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150 posts from June 2011

June 30, 2011

New York’s Same-Sex Couples Are Not Out of the Woods Yet

Sean Eldridge at The Nation reminds us that same-sex couples who marry in New York beginning on July 24 will still be denied more than one thousand federal rights and responsibilities of marriage, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act which remains in place.

Obama: "I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community"

The above video shows President Obama's remarks at his LGBT Pride Month reception in the White House on June 29. The transcript is here. Reports by Lisa Keen, Metro Weekly, Washington Blade, Towleroad (see comments), Obama Foodorama. Bilerico reports: GetEqual Livens Up Ho-Hum White House LGBT Pride Reception.

The President said, among other things:

I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community. I have delivered on what I promised. Now, that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are going to be times where you’re still frustrated with me. (Laughter.) I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated at the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know. (Laughter and applause.) This is not a shy group. (Laughter.)

Obama Actually, I was never an extrovert, but I forced myself to overcome my shyness as I increasingly felt a need to speak up about various things. So no, we as activists are not a shy group. Many of us have spent our lives fighting for equality, as the President has said. His words and actions are fine, as far as they go. We need him to go farther. We need him to state his support for marriage equality. He has made it pretty clear in the past few days that he is not about to do that.

The President is missing an opportunity to make a difference. It is galling to me when the President embraces LGBT equality in general terms but refuses to embrace marriage equality in particular. His failure to acknowledge that LGBT equality includes marriage equality makes his words ring a bit hollow. Now I understand and appreciate the President's many accomplishments in the area of LGBT equality, but they are not enough. It would cost him little but would mean a great deal for him to state what we already know he believes.

Obama's 1996 candidate survey response to Outlines in Chicago states, above his signature, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages." His refusal to repeat the same simple words now is inreasingly hard to take. Our country is changing, public opinion is shifting in our favor, and he won't lead on the issue. His silence on this crucial issue leaves a bad taste in my mouth amid the parties and cheers and list of accomplishments.

But hey, the President praised Potomac Fever, the close-harmony ensemble from the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, which sang at yesterday's White House reception. I was a founding member of Potomac Fever back in the 1980s, and I'm awfully proud of them. I should be celebrating. Instead, I'm a bit unhappy with the activists in the East Room who provided a cheering section for the President, and I'm more in sympathy with the folks from Get Equal. I'm increasingly in sympathy with Dan Choi, who says he'll give the President credit for repealing DADT when it actually happens. Today is the last day on the job for Defense Secretary Gates. If he does not do the necessary certification for DADT repeal before he leaves, Lord knows how long it will take his successor Leon Panetta to do it.

There's a hint of annoyance on the President's part when he says, "I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community." Here he's done all these wonderful things for us, and we're still griping. But he himself has talked about his gay friends in longtime, loving relationships who want to marry. He damn well gets it. One is not disappointed in people one never thought well of in the first place. The reason many of us are disappointed in President Obama is precisely because he is a friend, a proven ally. My head tells me that far too much is at stake in the 2012 election for us to stint in our efforts to help re-elect this President. My heart, however, is not in it. I do not expect the President to be like Governor Cuomo; their situations are quite different, as I noted on this blog a few days ago. But the President has the bully pulpit, which he won't use for us on this issue.

So yes, Mr. President, I am frustrated with you, and I am disappointed. I can see months of squabbling ahead within the LGBT community on what to do about you. A few words from you could have spared us that rancor. I feel like the town hall questioner last September who said to you, "Quite frankly, I'm exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for." But I know I'll get an irritated reaction and a list of accomplishments. So there is a disconnect, and it's a damn shame.

(Photo by Michael Key, The Washington Blade)

Update: Bil Browning reports on a White House briefing that was held yesterday for LGBT activists who were going to attend the Pride Month reception. Also: Democratic Underground reacts. SFGate reports. Julie Mason at Politico claims that Obama's promises to the LGBT community "never included support for gay marriage," which is false as I showed above with a link to Obama's signed response to a 1996 candidate survey in Chicago.

June 29, 2011

LGBT Asylum News

Here are several recent stories from LGBT Asylum News:

Epidemiologists reveal that black men in America have a better survival rate in prison than outside

io9.com reports the disturbing news. Can you say unacceptable?

(Hat tip: Ernest Hopkins)

Video & photos: Night Out at the Nationals

This year's Night Out at the Nationals, hosted by Team DC and held on June 21, was a lot of fun — and the Nats won with a ninth-inning rally that many of us missed when we left early. Metro Weekly provides the above video, and has a photo gallery here. Blade story and photos here.

