America’s Gay Rights Patchwork

Those who are in favor of small federal government often espouse that states can handle legislation more efficiently.

If you ever encounter someone who uses that line of reasoning, please direct them to the interactive graphic that The Guardian published today.  It identifies what laws are in effect to protect LGBT folks on a state-by-state basis.  It’s the most convoluted patchwork of laws that would take a social scientist to decipher.

Click on image to view interactive graphic

It’s mind boggling to think of the legal costs associated with all of the possible cases that might arise from this byzantine mess of legislation.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better argument in favor of a legislating marriage equality, as well as other human rights issues, at the federal level.

View the interactive graphic and the analysis:

Punishing the Victim in Indy

At Arsenal Technical High in Indianapolis, Indiana, bullying is OK but standing up against bullying isn’t.  In its infinite idiocy, the school expelled Darnell “Dynasty” Young when he fired a stun-gun into the air after being surrounded by six people who were bullying him.  The bullies became afraid and left the scene, and Young was safe.  No one was injured.

Young had reportedly been bullied repeatedly since the start of the school year.  When he and his mother reported the bullying to the school authorities, he was told that the bullying basically was his own fault because he was so flamboyant.  If he wanted the bullying to stop, he could adjust his behavior.

So far, none of the bullies has been expelled.

The callousness of the school authorities is stunning but not surprising.  In so many places in the nation, bullying is ignored or tacitly sanctioned by schools, churches, and other institutions who consider bullying to be merely a part of growing up. It’s a pretty safe bet that these institutions are run by people who weren’t on the receiving end of bullying when they were growing up.

There may be Pink Houses in Indiana, but there sure isn’t a pink consciousness.

Read more:

Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

The Vice President, in an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, became the highest ranking U.S. official ever to have endorsed marriage quality. He described himself as “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

The right wing is undoubtedly going to twist Biden’s words around and have a field day with this, but Biden describes the issue in the most understandable way possible.

Shopping for Groceries at the Hardware Store

When it’s really clear that one is looking for the right thing in the wrong place, I often use the metaphor of shopping for groceries at the hardware store.  Your intentions might be good, but no matter how hard you look, you’re not going to find ketchup in the plumbing aisle (except, perhaps, as a stain on the shirt of the hardware store clerk).

The most recent example of this disconnect is documented in today’s New York Times.  The gist of the article is that a considerable number of influential Conservative Republicans are boycotting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because the unfortunately-named GOProud political action committee was co-sponsoring the event.  Although I’m sure including gay people chafed, this breach of Republican tenets was somehow able to be overlooked by the other more conservative participants of that conference for GOProud to participate in the conference.  After all, there are all those supposed gay dollars to be raised.  But, for venerable institutions like Concerned Women for America, the Heritage Foundation, and all those other rabid right leaning groups whose names sound like they were created by some Internet conservative organization name generator, the fact that GOProud participated in the planning of the conference was too much for their weak little hearts to take and, thus, the boycott.

If you truly want pay to listen for three non-stop days to the vitriol of the likes of Ann Coulter, Jim Demint, Michelle “Vacant Stare” Bachmann, Wayne Lapierre, Liz Cheney, and a whole host of others, I fully defend your right to waste your money.  Go ahead.  Knock yourselves out.

But what I can’t get my brain around is that, somehow, certain gay people still believe that the Republican Party has carved out a viable little niche for them.  They seem to believe that there’s actually seat at the table for them.  But clearly, as evidenced by these recent reports, the best that the Republicans can come up with is a seat at the children’s table.  The GOProud folks don’t seem to understand that, unless there’s a tectonic shift in the underlying philosophy of the Republican party, they will always be shopping for groceries at the hardware store if they choose to align themselves with this socially conservative crowd.

In some way, I suppose it should be no surprise that GOProud finds this arrangement acceptable; the group has already fully embraced second-class citizenship.  Their platform wants no federal involvement in gay marriage, although it has been proven time and again that there is no way to achieve true parity without a federal standard.

For those of us unwilling to settle for the crumbs, perhaps it would be helpful for these conservatives to agree upon and publish the hierarchy so that we know just how much or how little citizenship they think we deserve.  But they can’t even seem to agree among themselves.  But it’s really clear that even so-called moderate Republicans don’t want gay people to be full citizens.  And, perhaps, that’s because there is no good answer, except for full equality.

