Thursday, February 28, 2013

Corporate executives urge Supreme Court to take down DOMA, support marriage equality

Erik Eckholm is reporting that a large group of corporate executives have called for the Supreme Court to end legal proscriptions against federal benefits for same-sex couples, in a “Business Day” story in the New York Times Feb. 28, link here
The executives have joined a number of prominent GOP members of Congress and other officials in calling for the Court to rule for marriage equality.

The main incentive seems to be financial.  Employers who offer benefits to same-sex couples have to pay for them with pre-tax dollars and face complicated reporting and processing.
The turnaround of a lot of the “conservative” community on same-sex marriage is quite remarkable, and seems to be taking place quickly – for primarily economic reasons.  Sometimes a strenuous economy helps. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

CA law on tax-exempt status of BSA views Scouting as almost like a public accomodation

Cheryl Wetzstein has an article in the Washington Times today about the California “Youth Equality Act” which would strip the Boy Scouts of state tax-exempt status if they don’t lift the “military style” (before DADT repeal) ban on gays (or discriminate in any area).  The link is (website url) here

States do allow churches or clearly faith-based denominations tax-exemption regardless of discriminatory practices, but some states look at organizations like the BSA as quasi-public accommodations. As covered before the Supreme Court upheld their right to their own rules as a private organization, but no state has to do business with them. 

Yet, some people claim that “religious freedom” is being traded off against “behavioral” freedom.  The intellectually easy way to deal with all this is immutability, and that becomes a cop-out.

The BSA claims to develop character  in its membership, and desired traits include physical preparedness, self-reliance, and ability to help others.  That’s all fine.  But there is always an issue when a particular member does not (whether by choice, genetics, circumstance, or some combination of these) meet all of their ideals.  In a loose way, the BSA (as did the military) saw same-sex attraction as a distraction from men working together cohesively in situations of forced intimacy, and as a resistance to sharing the emotional risks of complementarity, which again they see as a diversion on others.  Times have changed.  People are learning that complementarity is partly a matter of polarity, beyond gender.  And social cohesion is not disrupted so easily as people had thought (as we learned from DADT).  There’s a paradox:  if people’s ability to do the “right thing” is unduly influenced by the belief that others must do the same (conformity), that’s not so good for character either.  So respecting diversity ought to be good for character. 
There seems to be a common denominator to all this:  any time someone benefits from sacrifices and emotional consideration from others in a peer group (like the BSA), that same person ought to learn to pass on the same flexibility to others that was done for him.  That’s a hard concept to articulate in the BSA environment, but the military is already having to set the first example.  

The BSA is supposed to vote on lifting its nationwide ban in May, 2013. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Over 75 prominent Republicans sign brief supporting same-sex marriage; conservatives start wondering about immutability

A story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times Tuesday Feb. 26 reports that “dozens of prominent Republicans” have signed a legal brief (for the Supreme Court litigation on DOMA and Proposition 8) expressing their view that gays have a legal right to same-sex marriage. The link is here.
The running count was 75 on Monday evening, shocking some social conservatives, and obviously fitting the Log Cabin Republicans thesis back to the 90s.  LCR has put its response on Facebook this morning, here.   The brief was signed by Jon Hunstsman, a Mormon, and Meg Whitman.  The Mormon Church (despite having tried to rig Prop 8 a few years ago in California) has recently shown some willingness to accept the idea that views on sexual orientation and marriage are a private or personal matter, possibly because of the enormous pressure put on it by the media (several books and independent films and one super-popular Broadway show).

