Saturday, January 9, 2010

Because we all need a laugh....

Thanks to Towleroad for bringing my attention to this Peter Pan Meltdown.

Why Catholics in Portugal Won't Fight Against Gay Marriage

It sounds so simple, such a logical way to deal with the issue of gay marriage if you are the Catholic Church and don't believe in same-sex marriage.  Just ignore it.  The blog Gay Agenda reports that that's exactly how Portuguese Catholics are addressing the issue.   Since only sacramental marriage is recognized by the Catholic Church, to church leaders civil marriage is not a marriage.  Anyone with a civil marriage is simply cohabiting, not married.  And anyone cohabiting -- gay or straight -- is not seen as married.  So these civil marriages are all treated equally by the church -- they aren't recognized.   As Gay Agenda writes, "As it (the  church) has not resisted the opposite-sex variety (of civil marriage), then to be consistent, it should likewise not oppose the same sex-variety – unless it wishes to confirm that its motivation is based in sheer bigotry."

I certainly don't care if the Catholic Church doesn't recognize my marriage.  My own church does and my state government does.   Once my federal government recognizes all same-sex marriages, I have no interest in interfering in any religious group's beliefs.

Why is something so simple and logical hard for many Americans to grasp?  Or is it that religion really isn't the motivation behind resistance to same-sex marriage?

Cluelessness in the Prop 8 Trial

The trial to overturn Proposition 8 (Perry v. Schwarzennager) is set to begin on Monday.  So far, the most contentious pre-trial issue has been whether or not to televise the proceedings.  Those supporting Proposition 8 (who oppose same-sex marriage and must defend Prop 8 in court) have been very clear that they do not want the trial televised.  They have cited possible threats and harassments to defenders of the referendum.  According to a blog covering the Prop 8 trial ( a letter from supporters of Prop 8 to the court noted that a televised trial would "impinge on the privacy interests" of witnesses, particularly those "only tangentially related to the case." 

On Friday, the court rejected an emergency petition that cameras be kept from the courtroom.  Also on Friday, one of the defenders of Prop 8 asked to be excused from the trial.  Citing fears for his family’s safety as well as noting that “the case has been more time-consuming and more intrusive into his personal life than expected,” Hak-Shing William Tam no longer wishes to be part of the trial, according to the Associated Press.

I don’t mean to make light of feeling threatened, but it’s important to remember that portraying themselves as victims has been a public relations game from the start for those opposing same-sex marriage.  And as for the trial taking up too much of Hak-Shing’s time as well as being too intrusive in his personal life, I’m sort of speechless that he had the audacity to use that as an excuse.  His very opposition to same-ex marriage in California intruded into the most personal aspects of LGBT people’s lives.  And too much of a time commitment?  Ask a same-sex couple what it’s like to have to spend almost every waking hour defending your relationship to the public.  And if you're going to try to keep people from marrying -- a civil right -- you'd better be ready to give up as much privacy and time as gay people do to try to keep our marriages in tact and free from government interference.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gay Man the Early Favorite to be Toronto's New Mayor

smithermanFirst Houston, now, perhaps, Toronto? is reporting that George Smitherman (left), an openly gay Torontonian, will run for mayor.  According to the blog, "The former deputy premier for Ontario threw his hat in the ring to become the next mayor of Toronto.  The  National Post calls Smitherman the frontrunner, and the Canadian Press noted Smitherman’s toughest opponent has dropped out of the race" when "his biggest competition and former political foe John Tory – who came a close second to current mayor David Miller in the 2003 election – bowed out of the race Thursday after mulling a bid for months."

The election isn't until October, with 14 candidates already in the race

Go, Portugal!

According to the Barry Hatton of the Canadian Press,  Portugal's parliament today passed a same-sex marriage law in a country that, like neighboring Spain, is overwhelmingly Catholic.  It is thought unlikely that President Anibal Cavaco Silva will veto the bill.  As a result, Portugal could be the sixth European country to provide same-sex marriage.  Less than thirty years ago, homosexuality was illegal in the country.

