About Prop 8, Marriage Rights, and Civil Rights

I realized I’ve been mostly silent on the issue of Prop 8 here in California. There’s no question that I support the defeat of the proposition.

But I guess I’m old school enough to still be focusing on gay rights more than marriage rights. Back in the dark ages, when the issue of gay marriage started to show up regularly as part of the national discourse, somewhere around 1991, I remember feeling uneasy. I feared that focusing the gay rights struggle on marriage would divert the national attention away from the core issue of equal rights. I also was afraid that gay marriage would be just the kind of flashpoint issue that the so-called religious right would latch onto.

Now, lo these many years later, all of that has come true. And, in spite of all that coming true, we’ve made significant headway on the marriage issue. But this progress has been made if not at the expense of gay rights in general, then at least it has marginalized the struggle.

By framing the issue as being about marriage, we’ve managed to tap into the law of unintended consequences and skirted the core issue of rights. So I’m posting a list of Federal rights, as enumerated by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), that are compromised or made unavailable to GLBT people as a result of the failure of the Federal Government to provide a way for us to marry: GAO Marriage Rights

Until the right to marry is provided at the Federal level to all Americans, we’re not going to have true equality. And, until then, we’ll have to revel in the victories on a state-by-state basis.

Logo’s Presidential Forum: The Biggest …

Before I get too deep into this rant, I guess I should first take a few moments to acknowledge the progress that LGBT folks have made. Six presidential candidates consented to a Presidential forum sponsored by HRC and Logo. (It’s not a surprise that no Republicans participated.) So, compared with previous campaigns, when we’ve had to settle for even smaller crumbs, this represents many steps forward.

That being said, I can’t help but be disappointed in the overall response from the candidates, with a few notable exceptions. Here are some impressions:

  • Biggest Disappointment: Bill Richardson. I previously believed Richardson to be more evolved in his views on gay rights and gay marriage. This poor lost soul just kept digging himself deeper into a hole.
  • Biggest Mixed Message: Barack Obama. I’ve been a fan of Obama’s since he came on the scene. And I have great respect for his attempts to bring some dignity back to the political process and some hope back to the American people. But, like with several of the candidates at the forum, his appearance seemed a little calculated. This appearance, like other recent appearances of his, revealed that he needs some consciousness-raising.
  • Biggest “If-Only”: Dennis Kucinich. This man has the most common-sense approach to gay issues, and most other issues, as well. If only he were 6’2″ with a lantern jaw, he’d be president.
  • Biggest Resignation: Hillary Clinton’s inevitable candidacy. Don’t get me wrong. The nation could do a lot worse than with Mrs. Clinton (like with any of the festering tragedies on the Republican side). But Hillary is a polarizing figure, and she’s bound to inspire the wrath of the right wing as we get closer to the election. Silly me. I was actually hoping for a little harmony. (I’m really too old to be this naive.)
  • Biggest Unasked Question: “If you don’t support gay marriage, what will you do to ensure that all of the same rights are afforded to all U.S. citizens?” I have to take the panel to task for not holding all of the candidates’ feet to the fire a little more. The right wants to frame the gay marriage issue in a variety of ways, none of which are an accurate representation. They either want to blur the lines between church and state, and impose a particular religious view on others, or they characterize gay marriage as a frivolous issue, as if gay people are merely fighting for the right to register our china patterns at Macy’s. The Democrats, sadly, capitulate to these mischaracterizations all too frequently.The much broader reality of the gay marriage issue is that GLBT people only have a subset of the rights afforded to heterosexual Americans. The gay marriage fight is one attempt to help even the playing field. So when the debate’s moderators failed to dig deeper on this issue and re-frame it in the context of equality, they gave the candidates an escape hatch. How can we expect the Democrats to step up if we don’t even raise the issues?

Death of a Right-Wing Bloat-Throat

I couldn’t let the passing of Jerry Falwell go unacknowledged. The New York Times obituary gives a pretty charitable assessment of this hate-monger’s life. Christopher Hitchens was not so warm-hearted:

What has baffled me for years is the fact that the media have actually solicited Falwell’s opinions on various matters. The man has clearly been at best a crackpot or (if you take the more cynical view, as I do) an evil hate-filled charlatan.

