Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marking a notable date

The Stonewall Riots happened 40 years ago tonight. A happy birthday to the gay civil rights movement. We've made a lot of progress, with (sigh) a lot more to go.

A healthy conscience and compassion for the desperate

I've known about this series of articles on the shooting of Dr. Tiller, abortion doctor, for almost two weeks now. Alas, other interesting (and shorter) posts have gotten in the way.

If abortion of the unborn is murder -- as the pro-life side claims -- then Dr. Tiller was, indeed, a murderer -- one who would likely murder again if he wasn't stopped. Isn't it the duty of a conscientious citizen to stop a murderer?

Of course, that logic hangs on the original premise. And that premise is a huge simplification of a complex and heartbreaking situation. The Dr. Tiller's story shows that he has a healthy conscience with a strong dose of compassion and his opponents (and killer) have precious little of either.

The complexity and heartbreak is because these women (and, in some cases, children) find themselves in a desperate situation. Part 2 of this series describes a couple of these desperate situations (and properly contains a warning for disturbing words and images).

One of those cases is a 9-year-old girl who had been raped by her father. She was simply too small to give birth, which would have put her through a great deal of trauma and perhaps killed her. Why does the pro-life side insist she must carry the baby to term?

Why are there so few doctors willing and able to help a girl in that situation? Because if they turn her away cameramen, protesters, and gunmen don't show up at their door.

In addition to those who desperately don't want to be pregnant, there are many more who desperately do, yet late in the pregnancy find that nature has made a mistake and the fetus has devastating abnormalities, such as bones so brittle that life outside the womb is impossible. Some people do not have the inner resources to deal with that. Late-term abortions are never terminated on a whim. The women do not want to be there. But with problems this severe why wait a couple months for the tragic birth? The rhetoric rarely matches reality. These women are going through one of the most difficult situations a parent faces and they are being hounded and harassed.

The pro-life supporters have so completely cowed potential abortion doctors that a woman whose fetus has died sometimes cannot get a doctor to remove it. Why is refusing help the moral thing to do? All this ranting over late-term abortions when abortions after 9 weeks are only 1.1% of the total.

Don't agitate people needlessly

Back in 1966 conservative Englishman Henry Fairlie came to America. He tussled over the meaning of conservatism in various magazines until his death in 1990. Newsweek writer Jeremy McCarter edited an anthology of Fairlie's essays and found that many of Fairlie's predictions of American conservatism have come to pass.

In Fairlie's view, conservatism should follow the British Tory model in which government is to preserve tradition and social order, to protect the people against the capitalists. But, primarily under Reagan, American conservatism and especially the GOP rejected tradition in favor of embracing the free market and speeding the accumulation of wealth. Fairlie was appalled at that turn because the ugly aspects of capitalism tend to coarsen and destabilize society. They could not unite the country when they were so focused on supporting business.

Fairlie said that bedroom-snooping moralists were equally misguided. Government should not meddle in personal affairs and should not agitate people needlessly.

Both of these goals of the GOP led to the vulgar sight of the upper class pandering to the common man for votes. Describing the 1980 GOP convention Fairlie described them as:

Narrow minded, book banning, truth censoring, mean spirited; ungenerous, envious, intolerant, afraid; chicken, bullying; trivially moral, falsely patriotic; family cheapening, flag cheapening, God cheapening; the common man, shallow, small, sanctimonious.

No surprise that Sarah Palin came on the scene as the GOP hit bottom. Fairlie was also annoyed with the Reaganite hostility to Washington:

The Reaganite conservative does not trust the political system, and so is always trying to circumvent it; he does not trust the instincts of Congress, but places profound faith in the wisdom of the executive if he is in charge; he does not trust the deep religious instinct of a people, unless it is decked out in the tawdry costume of a minute of silent prayer in school. The only loyalty that eight years of Reaganite conservatism has inspired is of each to the country of his self.

Calling Dick Cheney. So how does the GOP get out of this mess? Conservatism needs a soul -- and needs to enjoy life.

Pruning a city in a sustainable way

Back in early January I wrote about a map that shows how big Detroit is compared to Boston, San Francisco, and Manhattan (all three fit within the space of Detroit with room to spare). Now come two more maps that compare population density of Detroit in the 1950 census (when the city population was just under 1.9 million) to the density in the 2000 census (when the city population was under 0.9 million). Top density dropped from 65,000 per square mile then to 17,000 now.

Dan Kildee of Flint, Mich. is the treasurer of Genesee County and has been pushing the idea that districts of that city should be razed and returned to nature. Kildee has been asked by Obama to spread that idea to 50 other cities around the country. It is good to hear there are plans for that idea in Detroit. The problem implementers face is that shrinking is equated with failing. We in America seem obsessed with growth. Instead, says Kildee it should be equated with "pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again."

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr. Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

A lag in the legislature

I wrote recently about a chart of attitudes on various gay issues by state. Naturally, a map person turned that into a map. The chart had listed 7 issues: gay marriage, gay adoption, hate crimes protection, etc. The first map how many of those issues have majority support in each state. Two states (Oklahoma and Utah) have majority support for 2, all others states support 4 or more. Alas, the second map is discouraging. It shows how many of the 7 issues have actually been enacted. Only 18 states (by my count) have enacted more than 2 issues. The third map sums it up -- it shows the number of issues that have majority support that have not been enacted yet. Michigan has 4. Alaska is the worst at 5. Then there are Iowa, Maine, and Oregon who have enacted issues without majority support.

The question is: Why? Why are there so many states so far behind public opinion? Is it simply because legislatures need time to catch up? Or are they still afraid of the religious right? In Michigan I would say it is the fear -- the Michigan Senate is under GOP control and its members were not up for re-election in 2008. It looks like we need a chance to vote on our senators before we can get rid of the obstacles.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We really don't know each other

Wendy Gritter of New Directions wants better communication between the Christian and gay communities. Timothy Kincaid, who grew up in a conservative religious home, takes her up on the offer. Some of the things he says:

Much of the battle between these two groups is due to ignorance. Christians don't know gays and, because they've been burned so many times, gays don't know Christians. We also don't trust each other (with good reason) and we assume the worst about the other.

