Saturday, March 23, 2013

Marriage, Fairness, and the Supremes: No Going Back

by Frank Bruni - New York Times - 3/23/13:

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen advocates of gay rights — of equal rights, I should say — as revved up as they are right now, with the Supreme Court poised, on Tuesday and Wednesday, to consider same-sex marriage in two separate cases.

But while they’re watching this moment raptly and hopefully, it’s not with a sense that the fate of the cause hangs in the balance. Quite the opposite. They’re watching it with an entirely warranted confidence, verging on certainty, that no matter what the justices say during this coming week’s hearings and no matter how they rule months from now, the final chapter of this story has in fact been written. The question isn’t whether there will be a happy ending. The question is when.

That’s what’s truly remarkable about this juncture: the aura of inevitability that hovers over it. In an astonishingly brief period of time, this country has experienced a seismic shift in opinion — a profound social and political revolution — when it comes to gay and lesbian people. And it’s worth pausing, on the cusp of the court hearings, to take note of this change and to mull what’s behind it.

As for the change itself, look at the last month alone. Look merely at the Republican Party. Although its 2012 platform called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, scores of prominent Republicans, including a few senior advisers to Mitt Romney’s campaign, broke ranks in late February and put their names to a Supreme Court amicus brief in favor of marriage equality.

That these dissidents can’t be dismissed as pure anomalies was made clear at the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend. CPAC, mind you, is no enclave of moderation and reason. It’s more like an aviary for the far-right “wacko birds” whom John McCain recently called out.

But as BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner, who covered the conference, noted, “Opponents of gay rights spoke to a nearly empty room, while supporters had a standing-room-only crowd.” That observation came under a headline that said, “At CPAC, the Marriage Fight Is Over.” The article went on to quote a bit of counsel that the Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin gave her fellow conservatives. On the issue of same-sex marriage, she told them, the country was headed in one and only one direction. Republicans could either get with the program or get comfy with their image of being woefully out of touch.

The BuzzFeed article was posted last Sunday. On Thursday, in Politico, came the sweeping declaration that March 2013 would perhaps go down as “the month when the political balance on this issue shifted unmistakably from risky to safe.” That assessment reflected formal endorsements of same-sex marriage, in less than a week’s span, by both Rob Portman and Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, tellingly, didn’t just articulate her position in the course of a broader interview or speech. She released a precisely scripted video dedicated to marriage equality, and that spotlight and care spoke volumes about the way this issue has suddenly become central to Democratic politics: something a serious national figure who wants party approval and donor dollars must support and must get right.

What a difference four years make. In 2008, both Clinton and Barack Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage. Just a year ago, that was still Obama’s formal stance. But by the summer of 2012, marriage equality had made its way into the party platform. Now it’s woven into the party’s very fiber.

There’s no going back. In an ABC News/Washington Post survey released early last week, respondents nationwide favored marriage equality by a 58-to-36 margin. That’s an exact flip of a similar survey just seven years ago, when the margin was 36-to-58.

And among young Americans, who will obviously make up more and more of the electorate as time goes by, support was stronger still. The ABC/Washington Post survey showed that 81 percent of people in the 18-to-29 age group endorsed marriage equality.

The buildup to the Supreme Court hearings has demonstrated the breadth of diversity of support for it. There have been amicus briefs signed, or proclamations of solidarity issued, by dozens of professional athletes and by the American Academy of Pediatrics, by tech giants and accounting firms and retailers and airlines. Somewhere along the way, standing up for gay marriage went from nervy to trendy. It’s the Harlem Shake of political engagement.

And the unstoppable advances made by gays and lesbians were suggested by a quiet but revealing statement recently by the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who signaled that the organization would put a new emphasis on transgender equality.

THESE advances happened in largest part because of the increased visibility of gay people who have had the courage and optimism to share their lives and truths with family, friends, colleagues. Although many critics nitpicked Portman for changing his views only out of what was deemed a selfish concern for his own gay son, that’s precisely the way many people are illuminated and tugged along: by emotion, not abstraction; by what’s immediate and personal, not what’s foreign and theoretical. Clinton has acknowledged as much by citing the influence of gays and lesbians she has known and respected. And the decades-long rallying cry of the gay-rights movement — come out, come out, so that Americans understand the impact of discrimination on people they care about — was predicated on that wrinkle of human nature.

Additionally, the quest for same-sex marriage has forced many Americans to view gays and lesbians in a fresh light. We’re no longer so easily stereotyped and dismissed as rebels atop parade floats, demanding permission to behave outside society’s norms. We’re aspirants to tradition, communicating shared values and asserting a fundamentally conservative desire, at least among many of us, for families, stability, commitment. What’s so threatening about any of that?

And who really loses if we win? Where’s the injured party? The abortion debate grinds on in part because to those who believe that life begins at conception and warrants full protection from then on, every pro-choice victory claims victims. The gun debate grinds on because new restrictions are just that — restrictions — and no matter how justifiable and necessary they may be, opponents will rail that their freedom is being curtailed.

