Gender & Sexuality

When It Comes to Lady Politicians, We've Got a Long Way to Go

(Flickr/Leader Nancy Pelosi)
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Senator Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I t's made for a great narrative: Tuesday night, female candidates prevailed in nearly all the tightest, most-watched Senate races around the country. A historic number of women will now serve in the upper chamber, once the boysiest of boys' clubs. If that wasn't enough to prompt some girl-power cheering, there was the news out of New Hampshire that, with the election of Maggie Hassan to the state's top executive spot, the governor, senators, and congressional representatives now all carry XX chromosomes. Several commentators have noted there's still a long way to go. But perhaps, more notably, there's little evidence that these wins are part of a wider trend for female candidates. The political gains were most notable in the Senate,...

Handicapping the Marriage-Equality Initiatives

(AP Photo/The Capitol, Paul W. Gillespie)
This is the tenth in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. Marriage equality is up for vote in four states. In three states, voters have a chance to affirmatively say yes to allowing their state to marry same-sex couples; in the fourth, voters can add a “one man-one woman” marriage clause to the state’s constitution. As we all know, support for LGBT issues in general, and marriage equality in particular, has been getting stronger every year, as more of us talk to our families and friends, explaining that love and devotion are the same whether you love a boy or a girl. Will this be the year that, at long last, we win at least one marriage vote at the polls? Below is a list of the states to watch, with some brief handicapping. As you watch, remember these two things about the difference between opinion polls and the final polling: All undecideds vote against marriage equality. Ignore the spread. A couple of points of support disappear at the ballot, as...

Don't Marry Me in Minnesota

(Flickr/Fibbonaci Blue)
(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue) The Capital Rotunda in St. Paul, Minnesotta. Participants in African-American Lobby Day occupy the first floor while protestors against the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage fill the halls on the second floor. A s I’ve been writing here, marriage is on the ballot in four states on Tuesday: Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota. The upbeat news from the first three is that voters have a chance to say "yes" to letting same-sex couples get married; the ballot question is some variant of this sentence: Should [our state] issue civil marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples, while preserving religious freedom and protecting clergy from having to perform such marriages if doing so violates their tenets? The fight in Minnesota is harder. Its ballot measure is the bad old kind that will amend the state constitution to insist that civil marriage licenses can only be issued to different-sex couples. Here’s the background. In 1971, waaaay back...

Wisconsin's Red-State Scare

(Flickr/James Morey)
(The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Tammy Baldwin speaks to supporters at the Democratic headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. O n a rainy Sunday night in Madison, Wisconsin, 30 energized volunteers turned out at the Democratic headquarters on State Street to register University of Wisconsin students to vote. Tammy Baldwin, sporting a magenta blazer, milled about, chatting with the constituents she represents in the U.S. House. Come January, she'll either be out of Congress or representing a larger swath of the state in the U.S. Senate. Facing former four-term Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, Baldwin is locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country. Most recent polls have her favored by a slim margin, with Real Clear Politics' average putting her up by just 0.3 percent. It's been a brutal few years for Democrats in Wisconsin. The state elected and re-elected one of the nation's most right-wing governors, launched Paul Ryan into the national spotlight, and voted out...

Equality's Amazing Vanishing Act

(Flickr/Major Bonnett)
This year in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, citizens will have a chance to vote on marriage equality. In the first three, the question posted to voters is phrased affirmatively—Should the state issue civil-marriage licenses to same-sex pairs?—while in Minnesota, voters will be asked whether marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman. When I reported on the pro-equality campaigns in Maine and Maryland , I outlined what LGBT advocates now take as givens in any ballot campaign: The undecideds will vote against us. In the pre-ballot polling, the point spread between those supporting and those opposing marriage equality is meaningless. The percentage against plus the percentage that is undecided is the real numbers to watch. We lose 2 to 5 percent of our support at the polls. Of those who tell pollsters they’re on our side, 2 to 5 percent change their mind when they face the ballot question, alone in the booth. We don’t gain any support during the campaign...

