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153 posts from December 2009

December 31, 2009

Patrick Stewart receives knighthood

The Associated Press reports:

Patrick Stewart — "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" Capt. Jean-Luc Picard — becomes Sir Patrick in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year honors list, which also includes a knighthood for theater and film director Nicholas Hytner.

"This is an honor that embraces those actors, directors and creative teams who have in these recent years helped fill my life with inspiration, companionship and sheer fun," said 69-year-old Stewart, who recently returned to the British stage following a long career in Hollywood that included playing Professor Charles Xavier in three "X-Men" films.

Here are clips of Sir Patrick's performance as a gay man in the 1995 film Jeffrey.

Besen: Top 10 Ex-Gay-Related Events of 2009

Wayne_besen-199x300 Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out surveys the bad year the "ex-gay" movement had in 2009:

Whatever shard of credibility this industry had was stripped away in 2009. It was a year where such programs were harshly rebuked by the mental health establishment. An important new study showed that their retrograde methods of shame and blame harmed LGBT people. The old, outdated research that they stubbornly latched onto for dear life seemed to betray them and then vanish into thin air....

The past 12 months, if anything, unmasked the facade of “love” this industry cynically showers on potential clients and an often gullible media. In 2009, the world saw ex-gay programs for what they are: A sugar coated excuse for homophobia.

Exodus was revealed as a front for international hate groups, who used the group’s credulous leaders as pawns in an international struggle for theocracy. PFOX stepped forward and showed, time and again, that it was just plain nuts.

NARTH put out an embarrassingly shoddy “study” that was so pathetic it was virtually ignored by the media. By the end of 2009, NARTH had solidified its place as a cabal of embittered and irrelevant quacks on the far outer fringes of psychology. Homosexuals Anonymous was, well, anonymous. The Catholic ex-gay group Courage also had a meager profile and had little impact on popular culture. And, JONAH, the Jewish ex-gay group, continued to humiliate itself through its affiliation with crackpot Born Again sexual reorientation coach Richard Cohen.

I frequently receive messages from a Washington-area ex-gay fanatic, and her obsessive lunacy is matched only by the bizarre contrast between her professions of loving concern and the viciousness of her comments. Wayne is to be commended for his tireless work to expose this junk science and discredit these snake-oil salesmen. As he indicates, lives are at stake here.

'One Life to Live' brings first gay sex scene to daytime TV

Featuring actors Scott Evans and Brett Claywell.

(Hat tip: HuffPo)

Transgender Woman Appointed to Department of Commerce

Amanda Simpson This just in from the National Center for Transgender Equality:

Amanda Simpson, who has served on NCTE's Board of Directors for the past 3 years, has been appointed by the Obama Administration as a Senior Technical Advisor to the Department of Commerce. She'll be working in the Bureau of Industry and Security.

"I'm truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others."

Simpson brings considerable professional credentials to her new job. For thirty years, she has worked in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently serving as Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. 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.

She has also been very active in political and community groups. She has served on the Board of Directors of two national organizations: Out & Equal and NCTE. In Arizona, she has been on the board of Wingspan, the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, the Southern Arizona ACLU and the Arizona Human Rights Fund (now Equality Arizona).

In 2004, the YWCA recognized her as one of their "Women on the Move," and in the same year, she won the Democratic nomination to the Arizona House of Representatives. In 2005, she was given the Arizona Human Rights Foundation Individual Award.

We are delighted to welcome Amanda to Washington, DC and share her hope that she will be joined by many other transgender people and our allies in serving our government.

Congrats and best of luck to Ms. Simpson.

The 'convenient sophistry' of George's natural law argument

Andrew Sullivan masterfully deconstructs the "convenient sophistry" of Princeton professor Robert George's natural law argument against homosexuality. Sully argues against "its absolutism and indifference to the actual facts of nature":

Among those facts: human reproduction requires the deaths of countless human beings if you count fertilized embryos as fully human; death itself has no absolute clear line in science the harder you look for it; conception itself is very difficult to demarcate exactly at a moment in time; non-procreative sexual acts are endemic in nature and human nature, just as homosexual orientation is ubiquitous; and on and on....

What do we mean by nature? How do emotion and reason interact? How precise and universal can we be in adducing morals from something as diverse and varied as the fruits of natural selection? How can we be sure we aren't smuggling in all sorts of pre-existing views of what nature is and what morality is when we declare something "unnatural"? How does an argument that designates an entire sub-section of humankind as inherently immoral square with the goodness of God's creation or the morally neutral power of Darwin's theory? ...