But the legalization of same-sex marriage takes nothing from anyone, other than the illusion, which is all it is and ever was, that healthy, nurturing relationships are reserved for people of opposite sexes.

The Supreme Court cases and their resolutions indeed matter. If the court doesn’t dismantle the Defense of Marriage Act, there’s no telling how many more years will pass before this repugnant 1996 law tumbles in some other way and before gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such weddings are treated equally under federal law.

And the court could, in its ruling on the constitutionality of a California ban against same-sex marriage, hasten the spread of marriage equality beyond those nine states and the District of Columbia. For now the count builds slowly, through time-consuming, patience-fraying, expensive legislative and referendum battles, and a matter of basic fairness is beholden to local politics and pockets of enduring bigotry.

But fairness is where we’re heading, at least in regard to marriage, which has emerged as the terrain on which Americans are hashing out their feelings about gays and lesbians. The trajectory is undeniable. The trend line is clear. And the choice before the justices is whether to be handmaidens to history, or whether to sit it out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Family Values Explained So People With Extra-Thick Heads Can Understand

Hillary Clinton really breaks it down for the proud people of the United States of America. Whether you believe in family values, economic prosperity, freedom, or old-fashioned setting a good example, fully legalizing gay marriage is obviously the right choice.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Family Values: Key ‘Ex-Gay’ Activist Admits He Molested ‘Little Girls’

by Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out:

In a shocking admission, Christopher Doyle, a board member for Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and blogger for the Christian Post, admits that while he was an adolescent he got in trouble for molesting “little girls” that his mother was responsible for watching in her daycare center. According to “Christopher’s Story,” which was previously posted on PFOX’s website, Doyle confessed:

"I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing. The shame that was placed on me by my parents was more than I could bear. Rather than rescue me, teach me, and put me in counseling, the ‘bad boy’ was left alone to deal with all of this shame.”

Doyle claims that he was only ten years old at the time of the illegal incidents. Still, such disturbing behavior is rather unusual and raises enormous red flags in our view, considering Doyle’s access to youth as a therapist. He is currently a counselor at the International Healing Foundation (IHF), a business where the therapists regularly pet vulnerable clients in a technique called “touch therapy.” IHF has long focused on youth and its founder, Richard Cohen, has written a bizarre “ex-gay” children’s book “Alfie’s Home.” Doyle is also a key member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which claims that 50% of their clients are LGBT youth.

Perhaps most alarming, Doyle has started a company, Acception Productions, that is working to get its anti-gay videos — that deceptively pretend to be anti-bullying videos — into public schools. At the time of publication, Doyle has not provided the ages of the girls he admits to “trying to have sex with.”

It could be that Doyle’s confessed youthful perversion only occurred during that time period, many years ago. However, one must take pause when looking a his career, one that disturbingly goes through great lengths to place Doyle in close proximity to youth.

The question that parents should ask: Do they want Christopher Doyle, given his notorious past, engaging in touch therapy with their sons and daughters?

Family Values that Diane Gramley, and Other Right Wing Bigots, Could Never Understand

Dear Justice Roberts,

My name is Daniel Martinez-Leffew. I'm 12 years old and I live in northern California. I have a younger sister named Salina, and we were adopted by two dads.

We were adopted when I was five and my sister was about twelve months old.

When I was in foster care I was told that I was considered unadoptable because of my Goldenhar syndrome. That is a genetic disorder that affects the whole left side of my body.

I lost my little brother Emilio because some people wanted to adopt him, but they weren't willing to adopt me because of my medical conditions.

Lucky for me, that's when my two dads came along.

I recently found out that you yourself adopted two kids, a boy and a girl, kind of like me and my sister.

Family means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but some people believe that you have to have the same blood to be a family.

You and I both know that family goes deeper than blood.

I was lucky to be adopted by two guys I can both call dad. They give me and my sister so much love. My dad Jay works in San Francisco as a deputy sheriff, and my dad Bryan stays at home and takes care of me and my sister.

My dads really encourage me to excel in life. Since I want to be a cook when I grow up, they're letting me take cooking classes. My parents want me to improve, whether it's schoolwork, or my social life.

I know you have a tough decision to make with the gay marriage issue, but my family is just as valuable and worthwhile as any other.

It's especially tough for you because I know you don't necessarily believe in gay marriage religiously.

Lucky for us, though, you also don't believe in taking away a right, even from people like us.

My family and I have spent the last four years making YouTube videos to show people who don't understand that our family is like any other. If Prop 8 is allowed to stand, imagine the pain we would feel knowing that we are not considered equal to everyone else.

I guess to end this, it is important that all families are protected and valued. In our country we may not all be the same, but we are all Americans and deserve an equal chance at bettering our lives.

I hope you make the right decision in the end.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why the 'Ex-Gay' Industry Is Going Under

There is evidence that the so-called ex-gay industry is becoming less viable by the day, says Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out in the latest issue of Newsweek:

This has been a particularly bad couple of weeks for the “ex-gay” industry.

