Sunday, January 31, 2010

American Family Association Radio Host Says It's Time To Imprison Gays

from Joe Jervis at Joe. My. God.

American Family Association radio host Bryan Fischer has called for sending homosexuals to prison for forced reparative therapy, a move he says is sanctioned by the Bible. Below, he responds to an email from a complaining listener.

Thanks for writing me about my comments on my program regarding homosexuality. It might be worth noting that what I actually suggested is that we impose the same sanctions on those who engage in homosexual behavior as we do on those who engage in intravenous drug abuse, since both pose the same kind of risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. I'd be curious to know what you think should be done with IV drug abusers, because whatever it is, I think the same response should be made to those who engage in homosexual behavior.

If you believe that what drug abusers need is to go into an effective detox program, then we should likewise put active homosexuals through an effective reparative therapy program. Secondly, I'm afraid you're simply wrong about the Bible's perspective on the law and homosexuality. Paul lists quite explicitly in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 the actions and behaviors that are the proper concern of the law:

"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine..."

The bottom line here is that, biblically, those "who practice homosexuality" should come under the purview of the law just as much as those who take people captive in order to sell them into slavery. You express a belief in the Scriptures, and I trust your confidence in Scripture is not selective. If you believe all Scripture is inspired, then you are compelled to accept that legal sanctions may appropriately be applied to those who engage in homosexual behavior.

In November, Fischer called for banning all Muslims from the U.S. military. In addition to his radio show for the American Family Association, Fischer is the executive director of the Idaho Family Alliance.

Remember folks, the Christianist right is not about hatred and bigotry. It's about the gentle redemptive love of Jesus, forced upon you at the barrel of a gun in prison as they beat the gay out of you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

URGENT ALERT! -- Religious Extremism In NW PA Public Schools

Fishermen's Net, the Venango County-based extremist web site that promotes bigotry and discrimination under the guise of religion is touting upcoming events by the "Ground Zero Master's Commission" ... "an intense and passionate discipleship ministry for Young Adults (18-25) ... those that want to seek more of God in their life and make Him their only focus."

The Problem?

Several of "The Commission's" events are scheduled for area public school assemblies, including Rocky Grove High School (Feb. 8) and Cranberry High School (Feb. 10) !!

Specific information about this ministry and its efforts to deceptively infiltrate public schools with a message of "biblical morality" can be heard in an archived interview on WAWN FM's "Looking Through The Community Window" program.

Please, contact your public school district office immediately to find out how and why religious proselytizing is being conducted in your public schools!

Rocky Grove High School - Valley Grove School District
Superintendent - Jeffrey Clark
Phone: (814)432-4919

Cranberry High School - Cranberry Area School District
Superintendent - Nicholas Bodnar
Phone: 814-676-5628 x509

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Left Alone

Freedom to Marry Week
13th Annual Observance
February 8-14, 2010

Every year, right around Valentine's Day, people across the country celebrate Freedom to Marry Week in order to share our stories, reflect on the values of equality and love, while also engaging our neighbors in the movement for equality and fairness.

This year, we plan to launch our new website at the beginning of the celebration, which will have new and improved opportunities for everyone to help build a majority for marriage across the country.

Learn More at Freedom To Marry

Freedom To Marry Pennsylvania

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?

John Corvino is a writer, speaker, and philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. For more about his work, go to

To purchase or watch the trailer for his new DVD, go to

The clips here are excerpts from an hour-long talk.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bombshell Testimony! Anti-Gay Activists Expose The Truth Behind Their Lies

In depositions for Perry v. Schwarzenegger (The Prop 8 Trial), two proponents of anti-gay theories finally tell the truth, which is likely why they were pulled as witnesses by their own side.

Their video depositions can be viewed at the following links:

Paul Nathanson is a Canadian religious studies academic and professional expert witness. Nathanson is currently working as a senior researcher in the McGill University department of Religious Studies, while testifying as a paid expert on behalf of social conservatives opposing legal recognition of same-sex marriages. In Varnum v. Brien Nathanson's testimony concerning purported social effects of recognizing same-sex marriages was stricken by the trial court, which explained that the opinions Nathanson expressed were "not based on observation supported by scientific methodology or . . . on empirical research in any sense." Since then, Nathanson has been proferred as an expert in Perry v. Schwarzenegger by litigants who intervened in the case to defend a California constitutional amendment stripping same-sex couples of the right to marry. Just before the trial, the intervenors against gay marriage removed him as a witness, but the trial court judge allowed his prior videotaped deposition to be entered into evidence by the marriage-equality plaintiffs.

Katherine K. Young is a Canadian religious studies academic. She was awarded her M.A. from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. from McGill University, for research on the history of religions, specializing in Hinduism. She has been proferred as an expert in Perry v. Schwarzenegger by litigants who intervened in the case to defend a California constitutional amendment stripping same-sex couples of the right to marry. Just before the trial, the intervenors against gay marriage removed her as a witness, but the trial court judge allowed her prior videotaped deposition to be entered into evidence by the marriage-equality plaintiffs.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exposing The Extremism Behind The National Prayer Breakfast

by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out:

We are about to embark on a historic mission to stop persecution of LGBT people in Uganda and we want you to be a key part of our vision.

Most people think of the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC as an innocuous event.

Few people know that this breakfast is orchestrated by a secretive fundamentalist group known as The Family.

This dangerous and politically active organization is directly linked to the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.

We believe it is time to inform people of the truth regarding The Family and its toxic worldwide influence. It is time people understand the radical extremism being served up with eggs and bacon at The National Prayer Breakfast each year.

Equally important, it is time we present a loving and compassionate view of spirituality so intolerant groups like The Family do not define people of faith.

This is why we are working with a coalition of groups to launch The American Prayer Hour on February 4th, the same day as The National Prayer Breakfast.

The groups behind this effort are MCC, HRC, GLAAD, NGLTF, PGLAG, Truth Wins Out, Full Equality Now DC and the National Black Justice Coalition.

The American Prayer Hour will consist of a series of decentralized events across America and be anchored by key events in Washington, DC, Dallas, Chicago and Berkeley:

- Dallas-- Creating Change Conference (7AM CST, Sheraton Dallas) Ray Boltz

- Chicago Theological Seminary (7AM CST, The Chapel)

- Berkeley--Pacific School of Religion (7AM PST, The Chapel)

- Washington, DC Calvary Baptist Church (10AM EST, with a live performance by gospel superstar Ray Boltz and HitPlay)

If you live in these four cities, I hope you will attend an American Prayer Hour.

If not, consider hosting an American Prayer Hour in your own city. Our goal is to have people from around the country speak out against intolerance, stand up for inclusive values and do everything in their power to derail the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.

If you are interested in organizing an American Prayer Hour, please contact me, Wayne Besen, at

Please, understand, we may be all that stands in the way of blood flowing down the streets of Kampala. I hope that you will link hands and help us do everything we can to save the lives of our Ugandan LGBT brothers and sisters. If the situation were reversed, we'd sure hope they would be there for us, wouldn't we?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teacher With Bible Divides Ohio Town

Sound Familiar?

by Ian Urbina for the New York Times:

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and has cost the school board more than a half million dollars.

On Friday, the hearing is scheduled to finally end, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months after that. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

“Freshwater’s supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,” said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.”

Mr. Freshwater, who declined to be interviewed, has said he did not mean to burn a cross on any student’s arm. Instead, he said he intended to leave a temporary X on the skin using a device called a Tesla coil during a science demonstration that he says he had done, with no complaints, hundreds of times in his 21 years as a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School.

In a radio interview in 2008, he said he had been a target for removal since 2003, when he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact. “I ruffled some feathers,” he said.

Married and a father of three, Mr. Freshwater, 53, was popular among students, always willing to stay after school to tutor or listen to students who needed someone to talk to.

In testimony at the board hearing, his supporters said he had consistently received positive evaluations from superiors and won distinguished teacher’s awards at least twice.

But school officials and former colleagues presented a different picture.

