Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Police in Louisiana try to use invalid sodomy law; VA GOP candidate for governor tries to bring back VA "Crimes against nature" laws

Police in Baton Rouge, LA tried to use the Louisiana sodomy law to charge men arrested in a sting at a public part, recently. The Huffington Post story is here.
The Louisiana “crimes against nature” law, like Virginia’s, would have been invalidated by Lawrence v. Texas (2003).  Prosecutors dropped charges against the men.

I visited New Orleans and Baton Rouge in February 2006, a few months after Katrina.  I visited a place in Baton Rouge that I think was called The Splash. 

In Virginia, the 4th Circuit overturned a similar law, but GOP gubernatorial aspirant Ken Cuccinelli  (as attorney general) tried to get the 4rh Circuit to reconsider, saying that the law is helpful in pursung crimes against minors.  Callie Beuseman has the story on Jezebel, here.    Cuccinelli’s position on this (and on abortion) seems out of character with his “libertarian” constitutional arguments against Obamacare. 
There are some YouTube videos which may play some hyperbole with Cuccinnelli.

The attorney journal did not mention this in his book (review, Aug. 1)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope Francis opens the door to abstinent gay priests; NYTimes covers Russia's anti-gay scapegoating law heavily; a problem for the Sochi Olympics?

Pope Francis has indicated more open willingness to accept the idea of abstinent or celibate but openly gay men into the Catholic priesthood, according to a conversation he had with journalists on a plane back from Brazil.  “Who am I to judge?” he asked. The Chicago Sun Times has a typical story (Reuters, Phillip Pullella) here
The previous Pope Benedict has insisted that the “sacrifice” inherent in the priesthood could be meaningful only for a man who otherwise would want to marry and have children with a wife.
Francis has been more insistent on the idea of voluntary, shared poverty than his predecessor.
In the mean time, the coverage of Russia’s law scapegoating gays and lesbians (particularly for its falling birth rates and aging population) has generated more coverage in the New York Times, including an editorial and now this coverage by Frank Bruni on the nuances of whether a boycott of the winter Olympics in Sochi would make sense, link here

The Russians keep saying that the athletes themselves having nothing to worry about.  Publicly open gay visitors (particularly on the Internet) and tourists just might.  We’ll have to see in the next few months what actually happens with this law.  I already have a feeling it won’t be enforced.
Gay equality seems to be moving in different directions: so much progress in marriage and military issues, but in lower income communities and some public schools bullying increases, and in authoritarian countries repression increases.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

DOMA ruling: government agenices must rule on "place of celebration" rule when domicile is in "hostile" state;military goes along

In its ruling against DOMA in June, the Supreme Court did not require states to honor each other’s same-sex marriages.  That’s well known, and likely to invite individual legal challenges in the future (as has already started with Ohio and Pennsylvania). 

But the Supreme Court did not spell out clearly whether even the federal government is bound to honor a same-sex marriage according to “place of celebration” when the couple lives in a different state that does not recognize gay marriage.  The details are in a Washington Blade story by Michele Zavos, Viewpoint, p. 20, July 26, 2013, link here.

Generally, most federal agencies have said that they will honor the “place of celebration” (as opposed to “place of domicile”) rule.  Most notably the Pentagon has said that the military services will honor it. That’s a big plus for Outfront-SLDN.

The biggest question, though, is what happens with Social Security survivor benefits.

I tried Friday night at TownDC last night, and saw age ID checking work, which is a good thing.  There was a  kid who had just passed his seventeenth, not eighteenth birthday.  So he couldn’t get in.   It mattered not that he had the build of a Bryce Harper and might be able to help the Washington Nationals offense.  (That’s impressive, because biologically men can’t reach their maximum connective tissue strength, as for pitching or home-run hitting, until about age 27, so the kid has still another decade to build on).

The ride home on Metro Green and Orange lines was unusually quick, but the straight people who got on from the bars in Clarendon were rowdy and loud to an extent I’ve never seen even on New Years Eve.  It’s impossible now to get a cab around the U-Street area (I couldn’t get Red Top’s phone app to load). 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Judge rules Ohio must recognize same-sex marriage performed in Maryland

Two men in Ohio who had married out of state have won in federal district court.  James Obergefell and John Arthur had married in Maryland, actually at BWI airport (10 miles from Baltimore, about 30 miles from Washington).  Arthur has Lou Gehrig’s disease and may not have long to live, according to media reports.
ABC news ran the AP story by Amanda Lee Myers, here