Relax, It's Just a Costume

Blogging about sexy Halloween costumes has become a parody of itself.

(PatrickMcMullan.com via AP Images)
Every year, Halloween comes with its own predictable traditions: trick-or-treating, pumpkin recipes, costumes based on bad puns, and increasingly, the tradition of women wearing ever-skimpier Halloween costumes and feminists online decrying the trend through blogs and social networks. To quote the movie Mean Girls : “In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Mocking oversexed Halloween costumes is catnip to feminists. For one thing, it’s one of those arenas where the double standard is undeniable. Men’s costumes, at least those sold in Halloween stores, tend to be basic scary costume fare . Women’s costumes are so oversexed it gets silly. Sexy bacon ? Sexy Finding Nemo ? A sexy melon that is so sexy you can’t even tell what it’s supposed to be? Halloween has become just as much a holiday for adults to dress up and party hard as it is about children and candy. Which naturally means pushing...

It’s Just Unbelievable to Be Freed

(AP Photo/Joel Page, File)
I regularly get all giddy and Tiggerish about how far lesbians and gay man have come from the bad old days of, say, the late 1970s when I came out. Back then, most of the mainstream didn’t quite notice we were human. I do remember the moment I first realized that I wanted to kiss a girl, and my stomach fell out of me with fear: I didn’t want to be one of them. It’s hard to convey to you all how different things are and how far we’ve come. I’ve been thinking about this because, on her Bloggingheads show last week, Sarah Posner asked me whether, ten years ago, I would have imagined we’d be as far along as we are on marriage. Ten years ago, yes. In 2002, it was pretty clear what path we were on. But in the 1970s, marriage was simply beyond conceivable. If you want some evidence, you can find it in an old All in the Family episode in which Edith loses her beloved cousin Liz —and learns that the cousin’s “roommate” was in fact her partner. I looked back at it recently when Dan Savage...

Hope in Maryland for Marriage Equality

I’ve heard from many folks in the Maryland and D.C. area who really, really want to win marriage equality at the ballot this November 6. And I deeply hope that you will—more profoundly than I can express. But I don’t like how the numbers look at this particular moment. Going into the balloting with only 52 percent in favor is very close; historically, we’ve lost a few points from the public polling once people get in the voting booth. In the past, 52 percent just hasn’t been enough to cut it. Of course, for many reasons it could be different this time, as I’ve been pointing out here and here . Listen, back in 2000, when California's LGBT community was fighting the Knight Initiative—a first statewide mini-DOMA vote—I wrote, here, in the Prospect , that we had a chance of winning California. We were crushed. That happened again with Prop. 8 in 2008, although the margin of loss was much, much smaller. And yet we are going to win California. It might even be this year. Sarah Posner and I...

Todd Akin: Warrior for the Right

(AP Photo/Mike Derer)
Todd Akin, the Republican challenger for Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate seat representing Missouri, has made himself a national figure so far this election season by declaring that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” and claiming that abortion clinics routinely perform abortions on women who aren’t actually pregnant. But what’s garnered less attention, until this week, has been Akin’s history of not just saying but also doing disturbing things. His history shows a lifelong dedication to a misogynist right-wing ideology that flirts with using force to get its way when persuasion fails. Akin has friends in high places. He spent his time in Congress working with vice-presidential candidate and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan , with whom he crafted anti-choice legislation that would—surprise—redefine rape narrowly to eliminate many rapes that don’t involve overt violence to subdue the victim. This would better reflect Akin’s belief that many to most rapes are not “legitimate...

Does God Want You to Be Raped?

You gotta love these heartland Republicans. From a Blue state point of view, the kinds of things that Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, et al . have been saying are so eye-rollingly over the top that they seem designed precisely to keep Comedy Central and MSNBC in business. You know what I’m talking about, right? Akin started our heads spinning when he mansplained that if a woman gets pregnant, it couldn’t have been legitimate rape—because a woman’s bodies can only wash in those little swimmers if she was hot to trot to begin with. In this week’s installment of repro rights funnies, Mourdock explained on television that he was against abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest because: I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. ... And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. The choking-on-thin-air sounds started immediately from women all over...

