Saturday, March 30, 2013

A few decades ago, gay men scoffed at marriage


It is certainly striking to an “elder” like me how the public perception of gay marriage – and marriage in general – has changed since the time of my own coming of age.
  
The two most radical revelations from the Supreme Court hearings this weekend, from my perspective, were the way DOMA offends the very setup of federalism, and particularly the notation (by Justice Kagan) that the House went out of its way to express “collective” animus toward homosexuality when it reported out on DOMA in 1996.  Apparently that animosity had grown out of the “gays in the military” debate in 1993.
    
I do think that the supposed “animus” was more about the notion that, among two grown males, one could become dependent on another and expect benefits from the relationship.  Of course, it’s better for people to take care of one another than wait for the government to do it (some personal hardships or disability simply cannot be prevented by “personal responsibility”), so that sort of notion seems short-sighted.
  
I want to reiterate that most gay men, and particularly older men, came of age in a time when the focus on a relationship was the experience that it provided the two people, not on whether it had approbation from society.  The backing away from expectations of social support was a very important part of the ethical philosophy of Paul Rosenfels and was often expressed in the talk groups at the Ninth Street Center in NYC back in the mid 1970s, long before there was any serious debate about marriage rights.

Indeed, it is possible (and real) to have a “relationship”  -- and romantic feelings for someone – and an experience, for the moment of it, without particular concern about the recognition from others.   That was my perception. 

For a long time, “settling down and getting married” was the world of “straight people”.  Having dependents – with the loss of discretionary income – changes all that.  
   
For years, I lived in a world where some married coworkers with kids were envious of my low expenses and ability to “spend money on myself” rather than kids.  It seemed that the “discretionary income” balanced out the tax preferences somewhat (particularly because employer-based health policies with family and child coverage are so much more expensive than employee-only policies).  In fact, marriage alone often didn’t give any real benefit over two single people because of the “marriage penalty” (which could penalize a couple for being married if both were relatively self-sufficient), link here.  In a post-Friedan world where women were starting to earn more, heterosexual couples sometimes avoided marriage commitment and envied unmarried gay singles, who often could pay less taxes by filing separately and staying in lower brackets.    It’s true, I paid school taxes to support “other people’s children” – and in Texas, you saw that on your mortgage statement explicitly every month.  But I thought that was OK.  I got a public education, so now I should pay for it when I was on my own. And everybody benefits from it, right?  Eventually, school systems would become significant employers of me.  It was all fair play in my eyes.

Had I come of age in a world that supported same-sex relationships and gay marriage, would I have been able to commit myself to one person for a half-century?  Would I have been able to raise children?  Certainly, I could have enjoyed the opportunity to start a relationship when young and "strong" with someone else who was likewise, and actually exciting, and experienced the relationship for its own sake, for the sequence of moments.  But could I have made it last?  I don't know.  When I lived in Dallas int he 1980s, there was a male couple together for 49 years (despite the prejudice) before one of them died.

I can say that I have never known jealousy. But that itself is double-edged. 
    
The real issue of needing benefits (and their being morally legitimate) comes up when there are dependents involved.  That could be a disabled or elderly spouse, children (including the unborn), or dependent elderly parents or other disabled family members.   That reality is becoming more apparent as the population ages and more of us face eldercare responsibilities, whether or not we had our own children. I had my share of this recently.  See “filial responsibility laws” as a label on my “retirement” blog.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pro sports teams players start speaking out for gay marriage, but seem not to have any gay players right now


Minnesota Vikings (Special Teams) punter Chris Kluwe, who I must say looks quite handsome and sounds very articulate, spoke on CNN  (to Anderson Cooper) Wednesday night in favor of same-sex marriage and equality. Kluwe had spoken out against a Maryland state delegate who tried to silence a Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl winners) player for supporting gay marriage.

The AC360 link ("People are not being treated fairly") is here (the embed stopped working quickly).

There is also a similar YouTine video:
  
But Kluwe affirmed what CNN reports, that to the best of anyone’s knowledge, there are no gay players right now in the NFL, MLB or NBA.   However, he said that the NLF and MLB are adopting stricter policies of preventing recruiters or coaches from inquiring into prospects’ social lives. 

Kluwe said that the pro sports world is extremely competitive at entry, and players don’t like distractions.   The intimate life of pro sports could provide more issues than it would, say, in other competitive fields like media, movies or music.  The lifting of “don’t ask don’t tell” for the military could help improve the climate for gay players.
  