The case is likely to wind up in the Sixth Circuit.  It could have implications, and force the Supreme Court to rule on whether states must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.  However, in its ruling striking down DOMA in June, the Supreme Court did not seem to be so inclined to rule that way yet.  A case could come before the Court next year or later if there were conflicting rulings from different circuits.
Ohio, like Virginia, has a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The public tenor on gay marriage is certainly changing.  Even the conservative Washington Times no longer puts the term in quotes (story by Cheryl K. Chumey here).
Some moderate commentators say that social conservatives seem obsessed with preserving the meaning of the special mechanics of heterosexual “coitus”, out of fear that will become less rewarding if it less privileged than it had been before. 
What’s striking to me is the desire for long-lived intimacy, over decades, in a same-sex relationship.  It did happen when I was coming of age (as with one male couple in Dallas together for 49 years), but you heard about it rarely.  It wasn’t “expected” and wasn’t part of the separatist culture “we” had set up, out of necessity. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

What happens with ENDA when contractors have to place people in gay-hostile countries?; Russia's sudden anti-gay push a danger to gay tourists and workers, motivated by birthrate issues

While there is a lot of push for ENDA, and for the president to sign orders preventing all discrimination by contractors, I wonder about the practical question that occurs if a contractor wants to assign an employee to a country hostile to LGBT people (or “behavior” or speech). 
Throughout my own mainframe IT career I often learned of people who had worked in Saudi Arabia.  Even though they had been housed in “foreigner” compound, religious police enforced Islamic laws, such as by inspecting for possession of alcohol.
And, particularly for engineering graduates, there are good reasons to consider working overseas in developing countries on infrastructure project, like clean water.  But some of these countries, like the Sudan and Uganda, are extremely hostile to homosexuals.
I have not found much about this angle of employment nondiscrimination online.  There is a Washington Blade story by Chris Johnson from October 2011 about USAID policies (US Agency for International Development) that does not get far into the issue, here
Wikipedia has an important chart on the status of LGBT “rights” around the world here, and in Islamic and many African countries, the situation is still dire. 
The New York Times has a disturbing column by Harvey Fierstein Monday July 22, 2013, p. A17, “Russia’s anti-gay crackdown”, link here.  Although sodomy is nominally legal in Russia, any speech that approves of homosexuality is not.  The crackdown seems to be quite draconian, and could make it quite dangerous for any openly gay person (say a blogger like me) to visit the country, let alone take a job requiring travel to the country.
Imagine the possible complications for employers.  Can CNN safely send Anderson Cooper to report from Russia, say on the Olympics, or on any political matter?  I’ve seen very little about this so far, and it would seem to need immediate attention from the established “gay press.”
I have contemplated a trip to Finland (which I “missed” in 1972) and a train ride to St. Petersburg to see the “Russian Ark” museum, but would not set up such a trip right now, without discussions with lawyers on international justice or the State Department. Perhaps Russian authorities would "Google" my name (or "Bing" it) when I checked in a hotel in Russia or even crossed the border, and hold me since I blog publicly about gay issues.  Could this really happen? 
Fierstein notes that the new law, while obviously based on political scapegoating, seems motivated by Russia’s low birthrate (and Putin’s performance of “conception days”).  The idea that there is a moral obligation to reproduce is certainly familiar, but it seems to suggest the illogical notion that most people won’t have children unless they have to.
Of course, an authoritarian government like that in Putin's Russia can push the idea that open presentation of "gay values" can discourage "marginal" people (or "waverers") from wanting or trying to have children and raise families, and threaten the country's future collective strength, and exacerbate problems of an aging population ("demographic winter").  That sort of thinking wasn't too carefully concealed even when I was growing up, when there was a baby boom.  Then, it was certainly "irrational."

By the way, I've seen outdoor pictures of Putin, shirtless.  He has reason to wonder about men becoming "marginal".

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I visit a leather bar (the DC Eagle): why the no cell phone policy?

I’m not a connoisseur of leather bars, and rarely visit them because of the “dress codes”, at least Saturday night.

But Sunday night, after an indie movie at Landmark downtown Washington, I visited the DC Eagle. I took the Yellow Line up to Mount Vernon Square and found the walk down to New York Ave longer than I expected. 

Inside there were two levels open and interesting accoutrements.  There were lockers to rent – Why?  This isn’t the Crew Club.  There was shoeshine paraphernalia and a chair on the second floor.  And on the first floor, toward the back, there was a barber’s chair, taped in yellow with the word “danger”.  I can imagine what might happen in the barber’s chair (involuntary depilation, as in Bazhe’s book “Damages”).  (It’s in one of my screenplays – especially the one that caused the upheaval in 2005 when I was a substitute teacher.)
There were also posters for other leather bars, especially in NYC (the Mineshaft, etc.)

