Friday, April 30, 2010

VA: governor signs bill allowing same-sex partner beneficiaries on life insurance policies

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has signed into law a bill allowing life insurance companies to offer employees of employer group policies the ability to name as beneficiaries same-sex partners, through a “back door” provision that now allows any partner in whom the policyholder has an insurable interest. There is no longer any language referring to an insurable group of persons.

The Virginia Family Foundation did not try to obstruct passage of the bill, which passed almost unanimously. The Blade/DC Agenda story by Chris Johnson is here.

In twelve years of working in the life and annuity industry from 1990 to 2001, I almost never heard the issue of same-sex partners mentioned while working there.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

DC Agenda will resume using "The Washington Blade" name

DC Agenda has announced that the Washington Blade name will return Friday April 30, in a story by Lou Chibbaro, link here. The issue right now will hav 56 pages, still smaller than in the boom days but definitely recovering quickly.

The new operation, Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, with no connection to Windows Media, has acquired most of the assets of the Blade, including the trademarked name. It is still trying to acquire all the archives and rent more permanent space.

Dan Zak has the story in the Style section of the Washington Post today Apr 27 link.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do surnames survive gay marriage?

Here’s an article in Politics Daily, broadcast Monday morning on AOL, by Joann Weiner: “Her husband’s last name: does a woman’s identity change, too?, link.

The article notes that using a husband’s last name can cost up to close to a half million dollars in lifetime personal wealth. After Betty Friedan, gradually, more married women started hyphenating their names and keeping their old ones. Remember back around 1957 when a woman’s magazine (I believe it was Ladies Home Journal, the worst offender) actually wrote, “who should have a college degree, you or your husband?”

Of course, the “obvious” question relates to gay marriage, and I suspect most gay couples keep their own names, even in a Rosie O’Donnell “family is a family” situation.

Yet, pundits like Laura Schlesinger (“I am my kid’s mom “ -- a tautology) say that women should make their husbands support them – which sometimes gets extended to getting adult children to support you, or coming up with other schemes to draw in the uncommitted, George Gilder style.

We see how profound the concept of personal identity and individual sovereignty, as it has developed since the 1960s, has become. And it does not sit too well with everyone.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slain DC middle school principal reported to be gay by community

The issue of the “DC Agenda” (formerly the Washington Blade, see Nov. 2009) on April 23 greets its readers with the headline “Slain D.C. middle school principal was gay”, with the story by Lou Chibbaro, Jr. The secondary byline was “Brian Betts hailed as innovative educator, hero to students”, with the online link here.  I did not see a similar story(yet)  in the competing Metro Weekly this weekend.

The Agenda story is quite detailed, and follows what was reported in major Washington DC media. Betts had been visible in the Montgomery County public school system before being hired by controversial DC school system chancellor Michelle Rhee for a job in the troubled DC system.

The report indicates that he was “out” to a circle of friends and to some people within the DC school system. Apparently he had hosted an event at his home on April 14.

Mr. Betts was known for his ability to connect to and build personal confidence of disadvantaged students. When I was substitute teaching, I was put into a couple of situations by “ambush” where “fathering” or connections skills more direct than I was comfortable with were suddenly needed. (With a great majority of students, a more “workplace-like” approach from a sub is appropriate; AP students love it when you treat them as grownups in the workplace with due dates for projects.)

Gays in teaching had been a political issue, at one time somewhat comparable to gays in the military. In 1978, California voters turned down the Briggs initiative, which would have essentially implemented a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in strictest form for teachers. Governor Reagan had opposed it.

One gay may English teacher in the Fairfax County system had told me that when he started teaching in 1989, he was specifically asked to keep quiet about it. English teachers have often skirted the sexuality of writers like Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde (I read “The Picture of Dorian Gray” in senior English for a book report in high school), or gender-related issues in lesser known works of Shakespeare and other classical writers. On the other hand, a video shown in English in FCPS does consider speculations about Shakespeare’s own sexuality.