The President as process queen?

Andrew Sullivan and Greg Sargent discuss President Obama's reluctance to come out and say he supports marriage equality. The idea is that Obama sees his role as helping to steer the process without emphasizing his own view (in which case I wonder why he says that gay men and lesbians deserve equal rights). Here's Andrew:

The genius of federalism is that it allowed us to prove that marriage equality would not lead to catastrophe, that it has in fact coincided with a strengthening of straight marriage, that in many states now, the sky has not fallen. That is why a man like David Frum has changed his mind - for the right conservative reason. Because there is evidence that this is not a big deal and yet unleashes a new universe of equality and dignity and integration for a once-despised minority. Obama's defense of federalism in this instance is not a regressive throw-back; it is a pragmatic strategy.

And here's Sargent:

It’s frustrating that Obama won’t come out and say what he really believes — particularly in light of his 1996 support for gay marriage. And it very well may be that a presidential declaration of support for it could do even more to facilitate the change in attitudes that’s currently underway. But in the near term, at least, Obama just isn’t going to do it. Obama is claiming some of the credit for helping nudge history towards its inevitable conclusion, but ultimately he’s arguing that an evolution in social attitudes of this magnitude will only happen one community and one state at a time.

I am a lot less happy with this than Andrew is. He writes, "The president has no actual political authority over this issue. He does have moral authority." Yes, and it is moral authority that I would like to see Obama use. I am not someone who sees the President as a savior or a magician. Of course we must work tirelessly and smartly to create the change we are seeking. I am one of those who have done so. But the President can use his bully pulpit to help shape public opinion. he can lead. His evident refusal to do so is frustrating. He is running for re-election; maybe he doesn't think he needs people like me to be enthusiastic.

Look, I was an early supporter of Obama and have made all the arguments about him being the best president on gay issues so far, so kindly do not patronize me. Sorry, but (to use a phrase of Dr. King's) I am not satisfied. I am tired of fighting for rights that my straight siblings take for granted. Speaking of my siblings, they are becoming grandparents while I have yet to marry — due to the barriers that have been in my way my entire adult life, and which some people continue working ferociously to keep in place. I have spent a considerable part of myself in the struggle for LGBT equality, and I do not need a lecture from the President or anyone else about the importance of doing the work ourselves. We have our responsibility, and he has his. It would cost him little to exercise moral leadership on this issue. All he has to do is open his damn mouth and say what he really believes, which he showed in 1996 is support for marriage equality.

NOM Plan for Reversing New York Marriage Equality

The National Organization for Marriage has announced their four year plan for reversing marriage equality in New York.  Phase 1, defeat the 7 people who changed their votes on the issue.  Pass a constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage.  Phase 2, keep them in office.  Phase 3,  have the voters enact the change.  And in the meantime, send them lots of money, please.  All they ask for is as little as $49 or even $999 or more to make this happen.

NOM doesn't have much of a track record at defeating politicians who don't follow their dictates.  The plan they forsee happening will take many years to reach fruition.  The most likely outcome of this will be that the citizens of New York will see that marriage equality doesn't bring any change at all in their lives or that of their family members (except the ones who are gay).  So while NOM has been successful at passing referendums on the issue by spreading lies and fear, they will be much less successful at repealing a law that has taken effect.  An example of this is Vermont.  They first enacted civil union legislation and then returned to the issue to pass full marriage equality.  There hasn't been any movement towards repealing the law.  This will be the experience in New York.

Gays to Obama: Just say yes

Politico gets comments from several marriage equality activists, including me, in response to President Obama's statement at a presser earlier today that he wasn't "going to make news" today on the marriage issue. Today he is hosting a Stonewall anniversary reception in the White House.

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly has a news analysis on the President's stalled "evolution" on the issue.

Update: The first comment posted below the Politico item coins the term "Cuomosexuals," which from the context was clearly meant derogatorily. Before I saw that comment, I'd have doubted that anyone could give Gov. Cuomo too much credit for the marriage victory in New York; but he did not, in fact, create a new sexual orientation. He simply led an effort to provide justice to a group of citizens that some people still find it necessary to mock and deride.

N.J. gay couples to file lawsuit demanding partnerships be recognized as marriages

NJ.com reports.

A short history of homophobic documentaries

AlterNet reports.

