Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10th Circuit opinion could weaken gay marriage before SCOTUS by turning away from animus argument


Adam Liptak wrote a sidebar in the New York Times about the 10th Circuit opinion that invalidated Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Liptak notes a concurring opinion discounts the idea of animus (a polite word for victimization) as a reason for Oklahoma’s amendment, and fears that this piece of logic could pose a problem when gay marriage gets to the Supreme Court, as it probably will next session. The DOMA opinion had indeed been based on animus, an argument that the more conservative members of the Court sometimes accept.  On the other hand, in Oklahoma, the amendment did not take away a right already there.  There some falling in to the “tolerance trap” in this line of thought.  The link for the story on page A15 on Tuesday is here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fourth Circuit strikes down VA gay marriage amendment; More on ENDA


As a breaking news item, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA, has struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage (the Marshall-Newman amendment), with the news story on Vox Media here.  The reasoning seems to combine due process and equal protection, but regards “choice of consenting significant other” (a concept that I touted in the 90s) as a fundamental right that indirectly falls under equal protection.  This is a conservative circuit that did uphold a couple of military discharges of gay personnel in Virginia in the 90s, in one opinion saying that the issue of the ban and DADT should be resolved through the political process (which it eventually was).  The Opinion Text is here.  The Court spoke about the idea of a "segregated right".  The ruling will not go into effect immediately, as a further appeal process (to the Supreme Court or possibly en banc) is considered. 



Juliet Elperin has an important piece in the Washington Post July 12, “What an LGBT non-discrimination bill says about the state of gay rights”, link here. It’s interesting that even some Democrats are not so enthusiastic about transgender protection.  The public is beginning to embrace  the idea of “masculine gays”, like Will and Sonny on “Days of our Lives”.   GOP legislators, to the pleasure of Log Cabin, are starting to distance themselves from anti-gay values, at least in more extreme form.  There’s another piece around (which I can’t find now) arguing that ending LGBT discrimination is almost always good for business.  
  
Some how the second picture (NYC Pride March) reminds me of the "Guilty Remnant" from HBO's "The Leftoviers".   

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Town DC hosts biweekly country-western "DC Rawhide" dances early Saturdays as fill in for Remingtons


I did attend the "DC Rawhide" event at the Town DanceBoutique last night, July 26.  The event starts at 7 PM with dance lessons and a general dance at 8 until about 10:30.  There was a cover of $5, which allowed entry into the general party later.  The concept is similar to "Bear Happy Hour" on Friday nights.

The Country and Western dance appears to be a fill-in because the Remington's bar in DE (on Pennsylvania Ave.) closed after the building was sold to a different landlord, and after the owner refused to bid to purchase the building.

The Bear Happy Hour fills in well while DC Eagle works on moving to its new location in NW Washington, and is said to be opening in late summer (perhaps Labor Day).

The crowd seemed a little slower last night than it had been for Bear Happy Hour when I sampled it July 11.  But the Saturday night even is "21 and over" only.

Massive real estate development continues in the U Street area, as two condominium and apartment buildings are going up across Florida avenue, eliminating what used to be a backup parting lot.

Town, remember, replaces Velvet Nation (which in turn replaced Tracks); Velvet closed after property was sold for massive real estate development spurred by Nationals Park (and probably a stadium for DC United).  Because of DC neighborhood politics, Club owners often have difficulty  getting licenses on new spaces when landlords pull leases on existing spsace.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Obamacare not likely to cover infertility problems related to surrogacy


Same-sex couples and single women often are unable to get insurance coverage for fertility treatments, according to a Business Day article in the New York Times on Saturday by Tara Siegel Bernard, link here.    Insurance companies often refuse to cover infertility related to insemination, but only that related to “natural” sexual intercourse.   Of course, one can make an ethical argument about surrogate parenthood or bringing any child into the world if there is not the intention to try to raise it with married, opposite-sex parents.  On the other hand, there is a lot of reason to look into same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Obama signs XO regarding all employers receiving federal funds


President Obama has singed an Executive Order banning discrimination in employment in companies that receive any federal contracts, as well as federal contractors (and federal agencies), with USA story here.    It’s noteworthy that highly sensitive jobs were made open to openly gay civilians (like in the CIA) by Executive Order from President Clinton in 1995 and took effect at the beginning of 1996.  Intelligence and defense agencies frequently have booths at LGBT Pride events, especially in Washington. 

