Gender & Sexuality

Putting Marriage Rights to a Vote

The country's gradual movement toward marriage equality took a step further last week. Democrats in Iowa won a closely contested special election, which allowed the party to maintain their senate majority and essentially assured that no amendment to overturn same-sex marriage will be put to a vote until 2015 at the absolute earliest. That followed a New Jersey court's decision to hear a case that might replace the state's civil unions provision with full marriage rights. But a bit of bad news snuck through as well. Basic Rights Oregon—or BRO, a delightful acronym for the state's leading LGBT rights group—announced that they would abandon their goal of putting a pro-marriage measure on the ballot in 2012, with their sights now set on 2014. "It is not a question of if we will cross this threshold, but when," the group's board wrote in a release . "We have considered the possibility of putting this issue on the ballot for the 2012 election. However several factors, including the expense...

A Reading Assortment for 11/11/11

Occupy Harvard's signs say "We want a university for the 99 percent!" Umm, where I come from, we call those "state schools." #justsaying The U.S. Census reports that half of working women have no paid maternity leave. And guess whose jobs are least likely to offer paid leave? The 50 percent who need it most. Hope Yen's article for the AP includes this: Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits. That’s the widest gap over the past 50 years. Women with no more than a high-school diploma saw drop-offs in paid-leave benefits from the early 2000s to the period covering 2006 to 2008, which includes the first year of the recession.... The analysis highlights the patchwork of work-family arrangements in the U.S., which lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, unlike most other countries. There’s a longer-term trend of widening U.S. income inequality caused by slowing wage growth at the middle- and lower-income...

Penn State Rallies for Victims

AP Photo
Why does the Penn State community cheer for Joe Paterno? We’ve seen nearly a week’s worth of rallying in support of the legendary football coach after a grand jury indictment made plain that Paterno enabled his longtime assistant’s sexual abuse of children. While the university’s Board of Trustees almost certainly gave Paterno the opportunity to resign immediately, he opted instead to announce his retirement at the end of the season (three regular games and a postseason away). This forced the board’s hand, leading it to fire the coach, along with university president Graham Spanier, Wednesday night. Student rallying turned feverish, and the night ended with rocks and bottles thrown, a lamppost dismantled, and a news van overturned. All of this to protest the firing of someone who could have intervened in the pattern of abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky—and did not. The shouts of Penn Staters protesting Paterno’s firing Wednesday night prompted the rest of the nation to look on in...

Penn State, Sexual Assault, and the Abuse of Power

A lot has confused me about the outrage about Penn State's apparent cover-up of its former assistant coach's serial molestation and assault of children. Football is lousy with entitled rapists. No, I'm not saying that all football players rape. But I am saying that we hear football-rapist stories regularly. Most women know someone who was (or were themselves) groped, date-raped, or sexually assaulted by a high school or college football player who thought he owned whatever walked by. Consider what commentator Michele Weldon wrote in the Chicago Tribune : In late October, a Texas youth football coach in Abilene was arrested on charges of sexual assault with a child and two counts of indecency with a child. This past summer, a Rhode Island youth football coach was arrested on sexual assault and child molestation charges. A few weeks after that, an Omaha, Neb., youth football league organizer was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a girl. A youth soccer coach from a south...

Q&A: Protecting Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa

AP Photo/Brian Ray
A little-noticed special election earlier this week in Iowa had far-reaching consequences for the future of marriage equality. Liz Mathis's victory will keep Democrats in the majority, ensuring that same-sex marriage will not be overturned anytime soon. The Prospect spoke with Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, the state's leading LBGT-rights organization. Why was the race important, and how was One Iowa involved? The race was incredibly important because it was going to decide the outcome of who would control the senate. Being as that's the only chamber that is controlled by Democrats, it had huge implications for the future of public policy in the state. From the LBGT community's perspective, this was a very important race, because the senate is controlled by the fair-minded majority. We have been very supportive of them because they have been very supportive of us. They were able to stop the discriminatory anti-marriage amendment that was moving through the legislature. I...