Jeff Coudriet, still getting his licks in

Jeff Loose Lips reports:

It's Gamblin' Time: The Post editorial page, its teeth still dripping with the blood of Team Thomas, has found a new target: Councilmember Michael Brown and his online gambling law. The Post published emails today from the dearly departed council staffer Jeff Coudriet that strongly suggest it was Brown's plan all along to push through the online gambling legislation last December when no one was looking. “Legalizing online gambling on the fly with no public input is probably a real bad idea,” Coudriet wrote, in May 2010! “There are people who would go bat [expletive] about this.” Bat crap? Bat damn? Bat hell? What did Coudriet mean!? Anyway, Coudriet was of course right, and now Brown is left to explain why he initially said he pushed through the legislation so quickly because of the District's dire financial situation, when he had at least six months to pursue the legislation through normal means.

Average income of D.C. Council member: $130,538.
Income from a law firm with substantial interests in gambling: $200,000.
Kicking a politician in the ass from beyond the grave: priceless.

My eulogy for Jeff, whom we greatly miss, is here.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell. Photo of Jeff Coudriet by The Washington Blade)

Donnelly misrepresents DOD IG investigation on DADT report leak

American Family Association's OneNewsNow offers this feverish report which it titles, "Homosexual military service support a sham":

A conservative military watchdog says a previously undisclosed investigation by the Department of Defense inspector general strongly suggests the Pentagon's alleged "study" of homosexuals in the military in 2010 was a publicly funded, "pre-scripted" production.

On November 11, 2010, The Washington Post published a story suggesting that 70 percent of active duty and reserve troops were not concerned about repealing the law that banned homosexuals from military service. The findings were supposedly based on the results of a Defense Department-commissioned survey of more than 400,000 troops and their families.

But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (CMR), says a recently disclosed 30-page report [PDF] from the investigation reveals that the "fix was in."

You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that the phrase "fix was in" does not appear anywhere in the DOD IG's report. That is Donnelly's characterization. The IG report is titled, "Investigation of Improper Disclosure of For Official Use Only Information from the Comprehensive Review Working Group Draft Report." In other words, the IG was investigating a leak, not the validity of the Pentagon DADT survey or its findings.

The primary source for the November 10, 2010 Washington Post article on the Pentagon survey, according to the Post, "felt compelled to share the information out of concern that groups opposed to ending the ban would mischaracterize the findings." The IG report suggests that the leaker was not a disinterested party but instead was someone who favored repeal of DADT. I am shocked, shocked, by this revelation.

Here are more of the astounding IG findings:

We noted that to reach the conclusion that 70 percent of respondents said repeal would have positive, mixed, or no effect on a unit's ability to work together to get a job done, the CRWG combined four survey results categories to derive the 70 percent figure: Very Positively; Positively; Mixed; and No Effect." If Mr. O'Keefe's and Mr. Jaffe's sources had desired to further an anti-repeal bias for the article, he/she could likewise have combined four results categories from that same survey question to conclude that "82 percent of respondents said the effect of repealing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy would be negative, mixed or no effect."

Yes. It was plain in the Post article that the 70 percent figure was based on a combination of survey results categories. And all this proves is that somebody spun the facts, not that they falsified them. Speaking of spinning, OneNewsNow polls its readers on the question, "What fraction of U.S. troops do you believe actually are "just fine" with the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'?" The available answers to this multiple-choice question are, "About half," "Maybe a quarter," and "A tenth or less." I'd say that the chances of OneNewsNow or Elaine Donnelly reporting honestly on this subject are a tenth or less.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the SecDef to make the necessary certification for the repeal of DADT to proceed.

That's marriage equality to you

Steven Thrasher of the Village Voice reported on June 25 regarding Gov. Cuomo's encounter with the press on Friday night after passage of the marriage equality bill:

Fred Dicker of the New York Post asked Governor Cuomo about "same-sex marriage" and actually seemed to correct himself mid-question, changing the phrase to "marriage equality."

How's that for a sign that the marriage equality talking points are sinking in? Follow the link for notes on other witnesses to the historic moment in the NY Senate chamber, including drag queen Honey LaBronx.

"Queer Hooligans" rampage through Seattle

I am just waiting for the likes of Harry Jackson, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and Bryan Fischer to attribute the behavior of these loony anarchists to the LGBT community generally. And I'll happily accept blame as soon as the same standard is applied to heterosexuals. Of course, the anarchists' flyer denounces "Homonationalism, Homomilitarism, Assimilation," which sets them against all gay people who support equal military service and marriage equality and who don't hate America. Oh, sorry — for them that's "Amerikkka." I wish them a safe trip back to their home planet. If only they would take Michele Bachmann with them. Oh, no! Now I'm defending alien abductions!