One high school teacher said she consistently had to reteach evolution to Mr. Freshwater’s students because they did not master the basics. Another testified that Mr. Freshwater told his students they should not always take science as fact, citing as an example a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality.

“Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

School officials said Mr. Freshwater’s science classroom was adorned with at least four copies of the Ten Commandments and several other posters that included verses from Scripture.

Mount Vernon is not a place accustomed to controversy and news media attention. It is proud of its wholesomeness. Wooden porches are adorned with American flags. A civil war hero sits atop a tall obelisk in the center of the impeccably preserved town square. Tour guides brag about the Woodward Opera House, which is billed as the oldest “freestanding” opera theater in the country.

“The whole issue has been an embarrassment,” said Ann Schnormeier, as she sat with 10 other women in a tight circle holding a religious study meeting at the First Congregational United Church of Christ near the center of town. She said her grandson, like many students, adored Mr. Freshwater.

“People have faith here in this town,” she said, “but Mr. Freshwater was crossing the line, and the school board has rules. There are laws, and he needs to leave his teaching position.”

Mr. Freshwater, who currently is suspended without pay, does not see things that way.

Last June, he filed a federal lawsuit against the school board seeking $1 million in damages, and in April 2008, he called a news conference at the town square to announce that while he was willing to remove the posters and other religious materials from his classroom — as instructed by the school board — he was drawing the line on removing his Bible from his desk.

The reaction was immediate.

Students held a “bring your Bible to school” day. Others started wearing T-shirts with “I support Mr. Freshwater — God” on the front. As the case dragged on, producing more than 5,000 pages of transcript and more than 30 days of oral testimony, some Freshwater supporters vowed to broaden the fight.

Callers to local talk radio threatened that if Mr. Freshwater lost his job, they would begin looking for indiscretions by other teachers and lobbying for their removal.

Among those attending school board meetings were members of a local group called the Minutemen.

“This case woke a lot of people up around here,” said Dave Daubenmire, the founder of the group, which he named Minutemen because they “are a group of Christian guys who will show up on a minute’s notice to peacefully show support for their faith.”

In town, pastors are divided.

“I support Freshwater as a man of faith, but he is not supposed to be conveying these views in school,” the Rev. R. Keith Stuart, pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, said.

Miles away, Mr. Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, posited that the criticism of Mr. Freshwater is part of a larger trend toward bigotry against Christians.

“If he had a Koran on his desk, he’d be fine and no one would say a word to him,” Mr. Matolyak said. “If he had ‘Origin of Species’ on his desk, they would celebrate that.”

The family of Zachary Dennis, one of the two students who say they were branded by Mr. Freshwater, said they were eager for the matter to be closed. “We are religious people,” Jennifer Dennis, Zachary’s mother, said in an interview. “But we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child.”

After teachers and students criticized Zachary for speaking up, she said, the family sold its house and moved to an adjacent town.

“We are Christians,” she said, “who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

San Diego's Republican Mayor Reverses His Stance Against Gay Marriage

If Only Venango County's Elected Representatives Provided Such Leadership

San Diego's Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders revealed his plan to support a city measure guaranteeing equality to gays. San Diego's Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders revealed his plan to support a city measure guaranteeing equality to gays and lesbians, after previously opposing it.

Through teary-eyes, Sanders revealed his stance on gay marriage had changed after considering that anything less than full marriage equality would be demeaning to his own daughter, who is a lesbian.

Monday, January 18, 2010

President Obama Tells The Story Of PFLAG

President Obama shared the story of PFLAG--Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays--as "the story of America" in a speech on October 10, 2009.

Learn more about PFLAG's history at

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sestak for Senator from Pennsylvania

by Jen Coletta for PGN:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-7th Dist.) is looking to unseat longtime U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in this spring’s primary election and is pledging to bring to the Senate a commitment to generate viable change for LGBT individuals in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Sestak, 58, a Delaware County native, has served in Congress since 2007, after a decorated military career: He served in the Navy from 1974-2005 and, as a three-star admiral, holds the distinction of the highest-ranking former military officer ever to have served in Congress.

Sestak has made headlines in recent months for his strong opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers, a position he said he’s held since the bill’s 1993 passage.

“I was a Navy captain at the time and, the day after it was passed, a two-star admiral came up to me and said, ‘What do you think about this?’ and I said, ‘It’s unconstitutional. I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will throw it out in a couple months.’ But unfortunately that didn’t happen,” Sestak said.

He added the U.S. military is “behind the times” in its treatment of LGBT servicemembers.

“How can you ask someone that you went to war with to not have the same equal rights as you? It’s wrong. We’ve worked through the issue of African Americans in the military. We’ve worked through the issue of women in combat. I don’t care if you’re red, blue, green or GLBT. I want you to do your job, and I’m going to hold you accountable for that, but we need the best of all of our communities in the military for the military to be its best.”

Military action

Sestak is a cosponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that is being spearheaded by fellow Pennsylvanian Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-8th Dist.). Sestak has written letters to President Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the policy and, last year, advocated on behalf of Lt. Dan Choi to the Army’s Discharge Board, which is releasing Choi under the policy.

Also last year, Sestak led a campaign to relaunch an investigation into allegations of abuse leveled by gay former Navy sailor Joseph Rocha, who said he endured emotional and physical abuse, such as being tied to a chair, forced to simulate oral sex with another man and locked in a dog kennel filled with feces.

“I was at an event in town and a gentleman came up and asked if I’d heard about this situation, and I said no and he sent me the information, and to be honest at first I found this hard to believe. Dog feces? Handcuffs? I mean none of us were perfect when I was in the Navy, but that is just not the Navy that I knew,” Sestak said.

He contacted the Chief of Naval Operations, who agreed to launch an investigation into the situation, which in the fall resulted in the censuring of the individual who allegedly spearheaded the abuse. Sestak said he’s still awaiting further action on the lack of oversight in the case.

“I spoke to the Secretary of the Navy and said that there has to be a follow-up,” he said. “In the Navy, if a captain is sleeping at 2 a.m. and someone falls asleep steering the ship, the captain is accountable. There are people who saw this and knew what was going on, and they need to be accountable.”

Sestak said Congress also needs to be held accountable for lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Congress put this in there, and I think we have a constitutional responsibility to remove it. I think if you ask pretty much any Democrat if they individually think ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should be repealed, they’ll say yes, but I’m worried there’s not a lot of courage right now,” he said.


Sestak noted that many legislators “ran to the hills” on the issue of the inclusion of the “public option” in the healthcare-reform bill, of which he is an advocate, a trend he said is all too prevalent in the political field.

“We need a sense of accountability in our leaders in Washington, D.C. People should not be taking positions because they’re more worried about maintaining their legacy or their jobs rather than being willing to risk that for a principled compromise, as opposed to compromising their principles.”

Sestak said Specter made such a move when he announced in the fall that he no longer supported the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex marriage, which he originally voted for in 1996. Specter told PGN his position switch reflected the nation’s, as well as his own, progression on LGBT-rights issues, but Sestak said he doubted the veracity of that claim.

“I was sent a letter by one of my constituents that had been sent to him in September by Sen. Specter in which he says he supports DOMA. And then a couple weeks later he came out in opposition to it,” he said. “The biggest difficulty the Democratic Party has right now is not the Republican Party, but rather a lack of trust from our constituents. This is why I’m running. I’m very fortunate; I’ve already done everything I’ve wanted to do in life — I commanded a ship, and that was what I’d always wanted to do. I didn’t even want to initially run for Senate, and I’m not craving to be president. So maybe it’s easier for me, but I’m not running for the job, I’m running to give back.”

Sestak said that, if and when DOMA is repealed, he would support legislation to legalize civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples at the federal level; he said he favors civil unions, as he believes marriage is more of a “church issue,” but said he would “not be opposed” to extending it to same-sex couples.

“It’s an issue of national importance that shouldn’t be decided state-by-state, as it is, because then nobody wants to touch it. I don’t think it’s just a state issue. How can you be in one state and be discriminated against in another state? I do think civil rights have to have federal legislation.”

