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116 posts from February 2010

February 27, 2010

Do LGBT rights count when making a corporate move?


As those who follow the business news know, Northrop Grumman has announced it will be moving it's headquarters to the Washington area.  The advantage to NG is that they will be closer to the Pentagon and the seat of government.  Let The New York Times explains why this is so significant
The move will involve just 300 employees in a worldwide work force of 120,000. But apart from generating immediate benefits like business- and income-tax revenue, Northrop Grumman’s new headquarters is likely to draw subcontractors who want to be near the main office of a company that had $33.8 billion in sales last year, mostly from government awards.

The move is considered so significant that a bidding war has broken out between Maryland, Virginia, and the District to see which can put up the most attractive package of incentives to lure the firm to their jurisdiction.  While the District is considered a long shot they still have hopes.

Now the Washington Post reports on a new wrinkle in the mix.  Openly gay Maryland State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. has sent a letter to Northrop Grumman pointing out that the Maryland's stronger support for LGBT rights would make the state a better fit for the currently L.A. based company.  The company touts it's top rating from the HRC.  In fact, most Fortune 500 companies recognize that in the quest for top talent, they cannot ignore the needs of LGBT people.  While those working to bring Northrop Grumman to the Old Dominion dismiss the lives of LGBT people by saying that "the point of view of an interest group will have little or no bearing on this."  But Maryland representatives acknowledge the role that social and cultural issues may play in the decision.  Of course, the District might be the best place for them.

February 26, 2010

Gay And Getting Married Next Week? Bring $45, Work the Security Line, and Avoid Fred Phelps

Amanda Hess of The Sexist blog at City Paper gives the low-down on how to register to marry when D.C.'s marriage-equality law takes effect on Wednesday, March 3.

Mike DeBonis of Loose Lips reports here.

D.C. Superior Court revises marriage application to refer to spouses

The revised D.C. marriage license application form can be found here. It has dropped "husband" and "wife" in favor of "spouse," consistent with legislative changes in recent years that made the District's marriage law gender-neutral. Those changes preceded the marriage equality bill.

(Hat tip: Bob Summersgill)

D.C. Mayor's office publishes updated information on marriage

Christopher Dyer, director of the Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, has alerted us to this document which provides updated information on marriage and domestic partnerships in the District of Columbia. Same-sex couples will be able to marry in D.C. after the marriage equality law takes effect on March 3, 2010 after completion of the congressional review on the legislation.

Southern Baptist leader urges Congress to block D.C. marriage equality

The scare quotes are back! Baptist Press reports:

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has joined two dozen other Christian and conservative leaders in urging Congress to pass legislation requiring a public vote before the District of Columbia issues marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the others called on senators and representatives quickly to approve the District of Columbia Referendum on Marriage Act. The D.C. government is slated to begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March, which could be as early as next week....

"We not only encourage you to act on behalf of the people in the District, but we also urge you to act on behalf of those we represent in all fifty states.... The people whom we represent expect each member of the Senate [and House of Representatives] to take action to permit the people in the District of Columbia the opportunity to vote by referendum on this most important issue of marriage," Land and the others wrote in the Feb. 22 letter.

Other than causing annoyance, this appeal is unlikely to accomplish anything. On Wednesday morning, March 3, we are set to take an historic step decades in the making.

DC Agenda buys Blade assets

DC Agenda reports:

Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, Inc., doing business as DCAgenda, proudly announced today that it acquired the assets of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) newspaper including, but not limited to, any and all rights to exclusive use of the name The Washington Blade including copyright and trademark rights and the more than forty (40) year print and electronic archive.

“We are relieved that the Blade’s long history of quality, award-winning journalism will be preserved and accessible to the public,” said Lynne Brown of Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia and publisher of DCAgenda.

Brown, along with former Blade publisher, Kevin Naff, and former Blade, senior sales executive, Brian Pitts, founded Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia to chronicle local, national, and international news of interest to the LGBT community when the Blade ceased publication on November 16, 2009. DCAgenda has published weekly since November 20, 2009.

This is excellent news. Now we hope that the paper, by whichever name, will soon be able to start paying its staff.

Court of Appeals denies injunction against D.C. marriage equality bill

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles informed us earlier this afternoon:

This morning, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously rejected a request by opponents of same-sex marriage to prevent the Marriage Equality Act recently enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia from becoming effective as anticipated on March 3. The ruling in Jackson v. D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was based upon a motion filed by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, which explained why the court should not at this late date delay this historic equality measure.

The order was issued by Garland Pinkston, Jr., Clerk of the Court. The matter was heard by Associate Judges Kramer and Thompson and Senior Judge Steadman. The order states:

[A]ppellants' motion for injunctive relief is denied since appellants have failed to meet the test for the issuance of a preliminary injunction. See Akassy v. Wm. Penn Apartments, L.P., 891 A.2d 291, 309 (D.C. 2006)(citing In re Antioch Univ., 418 A.2d 105, 109 (D.C. 1980)); Zirkle v. District of Columbia, 830 A.2d 1250, 1255-56 (D.C. 2003), and Wieck v. Sterenbuch, 350 A.2d 384 at 387 (D.C. 1976). (The issuance of a preliminary injunction is proper when the moving party has clearly shown: "(1) that there is a substantial likelihood he will prevail on the merits; (2) that he is in danger of suffering irreparable harm during the pendency of the action; (3) that more harm will result to him from the denial of the injuction than will result to the defendant from its grant; and, in appropriate cases, (4) that the public interest will not be disserved by the issuance of the requested order.").