"This law rights a wrong," Prime Minister Jose Socrates (left) said in a speech to lawmakers, adding that it "simply ends pointless suffering."

Civil unions between same-sex couples have been available in Portugal since 2001.  These agreements granted certain legal, tax and property rights, but it did not allow couples to take their partner's name, inherit their possessions, and other rights associated with marriage.

Next on the agenda for the LGBT rights movement in Portugal is passing a law allowing adoption by same-sex couples.

Congressional Republicans add their voices to stop same-sex marriage in Washington, DC

 The Washington Post reports that Republican Congressional leaders are uniting with local anti-equality activists in an attempt to have the court block same-sex marriage in Washington, DC.  At issue is whether or not the city should have a referendum on the same-sex marriage.  The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has already ruled that a vote on the matter would be discriminatory and therefore should not be on the ballot.  The court case alleges that this was not within the board's jurisdiction.

The interference of these Congressional Republicans has sparked outrage, and not just over the specific issue of same-sex marriage.  Some expressed the irony in the members of Congress -- nearly all of whom have actively opposed voting rights for DC residents -- suddenly support the rights of DC citizens.

Sultan Shakir (left) , of the Human Rights Campaign, noted, "It is ironic that nearly all of the 30 representatives and senators that signed the brief have done everything in their power before to deny voting rights to D.C. residents. I don't know if they have had a sudden change of heart on D.C. voting rights or, more likely, they are just playing politics and once again meddling in home rule."

It's uncertain which way he court will decide.  If they decide in favor of the opponents of same-sex marriage,  get ready for another nasty referendum on the civil rights of a group of Americans.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

News from New Jersey

As expect, the New Jersey legislature voted down same-sex marriage this afternoon.  Because pro-marriage equality Governor John Corzine is leaving office very soon to be replaced by an opponent of same-sex marriage, this was seen as a lats ditch effort before a four year wait.

Not so.  I had questioned the wisdom of bringing the issue to a vote when its defeat was all but certain.  Today the leaders for same-sex marriage in New Jersey announced why forcing a vote was good strategy.  They now plan to go to court to win same-sex marriage.   In 2006 the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the legislature must enact marriage or its equivalent for same sex couples.  So the legislature created civil unions.  Marriage equality supporters plan to prove to the court that the civil union status is not the same as marriage. Here's a press release from Steven Goldstein (right) , Executive Director of Garden State Equality:

With today’s vote in the state Senate, the New Jersey legislature defaulted on its constitutional obligation to provide same-sex couples in New Jersey equal protection, as unanimously mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. That’s why we at Garden State Equality are here with our partner Lambda Legal, which has an extraordinary track record of advancing LGBT civil rights in the courts.

Now our organizations will announce major news. Our side is going back to court to win marriage equality....Let’s be clear about what this news means. We are not waiting out the term of any new Administration to bring equality to same-sex couples in our state.

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court told the legislature it could enact marriage or another structure that provides the equal protection of marriage. But the civil union law failed to do that. Too often, civil union couples too often cannot visit loved ones in hospitals, make medical decisions for their partners or receive equal health benefits from employers. Hospitals and employers have treated civil union couples differently because they’ve been labeled differently. Children have been treated differently at school because their families are labeled differently.

This process will take a while, but with few exceptions, most of our victories have come from the courts.  Stay tuned.

Another nice step forward by the Obama Administration

Rachel Maddow recently reported that there has been a change in employment policy for jobs in the federal government.

Playing the Victim, as always

On Wednesday, Judge Walker (right) denied a request to televise live the court trial that might lead to a ruling of unconstitutionality of Proposition 8.  This was a disappointment to Prop 8 opponents; they had hoped the hearings would be televised live in real time.  Instead, Judge Walker has agreed to run the tapes of th trial about two hours delayed on youtube so citizens can see democracy in action.