But in the conservative. (or even reactionary) Washington Times on Tuesday, Cheryl Wetzstein has a story “Born this way? Five court cases will put focus on gay identity”, here. Many constitutional scholars feel that immutability is critical to equal protection claims.  Yes, it is.  But I’ve always been a “due process” person.  I would always ask, even if it were a “choice”, why do “you” care about the intimate “private choices” that “I” make. Is it the "existential meaning" of these "choices" that affects “you”?
Pictures: 1 is the Stonewall, 3 is the Monster, 4 is Boots 'n' Saddle, all NYC.  2 is a theater where I think I saw "The Fifth of July" in 1978, on a very important date, as it turned out. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Therapy, in NYC Hell's Kitchen, spreads the love at Oscar party; so does a local grille

This year, I caught most of the Oscars (or “The Academy Awards”, as we knew the television party as kids) at the Therapy in NYC in Hell’s Kitchen, after a Japanese salmon dinner at the nearby West End Grille, and that after 2-1/2 hours of the gay innuendo of “The Book of Mormon” down on 49th St.  By the way, if you want to "spread the love", see "Sister Act".  The hostess at the Grille said the cast of Sister came in all the time, and she seemed to know all of NY's and LA's under 30 talent, both in classic and pop worlds (and in "Modern Family")

There is something overwhelming about filling a small disco floor (set up with tables for the Oscars), with “Skyfall”, as if this were the end of life as we knew it. You really can dance to it.
The audience cheered the most to anything from “Silver Linings Playbook”, including any instantiation of  Bradley Cooper, the world’s best looking heterosexual man over 30. (Sorry, Justin Bieber, you’re too larval anyway.)  You need to get the right Cooper, of course.
There were too many commercials, that were too long, but the Therapy’s own drag queen held a raffle all evening.
The final award, Best Picture, was to come from Jack Nicholson, but he turned the mike over twice to Michelle Obama, in the East Room, 2400 miles away.  Michelle praised the idea of people making it regardless of obstacles, and, when the mike returned to her, announced “Argo”.

A large gay male audience was happy to see anything directed by Ben Affleck win. (Oh, no, he wasn’t going out to hurt some people.)  I think there was some feeling that “Life of Pi” should win, because of the charisma of both the teen star (more mature than Bieber) and particular the all too human (at the end) tiger Richard Parker.  People thought that the cat deserved an Oscar. 

For Michelle to read out “Argo” recalls some irony.  Remember Jimmy Carter’s failed raid into Iran in early 1980?  It probably cost him the election.  There had actually been a political group called “Gays for Carter” before both the 1976 and 1980 elections.  Then, the best that gays hoped for was solving the problem of security clearances during Carter’s second term (which never happened).  Old chestnuts take a long time to crack open, without the right crows to drop them. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Obama administration may pitch a "complete game" on marriage rights

The Obama Administration apparently will maintain that the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 is unconstitutional.  And it may support the idea that California’s Proposition 8 must fail on equal protection grounds, too.   Logically, it’s possible for the Court to strike down DOMA but uphold the idea that states can experiment with same-sex marriage on the own, considered a progressive idea in the 90s. But then Full Faith and Credit would seem to apply after all.

The Obama administration believes that the “moral” convictions about some against homosexuality are “personal” or faith-based, or based on collectivist ethical ideas (like “the natural family”) that don’t now pass constitutional muster.

The link for the CNN story is here

The CNN story discusses the case of Edith Windsor.  It is not unusual for the survivor in a same-sex couple to have to sell a home or business to pay estate or inheritance taxes (its tricky) that a heterosexual spouse would not pay.

As former Washington Blade editor and  “global citizen” Chris Crain wrote in 2004, “Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve”! 

Update: Feb 25

Suze Orman writes "LGBT couples pay more, receivr less from government", link here. Orman describes her own same-sex partnership of 12 years, of which I was not aware before.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gay spouses can't get green cards; TNR writes about the CIA, KGB, and homosexuality in the Cold War

There are two stories in the international arena about “gay rights” and equality that catch attention.
One is a report in the New York Times Monday February 18, 2013 , p. A8, by Julia Preston, “Forced to choose : love or country: Gay Americans with foreign born partners”, link here. The online title is more telling: “With no shortcut to a green card, gay couples leave U.S.”  It is apparently illegal for a same-sex couple to get a green card without some other reason (employment), which of course is possible for a heterosexual married partner.