This of course is wonderful news. Thanks to Attorney General Nickles and his staff. We are now on course to see the law take effect on March 3 after completion of the congressional review period.

Update: HRC Back Story reports.

Mass gay wedding planned for March 20 at Mellon Auditorium

Tom Sherwood at News Channel 4 reports:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

I'm not a mass-wedding kind of guy, but I wish the participants well.

(Hat tip: Loose Lips)

Update: Tom Sherwood's Notebook includes a mention of the pending marriage equality law here.

February 25, 2010

Campaign Goes After Opponents of Gay Marriage

NYT reports:

Angered by the defeat last year of a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry, a group of well-financed gay rights advocates has started a political action committee to take aim at state senators who have opposed same-sex marriage.

The first person the committee will single out is Hiram Monserrate, the Queens Democrat who has filed as a candidate in a special election to reclaim the seat he lost after the Senate expelled him this month.

The campaign against Mr. Monserrate, which will initially rely on the Internet and direct mail to reach voters but may expand to phone banks and e-mail, could exceed a cost of $100,000 — a significant amount for a legislative special election that is less than three weeks away.

In total, the political action committee, called Fight Back New York, is prepared to raise and spend in the high six figures range in the State Senate races this year, according to people involved with the committee.

Translating the improving pro-gay poll numbers into facts on the ground requires more and more electioneering efforts like this. The more intransigent legislators we knock off, the more seriously we will be taken by those remaining.

Post user poll: Are you glad Maryland is recognizing married gay couples?

WaPo has an online poll in which 80 percent (so far) are answering "Yes" to the question, "Are you glad Maryland is recognizing married gay couples?" The comments section includes some colorful displays of hate.

French anti-smoking ads provoke controversy

French_smoking_ad_feb2010 Mamba Online reports:

A series of French advertisements aiming to warn young people against smoking has shocked some over its visual analogy between smoking and oral sex.

The images used in the ads depict teens - both male and female - bending down in front of an adult man while smoking from a cigarette emanating from the man’s crotch.

Below this, the ad's slogan reads: “To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco.”

Critics, however, have argued that the campaign's uncomfortable imagery trivialises the sexual abuse of children.

Marco de la Fuente, vice president of BDDP & Fils, the agency behind the ads, defended the ads, telling the New York Times that the ads were not intended to either “please or to shock people, but to change, to put back into the news a topic we don’t talk about enough, which threatens young people.”

He added: “We can’t be tepid on this subject; we have to hit hard. We are working against years of myth on the basis of films and stars, and we fight against this with zero euros.”

The French government has come out against the campaign with the country's minister for families calling for it to be banned, while the health minister described the ads as "inappropriate" and "counter-productive".

The ads were designed to be controversial; the outcry has therefore helped the ad campaign.

February 24, 2010

Maryland to Recognize DC Marriage

Gansler Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler has issued an opinion (pdf) that the state should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  Since same-sex marriage  will likely start to be performed in DC as soon as March 9, 2010 this is of considerable import to the LGBT community of Maryland.  His opinion is that Maryland Courts will likely find for recognition, not that they are recognized.  The Baltimore Sun reports:
Still, the opinion will likely stir an election-year debate about the polarizing issue. The House earlier this year rejected a bill that would have preempted Gansler's opinion by barring the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Del. Emmett Burns, the Baltimore County Democrat who introduced that measure, said he is "not surprised at all" by what he called a "poltitical" ruling.

"The attorney general has made a big mistake," Burns said. "I don't understand that kind of rationale coming from a legal mind. All it does is muddle. It doesn't clarify anything."

Burns said Gansler, whom he said may have his eye on a higher office, "is simply trying to develop a political base."

Equality Maryland has applauded the decision.  The AP reports:
There are no formal prerequisites to recognize an out-of-state marriage, Gansler noted.

Gansler noted there is an exception to the rule "if the particular marriage is contrary to a strong state public policy," and he wrote that a law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples "could be said to embody a policy against same-sex marriage."

"However, there are many restrictions in the state's marriage statutes and the Court of Appeals has not construed the public policy exception to encompass all those restrictions," Gansler wrote.

As an example, Gansler pointed out that Maryland has recognized common law marriages from other states, even though there is no common law marriage in Maryland. He also cites an example when the state recognized a Rhode Island marriage between an uncle and niece, while Maryland law prohibits marriage between an uncle and niece.

"Indeed, the public policy exception is a very limited one that the court has seldom invoked," Gansler wrote.

