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November 19, 2014

Solomon: Progressives looking for answers from marriage movement

Chris Johnson at the Blade talks to Freedom to Marry's Marc Solomon.

Marriage News Watch

An update from Matt Baume at AFER. (From Monday)

SC AG asks Chief Justice Roberts for stay of 4th Circuit marriage ruling

A tree for Emmett Till at the U.S. Capitol

Janet Langhart Cohen was on Joe Madison's show on SiriusXM's Urban View 126 yesterday to talk about the planting of a tree on Capitol Hill commemorating Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 and whose murderers were let off by an all-white jury. We know Emmett's name, as we do not know the names of the thousands of others who met similar fates, because his mother Mamie had the courage to order an open casket and allow Jet Magazine to photograph her son's horrifically mutilated face. Her words, "I want them to see what they did to my son," are one of the most powerful statements ever made by an American.

Jet founder John Johnson's unhesitating decision to print the photo and story of Till's murder helped galvanize African Americans for the civil rights struggle; the Montgomery Bus Boycott began later the same year. Thanks to Mrs. Cohen for her efforts to get a living memorial for Till, and to Joe Madison for sharing the video. As Madison notes, the sycamore's location across from the Russell Senate Office Building is particularly apt, given Richard Russell's unreconstructed racism and ferocious opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

November 18, 2014

Donnie Swaggart says gay rights activists want to behead Christians

Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports the latest from the unhinged religious right. It would appear to be a simple case of projection by Mr. Swaggart.

Pope welcomes anti-gay activists at Vatican conference on traditional marriage

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(Photo courtesy The Independent)

The New Civil Rights Movement provides a long list of anti-gay obsessives who attended the Vatican conference on traditional marriage, and quotes this:

"We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis," the Pope told his very-willing audience. "This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."

"We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment."

"Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact."

Temporary? I have remained committed to my foreign partner for 13 years despite many barriers to our happiness. The complementarity nonsense was refuted centuries before Christ by Plato. In pastoral terms, this conference with so many anti-gay fanatics is I think the first wrong step ‪#‎Pontifex‬ has made in his public ministry. As someone observed, he is talking about us when he should be talking with us.

The Independent also reports.

I have previously counseled caution. The Pope's pastoral instincts are admirable, but he has shown no sign of intending to change Catholic doctrine regarding gay people, women's vocations to the priesthood, or contraception.

Good marriage news from South Carolina and Kansas

David Brooks on 'Obama in Winter'

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(Photo courtesy NBC)

Check out the blind privilege, arrogance, and partisan obtuseness in this op-ed. One brief quote cannot do it justice, so just have a look.

My comment to David Brooks: A bipartisan immigration bill from the Senate is on Boehner's desk, but he refuses to allow a vote. The GOP's wall-to-wall obstruction and willingness to harm the country in pursuit of power entirely escape your notice, but Obama's a failure? You are contemptible.

Luke Brinker at Salon gives Brooks a drubbing.

My column this week looks at the President and the Republicans. I will post here as soon as it goes online at the Blade.

On Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby
(Photo by Evan Vucci, The Associated Press)

Bill Cosby has entertained generations of Americans with his comedy. He is an educator and has created memorable children's programming. His creation "Little Bill" always says "Hello friend" because that's what Ennis, his murdered son, always said. Cosby is a great philanthropist. One does not want to believe that such a beloved and respected figure is a serial rapist. But 14 alleged victims, one of whom he settled with out of court, coupled with his silence, make it hard to credit his lawyer's dismissals. Sadness is all over this; but the seriousness of the accusations raises troubling questions about wealth and fame putting someone above the law. I sure could have done without this news.

Here are several relevant items:

Update: A thoughtful essay from Katie McDonough at Salon.

'Dress for the job you have, not the job you want'

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What Mr. Oliver said. BTW, I want to meet the young man in that iconic August photo from Ferguson and tell him how awesome he is. He became John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and six hundred marchers in Selma, right there on W. Florissant. Awesome courage. And thank goodness photojournalists were there, also risking their lives to bring us the story.

November 17, 2014

Michael Sam, GQ Men of the Year coverman

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Congrats to Michael Sam for making the cover of GQ's Men of the Year issue. Now when will someone let this athlete's athlete with guts, spirit, talent and discipline play pro football?

