Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The new conversation about marriage (and respect for it)


Despite her recent column opposing allowing women to serve in all combat jobs, Kathleen Parker writes today that “same-sex marriage can help save the institution”, link here

Parker writes about the change in position by David Blankenhorn from the “Institute for American Values”, from opposing same-sex marriage on its face, to asking “How can we save marriage?” 

The button for it is “Marriage: A New Conversation”, as on the IAV website here

There are many interesting talking points on his list.  A couple of points deal with the correlation between the permanence of marriage and wealth.  In fact, it is very interesting that he wants to emphasize the “inequality” aspects of the marriage debate, which would seem to relate to the loss of disposable income when people raise children, as well as the growing “burdens” of eldercare because of demographics, which no one can escape just by abstinence.

There is a cultural question, too. How do people correlate their relationships – the keeping an intimate interest in another person during difficulties and challenges – with their own sense of self-concept built by their own efforts outside of marriage  (or preceding it) – which depends on “luck” more than we want to admit.


The IAV above “Can we talk rather than shout about gay marriage?: The Conversation”.   

I see that the New York Times also has a story by Mark Oppenheimer, "In shirt, activist enlists same-sex couples in pro-marriage coalition", link here. The article talks about the difficulty in "raising money" for moderate positions that actually would encourage marriage and reinforce external respect for the institution. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Boy Scouts of America is about to end its ban on gays (NBC)


The national association of the Boy Scouts of America is about to end its ban on gay members and scoutleaders, although it would allow local chapter to have their own policies.

Pete Williams, Justice Correspondent for NBC News, reports.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The BSA, as a private organization, won a pyrrhic victory to keep its ban from the Supreme Court in 2000 (in the James Dale case), but has faced major opposition from many local governments and communities who will not allow it to rent or use public spaces. 

I did notice on the Fairfax County Public Schools website that FCPS (Virginia) allows the BSA to use its facilities.

The end of the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the  military could also have provided psychological pressure to the BSA.  In chess, we call it “positional pressure.”


Update:

Not to throw cold water on lifting the ban, the Washington Post on Tuesday, Jan. 29, indicates that the scouting world is "divided" on lifting the ban, in a story by Michelle Boorstein and Annie Gowen, here (p A3).   At the heart of the matter seems to be a question about the way a large national organization is perceived as socializing young men into following certain common gender norms as if they were morally determined.

A national vote may occur Feb. 6.

Petula Dvorak wrote a column this week for the Washington Post explaining the Boy Scout ban on gays as "skewed thinking" or the same ilk that we saw with Anita Bryant in Florida back in 1977.
 
The second picture shows the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in downtown Dallas, as under construction in November, 2011.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why gay marriage wasn't a big issue until at least the 1990s


I’ll be reviewing Ben Shapiro’s book “Bullies” soon (the context is not what you think it is at first), but I did want to recoup a few impressions about the gay marriage “debate” as “conservatives” see it.

For most of my adult life, I didn’t see marriage as an important issue, and it didn’t get talked about very much at all until the 1990s. In the past, "we" just wanted to be left alone!

I felt that anyone who would be a partner, since he would be someone I would “look up to” (the upward affiliation process), would be forever independent, so the idea of marriage benefits seemed totally superfluous.

The military ban, however, when it became a public issue in the early 1990s, struck me as having much more importance, because the government could still compel military service from males if it wanted to.  Someone not fit to take on “equal responsibility” might not be able to claim “equal rights”.  That’s how I saw it.

The instinctive “conservative” reaction would be not to offer (marriage) benefits to someone who should take care of himself. 
  
The spousal benefits that we first heard about in debate often concerned medical issues, where one partner is hospitalized (and this issue had been more prominent during earlier years of the AIDS epidemic).
  
The tax benefit for gay couples seemed rather irrelevant in practice, because gay couples, more likely to be childless, were seen as having more disposable income. Often individual health insurance premiums were lower (without kids), even though people could not, in the past, get health insurance for spouses, and  employers could not provide the premiums for same-sex spouses with pre-tax dollars. 
  
Furthermore, many “not legally married” couples were actually better off because of the so-called marriage penalty, which was essentially repealed for lower income families in 2003 (but could return). See the Wikipedia link on this here

Social Security benefits for spouses typically did not matter since usually both partners depended on their own earnings records (see this). 

Estate and inheritance taxes were likely to be a bigger deal.  A surviving non-married partner, on inheriting a home or business, typically had to sell the business  or home to pay the tax, which a legally married spouse would not have to do.
  