First, it was reported that the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s tax-exempt status was revoked last September. This group is a notorious antigay propaganda mill that portrays LGBT people as mentally ill and tries to “cure” them of their homosexuality.

The IRS revocation was the result of NARTH not filing Form 990 for three consecutive years. This could have been due to administrative incompetence. Or the group’s revenues may have decreased sharply, and officials chose to not file to avoid public scrutiny of their financial failures. In NARTH’s last 990 filing, in 2008, the group reported a loss of $29,692 on total revenue of $137,143.

In any case, this is a victory because NARTH will no longer be collecting tax-deductible donations. It strips the group of its already shredded credibility and eliminates its thin veneer of professionalism. Not surprisingly, on its website the antigay organization continues to portray donations as “tax-deducible,” deliberately misleading the public and even its own contributors.

Second, the “ex-gay” industry took a hit in New Jersey this week, when the state Senate’s Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee voted 7-1 with two abstentions, to advance a bill that would prohibit licensed therapists from trying to “cure” gay minors. The Garden State bill was similar to California’s SB1172, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown but is currently being contested in court.

Clearly, NARTH is on the ropes and in deep trouble For years, the organization published books and worked closely with religious organizations, such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family, to promote the message that gay people did not exist and were simply “heterosexuals with a homosexual problem.”

Another function of the organization was to promote junk science and distort valid biological and psychological research on homosexuality. This has caused leading researchers, such as University of Utah’s Lisa Diamond and UCLA’s Allan Schore, to accuse NARTH of twisting and politicizing their research.

NARTH’s deterioration began in 2006 after Gerald Schoenwolf, a member of its Scientific Advisory Committee, wrote a polemic on the group’s website that seemed to excuse slavery:

“With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America,” wrote Schoenwolf. “It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle … those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa.”

In 2010, NARTH became a laughingstock when its most prominent Scientific Advisory Committee member, George Rekers, was caught vacationing with a male escort he met on That same year, it was revealed that another NARTH board member, Arthur Abba Goldberg, had once served time in prison for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes.

It is not the tawdry scandals, however, but the actual substance of NARTH’s work that is responsible for the organization losing support. The group is a fount of bizarre theories and outlandish practices that can even make social conservatives cringe. For example, Scientific Advisory Committee member Gerard van den Aardweg believes that self-pity causes homosexuality. In his book Hope and Homosexuality, he claims the cure for being gay is “humor therapy,” in which clients are told to mock their inner child:

“He then imagines his ‘little child’ as standing before him in the flesh, or visualizes himself in his imagination as the ‘child’ he was in his past. He starts talking to this ‘child,’ like someone who exaggeratedly pities another. He tells the ‘child’ how enormously pitiful he is; accumulating a series of fantasized reasons for his complaining, he paints before this ‘child’s’ eyes a super-drama (hyper-drama) surrounding the complaint.”

Equally comical is a workbook sold on NARTH’s website, Practical Exercises for Men in Recovery of Same Sex Attraction (SSA). The author, James E. Phelan, below with bag over head, offers a comprehensive list of 236 activities clients can participate in whenever they feel homosexual urges. This list includes bowling, singing to myself, watching the sky, reading maps, caring for houseplants, going to a revival or crusade, seeing famous people, crying, seeing or smelling a flower or plant, going to a drive-through (Dairy Queen, McDonalds, etc.), walking barefoot, bird-watching, smiling at people, playing Frisbee, and going to auctions.

Additionally, Phelan has clients practice “safe driving” and warns, “Keep your eyes on the road, not on other people’s cars. Focus on driving, not having sex with other drivers.” Phelan also urges readers to create a “masturbation action plan” and to tell their wives, “Let me be the man of the house,” and concludes that “dominant women only demasculinize men,” so “a man has got to be the lion of the den.”

What people need to understand is that these programs are fringe and rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in the nation, such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

Indeed, reparative therapy is arguably not even therapy at all. It appears to be an organized campaign by antigay activists to hijack medical language to stigmatize a group of people so they will not achieve equal rights. The result is enormous psychological harm to clients and a negative impact on family relationships, because parents are falsely blamed for causing their children to be gay.

For these reasons, laws should be passed in every state to prohibit charlatans from abusing LGBT minors in the guise of “therapy.”

NARTH counters that this will inhibit “client determination.” However, deceptive advertising that makes false promises is what lures desperate and vulnerable parents to force their children into therapy. Moreover, if clients truly determined their course of medical treatment, they would be writing their own prescriptions, and I don’t see anyone advocating this.

NARTH argues that if such therapy is banned for minors, it violates therapists’ First Amendment rights. It seems NARTH practitioners have confused their role as physicians — who are held accountable for what they advise — with the bombast of talk radio hosts who can say whatever they want. Indeed, there are limits to medical speech; for example, a doctor may be held liable if he tells a patient recovering from a heart attack to improve his health by subsisting on a diet of funnel cakes and fried butter.

