Monday, December 30, 2013

Justice Scalia's "worst fears"; do the family relationships of others "really" affect "you"?

Justice Antonni Scalia’s “worst fears” (expressed in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas) that invalidating the Texas homosexual-only sodomy law in 2003 under due process or equal protection arguments would eventually compel governments to recognize gay marriage seem to be coming true, according to a Washington Post article Sunday by Robert Barnes, link here.

The comments on the article are interesting, especially one from “Blu-Dog Ex-Dem” who asks bluntly, “Do other people’s family relationships affect you? This has been studied and the answer is, of course. Why pretend otherwise?”  Some of what gets said here sounds irrelevant, but then the person notes that when one’s sibling has a child, the probability that person will have a child within two years increases.
Another distant story today on CNN reports “LGBT in Uganda, seeking acceptance from family, homeland” notes the horror of the passage of the vitriolic bill, and the deliberate outing of gays by tabloids. An Anglican Bishop there is quoted as saying, “We love gay people … we want them to repent.” Ordinary Ugandans are depicted as believing that homosexuality is a plot of colonialists to control the country. 

All of this points out a particular line of thought.  Many men see the complementarity demanded by longterm heterosexual marriage as challenging.  But they may be more likely to feel up to it if they think everyone else does.  To say that you love people enough to demand that they repent is to say that you need to see a particular standard of righteousness from others, so you can do yourself what you know is difficult.  That’s how I would answer Blu-Dog’s remark (although I haven’t logged on to the Post to do so yet; I hardly have time).  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Indiana could become a test ground for gay marriage in conservative states

Indiana may have a vote in 2014 on a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and the ban would be like Virginia's, essentially banning recognition of domestic partnerships.
However, the political climate even in this conservative state is getting more nuanced, and activists see a chance to pull off a big "win" in stopping the amendment.

Monica Dacvey has a story in the New York Times today, here.

I spent a summer in 1970 in Indianapolis on my first job (with RCA), and found the culture rather insular and provincial then,  Yet, the company then called it a "nice place" until it pulled out of manufacturing televisions there.
Picture: near the site of the RCA plant on Meridian St, Indianapolis (2012). 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Utah's gay marriage case: a nice domino roll for other states? What about Marshall-Newman in Virginia?

Utah’s sudden development on gay marriage may be the biggest domino to fall, in getting other conservative states to follow, according to a “liberal” Washington Post story Christmas Eve by Niraj Chokshi and Carol Morello, link here
The federal judge (Robert Shelby) refused to delay his own ruling, and the 10th Circuit also refused a stay, so gay marriages in Salt Lake City run track. 
The Washington Blade has a brief analysis by Chris Johnson on the 10th Circuit’s possibilities here
I recall meeting with the late Steve Snyder from William and Mary GALA around 2006 about Marshall-Newman, which may soon come under legal challenge in Virginia, as some cases are building, as reported by the Blade.  I’ll come back to these cases later. 

The Post story referred to “mormonsandgays” with a discussion of the Church’s more updated teaching that sexual orientation itself could be immutable, but acting on homosexual interest is a sin. That would beg the question, why should some people be singled out for such a personal sacrifice?  Yet, religion often stresses that different people are called upon to make varied and seemingly unjust sacrifices for the welfare of the group (the Vatican says that).  A year or so ago, ABC Nightline covered a Mormon family where the husband had told his wife he was gay but the wife honored his willingness to “sacrifice” is deepest sexual or personal longings for God.  That’s a challenging view of morality.   The major group for gay Mormons is “Affirmation”.   (There is a site called “gays and Mormons” that sends back “Come back soon”).  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Duck" and free anti-gay speech; a warm Christmas weekend in the clubs

