Fred Phelps Dead

I’d vowed to dance on this person’s grave. When the time came, there was no exaltation. There was nothing. And that was appropriate, for it ended the way it began.

I take no solace or joy in this man’s passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding “God Hates Freds” signs, tempting as it may be.

He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.

More on this topic: See Huffington Post

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Judging the Supreme Court on Same-Sex Marriage

From The Atlantic article “History Won’t Be Kind to the Supreme Court on Same-Sex Marriage” by Andrew Cohen, March 28:

Chief Justice Roberts attributed this “sea change” — nine states now recognize same-sex marriage — not to our society’s natural evolution toward empathy and compassion, not to our growing unease about judging our neighbors, not to the libertarian ideal that all consenting adults should be free to enjoy the benefits of civil rights, but to the “politically powerful” lobby and to “the political force and effectiveness of people representing, supporting your side of the case.”

Many commentators notes the SCOTUS performance in the last two days was weak-kneed, lacked conviction and pandered to popular sentiment and stereotypes.

I, one more gay person who is definitely unimpressed with the conservative block of SCOTUS, was nevertheless stunned by the appalling lack of principled legal argument or discussion among the defending and litigating parties, or, most particularly, by the Justices themselves. As far as I could see from media reporting, completely missing were discussions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or basic law and  constitutional principles of equal protection and non-discrimination.

Defending parties and some of the justices seemed to be arguing that, well, maybe we ought to let the States decide this — just as the states had decided that with slavery and Jim Crow laws before extraordinary measures had to be taken to stop them.

In Mississippi, it is reportedly still legal for a landlord to evict a gay person, and for an employer to fire a gay person. If this means the states can decide who gets basic civil liberties and how much of them they can get (and it does mean that), then the states are still doling out rights like party favors. Why is anyone waiting for the Supreme Court to put the “all” back into “all men are created equal?”

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“Gay Marriage Polls Not Yet Reflected In Votes”

From David Crary on Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — Poll after poll shows public support for same-sex marriage steadily increasing, to the point where it’s now a majority viewpoint. Yet in all 32 states where gay marriage has been on the ballot, voters have rejected it. … For now, however, there remains a gap between the national polling results and the way states have voted. It’s a paradox with multiple explanations, from political geography to the likelihood that some conflicted voters tell pollsters one thing and then vote differently.

My comment:

“Still not with you people yet, but thinking about doing the right thing.” We’ve seen all this before with the civil rights movement, and then again with women’s rights. “Yes, we’re in favor of liberty and equality, but not just now, and not next door. But we’ll let you know.”

“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience stands He waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” I think that about sums it up.

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Church vs. State: Religious Freedom vs. Freedom of Speech

Just when we thought the HHS “Contraceptive Kerfuffle” was resolved! So-called “social conservatives” from the religious right are attempting to hijack the issue from the Catholic Bishops to put a two-pronged political and religious spin on it. This followup article continues our February 7 story “Contraception: Controversial Health Care Mandate” in Commentary. Read our latest followup on church vs. state, also in Commentary.

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“Straw Man” Arguments For Proposition 8

LOS ANGELES – A federal appeals court panel ruled on Tuesday that a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in California violated the Constitution, all but ensuring that the case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court. — New York Times.

PBS interviews with proponents of the same-sex marriage ban revealed they still argue that “marriage” is linked to “one man, one woman” by the biological necessity of procreation. As outlined on ProtectMarriage.com, they also claim, among other things, that

  • “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
  • “Proposition 8 is about preserving marriage; it’s not an attack on the gay lifestyle.”
  • [Proposition 8] “restored the definition of marriage to what the vast majority of California voters already approved and human history has understood marriage to be.”
  • “It protects our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage.”

The historical laundry list of injustices approved by voters and legislators beggars description. We even fought a civil war over some of those.  So let’s not pretend that a popular vote can actually legitimatize overt legal discrimination.

We even heard an argument by one PBS interviewee, John Eastman of National Organization for Marriage, that California Proposition 8 doesn’t discriminate; it merely defines marriage as between one man and one woman, thus preventing polygamy. But existing law doesn’t permit polygamy.

No one reading this column is likely to be fooled by such arguments. But we shouldn’t allow their outrageous claims to distract or side-track us, either.

Let’s just look at a very pertinent definition, a rhetorical tactic, discussed in Wikipedia:

A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

Anti-gay-marriage proponents are simply redefining the legal definition of marriage with their manufacture of spurious additional attributes, then demolishing their “straw man.” There is nothing in any legal definition of civic marriage that ties it to procreation, protection of the “family,” ancient tradition, or any of the other attributes ascribed by people who wish to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Any 80-year-old couple can tell us they aren’t in it for the procreative value of marriage.

So let’s not allow the debate to be derailed by “straw man” fundamentalist smoke-screens. Like similar laws elsewhere, California’s Proposition 8 sought to permanently classify same-sex partners as second-class American citizens. Our fight is for full equality before the law and equal access to all its fundamental protections. Period.