Diaz: gay marriage a sign of the End Times

Senator_ruben_diaz New York state senator Ruben Diaz is proud to be the only senate Democrat to vote against marriage equality, and says that the bill's passage is a sign of the biblical End Times. Remember, there are people who elect this clown.

(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)

Rudy's awkward position on marriage

Remind you of anyone?

One brief, shining moment

(AP photo)

MoDo talks with NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

Just as his father seized a social issue and established himself in opposition to the church with his Notre Dame speech on abortion, now the son has seized a social issue and established himself in opposition to the church with gay marriage.

Is it genetic, I wonder.

“I have a portrait of Saint Thomas More in my office,” the governor said, calling from the statehouse in Albany. It is a picture Mario Cuomo once kept in his office. He gave it to Andrew as a present when he graduated from Albany Law School, and the younger Cuomo has kept it with him for 30 years as he moved from job to job and city to city. “It’s not the first time there is a tension between the teachings of the church and the administration of the law, for my father and for myself.” Dryly, he adds: “I haven’t lost my head yet.”

It is hard to see how Cuomo's next 42 months can match his first six, or how he can top the moral and political high point of successfully championing and delivering on a cutting-edge social justice issue. Who knows? He has an awful lot of people wishing him well. Here's hoping he makes good use of the political capital he has earned.

June 28, 2011

Colbert on Dolphin Marriage

Geidner: What New York Wrought

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly describes some awkwardness over the marriage issue in the White House press briefing room on Monday. He also has a news analysis on the pressure the President is facing to "evolve already."

World Net Daily writer: Cuomo and other marriage equality supporters should be arrested

Right Wing Watch reports:

Ted Beahr of the Christian Film and Television Commission and the publisher of Movieguide, “movie reviews through a Christian perspective,” wants New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators who backed marriage equality should be “subject to indictment, trial and just punishment.” Writing for WorldNetDaily, Beahr believes that New York’s marriage equality law not only stands in the face of God’s law but is also unconstitutional, because Beahr says that the Constitution must comply with God’s law. Beahr asserts that “the homosexualization” of America is part of a Communist conspiracy and ends the column by misattributing a famous quote of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall to Karl Marx in order to bolster his case....

Once again we see the brazen assertion that there is no civil marriage at all, that religious marriage is all, and that the writer's particular religious doctrine governs everyone. The fact that New York already had a civil marriage law prior to June 24, and that it was not handed down from heaven but passed by the legislature and signed by the executive, is too much for this loon to handle. I am just wondering if and when the followers of such fanaticism will resort to violence. That is a dark cloud on the horizon amid the celebration of Friday's historic victory. We are not done.

Status of domestic partnership benefits after passage of marriage equality

Our friend and colleague Nancy Polikoff, law professor at American University, writes to NYT [scroll down] on how her employer expanded protections to cover more types of families after passage of D.C.'s marriage equality law, rather than limiting them to married couples. This was because the D.C. Council, at GLAA's urging, deleted a provision in the marriage-equality legislation that would have repealed the District's domestic partnership law at the same time. This was partly becaues we wanted to make sure that the U.S. Congress did not block funds to implement marriage-equality before we considered repealing alternative protections; and partly because there are families protected by the domestic partnership law for whom marriage is not an option. We saw no good reason to take away a legal option for our diverse families rather than expand options. The exclusive status for marriage was undermined not by people like Professor Polikoff but by opponents of marriage equality, who left us little choice twenty years ago but to seek alternative legal arrangements. It is a little late now to chase those horses back into the barn.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

New York's marriage law and interstate recognition

John Schwartz at NYT looks at the issue of interstate recognition of same-sex marriages in light of the significant increase in the number of them following New York's passage of marriage equality.

June 27, 2011

A Fight Over a Girl, and God's Law

AP provides an update on the case of Lisa Miller, the "ex-lesbian" who a couple of years ago kidnapped the daughter that she had with Janet Jenkins, then fled the country with the help of Mennonite pastors in Nicaragua. A very disturbing example of what gay families can face.

NY Marriage victory reactions

Here is a roundup of some of the reactions to Friday's victory for marriage equality in New York.