When there really are dependents, particularly children (as with gay couples raising childrens – the “Will and Sonny” situation that we’re likely to see soon on the NBC soap “Days of our Lives” – previous post), the need for fairness in benefits becomes apparent.  That would also be true when a couple cares for parents.  If one wants to be “fair”, one would offer benefits only when there is actually an economic dependence in the family unit (including pregnancy), a kind of “means test”.
  
Social conservatives, however, seem focused on the format of a marital conjugal relation, the idea that it fits the biological format for potential procreation.  Something else is going on here, a need to feel superior, or more deserving because of the “risk” one takes or has been capable of taking. 
  
There’s another big reason for “marital equality”.  It’s the old “Sicilian Defense” problem: if you aren’t equal, you’ll be worse off.  People not in relationships recognized as legitimate by others tend to be on the front lines for sacrifice and expropriation to meet the needs of people with “more responsibility”.  My own period of eldercare showed me that. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

NBC Soap "Days" looks at gay men having and (probably) raising children: It's "real life"


Here is something I don’t remember covering:  Have most, or many, gay men had sex with a woman at least once? 

There’s not much on the Internet that is definitive.  Here’s Datalounge forum link on the issue. 

And here’s a Yahoo! answers forum link.

When I was living in New York City in the 1970s, indeed some men told me that they never had “crossed the line”.  Indeed, that is true of me.
   
It’s hard to estimate percentages.  Are “masculine personalities” (in Rosenfels theory) more likely to have done so?

Are men who appear physically competitive (and that’s somewhat in the eye of the beholder) more likely to have done so?  My own impression, not very scientific, is, yes.

There is a short film on the topic, “Gayby”, which I have seen; I haven’t seen the featured made from it.  (See movies blog, Sept. 12, 2010.)

In the soap opera “Days of our Lives”, Will Horton (who is supposed to be 19, and is played by Chandler Massey) started a “relationship” with Sonny Kiriakas (Freddie Smith)  last fall.  But, partly in order to please his father (Lucas) that he is a “man”, Will had relations with an old high school girl frield Gab n a sudden encounter.  Pregnancy resulted.  Another character, Nick Fallon (his is a long story, and the writers made a formerly likable geek a jerk)  wants to marry Gabi and raise the child as his. (Neither Will nor Nick understand how Gabi harmed Melanie and Chad, and that’s another subplot. This is a long, typically complicated soap opera plot that can play the ”gay boy” angle, maybe for ratings.  Readers can go to “Soap Opera Fan” (link) for details.)  

The interesting point is that Will (and Chandler Massey has succeeded in getting audiences to really bond with the character) had “come out” (through a long, convoluted sequence) and then suddenly consummated a relationship with Gabi, which he apparently never done before when he was actually dating her.  Will goes along with Nick’s desire to let Nick pretend it is his, but then changes his mind after Chad forces the issue.  Nick makes a lot of protecting his pregnant bride-to-me and the life within, but suddenly Will, when he goes to the sonogram, feels attached to the baby, although not to Gabi.
  
It’s interesting to me that I’ve never experienced comparable feelings.  I tried heterosexual dating for about five months in the latter part of 1971, with two women, about ten dates.  Nothing close to any kind of intimacy ever happened.  And I don’t detect the capacity in myself for these sorts of feelings as I see with Nick and now Will in “Days”.
   
Maybe there is something to the “epigenetics” and hypothalamus theory, that leads some men not to feel much instinct for reproduction and their own biological potential.  But Will seems to have that link, but his capacity for an intense erotic and emotional relationship with another adult seems separated from reproduction, perhaps based on polarity (although between Will and Sonny, I can’t tell who is masculine and who is feminine in Rosenfels terminology.  Both personalities seem “balanced” in Rosenfels taxonomy, which makes discerning polarity more difficult.)

I say that I was lightyears away from conventional heterosexual adaptation, but in another sense I was millimeters away.  With slight changes in biology or circumstance, I could have been heterosexual and wanted marriage and still experienced myself as almost the same person.  It’s the “almost” that is tough.  It’s  more or less a topology problem of “connectedness”.  I may be close to the “reproductive” state in terms of a mathematical measure space, but I’m separated by some kind of discontinuity or singularity.  This seems to get into physics as much as biology. Maybe quantum physics.
   