Conservatives falsely call reconciliation "nuclear option" despite having used reconciliation many times themselves

Media Matters reports:

Conservative media are pushing the falsehood that "the nuclear option" refers to the budget reconciliation process in order to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for previously criticizing the nuclear option and now considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform. But Democratic criticism of a 2005 Republican proposal to change filibuster rules is in no way inconsistent with passing health care reform through reconciliation -- a process that has repeatedly been used to pass legislation, including major health care reform.

Rachel Maddow was all over this Wednesday night on MSNBC. More and bigger lies from the Republicans. I expect that President Obama will dispose of this latest whopper neatly at Thursday's health care summit. To Democrats who are not outraged enough at the lies to fight back: you deserve to be defeated. It cannot be acceptable that only Republican electoral victories are allowed to mean anything. Fight back.

Update: The Washington Post slams the Republican hypocrisy.

Back from the mines

Pardon me for not blogging today, folks, but it was a busy day. I'll try to catch up on Thursday and Friday. Less than a week now until D.C. has civil marriage equality.

February 23, 2010

Gay gun owner sues D.C.

WaPo reports:

It was 1982, dusk on a summer night near San Jose, when a band of thugs yelled homophobic slurs at Palmer and a colleague.

"We were what they perceived as a couple of faggots, which was the term they used, walking through their neighborhood," he said. "And it would have been one of those modestly ironic moments if my colleague might have been murdered in a gay bashing, when he was straight."

The threats were vivid and believable: "We're going to kill you. They'll never find your body."

Palmer told his colleague to run. The thugs chased Palmer, who stopped under a streetlight and pulled out his gun.

"I did not say anything witty or clever," he recalls. "In the movies, they say something very clever. I just said, 'If you come closer, I will kill you.' Very blunt. And they stopped."

He is convinced that if he hadn't had a gun he would be dead. Even though the legal weapon was not fired, "it did the job it was intended to do. It evened up the odds from a gang of young men who thought it would be really fun to beat to death two guys walking down the street."

Petrelis: gay comments needed at State Dept blog

Michael Petrelis writes:

The U.S. State Department needs to hear some pro-gay messages about including gays and men who have sex with men in the Global Health Initiative and PEPFAR campaign, to fight HIV/AIDS globally.

Yesterday I blogged about a recent Dip Note blog post by Dr. Eric Goosby, our top diplomat for AIDS matters, and I also posted a gay-specific comment for all to read. Goosby and the department omitted any mention about gay men. Not a healthy sign for us.Such invisibility bodes ill for addressing gays and HIV issues around the world.

More pro-gay messages are needed today at the State Department blog post. While the official deadline for public comment on the Global Health Initiative, which encompasses PEPFAR, passed yesterday, it is still necessary to use the comment function at Goosby's post to send a gay-specific to him and the department.

Please take a few minutes to visit the Dip Note entry, and leave a good gay comment for our diplomatic corps to read. The fight for gay visibility at the State Department and through PEPFAR is a constant one. Do your part in this fight. Thanks.

Boehner now says health care bill is too short

Last time we checked, House Minority Leader John Boehner was attacking Speaker Nancy Pelosi's health care bill for being 1,900 pages long. Now he's upset that President Obama's proposal is only 11 pages. Jason Linkins comments:

Why won't Barack Obama think about what sort of healthcare reform would be "just right," for Goldilocks?

At any rate, if you recall, Boehner was among those who wanted to go into the health care reform summit with a "blank sheet of paper." In that scenario, Boehner would probably look at the blank sheet of paper and complain about how it was satin-gloss instead of semi-gloss, the most freedomy of copy paper finishes.

If the Democrats cannot make an effective campaign issue out of this relentless Republican hypocrisy, guess which body part they must be missing.

Scott Brown's short honeymoon with the 'wingers

The newest United States Senator, Scott Brown (R-MA), voted for cloture on the Democrats' jobs bill. How did the Tea Partiers react? HuffPo reports:

That was enough to earn Brown the Drudge banner, complete with the demon-red tint of betrayal! And, subsequently, Scott Brown's honeymoon came to an end like all political honeymoons: amid hotheaded recriminations on Twitter. Ken Layne at Wonkette documented the carnage.

Over at Scott Brown's Facebook page, the mood is much the same, probably because David Broder hasn't written a column yet telling America that the jobs in this jobs bill are so much more awesome than the jobs that came before them because they are "bipartisan." Some of Brown's fans are giving him some support, but the lion's share of comments read like "LYING LOW LIFE SCUM HYPOCRITE!" and "What a bummer dude. We didn't need another Olympia Snowe," and "BROWN, YOU JUST REMEMBER YOU DOUCHEBAG...WE ARE WATCHING YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! AND YOU FAILED AT THE FIRST CHANCE...YOU SCUM SUCKING ASS!!! GUESS MY 10-15 HOUR WORK DAYS WILL HELP PAY FOR THIS TOTAL BULLSH*T!!!!!!!!"

Wonkette reports here.

Questions surround Lieberman’s ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal bill

DC Agenda reports:

Servicemembers United, a gay veterans group, is calling for a longer implementation time that would allow 18 months for the Pentagon to first complete its expected yearlong study of implementing repeal.

Lane Hudson, a D.C.-based gay activist, said the “devil will be in the details” for Lieberman’s bill and that he’s hoping the senator incorporates the timeline advocated by Servicemembers United.