A story about Kluwe is here
  
Professional players used to share hotel rooms on road trips (they could choose roommates), but I think that now they have private rooms.  In the minors they don’t, though.
  
There is more (social) contact between pro sports players and other celebrities and the general public now than there used to be because of Facebook and Twitter.  I even traded tweets with a couple of the Nationals after the playoff loss to St. Louis.  A few of them have homes or apartments not so far from my own location in Arlington, and could show up at popular neighborhood spots (like the Westover Market).  (There was rash of straight marriages in MLB during the post season.)  Opening Day for MLB is April 1. 
   
In 1965, I actually ran into the entire New York Mets baseball team at a Greyhound Bus Station, having been swept in a weekend series, in Pittsburgh after visiting a college friend at Carnegie.

Update:  March 29

More comments on CNN today tended to suggested that there are a few gay players (esp. in the NFL) who have not come out but might.  "Biseuxality" (among men who also marry and and have relations with women) may be more common that previously thought.    

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Supreme Court hearing on DOMA hints at an "easy way out" (maybe overturning); oral arguments posted


Oral arguments on DOMA have ended.  Jeffrey Toobin of CNN notes that DOMA may be in trouble, but the Court may lean in the direction that no one has standing to defend it right now, and just rule on the one plaintiff’s case. 
  
Very disturbing is the view, apparently articulated by some this morning,  that DOMA was seen by some as moral disapproval of homosexuality, as had the military ban had been before. This point when Justice Kagan read a news report from 1996 that suggested that Congress had wanted to express a categorical rejection (or a "collective moral judgment") of same-sex intimacy.  I had not been aware of this House Judiciary Committee report before.  There may simply be a sentiment that one male should never become economically dependent on another -- not a realistic idea any more.  
 
The story of Edith Windsor, now in her 80s, and her having to pay several hundred thousand dollars in inheritance taxes that a straight spouse would not have to pay, touched Justice Ginsberg, who referred to the idea of two-classes of marriage and even two-classes of citizens;  she used the term "skim milk marriage".

The CNN reverse order blog is here  .
  
Again, there are real questions about how DOMA impacts federalism.  One problem is that the benefits that the federal government pays (like social security survivorship) is affected by what states do.  Is that proper?  Another is that  “full faith and credit” is challenged, discouraging an idea of local experimentation on an uncertain idea, a concept previously seen as progressive.

ABC News has an account here and reports that Justice Kennedy questioned whether the federal government may regulate marriage, a state responsibility (with federal implications, though).

Justice Roberts castigated the Obama administration for "punting" to the Supreme Court on an issue it didn't want to defend.  


Indirectly, the question of whether Social Security is an “annuity” (funded by worker contributions) or a welfare benefit can come into question, too. 
  
The most important effect on many same-sex couples comes with estate taxes, of course. 

The links for the oral arguments and transcripts for today's argument are here (United States. v. Windsor), March 27, 2013.


Update: Later March 27

Pete Williams on NBC expressed the sentiment that the Court may very well strike down DOMA and rule that, when a state allows same-sex marriage, the federal government (and even other states) must recognize it and provide appropriate benefits.  This sounds more optimistic now than it had earlier during the day.  The story by Tim Curry is here.

On Thursday, March 28, Robert Barnes has one of the most detailed accounts of the DOMS hearings in the Washington Post, with more links to arguments, here. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Supreme Court seems likely to rule narrowly on Proposition 8, given the course of oral arguments today


The best account of the oral arguments on California Proposition 8 on same-sex marriage today in front of the Supreme Court seems to be the blog of Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, link here

Conservative justices Alito and Scalia seemed fine with letting states experiment, saying “we don’t know the effect of same-sex parents on children”. 

Justice Kagan reportedly made a bizarre suggestion that same-sex marriage be made invalid after the age at which children can be born, since there was so much concern over both the effect on children, and on the idea that society needs to invest incentives for family-centered procreation.  She was probably speaking in irony.  Actually, the children of same-sex couples would face discrimination under Prop 8 (the reverse of what was argued).

There was a general consensus among reporters that Justice Kennedy would be the swing vote, and is unlikely to want to decide the issue too much one way or another.  But there is another question as to whether a state’s voters can overturn what a state supreme court has deemed a “fundamental right”, apart from the way that question relates to how people feel about gay rights or gay marriage.  What if the issue were slavery or segregation instead?


ABC affiliate WJLA reports that widespread demonstrations, though quiet, moved to the Mall after the argument ended shortly before noon, in very chilly and windy weather, and muddy from yesterday’s snow.
NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams is also writing that a sweeping ruling on gay marriage is unlikely, given the course of questions today, link here

Will the presence of Justice Roberts’s lesbian cousin have a psychological effect?  The Los Angeles Times has a story here.

