Gender & Sexuality

Going Rogue for Marriage Equality

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke Tamara Davis, left, and Nicola Cucinotta kiss after obtaining a marriage license in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania despite a state law banning such unions. L ast week, Montgomery County, a sleepy suburb of Philadelphia, was thrust into the national spotlight when its elected register of wills, D. Bruce Hanes, put principle above policy and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of Pennsylvania's long-standing ban on gay unions. Since July 24, Hanes has issued more than two dozen of the licenses. Thus far, two lesbian couples have used the licenses to tie the knot in the first officially sanctioned same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania history. Hanes's pioneering effort—which materialized over the course of a single week after a lawyer representing two women contacted his office to inquire about obtaining a marriage license—has elevated Pennsylvania's stature as a gay-rights battleground and put Governor Tom Corbett on notice that, on the...

Iowa's High-Tech Abortion Battle

Free Verse Photography (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ennuipoet/5479828006/sizes/l/in/photostream/)
O ne night in 2007, Jill June, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, couldn’t sleep. She was grappling with a problem that vexes rural pro-choice advocates everywhere: the lack of access to abortion. At the time, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which performs most of the abortions in Iowa, had 17 clinics in its network but only three with an on-site physician. Doctors would travel, sometimes as far as 200 miles, to three other clinics in the state to perform intermittent care. The remaining 11 clinics did not offer abortion services. In all, 91 percent of Iowa’s counties, the more sparsely populated regions that are home to more than half the state's women, lacked an abortion provider . For June, providing access to medical abortion—the termination of an early pregnancy using a pill, rather than a surgical procedure—was especially challenging. In a few states, nurse practitioners or other midlevel medical staffers are allowed to dispense medical abortion pills, widening the...

The Filner Scandal Isn't a "Sex Scandal"

AP Photo/Gregory Bull
AP Photo/Gregory Bull S an Diego mayor Bob Filner has refused to resign amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, saying that he will undergo therapy instead. As Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post notes , it seems implausible that two weeks of therapy can fix Filner's very serious issues with women. But there is a much deeper problem with Filner's refusal to resign. His invocation of therapy suggests that the scandal is a purely private affair without direct implications for his conduct in office. This is dead wrong. It's crucial not to conflate consensual and nonconsensual actions together into a single catch-all category of "sex scandals." The current media environment and sexual privacy for public figures are often incompatible, and reasonable people can differ about whether the increased attention to personal questions of sexual morality is good for public discourse. My own view is that being a good spouse and being a good public official have virtually nothing to do...

Why the Courts Matter to LBGT Rights

AP Images/Elaine Thompson
The eminent legal scholar and federal judge Richard Posner has a self-described "revisionist" piece on litigation and same-sex marriage in The New Republic . Since it is partly a review of Michael Klarman's From the Closet to the Altar , much of what I have to say about Posner's piece is contained in my review of the Klarman book , and I won't repeat all of those arguments in the same detail here. But Posner's piece is instructive because it embodies some fallacious assumptions about institutional change in American politics that cause many scholars to misundertand the role litigation can play in social reform. What's most telling in Posner's review for me is this: The books are scholarly and well written, but deficient in payoff. They are basically just narratives of the history of homosexual marriage in the United States. I don't think this is right. The argument in Klarman's book is subtle—in part because he started off, like Posner, believing in t he conventional backlash thesis...

Run, Women, Run!

Rebecca D’Angelo
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite S usannah Shakow's first impression of high-school junior Tristana Giunta was that she was awkward. "Like, couldn’t-look-you-in-the-eye kind of awkward," Shakow says. Giunta was attending the first annual Young Women's Political Leadership conference in Washington, D.C.—the flagship program offered by Running Start, which Shakow, a lawyer with experience pushing women into politics, started to get girls excited about governing; excited enough to run for office. The Young Women’s Political Leadership conference is a boot-camp where high-school women learn the ingredients that make a great politician. They take Networking 101, Fundraising 101, and Public Speaking 101. They get first-hand knowledge of how Washington works from women who have been playing the game for ages. Girls learn there are dozens of people their age just as ambitious and as hungry to run for office as they are. Despite her shy demeanor, Giunta soaked up an impressive amount of campaign...

Obama's Silence on LGBT-Rights Abuses in Russia

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell President Barack Obama at a joint press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall last month R ussian President Vladimir Putin wasn't kidding about cracking down on LGBT rights. On Sunday, four Dutch filmmakers were arrested under the country's new "gay propaganda" law. Signed by Putin on June 30 after passing unanimously in the State Duma, the measure bans both private and public expressions of support for gay rights deemed to be accessible to minors and prescribes fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000) for violations. The filmmakers, who came to the country earlier this month to shoot a documentary about gay life in Murmansk, were taken into custody after police went through their footage and found an interview with a 17-year-old gay man (a minor under Russian law). While the foursome was fined for visa violations and let go, it is the first instance of the anti-gay law being enforced against visitors to the country. The gay blogosphere and...

