Gender & Sexuality

Obama's Untenable Position on Same-Sex Marriage

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
Oh, good old Joe. The vice president just can’t help himself sometimes, getting juiced up and spouting off whatever comes to his mind rather than staying on message like the Obama campaign would prefer. On yesterday’s Meet the Press , Biden was questioned about his stance on same-sex marriage and seemingly went a step further than the official White House line, perhaps not endorsing marriage equality directly but coming pretty close : David Gregory: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now? Biden: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that. Of course that’s not the official policy of the Obama campaign, so officials acted quick to walk back Biden’s statement. But the...

Do the Right Thing

(plainwrap/Flickr)
Yesterday, on Meet the Press , Vice President Joe Biden was unusually candid about his feelings on same-sex marriage: “And you’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now,” NBC’s David Gregory asked Biden on Meet the Press. “I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy,” Biden said by way of a disclaimer, then continued, “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction—beyond that.” Almost immediately, this was reported as an endorsement of same-sex marriage by Vice President Biden, which in turn was followed by White House attempts to nix the perception. On Twitter, for example, David Axelrod issued an odd clarifying statement, “What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS’...

Are Women the Richer Sex?

(Flickr / 401K)
Well, sure, women are the richer sex, if by "richer" you mean "making less money." If you take some tiny demographic slices—single, childless college-educated women in major urban areas— those women make more than men their age. But enough of me blathering. Here's some stats: National Women's Law Center I wrote about this subject on Equal Pay Day , before I came across Bryce Covert's fabulous Nation post " How to Close the Gender Wage Gap In Just Seven Easy* Steps ." ( Do read it for serious policy ideas written with verve.) One of her steps: raise the minimum wage. See? Easy!

"Don't Say Gay" Bill Prompts Lawmaker to Say He's Gay

(Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
After weeks of discussion on a bill that would restrict students from talking about their sexuality in Missouri public schools, Republican state lawmaker Zach Wyatt decided he'd had enough. While it's virtually impossible for the bill to pass through the General Assembly at this point, Wyatt nonetheless called a press conference. He lambasted the bill—and then came out as gay. His hometown newspaper, The Kirksville Daily Express covered the event, in which Wyatt introduced himself as "a proud Republican, a proud veteran and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids." He didn't hold back in his comments: 'I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality. It has probably been the hardest thing to come to terms with. I have always ignored it. I didn’t even think about it or want to talk about it. I’ve not been immune to it. I hear the comments, usually snide ones, about me,' Wyatt said. 'I am not the first or last Republican to come out. I have just gotten tired of the bigotry...

Don't Adopt from Ethiopia

(Flickr / MNicoleM)
Miriam Jordan at The Wall Street Journal has published an investigative article about adoption from Ethiopia, which has for several years been riddled with allegations of fraud and unethical practices. This article tells the deceptively simple story of Melesech Roth, whose Ethiopian birthmother died of malaria, and whose birthfather (who lives in stone-age poverty) gave her up for adoption when someone came through his village, offering to take children to America who would later help support their families. The writing is so straightforward that you may not realize how extraordinary it is unless you've tried to write a similar piece. Persuading an adoptive family to talk with you on the record, and also finding the biological family and getting them to talk on the record, is a significant feat. The accompanying ten-minute video is even more powerful than the written story. You can see for yourself that Melesech, by any material measure, is far better off than her siblings, who are...

Romney's Distasteful Spin

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The Romney campaign has tried their darndest to divert the media and wipe their hands clean of Richard Grenell after the national security spokesperson abruptly resigned his post yesterday afternoon. When the news leaked to The Washington Post 's Jennifer Rubin, it was immediately framed in terms of Grenell's status as an openly gay man in a party that advocates against LGBT civil rights. However Rubin didn't mince words in explaining Grenell's departure. "The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job," she wrote. The last thing Romney wants is a string of stories accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of being a homophobe. Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhodes issued a release claiming that they were "disappointed" by Grenell's decision, and they contacted publications such as Politico to change the narrative, claiming...

Bye-Bye, Gay Guy!

As we all know, for decades, "sexual perversion" ( i.e. , being gay) was a disqualifier for any position remotely related to national security—typist, say, or translator. That great Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the executive order barring us from government employment in 1953. Clinton barred sexual-orientation discrimination in federal employment in 1998, but that barely made up for Don't Ask Don't Tell, which enshrined antigay discrimination in the military. That's all better now, right? Right. Unless you're a Republican. As you may or may not have heard, for a few weeks there, Mitt Romney had a foreign policy spokesperson, Richard Grenell, who's gay. You and I might consider him disqualified from service on various grounds, such as the fact that Grenell previously worked for our favorite U.N. ambassador ever, John Bolton. But as you'd guess, that's not what got the attention of the Rs' antigay wing. For a few weeks, I heard speculation about how long Grenell would last...

Apparently, You Can't be Gay and Work for Romney

(WEBN-TV/Flickr)
Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell—a long-time Republican and former staffer for the Bush White House—to act as a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security. Grenell received tough criticism from Democrats for a series of sexist tweets, but that wasn’t enough to spark reticience from the Romney team. What was, however, were attacks from religious conservatives on Grenell’s sexuality. Conservative activists hammered Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesperson, and questioned Grenell’s commitment to the conservative cause. “Suppose Barack Obama comes out — as Grenell wishes he would — in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention,“ wrote Matthew J. Franck at the National Review , ”How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?" This afternoon, Grenell announced his resignation from the Romney campaign, citing the relentless attacks on his sexuality: I have decided to resign from...

