Gender & Sexuality

Rhode Island's Bipartisan Gay-Marriage Coup

AP Images
Same-sex marriage advocates have had their eyes on Rhode Island for a long time. Wednesday afternoon, they’ll very likely see the last barrier to marriage equality fall away, as the state Senate is scheduled to vote on a measure legalizing same-sex marriage. It’s already passed the House, receiving vocal support from Governor Lincoln Chafee, and most expect that the Senate has the votes to pass it by a big margin. The Senate has always been the biggest challenge in Rhode Island; the leadership opposes the measure, and two years ago, a similar bill died when it became clear it couldn’t get through the upper chamber. But this year, advocates expect a very different outcome. As if to highlight the shift, on Tuesday, in advance of the bill, the minority caucus in the Senate came out with a unanimous show of support. It’s the first time any caucus in any state has shown such a united front. More surprising? It’s the Republican caucus. Meanwhile it’s been Democratic Senate leadership that’s...

Coming Out of the Locker Room

There are hints we might soon see the first openly gay major league sports player. But are the fans ready?

AP Photo/Matt York
AP Photo/Matt York Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner, the number one overall pick of the WNBA draft, laughs during a news conference in Phoenix earlier this week. I t was in the locker room and on the field where Wade Davis felt most at peace with himself, which doesn’t sound unusual until he tells you that he was then a closeted gay man. “Sports was, for me, the safest place,” says Davis, an NFL and NFL Europe player from 2000 to 2004. Davis used football as a sanctuary from the rigid social hierarchy of middle and high school. Away from the game, away from his teammates, he struggled to focus on anything other than his inner turmoil and whether it was evident to his fellow classmates. To conceal his sexuality, he wore baggy pants and talked “with a twang.” “Anything to make people feel as if I was like everyone else,” says Davis, who finally revealed he was gay in January 2012. Little of Davis's experience squares with the prevailing narrative of the sports world—especially the NFL—...

Five Lessons from the Gosnell Abortion-Clinic Controversy

WikiMedia Commons
The hot conservative story of late last week, starting with a USA Today op-ed by Kristen Powers, was the failure of the mainstream media to cover the horrifying case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor accused of committing infanticide, and maiming and, in some cases, killing his patients (most of them poor women) in an unsanitary abortion clinic. Perhaps the story does deserve more coverage than it has received, but the lessons to be drawn from it are different from the conclusions conservatives are making. Here are five points currently being overlooked in the coverage of the controversy. Feminists Were on It Whether the mainstream national media has given adequate attention to the Gosnell case is a matter of judgment, although claims that it's been entirely ignored are incorrect. (Consider, for example, Sabrina Tavernise's lengthy New York Times story from 2011.) But it should be remembered who hasn't been ignoring the story: feminist writers . Many prominent feminists, for...

Thinking Outside the (X)Box

There was soul-searching to spare at the Game Developers Conference, as attendees had some warranted stress over diversity—but they should be sure to remember to work on improving the world outside the industry too.

Flickr/Official GDC
Brian Taylor O n the narrow sidewalk outside the building where the Game Developers Conference was held, a group of enthusiastic marketers offer free t-shirts that say “0% THE MAN 100% INDIE.” It seems like a call to arms, but a tiny bit of research unearths that it's a new campaign by Samsung to attract game developers to their app store. Sure, Samsung may be an underdog in this realm, when compared to Apple, but you gotta admit the Korean phone giant is at least 30 percent The Man. This style of borrowing progressive language in the game industry is quite common—as noted and skewered in a presented “rant” during the conference by game designer Chris Hecker. The Game Developers Conference is held each year in the Bay Area, taking place during the last week of March this year. It's the major professional conference of the video game industry, where the people who make games gather to network and give presentations about the year's successes and failures. GDC is the most inwardly-...

On Abortion, the GOP Tacks Right

Flickr/Paul Weaver
In March of 2012, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was in trouble. The Republican-dominated state legislature had passed a measure that would require women seeking abortions in the early stages of pregnancy to have a transvaginal sonogram—a procedure in which a wand is inserted into the vagina. Pro-choice activists jumped on the bill, calling it “state-sanctioned rape.” The outrage went national, and the conservative governor with aspirations to higher office backed off. A version of the sonogram bill did make it into law, but it does not specifically require transvaginal sonograms, just the better-known “jelly on the belly” type. The debacle was only the beginning of Republicans’ problem with women voters. Two Senate candidates—most famously Todd Akin of Missouri—aired shockingly unscientific views about how pregnancy worked, generating a strong backlash from voters. Elsewhere, cuts defunding Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs only made the perception that Republicans are...

