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164 posts from November 2010

November 30, 2010

Anti-bullying hearing goes well despite some carping

Monday's D.C. Council hearing on anti-bullying legislation, which was jointly chaired by Mayor-elect Vincent Gray and Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., went quite well. There is strong support on the Council for comprehensive anti-bullying legislation. My testimony for GLAA is here. Bob Summersgill's is here. Alison Gill's for GLSEN is here.

Tim Craig at WaPo reports:

The proposals, which are still being finalized but appear to have broad support on the 13-member body, mandate that officials conduct thorough and "prompt" investigations into allegations of bullying. They also call for the creation of a detailed reporting system to document episodes of threatening behavior.

But the measures, which could come up for a vote early next year, are sparking division between city leaders and charter school advocates over the council's authority to regulate those academic institutions. The council also could be on a collision course with the American Civil Liberties Union, which worries the initiatives could endanger students' constitutional right to free speech.

"It is perfectly legitimate for a student to say, 'I think homosexual conduct is against the word of God,' " said Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director for the D.C. chapter of the ACLU. "A gay student might feel hurt by that and consider it bullying, but that is an opinion that every student has a right to express."

Craig's article makes Spitzer sound like he's dismissing bullying as a concern, but Spitzer assures me that's not so. ACLU just wants to make sure that the definition of bullying is well defined so as not to fall afoul of free speech protections. Summersgill and I have dealt with them before on this; we look forward to seeing the statement they have promised to submit for the hearing's record, but we don't expect much difficulty over their concerns.

Gary Imhoff of DCwatch also raises free speech concerns, but much less constructively. As he demonstrated during the debate on what is now D.C.'s marriage equality law (when he concealed his homophobia behind demands for a ballot measure, as if our democratically elected legislature were not competent to deal with controversial issues), he wields little influence and is not someone to worry about.

Loose Lips snipes here. LL trivializes the bullying problem by suggesting that it is about punishing mockery. He actually interrupts a quote from the legislation to insert his own (mis)characterization.

Contrary to witness Michael Musante of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (who thinks public charter schools should be exempted from public policy despite receiving public funds), the legislation would not impose a "one size fits all" solution. There is to be a range of consequences for acts of bullying. The bottom line is that all kids deserve a safe learning environment. That is not now the reality, which means more efforts are needed. Several people at Monday's hearing, myself included, noted that passing a bill by itself will not protect any student. There must be leadership, follow-through, and oversight.

Given how busy the Council currently is over budgetary matters, there likely won't be enough time to make various desired tweaks to the anti-bullying legislation in time to mark it up and vote on it before the end of December. So it will have to be taken up by the next Council session. We expect it to be moved promptly then. Thanks to everyone who testified in support, including the DC Center, the DC Trans Coalition, SMYAL, and the Anti-Defamation League.

Kenyan president threatens arrest of gays

AP reports:

An official with Kenya's largest gay rights organization said Monday there is panic among its members following remarks made by Kenya's prime minister that homosexuals should be arrested.

The office of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya received calls from concerned members, some of whom are HIV-positive and fear they will be arrested when they collect life-prolonging medicine from government clinics, board member Nguru Karugu said.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday said homosexuals who are found in the midst of sex acts will be arrested. Odinga's spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that the prime minister was quoted out of context....

Karugu said the prime minister's remarks are big blow to Kenya's efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said the government has included gays in its plans to combat the virus.

Civil rights activist Zawadi Nyongo called for a protest outside the prime minister's office on Wednesday.

Kenya's law criminalizing sex acts "against the order of nature" stems from the old British penal code, which was reformed years ago in Britain but continues to work its poison in former colonies. It is not homosexuality that is un-African — indigenous forms of it have been found throughout the continent — but the criminalization of it.

D.C. marriage bureau nixes Skype wedding

Amanda Hess at TBD reports the sad news. This is not terribly surprising; but stay tuned, as some changes to the rules governing D.C. marriage officiants are in the works. There is really no compelling reason why an officiant is needed at all on the civil marriage side of things, so one possible change is to make officiants optional. Another is to end the licensing of officiants, and to treat them the same as witnesses on a contract. For ceremonial purposes the wedding couple may want more, which should be entirely up to them.

DADT Study Report Released

DADTReport The 267 page "Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now available along with the 97 page "Support Plan for Implementation".  The fact that few will have read it yet isn't stopping people from taking sides.

