Sunday, September 30, 2012

Marriage equality vote (in MD and elsewhere) is the tip of a deep iceberg: remember how things used to be?

The Metro Section of the Washington Post on Sunday, Sept. 30 leads off with a headline story, “Md. To see ad war over same-sex marriage”, by John Wagner, link here.

The Post points out that Maryland is one of three states where voters could actually affirm same-sex marriage on the November election.  It could be the first.  It could happen the same year that Maryland hosts a World Series.

The fact that “conservative” voters may turn out for a referendum on gambling (opposed by lobbying interests representing a competitor casino in Charlestown, W Va, 70 miles from DC) could hurt the gay marriage vote, by accidentally increasing the socially conservative turnout.

I have been recirculating, in my own mind, for the sake of a forthcoming video, the whole question of the “rights and responsibilities” for those who are “different”.   Now, “gay rights” is part of this and overlaps it, and it leaves me asking myself, “What do ‘They’ want?”

It’s interesting to look at the whole debate over “equal rights for gays” from the inside-out, and look at where that takes you into larger debates about individual rights in a world of increasing concerns about sustainability.  And it’s useful to start that examination with a look at the gay marriage debate, upside down.

At a certain level in my own psyche, I generally understand the English language word “marriage” to refer to a legally recognized permanent (by intention) relationship between an adult man and an adult woman (conforming at least to a physiological model of potential procreation and all its risks), with certain rights and responsibilities.  As an element of culture, I, given my age and a lifetime to restrospect over, I do appreciate the word for what it always has meant. 

Could we invent another word (or “compound noun”) that means a permanent adult same-sex relationship with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage? Other languages make nouns by prefixing adjectives.  Look at the examples “la jeune fille” and “le petit dejeuner” in French.  In English, we understand “domestic partnership” as a permanent relationship with genders unspecified and fewer rights and responsibilities than for marriage.  (A few states have tried to define it as having all the same benes, however.)  Could we invent “gay marriage” as a legal term and a compound noun?  Maybe hyphenated?  Maybe spelled as one word (as if in German), where the rights and responsibilities are the same?  I think we could if we wanted to.  Change the spell checker in Microsoft Word and allow it to be spelled without a space.  In that case, gay marriage does become a linguistic problem.

The fact is that the gay marriage debate really hides the fact that opponents don’t want people who don’t experience heterosexual sexual intercourse in marriage to be fully equal citizens.  They do want people who don’t make the commitment to share their entire lives with an opposite sex partner to feel exposed to making sacrifices for those who do.  (In Virginia, Marshall-Newman also opposed recognition of domestic partnerships.)   They really don’t want homosexuality to be a legitimate element in society.  Why – we’ve looked at that before – but it’s clear that a few decades ago (as when I was expelled from William and Mary in 1961 for telling the Dean of Men, under pressure, that I am gay) that many people did want to go out of their way to make life more difficult for male homosexuals, and tended to look at “us” as a not-fully human enemy to be resisted.  Why – again – makes a good discussion, relevant to today’s concerns over hyperindividualism.   The whole idea that “eusociality” is a moral requirement of everyone is complicated by the fact that marriage and family changes the perceived granularity of the individual for some – but not for all – people.  I think one particularly relevant observation is that the “family” is supposed to be a unit of society where everyone (including the childless) learns to “love” others with some degree of complementarity, so that the family can take care of itself in a possibly dangerous world, and so that everyone can have some “value” if not exactly “equality”.

I have written before that, in a quasi-libertarian world, public benefits for relationships should focus mainly or exclusively on relationships where there are genuine financial dependents – raising children, who could have been adopted, and personally taking care of the disabled and elderly – the latter of which is rapidly becoming a bigger challenge because of demographics.  I’ve also written that maybe the benefits of marriage could be rationed to one partner per person per lifetime.

As for the focus on the benefits of marriage, yes, they can be important.  Sometimes one partner in a same-sex couple is dependent, particularly if elderly or disabled – and taking care of gay elderly is becoming a new need (see my review of the film “Gen Next” on the movie’s blog, Sept. 24). Sometimes blood relatives try to disrupt a will.  The list does go on. 