It’s instructive to note that, in the many interviews I’ve seen in the past day or so, I haven’t heard one tale — even from his supporters — about his goodness as a person. About the best anyone can say about him is that he was shrewd enough to amass a lot of political power. (I think Ralph Reed may have said something to this effect, filled with right-wing envy.)

I imagine that most of the grass in a several mile radius of his burial site will soon turn black, if not from the evil that emanates from within, then at least from the throngs who will undoubtedly line up to piss on his grave.

Where Would Jesus Advertise?

I almost drove off the road in Indiana when I saw this billboard:

Seeing this billboard made me realize how (relatively) easy it is to be out in places like New York and Los Angeles and, conversely, how much courage it takes to post a billboard like this on the outskirts of Indianapolis. As you might expect, there was all kinds of outrage in the newspapers and on talk radio about this.

Cured!

It’s amazing. The beloved Pastor Ted Haggard is claiming that he has been “cured” of his homosexuality. In a mere three weeks, Ted and his posse have been able to do what scientists, theologians, philosophers, doctors, and psychologists have never been able to do, as Reuters and other sources have reported.

If you had any uncertainty how out of touch Haggard and his cronies are, this most recent assertion should help clarify things.

I guess we’re s’posed to believe that he was getting busy (for pay) with a male hustler for three years for the purpose of religious and spiritual research.

Glare Ice from the Dick

If you’ve ever wondered how a transcript can fail to take nuance into account, consider the following exchange yesterday between Dick Cheney and Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You know, we’re out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you: your daughter, Mary. She’s pregnant. All of us are happy she’s going to have a baby. You’re going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean that it’s best for the child.” Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No.

BLITZER: She’s, obviously, a good daughter —

CHENEY: I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate —

CHENEY: I think you’re out of line.

BLITZER: We like your daughters. Believe me, I’m very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was a question that’s come up, and it’s a responsible, fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Absent from the written transcript are the icy glares of the VP, along with Blitzer’s bad-little-boy look when Cheney challenged him. Blitzer’s physical reaction to Cheney made a deer in the headlights seem like a Tibetan monk deep in meditation. (CNN has also conveniently edited out all of the uncomfortable pauses from the video that they now have posted on their website.)

Here’s the unedited version:

Mary Cheney herself is a public figure. For whatever reason, she decided to go public about her homosexuality and her surrogacy. (She conveniently managed to avoid talking about any of that until there was a book deal in the works and until her father’s tenuous 2004 election campaign was already over with.) How absurd that Daddy Dick considers all of this a private matter.

The fact that Dick can’t own up to this is newsworthy, particularly because the administration that Dick so staunchly defends (perhaps “barricades” would be a better word) is making policy decisions about gay marriage, gays in the military, etc. Why shouldn’t he have to explain his position and the disparity between his personal life (the oh-so-sacred family) and his public positions? Cheney, as a man with apparently no conscience, simply cannot reconcile the fact his job was made possible in part by organizations like Focus on the Family, who condemn his own daughter without compunction. So his only option is to lash out. What a scumbag.

It was not, however, Blitzer’s only option to weenie out and back away. Apparently, he’s been following Larry King’s lead when it comes to follow-up questions. I got news for you, Wolf. The tension that you almost created but then backed away from is what makes both good journalism and compelling television.

When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

Just as those zany Southern Baptists announce that their largely ineffectual boycott of Disney was ending after eight years (who even knew it was still going on?), old bloat-throat Jerry Falwell is initiating a boycott against Kraft Foods to punish them for their support of the Gay Games in Chicago.

(The Disney boycott apparently didn’t work because these insane zealots couldn’t convince their wee ones to burn their “Little Mermaid” videos for a higher purpose. Children are perceptive, and they could not be swayed into believing that reading “Mein Kampf” aloud by the fireside would be just as much fun as a trip to Disneyworld.)

I guess Jerry’s recent comparison of his own coma to that of Terri Schiavo’s wasn’t garnering enough press to satisfy his insatiable ego.

Well, Jerry, I say, go for it. I hope that you and your lemmings stand completely behind your principles. I’d even go so far as to implore Kraft not to sell you and your kind any of their products. No Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz for those god-awful Wednesday night church suppers. No Zweiback or Nabisco Animal Crackers to soothe your squalling brats as they scream through the political rhetoric being spewed from your pulpit. No Jell-O. No Oreos. No Oscar-Meyer Wieners. No generous dollop of Kraft Miracle Whip.

