Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back

It was big news when on a recent episode of One Life to Live the first gay love scene made its way to a daytime soap.  Only a few years ago it would have been hard to find a scene like this is a movie theater, let alone daytime TV.  Big step forward.  The step back? When I went to copy this clip from Youtube I was warned that it might not be appropriate for those under 18 years of age, as determined by some Youtube viewers.  Just like all those straight kisses that are inappropriate.  But progress is progress.  Here's the clip:

Obama makes good on a pledge

President Barack Obama made good on a campaign pledge to be inclusive of transgendered people in his administration by naming Amanda Simpson as Senior Technical Advisor to the Department of Commerce.  According to, Ms. Simpson "has worked in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently serving as Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz. She holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration, along with an extensive flight background. She is a certified flight instructor and test pilot with 20 years of experience."

With all that experience in her professional field, I wonder why the Washington Post decided to call Ms. Simpson "a transgender politcial activist" in the headline of the story of her appointment?  And come to think of it, why does the right wing media refer to many people who are different from them as "activists"?  I've yet to hear anyone call Rush Limbaugh a Right Wing Activist.  I've already written about the use of the word "czar" that the right wing uses to describe people in the Obama administration.  Here's another word that seems to be used only to refer to folks left of center: activists.  (Not that the word is necessarily negative.  I just wonder why we are letting the right wing make it so.)  I rarely see the term "anti-gay marriage activist," but often see "gay marriage activist." I do, however, see conservatives referred to as "advocates," as in "an advocate for traditional marriage."  It's a less threatening term.  Something to think about.

For now, however, congrats to Amanda Simpson, whose first name, in Latin, means "she who must be loved." And it's good to have a reminder that we are not in the Bush years anymore, despite LGBT criticism (mine included) of President Obama.  But as he told us when he addressed the Human Rights Campaign last year, we have to keep up the pressure on him and his administration.

Luv, luv, luv

Luv, luv, luv.  Sort of reminds you of the 60's doesn't it?  Of "Hair."  Of being kind to your neighbor and all that.

It doesn't mean that now.

A group opposed to marriage equality, Let Us Vote, has named themselves LUV.  Now let's be clear.  Let us vote actually means "Let us vote against same-sex marriage."

So now they are calling themselves "Luv"?  The exact opposite of what they are fostering?  The world is getting more Orwellian every day.

It will take some time for this group to bring the question to the ballot.  It must pass the Iowa legislature two years in a row before becomes a referendum.  But the "LUV" group has already thrown down the gauntlet, ready to use their money to oust any legislator who upholds the Iowa Supreme Court decision.

I've asked this before but it makes sense to ask it again.  Why would people devote their lives to stop two other citizens from marrying?  Are they that insecure in their own marriages?  I'm not sure.  But I do know that it has nothing at all to do with luv.

I've already visited the web page of Luv Iowa and written a respectful yet clear message on their email/comment page.  If you'd like to do the same, here's the address:

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let the Sun Shine in 2010

You have to be patient through about two minutes of chatter, but it's worth watching the cast of "Hair" perform on New Year's Eve in Times Square

What's happening with Prop 8 in 2010?

Although the California State Supreme Court ruled last spring that the results of Proposition 8 must stand, the work to override it continues, sometimes from the most unlikely sources. Attorneys Ted Olson, a Republican (left), and David Boies, a Democrat (right) argued opposite sides before the court in the Bush v. Gore election case.  Now they have joined forces in trying to convince the court that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because it singles out a specific class of Americans for discrimination.  The federal trial will begin on January 11.

One odd turn of events in the trial is that the State of California will not defend Prop 8 in court.  California's Atty. General, Jerry Brown, has stated that he agrees with Olson and Boies and therefore can't argue the case.  As a result, the court has allowed organizers of the Prop 8 ballot initiative to defend the case.

Right now the sides are debating whether or not the trial should be televised.  The anti-Prop 8 people (those who favor same-sex marriage) want the trial on TV while those supporting Prop 8 (and therefore opposing same-sex marriage) have argued against it.  Their reason? They fear that they will be subject to gay harassment and even violence if seen on TV.  (I'll refrain from a snide comment about the enormous problem of gay on straight hate crimes here.)

The case will be heard by Judge Vaughn Walker in a San Francisco District Court.  It is expected that Judge Walker will rule that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, and that the case will be then sent to the 9th US Court of Appeals.  Many people believe that this court will agree with Judge Walker, thus sending the case to the US Supreme Court.