Reaching out to anti-gay forces helps because many at least try to be truthful. Many also try not to hate gays, even try to love them. They just don't have a clue that their love comes across as hateful.

A big problem with many Christian groups is thy come across as arrogant and patronizing. A big problem with gays is our victimhood -- disagreements are seen as attacks. A big problem on both sides is they assume the other side has no diversity, the whole group is just like the loudest and ugliest members.

We need to know each other, keep communications open and not assume the worst.

We need to believe each other, such as when gays tell Christians we're not trying to shut down the church (or at least most of us aren't) and when Christians tell gays the motivation isn't hate.

We must tolerate each other. Christians can't insist on public policy to punish gays. Gays can't insist Christians change their theology.

We must call off the culture war. It benefits only those who profit from the conflict.

We must denounce the haters and liars. We can't let ourselves be defined by the extremists within our ranks. While the lying obviously comes from the Christian side, the gay side has its own share of vicious attacks and mockery.

We must commit to civility, even if we can't agree.

Alas, emotions run deep and the pain won't be healed quickly.

Charting acceptance

Here's a chart about attitudes on various gay issues done by state and the states listed in order of most favorable (Massachusetts with 55% supporting gay marriage) to least (Alabama with less than 25% supporting gay marriage). Michigan is 25th. In almost all cases the issues have the same order of least favorable to most. In order, they are same-sex marriage, second parent (gay) adoption, civil unions, health benefits for partners, against job discrimination, hate crimes protections, against housing discrimination. There are even filled in circles to show if these opinions have made it into law. Iowa, 3 states below Michigan, has all circles filled while Michigan has none.

As low as Alabama is on gay marriage, more than 50% of respondents there are in favor of such things as outlawing job and housing discrimination, providing health benefits to partners, and enacting hate crime protections. And that pretty much says the nation as a whole is ready for at least those four. So where are our political leaders?

If blacks are disadvantaged, then whites are ... advantaged?

Back in 1990 Peggy McIntosh published an essay on White Privilege. While whites are taught to see blacks as disadvantaged, they rarely look at the reverse -- being white has advantages. Most of us whites just assume that's how the world works. She gives 50 examples of how whites are privileged over other races in America. Here are some of them:
* I can go shopping alone and be assured I won't be followed or harassed.
* I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own protection.
* I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
* I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
* I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
* I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

B. Deutsch followed McIntosh's list with ways in which men are privileged. Some examples:
* The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible.
* If I have children and provide primary care for them, I'll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I'm even marginally competent.
* If I'm careless with my driving it won't be attributed to my sex.
* Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
* If I have a wife or girlfriend, chances are we'll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.

There is also a corresponding list for straight privilege (written by a college student).
* I can be pretty sure that my roommate, hallmates and classmates will be comfortable with my sexual orientation.
* I do not have to fear that if my family or friends find out about my sexual orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical or psychological consequences.
* I am not identified by my sexual orientation.
* I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double-take or stare.
* My individual behavior does not reflect on people who identity as heterosexual.
* Nobody calls me straight with maliciousness.

Male is to masculine

Yesterday, in writing about how the gay rights movement doesn't have a national face, I wrote: "…our defining difference is sex…"

My friend and debate partner responded:
I read this short phrase -- and my sense of objection is immediate. Perhaps you meant "gender". (I frequently think reporters should say "gender" where they write "sex".)

If the LGBT rights movement is about sex acts between partners, the movement gets stuck on the "ick factor" you sometimes mention. But it's no one's business what goes on in private between partners. So long as people are legally free to participate, volunteer, and hurt no one else, I really don't care how they fulfill one another sexually. Ickiness is equally meaningful for heterosexuals.

I'd prefer to see LGBTs argue from high ground. LGBT rights are about human dignity, full citizenship, respect, and equality in the eyes of the law. The lack of those, first under the law and eventually in the full culture, is the defining difference. All lovers, having come to peace with their self-knowledge, values and principles, should feel free to walk the earth with head held high, answerable to no one else. LGBTs have deeply (at least in part, genetically) -held relationship preferences, entirely as worthy of respect as are the heterosexual. Societal issues about interracial and inter-ethnic marriage are entirely comparable in my mind to the issues facing LGBTs.

I used to also think that writers should use gender (as in same-gender marriage) instead of sex. I've read enough from various Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people to understand a distinction between the terms. The short way to say it is: sex is to gender what male is to masculine. In more detail: sex refers to the form of the genitals, gender refers to a number of other things -- how one perceives him/herself, how society perceives a person, how society divides up what traits are appropriate (or not) for each sex. If we say a man is masculine we mean a biological male is acting in ways society expects a man to act, perhaps taking such actions to the extreme. A feminine male is one who acts in ways society expects a woman to act. Transgender people are those born with genitalia of one sex but think of themselves as being of the opposite gender. In these cases the self-perception wins out over plumbing.

There may be better ways -- more lofty ways -- of saying it, but basically the defining difference between a straight man and a gay man is sex. The loftier ways include talking of sexual orientation and of who we love. But no matter how we dress it up, our opponents are going to think about the act and experience the ick factor.

As for your last paragraph, I've known you long enough (at least 15 years now) that I know well your opinion about LGBT rights (and rights in general). It's still good to hear you say it.

Another blogger thought the original article in the New York Times (which I took at face value) about there not being a face to our movement was idiotic.

The original idea: We need someone to speak for us. Response: Millions speak for us. Don't get in their way by assuming we have to speak with one voice. We (unlike the GOP) don't march in lockstep. There's no way we're going to allow someone to stand in front of such a diverse community and say, "You must agree with me."

If there is one speaker for all of us the whole process will take a lot less time. Response: People forget that ML King didn't wrap up black civil rights in a few years. He built on a process that had been working for a century.

