Gender & Sexuality

More on Tyler Clementi

(AP Photo)
Richard Kim at The Nation has the smartest take on the conviction that I’ve seen, combing carefully through the evidence and thinking about the conclusions. Please do pop over and read it (and then come back here, of course!). Some excerpts: The cell phone and social media evidence … suggests a more complicated picture than the initial caricature of Ravi as a cyber-armed, homophobic bully…. Ravi expresses horror when he discovers online that his new roommate is gay (“FUCK MY LIFE/He’s gay”), but he later texts “I don’t care” and characterizes Clementi as “gay but regular gay”—a term he also used to refer to the month of January (“what a gay month”)…. Clementi, for his part, expresses some alarm that his new roommate’s parents are “soo Indian first gen americanish” and so “defs owna dunkin’ [donuts].” Had the roles been reversed, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which that text would be used in court as evidence of Clementi’s racism…. There are all too many cases of gay...

The Roberts Court Joins the War On Women

Wikimedia Commons
When Daniel Coleman asked for sick leave from his job at the Appeals Court of Maryland, he was told he would be fired. The state's actions violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed by Congress in 1993. Unfortunately, thanks to the Roberts Court, Coleman has a right without an appropriate remedy. A bare majority of the Supreme Court held Tuesday that while Coleman's statutory rights were violated, he cannot sue the state of Maryland for damages. Once again, the conservatives on the Supreme Court have prioritized "states' rights" over human rights. Sometimes, a bad policy outcome resulting from a Supreme Court decision is a compelling or at least clearly reasonable application of sound constitutional principles. Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals , however, is not such a case. In order to produce this unjust result, the Court had to rely on a double-header of bad legal arguments. First, it applied a "states' rights" doctrine with no basis in the text of the Constitution...

The 2016 Litmus Test

Stefano Bolognini
At the outset of the 2004 presidential primaries, Howard Dean was considered a far-out radical, in large part because as Vermont governor he had signed a bill providing civil unions for gay couples. By the end of the election, however, all the Democratic candidates had come out in support of civil unions, and even George W. Bush said that if a state chose to have them, that was fine with him. Four years later, not much had changed. The leading Democratic candidates all said they supported civil unions, but still thought marriage should be between a man and a woman. And Barack Obama has held to that standard, despite saying his views on marriage equality are "evolving." People on both the left and right take this to mean that he believes in marriage equality, but doesn't yet have the political courage to come out and say so publicly. His message to the gay community has essentially been: "Look, I repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and my administration isn't defending the Defense of...

The Difference Between Contraception and Mainlining Heroin

(Flickr/romana klee)
Last week, I mentioned two state legislatures had passed abstinence-only sex education bills . While Wisconsin's governor was already supportive of the measure, in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert was less certain. The measure would have banned any discussion of contraception, or for that matter, homosexuality. The current law in Utah already requires parents to "opt-in" if the course includes discussion of contraceptives, but this measure would have actually removed even the option for students to learn about more than simply abstinence. It had passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, despite protests and opposition from the state PTA and teachers' groups. Late Friday, after protests, phone calls, and significant pressure from both sides, Herbert announced he had vetoed the measure . In his statement , he said he was unwilling to say "the State knows better than Utah's parents," noting a majority of parents choose to have their children learn about contraception. Herbert described himself...

Who Killed Tyler Clementi?

(AP Photo/John Munson)
(AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, John O'Boyle, Pool) Dharun Ravi waits for a judge to explain the law to a jury before jurors begin deliberating. Friday, Ravi was convicted of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, having an intimate encounter with another man. Days later, Clementi committed suicide. In September 2010, Rutgers student Dharun Ravi used a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man (he didn’t tape him or broadcast him; he just took a few quick peeps and tweeted about it, according to in-depth reporting by Ian Parker at The New Yorker ). Three days later,* that roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped off a bridge to his death. On Friday, a New Jersey jury convicted Ravi of 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. Some of the charges carry possible sentences of ten years in prison. Because Ravi was born in India and arrived in the United States at the age of two, he could also be deported to a country he scarcely knows. Like many...

State of the Week

(Flickr/Calsidyrose)
This week's state of the week is ... Texas! The Lone Star State has been in the headlines a lot this week—and not just because South by Southwest is here. First there was the news that the Department of Justice blocked enforcement of the state's stringent and controversial voter ID measure . According to a letter from the DOJ, the state failed to show how it would deal with rural voters or the disparities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters in terms of who already has valid photo identification. While the case is already headed to the D.C. District Court, that's hardly the only battle between the feds and Texas lawmakers. Governor Rick Perry is also blaming the Obama administration for dismantling the state's Women's Health Program . The administration ruled it could not approve $35 million in federal funding for the program after the state opted to bar Planned Parenthood, despite that the organization served 40 percent of WHP recipients. Planned Parenthood toured the state in...

Abstinence-Only Education Making a Comeback?

Maybe we can start bringing these books into the classroom too. (Flickr/romana klee)
Here's a way to save time debating women's health. Rather than allow people to fight and debate the issues around birth control and access to healthcare, simply don't tell them key facts about contraception and sexual health. That way, rather than fighting, kids will be blissfully ignorant. Or, you know, rely on the wisdom of my sister's best friend's cousin who says you definitely can't get pregnant if it's a full moon. Legislatures in both Wisconsin and Utah have passed abstinence-only education bills. It's now up to governors in both states to determine whether or not to make the measures law. Utah's proposal is significantly more stringent. It would actually ban schools from teaching about contraceptives—and, for that matter, homosexuality. The Deseret News reports that hundreds of protesters have flooded the capitol, asking Governor Gary Herbert to veto the bill. The governor has said the public efforts against the measure won't sway him; according to the News , a survey at...