This is where some gay legal scholars disagree with Olson and Boies.  They fear that the US Supreme Court isn't ready -- especially in its present makeup -- to side with us.  Of course, the case is likely to take a few years to get to the US Supreme Court, and the makeup could change.

Stay tuned.  It promises to be a bumpy ride.

New Hampshire Rings in the New Year with the First Same-Sex Marriages

The same sex marriage bill that New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (left) signed into law this year became official at the stroke of midnight in New Hampshire.  According to the Associated Press, about 15 couples gathered in the cold at midnight to exchange vows outside the New Hampshire State House in Concord.

Some couples have opted not to exchange vows for a second or third time and instead wait for their civil unions to automatically change to marriages in 2011.  After December 31, 2010, New Hampshire will no longer offer civil unions, which Governor Lynch had also signed into law a number of years ago.

The switch from civil union to marriage changes nothing in the state benefits offered to same sex couples.  The term "marriage," however, could be of great significance of the Defense of Marriage ACt is repealed at the federal level.  Then the federal benefits of marriage (over 1,000 of them) would be available to married gay couples.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from "Straight, No Chaser"

Happy New Year!  Thanks to everyone who visits my blog -- people I know and don't know.  Signing off for today.  Will check in tomorrow!

I swear, no relation to me

Linda Harvey (left)  is spokeswoman for Renew America and author of Ten Ways To Make Kids Truly Safe In 2010.  (I think the subtitle should be "Heterosexual, Christian, non-dating, white kids," but that's my own bias.)  The excellent blog Joe. My. God. quoted the following from Linda Harvey's writings about how to keep kids safe.

Get all pro-homosexual and pro-promiscuity programs, literature, teachers, and counselors out of every school now. Remove “gay” clubs, Planned Parenthood at health fairs, and GLSEN- PFLAG- SIECUS activists. Cease all condom demonstrations, abortion referrals, on-site birth control dispensing, sexual orientation affirmation, and messing with children’s hearts, minds and bodies. Demand that schools uphold the traditional value of heterosexual identities, teach abstinence- until- marriage, and celebrate male/ female gender differences.
Allow—no, welcome-- Christianity back into the American public schools, in community groups, in city council meetings, in the Senate, on city streets, in the courthouse square, in the media, in college lectures. Laugh at the ACLU. Elect judges who agree. Don’t elect presidents who think we are no longer a Christian nation.
 Sounds like a sharp stick in the eye to me.

Karl Rove threatens the sanctity of marriage for a second time

Karl Rove, the man who planned the coast to coast assault on gay couples by ensuring same-sex marriage was on the ballot in at least eleven states -- many of them "swing" states -- is getting divorced for the second time.   The Dallas Voice is reporting that a spokesperson for Rove has asked for "privacy."

I usually try to be somewhat even tempered in this blog, but that request makes my blood boil.

Where was the privacy he denied to thousands of gay couples by masterminding a scheme to put our relationships up to a popular vote?  Where was his respect for privacy for same sex couples when TV ad after TV ad assaulted gay relationships in this country during the 2004 presidential campaign that he ran?  And for the record, Jenny Sanford, who the media is now portraying as a pillar of strength for leaving her husband, Governor Mark Sanford of Virgina, also asked for privacy in light of her divorce.  Make no mistake about it: she, like her husband, is vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage and remained silent when the privacy of so many gay people was violated in all the referenda across the country.  And let's not forget the privacy that Palin family requested after Crystal gave birth out of wedlock.  Where do these people --who think nothing of leading a full assault on the privacy of other Americans-- get off?

An interesting postscript: Rove's first marriage ended a year after the wedding.  And Rove's stepfather, whom Rove considered his father, was a gay man who divorced Rove's mother in the 1960's. Rove kept a photo of him on his desk in the White House.  I was quote surprised when I learned this.  US News and World Report as well as a book about Rove, The Architect, confirms the story.

As the Dallas Voice notes, "The judge should never have granted the divorce. He should have told him that in Biblical times, a divorce could only be granted by a religious panel and that there was no such thing as an “amiable” divorce."  This would be a suitable response for the man who erroneously preached that marriage hadn't changed since Biblical times in order to deny the civil rights of other Americans.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Banning divorce: a satire on Prop 8

 A pretty funny satire on banning divorce

The passing of a remarkable woman: Ann Louise Nixon Cooper

When President-elect Obama addressed the nation on Election Night, he talked about a woman named Ann Louise Nixon Cooper.
He said, “She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing—Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons: because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”

Ann Louise Nixon Cooper died last week. She was 107 years old.