Charles Cooper, arguing for Proposition 8, conceded that opposition to gay marriage is likely to fail in the long run, as reported by the Huffington Post, here

Although I haven't been there recently to get an updated picture, the Supreme Court Building appears to be undergoing extensive renovation. 

A link to the Oral Argument transcript will be posted here as soon as it is available at "supremecourt.gov".

Update. March 27:  Oral arguments and transcripts are in a separate location at the bottom of the web page.  "Final" versions of the arguments will be posted in the normal place on Friday, March 29.  Here is the link for March 26,  Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

NYTimes outlines all possible outcomes from Supreme Court cases to be argued this week


An article in the Sunday New York Times by Adam Liptak, “Shadow of Roe v. Wade looks over two cases on same-sex marriage”, needs to be saved because of a very instructive chart on p. 16 of the National Section.  The link is here
  
You need to click on a second link (on the left), “Howthe Court Could Rule on Same-sSex Marriage:, to see what looks like a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation of Visio diagram.  The direct link is here
  
I would be inclined to doubt that the Supreme Court would rule that governments cannot define marriage as opposite-sex relationships only pm equal protection grounds.  But it may rule more narrowly, as the chart shows, in such a manner that gay marriage must remain legal in California or that the plaintiff in DOMA (Edith Windsor) can collect a judgment.  It seems unlikely that states that do not want to will be forced to accept same-sex marriage.

Interesting is the idea relationships cannot constitutionally be called “civil unions” if they have all the rights of “marriage”.  (Virginia tried to preclude even this possibility with Marshall-Newman, but the idea could backfire.) 

It is true that DOMA can run into serious constitutional questions in the way it evades the "Full Faith and Credit Clause".   

What seems important to me is not just the constitutional argument, but the practical one.  If you recognize certain sexual relationships as privileged in the law, then inevitably there will occur situations, hard to anticipate and nuanced, where people who did not enter such relationships are practically forced to sacrifice to subsidize the relations or families of people who did.  That may include the children being raised by same-sex couples. 
  
It has always struck me that “fair” or “equitable” public policy would recognize a relationship only when there is someone who is actually financially dependent.  That is, families take care of “their own” rather than depending on government.  If two adults are married, there is no benefit unless one of them is dependent (which could come if one loses a job).  However there is a benefit once a female in a relationship is pregnant – an unborn child is considered a dependent.   There is also a benefit if an elderly parent or disabled adult family member is being supported.  That’s the concept that seems “fair”.  

Today, CNN presented a lesbian couple, legally married in Washington DC, one of whom is an airman, and the other is a DC police officer.  The military member had to name her spouse as a "sister" to provide "next of kin" notification.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

CNN, New York times have major "opposing viewpoints" today on ENDA, gay marriage; CNN "Legal Guys" still talk in circles on constitutional issues


Today, CNN has an Opinion piece on ENDA by John Sutter, “No one should be fired for being gay”, link here.   
  
He discusses the case of Andre Cooley in Hattiesburg, MS, who was fired from employment by the Sherriff’s office after a call to police about a domestic disturbance with a boyfriend. 
   
The long article links to a piece by the Family Research Council that argues that ENDA will undermine the “free market”, linked today on my main “BillBoushka” blog in a discussion of “conflict of interest” and self-publishing.  Actually, Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) had argued against laws like ENDA in the 1990s, resulting on one particularly awkward press release in 1996. My question becomes, to people who want to fire gay employees, “why do you want to?  Why is someone else’s life skin off your bone?” One FRC argument, that gay “conduct” is “chosen” even if sexual attraction itself were immutable, would imply that extra sacrifices (for the supposed “common good”) should be expected of those who are emotionally different, so they can be made to “fit in”. 
  
Today, on CNN, Avery Fisher and Richard Herman, the “legal guys”, discussed the litigation to be argued before the Supreme Court, on DOMA and Proposition 8, on Tuesday.  People are already camping out all weekend to get in.  There was a lot of discussion of equal protection.
  
The New York Times has numerous articles on gay marriage today, but the most important seems to be “However justices rule, issues remain”, by Tara Siegel Bernard, link here, oddly under the “Your Money” column.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Opponents of gay marriage forced to articulate the sharp edges in their positions


The New York Times has several recent stories about the continuation of opposition to gay marriage among some parts of the conservative community, such as with this recent story Friday by Sheryl Gay Stohlberg about Brian Brown and the National Organization for Marriage, story link here

An earlier story Thursday by Ashley Parker had given more details. A Mr. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation is quoted “In redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, what youy’re doing is you’re excluding the norm of sexual complementarity. Once you exclude that norm, the three other norms – which are monogamy, sexual exclusivity and permanency – become optional as well.”