But this kind of clarification of their narrow-mindedness – a concrete definition of just what the Republicans expect of gay people – would be good for all of us.  It would help Republicans define their platform.  It would help the GOProud folks see exactly who they were in bed with.  Most of all, it would save all of us so many trips to the wrong aisle of wrong store.

Desperation Politics in New York

It’s probably risky making a judgment about something that’s going on 3,000 miles away. But that’s never stopped me before.
I’m referring to the governor’s race in the state of New York. What it looks like from the other coast is a multi-faceted story of desperation.

On the one hand, it looks like the Republican candidate — Carl Paladino — is engaging in some pathetically desperate moves to garner a few votes and possibly inch forward in the polls. His event yesterday during which he rubbed homophobic elbows with Orthodox Jews is only one such shameless attempt to align himself with people with whom he seems to have nothing else in common but their mutual distaste for gay people. I’m sure his anti-gay invective appealed to that particular audience. But I’m guessing that these so-called religious leaders were not recipients of his racist emails. Did they get to see the horse/human sexual interaction?

Then there’s the desperation of the Republican party. They’re clearly attempting to balance their undying desire to reclaim political power against the very real truth that the candidate that voters chose in the primary is extreme even for them. That part is kind of predictable, but it’s still fun to watch.

The part that’s not so much fun is the poll numbers. Cuomo still has a pretty commanding lead, according to just about every poll out there. But somewhere in the vicinity of 37% of New York voters are still supportive of Paladino. What kind of desperation leads voters to support someone as hateful and out of control as this candidate? And what does that say about the voters of New York? Do 37% of them truly share his extremist views? Or is that 37% of voters simply are willing to overlook the kind of bigotry and insanity that this man presents to us? Either way, it’s pretty scary.

We always hear politicians say how much they “trust the intelligence of the American people.” (It’s kind of a standard answer when a candidate is behind in the polls and they can’t think of anything else to hang their hopes on.) This election clearly brings that trust into question.

A Snapshot of Gay History

Despite the progress that has been made in the struggle for the equality of LGBT Americans, these past couple of weeks provide a stunning reality check:

  • A Senate defense authorization bill is filibustered by Republicans because it included the provision that would have overturned the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Republicans choose to indulge in their bigotry (either for its own sake or for some sense of political advantage) rather than fund the very troops they claim to be so supportive of.
  • gay blogger gets a not-so-veiled death threat posted in his comments; a little investigation reveals that the threat comes from the office of one of the Senators who championed the filibuster that blocked the passage of that Senate bill.
  • A 13-year-old self-identified gay boy in Texas commits suicide by shooting himself in the head after seemingly endless bullying by his classmates at school.
  • A talented young violinist leaps from the George Washington Bridge to his death after the public humiliation he faced after his college roommate broadcasts the man’s private gay sexual encounter on the internet.
  • A 15-year-old boy in Indiana hangs himself after merciless anti-gay taunting by fellow students.
  • A 13-year-old boy in California dies after an extended period on life support following hanging himself. He had been subjected to bullying and teasing about his sexual orientation.
  • An Ohio boy has his arm broken by the football players on the team for which has become a cheerleader. The football players continue to threaten him because he has reported the injury to authorities.
  • An Assistant Attorney General in Michigan escalates his bizarre campaign against the openly gay student body president, picketing outside the young man’s home, blogging obsessively about his activities, and appearing on national TV, apparently to extend the scope of his insanity. Michigan’s Attorney General (so far) defends the Assistant AG’s actions and refuses to terminate his employment.
  • Another ardent right-wing homophobe, Bishop Eddie Long, is accused of taking sexual advantage of his young male parishioners under the guise of mentorship and pastoral counseling. (While all the facts on this have not yet come out, there are now four young men who have come forward with similar highly plausible stories.)

We might still have some work to do. I’m just sayin’.

The Bigotry-Driven Life

When Barack Obama spoke in August at the Saddleback forum during the presidential campaign, something smelled really stinky to me about Rick Warren. He had all the smarmy earmarks of a latter-day Elmer Gantry. I remember speaking with friends and predicting that we’ve not heard the last of Rick Warren.

Despite my prediction, I had no idea we’d be facing the firestorm that we’re currently facing.

I am so insulted at the choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, I could spit. The gay community and other true progressives are still reeling from the passage of Proposition 8 in California. How can Obama start his term in office with a position of prominence for someone who is so overtly homophobic? Rick Warren is so out of touch with the issues that gay people face that he laughs when people ask him if he’s homophobic. He clearly has no understanding of the separation of church and state.