Smith's Unsisterly Move

Flickr/Patrick Giblin
Flickr/Patrick Giblin C alliope Wong isn’t woman enough for Smith College. At least that’s what Smith’s admissions office has decided. Wong is a charming, smart teenager with a strong writing voice who calls Smith, an all-women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts, her “dream college.” She’s also transgender. Last summer, she reached out to Smith to see if her application would be welcome. After some back-and-forth, Smith’s dean of admissions, Debra Shaver, told Wong that she was welcome to apply as long as she checked the “female” box on her application and explained her situation in the Additional Information section of the application. Yet on March 10, Smith returned Wong’s application unconsidered , citing her gender as the reason. If that sounds like an unsisterly way for a women's only college to act, that’s because it is. Feminists have been arguing for decades that neither our genes nor our genitalia should define our lives. Yet Wong has been found wanting in the woman...

Marriage Is What Brings Us Together Today

flickr / arts enthusiast M any conservatives now concede they've lost the argument on same-sex marriage. The question is not if but when full marriage equality will prevail in the United States, and what the effects will be. But as much as we've talked about marriage in recent months, most of the debate has been lacking in context about the state of marriage in America today. We'll get to the data in a moment, but first, a few brief words about the history of marriage. Supporters of "traditional" marriage often express their fear that if gay people are allowed to marry, the institution will be transformed. The truth, however, is that marriage has already been transformed, not just in the United States but around the world. We're now seeing simply the latest phase of a long evolution. When people refer to "traditional" marriage, they're usually talking about developments that occurred only within the last couple of centuries of marriage's history. If you advocate "biblical" marriage,...

Red States Getting Redder

Stacy Lynn Baum / Flickr
Last week, I noted the extent to which opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to abortion are still linked tightly together. With its new anti-abortion law—and long-standing ban on gay marriage—Alabama is the latest state to prove the point : Alabama lawmakers late Tuesday gave final passage to a measure placing stricter regulations on clinics that provide abortions. […] The bill requires abortion clinics to use doctors who have approval to admit patients to hospitals in the same city. Some clinics now use doctors from other cities that don’t have local hospital privileges. A similar law in Mississippi is threatening to close that state’s only abortion clinic, which is challenging the law in court. The bill also sets stricter building requirements, including wider halls and doors and better fire suppression systems. The state Department of Public Health, which regulates Alabama’s five abortion clinics, reports that most will not meet the stricter standards. These laws are...

Marriage-Equality Caution

The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie
When it comes to any issue, it's important to remember that there's no even distribution of support or opposition. A majority of Americans may support same-sex marriage, but that doesn't translate to a majority of people in a majority of states. In Virginia, for example, a new survey from the University of Mary Washington—which polled 1,004 adults living in the state—45 percent of respondents favored marriage equality, while 46 percent were opposed. This is a dramatic shift from seven years ago, when Virginians passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, 57 percent to 43 percent. It's worth noting that, in the last two presidential elections, public opinion in Virginia has tracked that for the country writ large. Barack Obama's 2008 margin in the state was just a point smaller than his margin overall, and his 2012 total in Virginia was nearly identical to his national performance. If, because of its demographics, Virginia is a nationally representative state, then this might be...

What's the Way Forward for the GOP on Same-Sex Marriage?

The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie
The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie Yesterday, two different Republicans offered two different views of the party’s future. When asked whether the GOP would move toward the mainstream on same-sex marriage, Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee, told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he doesn’t “see the Republican Party or most Republicans, obviously, changing in terms of believing that marriage is between one man and one woman.” And while he doesn’t oppose legal benefits for gay couples, he continues to oppose same-sex marriage and doesn’t think you’ll ever see the Republican platform change position. On the other end, in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press , freshman Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona gave the opposite view , predicting that it’s “inevitable” that a Republican presidential nominee will embrace same-sex marriage and that it might be sooner than later. On Flake’s side is the rapid march of public opinion. In just a few years, the public has...