November 15, 2014

The Christmas Truce 1914

This year's Christmas ad by Sainsbury's, the British supermarket and convenience store chain founded in 1869, recreates the legendary Christmas Truce that occurred on the Western Front one hundred years ago during World War I. After the jump are videos about the making of the advert in partnership with the Royal British Legion, and the story behind it.

The video's moving reminder that humanity can emerge under the worst circumstances also reminds us of the pointlessness of war. It was rising anti-German sentiment during WWI, in 1917, that caused the British House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to become the House of Windsor, and Battenberg to become Mountbatten. The British, German, and Russian royals were cousins. The Tsarevitch Alexei, for example, famous hemophiliac son of Tsar Nicholas II, was the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. If you didn't know better, you might think that as the world grows smaller, it would grow less violent.

At least at this point regarding the English and Germans, the prospect is not war but whether Britain will leave the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that she would sooner see the UK leave the EU than limit the freedom of movement within EU, with which Britain has a problem. The Iron Lady's ghost hovers, saying "No, no, no."

Continue reading "The Christmas Truce 1914" »

November 14, 2014

Time-lapse video of Earth from space

From National Geographic, a compilation by filmmaker Fede Castro using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The implications of PrEP

New York Magazine has an interesting article on the debate over Truvada.

Montana: federal judge cancels marriage hearing, will rule soon

Williams Institute study: Global acceptance rising

Robbie Rogers gets contract extension

Tony Perkins Will Attend Upcoming Vatican Marriage Meeting

Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch reports.

U.S. Panel Supports Lifting Ban on Blood Donations from Gay Men

Alg-blood-donation-jpg
(Photo by Malaysia Blood Donors Society)

Time reports:

A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.

The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”

Botswana Gay Rights Group Wins Legal Recognition

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Reuters reports some good news from Botswana:

A Botswana judge overturned a government ban on a gay rights lobbying group on Friday, a rare victory for African gay rights campaigners on a continent where homosexuality remains highly contentious.

Justice Terrence Rannoane ruled that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) would be allowed to register and campaign for changes to anti-gay legislation but reiterated that it was still illegal to engage in homosexual acts.

"In a democratic society such as ours, freedom of expression, assembly and association are important values duly protected by our constitution," Rannoane said.

Marc Solomon's Winning Marriage hits shelves

A busy week for marriage equality

Multiple developments this week on marriage equality. Above, victory in Kansas. Below, developments in MS and SC.

The Clarion-Ledger on marriage in Mississippi:
Analysis: Judge likely will overturn gay marriage ban

Reuters:
Gay marriage advocates get victories in Kansas, South Carolina

Meanwhile, Justice Thomas weighs in.

Onziema honored in UK

Congrats to our friend Pepe Julian Onziema on his Hero of the Year award from Stonewall UK. A well-deserved honor for an extraordinary man.

Obama’s Unexpectedly Good Week

An interesting look at how the President has responded to the midterm defeat: by continuing to do his job, and doing rather well.

Who are the real thugs?

Uganda's new anti-gay bill

Kapya_Kaoma

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, a pro-gay ally in Uganda who was featured in the 2013 documentary film God Loves Uganda, writes at Political Research Associates:

Reports of the new anti-gay bill—“Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014” being considered in Uganda have caught the world unaware. Supporters of Uganda’s LGBTQ community had hoped that the Uganda court’s striking down of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA, formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill”), as well as president Yoweri Museveni’s subsequent meetings with President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, had buried the tide of anti-LGBTQ persecution in Uganda. But, then the news came—the new bill is in the pipeline. Unlike the “Kill the Gays” proposal, this new potential law is a virtual copy of the recently-passed anti-gay laws in Russia and Nigeria banning recruiting into, or “promotion” of homosexuality—all guided by U.S. exporters of homophobia and sexism.

The new proposed law is a response to international outrage to both the death penalty and life imprisonment for homosexuality previously proposed by the country’s parliament. By tailoring down the punishment for being an LGBTQ person to 5-7 years imprisonment, the authors hope to appear more moderate and assuage some of the international outrage of their treatment of sexual minorities.