But what worries me the most about the gay marriage debate is the effect that it can have on those who aren’t in relationships.  For a few decades, “we” lived in an “urban exile”, rather like on a virtual separate planet.  What we wanted was our privacy.  We didn’t worry about abstract ideas of equality that much.  In my experience, I started to experience episodes where sometimes people with kids (not necessarily married) sometimes expected the childless to carry more of the weight for the same money in the workplace.  Then the issues went beyond financial and became personal. The Internet has “reconciled” us (to borrow a concept coined by gay British sci-fi and fantasy novelist Clive Barker), and now we have much more of a sense that we can be called upon to become our brother’s (or sister’s or parents’) keepers.  My own experience with eldercare (my own mother, who passed away in 2010) taught me that, as did what happened when I tried substitute teaching.  I found it very difficult to give other people “emotion” when I had not been in a long-term relationship myself.
I did have my own history of heterosexual dating in the early 1970s (before my “Second Coming”).  Had I been more competitive physically with other men, I believe that I might well have married conventionally, and had kids.  Then I would have had to deal with my need for experience with male partners.  Since all of this could have happened in the 1980s, I could conceivably (in this alternative universe) have wound up exposing a wife to HIV, and maybe even unborn children.  It turns out that this did not happen.  Is that a good thing?  Was a tragedy spared?  Or did I just evade the responsibility for providing part of another generation – to learn the bitter emotional consequences when I had to take care of my own mother? No, it is no fun to feel like “the family slave”.

Had “gay rights” been recognized in the early 60s, would I have married another man to whom I was attracted and with whom I was in love (mutually)?  I think I might have.  Could I have raised adopted children in such a world?  Maybe, it I did well enough on my own first.  (You have to be good at “being a wallflower” first.)  Could I have sustained erotic interest and wanted the same person in my bed as we both grew old (and less attractive physically) over many decades?  That’s a very troubling question.  There as a lot of “upward affiliation” and not much complementarity (although there was some polarity) in who I built relationships with adult same-sex contemporaries. 

Later, I’ll explore the question, of why the military gay ban was such a critical issue for me when it surfaced in the early 1990s.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Anti-gay mass mailing improperly used image of a same-sex couple

A Loudoun County VA supervisor apparently runs a non-profit “Public Advocate of the United States”, which has been sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for using an image of a same-sex male couple (from New Jersey) on a mass mailing without permission.

This could be a copyright claim or possibly a misappropriation of likeness under right of publicity torts.  The images were apparently pulled off a public website.  But it is generally not permissible to reproduce privately owned even if published images on other sites without permission (unless there is some sort of Creative Commons license as is often found on Wikipedia). 

The group is said to have a history of mass-mailings critical of a “radical homosexual agenda”.   The site appears to be rather strident and has a link here.

The Metro Section Washington Post story Thursday by Caitlin Gibson is here

Loudoun County borders Fairfax County to the west and runs to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is one of the highest-income counties in the nation. 

Update: Sept. 29

Today CNN lawyers (Herman and Freeman) said that the copyright on the photos actually belonged to a professional photographer.  Otherwise, the copyright claim might be much weaker.  Herman was skeptical that someone can normally copyright-protect an image placed on a social networking site. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Romney very indifferent on gay issues, at best

The “CSDecoder” has an article “Obama vs. Romney: 4 Ways they differ on gay issues”, link here

The four ways are (1) gay marriage (2) gay adoption (3) HIV research and funding (4) anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The attention to gay adoption is a little bit surprising. Some states still do not permit same-sex couples to adopt.  In practice, I find that a lot of people feel that singles (and gays and lesbians) should share more or the responsibility for other generations (filial responsibility could cause a lot more responsibility for eldercare).

This particular article didn’t specifically address the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, which some observers feel would be at risk if Romney wins.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A visit to a "Bear Happy Hour"

Last night I visited the Bear Happy Hour at Town DC, sponsored by a group called Bear Crue (link).     Bear says it has a dance at a place called PW’s in Laurel MD (halfway to Baltimore) the second Saturday of the month.

I had first stopped at Nellie's, noting that the Nationals were winning their baseball game. 
I got to Town about 9 PM.  The free cover period lasted until 9:30 PM.  There was a guitar soloist show, country and western, downstairs. I’ve never seen a performer tether a smart phone to an electric guitar to play the instrument or control its sound effects.

Upstairs there was a social gathering, not really a dance, with the disco floor lighted.  The Crue group had sales tables on the stage upstairs.

As for the crowd, there is a term that was common in movie reviews back in the 1950s, “matter of taste”.  There really weren’t that many of the stereotypes (including men with a lot of tattoos) present.  One interesting detail: a number of men were wearing a black-and-white plaid shirt with a distinctice  design grid.   

But at 10 PM, the club goes back to its regular evening of 18+ covered admission, with drag show.

Just before 10, the bar staff turned on the Nats game, just in time to see the Nationals blow the home game in top of the ninth inning.  A lot of people actually watched. (The manager should have left his starting pitcher in to finish a complete game.)
In the meantime, upstairs stayed open, and converted to a “dance” by around 10:30.

The dance floor upstairs during the regular hours was as packed as I’ve ever seen it – and this is Friday night, not Saturday.  So the "Bear Happy Hours" sounds like "good business".  