Opponents of gay marriage say they are not bigots and do not wish homosexuals ill will.  But there are problems of logical contradiction.  Their arguments suggest that the actual marriage experience of heterosexuals is lessened and less attractive unless it is socially privileged.  That will inevitably cause situations where those who don’t marry legally must make personal sacrifices to support those who do.  This becomes more likely as society becomes more connected or “reconciled” (as by the Internet) and as caregiving needs outside those of raising children – eldercare – increase steeply.  There is also a disturbing philosophical idea that some aspects of life should not be viewed as options for personal choice and will fall on individuals beyond their ability to control.  For starters, one cannot choose gender, or the inclination to feel any particular attraction.   

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DOMA really is an abusive of federalism after all


George F. Will has an instructive column about DOMA on p. A19 of the Washington Post on Thursday, “DOMA’s abuse of federalism”.  The link is here
  
DOMA, Will argues, sets itself up to reject states’ own policy judgments on domestic matters.  Will refers to an argument at Duke Law School that parallels DOMA to the federal government’s (and Full Faith and Credit) respecting state laws on no-fault divorce.  Suppose federal law refused to recognize a divorce unless there was a finding of fault?
  
On the other hand, in the 1990s it seemed reasonable that if the federal government were not to be bound by a state’s recognition of gay marriage, more states might be willing to try it.  I even suggested that with my proposed “Amendment 29” in Chapter 6 of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book.
  
Twenty years ago, there was a somewhat different perception of marriage and family, because the Internet had not developed enough to promulgate more progressive views.  On the one hand, there was a notion that marrying and having a family was a private choice, a morally neutral "option", expressive of self.  “Yuppies” could do very well in life by avoiding it.  Despite the tax preferences for some couples and families, many other families found their discretionary income crimped, and sometimes faced a “marriage penalty”. In the gay area, as views slowly became more tolerant (particularly when Bill Clinton posed the idea that gays should be able to serve openly in the military, leading to the 17 year battle over DADT).  But there was a feeling that in a parthership between two young, healthy men (or two women), both working and capable of self-sufficiency and (compared to today) less likelihood or becoming involved in parenting, there was no reason to worry about benefits.
   
I will have to note Will’s argument in my finale revisions to my “DADT III” update, which I hope will be out late this spring.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don't forget about ENDA


Ruth Marcus has a valuable perspective on ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) in an article on p A19 of the Washington Post, “Gays and the right to work”, link here.  

ENDA, as I recall, was introduced in the spring of 1993, and has never gotten far, which may seem surprising given the eventual lifting of the ban on gays in the military (DADT repeal) and a rapid “sea legs” change in gay marriage.  Marcus presents some studies regarding resume contents (mentioning LGBT volunteer activities) and interview callbacks, and show that the experience is better for LGBT people in coastal or other blue states than in the south and some of the Midwest, where legal protections are absent or weak.  It would be interesting (and disturbing) to extend the study to contents of social media of applicants.
  
And the GOP is rapidly learning that it doesn’t pay to just remain the party of required social conformity.
Even the new Pope Francis will have to deal with this.  Comments about his social views are mixed, as there is some evidence of moderation or equivocation in private.  
  
Religious leaders often do look for specific prescriptions (or prohibitions) in scripture, which cannot be imposed on “non-believers” (although most conservative religions try).  It seems clear to me that “nature”, or theoretical physics, seems to presuppose an obligation to support other generations, including new life – because “renewal” is the only answer physics has to entropy.  That idea of responsibility for others doesn’t wait up for getting someone pregnant.  

Argentina was the first country to approve gay marriage in South America, according to a NY Times article.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

News poll finds rapid increase in general public support of gay marriage


A Washington Post and ABC News poll shows that public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, now up to 58%, mirroring the portions of a decade ago. And among people 18-29, the support is 81%.
    
The link for the story by Jon Cohen is here

Hilary Clinton has also "come out" in support of gay marriage.  That helps set her up for 2016, perhaps.  
The passing of the desperate arguments by Maggie Gallagher and Jennifer Roback Morse is remarkable.  And “Focus on the Family” is finding the “Garden of the Gods” near Colorado Springs as a bit less glamorous as a symbol of righteousness.  (I saw the grounds from a distance in 1994.)
   
