the wisdom of Lt. Choi's behavior leading to arrest; the nature of moral indignation

Lou Chibbaro, Jr. has an important story in the March 26 DC Agenda “will arrests at White House usher new era of activism?” on 18, here. Choi, along with Pietranglo and Robin McGehee, were arrested outside the White House March 18. There is also some talk of a “schism” in the gay community related to the fact that Choi had not been asked to speak at a rally that day at Freedom Plaza that HRC had organized with comedienne Kathy Griffin; but HRC played this down, saying that differences in opinion as to strategy and tactics are normal; just read all the blogs.

On p 8 in the same issue, Chris Johnson has a story that four activists were arrested at a protest demanding action on ENDA at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, also on March 18.

And a letter writer named Tim writes in Feedback on p 23, “Funny how these rich self-congratulating queens, who do nothing for the cause themselves apart from attending $1000 a plate dinners, have the nerve to criticize those who are actually willing to put it all on the line.”

I remember the indignation from people who organized anti-war and “anti-establishment” protests back in the early 1970s. Anyone not willing to go to jail was seen as a spoiled brat. With that point of view, I must respectfully disagree. But I could sense the same tension at the March 9 health care protest, also near Dupont Circle.

I'd also check out Sean Bugg's Opinion piece on p. 21 of the March 25, 2010 Metro Weekly, "All Hands on Deck: Don't let divisions between the 'elites' and the 'grassroots' derail efforts to repeal DADT", link here. "All Hands on Deck" happens to be the name of the stirring choral climax piece of Benjamin Britten's opera "Billy Budd" which effectively anticipated today's debate with a setting in the 18th Century British Navy.

Picture: the sadness of an empty storefront where Lambda Rising bookstore (near Dupont Circle) used to live.   Too much competition from the huge chains and online?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Churches split on gay marriage; some pastors risk defrocking if they perform same-sex unions

Daniel Burke has a revealing article in the Washington Post “On Faith” column Saturday March 27, link, “Clergy torn over church, civil loyalties over same-sex marriage”.

United Methodist pastor Rev. Mary Kay Totty has said she is willing to take the risk of being defrocked over performing same-sex unions. And Rev. Amy Butler, of Calvary Baptist Church in downtown Washington, says she will marry same-sex couples, and is reassessing the church’s ties with the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

I remember the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas when I lived there in the 1980s, and a few anti-gay sermons from Rev. Criswell.

To my knowledge, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, at 16th an O (the Baptist church closest to the White House and serving many presidents, including Truman and Carter) has not taken a position on the issue. I grew up in this church. Recently it installed a new pastor.

Many denominations have “conservative” and “liberal” branches, and in Washington DC and nearby suburbs (especially Arlington) it is common to find representatives of both branches in close proximity. Within most protestant denominations, there is wide disagreement on gay marriage. There is generally a developing belief that “don’t ask don’t tell” should be repealed, however, even among some conservatives – because military service ought to be an obligation of all.

Saying that “marriage should be established only between a man and a woman” doesn’t itself mean a lot. It’s how the unmarried are treated (and especially the childless) that means everything.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marine Corps commandant says Marines would have single rooms if DADT is repealed!

Commandant of the Marine Corps James T. Conway said in an interview Friday that the Marine Corps might have to offer single rooms on post to soldiers to avoid their having to be roomed with gay servicemembers, if “don’t ask don’t tell” is repealed. That hardly makes sense when talking about sub marines, or combat conditions like those displayed in the film “The Hurt Locker”. It does re-echo Sam Nunn’s argument “they have no privacy because the don’t go home at night like you and I do” It’s a line of thinking that Charles Moskos, military sociologist and Northwestern University professor and co-author of DADT, has since dropped. The Washington Post story today is by Craig Whitlock, with link here, and title “Gay, straight Marines wouldn't share rooms with don't ask' repeal, general says”.

The interview was published here on military.com.

The Marine Corps takes ground (during the invasion of Iraq in 2003); the Army then holds and maintains it (as in “Green Zone”).

During the 1993 debate, the Marine Corps ironically didn’t want to allow heterosexually married men to enlist either. They didn’t want gays, and they didn’t want straights. I don’t think they wanted priests.