Politico: Hillary Clinton backs New York gay marriage law

David Frum, CNN: I was wrong about same-sex marriage

Washington Post editorial: Gay marriage vote a milestone in New York

Richard Socarides, Advocate.com: How the Battle for NY Marriage Equality Was Won

David Boaz, Cato @ Liberty: Republicans, the 10th Amendment, and the New York Marriage Law

On Top: Alec Baldwin mocks anti-gay obsessives

Gay Marriage Watch: The American Medical Association Supports Marriage Equality

Log Cabin Republicans: New York Marriage Vote a Triumph For Individual Liberty

Truth Wins Out: Ordinary Wingnut Encourages Christians to ‘Lock and Load’ in Response to NY Marriage

Winning the 32nd vote for equality

NYT describes Gov. Cuomo's delicate behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade Republican state senators Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Stephen M. Saland of Poughkeepsie to vote for New York's marriage equality bill. Both senators were uneasy about facing opponents' wrath for being the crucial 32nd vote, so Cuomo spoke privately with each of them, not identifying the other, assuring each that another would vote "yes" as well, so that there would be 33 votes in favor and neither of them would be standing alone as the determining vote for passage. It almost fell apart. This story shows vividly the difference one man's persuasion can make.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

Take the leap. Mr. President

Obama-LGBT-Pride-Logo-e1307656008140-300x300 NYT has an editorial asking "Where's Mr. Obama?" on the issue of gay marriage. The editorialist echoes what many of us have been saying, which is that for the President to finish "evolving" on the issue and come out squarely for marriage equality would energize his base while offending people who weren't going to vote for him anyway. I just said as much to a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor.

On this Monday morning, it is hard to overlook the unflattering contrast between Obama's coyness and caution on the issue and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's strong leadership in shepherding the marriage equality bill through the Republican-controlled state senate. To be fair, however, we must remember that Cuomo is governor of a blue state (even though it has its red districts), whereas Obama is leader of the whole country. When he endorsed marriage equality in 1996, he was running for office in Hyde Park, a distinctly liberal enclave in Chicago.

Those of us who are serious about getting stuff done cannot overlook the very different political reality of running for a statewide office as Obama did in 2004, much less a national office as he did in 2008 and will again in 2012. Indeed, had Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage last Thursday, it might have thrown a wrench into the works of Cuomo's negotiations with Republican state senators by drawing attention to partisan Democratic interests — and national politics — in a way that would not have helped win over those last couple of votes. But Cuomo sealed the deal on Friday, and in less than a month gay couples will be applying for New York marriage licenses. So we are no longer in the same situation we were in last Thursday.

I sympathize with the President's situation. I myself was cautious in preparing for marriage equality in D.C. But as I said in explaining GLAA's caution, which was based on D.C.'s constitutional subordination to the U.S. Congress, we did not advocate waiting until there was no risk, but until we had a fighting chance. That fighting chance came for D.C. in 2009. The American public's views on the rights of gay people to embrace civil marriage have shifted in recent years to the point where polls show majority support. It has been reported that White House staffers have been consulting people on the question of how the President should handle a shift to "yes" on marriage equality if he decides to make it. That is encouraging.

If the President chooses to play it safe and wait until after the 2012 election, he will lose the opportunity to claim leadership on the issue. Governor Cuomo on Friday night described New York's long history as the birthplace of movements to advance people's rights; his own place in that history is now secure, though he has been in office for less than six months. The clock is ticking on Mr. Obama's opportunity to make history. In his case, enacting marriage equality nationwide is neither a viable legislative option at present nor appropriate given that marriage policy is traditionally an issue for the states. Even repeal of DOMA has no chance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

But the President has the bully pulpit. He can help shape public opinion. He can lead. To do so, he must move beyond caution and calculation, important as those are for someone who wants to get things done, and do what Gov. Cuomo urged undecided Republican state senators to do last week — take an historic leap. Tonight marks the 42nd anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots, which were not the start of the modern gay rights movement as is often said, but were a key flashpoint in that struggle, widening it and making it more visible. The victory last week in New York marks a big advance in that struggle. It's time, Mr. President, to take your own historic leap.

June 26, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's triumph

(Photo by Michael Kamber for The New York Times)

The video below shows New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday night, June 24, after the Republican-led New York senate voted for marriage equality. The NYT photo above shows him in the gay pride parade with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Marriage New York Style

Gayroller The New York Times has an article detailing the bartering and strategy that went into achieving marriage equality The Road to Gay Marriage in New York.  They attribute the role of Governor Andrew Cuomo as having the greatest influence on the achievement by organizing major political donors and corporations to come out in support of the measure and by forcing competing gay groups to stop fighting each other and cooperate together as New Yorkers United for Marriage.  The five groups initially grew to include diverse groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and the League of Women Voters.