[I]t is very hard to see what George's argument means unless it can be reduced to the idea that sex for the infertile is moral merely because they are heterosexual, and that sex and love for homosexuals is immoral merely because they are homosexuals. So sexual orientation is the critical category here, not procreation or nature as it is actually found, and the result is to retain a stigma and legal discrimination against homosexuals - simply because they are what they are.

But what of gay existence in every culture, every place, every era of human history? What of same-sex orientation that is, as even the Vatican has conceded, innate? What of the prevalence of homosexuality across so many natural species? If anything looks like a natural fact of human nature, it is this resilient and fascinating drop-shadow on heterosexuality normativity. You'd think that Christian scholars would be intrigued to figure out the questions - what are homosexuals for? why did God create them? why did natural selection favor their persistence? And yet, for the new natural lawyers, these obvious questions never seem to arise. Because homosexuals are not objects for open-minded inquiry for these fellows; they are objects to maintain hostility toward.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

AP: NH gay couples to start New Year with wedding vows

Marriage equality in New Hampshire takes effect tomorrow.

Judge says televised Prop. 8 trial possible

AP reports:

The federal judge presiding over an upcoming trial on California's same-sex marriage ban says he is considering seeking permission to broadcast the proceedings....

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said in an order issued Wednesday that he wants to record or webcast a Jan. 6 pretrial hearing as a test run for the trial, in which he'll consider a constitutional challenge to California's voter-approved gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.

Lawyers representing sponsors of the ban, approved by voters in 2008, have said they oppose having the trial broadcast outside the courtroom.

AP: Mexico City enacts region's 1st gay marriage law

Mexico City makes it official.

AP: Gay marriage in Argentina is 1st in Latin America

Argentine_couple The Associated Press reports:

They had to travel to the ends of the Earth to do it, but two Argentine men succeeded in becoming Latin America's first same-sex married couple.

After their first attempt to wed earlier this month in Buenos Aires was thwarted, gay rights activists Jose Maria Di Bello and Alex Freyre took their civil ceremony to the capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province, where a sympathetic governor backed their bid to make Latin American history.

The couple exchanged rings Monday in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, closer to Antarctica than Buenos Aires. The informal ceremony was witnessed by state and federal officials.

Gay Malawi couple arrested after wedding

Malawi_marriage

Reuters reported this week on a brave gay couple in Malawi:

Two Malawian men were arrested and charged with public indecency, police said on Tuesday, after becoming the first gay couple to marry in the conservative southern African state where homosexuality is illegal.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza publicly wed in a symbolic, traditional ceremony on Saturday.

"We arrested them last night at their home and charged them with gross public indecency because the practice is against the law," police spokesman, Dave Chingwalu, told Reuters.

Andrew Sullivan discusses the story here. Our thoughts go out to these courageous men, who face 14-year prison terms for the crime of loving each other. Our work is not done.

WaPo: End the ban

The Washington Post this week renewed its call to end the nation's ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military:

Slowly but surely, the groundwork continues to be laid for the overdue demise of "don't ask, don't tell." The latest move came on Dec. 22 when Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and 95 House colleagues sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting statistics on troops discharged for violating the wrong-headed ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. They want everyone to see the effects of the policy on the military and the national defense. This has the added benefit of reminding Americans of the law's absurdity.

Since "don't ask, don't tell" was instituted in 1994, more than 13,500 members of the armed forces have been booted....

President Obama has been consistent in public speeches and in Oval Office meetings with Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he wants to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. So do we and a majority of the American people. Gays and lesbians in the armed services should be able to help protect the country without fear or shame.

Coakley: her own woman

AP a few days ago profiled Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is the frontrunner in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy. It says "she is crafting a campaign largely free of the Kennedy mystique":

Although she shares Kennedy's position on key issues and is appealing to the same liberal Democratic voters who returned him to office during his 47 years in the Senate, Coakley is helping usher in a post-Kennedy Massachusetts - a state whose politics have been inextricably linked to the family for generations....

While she's avoided using his image in ads, Coakley has mentioned Kennedy at some public appearances. She referenced his battles against discrimination to frame her opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to married gay couples in Massachusetts.

But Coakley's efforts to avoid direct comparisons with Kennedy is also helping focus attention on her own story - one that includes breaking political gender barriers in a state that considers itself one of the most liberal.

The 56-year-old was the first woman elected to the state's highest law enforcement office. If she succeeds Jan. 19, she'll be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.

D.C. gay man found shot to death

DC Agenda reports:

D.C. police are asking the community for help in their investigation into the murder of a 29-year-old gay man who was found shot to death inside his car early Sunday morning in Southeast Washington near Bolling Air Force Base.

Police said they found Anthony J. Perkins, whom they described as a “shooting victim,” seated inside of a car on the 2900 block of 4th St., S.E., about 5:15 a.m. Dec. 27. A police statement says the car had steam billowing from its engine when officers responded to reports of the sound of gunfire....

Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call the homicide squad office at 202-645-9600 or the 24-hour police hotline at 202-727-9099.

A reward of up to $25,000 is offered to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia.

Cheney's lies, part 7,642

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has a New Year's resolution for former vice president Dick Cheney:

I had promised myself that I would do a better job of ignoring Dick Cheney's corrosive and nonsensical outbursts -- that I would treat them, more or less, like the pearls of wisdom one hears from homeless people sitting in bus shelters.

But ... the shrill screed that Cheney unloosed Wednesday is so full of outright mendacity that, well, my resolution will have to wait....

Cheney's broadside opens with a big lie, which he then repeats throughout. It is as if he believes that saying something over and over again, in a loud enough voice, magically makes it so.

"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war," Cheney begins....

The fact is that Obama has said many times that we are at war against terrorists. He said it as a candidate. He said it in his inaugural address: "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." He has said it since....

Hasn't anyone told Cheney that Obama is sharply boosting troop levels in Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid losing a war that the Bush administration started but then practically abandoned? ...

I have a New Year's resolution to suggest for Cheney: Ahead of your quest for personal vindication, put country first.

Good luck with that.

Worst logo ever

Pardon my lack of blogging over the past several days. I have been recovering from an exhausting year. But I'm still here, so here's to forging ahead in 2010.

Here is a link to the year's most-viewed post on Andrew Sullivan's blog, with over 400,000 page views. It is a 1973 design for the Catholic Church's Archdiocesan Youth Commission, and rather than paste it here I'll just let you follow the link.

December 27, 2009

Suggested resolutions for politicians and important people

The editor of Bay Windows recently asked contributing writers, including me, to suggest New Year's resolutions for prominent people. Here is my list:

Resolution for Gov. Rick Perry: Break Texas into five new states so that all of them can adopt new anti-gay constitutional provisions.

Resolution for Joe Lieberman: Hire a food taster, pronto.

Resolution for Tiger Woods: Hire a gay assistant to scout a better class of mistresses.

Resolution for Gov. Charlie Crist: Pray harder, it isn’t working.

(Note: if you have to ask, "Pray for what?" I suggest you ask Mike Rogers at blogActive or Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out. Anyway, if you have better suggestions, send 'em in (but keep it clean, within our fairly tolerant standards).

That unpopular First Amendment

We have received praise and thanks from many people in response to the joint letter we sent on Dec. 18 opposing censorship of anti-gay ads on Metro, and Colby King's column in Saturday's Washington Post praising our defense of the First Amendment.

Everyone, however, is not happy with us. Here is an excerpt from a message I got this morning from blogger Jerome Stueart:

I think you should reconsider your stand behind the First Amendment for the StandforMarriage ads, for the reasons cited in my blog post, summarized in this letter after the link.

http://talkingdog.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/the-first-amendment-doesnt-allow-discrimination-and-defamation-a-response-to-colbert-king/

Paid-discrimination on city-owned, tax-payer funded, rider-supported metrobuses targeting a minority of the riders shouldn't be tolerated any more than racial slurs are covered by the First Amendment. While everyone is entitled to believe what they want, city-owned buses are responsible for the discriminatory messages they send to their riders.

Towleroad reports on the dust-up here. Check out the comments.

The controversy over the Metrobus ads presents a teachable moment on free speech. I wrote this piece three years ago on the unpopularity of the First Amendment. And check out the related FAQ that has been on GLAA's website for many years: http://www.glaa.org/faq.shtml#censor. As I said in response to a commenter on Towleroad:

WMATA is following the First Amendment. This is a well-settled area of law. As the joint letter signed by GLAA, ACLU and others points out, GAA (our acronym at the time) won a lawsuit against WMATA in 1979 forcing them to accept our "Someone In Your Life Is Gay" ads on Metrobuses, based on WMATA's First Amendment obligation as a quasi-governmental body not to favor or disfavor particular messages. They could have stopped allowing ads altogether, but they depended on the revenue.

In any case, will you please pause to notice that the pro-gay side is winning here? GLAA has led the strategizing, the advocacy, the legal research and the policy development in pursuit of marriage equality for many years, and we are winning. Can't we be given some credit for knowing what we are doing? BTW, we ourselves argue that the majority should not be able to vote on the rights of minorities--indeed, we do not just talk about it, we put it into the law 30 years ago, which is why the proposed anti-gay initiative was ruled inadmissible by the Board of Elections and Ethics. That, however, does not for a moment mean that our opponents don't have a right to run their misleading ads objecting to it. We are winning, folks. I think we can drop the helpless victim routine already.

Update: The Advocate covers the story here. Check out the comments.