I have gotten the impression, at times, that others expected me to exhibit the same sorts of feelings and passions, for real women and babies, rather than the “upward affiliating” fantasies that I enjoy.
Maybe this isn’t a moral question but just a practical one.  The writers are clearly setting up the possibility that Will and Sonny could raise Will’s daughter as gay dads.  (There is one mommy and “three daddies”.)  And Will seems powerful, able to manipulate the normally self-confident Sonny by messaging Sonny’s ears! (at the end of today’s episode).  Sonny may find that raising someone else’s child (which he is obviously capable of doing) as an adoptive co-parent  may be the best way to make the rest of his life work.  And Sonny is no Jean Valjean; Will’s daughter will not be a Cosette.
  
Anyone could, even in the “gay world”, find himself stepping into a parenting opportunity when getting into a relationship.  In all these years of MCC, the Cathedral of Hope, and liberal mainstream churches in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Washington, I’ve never heard this point made in a sermon. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama sets precedent with mention of LGBT equality in inaugural speech


Everybody is talking about President Obama’s explicit mention of equal rights for LGBT people in his inaugural speech Monday, the first such mention ever in history.  It will be hard for “social conservatives” to complain very much about it.

Equal rights are important for one very important reason: to stop others from excluding, bullying, or expropriating from gay people, or, more pertinently, people who appear disinclined to have children.
Anderson Cooper explained well on Monday night (both in reporting on CNN on the speech and on his AC360 show) that in the more distant past, LGBT people were often harassed even when they tried to assemble in their own communities, as he gave the history of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC in June 1969.  
  
I remember well those evenings at the Gay Activist Alliance of NY in the “Firehouse” on 99 Wooster Street in Soho  around 1973, when GAA would make out checks for bills to the “New York Telephone Bigots”.
Probably, a lot of the “rationalization” for anti-gay attitudes is pretty well encapsulated by Vatican theology (as in that 1986 advisory taking about “objective disorders” and more recently in its handling of the priest abuse scandals).  There is a notion that civilization is predicated on the idea that, in practice, people are never “equal” and must experience complementarity.  Moreover, individuals must be willing to accept sacrifice, or at least personal risk, for the good of the group. Of course, such ideology makes people easy fodder for power-driven authoritarianism (and a cult of "superiority"), in the name of patriotism or social "solidarity".  
      
Sacrifice can be in different modes or forms for different people.  In older times, women took risks and sometimes died merely by childbirth.  (The recent medical problems of Kate Middleton’s royal pregnancy in Britain remind us that the whole process is indeed still difficult for some women.)  Men took risks by going to war, or by doing physically dangerous work, to protect women and children.  It’s not surprising that a culture of gender conformity seemed necessary in older times.  For those men who were “different”, abstinence then seemed like a morally appropriate expectation.  The Vatican, as do most religions, know full well that some people are biologically less inclined to participate directly in giving the tribe a progeny and biological future.  
  
So they invent another “sacrifice” that seems to make things fair.  That is, sexuality is to be experienced only within marriage and intended procreation.  They maintain that allowing anything else distracts (both economically and personally) married couples from their tribal duties.  It’s hardly clear that this is a scientifically justifiable belief.  But the resulting “sacrifice” previously expected of me – for primarily this reason – turned out to be considerable.  

First picture: The Stonewall, NYC, March 2012, indoors.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Army denies same-sex couple right to attend retreat; many problems because of DOMA


The New York Times has a story by Rachel L. Swarns, Sunday January 20, 2013, “Military rules leave gay spouses in the cold”, link (website url) here.

Despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, same-sex military couples, legally married in some states (which now can include Maryland) are denied most spousal benefits by military rules, which the government says are in some part predicated on the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, now under constitutional challenge.  The Marine Corps has ironically been a little more progressive than the other services.  (Once, on an Army Basic bivouac in 1968, I said, “The Marines are tougher than the Army!)
Same-sex military couples cannot get discounted housing or other consumer benefits.

But the most galling part of the story concerned a military family retreat at Fort Bragg, NC (I think that meant only one member of a couple was in the Army).  A lesbian was told to leave a retreat my a military chaplain after she was told that her presence made the heterosexuals, pondering how to keep the intimacies of their marriages going, “comfortable” and distracted.

That hits the hammer of the “old chestnut” debates on both the “gays in the military” and gay marriage debates – that others are distracted and lose cohesion and focus.  It’s particularly disturbing now in the marriage issue because it insinuates that straight couples may not be able to maintain long-term conjugal intimacy, when under stress, if they believe that same-sex couples can do the same.

