Thursday, February 27, 2014

Texas gay marriage ban struck down by federal judge in San Antonio; elderly gay male couple in Dallas to marry

The Dallas Morning news reports plans for a wedding of a male couple together for 53 years. Jack Evans and George Harris, at the Northaven United Methodist Church (in Dallas), link here.    It’s on Preston Road, near the Dallas North Tollway in the “North Dallas” part of town, just below LBJ.
In San Antonio on Wednesday, a federal judge Orlando Garcia struck down Texas’s ban on gay marriage, saying it does not serve a legitimate purpose.  However the resulting order is stayed for appeal, so the wedding above can’t be official yet in Texas.  The CNN story is here.  Texas was the defendant in the 2003 decision overturning 21.06, its sodomy law;  in 1983, as the AIDS crisis began, right wing demagogues tried to pass one of the most draconian anti-gay laws in the nation ever, but it never got out of committee.  In 1979-1980, the Dallas Gay Alliance and defendants successfully stopped police harassment of gay bars (when I lived there).  In 1982, in Baker v. Wade, one of the first federal decisions striking down a sodomy law was released, although in 1985 the Fifth Circuit upheld the old 21.06.    
MSNBC has a copy of the opinion (De Leon, Dimetman, Holmes, Pharris v. Perry/Abbott  here.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Uganda, Nigerian and Russian anti-gay behavior seems unprecedented, aggravated by western successes with gay marriage (citing the "ick" factor)

The most recent of the outrages overseas has been not only Uganda’s president Yoweri Musveni’s signing the draconian anti-gay law, but his statements referring to what he perceives as the mechanics of male homosexual acts (the "ick" factor), recalling the rhetoric of the “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” in Texas around 1983.
The law makes it a crime for others not to report suspicion of homosexual acts.  The media has reported unbelievable street demonstrations against tolerating even "private" homosexual relations.   
Musveni is also proclaiming that homosexuality is learned or chosen, ignoring all the science on the matter. 

The new law affects lesbians as well as gay men.
In both Nigeria and Uganda, the legal climate seems to be aggressively pursuing people perceived as likely to engage in consensual homosexual acts.  This seems unprecedented even when compared to the climate in the United States in the 1950’s. 
Newspapers (particularly tabloid) actually print names or pictures of homosexuals and a witch-hunt mentality seems to have been implemented.
In Russia, on the other hand, homosexual acts are legal, but talking about them is not. In practice, Putin and the Russian government are perceived as baiting anit-gay vigilantism, much as Russia seems also to be goading technie teens into hacking American financial companies to steal consumer wealth.

And Putin himself, with his provocative media statements ("please, leave the children alone") shortly before Sochi,  seems to feed the idea, popular in the Russian working class, that male homosexuality is equivalent to pedophilia. 
The usual explanation for what happened in Uganda is the influence of a certain group of American Evangelicals stirring things up, stoking resentment of western culture left over from colonialism. 
But politicians in some third world countries see western propagation of gay marriage as the west’s promoting acts that their culture believes as unseemly.  This is easier to exploit in countries with a low standard of living.  It still seems that people have trouble living up to what is expected of them if they believe that others won’t have to. 
Virgin Airline’s Richard Branson has called for a boycott of Uganda, here
This could lead to a big asylum and refugee issue recalling that of Cuba in 1980.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DC lobbyist prods Congress to impose gay ban in NFL, or at least separate showers

I thought that this was a joke (except that it’s not April Fools Day yet, and it’s snowing in Washington this morning, again.)  A DC lobbyist, Jack Burkman, says he has the support of 30 Representatives and six Senators for a bill to ban “open” gay athletes from the NFL, and possibly from all pro team sports.  An alternative would allow the teams or clubs to build separate showers for gay players.  The WJLA and News Channel 8 story by Mike Conneen (with video) is here.
Didn’t we get over this with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the military?  Introducing something like this for sports could be a prelude to unrepealing the repeal of DADT.
Let the NFL, MLB, NBA write their own policies. 
The NFL’s own latest statement is here.
MLB’s statement with Bud Selig is here   