Update 2: Change.org covers the story here. I have posted a comment.

Update 3: Metro Weekly covers the story here. On Top Magazine cover it here. DC Agenda has a commentary by Lane Hudson here (and check out the comments).

December 26, 2009

Exploring Kwanzaa

A discussion of Kwanzaa today with a friend reminded me that I wrote an article some years ago examining this African American festival. My critical discussion of its collectivist bent is relevant in light of President Obama's recent defense of principles of liberty as universal and not merely Western values. One of the ironies of Kwanzaa is that many of the Swahili words used to describe it are derived from Arabic. Swahili is heavily influenced by Arabic because of the history of Islamic colonialism in eastern Africa. So to some extent, Kwanzaa exchanges one colonialist heritage for another, more exotic one. Swahili is a euphonious language, there is no doubt.

The history of Europeans and Asians in Africa is not a pretty one, whether looking at the Christian or Muslim portions. But the world only spins forward. The path toward overcoming historic oppression is not to be found through retreat from the modern world. Some advocates of collectivism point to the recent economic crisis as some kind of vindication. How much more suffering would they visit upon Africa and the African diaspora before they stopped reacting and started realizing that America is a multicultural society where our destinies are intertwined, like it or not?

Update: Some people react to any critical discussion as if it were a wholesale attack. So let me emphasize that various values embraced by Kwanzaa — such as unity, cooperation, creativity, and purpose — are fine in themselves and worthy of celebration. Also, my article specifically defends people's right to create their own celebrations, and points out the rather obvious fact that Kwanzaa's founder, Maulana Karenga, was not the first to do this sort of thing. My purpose was not and is not a polemical one, despite my criticism of the collectivism at the heart of the festival. Indeed, I begin the article with an example of some white people seeking to use Kwanzaa to be politically correct without understanding what they are doing.

Finally, it is often noted that many Americans feel a lack of rituals and celebrations to sustain them; a festival like Kwanzaa can fill such a need for people who do not even pay much attention to its ideological underpinnings. I have certainly known many Christians who go to church without having any interest in theological issues.

Colby King praises marriage-equality coalition's defense of free speech on Metro

Washington Post columnist Colby King praises the D.C. marriage-equality coalition's defense of free speech on the Metro system. He describes the ads on Metrobuses by Stand for Marriage DC, opposing same-sex marriage; and he describes the effort by Full Equality Now DC to persuade Metro to remove the ads because they disrespect LGBT residents. Then he writes this:

Fortunately, yet another group of citizens has weighed in on the issue.

The group includes Mitch Wood, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital; Jeffrey D. Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Aisha C. Mills, president of Campaign for All D.C. Families; and activist Richard J. Rosendall.

Unlike Full Equality Now DC, the group led by Wood and Spitzer has stepped forward to defend the freedom of expression of forces against gay marriage, even though those same forces have not done so for supporters of civil marriage equality....

[I]t was heartening to see how some citizens reacted to the issue raised by the Metrobus advertisements. The conflict provided a good -- but rare -- example of citizens standing up for the principle of protecting despised speech of a disagreeable speaker. We owe them thanks for supplying the essential ingredient that has been missing in this year's freewheeling debates: tolerance.

And to think, it occurred in our nation's capital. First Amendment and freedom lovers should be proud.

Thanks, Colby.

Special thanks to signatory Bob Summersgill, who brought the matter to my attention and suggested the joint letter. We have a long history of defending free speech, and this ends the year with a shining moment. The other side may not give us credit, but I am proud of our coalition.

December 25, 2009

He dared not salute his commander-in-chief at the HRC dinner

Steve Clemons on HuffPo writes about a friend in the military who dared not wear his dress uniform to salute his President at the Human Rights Campaign dinner lest he be discharged:

This year, he wanted to wear his full dress military uniform to the annual gala dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading civil rights organization in Washington focused on advancing the rights of the GLBT community.

This year, Lady Gaga opened for President Barack Obama who reassured the gay community he was with them. When one person in the audience said "We love you, Barack!", the President quickly responded, "I love you back."

Matthew Shepard's amazing but earthy, put-up-with-nothing-but-tolerance parents, Judy and Dennis, were awarded the first Edward M. Kennedy National Leadership Award. The cast of Glee was there.

But I told my friend that if he did wear his stand-out-in-the-crowd military uniform, full of medals he had earned fighting for this country, he ran the risk of attracting media attention.

That media attention would almost certainly have ended his friend's military career. Words are inadequate to express the outrage of this situation, which rewards bigotry and harms our military readiness. We must continue telling both the President and members of Congress that this continued injustice is intolerable.