There is a particularly interesting article on p. 32 of the February 25, 2013 issue of TNT. The New Republic, by Reuel Marc Gerecht  (illustrated by Oliver Munday), “Spooky Sex: The Randy culture of the CIA”, link. (probably, you need to pay to see it all; that’s OK; I bought a print copy). The CIA may be becoming more “conservative” in the sexual behavior allowed of its agents, even though since the 1990s it’s been OK to be gay – as long as you’re completely open (which certainly contradicted “don’t ask don’t tell” for the military, since in practice civilians and uniformed armed forces members could work together, as did gay journalists who traveled with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq).  Bill Clinton, in fact, had issued an XO protecting gay employees and agents in 1995.

The article makes the interesting point that the old Soviet Union KGB sometimes targeted gays, not because of any vulnerability to “blackmail” (that was far more likely with heterosexual infidelity) The article says, “the KGB believed homosexuals were more narcissistic, more prone to see themselves as disconnected from the group, than heterosexuals”. 

My own novel manuscript ("Angels' Brothers") a covert "part time" ex-military CIA agent, now approaching 40 and raising a nice family in Texas, gets sent on a mission to work with a gay college student who may turn out to be more than human, as the planet prepares for a divine invasion, which may not work out well for some people.  It's all psychological: no shootouts, relatively few chases, little violence.  
I remember being asked in the summer of 1972 if anyone had ever tried to “blackmail” me during a top secret security clearance interview, for my job at the Navy Department (NAVCOSSACT in the Washington Navy Yard).  And, after being station at the Pentagon after basic training in the Army in 1968. I was suddenly and mysteriously (but harmlessly) transferred to Fort Eustis in late September, after a bizarre rumor mill.  That was a lot safer than Vietnam.
I notice that the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TNR us Facebook cofounder  (and North Carolina native) Chris Hughes, 29, whom Wikipedia describes as openly gay and provides an uncomplimentary mugshot. Hughes looks much better in his television appearance on Sunday morning news shows (I think on ABC).  Andrew Sullivan, recall, was editor in the 1990s.  

Hughes must be a wealthy man from his Facebook participation, as well as General Catalyst Partners.  It seems as though, unlike Aaron Swartz, he didn't do anything to anger the DOJ, and unlike Mark Zuckerberg, he didn't anger the "Winklevii" (as Piers Morgan and Mark both call the twins).  It strikes me that at a social level, dormitory life at Harvard around 2003 and 2004 would have been much better for me that William and Mary had been in the fall of 1961. It would have been a blast for me. (If only I could get into a time machine and recover the hair on my legs!) Yes, times do change.  I think that 2003 was the year that Harvard was in the midst of its controversy over barring military recruiters because of "don't ask don't tell".  Maybe people there read me online and learned something.
An "old chestnut", maybe?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The 40th Anniversary of my own "Second Coming"; anti-gay video surfaces in suburban MD public schools

Today, President’s Day, Monday February 18, 2013, is the 40th anniversary of “My Second Coming”, as I explained it in the third chapter of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book. 
The original date was Sunday, February 18, 1973, a bitterly cold late winter day during a season that had been unusually mild.
On that day, I boarded a bus on a  Bloomfield Ave hilltop,. near my apartment in Caldwell, NJ, and rode to the George Washington Bridge terminal, and took a subway (the Number 1 train, I think) down to an apartment in an old high-rise building around W 96th Street, for my first “gay talk group” at 3 in the afternoon.
A flame-guy named Eric ran it. There were six people, all in winter sweaters.  And one or two of them said that they actually preferred “older” men.  That was reassuring as, at 29, I was already going bald.  One of them wanted to invite me to the Everard Baths the next Tuesday night. The "Baths" were part of male gay life in the bic cities until the AIDS crisis in the mid 1980s (the first mandatory closing would happen in San Francisco in the fall of 1984).  
I had a business trip (with Univac) to Princeton that week, though.  I rode back home, quickly picked up my already packed suitcase and drove down 287 to Pirnceton for a week’s training.  But I felt liberated.  The following weekend, I would do a “beginners” downhill run from Killington Summit in Vermont. In those days, I wasn’t home much, living in the burbs.
On “this day”, I have to pass along a rather negative story by Will Sommer in the Washington City Paper, ‘”Same-sex, lies, and videotape: How the ‘ex-gay’ movement got into local middle schools”, link here. The story concerns one Richard A. Cohen and his introduction of the video “Acception” from Cohen’s “International Health Foundation” into a few Prince Georges County MD middle school classrooms. 
When I subbed, in the middle of the previous decade (2004-2007) in northern Virginia, the matter really was treated with neutrality, even though I once heard an administrator mention that debate on ‘gay marriage” was surely coming to the classroom soon.
The word “acception” suggests another word from psychology, “apperception”, as with the “thematic apperception test”.  