This really is a generational thing.  Young adults in the west are much less “tribal” in their self-awareness than were their ancestors.  And young adults seem to just be more "fluid", almost like chess players who don't like blocked positions.   

Section picture: Atlantic City's disco is somewhere in this area; I didn't have time to look for it Thursday.  I was there in 2004, and they didn't allow tennis shoes in the disco; don't know why.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St Patrick's Day and 80s music mix in the clubs


Town Discotheque in Washington DC featured 79s, 80s and 90s music in its upstairs dance floor for its Saint Patrick’s weekend party.
  
The crowd was very large, had a lot of new faces, and seemed really into the older music.  I think a lot of patrons would like to see 80s music every week.  Included on the menu were “Dancing Queen” and “Macho Man”.  The latter song, from the late 1970s and the Village People, would seem to carry a curious and disturbing irony during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980. “In the Navy” would be popular in the 1990s when Clinton started to apply pressure to lift the ban on gays in the military.

The 80s music made me feel that I was back in Dallas. In the 80s, the Village Station, on Cedar Springs, with its balcony,was the largest dance floor (after the Old Plantation was "ruined").  Across the street, Magnolia's became the Roundup (much larger than Remingtons in DC).  The VS is now the Station 4, and moved a few doors down toward dowtown.  Perhaps one could step outside the Town, get swept by a tornado, and wind up on Cedar Springs.  That's how it feels.   
  
The U Street area continues with its growing pains, adding new condos and businesses (there is a new Pizza place next to Town).  The nearby 930 Club seeks to get more national attention for the performers it attracts.  At the same time, as with any gentrified area which has undergone sudden real estate development (from having been part of the post-1968 inner city at one time), troubling security problems remain.   The H Street area in NE will develop in a similar way, as did the area around Nationals Park. 
  
80s music has its own following in major cities, especially in mixed and “straight” clubs.  For example, the Culture Club on 39th Street in Manhattan features it. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ohio GOP Senator Portman supports gay marriage after learning of gay son


Senator Rob Portman, Republican Senator of Ohio, now backs gay marriage, having learned that his son is gay.  The New York Times has a story by Jeremy Peters Friday, here

Portman is the only Republican so far to support same-sex marriage publicly.  But a number of other Republicans have actually supported a brief before the Supreme Court for litigation that would strike down DOMA.

The “coming out” of adult children of major conservative politicians is starting to have a real effect.  Portman said he had a “change of heart”. In 1999, he had actually supported a provision preventing same-sex couples in Washington DC from adopting children (it went nowhere). 

There is even a story that in "Bowers v. Hardwick" in 1986, one of the justices who voted for the negative decision didn't know that his lead clerk was gay. 

Opponents of same-sex marriage are having to come to terms with why it is so important to them that a (by form) procreative act be possible for a relationship to be legitimate.  Older religious and tribal societies have, of course, viewed procreation and fertility as essential to the future and even survival of the group, so a member who does not care about having children could be seen as unworthy of the group.  A pluralistic, technological society can have concerns that everyone believe that what happens after he or she is gone really matters, given sustainability issues.  The Vatican tends to view openness to procreation (and its risks) as closely related to being able to care about other people when they are helpless or really needy.

But this is "the other side of the street" in moral thinking so often concerned with "choice", free will, and unwanted pregnancy.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

VA "crimes against nature" law struck down officially; 13 states haven't been

A federal appeals court has officially invalidated Virginia's "crimes against nature" law, based on Lawrence v. Texas.  The ruling seems a bit confusing because the Virginia case involved a heterosexual solicitation by a 47 year old man of a 17 year old girl, and the age of consent in Virginia is 18 (as it is in California, Arizona, Wisconsin, and a few other states).  There may have been some lingering question since a heterosexual application wouldn't violate equal protection, although it would seem to violate due process.  But it would make sense (to me at least) to apply the age of consent laws anyway (even if they are set higher than necessary).  

Atlantic Wire has a story here.

Thirteen other states still have sodomy laws on the books, despite Lawrence v Texas, and some apply to gay only. Texas 21.06 is apparently still on the books.

The AP story appeared in the Washington Post, here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Major shooting spree in DC puts new (wrongful) pressure on clubs



Some people are calling for closing down of nightclubs in the North Capitol Street area after a drive-by shooting spree early March 11 injured about 13 people, about a mile and a half north of the Capitol. 
  