NY state senator's Christmas party crashed by gay protesters

This video shows a protest by gay activists at the Christmas party of New York state senator Hiram Monserrate, who voted against the state's marriage equality bill after having said he supported it. In October, he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend by dragging her through his apartment lobby. The protesters raise a valid point about double standards, but I hope they, or others in New York, have a strategy for defeating him in the next election. If his constituents are more offended by the protesters' behavior than by Monserrate's (and I don't know), the zap could backfire.

Mr. Magoo: 'All Alone in the World'

Another sad Christmas-related song, this time from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol in 1962. This has always been my favorite version of the Dickens classic. The songs were written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill right before they did Funny Girl.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

Russian church: Homosexuality is personal choice

Well, it could be worse. AP reports:

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday that although the church views homosexuality as a sin, gays should not face discrimination.

Patriarch Kirill said "those who sin" must not be punished and therefore the church opposes any discrimination. Same-sex unions, however, should not be considered equal to heterosexual marriages, he said....

Gay rights advocates argue that homosexuality is not wrong because it is an in-born orientation, but the church insists that it is a choice.

It was unclear to what extent the patriarch was easing church dogma in his carefully chosen statements, made during a meeting with visiting Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.

Back in 2000, Pope John Paul II said that gay people should not face unjust discrimination, which sounded tolerant; but then he also denounced plans for a gay rights march in Rome during Christ's jubilee year. So he supported giving us all the rights to which we were entitled — which is to say, none. These clerics are worse than Bill Clinton with their legalistic word-parsing. If I were still a practicing Christian, I think I would bring a lawyer with me into the confessional.

AP: Museveni, Archbishop of York criticize Uganda's anti-gay bill

AP reports:

A top Anglican cleric who was born in Uganda spoke out Thursday against a proposed law in his native country that would impose the death penalty on some gays.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu - who along with the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is one of the global fellowship's most senior priests - condemned the anti-gay law now being considered by the East African nation's parliament....

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni will not try to block the bill, his spokesman Tamale Mirundi said Thursday, although he did say the president would attempt to convince his National Resistance Movement Party, which has a majority in parliament, to not support it.

"President Museveni cannot block the anti-gays bill," Mirundi said, saying that if he did so "he will have become a dictator."

Mirundi added that Museveni does not support homosexuality but thinks the bill goes too far.

It's nice to hear Museveni renounce dictatorial ambitions, but I don't believe that was at issue. The question was whether he would veto the bill that he says goes too far.

Phelps goes gaga (redunancy alert)

Good morning, and happy Christmas. WaPo's "Names and Faces" column reports:

A Kansas pastor, the Rev. Fred Phelps, has it in for singer Lady Gaga, a rising icon in the gay community. In a press release posted online Tuesday, he ranted against the singer, accused her of hating God and told her, "You are going to hell." The pastor announced his church will picket a Jan. 7 Lady Gaga concert in St. Louis. Phelps's church organizes pickets at gay parades and other events, including military funerals, because members believe God is punishing the nation for its tolerance of homosexuality.

There don't appear to be any members of the church in question other than members of the Phelps family — which, by the way, is an argument against birth control: if reasonable people have fewer children, then religious fanatics with large broods get a long-term demographic advantage. What sense does that make?

December 24, 2009

Worst Christmas specials ever

Baby Jesus only knows how this compilation of the all-time worst television Christmas specials omitted the one where Kathie Lee Gifford did a rap version of "The Night Before Christmas."

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

BTB: Uganda’s Main Opposition Party Comes Out Against Anti-Homosexuality Act

Box Turtle Bulletin reports:

Box Turtle Bulletin has learned through exclusive video provided by a BTB reader that the Secretary General of Uganda’s main opposition party has announced that the party would oppose the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament.

In an announcement carried by Uganda’s independent Record TV, Secretary General Chris Opoka of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) denounced the bill as discriminatory, saying “the state has no business with what people do in their bedrooms.”:

"What two consenting adults do, the state has no business… absolutely! It is discriminatory. Me, I don’t understand this idea of 'African values.' Was Muwanga not a homosexual, the Kabaka 1? Eh? Was he not a homosexual? No! Let’s stop this nonsense! It is natural! Many children, many young boys in school, as they are growing to adults, have this tendency of attraction."

Bishop Jackson's snow job

Sandhya Bathija at Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a good commentary on the overblown dramatics of Bishop Harry Jackson and his allies against the D.C. marriage equality bill.

These religious leaders claimed a law recognizing same-sex marriage would violate their religious freedom. But nowhere in the law does it require a church or religious institution to perform same-sex marriages. All the law does is provide civil recognition of marriage to same-sex couples. Whether Jackson wants to perform these marriages is completely up to him and his own beliefs.