Immigration reform

In addition to the bills to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA, Sestak is a cosponsor of nearly every other pro-LGBT bill in Congress, except the Uniting American Families Act, a measure that seeks to eliminate discrimination in immigration laws for same-sex couples.

Sestak said he is a strong proponent of the idea of UAFA but believes that, to be successful, it should be part of a comprehensive immigration-reform bill. In addition, he said, if it proceeds as a stand-alone bill, the language of the current measure, introduced in February by U.S. Rep Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), needs to ensure that same-sex and heterosexual couples are treated equally.

Sestak said he’s met numerous times with Rep. Louis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) to ensure inclusion of UAFA in the comprehensive bill Gutierrez is spearheading, and that he’s also drafting his own version of UAFA that provides further clarification that same- and opposite-sex couples will have to follow the same procedures. If UAFA is not included in the comprehensive immigration measure, Sestak plans to introduce his bill as an amendment to the comprehensive legislation if and when it reaches the Rules Committee.

Sestak — who has attended OutFest, Pride and numerous other LGBT events in Allentown, Reading and other locales, and served as a guest speaker at the 2008 Equality Forum and the keynote speaker at that year’s Human Rights Campaign Philadelphia Gala — said that throughout the rest of the campaign, and if he’s elected to the Senate, the LGBT community should feel comfortable bringing their concerns to him and relying on him to take action on those issues.

“I promise to be accountable, accessible, honest and working hard for the interests of everyone equally. The GLBT community does not have equal rights and simply we have to have that. This country stands for equal rights, and I want to fight for that principle every day.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Congress is Back! Tell Them to Pass ENDA Now!

Dear Friends and Families,

We ended 2009 with a postponed vote on ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s 2010 and Congress came back into session today. Let’s press the House hard to get this vote scheduled and pass ENDA now!

We’ve waited long enough. Call or e-mail today. ENDA can’t wait, and neither can we!

Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121.
Give your zip code and ask to be connected to your Representative.

Below is a sample message to tell your representative:

My name is _____ and I'm a proud resident of (your city, state). I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017), to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from job discrimination. LGBT people need to be able to earn a living to support their families and keep their children safe, strong and healthy. Please pass ENDA NOW! I can be reached at _______ (give your phone number and street address). Thank you.

2010 must be our year, and the moment is now. Congress must hear from real families. Please take action. Together, we will pass this bill, this year.

Pass this message along to friends and allies and ask them to call their Representatives today! If you're not sure who your Representative is, follow this link and find out.


Jennifer Chrisler
Executive Director
Family Equality Council

Thursday, January 14, 2010


by black, gay poet Langston Hughes:

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gay Teen Worried He Might Be A Fundamentalist Christian

from The Onion:

LOUISVILLE, KY—At first glance, high school senior Lucas Faber, 18, seems like any ordinary gay teen. He's a member of his school's swing choir, enjoys shopping at the mall, and has sex with other males his age. But lately, a growing worry has begun to plague this young gay man. A gnawing feeling that, deep down, he may be a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian.

"I don't know what's happening to me," Faber admitted to reporters Monday. "It's like I get these weird urges sometimes, and suddenly I'm tempted to go behind my friends' backs and attend a megachurch service, or censor books in the school library in some way. Even just the thought of organizing a CD-burning turns me on."

Added Faber, "I feel so confused."

The openly gay teen, who came out to his parents at age 14 and has had a steady boyfriend for the past seven months, said he first began to suspect he might be different last year, when he started feeling an odd stirring within himself every time he passed a church. The more conservative the church, Faber claimed, the stronger his desire was to enter it.

"It's like I don't even know who I am anymore," the frightened teenager said. "Keeping this secret obsession with radical right-wing dogma hidden away from my parents, teachers, and schoolmates is tearing me apart."

According to Faber, his first experience with evangelical Christianity was not all that different from other gays his age.

"Sure, I looked at the Book of Leviticus once or twice—everybody has," Faber said. "We all experiment a little bit with that stuff when we're growing up. But I was just a kid. I didn't think it meant anything."

Faber's instinct was to deny these early emotions. But recently, the Louisville teen admitted, the feelings have grown stronger, making him wonder more and more what life as a born-again right-wing fundamentalist would be like.

"The other week, I was this close to picketing in front of an abortion clinic," the mortified teenager said, his eyes welling up with tears. "I know it's wrong, but I wanted so badly to do it anyway. I even made one of those signs with photos of dead fetuses and hid it in my closet. I felt so ashamed, yet, at the same time, it was all strangely titillating."

Faber's parents, although concerned, said they're convinced their otherwise typical gay son is merely going through a conservative Christian phase.

"I caught him watching The 700 Club once when he thought he was alone in the house, and last week, I found some paperbacks from the Left Behind series hidden in his sock drawer," his mother, Eileen Faber, said. "I'm sure he'll grow out of it, but even if he doesn't, I will love and accept my son no matter what."

Faber's father was far less tolerant in his comments.

"No son of mine is going to try to get intelligent design into school textbooks," Geoffrey Faber said. "And I absolutely refuse to pay his tuition if he decides to go to one of those colleges like Oral Roberts University where they're just going to fill his head with a lot of crazy conservative ideas."

He added, "I just want my normal gay son back."

Divorce Rates Higher In States That Ban Same-Sex Marriage

by Nate Silver for Five Thirty Eight:

Over the past decade or so, divorce has gradually become more uncommon in the United States. Since 2003, however, the decline in divorce rates has been largely confined to states which have not passed a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. These states saw their divorce rates decrease by an average of 8 percent between 2003 and 2008. States which had passed a same-sex marriage ban as of January 1, 2008, however, saw their divorce rates rise by about 1 percent over the same period.

The table below details the divorce rates for the 43 states that reported their divorce statistics to the CDC in both 2003 and 2008. It is calculated by taking the total number of divorces in the state that year, and dividing it by the number of married persons, as reported by the Census Bureau. The result is then multiplied by two, since each divorce involves two people. This is different than how the divorce rate is sometimes calculated, which may be as a share of the overall population rather than the number of married persons; I prefer my approach because it will not penalize a state for having a lot of marriages (and therefore more opportunities for divorce). However, there are also more complicated versions of the divorce rate calculation that account for the age of the married couples, and so forth; these are probably superior, but mine is intended to be a simple approach. The table also lists the percentage change in the divorce rate between 2003 and 2008, and the current status of gay marriage and domestic partnerships within each state.

As is somewhat visually apparent, those states which have tended to take more liberal policies toward gay marriage have tended also to have larger declines in their divorce rates. In Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2004, the divorce rate has declined by 21 percent and is the lowest in the country by some margin. It is joined at the top of the list by Rhode Island and New Mexico, which do not perform same-sex marriages but idiosyncratically also have no statute or constitutional provision expressly forbidding them, as well as Maine, whose legislature approved same-sex marriage only to have it overturned (although not banned constitutionally) by its voters.

On the other hand, the seven states at the bottom of the chart all had constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage in place throughout 2008. The state which experienced the highest increase in its divorce rate over the period (Alaska, at 17.2 percent) also happens to be the first one to have altered its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, in 1998.

Overall, the states which had enacted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as of 1/1/08 saw their divorce rates rise by 0.9 percent over the five-year interval. States which had not adopted a constitutional ban, on the other hand, experienced an 8.0 percent decline, on average, in their divorce rates. Eleven of the 24 states (46 percent) to have altered their constitutions by 1/1/08 to ban gay marriage experienced an overall decline in their divorce rates, but 13 of the 19 which hadn't did (68 percent).

The differences are highly statistically significant. Nevertheless, they do not necessarily imply causation. The decision to ban same-sex marriage does not occur randomly throughout the states, but instead is strongly correlated with other factors, such as religiosity and political ideology, which we have made no attempt to account for. Nor do we know in which way the causal arrow might point. It could be that voters who have more marital problems of their own are more inclined to deny the right of marriage to same-sex couples.