Depp stood up to Disney exec's anti-gay reaction to Jack Sparrow

Depp_Vanity_Fair_cover I promise I'll catch up on the more important stuff going on, but I enjoyed this AP story on Johnny Depp's interview in the January issue of Vanity Fair:

Johnny Depp's flamboyant portrayal of Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean" was good enough for an Oscar nomination, but the actor says Disney was less than thrilled.

Depp talked about it in an interview with rocker Patti Smith for the January edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Depp said Disney "couldn't stand" his Sparrow and one person there even asked if Sparrow was gay. Depp told the Disney executive "all my characters are gay," and he said that "really made her nervous."

Oh, Johnny, you tease. As much as I'd love to take that line seriously, there is plenty of evidence that Depp in fact is just an open-minded heterosexual man. But if you're looking for gay material from his films, forget Jack Sparrow and rent Before Night Falls, in which he plays two quite different characters: The drag queen Bon Bon, who smuggles gay poet Reinaldo Arenas's manuscripts out of a Cuban prison by stuffing them up a certain body cavity; and the sadistic Lieutenant Victor, who forces Arenas to perform oral sex on the barrel of a loaded pistol.

November 29, 2010

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and LGBT employees: It Gets Better

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recorded this "It Gets Better" video a couple of weeks ago. The English version is above, Spanish below. I was one of the LGBT Labor Department employees who participated in the taping; you can see my in the back near the middle. Secretary Solis is probably the least diva-like of any Labor Secretary in my 31 years of federal service. She was completely genuine and a pleasure to spend time with. What a change she herself represents in comparison to how things were when I first arrived at Labor in 1979. It did get better.

November 26, 2010

Lesbian cadet who quit seeks return to West Point

West_Point AP reports:

Katherine Miller got pretty good at hiding her sexuality in high school, brushing off questions about her weekend plans and referring to her girlfriend, Kristin, as "Kris."

She figured she could pull it off at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, too. After all, "don't ask, don't tell" sounded a lot like how she had gotten through her teen years.

But something changed when she arrived at West Point two years ago. She felt the sting of guilt with every lie that violated the academy's honor code. Then, near the end of her first year, she found herself in a classroom discussion about gays in the military, listening to friends say gays disgusted them.

"I couldn't work up the courage to foster an argument against what they were saying for fear of being targeted as a gay myself," Miller told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "I had to be silent. That's not what I wanted to become."

It is awfully perverse for the government to insist upon excluding men and women from the military who are so eager to serve. Good luck to Ms. Miller and others like her.

The DC LGBT Homeless Youth Crisis

Metro Weekly reports:

In the past few months, Washington D.C. has seen a rise in the number homeless LGBT youth. Metro Weekly's Justin Stewart talks with several locals youths, as well as Earline Budd and Brian Watson, of Transgender Health Empowerment. about the problem -- and at least one solution provided by The Wanda Alston House and its drop-in center.

Homophobic whackjob pastor, with unauthorized commentary

HappyCabbie writes:

Please help with the ratings on this one. When people search for Atlah Ministries or for Dr James David Manning, I want this video to show up near the top. Your ratings can help with that.

Very amusing.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.: It Gets Better

A message for LGBT youth from the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.

Books: Queer Malawi

Malawi_nov2010_lrg1 Mamba Online reports:

A unique and groundbreaking new book offering vivid portraits of the lives of gay men and women in Malawi is set to be launched in South Africa by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)....

The accounts in the book portray the joys of love and the heartache of rejection, the dangers posed by homophobia and hatred in communities, and the sublime comfort of close friends and relatives.

According to the publishers, the twelve life stories are "intended to invoke compassion and support for the rights of African LGBTI people to live freely and harmoniously alongside their heterosexual counterparts in Malawi and beyond her borders".

The making of the book is fascinating in its own right: Dr Patricia Watson, an expert in oral history practice in South Africa, designed and facilitated oral history workshops in Malawi during which most of the 12 participants' experiences were recounted, recorded and translated into English.

Watson then worked with the transcripts to compose stories that were as close to the authors’ own words as was grammatically possible....

The inspiring experiences in Queer Malawi are complemented by striking and intimate photographs of the 12 participants by the renowned and award winning lesbian photographer Zanele Muholi who agreed to do portraits of each of the authors.