Back to my friend's complaint -- or defining difference is sex. Response: People don't think of the sex lives of our leaders anymore than they thought of the sex lives of other rights leaders, except for those on the extreme right we aren't going to influence anyway.

We focus our efforts on the local level and don't need a national leader. Response: There are a lot of national issues but we were stymied at the national level for 8 years so had to work locally. Besides, national leaders aren't self-appointed nor are they voted on. They arise (if they do) by putting in the effort at the local level. Like King did.

Perhaps the Times can't get a handle on how diverse our community is.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The face of our movement

Slavery abolition had Frederick Douglass. Black civil rights had Martin Luther King. Women's rights had Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. Gay rights have … ? (Before you say Harvey Milk, he was not a national figure when he was shot.) Some historians think the average American doesn't empathize with us because there is no nationally known gay face.

Perhaps we don't need a national leader.

First, our defining difference is sex and many don't see that as a moral issue (on the contrary…). Second, for a good long time we haven't had a national issue we could take to the courts, the primary route for black and women's rights. Third, AIDS decimated a generation of leaders. Fourth, we have made a great deal of progress at the local and state level.

Setting a match to dynamite

With the rise of domestic terrorism comes attempts at spinning the story to deflect blame. Here are several myths and rebuttals from Sara Robinson, who keeps tabs on right extremist groups.

* These are lone wolf psychos. You can't hold anyone else responsible. Think of a lone wolf psycho as a stick of dynamite. They are drawn to extremist groups who provide a narrative to make sense of the world. Those groups and that narrative is the match to make the dynamite explode. And the match is lit with full knowledge of what the dynamite will do.

* These terrorists are really left-wingers, Liberal Fascists. Go back to the definitions of the words. Fascist is a force from the right. The corresponding word for the left is "communist." Both are flavors of "totalitarianism."

* Public right-wing groups don't advocate violence, so they can't be blamed. But their worldview of cosmic struggle of good/evil and us/them requiring world purification means (at least to the psychos) terrorism is an unavoidable conclusion.

* These are tiny groups we don't need to worry about. The number of hate groups has increased by 40% since 2000. The various groups are quite well connected. They're big enough to do real damage.

* It's not fair to hold right-wing talking heads responsible for their listeners actions. Advertisers will spend $50 billion on TV and $15 billion on radio this year. Why? Because it works. The right also complains that our national morals are being degraded by TV and radio content. The religious right came to power on the strength of cable TV shows. But talking heads have no effect? Right.

* Left-wing talking heads are just as bad. (So you admit that talking heads do have an effect, hmm?) Both left and right commenters can get out of hand. But none of the talking head leaders on the left has called for extermination, silencing, and harassment of conservatives. And all of the leaders on the right have said that of liberals. Some of them say it weekly. Besides, the targets for terrorism are not fundamentalist churches or organizations.

* Accusations that talking heads cause terrorism mean the left wants to use government censorship to shut them down. You accuse us of trampling free speech? After Bush? Nope, we know the value of the term. Besides, there is a better and more effective technique. First, we call you hypocrites. Then we tell your show's sponsors what you said and ask them if they want to be associated with such hate speech. Such language is really bad for PR.

* But that's also censorship! Nope, your free speech does not demand that I (or sponsors) pay to listen to it. Besides, aren't you champions of the free market?

* That guy who shot two military recruiters in Arkansas was a liberal! Not everyone who opposes the war is a liberal. The shooter is a Muslim from Yemen, nothing to do with the American left (or right).

It is only when we get the myths cleared away can we properly discuss the threats we face.

The "lone wolf" way of spreading terrorism is one popularized by the Aryan Nation back in the 1980a -- and picked up by Al Qaeda. The parent organization only inspires individuals and small cells, allowing them to work on their own initiative. The organization can then claim leaderless resistance. The lone wolves usually declare their allegiances. The parent group works under the premise that the rest of the society will see what the lone wolves are doing for them and will join the resistance. This is a huge flaw because most of society and even most whites no longer support white supremacy.

In response to my posting about the rise of domestic terrorism and the opinion that a gruesome event will either end it or touch off a civil war, my friend and debate partner responded:

I have absolutely zero concern that a civil war will develop in this country, especially over hate crime issues. Political apathy is too entrenched and personal and family anxieties too widespread to take us even to civil skirmishes. Militia wannabees are more likely to feel pressure to feed their families than to take to the woods in rebellion. A public that is welcoming to LGBTs and blacks to degrees never before known will insist that the government stamp out organized actions by the tiny hate crime communities.

The real outcome of this sad crime wave will be beneficial: The public appetite for gun control will grow. Assault weapons should be the first ones banned and criminalized.

I hope he is correct about gun control, considering how pragmatic Obama is about it. Please note my friend responded promptly to my post. I'm the one who delayed in sharing it with you.

There are limits to pragmatism

I’m a pragmatist, a believer in doing whatever works. I work with church musicians (and worked with school musicians) and I understand that given constraints of time and the ability of performers I may not reach what a piece of music should sound like. I know a performer needs to learn a particular skill but may not learn it in the time available and I may need an alternate solution. I rant about church rules that have no basis in reality, that are unworkable.

It is good to know Obama is a pragmatist too. However, there are voices who think he doesn't know the difference between pragmatism and spinelessness. We're getting the mushy middle on gay rights, on health care, and on financial reform.

So what's the difference? Pragmatism is backed up by idealism or a moral conviction. I know what a piece of music is supposed to sound like and I do all I can to reach that. However, I don't worry about which particular technique gets me there and I don't berate my performers if they're not quite up to the task. In other matters I'm more interested in the goal, getting as close to it as I can, rather than the particular route of getting there or being too upset if I can't get there this time out.

There are too many times we don't see the idealism or conviction behind what Obama does. To be fair to the big guy, many Dems in Congress are not showing any more conviction. Sheesh, the GOP is in a rout. The Dems are essentially the only game in town. Someone with conviction would seize the lack of credible opposition and advance progressive causes. Instead, the Dems risk being seen as a party without conviction, who want power, but haven't the slightest idea what to do with it.