When I was in the Army, we had private rooms in our “eyebrow barracks” at Fort Eustis, Va. But there was always the threat of our “going back to the Bay” – a phrase that became a private joke on post. People who knew me in the Army and who find this blog posting will know what I’m talking about. (It meant KP, too).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gates puts in more safeguards in the procedures under "don't ask don't tell" while Congressional debate continues

From Bill on GLBT issues
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced this morning (Thursday March 25) that he would put in more administrative safeguards in the discharge process for gays under “don’t ask don’t tell” while Congress debates the issue and considers repeal. The story on MSNBC is here. Each case will be reviewed by a larger number of field grade officers. Gates, a Republican (appointed by president George W. Bush and continuing in office under Obama), said that doing so was a matter of “common sense and common decency.”

Apparently Gates will focus particularly on "witch-hunt" situations where a servicemember is "outed" by a third party. His changes will not help someone like Dan Choi, who voluntarily outed himself.

The story was carried late Thursday morning on the NBC "Today" show extended.

Update: March 28

Time Magazine has an article by Mark Thompson "Enforcing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Don't Bother", link here, indicating that Gates's actions will blunt some of the more vocal naysayers.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SLDN holds 18th Annual Dinner, "Freedom to Serve", in Washington tonight

Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network held its “Freedom to Serve” 18th Annual Dinner tonight, March 20, at the National Building Museum in Washington DC.

The evening’s honoree with the Barry Winchell Courage Award is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a 19 year combat veteran of the USAF.

The keynote speaker, closing the evening, was Congressman Patrick J. Murphy, who was the lead in introducing HR 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009. Murphy is the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. He has also taught as an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, spoke about the progress within the Senate Armed Services Committee, and that Lieberman’s bill could be voted out in May if there are enough votes. Supporters of overturning the ban will have to work hard to ensure the votes in both houses of Congress. There will be no “deem and pass.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DC has DADT demonstration today; Dan Choi arrested in front of White House

Both station WJLA (ABC) in Washington, and both Fox and CBS News report that Lt. Dam Choi was arrested today in a peaceful demonstration against “don’t ask don’t tell” where he chained himself to the White House fence. This is the first case I know of where a “litigant” against the DADT set himself or herself up to be arrested in a civilian protest.

The WJLA story is by Erin Gibson, with the title "Protesters Ask for End to Military's Policy on Homosexuality", link here.

The Fox news story is here and has the curious URL of “whitehouse.blogs” in front of the name, as if to mock the White House Blog!

There was a demonstration for repealing DADT Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC today. I hate to admit that I didn’t learn about it in time to go!

The CBS news story is here.

There was more testimony today before the Senate House Armed Services Committee, by retired General John Sheehan. who said "you are a soldier first" -- but that can be taken both ways. The media played back some testimony that the policy should be left in place while soldiers are deployed to a major war, yet it is during deployments that discharges under the policy are much less common.

Update: March 19

The ACLU Legislative Office has an account of the Senate hearing March 18 by Ian Thompson, "DADT Hearing — A Study of Contrasts", link here.

But the Friday "weekend" $1.00 Washington Times, p. A10, on Mar. 19 ran this story from the AP by Pauline Jelinek, "Ex-general links gays in army to genocide", link here. Sheehan claimed "Dutch troops failed to defend against the 1995 genocide in the Bosnian war because the army was weakened", but Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), known as a hawk against terrorism and as having proposed resuming the draft after 9/11, said Sheehan's remarks were way out of line.

Second gay bishop for Episcopalians; transgender litigation in suburban Maryland

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times reports that Episcopalians have approved a second gay bishop, this time a lesbian, Rev. Mary D. Glasspool. The story is here. The first gay bishop had been V. Gene Robinson in 2003, a subject of great controversy at an Episcopalian convention in Minneapolis in 2003.

The Archbishop of Canterburg, Rowan Williams, worte “raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.” Britain has not dealt with open homosexuality in its monarchy or the Church of England in modern times; but it is only a matter of time that this comes up in most modern democratic nations, including constitutional monarchies.

Also, today (March 18), the Washington Examiner (p 5) reports that Dana Beyer, a transgendered aide to a Montgomery County MD councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D), is suing the county for supposedly breaking an anti-discrimination law by “investigation of Beyer’s opposition to a citizen’s group that had tried to overturn the same law.”

The story by Suderman is here. The story attracted a front page banner this morning.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LCR announces GOP Congressman supports bill to repeal "don't ask don't tell"

Log Cabin Republicans announced (on March 17) that is has acquired the signature of Joseph Cao (R-LA, district 02) as a cosponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283), which would repeat the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.