They succeeded in getting all Democrats to support the measure (except Ruben Diaz) and then turned to the task of getting some Republican support.  They first achieved the support of Rochester Senator James Alesi.  In the end a compromise on language allowing religious exemptions allowed coalition to get 33 votes in support.

June 25, 2011

Olbermann on NY marriage vote

Keith Olbermann offers a fine commentary on this week's events in Albany and what they mean for this country.

Perkins: NY marriage vote was won by bribery

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council issued a statement in response to yesterday's historic passage of marriage equality in New York. Here it is, interspersed with my comments:

Enormous political coercion has resulted in a profound failure of moral courage in the New York Senate. A clear majority of the people of New York oppose counterfeit ‘marriage,’ but Gov. Cuomo and anti-family lawmakers have shown that their allegiance is to a small but vocal minority seeking to redefine marriage and family.

It is easier to read Perkins if you understand his topsy-turvy view of the world. His modus operandi is to employ lies, bullying, and fear-mongering to implement his public policy choices where persuasion based on facts and reason would cause him to lose. So he talks about marriage-equality supporters' coercive efforts when of course he is the one trying to deny legal protections to a particular group. Then he describes career-risking decisions by four Republican state senators in defense of gay people's rights as a "failure of moral courage." Then he simply lies about what the polls say about what a majority of New Yorkers want. Then he says that those of us who have been struggling for years to be able to protect our families by gaining civil marriage rights are "anti-family." Then he talks about a "small but vocal minority" as if it is a bad thing, despite FRC itself being a small but vocal minority. Then he repeats the hackneyed line about our trying to redefine marriage and the family. Yes, and 19th century abolitionists were trying to redefine property rights.

The so-called religious protections that were tacked on to the bill will ultimately do nothing to protect the religious rights of New York citizens.

On what does Perkins base this claim? His use of the phrase "tacked on" implies it was done as a careless afterthought, when in fact the state's top officials spent days and days poring over every syllable of the amendatory language. I looked at the religious exemption language in the SiriusXM studio last night with Mark Thompson, who is himself an ordained Baptist minister, and it is very strong and clear language. When the facts are against Perkins, he just makes up his own facts.

As we go forward there is little doubt that the “incentives,” some taxpayer funded, used to sway votes, especially Republican ones, will be exposed.

This is pure speculation on Perkins's part, since if he had dirt on his opponents, he would doubtless use it. Meanwhile, he is quite happy with his allies in the National Organization for Marriage (as we shall see below), who have promised to pour millions of dollars into efforts to defeat the Republican senators who voted for the bill or just allowed it to go to the floor. So his side's slanders and threats in an effort to stampede legislators in his favored direction are fine, but the slightest hint of old-fashioned legislative horse-trading makes him call for the smelling salts. 'Winger, please.

While it was the Democrats who were pushing this agenda, it is the Republicans in the NY Senate who ultimately allowed this to happen, especially Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Sadly, the families of New York are not represented well by either of the state’s major parties on this issue.

Yes, thank you, Leader Skelos. Families whose survival does not rely on trampling the rights of their neighbors were very well represented in Friday night's vote in Albany.

This battle however, is not without its heroes. State Senator Ruben Diaz, Rev. Duane Motley, Jason McGuire and the National Organization for Marriage worked tirelessly for the families of New York in this battle, and they should be praised for their work – it is not all for naught.

Indeed, the endless stream of obnoxiousness from these people has helped to demonstrate how small, mean and desperate our most vocal opponents really are. In contrast, Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, in his moving explanation on the senate floor of his "yes" vote, could have been mistaken for a homilist explicating Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan. Which of these was neighbor to the unpopular family? Here is one Democrat who intends to show my thanks for Mr. Grisanti in his next election.

The New York state legislature’s denial of its citizens a chance to vote on the issue of marriage shows it is long overdue that the U.S. Congress begin taking these threats to marriage seriously. They should move to allow the people of the U.S. the right to vote on an issue they clearly understand, as evidenced each time the issue of marriage is put to a direct vote of the people.