Karen Bigsby Bates met Mrs. Cooper this summer to help her write her life story.  On the website The Root, the journalist tells us that Mrs. Cooper  “was born outside Nashville when there weren’t many cars on the road, when the memory of the Civil War was still fresh, when a black local official was unthinkable, let alone a black president. She came to Atlanta as the young bride of a freshly minted dentist from Meharry Medical College, and together they built a life of community service and social involvement.”

And engage in service she did.  One of her many projects was to start a Boy Scouts Troop for African American boys in the 1930’s.  She saw that none existed, so she  created one.

“We just did those things back then,” Mrs. Cooper explained. “We didn’t wait around for anyone to tell us whether or not we could. We did it because it was needed.”

James Withers, a contributing editor to the  blog 365gay, makes an important point about the LGBT rights movement and Mrs. Cooper’s attitude: “a decent movement can handle severe criticism; however, in all of the gloom and doom we forget the community, such as it is, has people and organizations who are not waiting around and doing good work because it is needed.”

We need more Ann Louise Nixon Coopers in this world.

Great News from Central and South America

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Mexico City is one step closer to making same-sex marriage available to gay couples. On Tuesday the city's mayor, Marcelo Ebrard (left), signed the bill into law.  The bill passed the legislature by a fairly large margin.  Mayor Ebrard rejected calls for a veto by the National Action Party and the Roman Catholic Church, both claiming that the law is "an affront to the traditional family."  Cardinal Norberto Rivera was quoted as saying, "We have seen with impotence, pain and consternation ... [this] blow to the most intimate structure of Mexican families, the institution over which our nation has built its rich history, values and spirituality."

Two gay rights activists from Argentina, Jose Maria DiBello and Alex Freyre (right), were married in the Tierra del Fuego province of the country on Monday.  Legal battles had postponed the wedding of the two men when a a judge in Buenos Aires prohibited the couple from marrying.  But the Argentine Constitution says nothing about the matter, so Fabiana Rios, the governor of the southern province, supported the union of the two in her jurisdiction.  The BBC reports that Bishop Juan Carlos, of the southern Argentine city of Rio Gallegos, called the marriage "an attack against the survival of the human species."

That sounds a bit over the top.  Unless you believe that this gay marriage thing will catch on and heterosexual marriage will become obsolete.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yup. The snow is a bummer on the back paws.

EMBED-Puppy Hates Snow - Watch more free videos

Nastiness in the Illinois Senate Race

Here's an excerpt from an interesting story from the Chicago Tribune.  The front runner cited is Representative Mark Kirk (left).

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Top Illinois Republicans condemned a perennial candidate's decision Monday to air a political ad questioning the sexual orientation of the party's front-runner in the US Senate race.

The Republican Party said it would no longer consider Andy Martin (right) a legitimate candidate.

"His statements today are consistent with his history of bizarre behavior and often times hate-filled speech which has no place in the Illinois Republican Party," said party chairman Pat Brady.

Fellow Senate candidate Patrick Hughes said the radio ad has no place in the campaign. Dan Proft, a GOP candidate for governor, called it repugnant.

The article continues by noting that Kirk's campaign manager said that the ad "is degrading to the political process. The people of Illinois deserve better."

True enough.  But the Republican Party doesn't really make it clear what's degrading about it.  Being called gay?  Or using gay as an insult?  All too often these sorts of accusations -- if one can be "accused" of being gay -- are met with proclamations of disgust and vehement denials.  Another article in the Tribune notes Martin's history of bizarre attacks, including an accusation that George Bush was a cocaine addict.  But the unspoken message is that being gay is the same as having an addictive illness.  Or that being gay is "as bad" as falsely labeling someone as gay. Of course it isn't.  And it will be a good day when someone notes this when denying rumors and false statements.  It will be a better day when we don't have to note this, when calling some gay will be seen as ridiculous as calling someone Catholic or female or -- fill in the blank.

One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.

--First Lady Michelle Obama

Oh, Canada

Well, after a surprisingly long 14 hour drive we are in our home away from home, Toronto.  The wait at the border was 3 1/2 hours.  We forgot that this was the last day of a long weekend for Canadians, who celebrate Boxing Day. Couple that with a few snow storms on the way (including a lake effect storm in Buffalo) and possibly increased vigilance after the latest terrorist attempt and our trip was 4-5 hours longer than usual.