Presumably, all pro sports do require HIV tests as part of medical screening. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

NBA is the first to score "officially" with a gay pro player, with Jason Collins from the Brooklyn Nets

Despite the attention recently to UMo football player Michael Sam, apparently the first openly gay player to sign with any of the “big four” major league sports teams will be Jason Collins. I’m not sure of the significance of the fact that the contract with the Brooklyn Nets is only 10 days.  The USA Today story by Sam Amick is here.
Basketball has caught my attention like MLB or the NFL.  It seems like the most popular “coworker” sport (other than maybe kickball).  I remember those written tests on it in PE in Middle School, something about Naismith.

Michael San;s performance at NFL trials today was reported on WJLA to be mediocre at best.   
Let’s remember the book by Esera Tualo, “Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL”, 2007, from Sourcebooks.  And much earlier in history, “The Dave Kopay Story”.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Russia's Putin becomes the pin-up at a DC disco party

Saturday night the Cobalt Club in Washington DC held a whimsical “CTRLympics Closing Ceremony”.  The dance floor had ribbons, medals, and placer lights, the five Olympic rings (in rainbow colors), and the portrait of Valdimir Putin all over the place. The club has a link for the event here. 

Downstairs a professional photographer from Kalorama (Adams Morgan) set up a little studio for men to pose with the effigy picture of Putin.

Upstairs, there was a little show where patrons could throw certain objects into a torn opening in the area of Putin’s mouth.

Putin was rather cute at age 25 as a young KGB trainee.  In his fifties, he has a famous shirtless pic on the web, as indicated by this Huffington Post link here. His chest is absolutely hairless, and I really think that’s natural.  But he would fit well into David Skinner’s June 21, 1999 Weekly Standard article “Notes on the hairless man: Today's American male is distinctly boyish”, link here.  Russian males are even more boyish, especially aging heads of state/  Articles at Huffington call Putin a "body worshipper".  

Rather than have Putin’s headshot pinups all over the bar, why not go for the entire body?    
Update" Feb. 24

Uganda's president signed the anti-gay bill into law today.  I covered it on the International Issues blog.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Arizona passes "religious freedom" law for private businesses; Brewer vetoes

Arizona has passed a law allowing private businesses to deny service to anyone when providing service violates personal religious beliefs. It was sarcastically called the "Turn Gays Away" law. 
Governor Jan Brewer has not decided on whether to sign the legislation, and she says it would take until February 28 for her to decide.
Gay rights supporters are in uproar since Arizona has no ENDA-like laws.
ABC News has a story here.
On AC360, Anderson Cooper asked an Arizona legislator whether the bill would allow a loan officer to refuse a loan to an unwed mother because of personal beliefs. The legislator said absolutely not.  A photographer could refuse to work a gay couple’s wedding because he would be “part of the celebration” but could not refuse to work a news story as a journalist.  But an NYU law professor said that what constitutes a burden would be decided by courts on a casewise basis, inviting a flood of litigation. CNN’s video link is here.
Wikipedia attribution link for Arizona map. 

Update: Feb. 26

Republican governor of Arizona Jan Brewer has just vetoed the law (8:15 PM EST), CNN story here.

Brewer gave a press conference Wednesday evening.

Arizona does not have a law protecting gays from discrimination with a "protected class" concept.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Conservative forces in VA vocal in protests on marriage ruling, call for impeachment of judge

Pro gay marriage demos in the DC area Saturday were apparently small because of the difficulty of digging out from the snow, but the media seems to be covering the anti forces today, especially a vigorous demonstration in Richmond, covered by NBC12. 

Brent Solomon reports on the Virginia Catholic Conference and the Virginia Christian Coalition.  A state assemblyman in Prince William County (south of Fairfax, including Woodbridge) wants to introduce a petition (somehow) to impeach the federal judge.  But it is obviously suspect to impeach judges because of the politics of their rulings.