The bottom line is, whether the city government recognizes same-sex marriages should not affect Jackson whatsoever, nor should Jackson’s views on marriage impact the city, either.

Unfortunately, that fact is probably what has Jackson so upset. He knows the council did not listen to him, nor did it fall for the Archdiocese’s threats. These religious institutions failed to wield power over the council. Instead, the city government chose to base its decision on the Constitution, not religious doctrine.

We know the council and Mayor Fenty made the right decision. Let’s hope that despite Jackson’s blizzard of hyperbole, Congress does the same.

Update: Most of you are probably aware of this, but just to correct a couple of errors in the article that were pointed out by Barrett Brick and Bob Summersgill, respectively: The standard congressional review of D.C. legislation is not a quirk of the Home Rule Charter but of the U.S. Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 8. And the correct name of the marriage bill is the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009.

December 23, 2009

Tea Partier Calls C-SPAN, Worried His Prayers For Byrd To Die Got Inhofe Instead

This is priceless. It turns out that Senator Coburn's prayer call inadvertently worked on the wrong senator. I am continually amazed at the nonsense people are prepared to believe.

Jonetta's secret gay conspiracy (II)

On City Paper's "The Sexist Blog," I have posted my own comments on the charge by Jonetta Rose Barras of bias from "undercover gay reporters":

Amen to Bob Witeck’s remarks. I encountered Jonetta in Kojo Nnamdi’s studio in 2007, and did not perceive hostility. But in the present case, her conspiracy mongering is gratuitous and redolent of double standards.

Mr. Schmoe: Regardless of its origins or the meanings of its word parts, “homophobe” is commonly used to mean “anti-gay.” I generally prefer just to say anti-gay, but I am not the language police.

I frequently see people who are taking anti-gay positions deny being anti-gay. Indeed, their attitude is, how could anyone *possibly* think them anti-gay. I mean, what an outrageous charge to level at someone! Please. It is as if there is an entitlement to oppose gay people’s rights while imposing a social etiquette that requires us to treat it as no different from an expression of taste in food or movies. Excuse me, but when you oppose my equal rights, even if you do so politely, you are doing me harm.

What this boils down to is the people who support anti-gay discrimination try to portray themselves as the real victims when they are criticized for their positions. One prominent example is Marion Barry, who at legislative meetings on Dec. 1 and Dec. 15 suggested that his right to dissent somehow entitled him not to be criticized for it and made his critics totalitarians. Please. Insult me if you wish, but do not insult my intelligence.

Continue reading "Jonetta's secret gay conspiracy (II)" »

Jonetta's secret gay conspiracy (I)

Amanda Hess, in City Paper's "The Sexist" blog, reports that Jonetta Rose Barras, in her latest online column, accuses unnamed "undercover gay reporters" of bias in reporting on the D.C. marriage equality bill. Barras writes:

Opponents believe they have received the raw deal in the media because the deck was stacked against them. Several of the individuals who reported on the legislation are themselves gay. None revealed their status in the gay community, which surely created in TBR’s mind a bias. TBR doesn’t want to out anyone. They know who they are.

In the comments section of the City Paper piece, Jason Cherkis writes:

Barras is the same reporter who wrote a book on Marion Barry alleging that he had affairs with men. I heart Barras but her op-ed is offensive and stupid.

It would have been helped by actually pointing out bias in the coverage of the gay marriage bill.

Which stories were unfair? Barras complains that the good Rev. Bishop was labeled an outsider. Well, he was an outsider!

In the same comments section, our friend Bob Witeck writes:

It is embarrassing for someone who labels herself a journalist to simply smear and make a blanket charge against gay journalists covering marriage equality in Washington DC. This is simply a form of professional malpractice without any supporting evidence.

This suggests that radio journalists or online journalists (whose identities we cannot visually observe) should reveal their race when covering racial conflict and topics; or that religious stories should require journalists to disclose their own beliefs and faith whenever they write or report.

How about political affiliations, or all other personal traits or characteristics? ...

To single out LGBT professionals as a class of biased journalists is contemptible. Her commentary discovers a media conspiracy where there is none, and instead, harms both individuals and the profession of journalism practiced in Washington DC that makes her opinions desperate, worthless and fact-free.

Update: I have corrected a coding error that hid half of my opening sentence and gave the impression that Amanda Hess made the charge in question, rather than merely quoting Jonetta Rose Barras making it. My bad. I continue to be under par health-wise, but feel better after some tea and several of my friend Miggy's cookies.