Online activity by teachers can pose issues, also, whether because of search engines (as with blogs and conventional sites) or because of the mechanics of social networking sites. I describe some of my own experience with this on my “BillBoushka” blog July 25 and July 27, 2007.

Mr. Betts tribute page is on Facebook, here.

Update: May 3

Markham Adams has a story on WJLA Channel 7 (ABC), "3 Arrested in Connection With DC Principal's Murder", link here.  There is some suggestion that Mr. Betts met suspects in telephone chat.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

LKL on CNN presents Jennifer Knapp after her outing; Christian right comes out with the usual arguments

On Friday night April 23, Larry King Live interviewed Christian singer Jennifer Knapp , who had come out as a lesbian and announced a relationship. Knapp provided the arguments that there was no essential contradiction between her Christian faith and homosexuality. Providing counterpoint was Bob Botsford, of the Horizon Christian Fellowship, who provided the usual religious arguments against homosexuality, with some sophistication -- even though this is now 2010. Also appearing was Ted Haggard, who was removed from his evangelical church in Colorado after it was revealed he had been with a hustler. Botsford complained about the “public example” Knapp was setting.

Larry King took the usual questions on immutability and choice and tried to reach logical contradictions.

The story about Knapp in The Advocate is here.

It’s interesting to me that the “religious right” tries to keep the discussion in purely scriptural terms. No one wants to admit the reasons they have a problem with the homosexuality of others. A lot of it has to deal with the idea that if everyone has to follow the same “rules” – if nobody gets out of family responsibility (following typical Vatican arguments about “openness to procreation” and benefits of lineage), it’s easier for men especially to make and keep lifelong marital commitments – they really need the social approbation and “power over others” that they see as coming with the territory. The idea that one is running an extended family that encompasses the lives of many people, including unmarried adults, not by choice, is vital to the marital sexuality of some people. Just watch the soaps.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gay softball league sued for supposed rule about too many straights -- and enforcing it

Here is a case of reverse discrimination and strange political bunkmates: the National Center for Lesbian Rights is litigation against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, (link)  -- note the "AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR MEMBERS AND FRIENDS" on the home page) after the sexual orientation of members of a winning softball team was questioned in order to determine if it had “too many straights.” Imagine if something like that were to happen in Major League Baseball.

The story by Henry K. Lee appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 22, with link (“not gay enough – softball players sue”) here. The league even looked at the Facebook profile of one player to see that he was married to a female, an ironic twist given the Prop. 8 situation in California.

When I played on a softball league in Dallas in 1984 (mostly with teams representing bars like JR’s), there was a similar rule: a team could have only “two straights.”   Even then, the rule seemed to suggest and give in to  the societal stereotype that gay men are physically less competitive in sports. (After all, I had always been viewed as "not a regular guy.") On one team, there were two fraternal twin brothers, one of whom (also a tennis player) was gay. But the straight one always said “hairy chests are for sissies.”

Believe it or not, there was some quality pitching in the league. Pitchers (especially one from Houston) who could slow pitch with a very high arc and get the ball over were hard to hit, and shutouts actually happened.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Servicemembers United releases 2009 DADT discharge stats (down)

Servicemembers United released the numbers for discharges under “don’t ask don’t tell” for FY2009, and they are “down” to 423. The total cumulative total since the implementation of DADT in 1993 is now 13425. If DADT is repealed, mathematics tell us that a final total number of discharges under the policy will “exist.”

The press release, dated April 19, can be found here.

Apparently the totals come from the Defense Manpower Data Center of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (link), but do not include totals from “archives” for the Reserves and National Guard.

Monday, April 19, 2010

History at Harvard with Solomon Amendment may affect Kagan's candidacy for high court

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a possible replacement for Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, will probably generate buzz over her communications while at Harvard (as law school Dean) over the arrival of military recruiters on campus, in opposition to the university’s non-discrimination policy. The story became complicated with the Solomon Amendment, which gave the government the power to deny a university defense research funds if the university did not admit military recruiters. The 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia had turned down the amendment, but then the Supreme Court had restored it by a vote of 8-0.