Pictures:  The first one is actually in Montclair, NJ, near where I worked;  the second is "my" apartment complex in Caldwell (photos, 2011). 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Town DC holds "first" Valentine's Day Party (one day late); Blade editor criticizes Democrats

The Town Discotheque in Washington DC held the first of two Valentine’s Day parties Friday night, February 15, 2013 (last weekend was Mardi Gras).  Guests were invited to text their intended beloved ones, and the messages appeared on the movie screen behind the downstairs bar.

Friday night continues an earlier happy hour for “The Bears” (Sept. 22, 2012).  The upstairs dance floor seemed to be getting pretty active and crowded by about 11:30, even as the drag show continued. The crowd includes age 18 and up on Friday, and it seemed that a number of people had come from a party at the Verizon Center.  I had been to a "compute hackers" party near Union Station (more about that tomorrow). 
The “Valentine’s Day” Party came on a night of rain mixed with wet snow (this is February in Washington), and on a day of a particularly provocative issue of the Washington Blade.  The headlines referred to the Pope as “God’s Rottweiler”  (referring to the Pope’s resignation) and discussed his particularly vile letter (in his days as a cardinal) back in 1986 when he had characterized homosexuality as an “objective disorder”, language notorious at the time and since softened by the Vatican (which begrudgingly accepts the idea of immutability but demands “sacrifice”).  Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade (Huffington Post page is here) wrote an interesting piece ("Revisiting Sinners of the Past", link) assessing the Democratic Party, President Obama, Maryland governor O’Malley, and celebrities who finally come out  after years in the closet (like Anderson Cooper) with a good deal of constructive criticism.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ohio principal of Catholic school forced to resign for supporting gay marriage on personal blog

An assistant principal of a Catholic high school in Cincinnati, Ohio was fired  (or forced to resign) by the archdiocese after he spoke up for same-sex marriage on his own personal web page. 
The principal is Michael Moroski, and his press release and original blog post are here

The Catholic Church has often disciplined employees and clergy for speaking out on their own about anything, even on personal blogs or social media. 
The Vatican has long maintained that the teaching of the Church restrict the experience of sexuality to circumstances that are “open to procreation”. In recent years, it has been more willing to consider homosexual orientation as biologically driven, but it maintains that everyone must make his own personal sacrifice for the good of the community. 

I have related on my main "BillBoushka" blog before (July 27, 2007) how I eventually lost a substitute teaching job over a gay-related screenplay on my own personal site.     

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Neighborhood forces in Washington DC oppose new bars and clubs in many areas

The Washington Blade reports that a gay male couple is playing a role in pressuring the Washington DC city government to restrict alcohol licenses for new bars and restaurants in the newly gentrified “U-Street corridor”. The story by Lou Chibbaro, Jr. is here

The activities include the Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance and he couple is former DC Advisory Commissioner Ramon Estrada and partner Elwyn Ferris.

The issue is sensitive because it could be perceived as anchoring the business of current bar owners and lessening competition.  It could also be seen as favoring businesses in other neighborhoods.  It might hamper new businesses from forming if any current businesses closed.  