“As long as Lieberman is going to introduce viable legislation, I think he’s an excellent person to be the chief sponsor,” Hudson said. “He’s got a great relationship with the Blue Dogs in the Senate caucus, and he’s probably the best Democrat to keep [Republican U.S. Sen.] John McCain from fiercely opposing repeal.”

Hey, I thought Hudson was in the "No Delay, No Excuses" camp.

Vatican City's age of consent is 12

Isn't this a shocking development. Oh, but the age of consent jumps to 15 if there's a relationship of dependence, such as between a teacher and student, or a priest and altar boy. Hey, don't shoot the messenger. Follow the link if you don't believe me.

Uganda lawmaker would kill gay son

365gay.com reports:

A member of Uganda’s parliament – which is currently debating an anti-gay bill that would punish homosexuality with death – said Friday at a human rights forum he would kill his own son if he found out his son were gay.

The forum’s keynote speaker, Makau Mutua, immediately denounced MP Otto Odonga for his comment.

“I am baffled by the kind of hatred you spew against gay people, including your desire to be a hangman,” Mutua tod the forum, Xtra, a gay news source in Canada, reported. “Would you apply to be a hangman if the person to be hanged were your son?”

When Odonga nodded he would, Mutua added “There is something deeply wrong with you.”

Well, thank goodness those good ol' Christian values are being evangelized.

February 22, 2010

GLAA supports medical marijuana bill

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, D.C. 20013
Monday, February 22, 2010

Testimony for the Record on B18-0622,
“Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative Amendment Act of 2010”

Committee on Health
Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary

Dear Councilmembers Catania and Mendelson and committee members:

GLAA supported Initiative 59 in 1998, and we support Bill 18-0622 today. We thank co-introducers David Catania, Phil Mendelson, and Vincent Gray, as well as co-sponsors Yvette Alexander, Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, Mary Cheh, Jack Evans, Jim Graham, Harry Thomas, Jr., and Tommy Wells. Thank you for scheduling public hearings.

I-59 was carefully crafted by Steve Michael and Wayne Turner, as Turner recounted in the Feb. 21 Washington Post, “to allow seriously ill people, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or those suffering from AIDS-wasting syndrome, to use medical marijuana under their doctor's supervision.”

After Michael’s untimely death, Turner led the Initiative to overwhelming passage. Unfortunately, the Barr Amendment prevented its implementation for more than a decade. With Bill 18-0622, the Council fulfills the intent of I-59 to help the seriously ill without promoting recreational use of the drug.

Regardless of what one thinks of the government’s use of public resources to criminalize and punish the recreational use of marijuana, Turner is right: “It would be a grave mistake to unnecessarily provoke further congressional interference by creating a system vulnerable to abuses. The council's plan represents the best chance to implement medical marijuana and to protect those patients whose quality of life may depend upon this medication of last resort.”

We commend Mr. Turner for his clear-eyed leadership on this issue and his determined focus on the medical purpose that won the city’s support so many years ago. For all those whose suffering can be alleviated by the properly supervised use of medical marijuana, and for the sake of upholding Home Rule, we urge the Council to pass this bill.

Thank you.

Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs

Tiger, check your penicillin supply

Get this: high-profile, media-centric lawyer Gloria Allred accuses somebody else of a "staged public relations stunt"? I can add nothing more than this Facebook chatter on it:

Derrick: I posted this on my profile yesterday. I thought it was hilarious. It looked staged. Tragic the lengths people will go for attention.

Mark: I heard that the ho wanted a personal apology but this is the first I saw of it in "print". LOL!! "Booo Hooo Tiger stole my virginity and dashed my hopes of a white wedding!!"

Derrick: Wait. I got it wrong. Gloria is saying Tiger's apology is staged. I thought it was in reference to the ex porn star thing being staged. But still, the sight of the ex porn star crying and saying she was betrayed was surreal. Priceless. LOL.

Mark: That is why I was doubly incredulous at Gloria . . . Staged? Gloria stages an event to say she objects to staged events? If it were not for staged events, Gloria would be less famous than the clerk at your local 7-11!! Hutzpah!!!!

Derrick: For real. Just lookin at the picture above of her hugging and comforting the ex porn star is a hoot!

Mark: I guess Gloria keeps a straight face by mentally balancing her check book . . .CaChing! CaChing!

Derrick: Right!

Mark: Just saw the final line . . . (Ex-Porn Star) "James is also a wanted woman in Washington state for allegedly neglecting to pay child support payments."

Lieberman to introduce ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal in Senate

DC Agenda reports on a story by Jamie Kirchick in NY Daily News:

An independent U.S. senator is set next week to introduce legislation that would overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to The New York Daily News.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) reportedly told the publication that he’s interested in introducing the bill to ensure the U.S. military has the widest pool available for potential enlistees. The senator also disputed the notion that allowing gay service members to serve openly would be a detriment to unit cohesion.

“What matters is not the gender of the other person in your unit or the color or the religion or in this case the sexual orientation,” Lieberman was quoted as saying. “It’s whether that person is a good soldier you can depend on. And that’s why I think it’s going to work."