That was the reason why I voted against George the First when he was up for a second term.

The chaos in Iran show that some things are worth sacrificing -- and maybe even dying -- for. You wouldn't know it from Obama.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Professor, don't you think I deserve an A?

We've all seen computerized display boards that images made from colored light bulbs. Students at Wroclaw Polytechnic University took that idea to turn an 11 story dormitory hall into their light canvas. Each room became a pixel in their display. They wired up 4 colors of lights per room and programmed the computer for a 10 minute show. Alas, it all got recorded on a handheld camera. I doubt anyone stayed in their room during the show.

Leaving Democrats and into the arms of... ?

Some sources say the only group that has shown more loyalty to the Democratic Party than gays has been African Americans. Others say that we are the most reliable -- 70% of gays vote and 70% of gay voters vote Democratic. Yet, at least on the national level, what do we have to show for or time, money, effort, and loyalty? Law makers who are still spooked by the Fundies. Many checkbook activists are now donating only to candidates with a proven track record and not to the party as a whole.

The immediate answer as to why is the awful DOMA brief that I wrote about a couple days ago. But let's take a step back.

The GOP wooed religious conservatives promising everything and saying, "If you don't vote for us the Dems will be in power and they don't like you." But the GOP never delivered (and we're glad they didn't) and poisoned the public debate in the process.

Meanwhile Dems have been telling gays, "If you don't vote for us the GOP will stay in power and they don't like you." One way to keep us tied to the Dems is to not actually deliver on their promises. In the big Democratic coalition gays are unique in that when they come out we frequently have to construct new social supports -- we know we don't need what supported us in our youth. Perhaps we don't need the Dems anymore either.

The Dems now face a big problem. Not everyone in the Dem big tent likes gays. Doing things for gays might drive away other factions -- into the waiting arms of the GOP. Thus the Dems are looking to do the minimum to keep gays happy.

Are both major parties due for a realignment? Is this a way of saying a two-party system doesn't work? Some wonder if the Dems are the party of doing the minimum to keep voters happy. What's the minimum health care package we can pass and still win in 2010? What's the minimum number of troops we can withdraw from Iraq?

Here's another take on the gay / Democrat divorce. Unlike the GOP, the Dems have never had a purity test for membership (I hope you've figured out by now what the membership purity test for the GOP is. This reader claims it is married white Christian males). However, that means not all members of the Dem big tent are willing to help gays. Gays and Dems formed a relationship because many gays forgot that equality isn't a partisan issue. That's understandable because the GOP loudly announced how much they were against gay equality. But Dems, due to the nature of the big tent, will only do for us what they absolutely have to.

So keep pressuring the Dems. Also pressure the GOP -- we wouldn't have gotten gay marriage in nearly all of New England without the support of GOP lawmakers.

Obama's and Congress's inaction has led to calls to close the gayATM (now with a logo: gAyTM). Some gay activists are afraid that gays near the halls of power will want to retain access through continued giving, dismissing the rest of us as not knowing how Washington works.

The number of prominent voices who have pulled out of Joe Biden's LGBT fundraiser has left the White House scrambling (and stumbling). Which has led to an observation: Our voice is our wallet.

Now that our revolution is underway how might we urge it along? The comments in this posting offers suggestions. Perhaps fire employees for being straight? They're not protected anymore than gays are. One commenter offers this suggestion: One each of a gay couple and a lesbian couple, both couples legally married in another state, go for a marriage license. When the clerk asks if they are already married they say they are, but it shouldn't matter because this state doesn't recognize it. The tagline in a rejoinder says, "Marriage equality. Now with 50% more cake."

We're not going to let a pesky amendment stop us

Even though Wisconsin passed a marriage protection amendment in 2006 that also banned civil unions, the legislature has passed a domestic partnership registry. They feel they can get away with it because, unlike marriage, a DP registration doesn't require a license nor a ceremony. The law provides for inheritance rights, employment and wrongful death benefits, and rights of joint property. The bill isn't on the governor's desk yet because the DP provisions are part of a budget bill and that needs to go through a reconciling process first.

The DC City Council has approved recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. As expected, opponents sought to hold a referendum to overturn it. The DC Board of Elections refused to allow the referendum because if it passed it would authorize discrimination. The BoE said holding the vote would violate their Human Rights Act.

Naturally, a suit against the ruling was filed immediately.

Expect allowing gays to marry in DC by the end of the year.

I don't want to inconvenience you

I tried to "publish" a few of these posts yesterday, but the Blogger site apparently went down in the middle of my first attempt.

I mentioned in my previous postings that Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum to provide more benefits to gay federal employees. I also mentioned the exercise fell flat. Here are some reasons why:

* A Presidential Memorandum (different from an Executive Order) lasts only while that particular president is in office.

* This particular memo essentially tells the heads of various agencies, "Please, would you mind trying to find some benefits to give to gay employees, ones that don't run afoul of the Defense of Marriage Act? If it's not too much trouble…"

* Most department heads already grant all the benefits they can and have done so since the Clinton era.

* These benefits are mostly on the order of bereavement leave and relocation expenses.

* Those department heads that didn't (such as State) have already announced new benefits (gay partners of DoS employees can now use American medical facilities while overseas).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Falling flat again and again

I know it's only been a few days since I last posted to this blog, but it has been a busy few days. On Tuesday I had lunch with a friend to celebrate birthdays (his is the day after mine) and then I went off to an enjoyable movie. On Wednesday it was lunch with some former work colleagues, a visit to the doctor (sign a form to keep my "preferred" status for my health insurance), visit the campus library, stop at Eastern Market to stock up with tea, and then spend the evening at the Ruth Ellis Center.