The Ronoake newspaper has coverage of the reaction here

Unfortunately, some of the protest signs say things like “protect our children”, which only feeds what is going on in Russia.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Federal judge strikes down Virginia's Marshall-Newman amendment

On the eve of Valentine's Day, a US District Judge Arenda L Wright Allen has struck down the Marshall-Newman amendment in Virginia, which bans gay marriage and even civil unions, as a violation of federal equal protection.
The Huffington Post has a story quoting the ruling here.

The plaintiffs were two couples:  Tim Bostic and Tony London, and Carey Shawl and Mary Townley.
Demonstrations were planned for the Arlington Court House area Friday morning, and in Fairfax City, although the heavy snows may affect plans.  There was an informal planning and karaoke sing Tuesday night at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington (with competition from the Sochi Olympics half-pipes on the small televisions around the bar).   
 Reuters has a detailed story here.
The AP story appeared on ABC News here
No source seemed to have the full text of the opinion yet. The ruling will be stayed for an appeal. Not sure how the appeal course will work yet.

Update:  Feb. 14

Mother Jones has reproduced the critical parts of the text of the Opinion, here

The American Foundation for Equal Rights has posted the pdf of the court ruling, from Norfolk VA, here  Norflok did not escape the blizzard.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ABC News reports on vigilante attacks against Russia's largest gay club

ABC News is reporting vigilante attacks on Russia’s and Moscow’s largest gay nightclub, the Central Station. 
The News report, which will be amplified tonight on ABC Nightline, (with Terry Moran) came out a few days after many US viewers had watched a documentary about anti-gay vigilantism in Russia, since the anti-gay propaganda law was passed in June. The report is here. A small attack on a club in Seattle Jan. 1 was reported here last week. 
The film ("Dispatches: The Hunted"), by  Liz MacKean and Ben Steele, was produced for Britain’s Channel 4, runs 45 minutes, and was taken down after being up three days and attracting 50,000 views. My review appears on my TV blog, Sunday, Feb. 9.
In Russia, people have come to connect homosexuality with pedophilia, despite all the responsible science to the contrary.   Everything seems controlled by propaganda, and there seems to be little ability for independent thought on social issues. People feel emboldened to attack by the law, which denies LGBT people a chance to speak out, and Putin's government seems to look the other way, as if encouraging it. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Draft prospect for NFL comes out

Micahel Sam, a draft prospect for the National Football League, has announced that he is gay.  The NFL posted a definitive story in its own website here. 

 He played at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  (I went to grad school at KU myself, but I’ve visited the MU campus just once, in a driving rain.)
Yet some owners reportedly told Sports Illustrated that they won’t look at Sam, fearing distraction to the team. The article in SI by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, here
To a lay person, it would sound as though Major League Baseball would have an easier time with this issue, since physical contact is not a critical to the game as it is in football, and individual performance is more critical (most of all for pitchers).  I would expect to see announcements in the MLB area soon, even this season.
There is little question that the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” for the military makes a transition in sports easier.  It seems clear that some gay men in the past might have become professional players in several sports, including baseball, hockey, basketball, and less often pro football.   In Dallas, in the 1980s, at least one man I knew had been a minor league relief pitcher.  

Sunday, February 09, 2014

NYTimes publishes graphic report on draconian anti-gay law and violence in Nigeria