No matter how much we cherish the idealized “mom and pop” version of marriage that we grew up with, fewer and fewer Americans remain willing to shame the American ideal of equality by supporting discrimination. There is no way opponents can evade the simple fact Proposition 8 preserves pervasive and systematic legal discrimination against one class of American citizens. Keep the faith. Ultimately we must and shall prevail.

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BBC: Hillary Clinton declares ‘gay rights are human rights’

BBC News ran a post on Hillary Clinton’s declaration that the US will fight discrimination abroad using diplomacy and foreign aid.

Last week Nigerian became the latest African country attempting to tighten homosexuality laws, with the Senate passing a bill banning same-sex marriages.”

My question: to which “Senate” was the article referring?

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2012 GOP Lineup: How Bad Is It?

UPDATED March 8, 2012; March 30, 2012

If you want the depressing overview, you couldn’t do much better than reading Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker.

Hertzberg reports that GOP candidates all agree on the basics – NO TAX INCREASES (even if there were a 10:1 tradeoff in GOP’s favor). As he put it, there were no “substantive” differences: “Substance-wise, this was like watching Vladimir Putin debate himself on Russian state television.”

But he reports significant differences on military spending, abortion, and gays, none of which are presumed to be core ideological issues.

Perhaps you, as I do, view a candidate’s stand on gay equality as a litmus test on their stand on civil liberties in general. If civil liberties aren’t a core ideological issue, the strongest economy in the world isn’t going to help us. Civil liberties are the binding ties which explain why we can have an economy at all. If you don’t see it, maybe that’s because around 9.5 out of 10 Americans have little reason to put civil rights and civil liberty near the top of personal priority lists. But our rights are never really more secure than the rights of the least popular minority.

So to find out just how grim the GOP lineup is, I put together a little table summarizing the GOP candidates’ positions on my litmus test issue.

GOP “Straw Poll” for 2012 lineup
candidate Anti gay civil
liberty/homophobic?
Anti-gay marriage?
Mitt Romney no yes (note 1) yes
Michele Bachmann viral, defamatory. This candidate is a Jerry Falwell in drag. apoplectic rage
Rick Perry yes. In 2003 stated he does not believe consenting adults have a constitutional right to privacy, equates homosexuality to child molestation, incest, sodomy.* yes
Tim Pawlwenty probably not yes
Jon Huntsman no. “If you want to vote for a Republican, Huntsman is probably your best option,” said Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters. — Daily Beast yes, but supports civil unions
Newt Gingrich yes. “I think there is a
gay and secular fascism in this country …”
yes
Ron Paul probably not. Libertarian theory: gays should have equality. Practice: But it’s up to the states to decide what civil liberties people get. yes, but let the States vote
against it
Rick Santorum yes. Long track record. In 2003 USA today interview, argues homosexuality is deviant behavior which undermines society and family. Analogies to incest, adultery, bigamy. “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.” * yes
* source of
attributions: Wikipedia

UPDATED with detailed links:

Note 1: Romney’s PAC backed CA Prop 8 and NOM through a back-door Alabama feeder. Huffington Post 3/30/3012, “Mitt Romney’s PAC Funded Anti-Gay Marriage Group Under The Radar”

Santorum Links

1. http://video.foxnews.com/v/1366710583001/rick-santorum-enters-the-no-spin-zone. A bit of a slog.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Santorum%27s_views_on_homosexuality (article includes 39 linked footnotes with supporting original documentation)

The AP also quoted Santorum as saying, “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” and “Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.”
from: http://articles.cnn.com/2003-04-22/politics/santorum.gays_1_statement-on-individual-lifestyles-senator-santorum-bigamy-and-adultery?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

3. Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, was questioned about his comments at a town hall meeting by a 23-year-old man who identified himself as “a proud, gay Pennsylvanian” and said he was offended by the remarks — part of an interview with The Associated Press — in which Santorum appeared to compare homosexuality to incest, bigamy and adultery. [see http://articles.cnn.com/2003-04-23/politics/santorum.gays_1_santorum-traditional-heterosexual-relationships-homosexuality?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS]

4. “He suggests to a New Hampshire audience that an imprisoned father is preferable to a same-sex parent.” see http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/07/nation/la-na-campaign-20120107

5. Santorum Anti-Gay Comments On Fox News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3YEnS5WXW8 attitude shows. It is then satirized, somewhat humorously, by a pro-gay commentator.

6.Rick Santorum’s 12 Most Offensive Statements http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/06/06/237112/rick-santorums-top-12-most-offensive-statements/

“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be….If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” [4/2003]

7. ABC: Rick Santorum in the Hot Seat Again for Gay Marriage Stance (1-6-2012)
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/01/rick-santorum-in-the-hot-seat-again-for-gay-marriage-stance/

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Stonewall and the 1960 Decade

The full post of this article was originally intended for my forthcoming BIO project, an autobiography. It’s posted here for space reasons. My post was prompted by the PBS June 8 airing of their “American Experience” special “Stonewall Uprising”.  A video and transcript is available on the PBS website.