The detailed story, in the Washington Post on April 19, by Am Goldstein is “Foes may target Kagan's stance on military recruitment at Harvard”, link here.

Kagan did indeed write in an email to faculty and students that Harvard would lose federal aid if it did not allow military recruiters.

It’s worthy to remember that Justice Stevens had dissented in the Bowers v. Hardwick decision in 1986.

Litigation involving Hastings Law School and "Christian Law Group" reminds one of Boy Scout case

The Washington Post has a constructive editorial “Politically correct, legally wrong: Why the law school’s nondiscrimination policy runs afoul of the Constitution” on p A14, Monday April 19, link here. This concerns the no-discrimination policy at the University of California, Hastings School of Law. The Christian Law Society (CLS) refuses to admit to membership people who engage in disqualifying acts, “sexual contact outside of God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman, which includes acts of fornication, adultery, and homosexual contact.” Follow the old-fashioned logic: you must engage in traditional marriage to enjoy the “fruits” of life, partly because you must share some of the risk (before responsibility) of bringing new life into the world. That actually was the Vatican position (except for priests, you know). A lot of us broke free from a world dominated by that kind of “thinking.” It's interesting (and disturbing) how the CLS can take an innocuous argument against gay marriage and use it to justify all anti-gay exclusion.

There is litigation over this, and it does seem that the Hastings College’s policies are so monolithic as to make some voluntary association, guaranteed by the First Amendment, meaningless. We saw this before with the Boy Scouts case which went to the Supreme Court.

Sometimes I have to deal with a moral certain paradox: if there did not exist rules and challenges and uncertainties, freedom would become “meaningless.”


The New York Times has a different slant in its editorial, "A Case of Discrimination", link here.  The Times writes "Students at Hastings who want to join together in more exclusive arrangements are free to do so. They can form unofficial student groups. But Hastings is right that groups that bear its imprimatur, use its name and logo, and receive public funds must not discriminate."

Media reports on the Supreme Court arguments today point to sharp divisions among the justices.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

President Obama orders hospitals to allow same-sex visitations regardless of marital status, blood relationships or sexual orientation

CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported today that president Obama has ordered that hospitals (those receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds) allow visitations from life partners without discrimination for sexual orientation, even if the partners are not legally married. The story appears on the American gay blog by Jose Sudbay, link here.

A woman who had raised four children in Florida with a lesbian partner of 17 years told a horror story on CNN of how she was treated by Jackson Memorial Hospital. The case involved Lisa Pond, stricken with a fatal brain aneurysm, and her partner Janice Langbehn held a power of attorney (hopefully a HIPAA POA) but she and her kids were kept by the hospital from seeing her partner for hours.

MSNBC has a story by Michael Shear from the Washington Post here.  From an "equality" perspective, public policy has always tended to give married (or even unmarried) parents the capability to confer responsibilities and unearned privileged on relatives merely by blood relation; hence the "second class status", legally quite troubling in some circumstances of people who do not procreate (who can as adults sometimes be almost forced to become "family slaves" as in the movie "One True Thing" or as viewed from the "measurement" of a global individualistic society).

The New York Times story April 16 is by Sheryl Gay Stholbetg, "Obama Widens Medical Rights for Gay Partners", link here.

B. Daniel Blatt of Gay Patriot has an interesting take on the visitation issue on his blog,   here.

Picture: Jersey City NJ, taken on a trip today (unrelated to story).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Former GOP presidential primary candidate makes vitriolic anti-gay remarks, which he says are "hardly unusual"

CBS News has a story about the seemingly vitriolic anti-gay views of former Republican primary presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He carted out the old chestnut metaphors of incest and polygamy, and said that his views were “hardly unusual.” He also opposed gay adoptions because “children are not puppies.” The link for the story is here.