There is, however, probably now enough data on this subject to engage in more sophisticated longitudinal studies on this subject (more sophisticated than I have engaged in here), which might produce more robust conclusions. Although only Massachusetts has affirmed gay marriage for any length of time, the difference between the states which have banned it constitutionally versus statutorily may be worth examining, as the former represents a significantly more confident assertion about the nature of state-sanctioned marriage. At the very least, I would be surprised if there were any statistical evidence that interpreting the right of marriage to apply to same-sex couples would be injurious to heterosexual couples in any material way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Conservative Argument For Equal Access To A Conservative Institution: Marriage

The lifelong Republican who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court—and won—goes to court this week to overturn California's ban on gay marriage. Huh?

By Eve Conant for NEWSWEEK:

Ted Olson would seem the unlikeliest champion of gay marriage. Now 69 years old, he is one of the more prominent Republicans in Washington, and among the most formidable conservative lawyers in the country. As head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Ronald Reagan, he argued for ending racial preferences in schools and hiring, which he saw—and still sees—as a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law. Years later, he advised Republicans in their efforts to impeach President Clinton. In 2000 he took the "Bush" side in Bush v. Gore, out-arguing his adversary (and friend) David Boies before the Supreme Court and ushering George W. Bush into the White House. As solicitor general under Bush, he defended the president's claims of expanded wartime powers. (Olson's wife at the time, Barbara, died on American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.) Olson has won three quarters of the 56 cases he has argued before the high court. Feather quills commemorating each case, and signed thank-you photos from presidents, cover the walls of his Washington office.

The Conscience of a Conservative
Now once again in private practice, Olson has the time to take on causes that matter most to him. One of them has surprised, dismayed, and outraged many of his conservative friends and colleagues. This week, after months of preparation, he will argue on behalf of two gay couples in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a federal case challenging Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in the state.

Olson's brief against Prop 8 is straightforward: laws banning gay marriage not only make no sense, they are unconstitutional. As a conservative, he says he believes in individual liberty and freedom from government interference in the private lives of citizens. Discriminating against people because of sexual orientation is a violation of both. "This case could change the way people think about one another," says Olson. "We are forever putting people into this box or that box, instead of just seeing each other as human beings."

He took on the case last fall, after he received a call from Chad Griffin, a gay activist in California who was part of a team looking for a lawyer to challenge Prop 8. A former in-law of Olson's suggested they reach out to Olson. Griffin was skeptical. "He was the conservative enemy," he recalls thinking. Griffin was surprised to find that Olson was anything but hostile. The two men talked for hours. Olson spent the next several weeks consulting with friends, fellow lawyers, and family, starting with his wife and political sparring partner, Lady Booth Olson, herself an attorney and a Democrat. He put the same question to all of them: why shouldn't gay people have the right to marry? "I asked them to give me their best argument. They had all sorts of intangible instincts and feelings about what's 'right,'" he says. "But I didn't hear any persuasive response."

Still, Olson knew he would need help in preparing a sturdy case. Even if he prevails, defendant intervenors will almost certainly appeal; ultimately the case may wind up before the Supreme Court—a possibility Olson clearly relishes. He had no doubt whom he wanted beside him at the plaintiff's table: Boies, his old liberal courtroom adversary and biking buddy. A fearsome litigator, Boies didn't hesitate to take on such a high-profile case. "The current administration has been decidedly halfway on this issue," he says, "and I think the specter of having George Bush's lawyer out in front of a Democratic president is something that, shall we say, might stimulate people to rethink their positions."

It has done that already, not all of it favorable to Olson. Some conservatives have accused him of apostasy, and of trying to bend the Constitution to fit clandestine liberal views. Ed Whelan, a lawyer who worked with Olson in the Bush administration, says his first reaction was "surprise, followed by disgust that Ted would abandon the legal principles he's purported to stand for, like originalism and judicial restraint." But Whelan also knows that Olson—who arrives at work each morning by 6:30 and reads centuries-old law texts in his spare time—is a formidable adversary. "There's a definite chance he'll win. That's what makes it all the more outrageous that he's pushing this."

Many gay activists weren't any happier at first, believing an incremental approach was safer than betting everything on one big case. They feared a loss would be a massive setback. "Racial segregation, for example, didn't take just one case; there were a series of strategic steps," says Molly McKay of Marriage Equality USA. Others sensed conspiracy, speculating that Olson took the case only to throw it. He has since convinced them he is genuine in his conviction that gay marriage is a civil-rights issue.

In fact, Olson is surprisingly emotional about the case, and his eyes mist up repeatedly when he talks about the hundreds of letters—positive and negative—that he's received. "We should be welcoming our gay colleagues and friends as equals," he says. Kristin Perry, one of the plaintiffs in the case, says that whenever Ted sees her and her partner, Sandy Stier, "he tells us, 'I think about you two every day. This is the reason I've taken this case.'" Some conservatives, still trying to figure out what happened to their old friend, have asked him when he decided he was for gay marriage. Olson seems puzzled by the question. "I don't know that I was ever against it."

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Monday, January 11, 2010

This Could Happen To You: Losing Your Job Because You're Gay

Today in the State of Pennsylvania, there are a handful of cities and counties that offer nondiscrimination protections, but within the rest of the state, there is no protection whatsoever. The solution? Pass PA HB 300.

Freedom to Work: Dan Miller

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania | MySpace Video

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Global Movement For Human Rights

Beyond Gay: The Politics Of Pride

Gay Pride marches and festivals are happening all over the world - sometimes under heavy opposition and violence. Beyond Gay The Politics of Pride is the most comprehensive look at the role of these events ever undertaken. This feature length documentary follows the Vancouver Pride Societys (VPS) Parade Director Ken Coolen and his VPS colleagues as they travel to places where Pride is still steeped in protest to personally experience the rampant homophobia that still exists. They also travel to Sao Paulo Brazil for the world's largest gay parade and New York City, the birthplace of the modern gay liberation movement.

Learn More About The Film HERE.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

America Deserves Better Than Rush Limbaugh

by David Badash for The New Civil Rights Movement:

I’ll be honest. I thought Rush Limbaugh might die. There wasn’t an emotion attached to it – I didn’t jump up and down, excited or upset. But the journalist in me realized there was a need for an obituary. So I wrote one. Then I put it away when we learned he was fine. In good taste, I couldn’t publish an attack on a sick man.

I’m glad Rush is in good health.

But I cannot accept his ludicrous and, of course, harmful judgment that the American healthcare system is perfectly fine.

So, two things. One, about healthcare. The second, about the man who continues to do damage to this country. Yes, a reminder about the hateful things Rush says about gays.

Here’s Rush on his healthcare experience:

Limbaugh claims that he received excellent treatment, the same as anyone else who would have called 911.

Anyone else with the name Rush Limbaugh. He bypassed two other hospitals to go to one selected to attend to the multi-millionaire.

Rush received great healthcare in part, because of who he is, because he could afford it, and because the state of Hawaii mandates certain levels of care, including that the healthcare professionals, like nurses, are unionized, and that employers offer healthcare to their employees.

But remember, the healthcare debate isn’t only about quality of care, but effectiveness and cost. Mr. Limbaugh’s personal experience doesn’t place him in a position to critique the quality of healthcare in this country. His financial status doesn’t place him a position to understand the impact of healthcare costs to the average person in this country.

Here’s what I wrote last Thursday when we learned Limbaugh was ill:

Extreme right-wing conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh was taken to the hospital from his ninth floor room at the Kahala Hotel and Resort late Thursday night. A CNN reporter said at about 11:40 PM EST, via Twitter,

“Limbaugh complained of chest pains. Sources say he told medical crews he was taking medication for a back problem. Still serious condition.”

Another CNN reporter, Ed Henry, said, also via Twitter, that Limbaugh was taken to Queens Medical Center in Honolulu.

Twitter exploded with the news of Limbaugh’s possible heart attack, with hundreds of tweets posted every minute for hours.