Cao said ““I am proud to stand with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in support of a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Our military commanders at the Pentagon believe it is time to proceed with dismantling this flawed policy, and I am happy put my name on this legislation, as well as to continue to work alongside Log Cabin Republicans as we speak to our Republican colleagues about the merits of repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in our armed forces.”

The link for the story is here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

MS school district cancels senior prom rather than let lesbian bring her own partner

The Itawamba County School District in Fulton, Mississippi canceled its senior prom for all students at Itawamba Agricultural High School after receiving a letter demanding that the school allow a female student Constance McMillen attend with a female partner. Even if the female students arrived separately but danced together, they would be ejected. The ACLU has filed a case in federal court asking the school district to reinstate the prom for everyone, story (about the "Straights only prom" here. Somehow the name of the story reminds me of a Houston TX political slate in the late 1980s called "the Straight Slate".

Young people are often taught, under authoritarian circumstances, that all people in a group can suffer the consequences of the actions of just one. This is a common concept in the military (and necessary there), but is sometimes taught as a social concept in classrooms – I remember that from my own grade school days. How would high school students react to this? Of course, the logical answer is that the school board could allow the prom to continue and allow same-sex partners, even if very much in a numerical minority.

I didn't even try to go to the prom my own senior year (1961)!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

VA governor issues directive prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, as a result of media and blogosphere storm

After a groundswell of protests from earlier directives from Va. Gov Bob McDonnell and especially Commonwealth Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli , Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued a directive including sexual orientation discrimination protection in all state jobs, including colleges.

The story is by Rosalind S. Heldeman on the from Metro Section page of the Washington Post, Thursday March 11, 2009, link here.

McDonnell’s directive is worded in language that says that personnel actions can be based only on job performance and conduct. Presumably the same is true for students.

This would not necessarily apply to teachers (and substitutes), who are employees of school districts, who would still need protection from state legislature. There are some potential serious issues here, as I have developed on my main blog.

The Richmond Times Dispatch has a story "McDonnell counters Cuccinelli’s advice on gays", by Jeff E. Schapiro and Olympia Meola, link here.

I found that Equality Virginia had provided a link to a PDF of Cuccinelli's letter here on Motley Media Accounts.

Delegate David Englin from Arlington (D) issued a statement on his website, here.

The major ABC news story on the anti-gay bill in Uganda is covered today on the "Bill on International Issues" blog (navigate through Blogger Profile). I disucssed DC Agenda's coverage on Nov. 30, 2009 here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Catholic school rejects kids of lesbian parents; newspaper loses subscription for showing gay couple wedding pictures

The Washington Times today (Wed. March 10) ran a story about a Colorado Catholic School’s rejecting the children of a lesbian couple for enrollment. The story had been mentioned on CNN last week. The new story appears on p A6, is by Valerie Richardson, and has this (web url) link.

The school maintains that it cannot build a constructive rapport with parents whose behavior and expected home teachings to their children would contradict the teachings of the Church.

But there were many demonstrations. The obvious point is that children are discriminated against because of the sexual orientation of their parents (or “ancestors”).

Also, television stations report that the Washington Post lost 27 home subscriptions after it posted a picture of a same-sex couple kissing in the paper, in reporting Washington DC’s recent recognition of gay marriages.

Picture: Log Cabin Republicans met Tuesday under the "piano bar" at Freddie's in Arlington VA.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Controversy over gay rights at colleges in Virginia continiues; first same-sex marriages to be performed in Washington DC

The political controversy in Virginia over “equal rights for gays” at state colleges and universities continued this week with an uproar over Cuccinelli’s Opinion, reported here Saturday. On Tuesday March 9, in the Metro Section, Rosalind S. Helderman and now Daniel De Vise have an article “Students rise up for gay rights; Campuses irate at Cuccinelli; Va. Schools were told to back off protection rules,” on the Metro front page of The Washington Post, link here.

Students in Virginia were reported as putting Spring Break on hold – although there has been a movement in recent years to turn the Break into a service period anyway.

The governor has been hinting that he would include sexual orientation protection in all state employment areas if the legislature will take the initiative.

However, Virginia colleges and universities have been thought of as autonomous as to personnel matters with respect to the state.

There were demonstrations at many campuses, including Va Tech and William and Mary.

There is a blog post at the William and Mary Gay and Lesbian Alumni blog, “W&M Pressured to Return to Discrimination?” link here.

William and Mary has a Lesbian & Gay Law Association here.

Also, station WJLA reports that the first same-sex marriage will occur today in the District of Columbia.