“I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle”, he said, in reference to gays in the military. I guess he would go back to asking (like Newt Gingrich).

He also supported quarantining AIDS patients, a fear from the mid 1980s.

When he was governor of Arkansas, he favored a policy that prevented gays from serving as foster parents.

But I suspect he would support filial responsibility laws. I see at the “Everday Simplicity” site that Arkansas does have one (link).  I’ll have to check what it says later (for my “Bill retires” blog). But he probably thinks that people who don’t reproduce should be tied to supporting their parents or other family members forever. Welcome to second class citizenship.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vatican secretary of state creates a furor over abuse scandal

Cardina Tartisio Bertone (from Chile), the Vatican’s second highest official (secretary of state), made provocative statements today linking the scandals in the Priesthood to homosexuality rather than celibacy, and in fact linking homosexuality to interest in the young (the “Oscar Wilde” or “Dorian Gray” viewpoint), with no factual data to support his allegations. The AP story appeared on AZCentral here. Previously a Mexican cleric had made similar statements.

The Vatican’s official statements on the issue appear on its website (for the Holy See) in many languages, in English here.

By the way, I recall reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for a book report my senior year (English class) in high school. I think I got a B+ on it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Inclusion of LGBT in census will be complicated, military stats could matter

Chris Johnson has an important and detailed story on p 8 of the April 9 DCAgenda, “Advocates push for greater LGBT inclusion in Census”, link (web url) here.

2010 makes the first time the Census will enumerate same-sex married couples. But the article explains many complications in getting a realistic (and helpful) count. The census is a survey of households, not individuals, and depends on how the household “chief” fills it out.

The article suggests that the Census could shed light on gays and lesbians in the military serving covertly under “don’t ask don’t tell”, and that comports with the idea that Census (that is, its employees) is not allowed to give information to anyone, including any other federal agency (even the military or law enforcement to prevent a terror incident) by a lifetime oath. Census uses complicated data suppression techniques in published data to prevent accidental disclosure of private information of small subpopulations, and this could be a challenging issue after the data is collected this year.

Other news stories in the media report that some immigrant minorities are afraid to answer the Census because they do not “trust” it and fear deportation. As of early April, 2010, about 50% of forms had been returned.

Chris Johnson also has a story on p 9, “’Don’t ask’ experts assail Obama’s Justice Department; Claim administration misrepresented views in new legal brief”. There have been a lot of arguments about the old Nunn-Moskis concerns about the lack of “privacy” of heterosexual soldiers back during the 1993 “debate”, answered in part now by saying that an individual surrenders some expectation of privacy by enlisting in the Armed Forces.

Changing the subject – last night, I found that the Cobalt DC was really hopping again, with the small dance floor packed by 11:30 PM. Placing another dance stand on the floor (like those in the Saloon in Minneapolis) helped. I still notice a statistically improbable appearance of very tall men (over 6’6”, say) in gay discos. I wonder if there is some accidental biological correlation of genetic factors to height. I wouldn't want to be the tallest man on the dance floor, but mathematics tells us exactly one person has to be.

Update: April 14

The Washington Times has a Commentary article by Peter Sprigg, "Public Disservice Announcement: Marriage law doesn't count at Census Bureau; Obama administration scofflaws put agenda first," link here, claiming that DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996) would still prohibit the federal government from counting same-sex couples as married.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pro-marriage (as "least bad" institution) argument makes indirect case for gay marriage

Robert Wright has a posting on the Opinionator of the New York Times, “Why Tiger Matters”, here.  Wright says “the Tiger Woods scandal is as important as Kandahar and the Catholic Church”. Why? Because monogamous marriage matters. Wright characterizes marriage as “the institution that seems to be, on average, the least bad means of rearing children is an institution that doesn’t naturally sustain itself in the absence of moral sanction”. “Least bad” sounds like a way to refer to “minimum maximum” problems on calculus tests.