I’ve followed Rush’s attacks on gays and the gay community over the past year. And just as I was honest when Oral Roberts passed a few weeks ago, I will be equally honest now. Here’s what I said about Roberts:

“While I believe in having respect for the dead, I also believe in speaking the truth. And I also believe that we dig our own graves. Roberts leaves a legacy of hatred and homophobia that scarred millions in this country. Many will condemn me for saying that, but I believe he would be proud of my condemnation.”

And I say exactly the same about Limbaugh. Limbaugh spoke ill of many people. He excoriated homosexuals, and repeatedly condemned us. I thought I’d share with you some of Limbaugh’s hate speech:

“Bend over grab your ankles” regarding President Obama.

On the Iowa Supreme Court decision that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, this rant:

“This is why an electoral majority needs to happen in order to defeat these people, and even after they’re defeated, they try to go around it in other ways, getting judges, like unanimous decision in Iowa today, with the Supreme Court, unanimous, that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Now, I guarantee you, if we could go dig up James Madison and say, “Mr. Madison, did you intend for the Constitution to say people of the same sex could get married?” And I guarantee you he would have the reaction, “What are you talking about? Are you sure you’re asking me about the Constitution?””

And from my March 5th post:

“…five of Rush Limbaugh’s most offensive, anti-gay, homophobic, bigoted comments:

1. Aired a song about Senator Barney Frank called “Banking Queen“.
2. Democrats will “bend over, grab the ankles, and say, ‘Have your way with me’” to African American and gay voters.
3. On the Mark Foley scandal: “In their hearts and minds and their crotches, they don’t have any problem with what Foley did. They’ve defended it over the — over the years.“
4. Openly gay students are “trumpeting” their sexuality, “inviting dissent”.
5. “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation”

Lastly, there’s this one, which I have yet to figure out how many sensibilities it offends:

“…let’s say we discover the gene that says the kid’s gonna be gay. How many parents, if they knew before the kid was gonna be born, [that he] was gonna be gay, they would take the pregnancy to term? Well, you don’t know but let’s say half of them said, “Oh, no, I don’t wanna do that to a kid.” [Then the] gay community finds out about this. The gay community would do the fastest 180 and become pro-life faster than anybody you’ve ever seen. … They’d be so against abortion if it was discovered that you could abort what you knew were gonna be gay babies.””

So, Mr. Limbaugh, glad you’re OK. I’m not glad you’re still a bigot, you’re still a hateful liar, and you’re still on the air. America deserves better.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hate Crimes, Other Pro-LGBT Bills on Horizon in Pennsylvania

by Jen Colletta for PGN:

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania could consider numerous pieces of pro-LGBT legislation in 2010, and activists are hoping that, this time, such measures will see success.

The state legislature has not approved LGBT-specific legislation since 2002 — when it enacted a statewide hate-crimes law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity that was later repealed — but such a bill is again wending its way through the legislature.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court overturned the 2002 law on a technicality in 2007, a ruling that was upheld the following year by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-153rd Dist.) proposed a measure in March to reintroduce sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender, ancestry and mental and physical disability, as protected classes under the state’s Ethnic Intimidation Act. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in an 18-8 vote in November and a full House vote is expected in the near future.

“The vote in the committee was so exciting because it was such a large bipartisan majority,” said Jake Kaskey, policy and programs director at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania. “I think it bodes really well for future votes in the House and Senate. I think the votes are there; we just have to make sure activists are speaking to legislators and that the legislators understand how important this is.”

Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-39th Dist.) also introduced a companion hate-crimes bill in the Senate, which is awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

Steve Glassman, chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said House Bill 300, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations and housing, could also see movement in the next few months.

“We hope to be able to move this bill forward in the House early in the session,” Glassman said. “We’re certainly going to continue to push to see nondiscrimination protections in place, but it will become increasingly difficult after the early part of 2010 as we approach the primaries and the general election.”

The nondiscrimination bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.), was approved by the House State Government Committee in March, marking the first time such legislation passed out of committee.

“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, but it’s heartening that we’ve had thousands of people e-mailing, calling and meeting with legislators,” Kaskey said. “We had more than 300 people come to a rally last spring about the legislation and we’re having another lobby day in April so there’s more organizing on this bill than ever before.”

However, Kaskey acknowledged the measure will face an “uphill battle” in the Senate, where it has not yet been introduced.

Glassman said HB 300 could be bolstered with the passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and he urged members of the LGBT and ally communities to contact their Congressmembers in support of ENDA.

“I think [the passage of ENDA] would provide support and political cover for many legislators who have been concerned that they are ahead of the federal government on this issue,” he said.

Last year, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Keystone State, marking the first time ever that such a measure was introduced here.

Kaskey said he doubted the bill would come up for a vote this session, but said that initiative was an important first step for marriage equality.

“What’s great is that this provided an opportunity for people to begin the discussion on marriage equality, but there’s still going to be several more years to go of that discussion,” he said.

Leach introduced his bill shortly after Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30th Dist.) announced his intention to sponsor a so-called Marriage Protection Amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Eichelberger chief of staff Jason High said the lawmaker plans to propose the bill in “the near future.”

Also, new to this year’s legislative docket will be a bill to strengthen statewide anti-bullying protections, which is inclusive of anti-LGBT harassment.

“For the first time ever, this legislation will be introduced to beef up laws to protect against bullying because of sexual orientation or gender identity but also other characteristics, like race, ethnicity and disability,” Kaskey said. “If you look through the statistics on this — 88 percent of LGBT students were victims of verbal abuse, 19 percent were harassed because of their perceived sexual orientation and in just one month, 39 percent of LGBT students skipped class at least once because of safety issues — the need for this is obvious.”

Kaskey said he could not disclose which lawmakers would be leading this initiative, but that it would be introduced this spring.

It's Time To Stand Together

If The GLBT Community Wants Allies To Stand With Us, We Need To Stand With Other Communities Under Attack.

Reform Immigration for America

Workplace Raids - Divided Families - Rogue Enforcement Agents - Exploited Workers.

Plain and simple, the U.S. immigration system, as it exists now, no longer works.

We can and must do better.

This winter, Congress will consider legislation to reform our broken immigration system.

We believe in practical workable solutions rooted in the restoration of the rule of law, a fair and humane path to earned citizenship, united families, and fair treatment of workers.

We will win – but we need you!

NOW is the time for Comprehensive Immigration Reform!


Reform Immigration for America

Northwest PA Kick-off Rally

Wednesday Jan 13th, 6 PM

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie

7180 New Perry Highway, Erie

Reform Immigration for America – Pennsylvania is a broad coalition of faith, community, business, labor, and student organizations working to ensure that Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation votes for progressive comprehensive reform. We organize direct contact from constituents to legislators, high-impact media events across the state, powerful meetings between community leaders and members of Congress, and coordinate with the national communications, field, policy, and lobby operations. To support the campaign, join our local coalition.

Text “Justice” or “Justicia” to 69866 or sign up online at

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Houston Mayor Urges LGBT Community To Dream Big

An Important Message For Those In Venango County Working So Hard For Fairness, Equality, Dignity, and Respect For All!


Houston Mayor Annise Parker spoke directly to the LGBT community during her inaugural address before thousands at a downtown performing arts center this morning. Parker’s election December 13th made Houston the largest city in the U.S. to elect an openly LGBT mayor. Parker spoke passionately about the diversity of Houston and its future, but her address turned personal when she told attendees she wanted to speak directly to the LGBT community:

“I understand what this day means to you. I can feel your excitement and your joy, but I can also feel your apprehension and your longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward, but today is simply one day toward a tomorrow of greater justice. And when the time comes I will gladly pass the torch to the next in waiting, and I will cheer for them as you do for me. Your bravery in the face of threats, your bravery in the face of insults sustains me. We will support each other.