“When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.” — PBS special Stonewall Uprising

As the PBS American Experience video “Stonewall Uprising” explains, there was no out in the Dark Ages of 1960’s; everyone was closeted. I had written about going to the library in junior high school and being horrified to find I could be classified as having a “mental defect – maybe even a form of psychopathy.” As the PBS special rightly pointed out, authors of such books “were not writing about people, they were writing about things.” I had no idea how bad it really was. I was in fact an American without civil rights, unprotected by the revered Constitution we all take for granted. Gay men and women were being incarcerated in institutions like Atascadero, California – “Dachau for Queers” – a forensic psychiatric prison facility with a grimly medieval reputation. There they were subjected to medical experimentation, including electrotherapy and other aversion conditioning, “pharmacological water-boarding.” Sometimes treatment included forcible sterilization or lobotomization.

My brother Nickie might likely have been wired into the early gay community in ways I was unaware of. He may well have had knowledge of special hidden dangers of being gay in the decade of the 1960’s. If that were the case, his pending visit to a family “shrink” may have represented not a glorious confrontational opportunity for a profoundly articulate thinker, but the literal beginning of the end. That would add a new level understanding to Nickie’s 1964 suicide, which I had never fully accepted as explicable.

Harassment, abuse and rights violations of the GLBT community only started to change when the NYPD decided to raid a grimy Mafia-run bar in Greenwich Village called “Stonewall.” In 1969 of course, I was still two full decades away from dealing with any part of my own issues with sexual orientation. My summer spent rooming with “Pablo” had instilled in me the fear without the awareness. I decided to add this section to my book after watching the PBS special and realizing that I, an “out” gay man in 2011, still had no idea how bad it had actually been in the 1960’s.

In the video, the words of Martha Shelley: “I don’t know if you remember the Joan Baez song, ‘It isn’t nice to block the doorway, it isn’t nice to go to jail, there’re nicer ways to do it but the nice ways always fail.'”

Or Virginia Apuzzo: “It’s very American to say, ‘This is not right.’ It’s very American to say, ‘You promised equality, you promised freedom.’ And in a sense the Stonewall riots said, ‘Get off our backs, deliver on the promise.’ So in every gay pride parade every year, Stonewall lives.”

I’d long been proud of the men and women who stood up to the politically and culturally biased NYPD at Stonewall. Misuse of law enforcement personnel as “morality police” has long been a cherished part of our American tradition of legally enforceable prejudice and persecution. We are closer to Iran’s secret Savak who enforce Sharia – religious law – than we feel comfortable believing. Watching the PBS presentation reminded me how very American the Stonewall protestors were, and how proud we should be of their brave contribution to the Civil Rights initiative.

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Voters Dismantle Iowa Supreme Court Over Same-Sex Marriage

From the New York Times:

DES MOINES — An unprecedented vote to remove three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the unanimous decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state was celebrated by conservatives as a popular rebuke of judicial overreach, even as it alarmed proponents of an independent judiciary…

That’s just further evidence of what happens when fundamental constitutional civil rights and equality issues can legally be subject to arbitrary and capricious nullification by an electorate …

The next time you hear someone complain their Second Amendment (gun) rights are being eroded, remind them it’s the same mechanism they wholeheartedly support when they go to the polls to make sure others’ oxes are gored.

The Iowa action is a stunning reminder how consistently “Red State” voters remain vigilantly opposed to equal rights for all Americans.

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Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Prop 8 Shot Down

BBC post: “A US federal judge has overturned California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.”

PFLAG alert: “Washington, D.C. – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – PFLAG National – celebrated the U.S. District Court decision that strikes down California’s discriminatory Proposition 8 which denied the right to marry to same-sex couples in the state, stating that the measure violates the U.S Constitution.”

You can get the full text of the news releases by following the links provided above.

The ruling is expected to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.  The Roberts court rulings have followed a markedly narrower conservative ideology than in recent previous courts. With arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia likely to continue dominating a court majority, this important case is far from over.

The PFLAG release summarized the district court ruling as excerpted below:

The decision issued today in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger contends that Proposition 8 violates the Constitutional rights of equal protection and due process. In the decision, U.S. District Judge Vaughan Walker concludes that, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license., the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

PFLAG also provides a link to the full court decision. The document is a massive legal form in PDF format. In the preamble, District Judge Vaughn Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California states:

Having considered the trial evidence and the arguments of counsel, the court pursuant to FRCP 52(a) finds that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that its enforcement must be enjoined.

Governor Schwarzenegger is said to have welcomed the decision. One homophobic conservative group, “SaveCalifornia.com”, has accused Judge Walker of advancing the “homosexual agenda”, calling it a “terrible blow” to voter rights.

There has never been any explanation, however feeble, why so many “conservative” groups think that we can advance individual rights by voting to deny them to others. While Justice Walker apparently did not (and probably could not) address the broader question of whether civil rights can constitutionally even be subject to popular vote, this ruling is a step in the right direction.

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