Although I am not happy with the ruling -- why the delay?  why the opportunity to edit the proceedings? -- I can see it as a compromise.  However, those opposed to marriage equality, led by Maggie Gallagher (left), are up in arms.  Here's a direct quote from her from
But this is no ordinary trial. This is a trial in a case where thousands of ordinary citizens have already faced a wave of hatred for participating in democracy. On Oct. 22, the Heritage Foundation released a report titled "The Price of Prop. 8," which concluded that "supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry."
To deliberately and needlessly expose these people to a new wave of publicity and attacks by televising the trial is outrageous
Full disclosure: As the president of the National Organization for Marriage, which created a ballot initiative committee -- NOM California -- that worked with Protect Marriage, I was intimately involved in putting Prop. 8 on the ballot. So I know dozens of people who have been personally threatened, some of whom still live in fear today when they walk outside their door as a result of an organized effort to distribute personal addresses of donors to Prop. 8. NOM is involved in a separate federal lawsuit to protect donors' constitutional rights in future marriage amendment battles
At stake in this case is not only the future of marriage in all 50 states, but the future of democracy, the future of fair play, ordinary decency and common sense. Not to mention a little thing like constitutional limits on the power of judges
After Prop. 8, gay couples continue to enjoy unmolested all the legal civil rights of marriage under California law through civil unions. Who will stand up for the core civil rights of the people of California and the rest of the USA to participate in democracy without fear?
Certainly not Judge Vaughn Walker.

Make no mistake: this is a PR plan to portray a group of heterosexuals as hate crime victims of LGBT people.  No doubt there were some tensions between supporters of Prop 8 and opponents.  But can anyone seriously state -- with hard evidence -- that there is even a remote similarity between what LGBT people go through daily in facing hostility -- verbal and physical -- and what Maggie Gallagher's followers experience?

Get real, here.  As in so many other issues argued between the right and the left, the compromise is always agreed upon by the left.  The right simply refuses to budge.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why the need to do this, David Letterman?

Joe Jervis, blogger at Joe. My. God., posted this "gem" from the David Letterman Show.   Insulting, cheap, and cruel. Why, David?

Rachel Maddow Nails it Again

That whole birther thing?  Blame the liberals.

A Tale of Two States

As state legislative sessions wind down before their 2010 sessions begin, Rhode Island and New Jersey are proving to be fertile ground for LGBT issues.  

1. In Rhode Island, the legislature has overwhelmingly overridden Governor Carcieri's veto of a bill that would allow the surviving partner of a gay couple to be able to have burial rights after death.  Governor Carcieri (left) vetoed this bill, saying, "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage."  According to The Providence Journal, the legislation grew from the testimony of Mark S. Goldberg, who shared his story of the "months-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release to him for cremation the body of his partner of 17 years."  The National Organization for Marriage, headed by Maggie Gallagher, not only supported this veto but tried to pressure the legislature against overriding it. 

The legislature didn't listen, and overrode the veto by a vote that crossed party lines.  The House vote was 67 to 3 and the Senate vote was 29 to 3.  That's a 96% override vote in the House and a 91% override vote in the Senate.  Pretty clear response to a pretty hateful veto.  Why in the world would anyone want to deny burial rights to a partner? 

2. In New Jersey it now looks like a same-sex marriage vote will take place in the legislature on Thursday.  Most observers had predicted the bill would die, and with it the hopes of same-sex marriage for the next four years, as John Corzine, a marriage equality supporter, leaves office in January and a marriage equality opponent takes over the governorship.  Most people -- including supporters of same-sex marriage -- expect the bill to fail.  Some of us may ask the question, "Why bring it up, then?  Why open the door for another defeat?"  But other supporters of same-sex marriage view a vote as helpful in that it will clarify which legislators to support in the 2010 elections.  They cite the New York vote as instructive in the planning of which candidates to support in next fall's elections.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ungodly Sins

Two stories involving Christianity -- or at least the far right's interpretation of Christianity -- have been in the news lately.  First was the expected yearly diatribe against gay people from Pat Robinson (left).  Yes, this is the same guy who blamed gay people (among others) for the 9-11 attack.  His predictions for the year 2010 have a warning for LGBT people: you are ruining our country!  The Associated Press is reporting that the head of The 700 Club said, "God won't bless an America that institutionalizes homosexual rights and abortion while prohibiting prayer and Bible reading in public schools. How can we pray for his blessing when we have that going on?"