The New York Times presented print subscribers to the Sunday paper a shocker this morning (in my case, on a lawn covered with frost), “Wielding Whip and a Hard New Law, Nigeria Tries to ‘Sanitize’ Itself of Gays”, link (website url) here. The article is by Adam Nossiter.  My paywall subscription (which seems to be cheaper if you get print, too) really mattered today.
The comment was offered that “rarely” (at least since Hitler’s “Enabling Act”) have so many human rights violations been compressed into so few words.  The law stops a lot more than gay marriage – in fact it defines cohabitation as an attempt at marriage, and punishes associating with other people thought to be homosexual.  It seems to encourage forced outing and witch-hunts.  The situation is the very worst in the northern states, under Sharia law. 
38 of 54 African countries outlaw homosexual acts, a leftover of colonialism.  But in a few parts of Africa the situation has rapidly gotten much worse.  The Ugandan president has so far refused to sign its new anti-gay law.  As in Russia, it’s easy or tempting for leaders to scapegoat gays for poverty, AIDS, and ongoing religious conflict, which has reached its apex at the nearby Central African Republic.  Anti-gay attitudes seem to track poverty closely.
But another reason, noted this morning at a church service in Arlington, is the activity of opportunistic pastors on the religious right to foment violent prejudice in poor countries.  But it’s also possible that a some politicians in Africa are reacting to the rapid acceptance of gay marriage (and the dropping of military bans) in the West and its aggressive global media coverage, as a threat to their own populations and their people’s interest in biological reproduction in the midst of limited economic opportunity.  
The HRC has advertised an “HRC Global Fellow” position for foreign nationals, here
But it would sound as though political asylum will quickly become a bigger issue (including couples and families with children) and housing them in the US could explode as an issue in a few months.  This sort of thing happened in 1980 with the Cuban refugees. Of course, with that circumstance refugees were already in the country, needing shelter and various kinds of assistance.  This time a domestic need would evolve slowly, but become very pronounced in time unless laws in these countries are reversed.

Furthermore, US companies will find anti-gay cultures a problem when they need to send engineers overseas to less stable parts of the world -- particularly oil companies.  (I interviewed Arco in 1983 when living in Dallas and recall this issue.)

Today, I've covered the new British television documentary "Dispatched: Hunted", about anti-gay vigilantism in Russia, with Liz MacLean on the TV blog.

Update: Feb, 11

The Washington Post has an editorial today suggesting that the US should pressure Nigeria to repeal this law. The oil situation is indeed important. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

DOJ announced totally equal treatment for married gay couples; arrests in Moscow but not Sochi

On Saturday, February 8, 2014, major media outlets reported that the Department of Justice will announce Monday new policies for same-sex married couples, to treat them the same as straight married couples even if moving to a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage after getting married in a state that does.  The Washington Post breaking story is here.

The announcement was made at a the New York City Human Rights Campaign Dinner Feb. 8 from the gala stage at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, link here.   It would be important for this policy to hold together if a GOP presidential candidate wins in 2016.  
The equality question continues.  Commitment of a couple is rewarded.  The mere presence of heterosexual physical complementarity is not.  Nor is the “message” sent by the policy.   People who conflate homosexuality with a lack of other-centeredness necessary for many communities to survive into the future will have a harder time rationalizing their false equivalence.

The Washington Blade is reporting the arrest of ten LGBT activists in Moscow just before the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including Elena Kostynchenko, link here story by Michael K. Lavers. Curiously, an arrest started as she and others started singing the Russian national anthem in Red Square.  One wonders about what travel to the rest of Russia could be like after the Winter Olympics are over.  

(International coverage continues Sunday.)

Friday, February 07, 2014

Russia extends olive branch to gay performers at Olympics opening ceremony

A lesbian band called "t.a.T.u." will play in the opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Sochi Friday, to be shown on NBC Friday night, with the news story here.

And a Dutch band is going to play the Village People's "gay anthem", "YMCA" at the ceremony, according to another story, here. Of course, other "anthems" are "In the Navy" (pre "don't ask don't tell") and "Macho Man", with its double meanings built into its lyrics about lookism, These were very popular my last year living in NYC in 1978.
Note the "Rainbow" today in Google's own graphic showing icons of athletes inside the six letters of rainbow colors.  The media is already reading something into this. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Attack on Seattle club New Years Eve reported in local papers; perpetrator apprehended

Some smaller news outlets report a frightening attack at a gay bar in Seattle, shortly after midnight on January 1, 2014 (at a New Years Eve) celebration. The establishment was Neighbours.  No one was injured in the attempted arson, according to the story. Police arrested Musab Mohamed Masmari.  The Slog Stranger story is here
I recall that there was an incident in New Orleans in 1973 when I was coming out, in which people were injured. 
Eric Rudolph (right wing extremist) injured five people with a 1997 explosion at an Atlanta bar and was supposedly (according to Wikipedia) ideologically motivated to use force against abortion and homosexuality, to protect the idea of a (white) “family hearth”.  Rudolph is serving life without parole in a supermax prison for various crimes, including a bomb at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 
The recent case in Seattle should be prosecuted as a case of domestic terrorism. 
My last visit to Seattle was in July 1996.  I remember meeting with one of the military ban personalities in a club called the Cadillac. 
Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Seattle. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Virginia could be one of first states to have its anti-marriage laws before the Supreme Court