The publication of such a book is itself a small blow against repression. Back in the early 1990s, a Nigerian gay activist asked me to send him books about homosexuality. I did so, but the shipment never made it to him because it was stolen in transit, probably at the airport in Lagos. One welcomes the prospect of Africans documenting their own stories in the years ahead.

(Hat tip: Barrett Brick)

Serial Mom : You Can't Wear White shoes after labor day

I wish to stress that this is not an appropriate way to deal with annoying people. However, if you happen to trample them in a Black Friday shopping stampede, you might get away with it.

November 25, 2010

Flirts warming up

A backstage clip of my friends The Flirtations warming up, from the early 1990s. The YouTube description says:

The Flirtations, the world's first politically correct gay male a cappella group, warming up and goofing off in the dressing room at the Madame Walker Theatre in Indianapolis. They're singing "Shooting Star," one of Cris Williamson's classics. Featuring Aurelio Font (yellow shirt), Jon Arterton (red), Cliff Townsend (print), Jimmy Rutland (purple), and Michael Callen (black and white).

(Hat tip: Aurelio Font)

Argument by aside

Rob Tisinai at BTB writes:

Argument by aside: issuing a torrent of words to rebut your opponent, but hiding their key point by mentioning it only as an offhand comment or aside, and then continuing as if it had never been said.

This fallacy gives the illusion of: I brought up their point so you can assume I rebutted their point — even though no rebuttal took place....

[W]atch this clip from the American Family Association, decrying Obama’s order that hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds must allow visits by same-sex domestic partners (start at 2:41 and watch for about 40 seconds)....

Yes. They state the problem — "Now, sometimes in ICU units they’re much stricter" — in an aside, and pretend to have refuted it merely by saying it's not a problem. Well, of course: your being denied access to your partner in an intensive care unit is not a problem for them.

Love makes a family

Aridiamisi One of the many reasons I have to give thanks today is my partner Patrick, whose gaze summoned me across a crowded church fellowship hall one unforgettable night in Cape Town nine years ago. I wrote about his first visit to America here. I took this photo of him in a restaurant in Antwerp in 2003. He told me not to take his picture, but I persisted, and captured this shot just as an affectionate smile began to blossom on his face.

I am especially grateful that the opponents of gay families have not succeeded in conquering this one.

Turkey-day fight: Teabaggers vs. GOProud vs. Concerned Women for America

Joe.My.God writes:

Does not! Does too! Nuh uh! Yeah huh! The founder of Tea Party Nation, GOProud's Chris Barron, and the botoxed death mask of Penny Nance form a hilarious circular firing squad over who is more teabaggery. Wheel out the clown car, cuz we got us a circus! Hey Penny, "encrouchment"? Really?

I hope Chris Barron enjoys the company he is in.

Sondheim dishes on Glee, state of Broadway

NY Post reports:

StephenSondheim-thumb-400x315

Stephen Sondheim was in typically chatty and catty form during a discussion about his life. Asked whether he objected to his lyrics to "Rose's Turn," originally performed by Ethel Merman in "Gypsy," being sung on Fox's "Glee" by gay character Kurt Hummel, with the words changed to suit the plotline, he responded, "I've seen it sung completely out of context in productions of 'Gypsy!' " Post theater critic Frank Scheck also reports that Sondheim, 80, lamented the current state of the theater, saying, "You look at Broadway audiences these days, and the average age makes me look like a young man."

Speaking of Sondheim, one thing for which I am thankful this year is the first volume of his collected lyrics, Finishing the Hat, which is filled with fascinating insights into his craft as well as keen observations on other songwriters. It is a must-have for Sondheim fanatics.

(Hat tip: Ester Goldberg)

Fighting for our families on Thanksgiving

Binational_couple2
(Photo of Aurelio Tolentino and Roi Whaley)

Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality writes:

Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in relationships with partners from abroad will be forced to spend Thanksgiving alone... or packing their bags so they can keep their families together.

Under current U.S. immigration laws, lesbian and gay Americans do not have the right to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency, as their straight neighbors do. Instead, immigration laws force these couples -- about 17,000 of whom are raising young children who are American citizens -- to separate or leave the country, forced into exile because their families are not recognized under federal law. This painful reality is forcing many American citizens, and their families, to flee their own country, exacting a heavy cost on our economy, communities and on the countless people who constitute their extended families, too....