It is quite possible that the spree is gang-related and has nothing to do with the clubs, although the spree occurred as many people left.  None of the clubs involved are “gay” clubs as far as I know.
Still, it is of concern that as “gentrification” of many of the older areas of Washington DC occur, some people want to blame the presence of the clubs.  A number of major gay clubs are located in the now trendy U-Street area (about one mile from the site of this latest incident), again gentrified by real estate development in the past ten years.  Violence has been (perhaps incorrectly) attributed to some of the “straight” clubs in the area, as discussed before. Gentrification and condo real estate development will continue:  the H Street corridor in NE Washington will be next (it lacks a Metro stop, though).  Low income people are pushed out, and there are bound to be issues regardless of clubs.  

  
Disagreements (sometimes, in recent months, over photography)  do occur in bars when people have consumed alcohol, and in my experience, 99.9% of them settle without incident.   Gay clubs rarely have violent incidents in any city, as far as I can tell.   It’s the “.1%” that puts everyone in jeopardy.  

Update: More recent media reports indicate that there was a fight at a Capitol Street club.  That isn't good news. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

SLDN: report shows that DOMA now hurts military effectiveness


I did not attend the SLDN Annual Dinner for 2013 last night, as I was away yesterday.  Priorities would have included equal rights for same-sex partners of legally married servicemembers, but probably even more pressing is dealing with reenlistment options and benefits (separation or retirement) for those discharged previously under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” before 2011.

I will find quite an exhibit on “military values” at the Frostburg Museum in Maryland yesterday.  I also found a convenience store that advertised itself as a “Veteran Owned Business”.
  
SLDN-OutServe  has an article and press release on how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still in litigation harms the US Armed Forces here

On the international area, Queen Elizabeth II is adding a provision against discrimination to the Commonwealth Charter, but it seems to avoid specific reference to sexual orientation in order to avoid disturbing Commonwealth members that have anti-gay laws.  Huffington has a story here
  
What does happen in the Royal Family is some day the main heir  to the throne is openly gay? There is still a big spectacle over heterosexual marriage and, of course, babies.  I don’t think an adopted child can be in succession.  

Update: March 19

Metro Weekly has some photo coverage of the SLDN national dinner here

Friday, March 08, 2013

Days' "Will and Sonny": I can imagine scenarios that create a greater moral challenge


I see that I discussed “Will and Sonny” from “Days of our Lives” on Jan. 24, and recent episodes have impressed me with the way someone else who is self-righteous enough (Nick Fallon, played by Blake Berris) could bully Will (Chandler Massey) into (apparently) giving up any claim on his daughter, and then say he was doing it because he hated Will for being gay.  That was a horrible confrontation.  Also terrifying was the stuff about “I did my time, some other people don’t do theirs.”  It looks like something “happened” to Nick in prison all right, and he is taking it out on Will.
  
But the whole setup seems artificial.  Will, after all, was capable of enough heterosexual interest to father a child, the biological way.  The “normal” expectation is, if he has enough feeling for his own daughter in the womb of a woman, he could care for the woman too.  I wouldn’t have put myself in that situation.
  
I think if you want to show the dramatic potential of “external pressure” on a gay man, there are other dramatic ideas soap opera could look at.  For example, imagine two brothers, one gay and one straight, and the straight one has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.  The gay brother (who could be an identical twin because of epigenetics, but doesn’t have to be) is a donor match.  One situation is that he is HIV+ but asymptomatic because of the anti-retroviral drugs.  Obviously he can’t save his brother’s life.  Another situation is that he is HIV-, but forbidden to donate by FDA policy.
   
Or imagine a situation where there are two brothers, and the straight one is married with children.  The straight brother and his wife but not the kids die in a car accident.   The parents expect the younger brother to be able to raise the kids.  The younger brother is like Will with a partner like Sonny.  That could get interesting in a soap opera.  (I suppose it’s easier if the gay brother is like Nolan on “Revenge” and is already self-made and rich.) 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Surveys show large numbers of gays acting as parents, and with military service; DOJ brief on Prop 8 published


About two percent (or 6 million people) have a parent who is gay or lesbian.  One in five same-sex couples raises children.  And one ten male couples has at least one partner who is a military veteran (or on active duty).  These demographics are reported Sunday by Carol Morello in the Washington Post, with story link here

The 2010 Census had counted 640000 same-sex couples, with 130000 legally married according to their respective states.

Asking questions about sexual orientation in census surveys (including special surveys that are based on statistical sampling of all areas of the country) remains controversial.  Some respondents could find it intrusive, and some social conservatives don’t like facing the findings.