That movie I went to see was Every Little Step. It documents the creation of the musical The Chorus Line back in the 1970s and follows several singer-dancers through auditions for the show's revival. Stay with me now. That means the movie is about auditioning for a show in which the show is about auditioning for a show. I enjoyed it, though wondered why the whole process took at least eight months.

Alas, these few days of not posting happened to be momentous. One blogger described it as the Stonewall of our time, though quickly admitted such a claim is best left for history to bestow. It is especially fitting that Stonewall was 40 years ago next month. If you don't remember gay history, the Stonewall Riots happened when the drag queens in Greenwich Village in NYC decided they'd had enough of police raids and decided to fight back.

This was a week in which gays had enough of Obama's slandering and dithering and decided to fight back. And they did so with enough volume and consistency that both Obama and Harry Reid in the Senate were thrown off message and left scrambling for a way to placate us, only to find their attempts fell flat.

The trigger for this rage is last week's nasty support for the Defense of Marriage Act written by the Department of Justice. At the very least Obama should explain whether he saw it before it was filed and whether or not he personally agrees with it. That hasn't happened yet.

The Human Rights Campaign, usually seen as a subsidiary of the Democratic Party and the gay ATM finally got a spine and blasted the DOMA brief.

A couple of bloggers wrote a speech that Obama could give to soothe gay rage. They did it by directly lifting from Obama's June Pride Proclamation and interpolating from campaign speeches that Obama gave. Obama didn't give that speech or any other.

Dan Savage offers a civil disobedience method to get Obama's ear. He and his husband are annoyed enough they are thinking of doing it themselves. Every day one gay couple goes to the White House and asks to speak to Obama. When they are denied a meeting they refuse to leave and only do so when arrested. The president would be faced with the issue daily. Drip, drip, drip.

Well, if the prez. isn't moving on DOMA, what about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Obama has been saying it has to be done through legislative action. But Harry Reid said there were no plans to repeal DADT, that he's looking for an executive order instead.

That didn't go over well, so Reid tried to change his tune. Maybe he and the senate might be able to find the time for it if Obama submits a bill. That didn't go over well either, starting with too condescending.

In addition to sending letters, to writing scathing blog entries, and getting occasional newspaper coverage, gays are also fighting back where it hurts -- in the wallet. Joe Biden is to host a Democratic Party/LGBT fundraiser next week. In response to the DOMA mess many prominent gays are canceling.

Obama tried again. This time it was a big press conference to announce support for the Domestic Partners Benefits & Obligations Act, which would treat partners of federal employees to full spousal benefits. In the meantime Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum (somewhere one can find the difference between that and an Executive Order, but I haven't looked yet) to provide gay couples with the very few benefits available without changing the law. Health care was not one of them. Besides only 2% of Americans work for the government and perhaps only 5% of them are gay (probably, due to Bush, a lot fewer). What about the rest of us, Mr. Prez.? Another effort that fell flat.

A blog responder wonders if Obama is being fiendishly clever. Perhaps he is provoking us to becoming outraged to provide him with impetus and cover to do all we want him to do. Or maybe not. Maybe it doesn't matter because we are now outraged. Does it provide him with enough cover? Don't know yet.

U.S. Conference of mayors passed a resolution to support freedom to marry. Why is Obama silent?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A reason to clean the garage

Back at the end of March I reported on my city's new recycling program. Since then the program has been approved and they are starting to roll it out.

I woke up this morning to noise progressing down the street. I wasn't sure what it was but knew it wasn't trash day. When I got up and looked out the window my new blue recycling bin was at the end of the driveway. This thing is big -- about 2.5 foot square at the top and as high as my belt. It can hold 96 gallons.

That meant my afternoon project was to clean the garage. I needed someplace to put this monster. It needed cleaning anyway and the weather was sunny and got up to 78F.

I've got a lot to put into the bin. I had been collecting recyclables since last fall (who wants to visit the recycle dumpsters in winter?) and didn't go this spring since I knew I would get paid for what I put into the bin. I've pretty much filled the bin and will fill it twice more before my backlog is gone.

I didn't have the particulars of the program quite right when I described it in March. They take all kinds of paper (including phone books), cardboard, all kinds of recyclable plastic, clear glass, metal cans, and even old metal cookware. The bin doesn't have a bar code, but does have a long string of inch-high digits. The number is recorded to say I participated and at the end of the route the truck is weighed. I get credited for one share of the reward. The first pickup will probably be in early July.

Rosa Parks is watching

A gay pride participant, who is disappointed in Obama's inaction on our behalf, asked for suggestions for what he could put on a sign to carry at the pride parade. Responders came through.

Some of the best:

It's hard to see change from under the bus.

Marriage: Not just for Pregnant Evangelical Teens!

Obama: Rosa Parks is watching

Discrimination is SO 1950s

The Audacity of Nope

And click over to a well done graphic (even if it represents a disappointing situation).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Politics of ick?

Researchers at Cornell University measured levels of disgust when people were confronted with icky things. Those most likely to be grossed out were politically conservative -- and most likely to oppose same sex marriage. The ick factor reigns. This story is at the bottom of the first page and on into the second.

Restarting public discussion

Michigan state representative Pam Byrnes, who is House Speaker Pro Tem, is introducing a bill to overturn the state's constitution amendment banning gay marriage. She is attempting the route of passage by 2/3 of both house and senate before going to the people for a simple majority vote. Her chance of success, given that the state senate is controlled by the GOP (heavily under the influence of Gary Glenn and the American Family Association), is close to zero. Glenn is even smugly saying it won't get a majority of the Dem controlled house -- if it comes to a vote at all. At least the issue is back in public discussion.

The leading edge of the storm

Six weeks ago I wrote about a gathering storm from the militant right. That storm seems to have arrived.

The shooting at the Holocaust Museum brings the total shootings since Obama's inauguration to 8. It had been once a month, now down to about once every two weeks. This is how domestic terrorism begins. It is likely to increase. Some indications of that likelihood:
* The rate of incidence is dropping.
* They may be lone wolves now, but wolves join packs.
* Law enforcement researchers see an expansion of training operations.
* Separate extremist organizations are reaching out to each other.
* Bush dropped enlistment requirements, accepting any warm body (except gays). Militia types signed up for training on Uncle Sam's dime. Many are returning home now.