A final unconvincing argument is that such laws are an attack on parental rights. We heard this argument in the New Jersey hearing:

“I don’t understand who you people are, trying to come into our homes and tell us what to do with our children,” Carol Gallentine told the legislators. “I see you people bullying the parents.”

In reality, the government has long tradition in intervening to stop the neglect or abuse of children. For instance, a parent cannot use religious beliefs to deny a child critical medical treatment. A father can’t force a daughter to undergo female circumcision or cite a Bible verse about “sparing the rod” to justify beating his son.

Reparative therapy is always dangerous and ineffective because it begins with a deliberate misdiagnosis that claims that gay clients are mentally ill. When a therapist begins treatment with such a faulty premise, malpractice is almost always the result. This is why I strongly believe that psychologists who are NARTH members or practice reparative therapy should be stripped of their medical licenses.

There are a few well-meaning but misguided therapists who think that what I suggest is going too far because it will create a slippery slope. What they are essentially arguing, however, is that we must allow the practice of an illegitimate form of therapy to prevent potential overregulation of legitimate therapy. But in doing so, they are willfully sacrificing the mental health of clients who are being ripped off and ruined. They seem to forget that the first rule of medicine is to do no harm. And, of course, harm is the very essence of reparative therapy.

WAYNE BESEN is the founder of Truth Wins Out, a movement to fight antigay propaganda and the "ex-gay" industry.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is George Will Homophobic?

His Rejection Of The Social Science On Gay Marriage 
Is Incoherent, Embarrassing, And Anti-Gay

by Nathaniel Frank for Slate:

In a conservative movement seized by extremists, George Will is one of the sane ones. But his recent rejection of social science as having any role to play in the gay marriage debate is wildly off the mark. It’s intellectually dishonest, scientifically ignorant, and—I’ll say it—anti-gay.

 Will claims that reasonable people disagree about gay marriage “because so little is known about its consequences.” He quotes a legal brief by conservative scholars affiliated with a famously anti-gay think tank that calls research about gay marriage and parenting “radically inconclusive.” He then warns the Supreme Court—which will hear oral arguments on two gay marriage cases next week—to be wary “about social science that purports to prove propositions … for which there cannot yet be decisive evidence.” In other words, he suggests the value of research on gay marriage is currently zero.

Suppose a group of people claim that redheads can’t enter the town square because they’ll drive away commerce, badly harming the economy—and then this group gets a law passed barring redheads from public spaces. To reverse the discriminatory law, they then argue, redheads must spend however long it takes to amass definitive proof that entering the town square won’t cause harm (which is impossible since you can’t conduct research on scenarios you won’t permit). When redheads nevertheless begin to produce a growing body of research that points conclusively to the fact that their presence does not harm commerce, the law’s defenders consistently reply, “It still might; more research is needed.”

That is the position Will is defending in the gay marriage debate. The very idea that gay equality would cause serious harm is the kind of belief you hold if you’re already inclined to think, usually for moral reasons, that homosexuality is harmful, that is, if you’re anti-gay. Otherwise, there’d be no better reason to assume gay marriage is harmful than there is from letting redheads go to market.

Although the real basis of most opposition to same-sex marriage is moral, conservatives have found that arguments alleging harm to society are more powerful than ones that simply declare what they don’t like to be morally wrong. So they have spent a generation making the case that gay equality would cause all kinds of social disruptions. It’s exactly the same tactic that was recently proven profoundly wrong when the Pentagon lifted its ban on openly gay service despite continuous claims that doing so could destroy the military.

Advocates of equality have responded by conducting research on gay families that has consistently shown such fears to be ungrounded. George Will calls this body of work “spurious social science by supporters of same-sex marriage” and complains that it “purports to prove” something that can’t yet be proven. But serious scholars don’t claim that social science proves gay marriage is OK. It’s the other way around: Anti-gay activists dream up harms that gay equality would cause and claim social science proves it—even though they’ve never supplied such proof. What the most responsible advocates of gay equality claim is that social science helps dismantle conservative claims of harm and strongly suggests the kids are OK. We use the research defensively, out of necessity, because anti-gay advocates make baseless empirical predictions that we’re obligated to refute.

Will also gets the scientific method wrong, offering an impossibly high—and wholly incorrect—bar for what constitutes scientific proof, leaving no way for the pro-gay side to ever convince him that the bogus harms conservatives have dreamed up are unlikely to happen. He suggests that the “scientific standard” requires “large random samples with appropriate control samples” and concludes, quoting the conservative legal brief, that “there neither are nor could possibly be any scientifically valid studies from which to predict the effects of a family structure that is so new and so rare.”

But research doesn’t have to use random samples to be scientific. The scientific method demands systematic analysis based on empirical observation. While large random samples are the gold standard, that doesn’t mean that all other research is unscientific. It just lessens—somewhat—its predictive value. And bear in mind that even the largest research studies on public policy issues only offer predictions, not guarantees, about future outcomes. The difference here is one of degree.