At around 12:30, there was a special stage show upstairs. It seemed to mock a UFO abduction.  Tow men and one woman wore “electrocardiographic” pods and lights, which theoretically could have been powered by the body’s own electricity (I’m sure there were batteries). 
 Last picture (regular drag show): The parasol seems to come from the Stephen Sondheim play "Sunday in the Park with George".

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chick-fil-A softens, faces backlash from Right; it was never like Cracker Barrel

The latest controversy about Chick-fil-A seems to come from its dropping contributions to anti-gay organizations, apparently leading to a new backlash from the extreme right, even as now the mayor of Chicago is OK with it.

USA Today has the latest story on the matter here

Chick-fil-A has a statement (made in July) that it will treat every person equally, link here

It is not clear that the company has added sexual orientation discrimination protection to its own HR policies, however.

Chick-fil-A is a family owned company (I think that means it’s not traded on the usual exchanges), but it probably franchises its stores in a manner similar to other restaurants, which could raise questions about how owners and business partners would be selected.

Even so, the history of Chick Fil A seems a far cry from that of Cracker Barrel, which I wrote about here on Aug. 27.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Repeal of DADT doesn't provide any retroactive help to those discharged

A story by Jeff Black for NBC News reports that the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” doesn’t compensate soldiers who were discharged because of the policy.

The story gives an example of Brian Henley, who was kicked out of the Air Force after being seen kissing another man. He needed legal help to even get an Honorable Discharge in 1994.

The story is titled “Kicked out of the Air Force for a kiss: despite repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, many feel the sting”, link here.

The former airman says he has $25000 of student loan debt he would not owe had he finished his service.
Societies always face difficulties facing the question of reparations for past wrongs due to policies or cultural values or even knowledge that was in effect when it happened. 

Formerly discharged soldiers could be compensated only by acts of Congress, not considered likely in this political climate.

That would be like saying William and Mary should compensate me for my expulsion for being gay in 1961.  I actually have discussed this with the ACLU in Atlanta.  Pretty unlikely.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MLB player suspended for wearing homophobic slur in eye black

Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays have suspended (for three games) shortstop Yunel Escobar for scribbling a homophonic slur in his eye black recently.

Three days of his salary will be donated to GLADD.

The slur was in Spanish, and it might have been hard for most fans to even notice.

MLB has been troubled by several suspensions this year for performance-enhancing steroid abuse. 

Most MLB teams have LGBT days at their home stadiums (site)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One year after DADT repeal, AP reports "furor" has largely faded

David Crary. of the AP, has a story today. published by ABC News, that the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" (official about a year ago) has largely worked, "Furor has faded" the report says.  Critics are complaining about the religious "liberty" of religious conservatives (it sounds trite) and bills are being introduced to prevent chaplains from having to perform same-sex unions.

ABC's news story is here.

Ideas that lifting the ban would interfere with sensitive aspects of unit cohesion, where soldiers experience forced intimacy, have not been issues in practice.  They were offered as objections in the early 1990s by Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos (late), but even Moskos went back on these objections when he started promoting conscription after 9/11.

The ABC link for the AP story was tweeted today by SLDN.

Concern remains what could happen if the GOP comes back into power in both the Congress and the White House.  The Homocon Party at the Honey Pot in Tampa could become a distant memory.

Picture above: Rehoboth. the Blue Moon.  

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Romney waffles on answering in questions on gay issues; concern grows over whether he would jeopardize repeal of "don't ask don't tell"

The Huffington Post has an article by Aaron Belkin,  Director of the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara,  “Would Romney Reinstate DADT?”  The link was tweeted Saturday by SLDN.  (Belkin is the author of "How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of 'Don't Ask Dob't Tell'", the Huffington Post Media Group, 2011, apparently available only on Kindle.)

The article goes on to report the efforts of Lila Shapiro, reporter for the Huffington Post, to get statements from the Romney campaign on gay issues.  The campaign refuses to respond.

The GOP 2012 platform was discussed here Aug. 29, 2012, with a note that now the platform has been moderated to say that the military should not become a platform for social experimentation. Today, that might mean  “just” a denial of benefits for gay spouses.  In the past, when the “privacy in the barracks” argument of Sam Nunn (going back to 1993) had some credibility (history has not born that idea out in western countries), it would have seemed to justify “don’t ask don’t tell” or even outright “asking”, as with the “Old Ban” of 1981.

Belkin argues that if Romney wants to appeal to moderate voters, he has no self-interest in ducking questions on his willingness to promise that he won’t undo the repeal.  (Belkin’s article gives the history of the repeal process in 2010-2011.) Log Cabin Republicans says that the platform is a sign of “moderation”.  But the LCR may be turning itself into an “oxymoron”.  (Yesterday, a friend tweeted, “I think people like ‘Prairie Home Companion’ for the same reasons people are republican”.  It seems like some elements of the GOP are not unwilling to enforce conformity on some for the supposed “freedom” of others.