December 22, 2009

Now slides the silent meteor on

2009_1222_nasaaquaimage

(Orbital view of the recent east-coast snowstorm, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory)

Heather Goss at DCist.com reports:

Yesterday, of course, was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, during which the Earth's axis is tilted the farthest from the sun. (According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the exact moment of the solstice occured at 12:47 p.m.) The good news: our days will start to get longer now. The bad news: since the oceans take so long to heat and cool, it will also start to get colder, of course. National Geographic has an excellent article about the astronomy and history of the winter solstice, including how Christians moved Jesus' birthday celebration to that date to attract pagans to the church (a.k.a. Astronomy's War on Christmas)....

In the sky, winter's constellation friend, Orion, is rising earlier and earlier. You'll see the three stars in his belt nearly vertical in the East-Southeastern sky after dusk. Sky and Telescope Magazine also notes that if you follow the belt stars straight down around 8 p.m., they'll point you to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, and that "when Sirius is low it often twinkles in vivid, flashing colors, an effect that binoculars reveal especially clearly."

Leonard Link: No Religious Exemption for Individuals Opposed to Legal Recognition for Same-Sex Partners

Art Leonard reports:

In recent days courts in both England and the United States have ruled that individuals whose alleged strong religious convictions are opposed to legal recognition for same-sex partners are not thereby excused from complying with laws banning sexual orientation discrimination when it comes to doing their jobs. The cases arose in different contexts - government employment and private business - and invoked some different legal arguments, but in the end they boiled down to the same general principle: that a legislated policy of non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation trumps private rights of religious belief when it comes to the public sphere of business or government services.

During consideration of the D.C. marriage equality bill, D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) proposed an individual conscience clause, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington sought such a provision. But no one else on the Council supported it, because it would have effectively gutted the D.C. Human Rights Act. There is no point in saying, as Christ did, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's," if you are then going to claim that everything is God's and nothing is Caesar's. But that is what our theocratic opponents are advocating.

(Hat tip: Barrett Brick)

NYT: A Quiet End for Boys Choir of Harlem

The New York Times has a sad story about the demise of the fabled Boys Choir of Harlem:

For more than three decades, they sang Mozart in Latin, Bach in German, and Cole Porter and Stevie Wonder in English, from Alice Tully Hall in New York to Royal Albert Hall in London.

For the audiences that marveled at the Boys Choir of Harlem, it was an additional wonder that the young performers with world-class voices had emerged from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of New York. December was always a busy month, as the choir toured the country’s premier concert halls and appeared on television Christmas specials.

But this year, the boys are nowhere to be found....

The choir’s demise as a functional organization was a result of many factors, but everyone agrees it was set in motion by a single episode: an accusation by a 14-year-old boy in 2001 that a counselor on the choir’s staff had sexually abused him. The counselor eventually was sentenced to two years in prison.

Pardon me for sharing such a grim story at Christmastime. Here's hoping that some of the fine musicians who emerged from the choir keep the tradition alive in new forms.

(Hat tip: Mark Thompson)

Gaddy on 'Fenty's dangerous venue choice'

In WaPo's "On Faith" blog today, Interfaith Alliance leader Welton Gaddy, who is happy about the passage of D.C.'s marriage-equality bill, is critical of Mayor Fenty for signing the bill in a church:

By holding the signing ceremony at a house of worship, the Fenty Administration and All Souls Church sent the dangerous signal that one set of religious beliefs trump another and that marriage is strictly a religious act. In reality, we should move the debate on marriage equality out of the realm of religion and scripture and toward a discussion based on the U.S. Constitution.

Faith is not a political tool. And houses of worship are not appropriate backdrops for government actions. We risk weakening the vitality of religion and the integrity of government when we fail to respect the boundaries between the two.

I disagree with Gaddy on this. The message that Fenty was sending was more that the ministers opposing same-sex marriage do not have a monopoly on religion. When people ask what's the difference between Bishop Jackson's use of religion for political purposes and Martin Luther King Jr.'s use of it, I say that Dr. King used his faith as an inspiration to liberate people, whereas people like Bishop Jackson use it as a weapon to beat other people over the head.

What Jefferson called the wall of separation between church and state does not mean faith has no place in the public sphere, it just means that government must not establish religion. Fenty's choice of venue did not violate the Establishment clause.

One of my favorite political speeches was delivered from the pulpit of a church. I have the climax by heart:

My friends, I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong; we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined, here in Montgomery, to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

(MLK, Holt Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, December 5, 1955)

Legal Times: D.C. Pushes to Dismiss Suit Over Gay Marriage Initiative

Legal Times reports on the city's brief in the marriage initiative case:

The District of Columbia Attorney General's Office asked a Superior Court judge on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by gay marriage opponents who are seeking a local ballot initiative that would ban same-sex unions.

The 46-page document, filed the same day Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in the District, argues that that D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was right when it rejected the initiative, finding that it would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act by discriminating against gays and lesbians....