This problem ought to change, given the Commander-in-Chief's bold inaugural speech today. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of barracks at Fort bragg, link. 


I drove through Fort Bragg in the fall of 1992, and had the pleasure of witnessing an auto accident.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

VA General Assembly will OK appointment of openly gay prosecutor to bench


The Virginia General Assembly appears ready to ratify the appointment of openly gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland to a judgeship in Richmond.

The Virginia House had rejected him before when conservatives complained about his publicity speaking out early during the 1993 debate on gays in the military, appearing on ABC Nightline and testifying in front of Strom Thurmond in a famous hearing at Norfolk Naval Base.  (That's when Thurmond said "It isn't natural...." and the audience applauded.  Later Sam Nunn low-crawled on a submarine deck, before TV cameras, to make a point about "privacy".)   
  
Conservatives no longer were claiming they would deny the appointment because Thorne is gay, but because he sought public attention to his life and to his views, creating what they view as a “conflict of interest”. 
  
This sounds like archaic reasoning now, partly because “don’t ask don’t tell” has been repealed.  But in the 1990s it was taken seriously.  Similar concerns led me to do a corporate transfer and relocation (away from a part of a life insurance company that dealt with the military) when I published my book in 1997.  It isn’t silly at all.  It determined the course of much of my own life.

The Washington Post story by Laura Vozzella is here

Thorne's story was last covered here May 15, 2012.  

Also in Virginia, lawmakers have quashed an effort to start a repeal of Marshall-Newman (2006), which bans gay marriage and civil unions (link) .

In Minnesota, Katherine Kersten (from the Center for the American Experiment) has written a column criticizing the state’s new anti-bullying campaign as an attempt to install pro-gay ideology in school systems, link here

In Anoka country (north of Minneapolis), there was litigation after two or more student suicides related to anti-gay bullying, claiming that the school district’s “neutrality” policy actually was a “back door” invitation to bullying.

I can say, from my own days in substitute teaching, that the most critical measure of effectiveness is for school officials to jump on bullying from any cause, and to have a zero-tolerance policy.  That should not be related to what is in the social studies curriculum. 
  
Minnesota voters turned down an anti-gay marriage amendment on 2012. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Marine Corps protects gay spouses at (military base) clubs


The Washington Blade (and other gay media) are reporting that the Marine Corps is now banning anti-gay discrimination at clubs for spouses, in this story by Chris Johnson in the Jan. 13 issue, link here

The picture in the Blade article of grunts doing pushups in Basic is rather humorous.  Just look at the picture and see what you notice.

Nobody will ever know if all the Seal Team 6 members in the “pawn storm” against Osama bin Laden (and his “castled position”) were straight.

Back in 1993, when the debate on gays in the military was starting, remember that Commandant Mundy didn’t want to let married men enlist either.  They didn’t want gays, and they didn’t want straights.
  
I'm also reminded now also of the Army Navy Club in south Arlington VA (not so far from Freddie's Beach Bar). Twice in the 1990s I was invited there (with my Mother) for Easter and Mother's Day dinners.  It seemed so exclusive. And it seemed odd to be there, given the politics of the times. 
  
Last night I went to Remington’s (near Capitol Hill, in SE Washington DC, a block from the Orange Line Eastern Market) , for variety.  This was a Latin music show for the dance floor, reminding me of a street fair in El Paso, Texas the first weekend of 1979 (while I was moving to Dallas).  The color lights display came not from Christmas, but from the 1996 movie “Lone Star”. 


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Servicemembers discharged under the repealed DADT policy can get severance pay


Media sources are reporting today that US military personnel discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” before its repeal (September 2011) can now recover full severance pay from their discharges. 
Government Excutive has a story  by Kedar Pavgi, link here

Chris Geidner has the original story about “Collins v. USAF”, the settlement of which  (with the ACLU) resulted in agreement to back severance pay, in Buzzfeed on the same site. 

I haven't heard the term "severance pay" used in the active-duty military context before.  That reflect the idea that military service is a "job". 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Log Cabin takes out ad in Washington Post against Hagel for Secretary of Defense


Log Cabin Republicans took out a full page ad in the Washington Post, today, Monday January 7, 2013, p. A7, to question President Obama’s presumptive nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. The ad must have cost thousands; someone must have donated the money to pay for it.   Both liberals and conservatives have criticized the choice.