Robertson, whose BFF is God, had also predicted that a terrorist attack in 2007 would kill millions of Americans.  God apparently told him this directly, also.   A question: how can a man who repeatedly claims to have a direct line to God and who repeatedly makes false predictions still get air time and money?  And why is he considered sane while I'd be considered crazy if I said my dog Willa (right)  told me what was to happen in the world next year?  I am not at all denigrating people of faith.  But in my experience, true people of faith don't brag that they and God have some secret bond and they certainly don't blame the very existence of people unlike themselves for the disasters in the world.

The second religious story this week is a comment made by Brit Hume (left) on Fox News.  While discussing Tiger Woods' situation, Hume noted that Woods could recover as a golfer but would have a harder time recovering as a person.  According to the Huffington Post,  Hume said, "The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith.  He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Wow.  Here is a newscaster (1) proclaiming that one religious belief is superior to another and (2) urging a celebrity to join that superior religion.  And people accuse gay people of proselytizing?

The difficulties of being a bi-national LGBT couple

There certainly are more than enough laws that discriminate against and hurt gay people, but the ones that affect bi-national LGBT couples surely are among the cruelest. This is a film clip of a documentary on the topic.  Thanks to Joe Jervis at Joe. My. God. for posting it and bringing it to my attention.


A former Republican runs for Governor of Rhode Island.

The New York Times is reporting that former Rhode Island Senator, Lincoln Chafee (left) , has decided to run for governor of the state.  Chafee lost his reeelction bid to the Senate in 2006.  Although a life-long Republican, Chafee often broke ranks with his own party. He was the only Senate Republican to oppose the war in Iraq, and voted against its funding in 2003.  He has decided to run as an Independent for governor.

Rhode Island's  present governor, Donald Carcieri, outraged many LGBT supporters when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed for burial rights for the surviving parter of gay couples.  A term limits law prohibits Carcieri from running again.

Although it's unfortunate that a man such as Chafee felt the need to leave the Republican Party, it's quite understandable why he took that step.  He has been driven out of his own party because he doesn't always follow the party line.  Take, for instance, his views on same-sex marriage, as he wrote for the Huffington Post:
To me, the issue of same-sex marriage boils down to a question of basic fairness. We all know someone who is openly gay or lesbian. Gays and lesbians have contributed to the diverse fabric of Rhode Island and the rest of the country for generations, strengthening our communities in innumerable ways. Far too often, same-sex marriage has been used as a wedge issue to divide and distract us from the bigger problems we face as a nation.
I don't know the Democrats in this race for Governor, but I can  say that I'm awfully glad Lincoln Chafee hasn't retired from politics.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Saving humanity from homosexual acts is as important as saving the rain forests."

Pope Benedict XVI

HIV Travel Ban Lifted

I'm not sure how many people realize that a ban placed on HIV/Aids patients for entry into the United States and that was sponsored by Jesse Helms in the 1980's was still in place until today.  With all the advances in treatment and better understanding of how HIV is spread, the law seemed as if it were written in the Stone Age.  The US couldn't even hold the bi-Annual AIDS/HIV summit because of its discriminatory law.  Only now has it been lifted.  Here's the story from CBS News:

The U.S. will no longer bar people with HIV/Aids from entering the country, ending a 22-year immigration ban, according to a BBC report Monday.

The move comes as the U.S. prepares to host a bi-annual global HIV/Aids summit in 2012.

President Barack Obama has been on record against the ban, saying in October it was "rooted in fear rather than fact".

"We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the Aids pandemic - yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people with HIV from entering our own country," he said then.
It still boggles my mind that were only one of twelve countries to continue the ban over 22 years.  When did we stop being the country that was a haven for the huddled masses?  When did we become the country that would be so out of step with the rest of the world when in came to welcoming those who most needed welcoming?  There was a time when we tried to persuade other countries to do a better job with human rights.  At least in one area, we were the last to take that step ourselves.  Gee, I wonder if Senator Helms (right)  would have felt the same way about banning entry if, say, the major demographic for the disease was heterosexual white  males from Ireland.  Any chance that the fact that gay man were primary targets of the disease helped frame that policy?