It’s also interesting to note the repeated pleas in the media (such as with NBC4’s “Wednesday’s Child”) for more people to become interested in adopting children, including hard-to-place teens.  In some cases, they seem to be interested in attracting singles and same-sex couples.  Polcymakers have not been willing to discuss this issue much.
    
On Friday, after discussing the federal sequestration, President Obama briefly  discussed his view on the litigation on same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, with a general link at the Whitehouse site here,   under “Expanding Equality”. 
  
The New York Times published a PDF of the DOJ’s amicus brief in the case of Hollingswoth v. Perry (Proposition 8) in California here
  
This is going to be an interesting Supreme Court season. 

Friday, March 01, 2013

"The Virtue of Maleness": Proposed Chapter 2 conclusion from "DADT-3" book


On the public policy level, we have seen a remarkable change in the area of “gay rights”.  What used to be posed in terms of the right to be left alone in one’s private life has migrated to a perception of sexual orientation as characterizing a separate “people” (or as Chandler Burr noted in a book title, “a separate creation”), who must be treated as equal, somewhat as what has happened with race.

At the same time, at the personal level, many of the same issues remain.  I’ll be explaining more in succeeding chapters how this developed for me once I had to assume eldercare responsibility for my mother.  But we look around and see unprecedented concern about bullying among our young people.  Is this new or getting worse, or are we no just no longer “too sinful to notice” (as a commentator in Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty once noted)?
  
I want to note here my own sense of personal loss at the tragic story of violinist Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide in September 2010 after his roommate spied on him in an intimate encounter and Rutgers University apparently didn’t do much about it.  He might have been a tremendous musical talent.  His roommate situation was in many ways very different from mine a half century before at William and Mary.  What he had said in private notes has not been disclosed, and I won’t get into complicated speculation, other than that he might have seen the world as too evil a place.  I would add, the idea that “It gets better” (so promoted by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres) seems incomplete, because such a phrase implies that some of the bullying is inevitable.  That’s not good.  Bullying happens because people believe that they have to fend for themselves in “social combat” and that the larger legal (and economic and political) “system” doesn’t work for them and therefore doesn’t “apply”.
  
I also want to emphasize, in these days, that the political correctness of “equality” blinds everybody to “the lives of real people”, that in the past (during my coming of age), efforts to witch-hunt gays, presumably to send an indirect message about the expectations of social conformity to the power structure, really took place.  Yes, at one time people were entrapped, and bars were raided, as late as 1980 in Dallas.   (And, by the way, despite the old stereotypes about public sex – only one person in my whole life ever approached me in such a setting, and that was way back in 1972 at a hotel hosting a high level chess tournament.)  The political environment during the AIDS epidemic for a while threatened to bring all this back.  The two-decade (almost) battle over the military ban brought this to a head.  All these concepts (privacy, social and unit cohesion, due process, even equality) came together in the barracks.  It’s taken the Boy Scouts of America a long time to catch up (even with the lifting of DADT – and remember the Supreme Court’s allowance of them as a private organization in 2000).  Changing popular opinion and the need for public support is finally turning them around.  It’s also important to note that the BSA issue shows that a collective sense of religious morality, created when stricter denominations gain influence beyond their membership, can raise questions as to how far religion can go and still be treated “preferentially” by tax policy and even rules for public accommodations.
  
The whole concept of “equality” seems a bit of an intellectual artifice.  In nature, no two organisms can be exactly “equal”, but they most “complement” one another for all to survive.  That explains how biological communities “evolve”.  And perhaps physics explains reproduction.  Conscious life seems like a way for nature to oppose entropy; and reproduction is the process to recover from the decay with aging that entropy says must happen.

And depending on “immutability” has always seemed unsatisfactory to me – partly because it isn’t completely true, and because it leads to bad comparisons on other issues (like a tendency toward chemical dependency or obesity, which is partly inherited, but which requires behavioral control). 
Remember, that for most of history, gay rights has indeed been more about respecting the right to  “private choices” than about “equality”, and the appropriate question to ask those who attempt to damage the lives of homosexual people (or people who seem to exhibit homosexual inclinations and probable conduct),  is “Why do you interfere with others?  What’s in it for you?” Or, “Why does my own personal life affect you so much?”