Yet, Todd Starnes has an article in Fox (where else?) claiming that the order undermines religious liberty (link).  Rick Warren, of the Saddleback Church, has a letter to the president on Scribd  Warren says that some persons in faith communities are motivated by religious identity, which may run contrary to individual equality and even complete autonomy for LGBT people, in order to serve those in need and therefore “the common good” (a common Santorum phrase).  The Senate version of ENDA has the religious exemption, which has undermined some LGBT support for it. 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

CDC survey seems to give a lower count on the gay population, until you look at it more


The Centers for Disease Control has reported on the first ever large federal survey of sexual orientation. 
      
Just 1.6% of the surveyed adult population was gay or lesbian, and 0.7% was bisexual.  But 1.1% basically answered, “don’t know”.  The Washington Post has a typical story here.  The Blade has also reported on it Friday.  The CDC report is a “National Health Interview Survey” and “Statistics Report” and is published here.  It was conducted by workers from the Census. 

Previous reputable surveys have tended to come up with a total of 3-4%.  This does not include transsexuals, who number around 700000 in the US.  

The total number of adults who identify as somewhere in LGBT (including the “uncertains” or essentially asexual or inactive) is probably about 9 million, somewhat larger than the population of New York City.
         
The study did not breakdown by gender, or race.  Anecdotally, it seems that white people (especially males) may be more likely to identify as gay than people from racial minorities.  But the popularity of gay events and clubs with minorities has obviously, if slowly, increased in recent years.

People in higher income levels may also be more likely to self-identify. Coming from a conservative religious culture (especially overseas) probably reduces the likelihood of self-identification.

The large public response to the gay marriage issue in many states may lead to the impression that the population is larger.  So does the recent increase of portrayal of gay issues in Hollywood, as with the willingness of many younger actors (generally under 40)  to identify as gay or appear in or even direct gay-oriented films. 

Gay events, like Pride marches, are now well attended.  The recent NYC Parade, over 5 hours long, leaves the impression of a larger population. It’s common, however, for “straights” to come to parades.  In the Washington DC parade, in a couple of cases some young “straight” couples told me they came because a younger adult sibling of one partner was there. 

What is curious is a flip side, why in countries like Russia, conservative forces see homosexuality as such a threat to population levels and common competitiveness, which would not make sense if the population were only 2-3%.  (see posting Jan. 13, 2014). 

The survey suggested that gay men were slightly more likely to smoke than straight men, and drink (more than 5 times a day).  But gay men were likely to exercise more and (much) less likely to be overweight or obese.  Gay men were more likely to have been tested for HIV, but were also more likely to take flu shots.  
  
By observation, smoking is not as common as it was a few decades ago.  In the outdoor bar area at JR’s during DC Pride, relatively few men smoked.  (No I don’t keep track of who does.)  CDC has warned that tobacco companies target the LGBT community with ads. 




Friday, July 18, 2014

Many AIDS researchers were on downed Malaysian flight


Over 100 passengers on Malaysian Flight MH17 were headed for an HIV conference in Sydney, many reports indicated now, as with this story from the UK Independent by Lizzie Dearden, here. The collective knowledge that could lead essentially to cures or finally effective vaccines could have been lost to the struggle from Russian separatists. Former  President Clinton was to meet the researchers in Australia.

In other news, German Lopez reports on Vox that a federal appeals court has agreed in striking down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, and has acknowledged a fundamental right to marry; story here, wlin links to Vox explanation panels.

Wikipedia link for map of Donbass insurgency area near crash. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What's the scene like in Richmond, VA?


Although Baltimore MD has an interesting gay club and event scene (which sometimes reinforces the Maryland Film Festival in May as well as Pride in June), what about going the other direction, to Richmond. 110 miles to the south of DC, the capital of Virginia and unfortunately, in the past, of the Confederacy.

In fact, Equality Virginia says that Virginia Pride will occur there Sept. 27, 2014 on Browns Island.  I went to some Equality Virginia dinners in April of 2005 and 2006 (during the days of Marshall-Newman, as I almost got swept by a tornado on the way down once) and found it quieter.  For a state capital, much of the city looks a little run down when compared to other southern capitals, like Austin, Raleigh and Atlanta.  (Montgomery looks worse, though as did Jackson the last time I was there). 