Apparently there have been two ads, according to the LCR press release, here

Log Cabin  points out several sins:  In 1996, Hagel said he would support the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, which Bill Clinton signed.  In 1998, he called a Clinton ambassadorial appointment James Hormel (to Luxembourg) “aggressively gay”.  In 1999, he opposed repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”.  In 2005, he criticized a federal judge’s ruling invalidating a Nebraska law invalidating same-sex marriage. 
Hagel apologized for all these remarks recently in 2012.

Is the “times change” defense enough?  Even public school systems tell kids that. 

In 1996, the idea of DOMA might have seemed defendable, even “progressive”, if it made it easier for states to start experimenting with same-sex unions and marriages, without concerns about Full Faith and Credit.  In the 90s, allowing states flexibility would have been seen as a quasi-libertarian position.  That’s not so now. We’ve outgrown the “states’ rights” trick.

And in 1993 to 1994, not “asking” was seen as an “advance” regarding gays in the military. (Before, “asking” at recruitment had been required, although that hadn’t actually been so in the 1960s with the draft – a fact that very few politicians or activists knew in the 90s. )  One problem as that the attitude turned more into “ask if necessary” and the continuation of witchhunts, even though they were sporadic in nature.  The malignancy spread to problems like the Solomon Amendment and then ROTC recoupments.  In the end, HBO would tell us about “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. 

Social advances generally do take time.   

Hagel would be the first enlisted veteran to become Secretary of Defense. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Sperm donor in Kansas on the hook for child support after lesbian parents split


The state of Kansas is going after William Marotta, 46, for child support, after the lesbian couple (Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer) for whom he had donated sperm, broke up, and the child needed health care from the state.  The National Public Radio story by Bill Chappell is here.

Part of the legal problem is that the couple did the insemination without the use of a licensed medical facility. 
    
A 1994 Kansas law allows a sperm donor to be responsible for the child if a licensed medical doctor is not used for the artificial insemination procedure. The law presumes a donor is a father because there could have been a relationship that produced the child after all, unless a doctor certifies otherwise.

Marotta had signed away all parental rights.  

The Topeka Capitol-Journal also has a story here.
  
Second picture:  I visited an informal Log Cabin Republicans gathering at Nellie’s in Washington DC last night.  Nobody talked about the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling but me!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Pentagon still bans LGBT-advocacy websites from its computers


SLDN is reporting an AmericaBlog story that it and Towleroad are banned on Pentagon computers for being “LGBT”, whereas conservative political sites are allowed.  The AmericaBlog story is (web url) here. SLDN tweeted the story today. 
   
The censorship should have gone away with the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”.  It apparently hasn’t.
        
Furthermore, the Air Force specifically bans some sites for “political advocacy”. 
    
I wonder if this blog, or if my “doaskdotell.com” is banned on Pentagon computers.  If someone knows, please comment.  I do know that my sites get traffic from Saudi Arabia but not from China.
   
The DOD, at least on Internet policy, seems about on the same level as China.   

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Years Eve: Did people who should be working for all of us go clubbing? (Those Republicans)


Town DC was already packed when I got there, about 10:30 New Years Eve.  There were a couple of familiar people from other sectors of my life.   (By the way, it’s hard to avoid mistaken identities with Metro Weekly party and bar photos. There is a lot you can do to a picture.)  I also think there were some Republicans  (yes, at Town)  playing hooky from a House vote on the Fiscal Cliff.  The House adjourned tonight so that members of Congress could go out and club, just as they did Sunday night to go to the Redskins’s game (or at least watch it).  The Senate (whose members are too old for clubbing) stayed in session and did its job.

Everybody got angels’ halos after Jan. 1 arrived.  Maybe that’s a sign of eternal life, never growing old, being able to make journeys to other planets.  In fact, one of the partygoers notice that the inside of the disco strobe lights looked exactly like the innards of Travis Walton’s UFO back in 1975.

After midnight, the Town had a brief dance show upstairs, with the Dance Camp.  The "Ladies of Town" did the opening drag show downstairs.  No football scores were announced, and no Cliff votes were mentioned either. 

When I got back to Ballston Garage, a couple needed a jump start.  That’s the first time I’ve done this in thirty years/  The fifty year old cables, from my mother’s old car, really worked.  Maybe that’s good karma.
  
Anderson Cooper stayed in NYC at Times Square, but he had a cohost broadcast New Years from Key West, from Duval Street.   Been there once myself, in 1986.  I have a feeling that Anderson likes Duval Street. 

They played "America the Beautiful" in Times Square tonight right after the ball dropped.  

Wikipedia attribution link for Key West Picture