Do not fear to dream big dreams. Bring your whole self to everything you do. Face the world with dignity and integrity. I promise you, the pain is worth the reward.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More on the "Ex-Gay" Movement: Scott Lively Delivering His “Nuclear Bomb” To Uganda

Venango County's own American "Family" Association of Pennsylvania has been known to align itself with the likes of Scott Lively.

by Jim Burroway for Box Turtle Bulletin:

Scott Lively was one of three American activists to speak at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda on March 5-7, 2009. The other two participants were Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge. Two weeks after the conference, Lively bragged that he had delivered a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Ex-Gay Watch and Box Turtle Bulletin have obtained some videos of that conference, and for the first time we get to see what that “nuclear bomb” looks like.

This first video explores that “nuclear bomb” and its repercussions. In this video, you will see:

* Lively’s defense against being labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (Ex-Gay Watch has posted a longer unedited video segment of his defense),
* Lively’s equating homosexuality with Nazism and fascism, and blaming the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people,
* Lively’s reinforcement of the false stereotype of gay people as child molesters,
* Lively denouncing foreign influences to “promote” homosexuality,
* Lively describing AIDS as just punishment for homosexuality,
* and the aftermath of Lively’s “nuclear bomb” in Uganda.

Of the three videos we are debuting today, this is the most important as it puts Lively’s presentation in context with existing homophobia in Uganda.

Is it any wonder Ugandans want to kill gay people?

By the way, notice how Lively considers himself as one who “knows more than almost anyone else in the world” about homosexuality. In this second video, we show more clips of him pumping up his credentials and expertise. He then goes on to completely mangle the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of “sexual orientation,” conflating it with a completely different category of sexual paraphilias.

In the last video, we see Lively explaining his three causes of homosexuality. Yes, just three of them. Unfortunately, none of his theoretical causes are supported by peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Queer Youth Novel "Rounding Third" Is About More Than Baseball

Queer author and Pennsylvania native Walter G.Meyer has written a remarkable first novel, “Rounding Third.” At base it's a story of two middle American Gay teens who meet each other on the high-school baseball team in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. But it’s also an intensely moving, often heart-rending tale of the terror under which Queer youth still grow up as well as the often surprising sources of support they find as they struggle with their identities. And, lest readers think this is a problem that we’ve grown beyond as a society, Meyer inserts modern communications technology — the Internet, cell phones, texting and iPods — to make sure readers know these are live issues in 2010 and not dimly remembered horrors of the 1950’s or 1970’s.

Author of Intensely Emotional Queer Book “Rounding Third”


One of the real surprises in Queer-themed publishing this year has been a powerful novel about Queer adolescents called Rounding Third. Written by Walter G. Meyer, a Pennsylvania native who now lives in San Diego, and published by a small house called MaxM Limited, it’s an intense and emotionally wrenching tale of two high-school boys coming to grips with being Gay and falling for each other. As the title and the epigram, quoted above, suggest, it’s also centered around baseball; the protagonists, wiry benchwarmer Rob Wardell and the new boy in school, Josh Schlegel, meet on the baseball team and Rob admires Josh for his grace and power on the diamond and his seeming control of his life outside the ballpark.

For its first half, Rounding Third reads like a pastoral idyll. Set in Ohio — in the fictitious but reality-inspired town of Harrisonburg, supposedly a suburb of Cleveland — the book gently depicts Rob’s growing affection and love for Josh and how he begins to see Josh as a potential refuge from the beatings, the harassment, the fear of his family’s reaction and all the other traumas he’s being subjected to by his burgeoning sexuality. Then, midway through the book, Meyer pitches us a curveball: a wrenching revelation about Josh that not only reshapes the rest of the book but casts what we’ve already read in a quite different light.

As the story continues, Meyer expertly draws the shifts in the power dynamics of Rob’s and Josh’s relationship and the uncertainty with which Rob faces the task of coming out to his family. Though written in the third person, Rounding Third keeps Rob’s emotions and his dilemmas front and center, as he becomes more sure of himself as a person and is surprised not only by who comes down on him but by who supports him as well. Unlike such cold, detached works of Queer fiction as the recent movie Brokeback Mountain, Rounding Third makes us not only feel but ache for the characters.

Meyer’s achievement in Rounding Third is all the more remarkable because, though he’s written professionally since high school and has co-authored two published books — a salesmanship manual called Going for the Green and Day Is Ending, a memoir of a person with Alzheimer’s disease — this is his first work of fiction. A short, wiry man who looks like we’d imagine a grown-up version of his character, Rob, Meyer has also written extensively not only for Queer publications like Out, The Advocate, Hero and Xodus but on Queer and environmental topics for mainstream papers including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Orange Coast magazine and papers in his native Pittsburgh. He’s currently working on a film script based on his Alzheimer’s book, another business manual and Unassisted Triple Play, a sequel to Rounding Third.

Zenger’s: Why don’t you just tell me a little about yourself and your background?

Walter G. Meyer: I’m originally from Pennsylvania, from the suburbs of Pittsburgh. I was on my high school’s baseball team, and that was at some point the genesis for this story. I went to Penn State, where I worked on the student newspaper, and then started free-lancing. Actually I started free-lancing for the local newspaper while I was still in high school, but then went on to free-lance for various newspapers and magazines in Pennsylvania: the Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburger magazine and things like that.

Then I moved to California and started free-lancing for some of the local press out here — Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Orange Coast, San Diego magazine. I write regularly for Out and Advocate, although I guess I won’t be writing for Advocate much longer because they’re going out of business. Another one bites the dust. It’s sad to be in print media these days. This novel has been floating around in my head for about 10 years, and it all finally came together a few years ago and distilled into what I wanted it to be.

Zenger’s: How much of this is autobiographical?

Meyer: The genesis of it is autobiographical. I did try to run my problems away, did push-ups all night long to try to get to sleep, those kinds of crazy things. Those elements of Rob’s character are kind of me. I did have crushes on various other players on the high-school baseball team, and in some cases I sort of thought it was reciprocated, but nobody ever made the first move. So I wrote the book in part to answer the question of what would have happened if somebody had. That was kind of the beginning, and then all the other really bad stuff that happens is based on what happened to friends of mine, people I know, stories I heard over the years. The most remarkable thing since the book was printed is how many people have told me that some parts of it were parts of their lives. I’ve had people actually ask me, “Did you follow me through high school? This is so much me!”

Zenger’s: So you’ve hit on something a lot of people can identify with? “O.K., I was there.”

Meyer: Yes. Exactly. I expected a lot more people to identify with Rob, which is who I identified with, but I’ve been sort of shocked and dismayed by how many people identified with Josh, and all the really bad things that happen in Josh’s family and things like that. There are too many people for whom that was their upbringing: having a father like Josh’s and a family like that that they were so afraid of. It’s really kind of sad.

Zenger’s: I must say the aspect of the book that really impressed me the most was the way you were able to get us into this very intense emotional identification with the characters. You created people we really care about.

Meyer: I think that’s because part of it is real. If you write a fictional character that’s really fictional, it stays in two dimensions and it never really gets to that deeper emotional level. Thank you for the compliment, but that’s just what I was hoping: that you would really feel for these people. As a friend who read an early draft of it for me said, “If you don’t cry at least once reading this, you’re heartless.” I want you to really feel for these kids and what they’re going through.

As far as I know, it’s the only book that I’ve ever seen that was written in third person, but only from one point of view. You only ever see the world from Rob’s point of view. It’s not first person because I didn’t want to take you so deeply inside his head that the surprises — what happened with Josh and things like that, the feelings that he’s having — wouldn’t be surprises. I didn’t want to lie to my reader about what he’s feeling, but everything is through Rob’s eyes. I think that’s what really helps make it seem so emotional and personal: this is Rob’s world, and I want the reader to live in Rob’s world.

I find it interesting that when straight people have read it, they are shocked around page 75 or 80, when they realize that Rob and Josh are hooking up; whereas Gay people who have read it have said, “How is that possible? I figured that out by the third paragraph!” For straight people, it’s just two shy kids trying to become friends. For Gay people, they see the little subtle steps that you were afraid to take big steps in high school. You were afraid to take big steps towards your first boy, and so that kind of emotion is there for people who can read it. A lot of straight people aren’t seeing it that way, because it’s not their world. But all the hints are there.