This will end one of two ways:

* An act of terrorism that is too gruesome for the more rational members of the militias and most lay down their arms. This is what happened after the Oklahoma City bombing.

* Much less likely, the general populace sees the government is too corrupt to protect them and a civil war ignites.

The people who wrote that above assessment have a question for the militia movement: Are you intentionally trying to start a civil war?

Yeah, you claim these lone wolves are not your responsibility, but forgive us for not believing you for a few reasons.

* The lone wolves themselves claim the right-wing extremist organizations, or just right-wing loud voices, are their inspiration.

* When the Department of Homeland Security said they were worried about domestic violence, practically every extremist organization trumpeted about how they were being slandered. Except the DHS report did not name names.

* By trying to gain political power through hate and fear these groups attract the crazies. They even train and arm them.

* The political discourse is being polluted and trust destroyed -- and people killed -- apparently only for political gain or profit.

So, is it civil war you want?

If yes, then have enough warrior honor to say so. Stop hiding behind the crazies.

If no, stop feeding the crazies, grow up, and join the civilized public discourse. You can't assassinate your way to power.

But you have to answer now before a catastrophe happens.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seems our fierce advocate is a fierce opponent

A gay couple married in Calif. last year have filed a suit in the US Supreme Court saying they want their legal Calif. marriage recognized by federal law and by other states. In other words, they are seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. This is not the famous case before the Supremes trying to get the current Calif. marriage ban overturned.

Alas, Obama's Department of Justice has written a legal brief asking the Supremes to dismiss the challenge to DOMA. It is filled with a great many of the Fundie talking points, such as the gov't will save money by denying marriage to gays (they’re worried about millions after spending 700 billion on banks?). Naturally, this has not gone down well with gay groups. Didn't Obama say he wanted to repeal DOMA? Where is our "fierce advocate?" Why is he supporting DOMA?

One of my sources, the Box Turtle Bulletin, is a bit more thoughtful and both the host and the commenters he attracts fill in a few holes.

* It seems the DoJ employee who is the author of the brief is a Mormon and a Bush era holdover, who wrote such briefs during that era.

* There is a debate on whether the DoJ is supposed to be independent from the president (knowing full well in the Bush years it wasn't). Does the Attorney General serve at the pleasure of the president and how should that affect his job? Should such briefs be reviewed by the prez. before being sent to the Supremes? Many gay blogs say the brief is Obama's personal rejection of us when it is likely he didn't see it before it hit the news.

* What is the difference between upholding the law (which the Constitution says is one of the jobs of the president and which Bush scoffed at) and defending the law before the Supremes (on which the Constitution is silent), especially if the law is seen as in conflict with the president's primary job of upholding and defending the Constitution?

A confusing muddle

This one is a confusing story, so please forgive me if I don't have it right. Shortly after last November's election a few (two or three) New York state senators who are Democrats threatened to vote with the GOP in deciding which party controls the senate. Yes, the divide between the two parties is that close. The issue is gay marriage. These senators are from Catholic districts and like what the Dems are doing in all other areas, just not concerning gays. A "deal" was reached (though apparently denied by many) and the chamber stayed in Dem hands. Even so, the NY governor said the gay marriage bill should be passed before the summer break.

Last week a couple Dem senators (as far as I can tell, not the ones in the gay marriage threat) voted to switch senate leadership to the GOP. In a loud session the GOP held a vote while the Dems said the vote was out of line. In response, the Dems locked the chamber doors. The GOP said the chamber (or at least the GOP and Dem defecting members) will hold sessions in the nearby park.

A third Dem senator is threatening to switch allegiance. The reason, near as I can figure, is rich. This particular senator really wants gay marriage for his state and he believes the GOP can make it happen. Then the GOP can crow to gays: We made it happen and the Dems couldn't.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Marriage bans are actually good for us

In some cases Cupid has to work a little harder. A sweet video of the final exam of a ballet choreographer for a Master of Fine Arts (in two parts, total 17 minutes).

Grover from Sesame Street and a little friend define marriage and do a sweet job of it (about 2 minutes).

A pair of maps show the changes in marriage equality since 2000. At that time most state laws were only somewhat against gay marriage. The second map shows the severe turn against gays in 2004-6 and the more recent turn towards us since then. The second map is even out of date, not yet showing the new marriage law in New Hampshire. The source site shows how the map changed over time and includes dates of the current status.

The shift towards marriage bans are actually an indication that we will prevail. In 2000 the idea of gay marriage was so inconceivable that no action against it was necessary. Only when it was seen as a possibility did states move against it (The author is aware of the political calculations behind the bans). It is our reaction to the bans (esp. in Calif.) that is now propelling the current efforts and successes.

Backlash from both sides

Gays have been complaining that Obama is doing nothing for us (even when the support for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is close to 70%, including 58% of conservatives).

We expect a backlash from the Fundies (and laugh at the ridiculousness of their answer). But a backlash from progressives -- gays just won't shut up -- is harder to take. Alas, the answers sound very familiar. We've been here before -- like from before the 2006 election at least through the 2008 election.

* Sheesh, the guy has only been in office less than 5 months. Yet, his Press Secretary gives non-answers, the prez. himself could prevent military discharges until Congress acts, and he could at least acknowledge the Calif. gay marriage ruling.

* We're making him take his eye off the ball of more important issues and spending precious political capital on divisive issues. Gays in the military is one of those important national security issues. And with the support of ending the ban it would be a waste of political capital to not act now.

* Timing is wrong. Obama is busy in 2009. 2010? Um, no. Too close to midterm elections. Then perhaps 2011? Well, that's getting close to presidential elections in 2012.