And, Jerry, while you’re standing up for your principles, why not go all the way? No more of this “selective enforcement” stuff. You’ve also recently called for a boycott of Ford for their policies of non-discrimination against gays. So you’d better extend that boycott to any company that has similar policies. So, no phones or long distance service for you, because Sprint and Verizon and MCI and Qwest and all the others have similar policies. No computers or software, because Microsoft and HP and IBM and Apple and virtually every other high tech company have similar policies. (While we’re on the subject, maybe you should just review the list of Fortune 500 companies for their policies of inclusion, because you’re probably not going to be doing any banking or investing either. That might force you to change your methods for siphoning retirement money away from little old ladies.)

But, cheer up, Jerry. At least you can still fill your tank with ExxonMobil gas.

HRC Can’t Be This Desperate …

Here’s an Email I sent to the Human Rights Campaign, in its entirety. It speaks for itself:

I am writing to express my concern for your most recent marketing ploy, the affinity credit card that bears both the HRC logo and Visa logo. I have received a couple of offers in the mail for this product, and I am quite disturbed that HRC would choose to align itself with a credit card company, especially one as predatory as Providian. The credit card industry has pretty shaky ethical footing, with its usurious interest rates and its aggressive marketing methods. It taints the long-standing good reputation of HRC to forge such an alliance. It is an additional slap in the face that you are marketing this product at a time when Congress is in the process of getting rid of bankruptcy protections for ordinary citizens and bolstering the protections of the credit card industry.

It is my belief that the GLBT community needs allies in Washington who are independent of such commercial forces. What happens, for example, when issues regarding the financial well-being of GLBT citizens arise? On whose side will HRC be — the side of the GLBT citizens that you claim to represent or on the side of the banking industry whose money is now part of what keeps your organization afloat?

Whatever money you receive from the deal you struck with Providian is not enough to offset the erosion of trust that you will undoubtedly receive from the GLBT community.

I am sad, disappointed, and more than a little bit cranky at this wrong-headed decision. I hope you will examine your organizational conscience and reconsider this foolish stopgap deal with the devil.

The Real State of the Union

Since Dubya’s State of the Union promises to be just another extension of his campaign speech, I thought I’d take this opportunity to differ with him on a few items:

  • Bush and his administration have gotten the United States embroiled in a conflict that has nothing to do with us. Bush and his cronies sent American troops to war on false pretenses. Now, the only people bothering to mention that fact are the late-night comedians (which, perhaps, is o.k., since so many Americans use the nightly monologue as a their primary news source). Thousands of lives have been lost. And, yes, I count Iraqi civilian lives, in spite of our media’s tendency only to bother counting the lives of American soldiers and not mentioning any others. (Death counts are now reported like some ESPN ticker crawl: “Americans 1400, Iraqi Civilians 100,000. Yay! We must be winning!”)
  • While we’re on the subject of the media, don’t count on any independence from the media conglomerates, since they’re now pretty much in the pockets of the giant parent corporations, all of whom benefit greatly from the Bush administration’s policies.
  • The administration no longer seems to make any distinction between diplomacy and the military. It started with appointing a general as Secretary of State during his first term, and it continues with the appointment of Condi Rice as Secretary for his second term. (Ohhhh, gee, did you know she’s also a concert pianist? Notice how the administration managed to work that bit of hyperbole into every press release, fluff piece, and news conference in some foolish attempt to humanize this shameless lackey.)
  • Bush has taken his father’s “assassination insurance” to new depths. Bush 41 had Dan Quayle as V.P., which had the chilling effect of making the world realize how much worse it would be if the Prez were assassinated. Bush 43 has managed to populate the entire line of succession with people even more frightening or odious than he is. (And how far did he have to look the find persons more odious than he is? In most cases, no farther than his father’s administration.)
  • Bush has managed to tell a whole series of lies about the hottest hot-button issue — gay marriage. On the one hand, he claims that it’s a so-called “state’s rights” issue. But he has actively and vigorously campaigned in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Could there be anything more blatantly hypocritical? And, I might as well say this again: Why do these friggin’ bible-thumpers take this particular issue so seriously and ignore others? If the institution of marriage is so sacred, why aren’t they campaigning in favor a consitutional amendment against divorce? (This is one of my big problems in life — I try to apply logic where none exists. I guess it proves only one thing: reason and religion don’t mix.)

More to come …