Such a cynic, I am.  But I'm happy to give the Obama two kudos in three days, the first for naming Amanda Simpson, a transgendered woman, to a post in his administration.  I look forward to offering many more kudos this year.  (Did I hear someone sat Don't Ask Don't Tell?)

An interview with a writer from of The Portland Press Herald about the loss in Maine this year

 The comes via Pam's House Blend.  It's actually quite a positive assessment of the state of sme-sex marriage in Maine.

A lesbian decade?

The terrific blog, After Ellen, has put together a great list of lesbian-positive entertainment moments and trends from the past decade.  I've edited the list a bit.  But even in this truncated version, it's affirming to see how far we have come when it comes to the depiction of lesbians in our culture.  Here are some of the highlights in the past decade:

The L word (left), a smash hit for Showtime, debuts and ends after six seasons.

Ellen poses for O and is the first person to share the cover with the talk show giant.

Comedian Wanda Sykes (right) comes out.

Lesbian athletes at the Olympics in Beijing (left) win major victories and shine in the Olympics.

Melissa Etheridge wins an Oscar for her song in “An Inconvenient Truth” and thanks her wife in front of millions.

WNBA superstar athlete Sheryl Swoopes comes out, breaking a code of silence that has oppressed many lesbian athletes.

ยชAll My Children airs first lesbian kiss.  Don't underestimate the power of the daytime soap opera.  It reaches millions of households.

The Hours gives Meryl Streep (right) yet another reason for LGBT people to love her.  Her wonderful performance as Clarissa Vaughan, a lesbian, was an acting highlight of the decade even if Nicole Kidman's gorgeous performance as Virginia  Woolf earned her an Oscar.

Lily Tomlin (left) answers “Jane Wagner” (her longtime partner) when asked during an interview what turns her on.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows first lesbian sex on broadcast TV.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quite an original pro-gay marriage protest sign.

Two more countries possibly on the road to same-sex marriage

1. According to  last month a committee of the government of Nepal invited Jennifer Pizer (left), the Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal in the United States, to "advise them on creating a legal framework for LGBT equality."  The Nepali courts decided in favor of same-sex marriage in 2007, but the government has yet to draft a bill to make equal marriage the law of the land.  In a first for any country, the committee is also considering a bill that would provide reparations for LGBT victims of violence.

2. The Associated Press is reporting that Portugal's government has drawn up a bill that would make Portugal the sixth European country to allow gay marriage.  The bill is expected to easily pass the legislature when it is debated, probably sometime this month.  Once it passes the legislature, then the bill would go to President Anibal Cavaco Silva (right), a conservative.  He could either veto or ratify the proposal.  If he vetoes the bill, however, the legislature has the power to override him.  Without a veto, the first same-sex marriages would take place in April, shortly before Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive for a visit.

Backlash in Mexico City

It still amazes me -- and I say this as a former Roman Catholic -- how two people loving each other is turned into evil by the Catholic Church in the light of sex abuse scandals here in the United States and, more recently publicized, in Ireland.  In his last sermon of the year, Mexico City's Cardinal Norbeto Rivera (left) chose not to wish his parishioners glad tidings and best wishes for the new year.  Instead, he lectured on the evils of same-sex marriage, calling the unions "perverse."  Said Rivera, “This perverse example cannot spread. It is necessary to constitutionally defend the family.”  He further called the law for marriage equality  "unjust, inadmissible and condemnable.”

Okay.  I understand it when anti-gay marriage activists use words like "condemnable," even though I disagree completely, but unjust?  Just who is being treated unjustly here?

Of course, Rivera's words are merely talking points for so many Roman Catholic leaders both here in the United States and abroad.  When are these religious folks finally going to realize that civil marriage should have nothing to do with religion?  Catholic churches have every right to refuse to marry gay couples.  What they don't have the right to do is dictate civil law and forbid me and my partner from obtaining a civil marriage for the government and then sanctifying it in the church of our choice -- one that recognizes us and accepts us.