The Anti-Women VP Choice

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's name is often near the top when people list possible VPs. He's popular among the conservative grassroots, but falls under the category of typical bland white guys that voters are accustomed to and will receive little notice. It doesn't hurt either that he is the sitting governor for an important swing state. Yet...

Silver Lining for the Ladies

Women protesting at White House in 1917
Tigger and Eeyore are battling it out inside me this week. I can’t tell whether to be depressed over what Maureen Dowd calls “the attempt by Republican men to wrestle American women back into chastity belts” or invigorated by the myriad ways women are chronicling it and fighting back. Are women really gonna get dragged back to the scarlet-letter era—why not just repeal the 19th amendment!—or is all this going to set off a revitalized third feminist wave? Eeyore: In a surreal move, the Arizona Legislature’s Senate Judiciary committee has introduced a bill that would: … permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment. If she’s slutty enough to be using it to have sex, well, no coverage for her! Tigger: Hey, at least it’s time to stop being ambivalent about the SlutWalks ! It sure has become clear that that particular eruption of take-back-the-word feminist...

Celebrating the Defeated

(Flickr/FadderUri)
Three former Iowa Supreme Court justices might not have received much love from their constituents, but they're about to be granted a national accolade. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Associate Justices David Baker and Michael Streit were voted off the bench in 2010 after conservative activists organized against their retention election, a typically routine procedure that became political overnight. Conservatives—led by failed gubernatorial candidate and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats—were outraged when the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The state's constitution is difficult to amend, so they decide to voice their displeasure by removing those three justices with funds provided by major social conservative organizations such as the American Family Association and the National Organization For Marriage. Liberals were caught off guard—unprepared to run a defensive campaign—and the three justices chose to sit out the election under the belief that it...

Texans Fight Back Against Cuts

(Flickr/WeNews)
It's hard to overstate just how dire the situation is around women's health care in Texas. The state has the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country and one in four women are uninsured. After cutting family-planning funding by around two-thirds last legislative session, conservative lawmakers are now standing by their decision to cut off Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program, a move that ended $35 million in federal funding. (Here's a timeline of the fight .) Governor Rick Perry, who bragged about the decision at the recent CPAC conference, has said he'll find the money to keep the program—while still barring Planned Parenthood. No one seems to know exactly where he'll find the money, given that the state has already underfunded Medicaid by $4 billion last session. In the meantime, Planned Parenthood, which serves 40 percent of the 130,000 who rely on the Women's Health Program, has already had to shut down more than a dozen clinics . Non-Planned...

What’s Right with This Picture?

Getty Images
Lately, I’ve been very Eeyore-ish about women’s lives. There’s plenty of reason for that. Ruth Rosen nicely lays out the backlash against women’s reproductive lives in her article about the current counter-reformation , as she puts it, against women’s bodily autonomy. Of course, any attempt to roll back women’s reproductive rights is an attack on women’s economic independence, since women can only control their educational and financial lives if they can control their fertility. (Did I mention here that a recent new study showed that women with access to the Pill in the 1970s were making 8 percent more in their fifties? That can be the difference between retirement and working the checkout line when you’re 70.) But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s the wage gap, which is closing only because men lost so much more in wages during the recession. There’s the “ mancovery ” that Heather Boushey delineates, in which men are getting their jobs but women are not. There’s the byline...

Americans Still Support the Birth-Control Mandate

(Stacy Lynn Baum/Flickr)
To go back to The Washington Post poll for a moment, there is a little good news if the Obama administration is still fretting over its handling of the contraception mandate. By a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent, Americans believe that health insurers should be required to cover the full cost of birth control for women. This even extends to religious-affiliated employers—like hospitals—which were the focal point of the controversy. According to the poll, 79 percent of those who support the birth-control mandate also support it for religious-affiliated employers. Now that the controversy is over, for the most part, it’s obvious that this is good territory for the administration, and they should continue press their advantage. Already, as The New York Times reports , Republican missteps have created an opening for Obama to improve his standing with moderate and Republican-leaning women. Indeed, as the year goes on, I expect that this view will become a little more prevalent: “We all...

Rush Limbaugh's Bust Is a Go

Imagine you were the speaker of the Missouri state House. In addition to legislating and naming committee chairmen, you'd also have a pretty awesome perk: choosing who gets bronze busts in the state Capitol rotunda. Who to pick might be a challenge. As The New York Times notes , there are a lot of famous Missourians without the giant casts, from modern folks like Maya Angelou to old West heroes. House Speaker Steven Tilley, tasked with this momentous decision, picked Rush Limbaugh. And no amount of calling people "sluts" is going to persuade Tilley to change his mind, telling the Times, "in my part of the state, we're proud of him." The Times story notes that Mark Twain will be among the others getting enshrined with Limbaugh. You can only wonder what he would have to say. I'm guessing it would be wittier than a joke about watching women have sex in exchange for birth control access.

Did Virginia Pro-Choicers Blunder?

NARAL Pro-choice Virginia
I definitely agree with the central point of Sarah Kliff's post —namely, that the ultrasound law that ultimately passed in Virginia is almost as bad as the bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds that was initially proposed. Like Dahlia Lithwick , though, I don't really agree with the Kliff's framing argument that the passage of a slightly-less-bad set of abortion regulations resulted from a pro-choice "blunder." It's not as if there's some magic technique that can enable pro-choice groups to stop Republican governments from passing bad abortion regulations that they want to pass. Pro-choice groups were able to stop the most extreme form of the bill because the effective requirement of a transvaginal ultrasound turned out to be highly unpopular . Less invasive ultrasound requirements, conversely, like a lot of abortion regulations are bad public policy but are not necessarily not unpopular despite the best efforts of pro-choice groups. In these circumstances, supporters of...

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