Good Ol' Boys' Good Ol' Cowardice

The men who covered up Jerry Sandusky's crimes aren't necessarily evil; they're part of a powerful network that values conformity. 

A child rapist and those who knowingly let his offenses go unpunished may not be moral equivalents, but, as we’re learning this week from Penn State, inaction can have dire consequences. I’m sickened by the abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky, but frankly, reading the grand jury report, I’m even more disturbed by the number of people who witnessed everything—from blatantly criminal activity (anal rape and forced oral sex) to highly suspicious behavior (a man in his 50s and 60s giving bear hugs to naked boys in the shower)—and never reported a single incident to the police. No one blew the whistle. In order to enable Sandusky to continue abusing boys for nearly two decades (and those are just the times we know about) a shocking number people had to turn a blind eye or leave the situation for someone else to handle. But that’s exactly what so many did. Numerous people along the way—from the janitor who discovered Sandusky pinning a boy against a shower wall and performing oral sex on...

In Which DOMA Crumbles Just a Little Bit More

Has anyone been trying to keep score at home on the many attacks on the Defense of Marriage Act ? There are so many different ways it could fall. Today’s news came from the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Sen. Feinstein’s Respect for Marriage Act, referring it to the full body. The RMA would repeal DOMA, thereby enabling same-sex couples who are legally married in their home states would be treated as married by the federal government as well. (Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently marry same-sex couples; see the map here .) That means, for instance, that my wife would stop paying thousands of dollars in federal taxes for listing me on her health insurance; a New Hampshire man married to a Brazilian, say, could sponsor his foreign-born husband for legal residency or citizenship. The discussion in the committee was short, nothing like the full theater of the July 20 hearing on the bill, in which everyone said the same things as they did back...

Marriage Rights Safe in Iowa

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/3410726792/sizes/l/
Iowa Democrats held on to a key state senate seat yesterday. Liz Mathis defeated Republican Cindy Golding by a 12-point margin, allowing Democrats to maintain their 26-24 majority in the chamber. If Golding had come out ahead, the two parties would have negotiated a power-sharing system, granting the GOP the leverage they would need to introduce their favored bills.* The result of this single election is a monumental win for same-sex marriage advocates. It means that Iowa's marriage law can't be overturned for at least the next five years. Unlike in other states, amending the state constitution in Iowa is a long, arduous task; it requires the legislature to pass the amendment in two consecutive sessions interspersed with a general election, then be passed by a public referendum. Even if Golding had won, 2014 would have been the earliest point a referendum could appear on the ballot. With Democrat Mike Gronstal—a staunch defender of the state's current marriage laws—still at the helm...

Sexual Assault Versus Harassment

So now there's a fifth allegation against Herman Cain—and we can see exactly why women have been loath to come forward and be dragged through the mud. I don't know what Cain did or did not in fact do to Sharon Bialek, or Karen Kraushaar, or to the other three women who've decided to protect their sanity and jobs by keeping their names private. I am sure that some dedicated reporters are doing their best to double-check the accusations—and since attorney Lin Wood is implicitly threatening the news media with the possibility of libel lawsuits, you can be sure that litigation-averse major media outlets will triple-check to see that every fact is sourced, checked, nailed down, and lawyered up before you see it in print or pixel. But all that aside, one misunderstanding of Sharon Bialek's allegations startled me. Let's review the allegation, as reported in The New York Times : In her statement to the press, Ms. Bialek said that she had been fired at the association after about a year...

Is There a "Bradley Effect" for Abortion?

Amendment 26 supporter Sandy Comer puts out a campaign sign at the polls at the Chamber of Commerce in Oxford, Mississippi, on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Mississippians go to the polls today for state and local elections, as well as referendums including the so-called personhood amendment, a referendum on whether to define life as beginning at conception. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)
Yesterday, Mississippi voters soundly defeated Amendment 26, an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would have altered the state's constitution to define personhood as beginning at fertilization. Going into the election, a survey from Public Policy Polling showed 45 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed, and 11 percent undecided—much closer than the vote turned out to be. A personhood amendment like the one in Mississippi has never been enacted and would have had radical implications, even in a strongly pro-life state like Mississippi. Not only would it have banned all abortions without exception, but popular forms of contraception like the morning after pill, IUDs, and even the pill would have been outlawed as well. In addition, miscarriages could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter. But Mississippians won't have to deal with any of that, because Amendment 26 lost 58 percent to 42 percent. The discrepancy between what the polls said going in and the results means that...