Nevertheless, in 1997, I recall a big special disco event in late July in an arena in the “Bottoms” area just E of I-95.  The artsy area is Carytown, but the best area for clubs may now be the “flats” area in the valley.  (Sounds like Cleveland, doesn’t it.)  There are lots of quaint properties for rent and sale.


There was a club called “Mars” (like the planet) that seems to be replace by “25 Volt”.  Next door, there is a bizarre looking place called “Fall Our” (either like radiation, or like leaving formation in Army Basic Training).  It had a no photography sign, only the second time I have seen this.  A guy, heavily tattooed and smoking, seemed to be watching over it.  You get the picture. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Gay friend" plot twist closes out classic comics series


The “Life with Archie” Comics series will come to an end, after 75 years, with Archie Andrews taking a bullet for a gay friend. Fox news has a typical story here

I don’t know if this sounds politically correct, or sentimental.  I’ve never been one to follow comics. 
  
But I can remember back in the 1980s, the way gay teachers dealt with potential discrimination was to say “I have gay friends.”  There was a time when people accepted this kind of ruse.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

The new HIV-prevention pill (Truvada) is still controversial


There’s a new blue pill which is being touted for HIV-negative people as a way to prevent infection with HIV from sex with an infected person (especially for MSM).  It’s called Truvada, and the process is called “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or “PRep”.  (Yes, that sounds like a “prep” in organic chemistry lab, for undergraduates). 

It’s expensive ($14000 a year), and I would question whether normal insurance would cover it.  If you think that Hobby Lobby had an issue with contraception, see how this plays out.

The drug is said by some to be pretty safe as far as side effects (remember that was an issue for a long time with protease inhibitors, until more recent years).  But it might increase HIV drug resistance or even mutation among someone recently exposed but not yet detectable. 

On the side effects, however, some people report fever and fatigue, and mental laziness, as well as loss of libido.  

  
CDC says it should not replace condom use, and is not necessary for most people other than active MSM.  Vox Media has a “10 things you need to know” explainer here. This may not be the last of it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Finally, I visit "Bear Party" at Town again


Last night I tried the double event at Town DanceBoutique, the “DC Bear Crue” happy hour party (with free cover before 9:30), followed by  the regular Friday night party, which admits 18+ (but sometimes with higher cover) at 10 PM.  The upstairs is closed briefly to new visitors at 9:30 and reopens around 11 PM.
  
For the most part, the dance floor was filled with people in conversation, not much dancing, with some booths and items for sale, and some 80s and 90s music.  My Shaun White cap seemed to attract attention.
  
The regular drag show is a bit crowded still, because the coat area (which you don’t need in summer) was moved into the old rear seating area, and you can see construction for an outdoor patio outside.
  
The “appearance” of the crowd on the dance floor changes a bit, as one would expect, at 11 PM.  This time, there seemed to be more more  “under21” persons (including women) than I recall from the past.  There were a few cases that I recognize from around Arlington, various churches, and the GWU campus, that I often transit (partly because I go to the West End Cinema nearby a lot, and sometimes eat at Quigley’s -- and I am a GWU alumnus).  Since "the kids" aren't allowed to drink, they tend to use the dance floor even more enthusiastically.  
    
Again, we get to the debate:  if someone is old enough to serve in the military (especially post-DADT) isn't he or she old enough to drink and take full responsibility?  That's the libertarian position.  As as practical matter, the chance to attend bars or discos occasionally before age 21 for three years gives a college-age person a chance to ponder the possible consequences of alcohol abuse first.  But, as in the movie "Begin Again", "the kids" don't have their own money.  Unless they're like Zuckerberg,     

  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Utah appeals same-sex marriage ruling to Supreme Court; arguments and a ruling are likely in 2015


The state of Utah will appeal the ruling striking down a federal circuit’s ruling striking down its same-sex marriage law directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the enbanc process with the Tenth Circuit.

This means that the Supreme Court is likely to hear it, with oral arguments likely in early 2015, assuming it takes cert, which is expected. Many observers expect the Court to rule 5-4 against state anti-gay-marriage bans. 