What does the social science actually tell us? Statistics on marriage rates show consistently that they have not dropped in states and countries that allow gay marriage, as examined in Slate. But since gay marriage is so new, so are these results, and no one ever promised civilization would end in a day.

The bulk of the controversy surrounds research on gay parenting. At least 45 scholarly studies have compared children of gay and straight parents and found no disadvantages to the former. It’s true that many have small, nonrandom sample sizes—often about 30-50 families. But when you aggregate 45 consecutive studies—even small ones—that all reach the same conclusion, what you end up with is an almost unheard-of scholarly consensus. “Rarely is there as much consensus in any area of social science as in the case of gay parenting,” said Judith Stacey, the New York University sociologist who is one of the deans of gay parenting scholarship.

In any event, not all the studies are small or nonrandom. A 2010 Stanford study used census data, instead of a convenience sampling or self-reporting, to examine 3,500 children of same-sex couples. It compared their school progress to more than 600,000 kids of straight parents and found no differences. Other studies are “longitudinal,” increasing statistical reliability by tracking developments over many years. The longest-running and largest such study, the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, followed 78 lesbian-headed households for more than 25 years. Led by Nanette Gartrell, a UCLA-based psychiatrist and researcher, the study found no disadvantages (and a few advantages) to children with lesbian moms.

Is there any research showing disadvantages for kids with gay parents? Try as they might, conservative scholars, often funded by anti-gay think tanks, have failed to produce a single study. In the most embarrassing recent effort, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus was formally reprimanded for publishing a study (which he wrote about for Slate) that he claimed had a massive sampling pool; in reality the number of children of same-sex couples he surveyed was a whopping two. (Last week it was reported that conservative funders bankrolled the study and urged Regnerus to rush it to maximize its influence on the Supreme Court.) Whatever you may say about the limits of the gay parenting studies—and all research has limits—the pro-gay research is currently winning, 45-0.

Absent actual evidence, the religious right has routinely used studies of single-parent and divorced households to allege that any family lacking a father—that is, even if it has two loving moms—is bad for kids. They cite research showing that two parents are better than one, and since all that research has focused on opposite-sex parents, they conflate number with gender and rally around the talking point that kids need “a mother and a father.” Appallingly, George Will has now stooped to this level, citing the allegation of conservative scholars that “research concluded that growing up without fathers had significant negative effects on boys,” even though that research never included households with two gay parents—and this after complaining about “inappropriate invocations of spurious social science” by liberals.

None of this should matter. Even if gay parenting did disadvantage kids, it wouldn’t follow that gay marriage should be banned since gay people—like single and divorced people—will have kids no matter what. How could banning gay marriage help those—or any—kids? And if we based straight marriage rights on predicting durability, half the country wouldn’t be allowed to wed.

But the research does matter, because conservatives have made it matter, and it may very well influence the Supreme Court. It’s true we don’t know everything about gay marriage and parenting, but what we do know is important to get right.

Monday, March 18, 2013

From Harvey Milk to 58% Support for Marriage Equality

by Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post 3/18/13:

In a powerful 1978 speech celebrating the defeat of California’s Proposition 6, banning gays from teaching in the public schools, Harvey Milk, the openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, urged other gay men and lesbians to come out. It would be an extension of a vast campaign to humanize the gay community.

"So far, a lot of people joined us and rejected Proposition 6 and now we owe them something. We owe them to continue the education campaign that took place. We must destroy the myths, once and for all, shatter them. We must continue to speak out. And, most importantly, most importantly, every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends, if indeed they are your friends. You must tell your neighbors. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all."

Nearly 35 years later, we are seeing the incredible impact of those words.

Will Portman came out to his family two years ago. That his father is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a powerful establishment Republican who has anti-gay votes and rhetoric in his past, makes what Will did all the more brave. But Will’s action and his father’s reaction — coming out in favor of same-sex marriage — is one of two examples of the power of coming out in the last few days.

Today, The Post-ABC News poll reports that support for marriage equality is at 58 percent. That’s an all-time high. Republicans remain firmly against it (59 percent) and Republicans older than 65 really are against it (68 percent). But 52 percent of the GOP age 18 to 45 support same-sex marriage.

“Public attitudes toward gay marriage are a mirror image of what they were a decade ago,” writes Jon Cohen, director of polling at Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media, “in 2003, 37 percent favored gay nuptials, and 55 percent opposed them.” Also, “Fully 62 percent of Americans now say being gay is just the way some people are, not something people choose to be,” Cohen points out.

These are remarkable statistics because gay people like Will Portman had the courage to be honest with themselves and their families. This turnaround is also due to straight people being moved to acceptance by relatives, friends, neighbors and anyone else capable of opening their eyes to the fight for equality by gays. As Milk so poignantly said, “Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Good, Bigoted People

By Nico Lang - The Huffington Post:

When you're a kid, you don't see difference. You're trained to see difference by a society that tells you that other people are not like you. You are told to hate that.