But while this new proposal is sure to draw continued (and deserved) international headlines, the Western world’s near-exclusive focus on Uganda, while ignoring identical legislation in countries like Nigeria, have left the African social justice community vulnerable to anti-gay activists....

Local LGBTQ organizations that are on the ground and working day and night to educate and change hearts throughout Africa are fully capable of turning this trend around, if only the spigot of U.S.-based anti-LGBTQ and anti-women money, resources, and talking points were turned off.

Republicans and the burden of power

A blogger at Addicting Info looks at the challenge the obstructionist GOP will face as it takes over the U.S. Senate:

Shooting spitballs from the back of the class at the smart kids doesn’t require much effort. Standing at the front of the class and solving problems requires both brains and discipline....

The writer doesn't think the Republicans in Congress have the brains and discipline. I don't like to underestimate my adversaries. We shall see what they are capable of. But come January, it will be time for them to stand and deliver.

November 12, 2014

Science vs. Know-Nothingism

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Lay these two news items side by side: The European Space Agency today landed a space probe on a comet. Meanwhile in America, Sen. Ted Cruz appears set to become chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space. We can either fight the Know-Nothings, or consider moving to Darmstadt.

November 11, 2014

Nov. 11 - GLAA monthly meeting: planning for a busy 2015

Greetings from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
www.glaa.org

Friends,

In January, the District will swear in a new Mayor and three new D.C. Council members — with a fourth new Council member to be chosen in a special election in the spring. Council committee chairs will also be reshuffled, and there will be new agency heads.

Change is the order of the day! GLAA's focus is on policy, and our success has relied upon building relationships with D.C.'s legislative and executive branches. The rest of this year and the early part of 2015 will thus be an important time to get acquainted with the District's new leaders and public servants, as well as the new staffers they will bring on board. It is a time to touch base with our coalition partners among other advocacy groups to discuss LGBT priorities for Council Session 21 and to offer our help and input to the incoming Bowser administration. It is in everyone's interest for the Council and Mayor to be successful.

We are eager to get your input as we prepare for another year of advancing public policy on behalf of the LGBT community. Feel free to join us at this evening's meeting (7 pm, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 PA Ave. NW, Room 120). If you cannot attend, feel free to share your ideas by email (equal at glaa dot org) or phone. At GLAA we are all volunteers, and we are here to defend the rights of all in the LGBT community, as we have for 43 years.

Tonight's meeting agenda is here.

Best,
Rick Rosendall
GLAA President
202-328-6278 (mobile)

November 09, 2014

Francis makes Cardinal Burke's demotion official

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Pope Francis has made official what we've known for weeks, Think Progress reports:

Pope Francis has officially demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, a prominent American Cardinal who has been highly critical of the pontiff’s increasingly progressive tone when discussing issues such as homosexuality and abortion.

Burke, who made waves in 2004 for saying that voting for a pro-choice candidate is “a serious sin,” has been an unusually outspoken detractor of Pope Francis since he ascended to the papacy in 2013. When the pontiff declared last year that the Catholic church was too “obsessed” with culture war issues such as abortion, for instance, Burke responded by saying that the church “can never talk enough” about the “massacre of the unborn.” And while Francis answered a question about gay priests by saying “who am I to judge?” last July, Burke told LifeSiteNews in October that homosexual acts are “always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

But on Saturday, the Vatican announced that Burke, who was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, has been removed from his influential position as head of the Apostolic Signatura — the Vatican’s highest court — and reassigned to a largely ceremonial role as the Patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta.

Do I hear singing?

"Glitter and be gay,
That's the part I play,
Trying on a Maltese Cross.
Forced to bend my soul
To a lesser role,
Gold embroidered vestments
Turned at once to dross."

(Apologies to Richard Wilbur.)

November 08, 2014

Pastor calls Obama communist ‘bastard’ with ‘whore’ mother

Valerie Beaumont at Addicting Info reports on the latest anti-Obama slander by Pastor Stephen J. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, who (you might say) takes the Christ out of Christianity.

The great dissent by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey

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Mark Joseph Stern writes in Slate:

Thursday’s 2–1 decision by the 6th Circuit upholding four states’ gay marriage bans is a deeply obnoxious slog that I would not recommend even to the most eager masochist. Its author, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, seems to fundamentally misunderstand the constitutional arguments behind marriage equality: Instead of analyzing the 14th Amendment’s dual guarantees of liberty and equal protection, he simply states that gay people have no business fighting for their civil rights in court. After a while, Sutton’s repeated insistence that it’s not a federal judge’s duty to enforce the constitution makes you want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, then what in the world were you hired for?