Marc Ambinder analyzes this development:

Not only is Sen. Joe Lieberman going to lead the Senate's attempt to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but the White House asked him to do it. Why, oh why, would the White House reward the man whose health care dithering they came to hate? Simple: this works for everyone. Lieberman can work on Republicans he respects, like Sen. Lindsay Graham, he can regain some credibility with liberals (I said some credibility), he actually does believe that DADT should be repealed, and he now owes the White House a favor.

And Elisabeth Bumiller reports in NYT:

A comprehensive new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive. The finding is in direct opposition to the stated views of Pentagon leaders, who say repealing a ban on openly gay men and women in the United States armed forces should take a year or more.

The study, “Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer,” is to be released Tuesday by the Palm Center, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

February 21, 2010

Petraeus: Not sure the troops care

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

February 20, 2010

CPAC Conservatives Love the Gays

This weekend, Washington, D.C. was once again host to the ultra-conservative Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It is a high-profile conference will major political speakers including Republican presidential wanna bes.

There are a few things that are taking liberals and GLBT rights supporters by surprise. First, GOProud, the gay conservative group was a co-sponsor. An anti-gay activist, Ryan Sorba, objected to GOProud being at CPAC and was booed by the crowd.

CPAC has a straw poll of it attendees every year, and the Presidential choice is always news. This year, Ron Paul won by a large margin. The straw poll is also remarkable in the response to the question, "Which of the following issues is MOST, and SECOND MOST IMPORTANT to you personally?" [emphasis original]. Less than 1% said that "Stopping Gay Marriage" was their most importatnt issue, and only 1% listed it second. The only issue on the list that is that unimportant to these conservatives is "Reducing Health Care Costs". 

Is the conservative movement getting over their homophobia? Probably not yet. The poll, and CPAC in general, is undoubtedly skewed by the age of the attendees. The second-to-last page of the straw-poll provides a graph of the ages of the participants. 75% of CPAC straw-poll respondents are 40 years old or younger. This isn't the demographic of the tea party crowd, this isn't the demographic of Republican voters, let alone elected officials. But it does show us what tomorrow's conservative and Republican leaders will be doing, or rather not doing, about gay rights. 

Conservatives and liberals will always be at odds on a range of issues, but many issues will simply stop being partisan political issues. It won't be soon, but more and more, opposition to GLBT rights will wane and only the most fringe elements will continue to embrace homophobia and transphobia.

Those of us who work to advance GLBT equality, need to look for ways to help conservatives frame the issues out of the partisan political sphere. My friend Phil Attey today suggested going to tea parties with signs that say "Don't Ask Don't Tell Wastes Tax Dollars." Other approaches are about how it denigrates the servicemembers, harms our military effectiveness, and is government interference in personal lives. Same-sex marriage can appeal to limited government types by appeals to privacy, limiting government involvement in our personal lives, and person liberty. After all, serving in the military and getting married are rather conservative issues.

Non-discrimination laws may be a harder sell, but there is room to make conservatives back us. We just have to be willing to help conservatives reframe issues, and work on those things we can do together.

The Archdiocese of Washington -- not a victim, but a bully

On December 14, the day before the D.C. Council’s final passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, received proposed amendatory language from the Archdiocese of Washington. He had been in discussions with them for some time in a good-faith effort to resolve any differences if resolution were possible. Even at that late hour, he did not dismiss the proposed changes out of hand but consulted policy advocates including myself and faith community leaders who had worked for passage of the bill.

The suggested language from the Archdiocese included a “business necessity” exemption to the non-discrimination provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act. I replied that for Catholic Charities to claim a business necessity in this case would require stretching and deforming the Human Rights Act so badly that it would make every statue of the Virgin Mary in town weep. The language from the Archdiocese amounted to a blanket license to discriminate that went far beyond the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause which allows them, for example, to deny the marriage sacrament in cases that violate their religious doctrine. Their amendment in effect would have dismantled the “wall of separation between church and state” described by Thomas Jefferson.

Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” The Archdiocese’s proposal rendered everything to their particular concept of God and nothing to the state or the secular sphere that people of every faith and no faith must share. The language in the bill already included protections for the core religious functions of religious organizations while preserving the right of the government to regulate the provision of public services. The Archdiocese has contracted with the city to provide social services for many years without demanding a blanket exemption to discriminate against divorced and remarried persons, even though divorce and remarriage are contrary to Catholic doctrine. Their selective invocation of doctrinal concerns in the present case, regarding not their church function but their function as a city contractor, was a hypocritical attempt to bully the city into letting them dictate public policy. Fortunately, the city refused to be bullied.

A revealing moment came when Mendelson asked the Archdiocese whether it would support the civil marriage equality bill if the Council accepted its proposed changes. The answer, of course, was no. This is Mother Church's one-sided concept of negotiation. In this case, the Church badly overplayed its hand and brought it widespread cries of heartlessness. Outside the precincts of Fox News, few blamed this on gay couples seeking legal recognition. (Incidentally, on Thursday GLAA turned down a request by Fox News for a taped interview on the harm caused to others by the marriage equality bill. We did not wish to be a tool for their biased framing.)