Update: March 10

The Washington Post has an editorial "In Virginia, legalized discrimination is alive and well", link here. And in the Letters to the Editor, a junior at UVA writes that his admission essay was about coming out as a gay teen, and that he would not have attended had the university not enforced a non-discrimination policy, which according to the attorney general is "illegal." Sounds like the Solomon Amendment, doesn't it. The psychological net cast by "don't ask don't tell" is wide indeeed.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Lifting the ban and gay marriage: would military same-sex spouses get equal benefits? Connect the dots!

The Washington Times has a front page story Monday March 8 by Rowan Scarborough, “Group wants same military benefits for gay spouses,” with link here.

The article is peculiarly worded, as it maintains President Obama can end the ban. The president insists that Congress must do this. That’s why all the hearings recently.

However, Scarborough is indeed “connecting the dots”. The 1993 did mandate the discharge of servicemembers who attempted gay “marriage” (I follow the old Washington Times practice of quotes here because in 1993 no state recognized gay marriage, and Hawaii was starting to talk about it).

However, the Defense of Marriage Act, 1996, maintains that states do not have to recognized same sex marriages of other states (although Maryland soon will). However, a proposed Freedom to Marry Act (proposed 2003) would repeal this provision. DOMA is also under other legal challenges.

In theory, the military would have to provide the same benefits for gay spouses in bases in states that recognize gay marriage – except that DOMA would seem to preclude this requirement. If “don’t ask don’t tell” is repealed, it’s like this provision of DOMA will be challenged. Congress could exempt the military from providing such benefits are part of a repeal law, but that exemption could itself eventually be challenged on equal protection grounds.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Washington Post column today discusses achieving first-class citizenship

Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney has a piece “Giving gays their due as first-class citizens” on the front page of the Metro Section, p C1, today, Sunday March 7. The link is here. He discusses the history of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, 84 (fired from a civilian government job in 1957 after a wtichhunt; Kameny would later try a creative challenge to Virginia’s “crimes against nature” laws). He also portrays Maryland state senator Madaleno, 44, who is raising two adopted children with his same-sex spouse.

The motive for the article seems to be the historic registration of same-sex couples in the District this week; Maryland doesn’t recognize gay marriage yet in its own borders (it will recognize DC marriages soon) ; Virginia is pretty hopeless with Marshall-Newman, which, however, can offer some paradoxical twists.

Although most people see same-sex marriage as the existential battle for equality, I saw the battle over gays in the military as it grew in 1993 this way. Equal rights means equal responsibility and equal exposure to uncertainty and risk.

We’re left with pondering what the big battle is “about”. Older veterans like me used to know. Right wing books talk about the “natural family” (as Carlson’s, see my book review blog Sept. 2009), and then harangue against homosexuality without making any formal logical connection. One underlying theme seems to be the idea that everyone “owes” a generative investment in other generations, in causes bigger than what he or she can define for the self. In a certain existential way, that contradicts the aims of equality. (But gay marriage and gay adoption, and gay military service, would show "generativity".) There seems to be a troubling aspect to human nature: to maintain certain levels of emotional commitment in certain sensitive regions of life, one needs the reassurance that others make the same commitment and have to play by the same rules. This is what the religious "clobber passage" arguments amount to. And that was the idea I was brought up with in the 50s.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

VA attorney general suspends sexual orientation protections within VA's colleges and universities, citing lack of legal authority

The front page of the Washington Post on Saturday March 6 carries what seems to me a shocking story, by Rosalind S. Helderman, “Virginia: Attorney General asks colleges to end policies that shield gays”, link here.

The story relates a letter by James Cuccinnelli that only the General Assembly can extend protections to state employees and students based on sexual orientation, an idea that the legislature has not taken up. Recently, Gov. McDonnell (R) rewrote the state employees non-discrimination policies without mentioning sexual orientation.

Psychologically and maybe even legally, if the military were to lift “don’t ask don’t tell” a better example would be set for many civilian areas (like teachers).

This issue is important to me personally because of my expulsion from the College of William and Mary on Nov. 28, 1961 for admitting, under pressure, “latent homosexuality” to the Dean of Men when called in during the Thanksgiving weekend. That incident is covered on the “Bill Boushka” blog Nov. 28, 2006.

All this reminds me of the quibbling behavior of the US Solicitor General during the Bush administrations over sexual orientation and federal employees.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Can Congress end "don't ask don't tell" (now Lieberman's Senate bill, too) in 2010?