The bartender actually looked at my ID, despite my obvious age.  That’s reassuring.  (What if I was undercover, checking compliance with the ABC laws?  They would have no way to know in advance.)

There was also a sign I don’t see very often in bars.  “No cell phone use, except at the front door.”  In fact, I’ve never seen this before in a bar, except that I heard when I was in NYC in early 2012 that patrons for The Saint’s Black Party had to surrender cell phones.  I presume that means they don’t want to risk indoor photography.  Is this a new thing (I've talked about recent concerns about public photography on my main blog, most recently May 7, 2013 in connection with Google glasses.) Nevertheless, on the second level, patrons were using their cell phones, surfing and the like, and no one said anything
In Minneapolis, on Washington Ave., at least the last time I was there (in 2011, or certainly in 2003 when I was living in the city), there was an Eagle leather bar adjacent to a “normal” bar, with interchangeable space.  On Saturday night, the Eagle portion only enforced the leather dress code.  On Monday nights, the Eagle there had Karaoke then.

I’ve mentioned the Saloon on Hennepin in Minneapolis, which was the best dance place when I lived there.  In 2011, they had added a restaurant (in place of the outdoor patio, not usable in winter), and had a shower stall in one area for dancers, with a no photo sign that appeared to apply only to dancers (may have been due to a local or state law).  The dance floor in 2011 was always heavily fogged. 

The Eagle in DC happens, by coincidence, to be very near the offices for the popular Living Social website.  That’s not quite as cool as being next door to Google or Facebook, but almost, perhaps. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday brunch on the hottest day of the year in Arlington -- and some in-person networking

The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance held a Saturday brunch  (11 AM) at Freddie’s in Crystal City in Arlington VA.

Nothing spectacular on the eve of the statistically hottest day of the year (July 21), but a lot of informal networking.

There’s a backdrop, of concern over the verdict in Florida, and whether this is primarily a matter of applying the law equally (or designing it so that it can be applied so), or more about solidarity,  There is not very much interest in ideas of victimization any more, given all the gains in areas like removing DADT and victories in gay marriage.   The Washington Blade, however, does have an effective high level summary of the issues in the Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case by Lou Chibbaro, Jr. in the July 19 issue.  It’s about as straightforward as anything I’ve seen, link

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday night show at Scorpio in Charlotte draws hundreds

People came from all over the Southeast for a big late Sunday night "Diva" drag show at 11:30 PM Sunday night July 14 at the Scorpio in Charlotte, NC, open since 1968, and one of the largest gay discos in floor space in the nation (maybe only Station 4 in Dallas is bigger).

There was a line to get in.  The club is hard to find if you don't know where it is, on Route 27, Freedom Drive, NW of downtown, Charlotte, in a hundred-foot deep ravine carved in the Piedmont by a stream.  It didn't flood, but the lot was muddy.

The show was festive as usual, with some physical challenges to the audience, and plenty of tumbling by the rather athletic "drag queens", some of whom seemed to be real females.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sci-fi author's anti-gay-marriage views lead to call for boycott

Scott Card, the author of the science fiction novel behind the movie “Ender’s Game”, from Summit Entertainment, apparently created unintended controversy with public remarks opposing gay marriage (and perhaps homosexuality in general), to the point that GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has called for a boycott against the film.  Michael Cieply has a story about the matter on “The Arts” page of the New York Times, Saturday, July 13, 2013, link here.   GLAAD has its account of the matter here
This sort of “boycott” sounds like the “intolerance” of the personal speech of others that Andrew Sullivan has recently criticized.  

Should a writer's or filmmaker's ability to sell his or her work depend on political views?  It hasn't very much before. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suit against PA version of DOMA could pull the rug out of all state anti-gay-marriage ;aws

The ACLU, on behalf of 23 plaintiffs, has filed suit in federal court challenging Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act, which refuses to perform same-sex marriages or allow marriages from other states to be recognized.

The theory of the suit is predicted on the 14th Amendment, as incorporated to the states.

But in its ruling on federal  DOMA  in late June, the Supreme Court did not extend its ruling to require states that don’t allow same-sex marriage to recognize those from states that do.

The case is called Whitewood v. Corbett

The suit names PA governor Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane as defendants.  Kane is in a quandary about defending the law, although it is her duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws. The Penn Live in Harrisburg has a story by Ivey De Jesus here.