The approximately two hundred gay-affirming D.C. clergy who signed a marriage equality pledge last year demonstrated the diversity of religious beliefs on same-sex marriage. The bill as passed on Dec. 15 and signed by Mayor Fenty on Dec. 18 represents a careful effort to protect the rights of everyone. GLAA supports the right of any religious organization to deny gay people its sacraments, denounce us from its pulpit, and bar us from its sanctuary. Indeed, we led a coalition of gay rights and civil liberties advocates in December defending the right of the group Stand for Marriage DC to run anti-gay ads on D.C. Metrobuses, simply because the Metro System, as a quasi-governmental body, is barred by the First Amendment from censoring unpopular political speech. It is sad but unsurprising that our opponents do not return the favor.

The Archdiocese of Washington demanded the right to discriminate using public funds. This brought them criticism not just from gay activists but from other religious groups that did not insist on subordinating their pastoral mission toward orphans and the poor to anti-gay intolerance. Thus, when Catholic Charities was ordered by the Archdiocese to end its foster care program recently rather than provide health care to the spouses of its gay employees, all of the program’s services, clients, and staff were seamlessly taken over by the Baptist-run National Center for Children and Families. God and Caesar continue to coexist peacefully in the nation’s capital, even with the advent of civil marriage equality.

Update: I should note that the WaPo story on Catholic Charities ending its foster care program in D.C. stated that it was doing so "rather than license same-sex couples," in addition to avoiding providing spousal benefits to them. But barring same-sex couples from serving as foster parents would already violate the D.C. Human Rights Act in the absence of the marriage-equality bill. Indeed, even full adoption by same-sex couples has been a normal occurrence here since 1995. [In re M.M.D. v. B.H.M., 662 A.2d 837 (D.C. 1995)] So by raising this complaint now, the Archdiocese is opening itself to investigation for having been in violation of the Human Rights Act all along. Keep in mind that discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited by the law since its passage in 1977, and also under its pre-Home-Rule predecessor, Title 34, passed by the Presidentially-appointed City Council in 1973.

But regardless of how any investigation turns out, children in need of loving homes will be better off if one of the agencies providing placement services is not routinely and arbitrarily excluding an entire group of people from consideration as potential parents (either foster or adoptive). As Sandhya Bathija of Americans United for Separation of Church and State writes, "If faith-based groups are insistent on promulgating their religious beliefs through social services programs, then they should forgo public funding. Catholic Charities never should have received a government contract if it was so insistent on disobeying civil-rights laws."

Speaking of children, as I stated in my testimony before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on Feb. 16, GLAA rejects the junk science used by our opponents to support allegations that children are harmed by being raised by gay parents. Credible studies consistently refute those claims. [See Brad Sears and Alan Hirsch, "No harm done to children of gay marriages: U.S. studies consistently dispute claims of opponents," Edmonton Journal, April 10, 2004.]

What do "Real Men" do?

Cwa-cpacjpg MSNBC has called the Conservative Political Action Conference  "part presidential cattle call, part conservative rally, and part political carnival."  Part of the carnival is the Concerned Women of America, who passed out bumper stickers that say "Real Men Marry Women" again this year.  Of course, in this day and age, where Photoshop is so prevalent, provocations like this demand a response.  You can see one after the jump along with a link to more.

And is the woman in the picture to the right saying that she would like to marry a gay man?

Continue reading "What do "Real Men" do?" »

The Tiger Woods Rorschach Test

Here is the video of Tiger Woods apologizing for his marital infidelity. You can compare the reactions from Sally Jenkins, Tom Shales, Michael Wilbon, Thomas Boswell, John Feinstein, and an unscientific poll.

This story seems to be a kind of national Rorschach Test in which everyone sees something different, and it says more about them than about Woods. Women appear more skeptical than men. Since the scandal broke three months ago, I have thought the salacious details of who spanked whom were no one's business but Tiger's and Elin's. I agree with Shales:

Considering the small assortment of available alternatives, and despite the instant carping of critics who might have preferred a bloodbath of a news conference, Tiger Woods seems to have scored a muted victory on that very dicey and hazard-filled playing field, the national consciousness.

And I agree with Wilbon:

While a great many of the people following this are still titillated by the number of paramours Tiger had and how he hooked up and whether he's addicted to sex, it sounds as if he's determined as hell to atone for what he's done and become a better man. For those who don't find that good enough or revealing enough at this point, well, it sounds like they've got their own issues.

I say enough. I am a huge fan of this man because of his excellence and his ability to shine seemingly on demand, and I want him to get back on the PGA Tour so that he can give us more moments like this:

And this:

February 19, 2010


The Conservative Political Action Committee is meeting in DC this week. Here is Ryan Sorba of the California Young Americans for Freedom denouncing CPAC for allowing the gay conservative group GOProud to participate in the event.

While what he has to say is an unintelligible gob of claptrap, that probably won't be what people remember about his speech.  Too bad.