Zenger’s: I’m somewhat surprised by that, because it’s being presented as a Gay book, and one would think that, if anything, readers might be a bit impatient: “Get on with it! Get on with it!”

Meyer: It’s funny, because Gay people think they’re getting on with it. Straight people don’t know. Yes, it’s been written up in the Gay press, and it’s being sold in Gay bookstores, but I’m not pitching it as a Gay book. Admittedly, the cover is a little homoerotic, but if you read the blurb on the back cover there’s nothing that says it’s Gay. I did that deliberately. I wanted to sort of sucker in the straight audience.

I write editorials for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Gay marriage and things because, frankly, I’m tired of preaching to the choir. We can write for Gay magazines about Gay issues, but the people who need to keep hearing about this are the straight people of Pittsburgh. So any chance I get that I can get this to a wider audience, I would love for this book to be read by more straight people. I would love for more straight people to understand what Gay high-school kids go through every day. So that’s the audience I’m going for.

Yes, it’s being marketed through the Gay media, because that’s where my contacts are. I write for Gay magazines and I know lots of Gay people. But I want it to go out to the wider world, and I am getting write-ups in some straight press, for lack of a better word — or mainstream press — and I think that’s great. It has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, and it would be awesome if it were to win, and I’m sure I’ll put that on the cover if that happens. We’ll do a new cover which will say, “The Literary Award winner.” But most straight people wouldn’t know what that means anyway.

A friend of mine accused me of wanting to live in both worlds and have the best of both worlds. And that’s true. I’m marketing to the Gay audience, but there’s nothing Gay about the cover, and there’s nothing Gay about the title, and a lot of people will read this — I hope — as just a high-school baseball book, to a certain point. Actually, a couple of the friends that I asked to read it, people I worked on the college newspaper with and are still friends, and we still run things by each other, said, “Oh, my God. I get to page 80 and find out it’s a freaking Gay love story!”

But by then they care so much about the characters — they’re so emotionally involved in the characters — that they don’t want to give up, and they have to find out what happens to these kids. Another friend from college read it recently and wrote me a really nasty e-mail of how upset she was because she had to stay up all night reading it, because once it gets into that really gritty part, she said, “I couldn’t put it down, and I screwed up my whole next day, and I had to stay up all night reading your book.” But I’ll take that as a compliment, that you lost a night’s sleep over it.

Zenger’s: One of the things that amazed me about it was in a way our whole point of view about the characters and the story flips around about midway through. There’s some information that you don’t reveal until the book is about half over, and everything that’s happened before suddenly gets cast in a very different light. Alfred Hitchcock did that in a couple of his movies.

Meyer: I’m a huge Hitchcock fan. I love the way that everything you thought was black is white, and everything you thought was white is black, and you’re going, “Wait. How did that happen?” There are very few characters in the book who turn out to be the same people you thought they were. Meg, Rob’s sister, stays pretty consistent throughout. But a lot of people see Coach Hudson as this kind of asshole at the beginning, but I actually — believe it or not — based Coach Hudson on Rudy Giuliani.

I heard an interview with one of Giuliani’s aides right after September 11, and he said he thought it was funny that all of a sudden people thought Giuliani was a hero. He said, “Two weeks ago, they thought he was an asshole.” But an asshole who’s doing things you want him to do is a hero. An asshole who’s doing things you don’t want him to do is just an asshole. And so when Hudson is being stubborn and rigid and dogmatic early in the book, you think he’s just being a jerk. But when he’s being stubborn and dogmatic on the side of good and right, then he’s a hero.

Zenger’s: It seemed like one of the points you were trying to make is you never really know who your friends are, and who your enemies are, and who’s going to turn out to be supportive. It has this kind of open-ended view of human nature that you should be ready for anything, and the support you’re going to get in dealing with issues like this is going to come from some pretty unlikely places.

Meyer: Right. And you’re absolutely right about not really knowing who your friends are. Part of it is autobiographical. The character of Buff Beechler is minimally based on a guy I knew in high school, who was kind of this huge, buff star of the football team. I always assumed that he was a jerk, like all the other jerks on the football team who beat me up on a regular basis. One day when somebody was beating me up, he came over and beat the living crap out of them.

He had never been there to intervene before, and I’d just assumed that, because he was with the football team, he ate with the football team, he did stuff with the football team, that he was one of those jerks. But no. He was very opposed to their bullying, and he ended up getting hauled off to the principal’s office and getting in trouble. And I was trying to tell the principal, “No! He was riding to my rescue!” This wasn’t unwarranted that he beat the crap out of this kid.

Zenger’s: Have you thought of recasting the story from the point of view of one of the other characters, the way Stephenie Meyer is supposedly doing with the original Twilight?

Meyer: No, I had never thought of that, actually. It’s an interesting thought. Josh’s world-view would be so different than the view we have of Josh, certainly in the beginning of the book. The Josh we see in the first 100 pages is a completely different Josh from the one we see in the last 100 pages.

I don’t want this to sound like it’s a serious treatise on world affairs or anything like that, but I did sort of want it to be a microcosm of our society, and the way we treat people, and our world views and things like that. We talk about all these wonderful things like freedom and things like that; but how free are kids in Ohio to walk the halls of their school unmolested? Rob actually says that to his father at one point: “This is about freedom, my freedom.” I hope some of that comes through.

There are lots of little patriotic references in there, and a couple of people — mainly literature majors — picked up on this. There’s the Pledge of Allegiance, and there’s people putting flags at the cemetery, and there’s the flags of his grandfathers’ coffins on display in their living room. There are a lot of these patriotic references that say the United States really wants to be this champion of freedom and democracy around the world, but how many kids in Ohio — and the rest of America — really don’t feel free? Josh certainly doesn’t. By the end of the book Rob has achieved a certain degree of freedom, but at a pretty high cost.

One of the people who read this said that he was glad that I had used the word “iPod” on page one or two, when Rob’s iPod gets knocked off into the weeds, because he said otherwise he would have liked to believe this took place in 1950 or something, when kids got beat up and bullied for being Gay and stuff like that. But this stuff still goes on all the time. If you read the Gay press, certainly, and even the mainstream press, kids still get attacked on a regular basis, and in Pennsylvania, an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh, there was just a deal where this family was suing the school district for not protecting their Gay son from all the kids bullying him at school.

So that’s still very much the same world. If you take Interstate 80 straight across from where Rob lives, it would take you right past the town where this happened, 2 1/2 hours down the road. So it’s very much still an ongoing problem. I don’t want anyone to think this is ancient history, and I think that’s why I did make sure I included terms like “iPod” and communicating on their computers and texting and stuff, because I don’t want anybody to pick this up and think, “Oh, this is 1970. Stuff happened like that back then.”

Zenger’s: Yes, at the beginning of the book Josh seems to have it all; and then you peel it, like an onion.

Meyer: Yes. When I got to know some people in college that I thought I knew in high school, and saw them as just completely different people, it’s like they were putting on this front to the world. They were every bit as insecure and scared as I was. They were just better actors than I was in high school! Josh has certainly learned to cover his insecurities and project this heroic image, that it’s a surprise when we soon find out he’s not that much of a hero.

Zenger’s: One of the questions I asked myself reading that, is how would I have coped with it if I’d had to go through what he went through, probably because it was so far from my experience. I mean, I always knew I was quote-“different”-unquote, but it wasn’t until my early 20’s that I realized that it had something to do with my sexual orientation. Until then I was always intellectually for Gay people and Gay rights, but I didn’t think it applied to me, and it wasn’t until I was 30 that I definitively came out.