More than 36,000 couples ... are being forced into such heart-wrenching decisions, according to research from The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. As they leave the country, they take not only their talent and skills, but also their contributions to local economies, communities and families.

In October, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) included the Uniting American Families Act -- a bill to recognize lesbian and gay families within federal immigration laws -- in his Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010. UAFA, which is sponsored in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has also been included in the Reuniting Families Act, a family unification bill sponsored by Democratic Congressman Mike Honda of California.

Last week, Senator Menendez indicated he would like to see his comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive, bill considered in the lame duck Congress. The Immigration Equality Action Fund -- which represents LGBT binational families and lobbies on their behalf on Capitol Hill -- launched a national action campaign to support Menendez's lame duck push....

As Rachel Tiven, executive director of the Action Fund, said last week, "Whether your family is binational or not, legislation to extend immigration rights is an important first step in securing broader recognition, and rights, for every LGBT family." That, she said, is why "it is imperative that everyone who believes in federal equality for our families stand with Senator Menendez -- who courageously included LGBT families in his bill -- by mobilizing grassroots support for its consideration in this Congress."

To take action and help ensure that this Thanksgiving is the last one in which LGBT families are forced into separation and exile, visit the Immigration Equality Action Fund online.

As a member of a binational couple myself, I am thankful that our love endures despite our separation, and look forward to Patrick's next visit. But change requires concerted action. Please help Immigration Equality.

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

I had forgotten about this clip that shows us the real meaning of Thanksgiving.  Fortunately the New York Times remembers.  And Craig tips us off.

November 24, 2010

Texas priest charged with hiring hitman to kill teen who accused him of sexual abuse

S-JOHN-FIALA-large AP reports:

A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on charges that he solicited a hit man to kill a teenager who had accused him of sexual abuse. Authorities said John Fiala first offered the job to a neighbor, who blew the whistle and helped police arrange a sting. They said Fiala got as far as negotiating a $5,000 price for the slaying before investigators moved in.

The 52-year-old clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his suburban Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. In April, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boy's family, who accused Fiala of molesting the youth, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint....

San Antonio Archdiocese spokesman Pat Rodgers said Fiala has been removed from the public ministry, meaning he cannot present himself as a priest.

Authorities removed him in October 2008, before the accusations of sexual assault emerged, because of his interference with the custodial relationship between the teen in Rocksprings and his grandmother - a case the sheriff's office investigated....

Rhodes said Fiala originally met the accuser in 2007 and was a frequent visitor at his grandparents' house, where the teen was living. He often came bearing gifts, including new a cell phone and MP3 player, and eventually gave the boy cash to help buy a car....

"He's a dangerous predator and has been since at least 1988," Rhodes said. "The church has known how dangerous this guy is for many, many years. They had full knowledge, we believe, and the documents seem to bear that out - that they knew what a bad person he was and what a danger he was to children."

Wow. This is what can happen when an organization considers itself above the law, when it consistently resists any accountability for its actions — and when it operates in denial of the sexuality of its members. Such repression and insularity only serves to attract pathological individuals. Thank goodness people are fighting back.

OPM Director John Berry: It Gets Better

A wonderful message from the openly gay director of the federal Office of Personnel Management.

(Hat tip: Ernest Hopkins)

Conservatives slam Vatican for statement on condoms

The-popes-condom-nightmare_0_0_0x0_432x333

AP reports:

Faced with a changing outlook from Pope Benedict XVI on condoms and their role in preventing the spread of HIV, many prominent conservative Roman Catholics in the U.S. are rejecting the Vatican's own explanation of what the pope said.

Several orthodox Catholics said they would only accept a more formal papal pronouncement. Others insisted that journalists were purposely misrepresenting Benedict's comments. Some questioned whether the papal spokesman, the Rev. Frederico Lombardi, accurately quoted the pope....

"It's a mess," said John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, which advises church leaders, hospitals and Vatican offices. "I'm not ready to say that the pope said what Lombardi said." ...

Germain Grisez, a prominent moral theologian who advises bishops, said that promoting condoms as protection against disease would be "pernicious" because it assumes a person does not have the capacity to make good, moral choices. He lamented that the pope's comments "can be — and are being — misused to sow doubt about Catholic teaching."