It is highly unlikely that Mr. Perkins has failed to notice the dwindling victory margins of those anti-gay ballot measures. The trend, in other words, is in favor of gay equality. There is also litttle chance that Perkins would tolerate his neighbors presuming to vote on HIS marriage rights. Neither he nor any of his allies, in all their cries of anathema against us, has ever managed a plausible description of exactly who and what is threatened by same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

As to his call for congressional intervention, I guess Perkins only supports states' rights as long as the states go his way, if you'll pardon the expression. Sorry, guy, but Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a republican form of government, which is about representation, not plebiscites. James Madison was quite concerned about the danger of our republic being run off the rails by unscrupulous men inflaming mobs. So the American form of government does not, in fact, give people the right to set aside their elected legislature and vote directly on any issue that happens to excite them, much less vote on other people's rights.

Meanwhile, Maggie Gallagher showers the grace of Christian love upon everyone.

NOM pledges $2 million to oppose Republicans

Nom The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend $2 million to defeat the four Republican  New York state senators who supported marriage equality and to repeal the legislation.  Since New York does not have a referendum process this is the only avenue for repeal available to them.  They have not shown much political acumen in the past and there is little reason for worry in this instance.   Politicians know their districts far better than outsiders and they know what difference this will make in their re-election prospects.  The biggest obstacle will be the primaries,  If the incumbents don't win the primary they could run as independents to win re-election or be a spoiler leading to a Democratic victory.  If they do sit things out the REpbulican candidate will be far more conservative (likely a Tea Partier) which will also favor a Democratic victory.

This will lead to a lot of consternation in Republican circles.  They have used opposition to gay rights as a wedge issue in the past.  Now the wedge is working against their interests.  NOM will also suffer for this decision.  Core NOM supporters won't be very happy about supporting an organization working to defeat Republicans.  The next election cycle will be very interesting.

The desperate, mean smallness of Brian Brown and NOM

The LA Times story on the NY marriage victory quotes Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage making his usual threat to defeat the state legislators who voted for Tom Duane's bill.

How in the world does this victory for gay and lesbian couples and our families hurt anyone else? What drives Brown and Maggie Gallagher and so many other obsessive homophobes like Reuben who called in to Mark Thompson's radio program Friday night and insisted that I wanted to be a woman? What would it cost them to pause and truly, receptively listen to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? In the case of Reuben, he was so vehement that it was pretty obvious that he was dealing (not very well) with his own gay feelings. In the years ahead, we need to work on that issue. A small number of vicious closet cases is doing damage vastly disproportionate to their numbers. They need interventions, and if they won't stop they need to be exposed and shamed for the harm they are doing. If we can figure out how to neutralize them, we will cut years from the unfinished struggle to win equality from sea to shining sea.

But the first order of business is to help re-elect the New York legislators who voted for equality — especially the four Republican state senators. Some day authentic conservatives are going to take the GOP back from the reckless radicals who have taken it over, and supporting those fabulous four can be a start.

June 24, 2011

NY passes marriage equality

MSNBC reports. After the religious exemptions were adopted, speeches were made and the up-or-down vote was held. The bill passed 33 to 29.

This is a great day in the LGBT rights movement. Heaps of congratulations and thanks and praise are due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made this a big priority and worked tirelessly to round up the votes and achieve a compromise that would get the bill to the senate floor. And thanks to Majority Leader Skelos who kept his word and allowed the Republican senators to make the decision to send the bill to the floor once the religious exemption language was settled. Good news is that the compromise does NOT include an individual conscience clause, which would cut a gaping hole in the law and would go far beyond First Amendment protections.

Thanks also to the senators who changed their minds and provided the margin of victory. Finally, thanks to the many activists, organizations, friends and allies who raised their voices and aided the battle for equality.

While the state senators were debating, I was in the midst of "Friday Night Fights" on Mark Thompson's SiriusXM Left talk radio program, "Make It Plain." One of the callers was an extremely homophobic person named Reuben, who talked all sorts of ignorant nonsense. He made the mistake of invoking the Bible. In short, I knew more about it than he did. It is useful having ignorant people mouthing their crap like that, because it is easier to confront something that shows itself. And other listeners sent Mark messages saying they loved me. Hey, maybe I'll pursue a radio career.

Anyway, it is interesting how some people cling to what boils down to an authoritarian approach to Scripture, in which they pretend that there is one and only one interpretation — theirs. I point out that many clergy from a variety of religious traditions disagree with them. Then I point out that the First Amendment protects not just them but the rest of us too, and that we live in a diverse society and that gay citizens are entitled to equal protection of the law. A surprising number of people do not think that other people's religious rights should be protected. Whatever they think the Bible dictates, it seems to them, should be the law.