Meyer: I think it’s interesting that I already knew that. I wasn’t out to myself and I wasn’t out to anyone else, but when people in grade school or high school would call each other “faggot” or “fairy” or whatever, I took that personally, because deep down, secretly, I knew I was. So many other people who weren’t never heard that as anything more than “jerk” or “asshole” or whatever other generic comment kids call each other. But I thought they were singling me out. And when I finally did come out, and I talked to friends that I’ve had since grade school or high school, they were all completely clueless. I thought that people were calling me “faggot” because they really knew I was, and nobody suspected. I had learned to cover so well that nobody knew, and I thought that was ironic that all this time I was living in fear of something that nobody knew.

The stuff that happens to Josh is an amalgam of five or six different people’s stories, which were all fairly similar. But apparently for a lot of people, that is not an uncommon experience: they are blackmailed at school and then set upon at home. Josh is sort of caught between a rock and a hard place, and that’s part of why he is so eager to latch on to Rob and his family. He has finally found security.

I did an interview recently in which the person knew nothing about baseball, and asked me about the title, Rounding Third. I told him it’s a baseball term; if you’re rounding third, you’re trying to make your way home. And so that’s what Josh is trying to do. Josh is trying to find a home, and Rob finally finds a home in his own family. He wasn’t “home” at home, even, until he came out and grew into a man, really. It is a coming-of-age story, too, and he never feels at home in his own house and with his own family until he can be honest with himself and with them.

So many different people have e-mailed me and told me in person such different comments about it that I actually referred to it recently as a literary Rorschach test, in which whatever character you latch on to and whichever scenes really stand out to you says something about you and your upbringing and your life up to that point. Somebody just mentioned to me recently a scene that in the overall scheme of the book isn’t all that important, but they really related to, was when Rob’s father’s friend and his wife come to visit, and she goes off on this anti-Gay tirade.

This person was saying that they had had several experiences like that in their life, where somebody that they thought thought a certain way about Gays didn’t, and this couple has this argument over, “Well, I always thought you thought the same thing I thought about this.” They clearly have very different points of view, but they never talked about it because they just assumed that they were on the same page. This couple that’s obviously been married 20 years have never talked about Gay rights until they’re confronted with a Gay couple, and then they have to think this out and talk this out.

Zenger’s: Why on earth would they? I mean, we’re not really an issue. I don’t think anybody really feels they have to grapple with the Gay issue unless they are confronted with it personally, unless it does come from someone they know. Their son, their relative, their friend suddenly says, “I’m Gay,” or gets “outed” in some other way, and then all of a sudden this isn’t just an abstract thing anymore, It isn’t just guys in dresses or Speedos on the six o’clock news.

Meyer: Right, right. And this is obviously a kid these people have known his whole life, and suddenly they’re confronted with this whole different world. I included that scene to demonstrate that. We’re often confronted with things that we don’t have any frame of reference to; and when we do, how do we react?

When I first wrote the book, it was a lot longer than it is and my agent said it had to be a whole lot shorter. I carefully pared it down to keep the scenes that to me were not only really dramatic and interesting, but also depicted our culture as a whole. Again, I don’t want to make it sound like this serious tome. It’s not. I hope it’s a fast-paced story that you can just read for the fun of the story. But there’s clearly this underpinning that this is a microcosm of our society and how we look at people — I almost said “Gay people,” but really people in general — and sometimes unfairly.

I mean, Rob judges a lot of people unfairly, but based on his frame of reference that everyone’s out to get him, he’s having a hard time distinguishing between his own paranoia and who’s really out to get him. You know the old saying, “It isn’t paranoia if they really are out to get you.”= By the end of the book he has learned very much to differentiate who is on his side and who is not, and where to find friends.

Zenger’s: Why did you set it in Ohio?

Meyer: Their license plates used to say, “The Heart of It All.” In many ways, to me Ohio symbolized the heart of it all. I knew Ohio fairly well; my sister lived in a suburb of Cleveland for years. It’s very similar to Pittsburgh, where I grew up; 2 1/2 hours away from another industrial-type town, and although Pittsburgh isn’t technically in the Midwest it’s on the fringe of the Midwest. Ohio is the beginning of the Midwest, and it seemed like really Middle America to me. There are very few wasted words in here, like when Josh hits a batting-practice home run it’s over the Harrisonburg Chevrolet banner, because I wanted this to epitomize Chevrolet and baseball and America. And to me Ohio did that.

The encapsulation I do of Rob’s term paper that gets him a “D” on Ohio’s presidents was partially wanting to express how much Ohio is the bedrock of America. But also sort of this twisted version of America. As he says in his term paper, Virginia brags about all its great presidents — Washington and Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson — and Ohio gets Garfield and McKinley, guys who were only known for being shot. As Rob says, the loser side of America is based in Ohio. It was to symbolize the flip side of the all-American coin.

I haven’t got any nasty letters from anybody in Ohio taking me to task for that. I actually sort of thought I might get hate mail from Ohio saying, “How dare you!” But when I was asked to speak as the keynote speaker of Cleveland’s coming-out day by the Cleveland Center, I actually read the chapter about “Ohio, Land of Losers,” and most of these Gay kids at this coming-out day very much shared my opinion of Ohio as not being the best place to be, and most expressed their desire to get out of Ohio as soon as possible. As the old saying people often use about Michigan or Pittsburg goes, “It’s a nice place to be from.”

Zenger’s: You mentioned writing commentaries on Gay issues for non-Gay papers. You mentioned an article you did on same-sex marriage. When you have a chance to address a non-Gay audience, what do you tell them? Why should they care about same-sex marriage?

Meyer: The piece I did for the Post-Gazette basically said it doesn’t impact your life one way or the other. It does a heck of a lot for the people who want to get married, but it really doesn’t impact your life at all. I wrote the piece for the Post-Gazette very tongue-in-cheek, that since Massachusetts legalized Gay marriage the entire state has gone to hell: people can’t be bothered staying married when there’s Gay sex to be had. Doctors no longer are treating their patients because they’re too busy having Gay sex. Teachers are no longer teaching because they’re too busy having Gay sex, and pretty much the whole state is crumbling before our eyes.

In reality, of course, none of that has happened. Nothing has changed except a lot of people are a lot happier in Massachusetts. In fact, they have the lowest divorce rate in the United States. Why is this a threat to traditional marriage? It doesn’t threaten your marriage at all — unless you’re secretly Gay — and that’s another point I make in Rounding Third when Rob says to Josh, “Don’t you understand why Danny is so mean to us? Because he’s Gay, and he can’t beat himself up, so he beats us up.” He cites Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover and Ted Haggard and all of these people who lash out at other Gay people because they can’t admit they’re Gay.

The only people whose marriages are threatened by Gay people are people who are closeted Gays and are afraid, if it’s a little too easy to be with Gay people, I’ll leave my wife and go sleep with them. Otherwise, you don’t care! There aren’t that many straight people who are really concerned about Gay guys hooking up, because they don’t plan to hook up with Gay guys. And the term “homophobia” is really accurate, because before I came out I was afraid to be around Gay people, because they presented a threat to me. If you’re completely straight, you’re not threatened by some Gay guy sitting next to you, because you know nothing’s ever going to happen. In my case, I wasn’t afraid of what he wanted to do to me; I was afraid of what I wanted to do with him!

When I get the chance to preach to someone other than the choir, I tell them you’re just giving equal rights to people who deserve it, and it takes nothing away from you. It threatens you in no way whatsoever, and if you really analyze why you feel threatened, you need to see a psychiatrist because you’ve got issues within yourself.

Zenger’s: Do you think there’s going to be a movie?

Meyer: I would certainly hope so. I would love for there to be a movie of it, and in my mind I at times cast it, who I would like to play Rob and Josh. In fact, a friend of mine said last night that she had just seen Taylor Lautner from Twilight on Saturday Night Live, and she said, “He’d make a good Danny.” He’s that good looking, but also has this edge about him that he could easily play that role. And I was thinking, “Yes, he really could. That would be a good choice.”

If it gets made I would want a little tiny part in it, not a big enough part to screw up the movie or anything. I would actually want to play his father’s friend, the lawyer whose wife freaks out. His sort of smart-ass casualness about the whole thing I think I could play very well.