"Many of Jesus' own sayings were misused, and he no doubt foresaw that they would be misused. But he nevertheless said what he thought would lead to salvation those who were open to his teaching," Grisez wrote in an e-mail. "I assume that Pope Benedict's intention in speaking out as he does is similar to Jesus' intention. But Benedict's judgment about what to say may not be as sound as Jesus' judgment was." ...

"We're in for a long period of confusion," said Russell Shaw, a writer for the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor and former spokesman for the U.S. bishops' conference. "The bishops — and clergy especially — will have to go home now to their own dioceses and whether they like it or not start speaking very clearly about what just happened."

Periods of confusion are inevitable in people who dare to confront their orthodoxy with reality. It is hardly surprising that Rome gets this reaction after spending more than thirty years driving its worldwide organization back to the middle ages. But I’m glad to see the conservatives given reason to squawk for once.

Our friend Ester Goldberg comments, "In a new book, the Pope says condoms are okay for gay male prostitutes. Sounds like somebody got a rash." Ester, you bad girl.

November 23, 2010

Gates rebuffed McCain on letting soldiers vote on DADT repeal

800px-Msc_2007-Sunday%2C_09_00_-_11_00_Uhr_-Zwez003_Gates_McCain

The Wonk Room at Think Progress reports:

In late September, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing his concerns that the Pentagon’s Working Group review of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was operating under the condition that “the policy will be repealed” rather than studying if it should be changed. “I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and the survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered,” McCain wrote in a letter dated September 28, 2010....

Responding to the Senator’s request in a previously unreleased letter from October 25, 2010, Gates explained that the review was not a “referendum” on the policy, stressing, “I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.” He also emphasized that the final report would inform military leaders of the impacts of lifting the ban and help guide Congress in its decision making....

Similarly, during a hearing last week, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told Senate Armed Services Committee, “We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

Thank you, Secretary Gates. What sense does it make to ask servicemembers for permission before giving them an order? McCain has seriously lost his way. He will stall and obstruct forever if he can.

(Hat tip: Joe.My.God)

Dan Savage: gays most targeted minority

Dan Savage goes on CNN to criticize CNN for its so-called "balanced" approach which means it gives airtime to hate groups.

Why Marriage Matters (video)

From Freedom to Marry.

(Hat tip: Michael Crawford)

In another example of pastoral care, Benedict blames the media

Pope-condoms_1372835i

In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI sows confusion over more than his position on whether it's okay for hustlers to use condoms. This just in from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:

In his new book Pope again blasts media

For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

Statement by Mark Serrano of Washington DC, charter board member, SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (703 727 4940 cell, [email protected])

In a new book, the Pope admits that maybe he should have launched a global investigation into clergy sex crimes back in 2002. He's right. But he didn't then and he isn't now.

Now is he doing what any responsible leader would do - ordering bishops to turn over priest personnel files to law enforcement?

He compares the church's long-standing and on-going cover up of child sex crimes to a "volcano." Other top Catholic officials have used similar words like tsunami and earthquake. These are flawed analogies, of course, because they imply that church staff are passive victims of forces beyond their control when, in fact, this crisis is caused by church staff themselves.

Like so many top church managers, Benedict takes a swipe at the motives of the media. That blame-shifting and finger-pointing is inappropriate and hurtful.

Sadly, despite hours of interviews, "Neither the pope nor his interviewer addresses widely circulated charges that the pope, while serving as the Archbishop of Munich and later as a Vatican cardinal, himself mishandled cases of pedophile priests." Benedict's moral authority will continue to be seriously compromised until he finds the courage to address his own personal involvement - in Munich and in Rome - in concealing horrific child sex crimes.

Like a true politician (as opposed to a pastor), Benedict makes every problem someone else's fault. Maybe SNAP should have everyone send His Holiness a bunch of WWJD wrist bands. Or altar-boy-flavored rubbers. I'm sorry, did I say that out loud?

Barbara Bush confirms, corrects "fetus in a jar" story

TPM reports:

One of the most shocking passages from former President George W. Bush's memoir is the one in which he describes his mother having a miscarriage when he was a teenager. According to him, she put the fetus in a jar and showed it to him as they were driving to the hospital.

"I never expected to see the remains of the fetus, which she had saved in a jar to bring to the hospital," he wrote. As he said in one interview, "She said to her teenage kid, 'Here's the fetus.'"