My parents taught me what gay people were. Before he divorced my mother, I remember watching a Richard Simmons video at home with my father and Julia, our nurse. Julia loved Richard Simmons and so did I -- for his loud costumes, wild hair and the way the screen lit up when he was on camera. Simmons didn't look like most other people I saw on TV, and his voice was unbearably shrill, but I liked that. It was how my prepubescent, pre-queer voice sounded. I thought he meant I could be myself. Instead, my father made us change the channel, because he didn't want to watch that. I asked him what "that" was. I wanted know why I wasn't allowed to sweat to the oldies. I felt like Lucy Ricardo, kept from the one thing I really wanted for reasons that weren't clear. Why couldn't I be in the show? He wouldn't say.

The next time I saw Richard Simmons on TV, I changed the channel myself.

A few years later, I was driving down the road with my mother after we went to get a soda at the store. I bought a Sprite because it had the most bubbles, and I liked the way they tickled my nose when they reached the surface. I put it between my legs so I could put my hands out the rolled-down window, trying to grab the summer air. We were listening to Elton John, as he pined in space for a home he could never return to. Elton John was my mother's favorite, and she loved him dearly. She sometimes would sway with him in the dark as she got used to a life without my father. Elton was her candle in the divorce. However, she told me that if she I found out I was "like that," she would "lock me in a closet and beat me." I got it now.

I accidentally squeezed the Sprite between my legs, and the bubbles burst everywhere. They didn't tickle this time. They were cold.

I brought this incident up to my mother almost a decade afterward, because it was a formative memory from my childhood. When I grew older and my queerness became apparent, my mother became an ally and, more importantly, someone I could talk to, and she doesn't remember a time when she was not supportive or wasn't by my side, fighting with me. But I remember things differently. I remember when I was nine and having a hard time relating to the other kids around me, not as athletic and coordinated as the other boys or socially adept enough to hang out with the girls. I felt like I would never be accepted or have someone to love me for who I was.

When I asked her if she would be my friend, my mother admitted that if she were my age, she wouldn't be. She didn't hang out with kids like me back when she was in school.

She probably thought she was being helpful by being honest. She was being a good mother, sparing me years of pain by encouraging me to just fit in and keep my difference to myself. I needed to be like other boys -- or I would always be picked on for being too short and too much of a "sissy." I would always be the kid whose backpack was thrown in the garbage can and the one nobody would sit next to on the bus. I was destined to be alone. Adolescence is much easier when you drift along with the current and stop fighting the waves. It's a lot like drowning.

You don't hate by accident. You have to be taught to hate -- in little ways that are reinforced every day, ways you might not even recognize. In my case, hating yourself takes a lifetime. It involves the help of many people around you. It takes standing in church and watching everyone talk to a God they think hates you, listening to a bunch of people silently pray that you will pay for being different, because they think it's the right thing to do. They think they are doing what God wants. I remember the nice ladies in church who hugged me when I was in the closet and hugged me differently after I came out, when I kept going to the same Baptist congregation, daring them not to accept me. They hugged me harder because they didn't want to let go of something. They just weren't sure of what.

No one thinks of themselves as a bigot. They don't look in the mirror and say, "I hate gay people. I am a homophobe." Those women didn't hate me. They loved me so much that they didn't want me to stay the way I was. They didn't want me to experience an eternity of damnation. They wanted to save me, just like my mother did. My mother didn't want me to come home crying or have to stay up late with me because I was too scared to go to school the next day. She didn't want the world to break my heart at such a young age, and it was too hard to ask everyone around me to change. So she asked me to change and broke my heart her own way. I was the one being punished again for not understanding what being different meant.

I thought about this some months ago when I read a tweet from "Morgon Freeman," a fake Twitter account that facetiously bills itself as "messages from God" -- or Black Hollywood God. In the tweet, Freeman wrote, "I hate the word homophobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole." Were those nice ladies from church assholes? Was my mother being an asshole? Is my father still an asshole? My father and I haven't had a real conversation in years, not just because I'm queer but because there's something about me he fundamentally can't relate to.

When I took Eric, my brother from my father's second marriage, to see Life of Pi, my father made a strangely big deal about it, but in a mock-genial manner. He told us it was a "girl movie," and we should go see something else instead. How about the Red Dawn remake?

My father hadn't seen Life of Pi. He didn't even know what it was about. His problem wasn't with the movie. He couldn't articulate what his problem was, the problem he can never talk about, the one we've never talked about. He was scared that I was growing up to be different than he is and that I'm going to have a life he doesn't understand. He thinks he's going to get left behind. It's the same look I saw in his eyes when I was a kid and wanted to play with Barbies or asked to try on a dress. It's the same look I saw when I told him I was going to art school. It's the same look I saw when I eventually told him that the family I create wouldn't look like his.

He already lost two sons. He was afraid of losing another.