Employees of Catholic Charities Growing Disillusioned

Andrew Sullivan posts a letter from an employee of Catholic Charities which relates how their decision to abandon their 80 year old foster care program is affecting employee morale and creating worries about their job security.
No one is asking the Church to perform same-sex marriages or bless same-sex couples, but only to afford these couples the same civil rights they are guaranteed by law, and the human dignity the Church so staunchly defends for everyone else. A more forward-thinking, less reactionary, organization would have had a strategic plan in place for this the moment Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage years ago, and would be ready to make the necessary compromises to ensure that we continue to stay in business, and fulfill our mission, without drawing undue attention by showing contempt for the localities we serve.

Of course Andrew Sullivan has been on quite a tear about how the Archdiocese of Washington chooses to discriminate against same-sex marriage, yet ignores the issue divorced Catholics who remarry which is equally against Catholic doctrine.   It's an issue he raised with Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage at their debate at the Cato Institute this week.  She hinted that the Church may in fact begin to "cleanse" itself of divorcees and the remarried.  Sullivan points out how this would bring consistency to their position, you have to ask yourself if people who are perfectly at ease with discrimination against same-sex couples would be as complacent when it might apply to them?

Judge refuses stay on D.C. marriage law

DC Agenda reports:

A D.C. Superior Court judge Friday denied a Maryland minister’s request for a temporary injunction to prevent the city’s same-sex marriage law from taking effect March 3.

Following a hearing, Judge Brian Holeman issued a preliminary ruling from the bench saying he did not have authority to block a law approved by the city government and cleared by Congress through the normal congressional review process.

Holeman also said he didn’t believe a lawsuit filed by Bishop Harry Jackson seeking to force the city to hold a voter referendum to overturn the marriage law was likely to succeed on the merits. Holeman noted that a key requirement for a court injunction is that the people seeking it can demonstrate a likelihood of winning an underlying case.

“Everyone knows the chances of their winning on the merits are very slim,” said gay rights attorney Mark Levine, who attended the court hearing.

Tick-tock. Eleven days and a good night's sleep away from victory.

Full Cato video on gays and conservatives from Feb. 17

Here is the full video of the Cato Institute policy forum held on Feb. 17, 2010, titled "Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?" and featuring Nick Herbert, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Conservative Party, United Kingdom; Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish Blog, The Atlantic; and Maggie Gallagher, President, National Organization for Marriage.

February 18, 2010

Gay conservative debate @ Cato: Andrew Sullivan, Maggie Gallagher, Nick Herbert

Here is Metro Weekly's video compilation of highlights from Wednesday's Cato Institute forum on whether there is a place for gay people in conservatism. The interviews were conducted by Sean Bugg.

Pale Blue Dot

In a speech last September at the UN Summit on Climate Change, actor Djimon Hounsou read a passage from Carl Sagan's 1994 book, The Pale Blue Dot, about the need to preserve our small planet. This features some beautiful photography, and it's a good message, and that might be enough. The speaker, however, is the magnificent Mr. Hounsou. There is something about him that commands respect; I can't put my finger on it.

MUST WATCH video on Uganda anti-gay Bill

International human rights activist Peter Tatchell writes:

Death penalty for straights and for non-sex offences too

London - 18 February 2010

Peter Tatchell writes:

I am very grateful to Rob Tisinai for making a masterclass YouTube video that explains the full horrors of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It shows that this Bill is far more lethal and wide-reaching than most people realise.

Ugandans don't have to be gay or to have gay sex to be sentenced to death.

Read this summary of these little known aspects of the Bill, then watch the video (the link is below).

Under the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the crime of "serial offender" is punishable by execution.

A serial offender is a person who has "previous convictions" for "homosexuality OR RELATED OFFENCES."

In other words, if a Ugandan person has previous convictions for offences in the Bill and then has a subsequent conviction he or she will be classified as a serial offender and face execution.

"Related offences" in the Bill, which can result in a death sentence for serial offenders, include non-sexual acts such as:

  • aiding and abetting homosexuality
  • advocating same-sex relationships or LGBT rights
  • having a same-sex marriage
  • publicising or funding pro-LGBT organisations
  • using the internet or a mobile phone for the purpose of homosexuality or its promotion
  • being a person in authority who fails to report an offender to the police within 24 hours

These related offences are crimes that could be also committed by a heterosexual person. It is not just LGBT Ugandans who are threatened by this legislation.

Under the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, all convicted serial offenders are liable to execution, regardless of their sexuality.

Rob's brilliant short video explains the FULL and DEADLY clauses of the Bill. Please take a look and send it to your friends. We need to get the word out far and wide....

See the full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill here:


Huge thanks to Rob Tisinai for taking the time to make this superb video. It is the clearest, most detailed exposition of the true severity of the proposed new law.

Solidarity! Peter Tatchell

If you would like to contact Peter Tatchell, please email peter@petertatchell.net.

You can follow Peter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell or join the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Campaign Facebook group at http://tinyurl.com/cj9y6s.