 (By the way, it’s “intelligent design”, not “intellectual design”).  

Pennsylvania is notorious for a case with its filial responsibility law; retirement blog, May 22, 2012.

Update: July 13:  More recent media reports say that Kane will not defend the statute. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

ENDA still faces some surprising questions, even in post-DOMA, post-DADT era

A Senate committee will meet Wednesday, July 10, 2013 (my own 70th birthday!) to consider ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Tammy Baldwin, Tin Harkin. And Elizabeth Warren are on the committee.  All twelve Democrats and one Republican are cosponsors of the bill.    (When I was young and na├»ve, I placed a lot of faith on the idea of a “committee”.)
Chris Johnson has a story in the Washington Blade this week on the bill, here

There is a concern as to whether a recent Supreme Court ruling on age discrimination (tightening the requirements for enforcement) will affect ENDA, which already has to discount “disparate impact”.

There are also concerns about religious exemptions, which are beginning to look sillier all the time.  People with religious objections to allowing gay employees or members are faced with the disturbing sense that it’s important to force others to ratify their own sense of righteousness for their own faith and their own marriages to work.  

I grew up in this culture, wondering why people's surmisals about what I did in my own life (but couldn't prove) meant so much to them.  That's "way, way back" from our ideas about equality today. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Divorce in for same-sex married couples will often be nettlesom

Margaret Klaw, of Berner, Klaw and Watson, has an interesting warning about gay divorce in the Sunday Washington Post, here.
If you traveled to a state that allowed gay marriage (New York) but it wasn’t recognized in the state you live, you can’t divorce in that state.  And in fact, you can’t get divorced in New York unless at least one partner lives there.  A few states (California, New York) do make exceptions for same-sex couples that live there.

Klaw predicts that eventually, the Supreme Court will hold that states can’t ban same-sex marriage, or refuse to recognize other states’ marriages, following the precedent for interracial couples.  (That latter concept gets more nebulous all the time; as a matter of anthropology and genetic science, technically we are all “black”; there seems to be only a minor difference in the ability to handle ultraviolet light and make Vitamin D.) The Court’s rulings, though, don’t necessarily point that way; the “full faith and credit” exemptions in DOMA remained intact for now.    

Legally married gay couples may also learn that sometimes there is a “marriage penalty”.  

Friday, July 05, 2013

Many doctors, clinics promote fertility help for LGBT couples,

I’ve gotten some emails about LGBT fertility, even from PR firms representing doctors with services to sell.  There are loads of them that pop up with a simple search on the web, welcoming LGBT business.

I can’t promote any one doctor or clinic (out of objectivity), although any of them can advertise on the Internet or other media in the usual way.

My own feeling (especially for surrogacy) would be one of skepticism.  I would wonder about conceiving a baby with a woman who will not raise it, unless it’s case of a woman who cannot conceive herself the biological way. If a gay man is rich enough, he can afford surrogacy, but I wonder about the childrearing unless the mother stays in the picture. 

What about the “modern family” idea, where one of the mothers is part of a lesbian couple or a woman who will live with two gay men as Gabi plans to on “Days of our Lives” (with Will and Sonny).  Actually, that drama is taking an interesting course (just before a “shirtless” July 4 picnic) as one of Sonny’s previous boyfriends (Brent) is trying to get Sonny to back out of playing Dad for “other people’s children”.  But it’s pretty obvious what you can argue:  if Will and Sonny can marry, Sonny will be more committed. 
“Days” appears to be set in Ohio, which does not have gay marriage.  Maybe the soap can press the button by putting marriage into the script. In the mean time, Gabi and Nick are going to have their straight marriage annulled.  So much for stability. 

See TV blog, April 22, 2011(Elton John) and June 24, 2010. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Legally married same-sex partners of federal employees and military members should start getting equal benefits

Media reports indicate that the Obama administration intends to roll out equal benefits to same-sex partners, when legally married in their home states, of federal employees and military members, although the information systems are not in place yet to do so and cannot be programmed that quickly/  Is that good for the IT job market?

The Washington Post has a typical story by Joe Davidson, here

Federal Globe’s website did not have comments yet.
The president still needs to act to protect LGBT federal contractors.

The administration has also said that it is unclear that Social Security benefits could be paid to a surviving spouse in a legally married same-sex couple that had moved to a state not recognizing the marriage, or it the surviving spouse moves to such a state after the spouse's death.  This is a troubling question.