I thought about my father when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece last Thursday in the New York Times, which discussed the recent frisking of Forest Whitaker in a New York deli. This incident was yet another example of daily aggressions and microaggressions, not the capital-R racism that we're constantly told is a relic of the past but the smaller racisms that go ignored, the ones that thrive in the margins. It's about the racism that's so ingrained we don't notice, the racism of "nice" people. Coates writes,

In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist... The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion... But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner.

We do this with homophobia. We believe homophobia to be the exclusive territory of diehards, the people who wave signs that "God Hates Fags" or broadcast their revulsion through a microphone outside Old Navy on State Street. We label them as "crazy" and quickly look away.

However, bigotry isn't so easily identifiable. It doesn't always wave signs or march on your funeral or spit in your face at a Pride parade. Bigotry might be your grandfather who turns away slightly when you hug your boyfriend or your grandmother who asks you're bringing your "friend" to Christmas. It might be your mother who gave life to you but doesn't know how to deal with this other thing inside you, who fights herself to love you better. It might live in your own heart, tucked away in one of the rooms you never go into, a room you might not know is there. It might shine in that ersatz smile you show to the trans* and queer youth of color that walk down your street, the ones you push past and learn to politely ignore when you get that late-night cocktail at Minibar. It might be the neighborhood you want to keep "nice."

When I reflect on 2011's Take Back Boystown meetings in Chicago and the people who told our youths they don't belong here, I don't think about bad people. I think about people who fear losing something. I think about my father. I think we're all not as different as we imagine.

A great filmmaker I know once interviewed Rev. Fred Phelps for a documentary. This is how I remember her story. She told me that when she turned the camera on, Phelps spewed the conservative religious dogma he is famous for, performing the intolerance we expect of him. However, after the film stopped rolling, Rev. Fred Phelps became a different person. He offered her a glass of water, because it was a hot day and he worried she wasn't properly hydrated. Phelps and his wife doted on her. They cooked for her. She met members of their family. She shook their hands. She sat on their couch and talked with them.

When she said goodbye and took her crew with her, they embraced her, hugging her differently than she expected. They hugged her like they didn't want to let go. She told me they were the nicest people she's ever met.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On Gay Marriage, Dick Cheney Says Follow Your Heart

GOP Senator Reverses Gay-Marriage Stance After Son Comes Out

by Joel Roberts for Yahoo News:

A prominent conservative senator said Thursday that he now supports gay marriage.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters from the Columbus Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers that his change of heart on the hot-button issue came two years after his son, Will, told him and his wife that he is gay.

"It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have -- to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," Portman said.

In an interview with CNN, Portman said his son, then a freshman at Yale University, told him "that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that it's just part of who he is, and that he'd been that way for as long as he could remember."

The dramatic announcement comes just a week before the U.S. Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage, a measure Portman co-sponsored as a member of the House in 1996.

Portman was on the short list to be Mitt Romney's running mate last year. He said he informed Romney during the vetting process that he had a gay son, but that the issue was not a deal breaker for Romney.

He also told CNN that he sought guidance from former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is openly gay.

Portman said Cheney's advice to him was simple: "Follow your heart."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Venango County FAG: Diane Gramley

Obama Urges Supreme Court To Overturn California Same-Sex Marriage Ban

By Robert Barnes for the Washington Post - February 28

The Obama administration told the Supreme Court on Thursday that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, a position that could also cast doubt on prohibitions in other states.

The administration did not endorse a constitutional right to marry that would apply nationwide. But its friend-of-the-court brief, a bold declaration of the administration’s interest in gay rights, said the court should review laws banning same-sex marriage under “heightened scrutiny.”

The administration’s entry for the first time into the legal battle over Proposition 8 — a voter initiative that amended the California Constitution in 2008 to limit marriage to a man and a woman — also carried great symbolic value for those advancing the cause of marriage equality.

The Obama administration did not have to file a brief in the California case but said the question of how the court reviews laws that “target gay and lesbian people for discriminatory treatment” is of great interest to the government.

In California’s case, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote, the state offers same-sex couples domestic partnerships but withholds marriage.

“California’s extension of all of the substantive rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian domestic partners particularly undermines the justifications for Proposition 8,” the brief says. “It indicates that Proposition 8’s withholding of the designation of marriage is not based on an interest in promoting responsible procreation and child-rearing — petitioners’ central claimed justification for the initiative — but instead on impermissible prejudice.”

The government’s brief noted that seven other states have similar domestic-partnership laws: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. But it did not call for the court to overturn those laws.

In some ways, the brief marks a compromise between threatening the prohibitions on same-sex marriage that the vast majority of states have enacted and nudging along the number of states that allow such unions.

The administration has been under pressure from gay rights groups and others to enter the Proposition 8 case, especially after President Obama’s inaugural address, in which he said, “If we are truly created equal, than surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, called the brief “a powerful statement that Proposition 8 cannot be squared with the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded.”