Last week, the OAG argued that the Human Rights Act trumped the right to propose initiatives. But it also noted that the D.C. Code outright bans initiatives that would "authorize discrimination."

"While petitioners treat the right of initiative as fundamental, the Founding Fathers recognized the threat that an unchecked majority posed to the liberty of disfavored minorities and thus created a republican form of government

December 21, 2009

Have yourself a weepy little Christmas

What's a Christmas without Judy singing a sad song that makes you want to rush out and smash all the snow people? This is for Craig.

If that's not depressing enough, try this pathology-laced lyric from Judy's last Christmas, in December 1968.

Apparently, she needed Margaret O'Brien to keep her from going completely to pieces. In the end, Judy was her own snow people. Ah, but her phrasing, her delivery were still flawless. Watching her, I want to walk over and say, "Pull yourself together!" So my Christmas present to you is a reminder that, after all, you're not as screwed up as that.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Culmination

Ssm signing pic by Ward Morrison

(Photo by Ward Morrison, Metro Weekly)

My final column of the year reflects on the achievement of D.C.'s marriage-equality bill, on the occasion of its signing by Mayor Adrian Fenty last Friday at D.C.'s historic All Souls Unitarian Church:

Mayor Fenty acknowledged his parents and noted that, as an interracial couple, they would once have been criminals in many states. "Marriage inequality is a civil rights, political, social, moral and religious issue in this country and many nations," he said. "And as I sign this act into law, the District, from this day forward, will set the tone for other jurisdictions to follow in creating an open and inclusive city."

Openly gay councilmember David Catania, the bill’s author, said that he came from a long line of ministers, and that this felt like coming home. Our second openly gay councilmember, Jim Graham, said, "Thank God I lived to see this day." Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who as Judiciary Committee chairman steered the bill to passage, said it will not force anyone to solemnize a marriage against their faith, but will give others an option they now lack.

The passage of this bill culminates decades of effort. Many who helped pave the way did not survive, including past GLAA presidents Mel Boozer, Cade Ware, Mayo Lee, and Jim Zais. Council Chairman Vincent Gray told me he fondly remembered Boozer, who had attended the same high school and was working for Gray when he died.

Several city leaders have pointed out that our work is not yet done. Rev. Anthony Evans, a leader of the anti-gay forces, sounded like Churchill after the Council’s final vote: "We will fight you in the courts, we will fight you in the Congress, we will not let you win." Fortunately, his record of delivering on his promises falls somewhat short of Churchill’s.

The whole thing is online here. It will also be in this week's Metro Weekly.

How constant beatings have caught up with Peter Tatchell

Peter-Tatchell-photograph-001 This sad story in The Observer describes the toll that a series of savage beatings have taken on fearless international gay rights champion Peter Tatchell:

After surviving more than 300 physical attacks, two stabbing attempts, a live bullet posted through his door and a succession of vicious beatings that have left him mildly brain-damaged, Peter Tatchell must be one of the only people in the world who could still consider himself fortunate. "I'm lucky," he insists with the quiet nonchalance of someone discussing the weather. "What helps me cope is to put things in perspective. My injuries pale in comparison to the pro-democracy campaigners in Iran or the environmentalists in Russia or the political activists in Zimbabwe. If I was doing what they are doing, I'd be dead."

For much of the past four decades, the 57-year-old Tatchell has been fighting for what he believes is right. The Australian-born political activist has protested against homophobia, apartheid and the death penalty. He has spoken out against the dictatorships in Franco's Spain, Pinochet's Chile and Khomeini's Iran. In 1990, he founded the influential gay rights group OutRage!, which campaigned so effectively against alleged police harassment that the number of homosexual men convicted of gross indecency in the UK fell by two-thirds in three years. In 2001, he attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on Robert Mugabe in Brussels for civil rights abuse and was beaten unconscious by the president of Zimbabwe's bodyguards. Two years ago Tatchell joined a gay pride march in Moscow and was attacked by rightwing thugs who punched him in the face and left him with permanently blurred vision in his right eye.

It takes a lot to make Peter Tatchell stop. But last week he announced he was standing down as the Green party candidate in Oxford East on medical advice, because those horrific beatings have left him experiencing permanent symptoms of severe concussion.

Mexico City assembly legalizes same-sex marriage

AP reports:

Mexico City lawmakers on Monday made the city the first in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage, a change that will give homosexual couples more rights, including allowing them to adopt children.

The bill passed the capital's local assembly 39-20 to the cheers of supporters who yelled: "Yes, we could! Yes, we could!"

Leftist Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of the Democratic Revolution Party is widely expected to sign the measure into law.

Congrats to our counterparts in Mexico City.