Ed O’Keefe has a summary article on p A19 ("The Fed Page") of the Thursday, March 4, 2010 Washington Post, “Democrats pledge quick end to ‘don’t ask don’t tell’; Senate bill would lift ban on gays serving openly in military,” link here.

The article refers to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act announced yesterday by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT, formerly Democrat), discussed on this blog last Saturday (Feb. 27) prospectively. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) expects to convene a panel to examine lifting the policy, but some reports say that this may take until Dec. 1 to complete the report. Back in 1993, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been codified into law with a Defense Authorization Act passed on Nov. 30, 1993. On the other hand, some observers think that the end of the policy can come much sooner. Some Republicans and others are insisting on much more military input besides that of the JCS Chief ADM Michael Mullen. I still personally think that it’s noteworthy that a few days after 9/11, Senator Carl Levin proposed resuming the draft on CNN.

It’s noteworthy that the military is changing in other ways. Soon women will be allowed to serve on submarines, the most possible military environment, helping to defuse “privacy” arguments (originally articulated in 1993 by Senator Sam Nunn) to defend the ban on gays. (“They don’t go home at night like you and I do”, Nunn used to say. But, as my own writings have shown for the past twelve years, this has an effect on gay civilians, too.)

A friend sent me this reference in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Colleges await end of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’; change on military’s policy on gay people would ease way for campus recruiters”, link here. Of course, that brings up the Solomon Amendment issue.

The same persons sent me this link to some comments in The Washington Times. Some of the comments are pretty far out. Here’s the link.

Pictures: From Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ordnance Museum. That's where I went yesterday to "commemorate" Lieberman's bill and also what happened in DC (the first day for marriage licenses). Never take your freedoms for granted!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts denies stay of DC gay marriage law, opening door for license applications today

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. denied a stay of the implementation of the District of Columbia’s new law allowing same-sex marriage, clearing the way for it to go into effect with the first marriage licenses to be issued on Wednesday March 3. Roberts said that Congress had the opportunity to intervene, and that the matter was still before the DC Court of Appeals, so his intervention would be inappropriate. The Washington Post story is by Robert Barnes and appears here.

The Post Metro section on Wednesday featured two stories: “City’s archbishop defends Catholic Charities’ limit on health benefits to employees’ spouses” by Michelle Boorstein and William Wan, and “Two NE women joyfully plan to be among the first to apply for same-sex marriage license”.

WJLA's (Channel 7, ABC, Arlington VA) video story follows:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Virginia's new Republican governor apparently rolls back LGBT protections in state employment

Apparently there is a fiasco of meaning in Virginia as relates to protection of state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. New Republican governor Bob McDonnell signed a new executive order which did not include sexual orientation among the class protections, whereas an older order from Tom Kaine (D) had included it. Then there followed a quibbly discussion as to whether McDonnell’s order had been intended to be all inclusive. The football is likely to become partisan in the state legislature in Richmond.

TMPDC has a story by Christina Bellantoni here. with the blunt title “Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Rolls Back Non-Discrimination Protections For Gay State Workers.”

The text of the “Equal Opportunity” executive order (#6) is here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Some conservatives waffle on trying to keep "don't ask don't tell"

The Washington Times loves to put the “gays in the military” issue on its front page at least once a week. Rowan Scarborough has a story in The Washington Times this morning, “Breaking ranks on gays in military: some on right not opposed” link here.

The story reports on the activities of the so-called “Military Culture Coalition” to retain the 1993 law, which at one time had actually been viewed by the Clinton administration as an “advance” over “asking.”

The news story, in the midsection, reports on statements by Fox news Bill O’Reilly and Charles Krauthamer (a hawk on the war against Al Qaeda), as well as former president Dick Cheney, as not particularly opposed any more to the service of gays and recognizing a “generational thing.” Cheney had learned some subtlety back in the early 90s when Pete Williams, as a closeted gay man, worked as a top official in DoD and was “outed”. Ever since that, Cheney has tended to speak of the ban as “an old chestnut.” While hawkish on the wars and very critical of any softening (as with Obama) on terror, he seems to accept moderation on gay policies and realize things have changed.

But Aaron Belkin, of the Palm Center in Santa Barbara (I met him in Feb. 2002) was quoted as saying, about those who want to keep the ban and perhaps go back to asking (as Newt Gingrich once proposed in 1995), ”I think they’re motivated by moral concerns and a distaste for homosexuality. Most of these groups don’t make any bones about that.” Indeed, they want to see civilians affected as well, secondarily, as they used to be in the area of security clearances.