Vox Media has a story by German Lopez here.   Again, it’s remarkable how quickly this issue has turned in the past ten years.  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Faith-based groups want to weaken XO prohibiting federal contractors from sexual orientation discrimination; what happens with jobs not connected to contracts?


Faith-based groups will seek exclusion from Obama’s proposed executive order requiring federal contractors not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  There is a front page story in the New York Times today by Julie Hirschfield Davis and Erik Eckholm, link here. It is not completely clear whether the order could cover jobs in companies that have federal contracts but not themselves associated with the contracts.  On the other hand, some pro-gay groups are withdrawing support for ENDA as it is proposed now because of faith-based exceptions. 

The article suggests a scenario, where an openly gay person (or perhaps someone in a legally recognized same-sex marriage) seeks a high-level position with Catholic Charities or a similar religious charity, and where that charity has accepted taxpayer dollars under federal contracts.

My own personal take on this is that I avoid approaching such employers, because I would be paid for expressing their views which might be in conflict with my own.  This is part of the big “conflict of interest” problem which is a label on my own main blog. But, maybe I am “financially fortunate” enough to be picky.  But I tend to see this as a matter of personal integrity.  Libertarians might tend to agree.

In fact, a few times (particularly while my mother was still living, before the end of 2010) I was approached for jobs that I saw as inappropriate for this reason. So I have probably practiced self-exclusion, which could help create a statistical impression of discrimination.
  

But it is a long way from saying that it is OK for an employer not to pay for some kinds of contraception to allowing an employer to exclude people from employment.  Yet, we live in a world where double lives are no longer realistic. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Equality Virginia: second parent adoptions are difficult in Virginia


Equality Virginia has a blog entry (on “Salsa or Salsalabs”), which provides fund raising software to organizations) about second-parent adoption, link here.   Apparently, to get a second same-sex parent legally recognized in Virginia (for a lesbian couple) the baby needs to be born in a jurisdiction that recognizes them, that is, the District of Columbia.  This reminds me of the Loving case in 1967!
    
 On another matter, the Washington Post took up the problem of which pronoun to use for a transgemdered child today, in a “civilities” column by Steven Petrow.


Update:  July 8

The Washington Post has a story based on a study from Australia by Lindsey Beever, that children raised by same-sex couples are actually happeir than the norm, link here

Friday, July 04, 2014

Transgendered persons win up to two seats in state legislatures (who was the first?)


The Huffington Post had reported in November 2012 that Stacie Laughton had become the nation’s first transgendered legislator by winning a seat in the state House of Representatives, link here.   The same site now reports this possibility, June 12, for Lauren Scott, a Republican, in Nevada on June 12, 2014, link     The Washington Blade has a detailed story about Lauren Scott July 3 here.    

Later:

After the July 4 celebration on the Mall, I walked up to Eastern Market.  I found Remington's closed -- again a sign that when clubs lose leases, they are often unable to continue.  No one else (like Phase 1) in the area (including Barracks on 8th St SE) had tried to set up a 4th of July viewing party (to watch the fireworks in New York).  Since it's difficult to get anywhere else by Metro due to the crowds, this sounds like a business and customer service opportunity missed.  

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Situation of LGBT people in Russia seems to deteriorate despite relatively few actual prosecutions under new law


The Washington Blade has published a detailed article explaining how the situation for LGBT people in Russia has continued to deteriorate after the Sochi Olympics, in a story by Michael K. Lavers, link here.
 
The article reports (and shows a photo of) a float for "RUSA LGBT" in the LGBT Parade in New York City June 29/  I did not see that particular float when I attended (but I did see a float for LGBT Palestinians).
 
The article discusses the likelihood that more LGBT people will seek asylum.  The artcile focuses on Masha Gessen, who relocated with her family to New York.   Vox Media has recently been discussion the ambiguities of the whole asylum situation (because of the influx of Central American children), a matter I'll take up again later,
 
Despite the law targeting speech accessible to minors, some gay organizations (and HIV services) seem to operate in Russia, and some attempts at demonstrations continue, risking much more from vigilantes than the authorities.  Relatively few people have been fined so far, but some teachers have been fired.