Insulting Christians from the inside

Pat Robinson spouted off again that most gays are that way because of abuse from a coach, guidance counselor, or other authority figure. None of which explains why I'm gay.

Dan Savage says Robinson isn't an insult to gays. He's an insult to Christians. Robertson's view is very unflattering to Christian America.

All that has me wondering about Robertson. Is he suggesting that gays are sexual predators because so many of the straight men that Robertson knows are also sexual predators and he is projecting what he knows onto us? For the record I am not suggesting Robertson is a sexual predator. It's bad enough he is a religious predator.

Another source gives a better account of Dan Savage's comments. It isn't just that Robertson reveals Fundies to be adrift from reality. There are deeper implications. In Fundie Christian schools, gays are not being hired as coaches, guidance counselors, youth pastors, and dorm captains. Most of these kids haven't met a gay person. Meaning all that sexual abuse is being done, not by gays, but by straight Christian (who should know better) men. Accusing gays only takes the heat off the real perpetrators -- or there aren't any perpetrators and some kids are just naturally gay.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Embarrassing you with drunken public outbursts

Brian Dickerson, Free Press columnist, has a fine commentary on free speech in response to the death of Dr. George Tiller. Dickerson starts by saying:

Defending free speech is like being in love with a gifted but temperamental artist who is forever embarrassing you with his drunken public outbursts. You want to nurture your beloved's creativity, but sometimes you wish you could just leave the bloviating SOB at home.

He goes on to say that laws restricting protestors around abortion clinics are counterproductive. Alas, he doesn't bring up the feelings of women who are called all kinds of vile things on their way into a clinic. Dickerson says that those targeted for restraint, such as Rev. Donald Spitz, leader of the Army of God, might be emboldened to

act out violently -- not because they're "frustrated," as Spitz maintains, but because all the fuss government makes over their words fans their grandiose delusions.

Of course, the powers that be want to muzzle me, the targets of censorship tell themselves, because what I believe is so powerful, so transcendentally true, that if I were allowed to say it aloud the powers that be would be shaken to their foundations.

The reality is quite different. The reality is that the more you hear someone like Spitz explain himself, the more clearly you understand how far 'round the bend he has gone, and that whatever is eating him probably has less to do with abortion than with how someone bullied little Donny around when he was three or four.

More than it exposes us to violence, the unfettered speech of extremists exposes their own irrationality. Such exposure is a civilized society's most powerful weapon against the lunatic fringe, and we should encourage them whenever they choose to turn it on themselves.

Improved approval

A new poll on Michigan's attitudes on gays was reported in yesterday's Detroit Free Press. The results were compared to a similar poll conducted back in October of 2004, a month before voters approved the state's marriage protection amendment. Some of the results:
* Gays should have the right to visit partners in the hospital -- 92% approve.
* Gay couples should have inheritance rights -- 71% approval.
* Domestic Partner benefits should be offered for government & university jobs -- 65% approval.
* Gays should have civil unions -- 64% approval.
* Gays should be able to adopt -- 57% approval.
* Support for gay marriage has grown from 24% in 2004 to 46.5% in May. We're not quite in the position of being able to challenge the amendment, but we're getting close.
* The number of people saying they know a gay person has grown from 56% in 2004 to 80% in May.

Sotomayor Salsa

Garrison Keillor paid tribute to the Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in this past weekend's show. He noted that she enjoys Salsa music, so had Richard Dworski (also a Salsa fan) perform a little song for her, titled "Sotomayor Salsa." The fun was that the words weren't Spanish, they were Latin legal phrases. The song is a part of Segment 1.

Celebrate the separate

Stephen Colbert takes a look at the "separate, but equal" claim on domestic partnerships v. gay marriage. Instead of focusing on "not equal", why not focus on "separate"? Let's be even more separate. Let's reclassify other kinds of relationships that are currently called marriage so that gays don't feel so left out.

Wasn't there a line about good overcoming evil?

In response to my previous post on gay cooties and the Fundie insistence that Christians should avoid gays, a former pastor of my church wrote:

I thought it should be the other way around--that "good morals" might be more powerful than bad company--but then again, who knows where bad company lies?

And that reminds me a good deal of the bible is about how good overcomes evil. So if being gay is evil (which it isn't), it seems certain Fundies don't trust their goodness to overcome it. Then again, since a good deal of what they say is based on violating the 9th commandment, perhaps their good isn't all that good.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gay cooties?

Yet another poll, such as the one recently from Gallup, highlights that people who know gays are much less likely to discriminate against them. To gays that means your life will improve over the long term as you come out to people.

That poll means something quite different for Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. Christians are to avoid gays at all costs. Stay away from gays on the job. Throw out your unrepentant gay kids. His justification is from Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33 -- "Don't be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals."


Thursday, June 4, 2009

What if your daughter is a lesbian?

Obama's silence on all gay issues has Seething Mom (who can be quite eloquent in her rage) writing a letter to the president and putting it bluntly. Nice to have a Supreme Court nominee with empathy. Now, what about you? Do you have empathy? What if one of your daughters is a lesbian? Could you bear to tell her she's a second class citizen?

Seething Mom also writes about church-based hate while summarizing an article in The Christian Century by David Gushee and on the book Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America edited by Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker. Seething Mom's conclusion: Christians owe gays an apology. Gushee notes:

I must say I find it scandalous that the most physically and psychologically dangerous place to be (or even appear to be) gay or lesbian in America is in the most religiously conservative families, congregations and regions of this country. Most often these are Christian contexts. Many of the most disturbing stories in this volume come from the Bible Belt. This marks an appalling Christian moral failure.

Gushee also takes on the Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner: The love gets lost. We need to refine our ability to love. We can't compartmentalize hate.

Yes, churches have a First Amendment right to teach their beliefs. But religious hostility is at the heart of violence against gays. Many gays have been saying, fine, teach what you want in your own churches, but please keep those words out of the public debate. Gold takes the debate to the source. The problem is religion. We must change the religion. The greatest harm to gay kids happens within the church building and in Christian homes. Some church leaders may think their explanation of their interpretation of the bible's stance on gays is nuanced, full of that "love the sinner" stuff. But the teens in the pews, who aren't biblical scholars, don't hear it as nuanced. They hear it as hate.