It’s simple, and yet it’s hard.  Yes, parents often want an indefinite lineage, and for those without other economic or expressive opportunities, that’s one thing they may think they have a “right” to count on.  A family can be “killed” just as a person can. (That sort of thinking may help explain the draconian anti-gay laws under consideration now in Uganda.) But there’s obviously more.  People tend to believe they need to prevail in social competition; and stomping on those “beneath” them, despite the obvious moral contradictions that this entails, may be almost instinctive social behavior.  (That’s how one gay Midwestern prosecutor explains it to me.)  Once in some sort of political or social control, and particularly when there are external enemies or various demographic or environmental problems threatening long term sustainability and stability, leadership (religious or not) seeks rationalizations for its situation.  One such rationalization is that those who are in some way challenged “adaptively” and dependent on the infrastructure above them should not oppose the “hands that feed them” but should remain subservient or obedient, lest they put everyone in jeopardy (particularly of enemies in a “class warfare” sense).  Such individuals can point to the distraction that those like me can pose to those who try to raise families, both by economic competition but also by “kibitzing” and projecting personal value systems (“upward affiliation”) which might prove tempting to others or “contagious”, or which might actually make other people of lesser means feel even less worthy in the grand scheme of things.  Such ideas seem to house their own internal moral contradictions, to be sure.  Particularly, they seem to project a belief that sexual pleasure from sadomasochistic or “alternating current” psychological mechanisms (where abasement or shame becomes a source of pleasure) is naturally tempting to people as  a “path of least resistance” for those who have trouble adjusting. They may have a stronger point when they argue that ordered freedom, as a whole, depends on individuals in local families and communities all doing their part, even at an intimate level, not always chosen.  Marriage in this view becomes more a result than a source of “moral values”.  This sort of thinking is most vehement in more closed religious communities, which seek to make others comply with their views to maintain a grip now only on power but also on “meaning”.
   
It’s important to contemplate what “religious morality” (especially Vatican) means by “no sexuality except in marriage” (heterosexual, that is, and it refers to fantasy as much as acts).  It obviously plays out differently for gay people than straight. But the old-fashioned “simple rule” really was intended to get people to save themselves for procreation and raising another generation for the benefit of the family or tribe, not just for preventing unwanted babies. 
  
Likewise, the whole thrust of the “right to life” and anti-abortion movement is much more than just an abstract respect for human life. It has to do with getting people to become actively involved in protecting the vulnerable.   It ultimately has to do with loving “people as people” (to quote my dad) and as part of family, as a given.  But it, in the area of opposition to stem cell research and therapy, have overreached its own purposes.
  
Indeed, it has become striking to me how much my own psychological makeup expressed a love of “abstract” virtue (and beauty)  for its own sake – a belief (rather like that from Oscar Wilde) that beauty is its own justification rather than the result of an organic, earthy process involving people meeting their own real needs with complementarity, extending to raising the next generation.  I inherited this mindset from the conservative culture that raised me, and curiously fed it into my values of what I could find exciting in other people.  I tended to view others through strictly moral terms (as I thought I had been viewed), without regard to circumstance or possible disability.  A corollary is that I  (still now) resent having the needs of others forced on me as motives that should pre-empt what I have already come or even “chosen” to feel.   I didn’t feel  “pleasure” in meeting the needs of someone who could never become “perfect” – and at the time, feeling this way seemed like my own prerogative.  I don’t like to admit it, but I can see even in myself how fundamentalism, and the need to see others comply to a set of beliefs so that I can comply too, could grow even in my own psyche.  It’s scary.  (You don’t want a value system where something is right just because “everybody  does it”.) Like a fundamentalist, I needed the “freedom” to explore my own belief system, claiming that it was harmless fantasy or a private choice—yet the motives could eventually have serious public consequences.   I can see how I could have felt had I grown up and somehow “made it” under radical Islam or some other strict, fundamentalist religious system.
  
People tend to make a great deal of the “narrowness” of others in the ability of others to feel and sustain interest.  Indeed, some of the notes at NIH explicitly noted my indifference to “girls”, but indifference can become an issue in the same-sex world, too.   Sometimes, when I’m at a disco and watching someone who looks “interesting”, someone who is “not” interesting according to my own internal value system will try to divert me.  Everyone has a right to say “no”, right?  If you can get rejected, you can certainly reject.  (To allow anything else would be to accept sexual harassment, maybe.)  That certainly sounds like the normal idea that comports with “personal responsibility”.  But the idea that people remain so narrow in their “choices” sounds like one that can spread; “body fascism” could encourage real fascism again.  So I can understand why some people make openness to love in some way that involves some psychological complementarity (the Rosenfels polarities) as well as “affiliation” (the “he can do better than that” problem) and openness to risk and unpredictable responsibility (even having children) an important religious and perhaps moral precept.  But in the grand scheme if things, mere biological difference in gender seems to mean less all the time.