I did indeed find the reported anti-gay and apparent racist comments by “Duck Dynasty” Phil Robertson shocking.  I do understand the free speech arguments, as well as A-and-E’s right as a private entity to make and enforce a contract with its producers.
The problem is that speech like this sometimes incites others into criminal activity.  I have to say that even as I believe in the concept of “personal responsibility”.  Although not likely, someone like me could someday be on the receiving end of an act like that, and it could be over for me.  There is a point where something like this becomes a threat.
It’s noteworthy that Cracker Barrel, once notorious for its own anti-gay employment policies from the early 1990s, pulled Duck’s products from its “Ole Country Store” businesses that dot our interstates. (Note: More recent reports late Sunday indicate that Cracker Barrel reversed itself and restored the products.)
More important, is to ask where Robertson’s ideas come from?  God? Scripture?  Is he motivated by the need to feel superior to someone (me) and enforce his domination?  Is he motivated by the idea that whatever is different becomes a potential enemy?  Probably this is all true.  Is he motivated by some train of thought?  That gets more troubling.  Maybe he believes every adult should share in the responsibility of raising the next generation. Maybe he thinks that someone less competitive physically (like me) “gets out of things” and depends on others to sacrifice and take risks for him.  Maybe he would see my own “Calvinistic” attitude toward forming attachments toward others (within a family-centered context) as morally problematic, although I doubt his thinking gets this refined.  (See main blog, Dec. 15).  In any case, it’s hard to see what his “thinking” would add up to as anything logically meaningful.

On another matter:  Last night was an unusually mild evening for Christmas season.  The Town crowd seemed a little smaller than usual but was vigorous. The disco did not decorate for Christmas, but the drag queens dressed up as Santa and then as Christmas trees. 
I wonder if all the real estate construction nearby (next to the 930 Club) means anything.  I hadn’t paid attention to it before. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Obama appoints King, lesbian tennis star, to Olympic delegation, challenges Russian law publicly

President Obama has named Billie Jean King, the former tennis champion, to the official delegation to the US Olympics, putting Russia’s recent anti-gay “propaganda” law on the spotlight.  The San Francisco Chronicle has a typical story here. Obama mentioned gay athletes of great character, and included Brian Boitano, former figure-skating champion, who gets mentioned in the 1999 animated film of "South Park".  (So does "Big Gay Al"). 
The San Francisco story reports that even “gay tourists” could be arrested under the law, which might include people who have visible public blogs, like me.  Putin has promised that visitors to the Olympics will not be harassed.  What does that mean?
In other news, federal courts in both New Mexico and Utah have struck down anti gay-marriage bans, and in Utah there is a sudden rush for gay partners to marry before the decision can be stayed.  
I've covered the most recent developments about anti-gay laws in Uganda and India on my International blog today.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Records of Rights" in Rubenstein Collection at National Archives details the sobering history of gay rights

Today, I visited the National Archives in Washington DC, specifically to see the David M. Rubenstein Gallery and the Records of Rights.

There was an interactive panel, set up in the manner of a tablet computer, near the entrance to the exhibit that covered many areas of individual rights, including rights to privacy and sexuality. The pamphlet from the Archives calls this 17-foot exhibit "A Place at the Table". 
The exhibit gives sobering history of the rights of LGBT people, or to the fundamental right to adult sexual privacy.  The idea is introduced with the banner "We the (Straight) People." It notes that right after World War II, panic over the “Red Scare” set in, and theories developed that homosexuals were morally or psychologically weak and therefore security risks.  It notes that President Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays from federal employment in 1953, on the basis of sexual orientation alone, without reference to conduct (foreshadowing the debate on the military ban forty years later). 
The exhibit shows two immigration cases, Qurioz v. Neely (1961), in which Quiroz lost a court case in which she could deported as a lesbian for a “psychopathic personality”.  The Supreme Court upheld a similar view in 1967 in Boutilier v. INS. Check the Record of Rights link here. The link for Boutilier is here.  See a discussion at the University of Richmond here. If courts were agreeing with shallow notions of homosexuality as "psychopathic", my 1961 expulsion from William and Mary becomes more understanable. 
The exhibit also detailed Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), emphasizing the idea of self-ownership in the Texas decision/

The Records of Rights also has a poster on the Cuban Refugee incident in 1980, and the "political fallout" when it became known that a large percentage of the refugees were said to be homosexual.
Photography is not permitted at the exhibit, but all the major documents from the Rubenstein collection seem to be online.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Short film "Jonathan and Dwayne" depicts Uniformed Military March in San Diego after DADT repeal

“Jonathan & Dwayne: A Story About Love” is a ten minute short film on Vimeo about a military couple which proposed marriage at the San Diego Pride parade and who walked in uniform (one partner is in the Navy and is in whites) in the parade. The couple is Jonathan and Dwayne Beebie-Franqui.
The video was shot March 30, 2013 and is produced by Momentus Films, with Vimeo link here (not emebedable).
The short film is important because until the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” servicemembers couldn’t march in gay parades in uniforms.
Yahoo has an account of the Uniformed Military March (July 21, 2012)  here and Politico has a similar story here.