Rick Perry's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Nostalgia

Rick Perry has tumbled from the top of the polls over the past two months with some polls this week putting him behind Newt Gingrich. Perry is the epitome of the Tea Party conservative on most issues, yet his slight divergences on immigration and an HPV vaccine mandate have convinced primary voters that the Texas governor is a RINO. How's he going to bounce back? By appealing to the vilest desires of the GOP base. During an interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, Rick Perry offered some homophobic musings: When asked whether he'd reverse the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Perry accused President Barack Obama of appeasing "his political base" and said he would "go back and sit down with your commanders in the field and have that conversation." It was a "political statement" from Perry's vantage. But that political base that Obama supposedly appeased was the vast majority of Americans. According to one poll taken right before Congress voted to repeal the law last...

Is Gay Marriage on the Line in Iowa?

It's Election Day, though most of the country won't notice. Beside a handful of referendums with wide-reaching consequences, there are few contested elections, and the two big-ticket contests—gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi—aren't in question. But one small state Senate election in Iowa could have a significant impact on the LGBT community. Republican Cindy Golding is facing off against Democrat Liz Mathis in the state's 18th District. The special election was triggered when Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed the incumbent (a Democrat) to a state board earlier this fall. What's so important about a single Iowa Senate seat? Democrats currently hold a 26-24 majority in the chamber, so the election will decide which party controls the legislative body. And if Golding wins, the Republicans will likely use their new majority to begin the process of repealing Iowa's same-sex marriage law. Since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage rights in 2009,...

Herman Cain and the Problem of Serial Harassers

What is it that turns a person into a serial predator? Is there something about power that makes some men think they can take whatever they want, or are there men who just don't recognize women as human? Make no mistake: Real sexual harassment is predation. My rule has long been that if I hear one allegation, I wait to hear the evidence—might be true, might be false. If I hear two serious allegations in which women took the risk of bringing the charge publicly, I assume there are more. Someone smart at the Associated Press must know that rule, because their reporters have turned up a third allegation of sexual harassment against Herman Cain: A third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate...

How Far We Haven't Come, Episode #1707

Remember "The End of Men," the concept that the future belongs to women, because women are more prepared for today's economy? Well, it hasn't hit us yet. Even when women are better educated, men earn more, at least in most parts of the workforce. As Motoko Rich reports at The New York Times , Even with the same college and professional degrees, men earn more than women . And among so-called creative class workers like architects, teachers, artists, engineers, bankers and journalists, men earn much more than women , even though more women hold such jobs. It’s similar at the bottom end of the scale. According to a report issued Thursday by the United States Government Accountability Office, a higher proportion of women finish high school than men, a milestone that is a minimum requirement for any job mobility. Women — especially younger women — are also completing bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than men. Yet they represent a higher proportion of low-wage workers, defined in the...

How Far We've Come, Episode #407

Facebook
Back in the mesozoic era of LGBT rights—probably about 1985 or so—I remember reporting for a local gay newsweekly on a young woman in a less-than-affluent Boston suburb who was demonized for trying to take her girlfriend to the prom. She struck me as a little unstable and troubled, as anyone would have had to be to risk the harassment and death threats that hounded her. And even though I was the snotty anti-prom type during my high school years (see under: poet ) and went with my best friend to a Greek Orthodox Easter midnight mass instead of my high school's prom, I was in awe that this teenager would take that on. I hope that my impression was wrong, and that she ultimately fared well. I thought of her when I saw this item on a California lesbian couple at Patrick Henry high school, where the crowd cheered insanely as they crowned the pair homecoming king and queen. Neither one appears especially butch, but those titles were the only ones available. They're absolutely adorable, just...

Pages