Of course, so much time in the car allowed me time to think.  And one thing I thought about was how our marriage status changed as we traveled from Boston to Toronto.  It's pretty crazy.

1. In Massachusetts we were in a state that allows same-sex couples to get married and that acknowledges same-sex marriages from outside the state.  Pretty straight forward, no pun intended.

2. In New York we were in a state that doesn't allow same-sex marriage but does recognize same-sex marriages from other states, including ours.  A little more complicated.

3. In Canada we are in a country that allows same-sex marriage but doesn't recognize our marriage because foreign governments generally only recognize agreements that are recognized but the federal government of the United States.  And since the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the U.S. federal government from recognizing a same-sex marriage from Massachusetts, Canada can't recognize our marriage.  (Usually, however, in practice they do.  When we enter Canada by air, we are usually allowed to fill out one customs card as "family," although this is at the whim of the customs agent.  Compare this to the US customs agent who, once we told him we were married in Massachusetts, sternly admonished us and sent Bruce back to the line so he could process us separately -- even though we had filled out separate cards.  File this under "ever wonder why we call it hate?")

More tomorrow.  It's 2:00 AM (we arrived at 1:30 AM) and are winding down, along with our bassets, Shakespeare and Willa, who are just as happy to be sleeping on the sofa as Bruce and I are to have finally reached our destination.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Free speech issues in Washington, DC

There's a free speech debate happening in Washington, DC right now, and some LGBT groups find that they aren't in agreement about what to do.  At issue is a media campaign orchestrated by anti-marriage equality groups.  As part of this campaign, they have bought space on public buses that urge a vote on gay marriage.  (Here's my own two cents here: I know there are pro-equality people who support referenda, but I think they are rare.  The "let the people vote" campaign -- which we saw in Massachusetts a number of years ago -- is really let the people vote to oppose same-sex marriage.)   Full Equality Now has requested the advertisements be taken down, citing that because of their location "they cannot be avoided... countless LGBT citizens are forced to stare down discrimination as they board the bus to go somewhere or are even passed by an advertisement on the street."  Other activists like Mitch Wood, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, believe allowing the ads supports freedom of expression.  The alliance's statement in opposition to taking down the ads refers to a moment in history when LGBT advocates used buses to advertise:
As supporters of civil marriage equality, we also embrace the principle of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which makes our own advocacy possible. Indeed, the then-named Gay Activists Alliance thirty years ago won a court battle against WMATA for the right to place educational posters in Metrobuses with the message, 'Someone In Your Life Is Gay.' WMATA is a quasi-governmental body and is thus subject to the First Amendment. We, the undersigned, therefore urge you to reject the misguided censorship advocated by Full Equality Now DC.
It's a tough question.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Were the Golden Girls ahead of their time?

Five more stories of 2009

Here are the second five LGBT stories of 2009.  Again, they are in no particular order:

6. The Ugandan government considers a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death.  Top notch reporting by folks like Rachel Maddow brought this story to the attention of millions.  Not only was the Ugandan government condemned -- and it looks like this condemnation worked to stop the death penalty of LGBT people -- the relationship between the Ugandan government and prominent religious and political figures were also uncovered.

7. Losses in Maine and in New York. Heartbreaking?  Of course.  But the loses highlighted two of the most moving moments this year: Ruth Hassell-Thompson's (right) stunning speech in the New York State Senate and the testimony of Phillip Spooner, the WWII vet who spoke out against the referendum in Maine.

8. President Obama signs a hate crimes bill that includes LGBT people. To have the government even acknowledge LGBT people without condemnation was unique after eight years of George Bush.

9. The war expands in Afghanistan. Yes, this story affected everyone deeply.  But the increase in troops in  Afghanistan  -- no matter what your feelings about the escalation -- highlighted once more the absurdity of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." As more and more of our troops are sent to this war, fewer and fewer are available for anything else.  In this light, is it logical to deny thousands and thousands of capable people the right to serve?  And remember: the first George Bush temporarily suspended the prohibition of LGBT people in the military during the first Gulf War.  Almost 20 years later, repealing that ban permanently is still being debated.

10. Intolerance grows in the right wing media.  I know.  This may seem impossible.  But the right wing media -- Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity (left) to name a few -- has led the charge to rid the Republican party of anyone who speaks with a modicum of moderation.  It is leading a purity movement that will either destroy the party or profoundly change our country.  From calling President Obama "a racist" to attacking Kevin Jennings for being gay, the right wing media has become more radical and hyperbolic.