The 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law had actually mentioned gay marriage as creating a presumption of homosexual conduct, even though no state recognized it at the time. 
Picture: University Drive in San Diego, my picture, May 2012.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Utah (federal) ruling on polygamy reflects on Lawrence v. Texas, even gay marriage; a personal trip to the Tarheel State

On Sunday, the New York Times reported, on p A19, the federal judge Clark Waddoups in Utah had invalidated part of a Utah law banning polygamy, specifically language regarding “cohabitation” on due process and First Amendment grounds.  He left in place the parts banning legal recognition of polygamous marriage. The story is by John Schwartz.
The ruling (link) referred to the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy law decision in 2003, particularly Kennedy’s reported language on personal autonomy or self-ownership.  The ruling would seem to discredit the idea that accepting gay marriage would lead to legal recognition of polygamy. The ruling seemed also to answer Scalia’s dissent in the 2003 opinion.
The New York Times article is here

On Anderson Cooper's AC360, a spokesperson for young women who were victimized by Warren Jeffs and the FLDS said that this decision doesn't recognize the deliberate abuse of women and mockery of their ability to "consent". 
On a personal note, I visited the club “Legends” in Raleigh, NC Sunday night (Dec. 15) while traveling.  The crowd as moderate, but there were some very attractive dancers, and some contact seemed to be allowed.  (It is not allowed in Washington DC but was in Minnesota when I lived there; however photography of dancing models was not allowed in Minnesota). 
I also drove past the St. Johns Metropolitan Community Church, between downtown and Fletcher Park in Raleigh. I had attended a service there in July 1994 after a very personal soliloquy in the park.  I still remember that particular Sunday morning, about the time of my 51st birthday.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kaposi's Sarcoma, once common in MSM with AIDS, is definitely itself caused by a different herpes virus

During the height of medical coverage of AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s, Kaposi’s Sarcoma as often the first “opportunistic disease” presented by MSM confirming a diagnosis of “full blown AIDS”.  Over time, KS gradually became less frequent as a presenting symptom, and today is no longer widely discussed.
What’s interesting now is that Wikipedia flatly notes that KS lesions are caused directly by a herpes virus, type 8.   (An early theory in the 1980s had been poppers.)  The increase in use of condoms among MSM would have been effective in preventing or reducing transmission of both HIV and of HHV8, explaining the gradual decline of KS in gay men.  It is likely that KS in elderly Jewish men in some parts of Russia is also related to HHV8.  KS is usually “multifocal”, originating repeatedly rather than metastasizing.  But it can become destructive and rapidly fatal when it forms in the lungs or GI tract. 
The HHV8 virus can also cause one form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more common with AIDS, and it may be more “effective” in producing lymphoma when Epstein-Barr virus, a similar herpes virus, is present.
At one time, the idea that viruses directly cause cancer was seen as speculative. But by 1983, a viruses related to HIV called HTLV-1 had caused a T-cell leukemia in Asia, with opportunistic infections often similar to those of AIDS.
It’s curious that in the late 1970s, clusters of Hodgkins Disease were reported in some areas of the country, especially the Northeast, and that speculation of association with EBV was mentioned then.  All of this a few years before HIV exploded in the MSM community.  All very interesting. The most important Wikipedia article is here.  HHV8 is apparently rather ubiquitous, and harmless until someone is immunocompromised 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bar has a "no photography" sign -- a thrownback to the 50s, or a future trend?