“It is an unprecedented call to action by our government that it is time to recognize gay and lesbian Americans as full and equal citizens under the law,” he said.

Thomas Peters, communications director of the National Organization for Marriage and a supporter of Proposition 8, said his group “expects the Supreme Court to exonerate the votes of over 7 million Californians to protect marriage.”

“The President is clearly fulfilling a campaign promise to wealthy gay marriage donors,” Peters said in a statement. “There is no right to redefine marriage in our Constitution.”

The Supreme Court at the end of the month will consider two cases concerning same-sex marriage.

One addresses the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in those states where such unions are legal. The administration for two years has said that is unconstitutional, and a string of lower-court decisions have agreed.

The other is Proposition 8, which was passed by voters after the California Supreme Court recognized a right for same-sex unions under the state constitution. More than 18,000 couples were wed in the meantime.

A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down the amendment.

While the DOMA case concerns couples who are already married, the Proposition 8 case offers the Supreme Court a chance to examine whether there is a constitutional right to marriage that cannot be denied by the states. But, as the administration’s brief indicated, there are more limited ways the court could rule.

Currently, the District, Maryland and eight other states allow same-sex marriages, while nearly all the rest forbid it.

Obama’s position on same-sex marriage is an evolving one, he has said. Although he opposed Proposition 8, he has never said he thought that the same-sex marriage issue should be decided nationally.

“I continue to believe,” he told ABC News last year when announcing his support of same-sex unions, “that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.”

Those who are defending Proposition 8 say the state’s acceptance of domestic partnerships proves that voters were motivated by a desire to protect traditional marriage, not to discriminate against homosexuals.

But the administration said that domestic partnerships prove just the opposite. California has “recognized that same-sex couples form deeply committed relationships that bear the hallmarks of their neighbors’ opposite-sex marriages; they establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death,” the brief stated.

It said a reluctance to change the “traditional” definition of marriage is not a defense.

“Marriage has changed in certain significant ways over time — such as the demise of coverture and the elimination of racial restrictions on marital partners — that could have been characterized as traditional or fundamental to the institution,” Verrilli wrote.

A purported interest in responsible procreation and child-rearing cannot justify Proposition 8, the brief stated, because California confers “full rights of parenting and child-rearing on same-sex couples.”

And the administration said the court should not agree with an argument that it must respect “the will of the people” to amend the state’s constitution and to overturn the California Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage.

“Promoting democratic self-
governance and accountability is a laudable governmental interest, but it is not one that justify a law that would otherwise violate the constitution,” Verrilli wrote.

In such cases, he said, the judiciary plays a special role in protecting minorities.

The administration’s brief is added to dozens that outside groups have filed in the same-sex marriage cases. Briefs have been submitted by states that allow such unions and those that forbid them; religious groups on both sides of the issue; Republicans who support same-sex marriage and conservatives who say it undermines a traditional way of life.

Labor unions and hundreds of major corporations weighed in on the side of same-sex marriage, for instance.

The AFL-CIO said its gay workers are economically harmed by laws that do not allow them to marry.

“These economic injuries are readily quantifiable in terms of the dollars gay and lesbian workers are forced to spend on higher costs and taxes, in the denials of access to publicly and privately provided benefits, and in the refusals of entry into and in the deportations out of the U.S.,” the union brief said. “These harms further extend into the physical workplace, where gay and lesbian workers often confront and navigate biases about their sexual orientation and the comparative worth of their personal relationships.”

The businesses, which included such giants as Microsoft and Nike and small businesses such as a winery in California, said restrictions against same-sex marriage create extra work for them — over insurance coverage and taxes, for instance — and force them to categorize workers differently.

“It puts us, as employers, to unnecessary cost and administrative complexity, and regardless of our business or professional judgment forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees,” the brief stated.

Another is signed by more than 100 prominent Republicans, including Clint Eastwood and seven former governors, among them 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (although only a small number currently hold public office).

They tell the court that supporting civil marriage for same-sex couples is consistent with a “commitment to limited government and individual freedom.”

“Many of the signatories to this brief previously did not support civil marriage for same-sex couples,” the brief stated. But after states offered such unions, they said, they have “reexamined the evidence and their own positions and have concluded that there is no legitimate, fact-based reason for denying same-sex couples the same recognition in law that is available to opposite-sex couples.”

On the other side, a coalition of African American pastors told the court it should not draw comparisons to its 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state bans on interracial marriage.

“The ruling in Loving was not revolutionary the way striking down the traditional male-female definition would be in the present case,” the brief stated. “The anti-miscegenation statutes in Virginia were at war with the core purposes of marriage — especially the fostering of responsible procreation and child rearing by biological parents.”

And 19 states, including Virginia, urged the court to overturn the 9th Circuit’s opinion, which it said overrode the will of California voters.

“The result is not merely vitiation of California’s co-equal sovereignty without a clear constitutional warrant,” the brief said. “It is disintegration of perhaps the most fundamental and revered cultural institution of American life: marriage as we know it.”