Hey, Kids, Let's Invite Dan Savage To Our Conference!

Stop me if you've heard this one. Dan Savage walks into a high school journalists' conference, and talks like... well, like Dan Savage. He uses a word that is technically an obscenity —"bullshit"—but is, in today's crude culture, considered so mild that its use wouldn't even get a movie rated PG-13. He happens to use it referring to some of what you can find in the Bible—you know, not eating shellfish, not mixing cotton and linen in the same garment, stoning to death any woman who's not a virgin when she marries, banning gay male sex while okaying slavery. Some students walk out to show their disapproval, a perfectly acceptable free speech action. And for some reason, this becomes a nationwide scandal . Seriously? People, the man is a sex columnist . He's famous for redefining the word " Santorum " into an entirely new kind of obscenity after the good Senator ranted about "man on man, man on dog" sex. What did the high school journalists think he was going to be like in person? Sure,...

This Should Be Good News for Texas Planned Parenthood (But Isn't)

(Flickr/WeNews)
A judge today ruled that the state of Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program, which offers basic reproductive health care for poor women. It's seemingly good news for the organization; last session, conservative lawmakers barred Planned Parenthood from the federal program because of its ties to abortion. (For the record, in Texas the program only serves women who aren't pregnant and public dollars do not fund abortion services.) Because of the decision, the state has lost federal support for the program , a big loss since the feds paid 90 percent of the program costs. Since then, Governor Rick Perry has promised to find funding for the program—a challenge given the state's serious budget troubles—and officials have outlined a plan for a state-run version . But even if there's money, without Planned Parenthood clinics, there's simply a capacity shortage. So Planned Parenthood might actually get its way, and become part of the program, the state could...

Still Ain't Satisfied: The Limits of Equality

The LGBT-rights movement should fight for economic and social justice—not simply de jure civil rights.

(Flickr/Jason Pier)
A n acquaintance baited me with a question at a dinner party not long ago. “So, is the movement over?” she asked loudly. I was surprised by her contemptuous tone. But because I didn’t want to embarrass my hostesses, I demurred: “Gosh, what do you mean over? Not in my mind.” “You know, now that we have won marriage,” she said. “It’s over, done, right?” We were dining in Massachusetts, so she was marginally correct about marriage. The question was being asked by a lesbian who had impeccable civil-rights credentials; while not an active participant in the LGBT movement, she had long been an ally. She had grown skeptical of the movement’s commitment to anything but a narrow version of equal rights. It was a revealing moment. Several months later, I found myself listening, and protesting politely, as a major gay power broker told me that when his state legalized marriage equality, that state’s gay-rights agenda would be done. In places where marriage equality has already been achieved and...

Do Gay People Count?

No one knows how many LGBT Americans there are. You've surely heard the one in ten estimate, derived from Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking studies; he claimed, based on research from a study of male prisoners, that one in ten men were " exclusively homosexual " for about three years of their lives. That's hardly generalizable to the idea that one in ten of us land somewhere to the right of center on the Kinsey Scale . More recent studies and estimates suggest that the number is somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population. But no one knows. And that matters for all kinds of things. If you don't count a group, that group doesn't count. Gay bashings didn't get taken seriously until the Bureau of Justice Statistics started keeping track of how many there were. The LGBT voting bloc gets taken more seriously now that sexual orientation is one of the questions asked in exit polling . (About 3 percent of voters self-identify as LGBT in those polls.) Researchers want more information...

Payback Time

Here's how it works: Little red riding hood gets abused at home. Then she meets the man of her dreams. (Sometimes this happens after she runs away to escape the abuse, since wolves hang out in bus stations, scanning for prey. Or maybe it happens outside her middle school for delinquent girls. Opportunities are many.) Wolf showers girl with attention, love, sexual passion—all the things she's been starved for all her life. Then, after a few weeks, he asks her to prove her love by going out on the street or meeting men solicited on backpage.com , where code words are used to signal that she's well under 18, so they can pay for their apartment, or food, or whatever it might be. Within another few weeks, her body is being sold eight to twelve hours a day. Her captivity is enforced by violence, isolation, coercion, branding, and constant supervision. After awhile, she's convinced that she's worthless, that no one else will ever love her, that police will arrest her and civilians would...

The Afterlife of Gabriel Arana's Ex-Gay Life

Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, " My So-Called Ex-Gay Life ." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing. I know you've read it, so I won't belabor all that here. What I will post: Dr. Robert Spitzer's full-on public renunciation of his 2001 study. As you've read already, Gabriel Arana's reportorial call triggered Spitzer's decision to openly repudiate that work. He's now written an apology, which he's sent to the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior that has been...

The Queer List, Part 1: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool) Del Martin, 87, center left, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, center right, are married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom , center, in a special ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, June 16, 2008. Also pictured are the couple's witnesses, Roberta Achtenberg, left, and Donna Hitchens. Lyon and Martin became the first officially married same sex couple after California's Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal. Once upon a time, we all knew their names. They shaped our world and our attitudes to ourselves. We had their books on our bookshelves, since there were very few books on the subject. Or we read about their travails in our subterranean newspapers— Gay Community News, The Washington Blade —which we received in the mail, in brown manila envelopes so that we weren't outed unintentionally to our neighbors. (Yes, seriously.) For the most part, the rest of the world ignored us. And so these figures who loomed so large in our lives were invisible...

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