This guy is clearly the heir-apparent to Jerry Falwell. He’s just learned how to package his bigotry a little more slickly to make it a little more palatable — and profitable.

Gay Connecticut, Past and Present

I couldn’t let the first day of gay marriage in the state of Connecticut pass without a bit of reflection.

Having grown up in Connecticut (run-down mill town Connecticut, not Bette Davis movie Connecticut), it’s astonishing to see the progress that’s been made in the decades since I’ve lived there. The town I grew up in, Winsted, was only about 125 miles from both New York and Boston, but culturally, it was as far away as Wasilla.

My existence there was so sheltered, I grew up literally not knowing that there was such a thing as a gay person. In junior high school, I remember stumbling upon a definition of “homosexual” in a dictionary I had and feeling that shameful sense of self-recognition. I literally had no information — no Ellen, no Will and Grace, no Advocate. Where I came from, the “love that dare not speak its name” didn’t even know it had a name. I didn’t exactly pretend to be straight, but rather I simply didn’t know that there were any other viable options.

In my late teens, I met someone who was openly gay and whose gaydar was well-tuned. I pretended that my curiosity was purely sociological when he asked me to accompany him to a meeting of the Kalos Society in Hartford, which at the time was equal parts social group, political activism, and group therapy. Afterwards, my eyes were agog when members of the group went to The Warehouse, a gay club that I remember being snugly and discreetly nestled under an entrance ramp to Interstate 84. Until that night, not only did I not know that there was such a thing as a gay bar, I also didn’t know that there were enough homosexuals in the world to keep a gay business of any type afloat.

In the wake of Prop 8’s passage in California, it’s easy to think that we haven’t come very far. But, over the long haul, we’ve made huge progress. Witness Connecticut.

Some Prop H8te Afterthoughts

It’s been remarkable to see the outcry over the last several days about the passage in California of Proposition 8. For gays and lesbians (and those who love them), the elation that we ought to be feeling wholeheartedly along with our fellow Americans is tempered with the knowledge that the same election that ushered in a new era in politics and government also stripped us of rights that other citizens have.

For me, it’s like deja vu all over again. In 1992, I had just moved to Colorado about a month prior to the November election. The relief we felt knowing that Bill Clinton would soon be in the White House was overshadowed by the understanding that Amendment 2 had also passed in Colorado. Amendment 2 was put on the Colorado ballot and funded by the same hyper-religious zealots that got Prop 8 on the ballot in Colorado. (The California initiative has the dubious distinction of having buckets of money poured into it by the Mormons, who apparently left behind the concept of separation of church and state in Missouri somewhere. And based on election returns this year, we’d be hard pressed to find the concept alive in Missouri today.) Amendment 2 stated that non-discrimination laws that included sexual orientation previously passed by several Colorado municipalities would be deemed illegal.

In the wake of Amendment 2’s passage, the GLBT community in Colorado was stung, taken almost completely off guard by the amendment’s passage. There had previously been a belief, because gays and lesbians were largely able to create pleasant lives for themselves in Colorado, that the work of liberation was complete. It was a giant wake-up call to know that 54% of one’s fellow citizens thought it was alright to be fired or to lose one’s home simply because one was gay or lesbian.

The community took to the streets, held candlelight vigils, organized weekend workshops, bickered about whether a boycott would be helpful or harmful, and did everything in our power to undo the injustice that was done by the election.

Sound familiar?

The lesson to be learned, I think, is that the legal fight to overthrow Amendment 2 wound its way through various courts up to the United States Supreme Court and was finally overturned. But that was nearly four years after its original passage.

I completely support the Prop 8 protest marches and I’m grateful that such marches are popping up all over the country, particularly those aimed at the Mormons and the other churches who completely violated the separation of church and state, and who give new meaning to the term ‘bully pulpit.’ I’m glad people are coming up with creative ways to respond to the inherent injustice of Prop 8.

But I’m also realistic enough to believe that legal remedies are our best option. And while the pace may seem glacial, especially to the instant gratification set, we have to remind ourselves that the struggle for equality has gone on for decades already. The struggle will go on while Prop 8 is being fought, and it will go on long after Prop 8 ultimately goes down in flames.

So, what good has come of this? Well, I can name at least one thing.

In his Special Comment tonight, Keith Olbermann spoke out against the people responsible for the passage in California of Proposition 8. (The complete text of that comment can be found here.) The fact that a straight former sportscaster is going to bat in a big way on behalf of gays and lesbians is an indicator of remarkable progress.