February 17, 2010

Tory MP Nick Herbert: There is a place for gay people in Conservative politics

Nick_Herbert The Cato Institute today held a forum on whether there is room for gay people in conservative politics. The featured speakers were Andrew Sullivan, Maggie Gallagher, and openly gay Conservative British MP Nick Herbert. There was quite a spirited exchange between Sullivan and Gallagher, and during the question period Sullivan did a fine smackdown of right-wing provocateur Jamie Kirchick. But one of the best things about the event was the speech by Herbert, who is the Conservative Party's Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Here is the closing passage:

So let us be clear about the kind of society we want to build.

One where a child can go to school without being bullied because of his or her sexuality.

Where people can be honest with their friends and families and employers, and not live a lie.

Where the terraces at football games do not ring with homophobic abuse.

Where a public declaration of lifelong commitment to another person can be made by anyone.

Where communities are safe and no-one is fearful because of who they are.

Where anyone can serve their country without being asked who it is they love.

Where no-one is held back and opportunity is available to all.

And where the Prime Minister of the UK or the President of the United States could just as easily be gay as black.

Video of the forum should appear later today at www.cato.org/featuredvids/.

Catholic Charities Ends Its Foster Care Program, Good!

The Washington Post reports that Catholic Charities has ended its foster care program because they might have to provide healthcare to the spouses of their gay employees. Mercy! Catholic Charities transferred all of their services, clients, and staff to the National Center for Children and Families.

NCCF apparently has no problems with providing services and providing healthcare benefits for staff under the new marriage equality law. Good for them. They are Baptist affiliated, but apparently independent. That’s just fine. Baptists don't have a strong central authority setting policy,and there isn't a consistent agreement on gay people marrying within the denomination. Following the law does seem to be an issue at NCCF. It should be noted that Clergy United for Marriage Equality was co-founded by Revs. Christine and Dennis Wiley, of the Covenant Baptist Church.

It really isn’t a big deal if Catholic Charities is the agency that carries out the government funded programs. What matters is that the government funded services are being competently provided in a non-discriminatory way.

I’m rather pleased that we are seeing an end to government funded discrimination. This should never been allowed in the first place.

February 16, 2010

Crazy rants and youthful wisdom at Board of Elections hearing

Tuesday morning's Board of Elections and Ethics hearing on the latest proposed voter initiative, titled “Preservation of Traditional Marriage One Man One Woman 2009,” had few witnesses but plenty of anti-gay looniness on display.

Testifying in favor of the measure were Joyce A. Little, the proposer; her friend Ann Miller of Bowie, Maryland; and perpetual witness Michael Sindram. Bob Summersgill and I were sitting in the front row taking it all in, with Bob twittering some amusingly snarky observations and I scribbling on a notepad. Sultan Shakir of HRC was also on hand, typing into his laptop.

Ms. Little said D.C. was "more like a fascist state" for denying people the right to vote on gay people's right to marry. Beside her, Ms. Miller bounced in her seat and said "mm hm" and "yes" and finger-snapped and knocked on the table; Board Chairman Errol Arthur admonished her several times. Little cited the successful use of a ballot measure in Maine to overturn marriage equality there. She said that America was founded on two principles, religion and the right to vote. She referred to the "satanic agenda of legalizing homosexual marriage." At this point, Ms. Miller's cell phone went off and everything stopped while she searched for it in her bag. Little continued, "But God is real. Man in his arrogance is truly ignorant." Her best line of the day was, "You are ushering in a Frankenstonian age" in which there would be creatures that were "half man and half dog." She invoked Sodom and Gomorrah. She ended by saying to the Board members, "You too are going to hell. May God have mercy on your immortal soul." Chairman Arthur responded simply, "Thank you, Ma'am."

Continue reading "Crazy rants and youthful wisdom at Board of Elections hearing" »

Bishop Jackson's world

Harry-jackson My column this week looks at marriage-equality opponent Bishop Harry Jackson and his estranged relationship with the truth:

Despite his being so dark and masculine, I am tempted to call Bishop Harry Jackson the White Queen after the character in "Through the Looking-Glass" who sometimes "believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Whether or not Jackson really believes the things he says, he deserves credit for having the chutzpah to champion District of Columbia residents’ right to vote at the same time he is urging Congress to interfere with the decisions of those voters’ representatives.

Some sympathy may be in order, since Jackson is losing his crusade to defend God and little children from gay people’s right to marry. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on or about March 3 (after the D.C. marriage equality bill completes its congressional review), same-sex couples will be able to go to Room 4485 at D.C. Superior Court at 500 Indiana Avenue, pay their $45 fee, and apply for a marriage license. You have to wait three full days before receiving the license, and if you want to schedule a civil wedding you must inform the deputy clerk and wait at least ten days. (Sorry, Britney, but D.C. isn’t Vegas.)

Although he’s failed three times to get a ballot measure past the Board of Elections and Ethics, Jackson won’t quit. He wrote on Feb. 8 at TownHall.com, "Despite the [D.C.] council and [D.C. Delegate to Congress] Eleanor Holmes Norton’s wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, the cry, ’Let the People Vote!’ has reached the ears of many on the Hill."

Reading Jackson, one might think that Ms. Norton and the council members were foreign usurpers rather than well-known local political figures.

Read the whole thing here.