But on Larry King Live last night, Barbara Bush told a decidedly different story.

"No, the truth is I didn't put it in the jar. ... Paula put it in the jar," she said, referring to the Bushes' longtime housekeeper, Paula Rendon.

What a lovely and tasteful family heirloom.

Palm ad: Business as Usual

Joe.My.God reports that Fox News has rejected this 30-second ad from the Palm Center on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Palm will run it on other networks.

Anti-gay pastor admits to threesomes with wife and male aide

FB_pastor

Rod 2.0 writes:

The New Jersey-based, anti-gay pastor who ordered his congregation to avoid Facebook because it was a "portal to infidelity" had a three- and four-way relationship with his wife, a male church aide, and sometimes the church aide's wife too, reports the Asbury Park Press. The Rev. Cedric Miller didn't need Facebook for his own extra-marital hookups but is still warning his congregation against using the social networking app....

The revelations emerged in depositions and testimony in a 2003 criminal case against the same male church aide. The threeways and fourgies often took place "during Bible study" and "after church", according to reports.

During Bible study, eh? I knew these guys took a different approach to Scripture.

How D.C. hate crimes compare to the nation's

Amanda Hess at TBD looks at D.C. hate crime data as compared with national data from the FBI's annual report on bias-related crimes. Anti-gay hate crimes remain high; and Hess writes this:

The FBI's national hate crime statistics do not include attacks on one significant group of victims. While the FBI does not release figures based on gender identity, the District of Columbia does. And despite their low representation across the general population, transgender people comprised about 12 percent of hate crime victims in D.C. last year.

An important reminder, coming a few days after the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

November 22, 2010

Barney Frank: Cut Military Spending by Following Cato Plan

I attended this discussion panel at Cato last week and recommend it for viewing. The full video is here.

Generations

Ginkgo leaves My column for Thanksgiving uses last week's HHS issuance of new rules requiring hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners for a meditation on the long struggle for the rights and dignity of our families. Here's an excerpt:
Some important news last week brightened an otherwise frustrating season for gay rights: The Department of Health and Human Services issued rules requiring hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid funds to grant equal visitation rights to same-sex domestic partners.

Family law expert Nancy Polikoff summarizes:

"[A] doctor who does not approve of same-sex relationships cannot exercise his ’conscience’ to refuse to let a same-sex partner make medical decisions if that partner is named in an advance directive." "The regulations have no impact...when someone is unconscious or otherwise unable to make decisions." The rules go to "great length to educate medical providers about circumstances that could include medical care for a child of a same-sex couple." "Oral designation of a ’support person’ is sufficient to establish who can visit." "Only when a patient...cannot make an oral designation, and more than one person claims the right to be the patient’s ’support person,’ can a hospital require any documentation."

The new rules are an important step for the protection of our families -- a far cry from the years of struggle that Karen Thompson went through to gain access to her partner Sharon Kowalski after Sharon suffered a severe brain injury in November 1983....

Needless to say, the HHS rule comes too late for countless people....

Read the whole thing here. The part that I haven't quoted here, by touching on those we have lost, deals with sorrow, anger, and rededication to carrying on the struggle for our families. I realized how to finish it during the gay wedding celebration of my friends Mel and Juan on Sunday afternoon. They were together for 35 years before D.C.'s marriage equality law enabled them to marry legally. Here's to them and to all who formed families long before there was any public recognition or support. This Thanksgiving, instead of being with my birth family as in most years, I am travelling to be with chosen family. My column, I think, illustrates why. This is a good time to celebrate all of our unofficial and unorthodox families without whose support and nurturing we would not have made it this far. Here's wishing all of you a good Thanksgiving.

Light blogging this week

With all the activity around Thanksgiving, including travel, I don't expect to be blogging much this week. (My computer is also acting up today.) I expect I'll post a few items, and if I have a free bit of time and something blog-worthy comes up, I'll post it. I hope to resume a more regular schedule next week.

November 19, 2010

Your choices: A. It's terrible. B. It's satanic. C. Jesus barfed.

In the wake of HHS releasing new rules requiring hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid funds to grant equal visitation rights to their patients' same-sex domestic partners, the anti-gay American Family Association is up in arms. Its news operation, OneNewsNow, gets its IV tube in a tangle.