He also mentions another advantage of marriage as “sheer economic efficiency – over single-parent child rearing.” He then adds parenthetically “All of which, I think, is an argument for legalizing gay marriage, but that’s another story”. That sounds like Jonathan Rauch’s “win-win” argument for gay marriage. Back in the 1990s, in an anthology named “Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy” (Free Press), Rauch had written that the greatest problem with gay marriage is that gays would win it and then not use it. “A singleton is an accident waiting to happen” he wrote. But some people like to stand alone.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

CA: set to repeal 1950 law that regarded homosexuality as a "curable disorder"

The NBC Today show on April 7 contained a segment about the effort by California state assemblywoman to remove “homosexuality” from a list of treatable mental disorders listed in a California statute back in 1950, during the “Dragnet” era, after a string of crimes against minors.

The bill has passed out of committee and is headed for a full vote before the California legislature.

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.

The thumbnail for the video clip mentioned “California gay law” which would have led a visitor to believe at first that the NBC clip would be about Proposition 8. It wasn’t.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Berthing issues for female sailors on submarines recall older arguments about gays and "privacy"

On Monday, April 5, The Washington Times ran an article by Rowan Scarborough, “Health issues arise for women in submarines: Navy also faces berthing obstacles,” link here

Part of the article deals with the specialized problem of how the submarine air could affect pregnant sailors, but it might be possible simply not to allow pregnant women on submarines.

Another part of the article discusses the berthing problems and tight quarters, which must be redesigned for some gender separation. The problem could parallel arguments long made that the lack of privacy makes it difficult to accept the presence of gay men in such an environment.

I boarded the USS Sunfish (built 1963, now decommissioned) in May 1993 in Norfolk VA as I was doing research before I wrote by book. The quarters were indeed very cramped.

However former Naval Academy midshipman Joseph Steffan described (in his 1992 book "Honor Bound: A Gay Midshipman Fights for the Right to Serve His Country", Random House; see Book review blog, Oct. 2007) a summer cruise on a submarine in the 1980s without incident. There were a lot of chess games (and a lot of players good enough for USCF tournaments).

Other former sailors have described the process of “hot bunking” and the use of the term “bunkmates”.

The closed quarters and lack of exercise tends to lead to weight gain for some sailors. Submarine duty is not the most healthful. Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) had covered sub life in “K19: Ther Widowmaker”.

Monday, April 05, 2010

DC area gay paper gumshoes research that man arrested for Internet threats is gay

Maybe today is a day for “cold water” postings, but I wanted to note that Metro Weekly  (DC area gay paper, not connected to the DC Agenda / aka Blade) posted a story March 29 by Chris Geidner pointing to research on “liberal websites” (especially the Huffington Post) that Norman Leboon, being charged with threats against Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) , is “gay”. The comments and YouTube videos may have been provoked partly by the health care debate and partly by the flap over gay rights for state employees in Virginia recently.

The investigation of the e-trail of postings (and of taken down sites and videos) reported here is itself a pretty good example of “devils advocate” gumshoeing. It’s all pretty unfortunate.

The Metro Weekly link is here.

Update: April 12

Multiple media sources indicate that Leboon is being treated at a prison hospital for multiple personality disorder until he would be competent to stand trial. So I don't know how "on the mark" Metro's investigation is now.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Catch-22 in survey as part of the DADT repeal effort

Craig Whitlock has a story on the April 1, 2010 Washington Post about a Catch-22 in the legislative and Pentagon review process in trying to lift “don’t ask don’t tell”. Surveys have to be conducted, and soldiers have to “tell” (confidentially, but in technical violation of the law) to respond to the survey. The link for the story is here and the title is “A 'Don't ask, don't tell' rules complicate survey of troops on policy change”.

I suppose the military could adopt a confidentiality policy (with third party enumerators) similar to the way the Census Bureau works. Census does not permit disclosure of collected information even to other federal law enforcement agencies for any purpose, even counter-terrorism.