Gender & Sexuality

Virginia House Passes Personhood Bill

Republican delegate Bob Marshall says critics are overstating things when it comes to the personhood bill he is sponsoring in Virginia. Opponents of his bill have argued that not only does the measure grant legal protections to all fetuses beginning at conception, but it could also be construed to outlaw birth control. 

The bill is ostensibly less stringent than similar measures that came up in Colorado and Mississippi. As Marshall points out, it does not directly outlaw abortion, but would force the courts to include embryos in definitions of person. "I think I struck a middle ground," says Marshall.

The Beauty of “Santorum”

Mitt Romney acquires a Google problem to rival his opponent's.

History’s most famous Google prank just received the sincerest form of flattery.  A new website, “Spreading Romney,” is now one of the GOP frontrunner’s top online search results.  The new site defines “Romney” as “to defecate in terror,” commemorating the miserable 12 hours the Romney family dog spent riding on top of the car during a family trip to Canada.  “Spreading Romney's” emergence is the latest tribute to the success of sex columnist Dan Savage’s “Spreading Santorum” site, whose profile has risen with each Santorum victory.

Happy Valentine's Day ... And Don't Forget to Tip Your Waitress


As is true for roughly, oh, 72,000 working parents a day, I'm home today with a sick child. 

Roland Martin and the Masculinity Patrol

This weekend at The New York Times, Charles M. Blow, one of our great social-issues columnist, tackled the controversy over Roland Martin's Super Bowl tweets last weekend:

This week, Roland Martin, a bombastic cultural and political commentator was suspended by CNN from his role as a political analyst on the network for Twitter messages published during the Super Bowl.

A Super Bowl for the People

Led by Madonna’s halftime act, this year’s telecast included something for everyone.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Somehow Madonna pulled off an amazing feat during the Super Bowl: bringing gay culture and aggressive female sexuality into the heart of masculinity’s holiest of days without anyone seeming to care. While the cheerleading segment was embarrassingly silly, I otherwise have to disagree with Tom Carson’s assessment that the Super Bowl’s narrative was Clint Eastwood versus Madonna, with Clint winning. I’m more in the camp of Tom’s friend who said, “It was Clint AND Madonna.”

Birth Control Chess

(Flickr/brains the head)

Last week, I argued that it was unlikely that many critics of President Obama's contraceptive coverage requirement would be mollified by a compromise that would allow a religious exemption but still mandate that employees be provided with contraceptive coverage at no extra cost. Apparently, we're about to find out if that’s the case. I was very concerned when I first read that Obama was planning to announce a "compromise," and part of me still wishes he had just stood firm given the that the arguments against the new regulation were so bad.

Don't Spill That Semen!


When does a cell become a person? That's been widely up for debate with the "personhood" movement, whose goal is to "protect the pre-born" by passing state laws and amendments that define that first moment of sperm-egg contact as full personhood.

... And Still More Marriage Equality

It might be February, but wedding bells sure are in the air this week. Yesterday, Washington's state legislature passed a marriage bill that Governor Chris Gregoire has said she will sign. It will probably be battled at the ballot box, but I told you this week what I think about that—and the marriage-equality forces think that they're ready to hold the victory among voters. 

Synecdoche, California


Many progressive legal commentators, including Dahlia Lithwick and Garrett Epps, have praised Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s opinion holding that California’s Proposition 8—a referendum passed in 2008 making same-sex marriage illegal—is unconstitutional. The praise, however, has not been unanimous.

What the Anti-Contraception Conservatives Really Want

(Flickr/Jenny Lee Silver)

Let's stipulate at the outset that almost everyone on the right you hear talking about the issue of contraception coverage is cynically adopting this position for no other reason than they believe it to be a handy cudgel to bash the Obama administration. (One notable exception is Rick Santorum, who genuinely believes that contraception is wrong, since it unleashes our dirty, dirty thoughts and allows people to have sex without being punished for it.

Why Should the Government Enforce Catholic Church Beliefs?

Flickr/Kim TD

When I was growing up, we had an infinite supply of Catholic babysitters, who all came from families of 7 or 9 or 12. If Margaret stopped babysitting, Mary stepped right in. Once Mary got too old, there was Anne. That was no longer true for my baby sister, born 14 years after me. By the 1970s, those Catholic families had mysteriously stopped adding a new child every year. 

The Jig Is Up

(Flickr/Monik Markus)

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the response of conservative Catholics to President Barack Obama’s decision to require full birth control coverage from employers who provide health insurance has been to accuse the administration of an attack on religious freedom. These Catholics, and in particular, the Catholic Bishops, would prefer a regime that allows a broad exemption for Catholic-affiliated hospitals, even if they employ nonadherents and serve the general public. Anything less, they argue, is an assault on their Constitutional rights.

Hurrah for Small Victories: The Perry Decision Is Just Right

I loved the Ninth Circuit decision yesterday, in part for all the reasons Garrett Epps outlines so brilliantly here. It was perfect. It didn't overreach. It was confined to California's very peculiar circumstances. As I wrote in The Nation last year, this is precisely what the LGBT advocates have been privately hoping for: a decision that did not make the broad claim that same-sex couples have a right to marry in every state across the country. The LGBT legal groups won't tell you this openly, but what they really want is for the carefully planned Gill, Pedersen, and Windsor challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act to hit SCOTUS first. Those cases don't ask for a federal ruling on our right to marry. Rather, they say: States have already declared these couples married. That's what states do. The federal government doesn't get to pick and choose which marriages it wants to recognize.

There's Something Rotten at the Komen Foundation

Karen Handel's exit from the organization reveals the discord surrounding the Planned Parenthood decision.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had a placid expression on her face when she assured MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell last week that Karen Handel had nothing much to do with the foundation’s decision to cease funding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. Brinker was speaking of Komen’s vice president for public policy, a recent hire who stated during her  2010 Georgia gubernatorial campaign that de-funding Planned Parenthood was a policy priority.

In Prop. 8 Ruling, a Liberal Lion Coos

Stephen Reinhardt, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, has been called almost everything in the book. Conservatives slaver at the mention of his name; even liberals sometimes criticize his audacity. The Onion once ran a deadpan story reporting that he had “ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional ... ‘[i]n accordance with my activist agenda to secularize the nation.’”