The bottom line on this day: In Albany on June 24, 2011, a democratically elected legislature voted to grant equal civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. When Gov. Cuomo signs the bill into law, he will double the number of Americans who live in marriage-equality states. Glory, glory hallelujah!

NYT reports here, and describes the crucial role that Gov. Cuomo played in pulling together the fractious pro-equality groups (this sounds like a story that needs further exploration in the days ahead as we look at the lessons of this victory). HuffPo reports here. Andrew Sullivan talks about why the New York victory is a BFD. WaPo reports here. Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly blogs the vote here. Phil Reese of the Blade reports here. Joe Jervis compiles reactions.

NY Senate set to vote on marriage equality

I am sitting at a PC in the Sirius/XM studios on 6th Avenue in Manhattan. The NYT is reporting that the New York state senate will vote on the marriage equality bill, probably this evening (Friday, June 24). The senate Republicans met privately for a long time. Finally Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced that the bill will go to the floor for an "up or down vote." All 32 Republicans reportedly agreed to whatever religious exemptions were agreed upon.

I'm crossing my fingers and toes. We could be about to witness one of the great moments in gay rights history.

BTW, using the MTA to get into Manhattan during Friday evening rush hour was such a joy! I went through the Path tunnel under the Hudson with some guy's elbow in my face, and it seemed a much greater distance than it looks when gazing across the river from the Jersey City waterfront. I was never so grateful to get to Christopher Street. In any case, maybe it's just me, but New Yorkers seem friendlier than Washingtonians.

Active duty troops to march for gay pride

Sdcrowd On July 16th history will be made when active duty members and veterans march in the San Diego gay pride day parade according to 10News.com.  So far 200 active-duty members of the military and some veterans have signed up to lead the parade though not in uniform according to regulations.  The event was organized by Sean Sala who noticed that though police and firefighters participated in the parade there was no military presence.  According to Sala "I thought it was weird because San Diego has the biggest military installation in the United States, and military are public servants as well."  The parade draws a crowd of about 160,000 people.  Hopefully next year recruiters will be working the crowd.

(via JoeMyGod)

June 24 - 6:30 - 9:00 pm - Rosendall on SiriusXM Left with Mark Thompson

I am heading at noon today to Jersey City to help a dear friend celebrate his 55th birthday on Saturday. Since I'm heading that way, I'll also be joining my friend Mark Thompson in his satellite radio studio in NYC this evening for his program Make it Plain. That's at SiriusXM Left, channel 127, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on June 24. Join us for a lively discussion of political and social issues. Call in at 866-99-SIRIUS.

Jon Stewart on NY Marriage

He notes that while the legislature could not find the time to consider marriage equality, they do have the time to make corn the state vegetable.  With the obilgatory corn joke.

(via Towleroad)

Jose Antonio Vargas and immigration reform

Vargas Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winner and openly gay former reporter for The Washington Post, wrote a piece on Wednesday in The New York Times titled, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant". It makes for compelling reading.

David Leopold comments in The Hill. Corey Dade writes at NPR. Jack Shafer writes at Slate. Harold Pollack writes at TNR. Ezra Klein writes at The Washington Post.

Vargas is pushing for passage of the DREAM Act to help young people like himself who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. Good luck to him.

June 23, 2011

Williams Institute presents data on same-sex couples by state

The Williams Institute will be producing snapshots for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico containing demographic and geographic information about same-sex couples and same-sex couples raising children. So far reports have been released for California, Delaware, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Alabama and Hawaii. with more to come each week throughout the summer.  For instance, did you know.

• California has the highest proportion of same-sex couples at nearly 10 per 1,000 households
• Palm Springs, California has the highest proportion of same-sex couples among cities (115 per 1,000 households), followed closely by Rehoboth Beach, Delaware at 107 per 1,000 households
• Same-sex couples in Wyoming are the most likely to be raising children (28%)
• In all states, child-rearing tends to be much higher in more rural areas
• Same-sex couples are present in 100% of the counties tabulated so far

And they can tell you how granting marriage equality to gay people in New York will effect couples living there.

Markup of DC appropriations bill

From HRC Backstory:

Today, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY 2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill.  Fortunately, no anti-LGBT amendments were offered during the committee consideration of the bill.

 As you may recall, this is the bill that includes funding for the District of Columbia and is a frequent target for anti-LGBT riders.  The bill restores a ban on federal funding of needle exchange in the District, but does not impose a ban on local funding for this critical HIV prevention effort.

They go on to specify that no committeemembers offered amendments targeting gay people though they still may be made from the floor.