Last night, after dinner at KammerBooks on Dupont Circle – this bookstore has to serve the function of Lambda Rising, which closed at the end of 2009, but it’s still going strong  -- I walked down P Street toward the West End Cinema and poked my head in to the Fireplace Bar out of curiosity.  It has been at the corner of 23rd and P for decades and I don’t go there often.
I saw a no photography sign at the entrance.  I don’t think I can recall seeing such a sign in a bar before.  The website doesn’t mention such a policy. 
However, I recall seeing a “no cell phone use” sign at the Eagle.  That may be the point of such a sign. In New York  City, at the Black Party in March 2012, I overheard announcers on the street telling attendees that they would have to turn in cell phones, as I walked past and went to a “free” party at the Therapy nearby in Hells Kitchen.  In 2011, in a popular bar and dance floor in Minneapolis called the Saloon, I noticed a no photography sign that appeared to apply only to the dancers in a wet stall.  It was interesting, though, that the dance floor was always enshrouded in artificial fog. In Dallas, at a bar called Suellen's  (on the Cedar Springs strip, in 2011), there is a sign warning about uncivil behavior, but I don't recall that it mentioned photography (which could hardly work because the place often has small rock and jazz concerts in place of a dance floor, next door at the Station 4).  
Photography has long been common at drag shows.  There is a general courtesy that people consent to appearing in “group” pictures taken in bars.  There is sometimes a belief that it you dance or show off on an elevated stage in a disco, or somehow deliberately attract attention you can expect to be noticed and photographed.  People in costumes expect to wind up in social media.  But since about mid 2011 or so, people have become more sensitive to simply appearing in random or targeted photos from strangers, probably because of increasing concerns over online reputation and possible tagging of photos in social media.  For several years before 2011, there seemed to be little concern over photo courtesy. That’s a little bit ironic, in fact, when you remember that the official repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” for military members occurred in 2011.
The sign at the entry of the Fireplace may be a throwback to the 1950’s, when people feared showing up in newspapers.  I “came of age” publicly in 1973, after the worst was over; but when I lived in Dallas, raids on bars to nab people occurred as late as 1980. 
The area around 23rd and P doesn’t seem as popular for clubs (the “Pop Stop” is there), with the loss of the Omega and Apex; activity seems to move East, toward U Street.

One other note about Kammerbooks. I bought a couple of policy books, and noticed with some glee a book called "An Unofficial Dictionary of Snark"

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Surveys find that geography really matters for openness

The New York Times Review section today has an interesting perspective by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, “How many American men are gay?, link here. He gives us a US map showing relative level acceptance of homosexuality. The lowest levels consistently apply from Texas to the Carolinas (Florida is better; maybe they got over Anita Bryant).  The most “tolerant” (or “accepting”) is Rhode Island; the least is Mississippi.  Rhode Island shows a 5.5 times a rate of male high school students identifying themselves as gay than does Mississippi on Facebook. But in Mississippi 50% more wives search for “Is my husband gay?”  The writer points out that high school students and many others are not mobile enough to live in a more accepting area.
Again, we beg the question, where does (and did) intolerance really come from?  Why would a man be more intolerant of another man who will probably never have children but also never be a romantic rival for his wife?  I think the unpredictability or capriciousness of luck ultimately has something to do with it.
The best answer for the question posed by the article seems to be about 5%.

Last night, I briefly visited the Cobalt (after leaving the Kennedy Center) and found the Rumba Latina party going on.  The Town may take a lot of the “usual” crowd (last night there was to be another running of the “Crack” show).   I’ve never been one to find too much interest in a theme based on a specific ethnicity, although in large cities in more liberal states, “minority” cultures are more accepting of homosexuality than in the past;  nevertheless, the theme doesn’t really affect the crowd much.  Likewise, country and western (Remingtons) doesn’t impress me too much – although it plays big in Dallas (the Roundup).  Downstairs (last night) the music sometimes shifted back to more ordinary fare.  Why not have more 80s music nights? 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

NYTimes reports appalling rate of HIV in impoverished black and Latino MSM; Mandela had spoken for gay rights