Even so, I have been personally willing to believe that Romney would leave his religious beliefs at the Oval Office door.  I was much more concerned of what could happen if Santorum got in:  had Santorum somehow stuck it out and won the nomination, he would have been less likely to win the election, but if he did win, he would probably have tried to reimplement the full ban.  Back in 1995, as speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich had suggested going back to "asking", but I don't think Gingrich would have pursued this matter now had he won.  (He's appropriately concerned about EMP and the power grid -- as below in this post.)  Early in the 2011 primaries, the gay press acted a lot less concerned about Romney and Ron Paul than the other candidates.  

The link for the Huffington story is here

On another topic:  Washington DC had its severe storms Saturday (as did NYC), but conditions were OK in town by late Saturday evening; no power problems, and very mild, comfortable early fall temperatures outside.  Nevertheless, after the storms, the crowd at TownDC seemed not quite as large as usual for September – usually one of the best months, since people are back from vacation.  The featured models from “Project Gogo” appeared on stage and then upstairs on an extended stage stand, with a fashion “review”.

Someone (rather beefy) wore a shirt that read “Polar bears are nice”.  It’s good to see “disco” people paying attention to the implications of climate change.  Remember (as Al Gore once said), “Nature does not give bailouts”. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Off-the-field rhubarb over gay marriage support from pro-football players

There is a rhubarb going on right now, about the reported support of gay marriage by Brendon Ayanbejedo.  Yahoo! sports has published a letter sent by Maryland delegate Emmet C. Burns Jr. to the Ravens owner (Steve Bisciotti), demanding that he quell his players from speaking out publicly on controversial issues.  The Yahoo! link is here.

There is a response  (with a funny title) by Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, here

Generally, most major league sports figures have indeed stayed away from public controversy, and I suspect they are urged to restrain themselves.  Some players (as of the Washington Nationals) are members of evangelical denominations or of the Mormon Church, and I must say that religious upbringing seems to have contributed to their competitive success.  (At least, everyone liked it when Bryce Harper called a reporter’s temptation for him to violate the religious drinking ban, or to drink where it’s legal to drink under 21, a “clown question”.) 

Social media have indeed enriched the picture, but is has always been problematic for those who make decisions about others in the workplace to weigh in on their own about public issues.  That was an issue for me years ago with gays in the military.  And it’s an issue with Chick-Fil-A. Big league players are not in that position, of course; but their coaches or managers and owners are. 

Monday, September 03, 2012

GOP officially ignores, then spurns gays in platform, while "Homocon" has visible disco party in Tampa

CNN is reporting that gays were visible at the GOP convention in Tampa despite the Elephant platform leaving them out of marriage.

CNN has a link to a gallery of ten still photos from a “Homocon” disco party “GOProud” , at the Honey Pot in Ybor City (a Tampa neighborhood).

I visited the Honey Pot myself in November 2004.  It still seemed like summer.Shirts didn't stay on very well. 

The link to the CNN story by Jen Christensen is here

However, Frank Bruni wrote a stinging op-ed in the New York Times Sunday, “Excluded from Inclusion”, link here

No one openly gay was invited to speak,  Bruni points out.  (That doesn’t mean that no one who is gay spoke, which is pretty apparent, but we won’t name names.)   Bruni also points out that, for the Mormon Church (Romney, at least), marriage has, by necessity, experienced changes in definition and been a “variable star” concept.

Wikipedia attribution link for Ybor picture. 

I remember, as a grad student instructor in algebra, how students had trouble with “the definitions”. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Maine marriage groups solicits house parties by email; GLIL's old watering holes

Thursday, I got an email from Mainers Uninted for Marriage asking if I (or any recipient) would hold a donation party for them.    From Matt McTighe, the caption read “John, can you host a party for marriage?” 

 The group has a goal of 100 events before the November election. The group’s website is here

It sounds bizarre and pushy for a group to ask people in distant states to hold events when there are battles in many states around the country.

Also, as a “journalist”, I can’t be in the business of raising money (or asking money from people) for specific groups.  In the 1990s, someone from Log Cabin asked me if I would hold a fundraiser “in my home” not even knowing that I lived then in a one-bedroom apartment.

Last night, I poked my door in the Dupont Italian Kitchen, whose second-story bar (on 17th Street in Washington) used to be called “Windows”  and a few years ago had been the meeting point for the monthly social for GLIL (Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty). The first Tuesday of the month.  That activity has dropped off in recent years.  Back in the 1990s, the group had met at Trumpets, a property which is now a fitness center.

Now, the small bar has Karaoke on Saturday nights.

Cobalt-30 Degrees used hiphop on the downstairs dance floor last night.