First Ladies in Waiting

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Barack Obama for America)
(Flickr/Gage Skidmore, Obama for America) S ure, it's fun to hate her. She's a dance mom to a high-priced horse. She crowed about her “real marriage” to Mitt during her RNC speech, which would count as a homophobic dog whistle if it weren’t loud enough for everyone to hear. She wears thousand-dollar t-shirts and still manages to dress like a modern-day June Cleaver. And this Fall she's taken to saying bafflingly tone-deaf things to reporters, like that she has “concern” for her husband’s “mental well-being” should he actually have to serve as president. But all snark aside, why should we care about Ann Romney? The answers may seem obvious: If her husband is elected, she'll surely have the ear of the President of the United States in ways most cabinet members only dream of. She provides a window into a strange and often inscrutable candidate. And of course, the campaign has designated her a surrogate, so who are we to argue? But none of these answers stand up to scrutiny. Governors and...

Marry Me in ... Maine?

The sixth in a Prospect series on the 174 ballot measures up for a vote this November. Last week, I announced my caution about the chances of winning same-sex marriage at the ballot in Maryland . Just after I wrote that, a Washington Post poll showed that voters are leaning 52 percent to 43 percent in favor of upholding the marriage-equality law there. I got a lot of pushback, based on that poll. Look, that’s better than the reverse. But those of us who have watched same-sex marriage get voted on—and voted down—32 times since 1996 have learned a few basic things: The spread is meaningless. All undecideds vote against us. Our side loses two to five points at the ballot. We end up where we started before the campaign. I don’t think that voters lie to the pollsters. I think that most people don't think about lesbians and gay men very much. If they don't give the issue much thought, they vote for the status quo: marriage as they've always known it. Faced with the sentence “marriage is...

The Stronger Argument against DOMA

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Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a major part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since DOMA had already been held unconstitutional by the First Circuit , on one level this doesn't change anything, since the case was almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court anyway. But today's opinion is important because the theory underlying the court's holding goes much further than the First Circuit did. The Supreme Court has developed a three-pronged approach to applying the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under this framework, racial classifications have been held to require "strict scrutiny," under which the classification is constitutional only if necessary to achieve a compelling state objective. Most classifications require merely "rational basis" scrutiny—that is, the state only has to show that a classification bears any plausible rational relationship to a legitimate state interest. In practice, laws rarely survive strict scrutiny and...

Another One Bites the Dust

The cognoscenti have been telling me that the Supreme Court won't officially decide whether or not to take a DOMA case until after the election, lest they influence our voting one way or another. But today we got yet another clue that they will have to—and which way they will almost certainly decide. That's because today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it finds DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional, in yet another decision written by a conservative Republican-appointed judge, as was true in the Massachusetts cases decided by the First Circuit. The case: Edie Windsor, a widow who had been with her wife for 40 years—legally married, of course, only for a few years at the end—was suing the federal government for taxing her wife's estate as if they were legal strangers. A New York federal trial court judge decided summarily that was unconstitutional nonsense—as has every federal court that's heard such a case, in now ten opinions. The Second Circuit today upheld that, saying...

Voting While Trans

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Here’s the thing I loved about talking with Mara Keisling this week: her flat-out declaration that transpeople are winning their civil rights and cultural acceptance battles. I’m crazily Tiggerish on lesbian and gay issues: we’ve come so far so unbelievably fast, over my lifetime, that some days I bounce with glee. But given that the trans part of the LGBT coalition got started about 15 years later and has had very different challenges, I was still an Eeyore about their efforts. So it made my day to hear Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality executive director, declare a coming victory. “Science is on our side, first of all,” she explained. “Common sense is on our side. Decency is on our side. When you get that combination, you win every time.” But of course, winning is not the same as has won— which is why we were discussing the right to vote, and whether transpeople will be able to exercise it this year. Until NCTE launched its “ Voting While Trans ” initiative, it...

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