Impoverished black and Hispanic men are accounting for 25-45% of new HIV infections in gay men (or MSM) in most cities, but up to 80% in men under 25.  Even so, white men may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors.  All of this is in a New York Times story today by Donald G. McNeil, MD, link here.
This may help explain why, socially, in many circles younger white men or affluent men of any race are not hearing much about new HIV cases in their social circles the way we did in the 1980s, when I was living in Dallas. 
It also has a huge impact on the nature of the volunteer work that goes on, at Whitman Walker and Food and Friends, which has probably come to demand much more refined social skills than it used to a couple decades ago. 
On the other hand, the public concerns of gay men living in college campuses have shifted away from AIDS itself to the same problems everyone else faces.  Today, certain forms of bacterial meningitis, which could lead to amputations in the most gruesome cases, have attracted great concern, to the point that the CDC has to consider using an unapproved European vaccine for one of the deadlier strains.  Students living in dormitories should consider vaccination, and the FDA should consider approval of the new Type B vaccine immediately.  Health officials should address the usefulness of the vaccine for HIV-infected and possibly immunocomrpomised students.

On another matter, CNN sources are commenting on how Nelson Mandela, who passed away today, stoop up for LGBT people, which was unprecedented in South Africa.  The Metropolitan Communitty Church of Dallas in 1980 hired Joan Wakeford as a pastor from South Africa, when I was living there, at a time when things were very bad.  I remember seeing Richard Attenborough’s “Cry Freedom” (Universal) with a boyfriend at Northpark in Dallas in 1987 – a film made well before Mandela’s release, about a journalist who has to escape from the country to get a book published about a black prisoner who dies in police custody.  Ted Koppel talked about South African on Nightline all the time in those days.  

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

UK newspaper, Sport Lobster both report on more openly gay athletes

More Olympic and potentially professional male athletes are announcing that they are gay publicly, according to a big article by Adam Sherwin in the British news site “Independent” with a story about track medalist Tom Daley, link here

Other stars are rugby player Gareth Thomas, former Washington Wizards NBA star Jason Collins (who has not found a team), cricket player Stephen Davies, United football player Robbie Rogers, and skater John Curry.
Yup, we wait to hear about this in some US sports, like hockey and Major League Baseball.  The major league franchisers are all coming on board with non-discrimination policies.  Think Progress has a big story July 16, 2013 here (MLB's own link is here). Inevitably, we will hear more announcements, especially in the US.  There are some gifted men who did not go into sports because of an implicit "ban" in the past.  But years ago, Dave Kopay wrote a book about being gay (and in the closet) in the NFL. 
I did get an email press release about Daley from Sport Lobster, and there's blog post of the release here

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Gay press aggressive in full rights for military couples; can we regress if Obmacare causes Democrats to lose it all in 2014, 2016?

Lead Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson has a front page story on the Black Friday edition of the Blade, “How goes transition to open military service? Don’t ask”, link here
The focus of the article is overwhelmingly about equal benefits for military and veteran families of same-sex couples.  There are problems with some states’ national guard units (although Texas has finally agreed to start processing the benefits) because of state constitutions and a disagreement over “federalism”.  There are real problems with veterans not married in states recognizing marriage.

There seem to be no tensions at all in the units being reported, despite all the predictions about "privacy" and "unit cohesion" made when the debate started in 1993.  There was, however, an odd issue with a hire of an ex-gay advocate at the Air Force Academy.
It sound like pouring ice water, but can the really astounding progress in the military issue since 2009 (which started slowly but whipped up late in 2010 with the repeal law, and the official recognition in September 2011) be undone if the Democratic Party tanks badly in 2014 and 2016 over the Obamacare rollout and actuarial fiasco?
Seriously, it (Obamacare) may indeed get better quickly on 2014, and prices for “the healthy” but underemployed may well come down if the insurance exchanges get their acts together.  But I do wonder if there is a real danger if the GOP winds up in full control in 2016.  It can be argued that the nation’s finances might be more stable since the partisan bickering that almost led to default would stop – but we can always have another 2008 or worse anyway, or another national security debacle as we did with Bush.
Christie will probably be very moderate on gay issues and not try to roll back military progress or on ENDA or marriage rights, for that matter.  He really does sound like someone who wants to govern and do the job.  I worry about some other potential candidates, though (Cruz). 
Last night, by the way, I just sat for a quiet evening of Karaoke at Freddie’s in Arlington.  Holiday weekend crowd was good there, but I don’t know how it would have been “in town”.