Many Christians act as if opposing gays and lesbians is fundamental to the church's mission, which leads many gay and lesbian people to perceive Christianity as their mortal enemy. Is this how we want to be perceived?

Gays have good reason for that perception. The church's position is literally killing them.

I've followed Seething Mom for quite a while (and have linked to her in the past). She had been regular Catholic until she found out her son is gay. Love of son trumped religion, though it took a while to work through the shame her religion made her feel.

We need to find tea leaves to be able to read them

How will Sonia Sotomayor consider gay cases? Alas, the media has reported there is very little evidence to go on. A law school professor went digging and found only two relevant cases.

* Holmes v. Artuz in 1995. This was before the US Supremes ruled on equal protection and gays and after the 1986 decision that upheld sodomy laws. At the time courts felt that since gay sex was an action it was not covered by the equal protection clause. Sotomayor disagreed.

* Miller v. City of New York in 2006. The 3-judge panel (including Sotomayor) of the 2nd Circuit Court said that laws banning sexual stereotyping apply to gays.

I've heard that gays and musicals go together...

I immensely enjoyed the book The Kid by Dan Savage, which humorously tells the story about how he and his partner adopt a baby boy. On the lineup for next spring is a musical adaptation of the book by Michael Zam, Andy Monroe, and Jack Lechner. This will be produced by The New Group in New York, which produced they gay-friendly Avenue Q. This should be fun.

Getting creative in the marriage debate

How would you like to ask 260 million people for permission to marry? This minute long video shows that gays are getting creative in highlighting discrimination.

Want to make sure your marriage is biblically based? Here's a fun 4 minute video reviewing all the ways marriage was more than one man and one woman (King David had how many wives?). My, how morality has changed.

The heartache of losing your partner -- and having the rest of the family swoop in and claim the child and the house. A 2 minute long video.

New Hampshire!

The New Hampshire Senate voted 14-10 this morning on a bill for marriage equality with religious protections. The House voted 198-176 this afternoon. Governor John Lynch has already signed it. New Hampshire becomes the 6th state to permit gay marriage on January 1, 2010.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Then, they fight you

What the death of Dr. George Tiller (abortion doctor in Wichita) means -- some thoughts from someone who watches militias and hate groups.

* Late term abortions are always tragic and complicated, never undertaken on a whim. Dr. Tiller was a hero in his compassion for his patients.

* He was one of only three doctors that would perform late term abortions. We are now two assassinations from not having any. Terrorists have triumphed over the will of the people, over the courts, over a horrific medical necessity.

* Lynchings used to be done on the courthouse lawn to show the mob takes precedence over the rule of law. What is it saying that this killing and the one last year in Knoxville took place in churches? Fundamentalism trying to scare liberal churches? Two incidents may not be a message, so stay tuned.

* Gandhi said, "First, they ignore you. Then, they ridicule you. Then, they fight you. Then, you win." This appears to be the fighting stage, stepped up a notch because the Fundies no longer see the ballot box (the previous method of fighting) under their control.

If you don't leave soon

I've heard that many gays who act gay in public -- hold hands, kiss, etc. -- are given dirty looks and are told, "I don't care if you're gay. Just don't flaunt it. I don't want to see it." The usual response by gays is "Well, you flaunt your straightness in public!"

Here is a twist on the original comment, said by a gay man, "I don't care if you are Christian. Just don't flaunt it. Especially not on my doorstep at 8:30 on a Saturday morning." Alas, these visits usually include a variation on the phrase, "Son, you're living in sin…" That prompted a flurry of comments about how to get rid of Mormons or Jehovah's Witness when they come calling. Some of them are threatening -- if you don't get off my property... Others are creative and hilarious.

* Answer the door in the nude, or wearing only a loincloth and holding a machete.

* Flirt with them, doing your best Mae West impersonation.

* Pretend to be crazy and scrounge around until you find a sharp object.

* Ask for their home address so you can show up and try to recruit them into the gay lifestyle.

* Claim to be witches and say, "If you don't leave soon you'll be catching flies with your tongue."

* Remind them that Mormons funneled many millions of dollars into disrupting your love.

* Post the sign, "We're Aztec. We eat missionaries."

* Beat them at their own game by starting your own Agnostic Witness church and go door-to-door in their neighborhood. You can't carry a bible because the AW have a loose-leaf binder.

* Take up as much time as possible on how they are violating the separation of church and state so they won't have time to harass your neighbors (alas, I doubt the neighbors will thank you).

Sometime after the election I had two come to my door. I don't know which church they were from. I asked, "What's your church's policy towards gays." Instead of answering me directly, he began to thumb through is bible. Since they came during a favorite radio program (they always do) I wanted to get rid of them and I could see my ploy didn't work. I said, "I know how easily those passages get misinterpreted. No thanks."

One of the commenters to the original piece said they don't think these missionaries will think of themselves as being hypocritical for not wanting gays to flaunt their love yet flaunting their own religion. They assume everyone is trying to recruit everyone else to their own church. And that's why they are afraid of being recruited into the "gay lifestyle."


Nevada has a constitution amendment that bans same sex marriage but not domestic partnerships. At the strong urging of the casino business (all those drive-through ceremonies), the Nevada legislature passed a DP bill. Governor Gibbon vetoed it. The state Senate and Assembly promptly overrode his veto, getting exactly the two-thirds votes they needed.

Senator David Parks, D-Las Vegas, the openly gay sponsor of SB283, said it's "about fairness and equality," and that it doesn't diminish the "sanctity of marriage." I'm glad someone on our side used that phrase. Otherwise it would sound really dumb. Who in Las Vegas has been concerned with the sanctity of marriage?

The top of this Wikipedia entry is the best map I've seen that shows gay marriage rights by state.