Not so Fast, Republicans

The GOP is far from being able to put gay rights behind it as an issue.

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Jonathan Chait makes an important point about the progress of social movements. In the beginning, they inspire rabid opposition—“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever”—but as they earn mainstream acceptance, former opponents quickly “forget” they ever worked to stymie the cause. As Chait notes, this is already happening with the Republican Party, given the rapid advance of gay rights. Here’s Republican strategist Rick Wilson as he explains to Politico that a favorable legal ruling will end the notion of GOP opposition to LGBT equality: “It removes the issue from the Democratic playbook of fundraising scare tactics and political demagoguery and breaks their usual messaging dynamic of, ‘You’re a beleaguered minority; let us protect you from the evil GOP — oh, and here’s your absentee ballot,’” said Florida-based Republican consultant Rick Wilson. There are two things worth noting. First, to borrow from Chait, Republican “demagoguery” on gay rights isn’t some...

The Dead End That Is Public Opinion

If you want to produce change, make politicians as terrified as this sandwich. (Flickr/Sakurako Kitsa)
As the effort to enact new gun legislation hobbles along, liberals have noted over and over that in polls, 90 percent or so of the public favors universal background checks. In speaking about this yesterday, President Obama said, "Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change." Then Jonathan Bernstein explained that opinion doesn't get political results, what gets results is action. I'd take this one step farther: what gets results is not action per se, but action that produces fear . I'll explain in a moment, but here's part of Bernstein's argument: See, the problem here is equating "90 percent in the polls" with "calling for change." Sure, 90 percent of citizens, or registered voters, or whoever it is will answer in the affirmative if they're asked by a pollster about this policy. But that's not at all the same as "calling for change." It's more like...well, it is receiving a call. Not calling. Those people who have been pushing for marriage equality? They were...

Gay-Marriage Opponents, Left Behind

The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie
The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie O utside of the Supreme Court this week—where the nine justices were hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of California's ban on same-sex marriage—a young woman and an old woman were arguing. "If you put all the gay people on an island," began the older woman, who looked to be in her fifties. "See, this is why people think you guys are like the KKK!" interjected the young woman. "You're talking about rounding us all up—" "Let me finish! If you put all the gay people on an island, in a generation there would be no gay people. They would die out." "That's not a realistic scenario. We all live in this country together." The older woman was nonplussed. After fielding a few more hypotheticals—How would you feel if your son or daughter were gay? What about the separation of church and state?—it became clear she was not going home convinced, and the two parted ways. America, on the other hand, has gone home convinced. The about-face in public...

Falling Through the Looking Glass

Flickr/majunznk Protestors make their case before yesterday's DOMA hearing at the Supreme Court. A s I sat in the press gallery off to the side of the Supreme Court yesterday morning, waiting for the justices to file in and begin hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I had that sickly excited feeling that you get when the roller-coaster car is climbing the first hill. The day before was easier for me: I didn’t want the Court to take Perry , the Prop 8 case, to begin with. I was relieved when very quickly we all could hear that the justices had no appetite for a broad ruling. But the DOMA case—and here please let me confess that I’m terribly human—the DOMA case is about my marriage. As regular readers will know, I’m married to my wife in Massachusetts, but because DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, I’m not married in the United States. The justices were going to discuss whether to...

Cops Gone Wild

Bad cops will keep sexually assaulting women they’re sworn to protect until we get stronger laws and better data on the number of victims.

When 20-year-old Sarah Smith got into an accident with a motorcyclist in 2008, it was nothing but bad new—she was driving with a suspended license. It got worse. When police showed up, officer Adam Skweres took Smith aside and implied that he could either make it look like the accident was her fault or give the other party a ticket. It depended on whether she’d agree to perform unspecified sexual favors. Skweres also threatened that if she told anyone, he’d “make sure you never walk, talk, or speak again,” and looked at his gun. That scared her enough that she immediately reported what he’d done to the police, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Another four years passed before the department arrested Skweres and suspended him without pay, and then only because he tried to rape a woman while on duty. By that time, Smith had moved out of the city for fear of running into him again. Three other women told stories similar to Smith’s, and on March 11 Skewers pled guilty to bribery...