Luckily, someone has already done that for us: Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the dissenter in the case. Daughtrey’s opinion isn’t just blistering; it’s a scorching, bitterly funny, profoundly humane excoriation of Sutton’s sophistry.

Stern quotes three fine passages by Daughtrey:

The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal. … Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent.

Continue reading "The great dissent by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey" »

Judge Sutton's desperate effort to hold back the marriage equality tide

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(Photo of Judge Jeffrey Sutton by Associated Press)

Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast looks at the ruling by Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton upholding gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

One of Sutton's arguments, designed to establish a rational basis for preventing gay couples from marrying, is the so-called natural law argument, which says that we are violating "nature's laws." As I have said before, natural law is merely religion in pseudo-scientific drag, cooked up by people who haven't the slightest understanding or respect for the scientific method. It amounts to a more polite rephrasing of the great line by playwright Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius, "You do the thing that makes Jesus puke." Instead of studying what nature has actually produced in all its diversity, they try to dictate to nature to stay within their comfortable boxes. Or, if you will, instead of studying God's creation, they tell God what to do. It's both bad science and presumptuous religion.

Sutton, by the way, is a respected conservative jurist. But as for those who say that the Sixth Circuit ruling sets back the cause of marriage equality, that is only true if you ignore the fact that this almost certainly propels the issue of marriage equality back to the Supreme Court of the United States, by creating a conflict among the federal circuit courts. That's less like losing and more like luring your enemy into a trap. Not that I am calling marriage opponents my enemies. We are all loyal Americans with an honest disagreement. If you ignore our opponents' endless lies and slanders, that is.

Fischer: God kicked Native Americans off their land as punishment for sins

If you had any doubts that the brand of religion practiced by the likes of AFA's Bryan Fischer is a conglomeration of the worst human impulses, check out his vile comments in this video.

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Five crazy conspiracy theories the freshman GOP class will bring to Congress

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports on five conspiracy theories touted by incoming Republican members of Congress, concerning a sustainable development project, ISIS, blood moons, gay recruitment of children, and Hillary Clinton as the Antichrist:

It turns out that by branding themselves as members of a party that has returned to its mainstream, center-right roots after successfully stamping out a Tea Party rebellion, even “establishment” Republican candidates are able to hold all sorts of extreme views without any consequences.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a party that regularly endorses candidates who deny climate science and denounce evolution has moved the political center so far to the right that even candidates with radical views can still be treated as moderates. These days, Republicans win kudos simply for stating that they don’t want to ban birth control or destroy the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.

This dynamic has allowed any number of conspiracy theories to flourish in the GOP.

Gorillas in the Crossfire

NYT writes:

A national park ranger in the Democratic Republic of Congo struggles to protect gorillas from a brutal civil war.

How anyone could bear to harm such wonderful creatures I do not understand. But then the same applies to the children that are seen in the film. Unending war in this beautiful land harms both. Those who protect them are heroes.

November 07, 2014

President Obama chooses Brooklyn federal prosecutor Lynch for AG

Loretta_Lynch
(Photo courtesy Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama will nominate Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace the retiring Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general and if confirmed, she would become the first black woman to serve in the post, the White House said on Friday.

The 55-year-old North Carolina native and Harvard-trained lawyer has deep experience in both civil rights and corporate fraud cases. Lynch is known for a low-key personality and stirred little controversy during two tenures as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

If confirmed, Lynch would be the first black woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States. She has been confirmed to posts at the federal level twice before.

And now Kansas

Gordon Klingenschmitt elected to Colorado legislature

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch catalogs the top ten unhinged statements by an anti-gay loon who is now a member-elect of the Colorado state House of Representatives. What's this we're hearing about the GOP having exorcized its Tea Party demons? Establishment media types have invented that blatantly false new bit of conventional wisdom out of thin air. Klingenschmitt, by the way, is an exorcist. (I was going to say "a real exorcist," but only someone whose mother eats kitty litter would say such a thing.)

A rose by any other name