The first case on whether states can ban same-sex marriage may well come from Virginia, according to a detailed story in the Washington Post today by Robert Barnes, link here

Two cases from opposite sides of the state percolate, although so do cases from Utah and Oklahoma.
It will take two contradicting appellate rulings to get a Supreme Court ruling. But don't forget that it was in Virginia in 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws got struck down.
Again, much of the argument seems to hinge on looking at sexual orientation as an immutable characteristic, an idea for which there is a lot of circumstantial evidence but no clear proof.
On the other hand, social conservatives look at marriage as a social institution that only thrives when people are taught the idea of self-discipline in the use of sexuality for the common good: the ability to stay with a partner for life (which gay marriage can offer) and the format for producing and raising children in a world were gender differences are expressed.  Social conservatives have to deal with a paradox in their own argument:  they are admitting that traditional marriage requires discipline and sacrifice and that individually they won’t be that interested unless they know that others will do it. 
There’s a triangle here with tension among values:  independence with equality at one vertex, the ability make and keep an intimate commitment regardless of hard times at a second vertex, and an optimal environment for having and raising children at the third. 

There's a site called "Soul Pancake" that has a lot of replies to the question, whether other people's relationships and lives affect "my" capacity for (heterosexual) marriage -- what Barney Franck saw as a clown question (well before Bryce Harper), here.  The overwhelming majority of replies are, "No, it doesn't". Yet from blue-state Minnesota (where I lived 1997-2003) there is a Star Tribune article in 2012 by Riley Balling, "why same-sex marriage affects my marriage", link here  There seems to be a pivot (of the Third Dominion kind) over the idea of marriage for the common good (children and a future) than personal fulillment. 
Remember, the marriage issue is about a lot more than equal benefits for spouses.  People who don’t enter into these relationships at all often do fine, until they don’t, because others can sometimes barge in and demand their sacrifices. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Town DC hosts fundraiser, 70s-80s dance party

The Town Discotheque in Washington DC on Saturday, February 1 held a “surprise” fundraiser for educational services for disadvantaged LGBT youth.
So when I arrived around 10:20 PM the downstairs club was already packed. 
The lot was nearly full, but offered me valet parking, which I accepted.  I think that the U Street area needs a multi-level garage that is open 24x365, with payment by credit card and smartphone, and that the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan areas (and Georgetown) need this capability.  I recall that it worked this way in West Hollywood in 2012, where there was no street parking at all.  I think the cost was a flat $10.  I’d like to see something like that in Washington set up by business owners. That’s partly because Metro is getting so erratic, with weekend shutdowns and delays.
There’s a lot of real estate development going on nearby to U Street, so I hope a public garage is one of the projects. 
The upstairs offered 70s and 80s music until about 12:30 PM, until it switched back to “contemporary” noise.  The mood reminded me of the Village Station in Dallas (now Station 4) back in the 1980s.

The "Wild Night Out" signs did not stay up long enough for me. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Given many state "no promo homo laws" in the schools, is US reaction to Russia and Putin hypocritical?

Ian Ayres and William Eksridge have an important story in the Washington Post today, in which they point out that American criticism of Russia’s “no promo homosexual law” is a bit hypocritical concerning that many states have such laws for their school systems.  A couple even insist on teaching that homosexuality is a crime.
The basic link is here.
There is a bit of a difference, in that the American state laws are confined to schools and don’t involve demonstrations or publications. (But COPA-like laws a few years ago could have provided a scare.) 
There is something disingenuous in believing that you have to manipulate the population into doing what you want (having more children or bigger families) by withholding reputable scientific information, even in the school systems.