For extra fun, AFA added the following highly scientific reader poll to its article:

HospitalPoll

Well, gee, that covers all the options, doesn't it?

Sen. Murkowski, is you is or is you ain't?

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in the above news clip, said she was with us on DADT repeal. In the clip below, she wavers. I wonder when Dan Choi plans to target her. Oh, that's right, he only attacks our friends.

Norquist: GOP can force a government shutdown and blame it on Obama

If Grover Norquist wanted his "give us our way or we'll make you shut the government down and then blame it on you" strategy to work, he probably shouldn't have created video footage like this showing who's really aiming for a shutdown. Only a Democratic Party that refused to fight for its interests could lose this game of chicken. Oh, wait.

A pair of handcuffs, a White House fence, and Dan Choi

The Blade reports:

Thirteen individuals were arrested outside of the White House on Monday afternoon after handcuffing themselves the White House fence in protest of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Protesters included Lt. Dan Choi, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas and Co-founder of "Get Equal," Robin McGehee.

Well thank goodness this transformative moment was captured for posterity.

That's Estertainment

Our friend Ester reports from Tinsel Town:

In this Episode: Kate Gosselin is broke - PALIN steals a TV show - A Royal Pain - KArdashians are moist and robbed on the toilet.

In other news, Ester comments on Sarah Palin's attempt to blame President Obama for bad singing on American Idol.

Dupont Circle ANC resolves dispute with Hank's

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(Hank's Oyster Bar, courtesy Luis Gomez Photos)

Some good news reported by Lou Chibbaro in the Blade:

The Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission reached an agreement Wednesday with lesbian chef and businesswoman Jamie Leeds in which the commission will drop its protest against Leeds’ plans for expanding seating capacity at her popular Hank’s Oyster Bar restaurant near Dupont Circle.

The ANC’s action came less than two weeks after the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted to end a five-year-old voluntary agreement prohibiting any expansion of Hank’s seating space or operating hours. In 2005, a group of neighborhood residents demanded that Leeds sign the agreement as a condition for opening her restaurant on Q Street, just off the popular 17th Street strip where several gay bars are located....

“Hank’s is one of the great recent enhancements of our neighborhood, while the problems are entirely imaginary,” said nearby resident Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance. “That Jamie Leeds is sick of being hobbled by years of gratuitous restrictions should surprise only those with no regard for the obligations and risks faced by a small business owner.” ...

ANC 2B Chairman Will Stevens told the Blade the ANC will vote in a special meeting later this month to withdraw its protest after Leeds agreed to stipulate in her ABC license that she will continue Hank’s current closing hours of 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends for its outdoor seating....

“I am happy to see a slender shaft of reason break through the clouds of obstruction,” said Rosendall in response to the agreement by the ANC to drop its protest.

Voluntary agreements can serve a useful purpose; but some members of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, who apparently feel entitled to impose their wishes on everyone else in the neighborhood, treat VAs like Christmas trees on which they hang every imaginable restriction. The ABC Board appears inclined to correct this excess. Thank goodness for that. Some of us value the investments that business owners like Jamie Leeds have made in our neighborhood.

Perkins: ending military gay ban will cause mass exodus

Tony_Perkins Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council claims that ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell will provoke so many servicemembers to quit that President Obama will be forced to reinstate the draft:

The military is not a red state/blue state institution. It unifies our country. It draws its dedicated members from all regions. Still, it is no secret that the military is a socially conservative institution. It recruits heavily from rural areas in the South, the Midwest, and the Inter-Mountain states.

In our larger cities, black and Hispanic recruits are encouraged to consider the military — which has historically been a great ladder of achievement for racial and ethnic minorities.

These are the very areas and groups who have been most resistant to the demands of the homosexual lobby. These are the very regions and groups who have rallied to our side whenever we put a defense of marriage initiative on the ballot

If these regions and groups do not enlist in our all-volunteer force, President Obama will be driven to the place he does not want to go: the military draft.

Perkins is good at making dire predictions. During D.C. Council meetings on what is now our marriage equality law, he would sit beside Bishop Harry Jackson. (I thought of it as a diet aid.) When they had a chance to speak, it was the usual scare-mongering. But none of it was true. Will there be some resistance after DADT repeal? No doubt. There was resistance over racial integration six decades ago. We'll survive it as we did then — as, indeed, we have survived Tony Perkins and his poison.