There are three major gay establishments in the U-St corridor with which I am familiar:  The Town Discotheque, Nellies (a sports bar), and Mova, belonging to a Florida company.  Over the years, the supposed “gay community” has tended to shift East from the Dupont Circle area to U-Street and Shaw.  Metropolitan Community Church has been located in Shaw since the early 1990s (or even before, when it was in a row house on M Street).  There is even some movement toward NE DC and a belief that the Northeast section of the city, now plagued with crime and economic problems, is the next to be gentrified with big time real estate development and attract new clubs.  Already the H Street corridor in NE is starting to develop in a manner similar to U Street, but is not near a Metro. 
In the 1990s, one of the best discos in the City was Tracks, followed by Velvet Nations  (and Edge)– both displaced by real estate condo and office development that accompanied Nationals Park.  Ziegfelds remains in that part of the city.  

See related story Dec. 25, 2012. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Pentagon extends some benefits to same-sex partners, subject to DOMA-induced limits

The Pentagon will extend some benefits to same-sex partners of people in the Armed Forces, according to an Associated Press story appear in the Washington Post front page on Wednesday February 6, 2013.
Partners will have some access to commissary stores and health and welfare benefits. 

However outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has to avoid violating any provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) while it is still being litigated.

The Post story is here

Adam Smith (D-WA) had introduced legislation authorizing full benefits to same-sex partners where marriages occurred in any state where it is legally recognized. 

The culture of the military has changed quickly with the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell", and that development is certainly putting psychological pressure on the Boy Scouts.  

When I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Eustis, VA in 1969, there was a lot of pressure on the flag officers to support local BSA troops/  

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

TWT editorial makes connection between Boy Scouts and military

I found an editorial at the Washington Times, Jan, 31, 2013, "The Gay Scouts of America: Pledge to keep 'morally straight' is threatened".  The editorial makes a comparison to the lifting of "don't ask don't tell".  Of course, not many mainstream media outlets have wanted to suggest a connection (in terms of psychology and setting examples) between military personnel policy and BSA policy, but it's always been obvious that the anti-gay values of the past in both the military and BSA have a lot in common.  That is, a worldview that says that people must conform to the demands of society in fulfilling (with some degree of risk and self-sacrifice) some expectations of gender roles.

The editorial, in fact, mentions that the "Boy Scouts, like the military, is all about character formation" and later "President Obama eliminated the requirement for straight conduct in the Armed Forces."  Note how that can be read:  from real men and real women, even abstinence may not be good enough.

The link for the editorial is here

It is true that there are some "practical" issues about "political correctness" and "corporate donations" in the minds of some people.

I've been concerned that there are "moral" issues for those who are "different":  some of us are challenged to make our "difference" relevant to meeting the real needs of others in a "eusocial" community (including the need for sharing in real  but often unseen sacrifice at times).  Suddenly, though, when homosexuality comes up, it become a proxy for all the (other) moral questions about the human heart.  The tone of the TWT editorial sounds like "moral character" is all about "growing up straight" -- the title of a notorious 1968 book by Peter Wyden.  

Update: Feb. 10

The national BSA in Dallas says it will not vote on the measure until May, 2003.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Arlington VA Gay Alliance holds "dead of winter" social; VA Senate passes workplace issue

This evening I attended a gathering if the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (the site is undergoing maintenance as of now) at the Pinzmini Lounge in the Westin Hotel in the Ballston area of Arlington VA, a new hotel across Glebe Road from the new building for Virginia Tech.  The gathering was called a “Warm Winter Social”.
AGLA Board Member T. J. Flavell greeted me as I entered.  There was a raffle ticket.
The temperature outside, though, was about 25F, on February 1, just past the “dead of winter”. 
The topics of conversation ranged from breaking gerrymandering in Virginia, the slow growth of “purple politics” in the more rural areas of Virginia, China’s authoritarian state, and rays of hope about someday overturning Marshall Newman.
Equality Virginia went to Richmond recently for lobbying at the state level, and it’s “Commonwealth Dinner” in Richmond will be held April 6.  See the link on SB701 (passing the state Senate) here.  SB701 is the bill to protect state employees from sexual orientation discrimination (details).  

Salmon dinner at the Westin is good, if dear.  You can play with your food.