A Guide to Anti-Choice Concern Trolling

flickr/exakta
If you're a supporter of reproductive rights in the United States, you're forced to endure various forms of concern trolling. The centrist form, perfected by Slate 's Will Saletan, exhorts supporters of abortion rights to concede that abortions are icky and that the good faith of people who support criminalizing abortion must be conceded even when their arguments are a moral, political, and legal shambles . While outright opponents of abortion rights are certainly willing to use these techniques, they have innovations of their own. The concern-troll-in-chief for opponents of reproductive rights is Ross Douthat of The New York Times . Last weekend's manifestation is a particularly good example, both because the arguments are relatively sophisticated and because Douthat is frequently generous enough to provide the material that refutes his own arguments. So, as a public service, I use Douthat's latest column to provide a handy guide to the pillars of anti-choice concern trolling, and,...

Rhode Island’s Small Victory

AP Photo/Susan E. Bouchard, File
AP Photo/Mel Evans W hen Governor Lincoln Chaffee signed the Temporary Care Giver’s Insurance law last week, Rhode Island became the third state—along with California and New Jersey—to grant paid time off to care for a sick loved one or a new baby. Rhode Island’s law, which goes into effect in 2014, will not only provide most workers with up to four weeks off with about two-thirds of their salaries (up to $752 a week), it will protect employees from being fired and losing their health insurance while they’re out. Workers will be able to use the time to care for a broad range of people, including children, spouses, domestic partners, parents, parent-in-laws, grandparents, and foster children. And, though the maximum single leave is four weeks, each parent can take four weeks off to bond with a new baby. A mother recovering from birth could combine that with an additional six weeks paid through an existing state program, bringing her total paid time off to ten weeks. An entire family...

Ginsburg's (Pyrrhic?) Triumph

AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais T he two major same-sex marriage cases decided by the Supreme Court in June were puzzling for at least two reasons. Windsor , which struck down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, featured a notably opaque opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Hollingsworth v. Perry, on the other hand, which resulted in legal same-sex marriage in California—albeit through a technicality—had a vote lineup that bore little relationship to how justices typically vote in standing cases, suggesting strategic voting on both sides. Part of the reason for these anomalies might be the Justice Kennedy's uneasiness. But it's worth noting that the outcome produced by these two cases is consistent with the long-held beliefs of one justice who was (unlike Kennedy) in the majority in both cases: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Court observers have interpreted the unusual vote lineup in Perry (Republican appointees Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, joined by their more...

Our Coming Incest Debate

The best argument for laws against incest. (HBO)
As the "traditional marriage" forces have been in retreat, both legally and rhetorically, there's an argument we haven't heard as much as we did a few years ago: that if you allow gay people to get married, then the same logic will demand that we also allow incest marriages and polygamous marriages. Today, Kent Greenfield grapples with it here at the Prospect ; go read his piece, then come back and I'll tell you what I think about this. My hunch is that the reason the incest argument has faded is that the anti-equality forces never gave it all that much thought in the first place. It was just something outside the prevailing definition of marriage that they thought would sound crazy to everyone, so they tossed it out there. The basic argument was that once you "change the definition of marriage," you'll be changing it to accommodate any preference anybody had. A man will marry his brother! A woman will marry her cat! A cat will marry a gerbil! (Bill O'Reilly is, for some reason,...

The Slippery Slope to Polygamy and Incest

AP Photo/Jonathan Ray Ward
AP Photo/Jonathan Ray Ward Young girls outside a school in the polygamous commune of Bountiful, British Columbia I t’s been a few weeks since the victories in the marriage cases at the Supreme Court, and maybe it’s time for the political left to own up to something. You know those opponents of marriage equality who said government approval of same-sex marriage might erode bans on polygamous and incestuous marriages? They’re right. As a matter of constitutional rationale, there is indeed a slippery slope between recognizing same-sex marriages and allowing marriages among more than two people and between consenting adults who are related. If we don’t want to go there, we need to come up with distinctions that we have not yet articulated well. The left is in this bind in part because our arguments for expanding the marriage right to same-sex couples have been so compelling. Marriage, we’ve said, is about defining one’s own family and consecrating a union based on love. We’ve voiced these...

Progressives' Post-DOMA To-Do List

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file
AP Photo/The Columbus Dispatch, Fred Squillante T wo of my favorite writers on legal subjects, Dahlia Lithwick and Barry Friedman, wrote a piece for Slate earlier this week wondering if the progressive agenda hasn't been exhausted by the victories on same-sex marriage. "While progressives were devoting deserved attention to gay rights," they argue, "they simultaneously turned their backs on much of what they once believed." I share their sense of frustration, but I interpret the landscape differently. To me, the problem isn't the lack of a robust progressive agenda. The problem is that progressives generally lack power. Last week, I saw strong defenses of progressive values at every level of politics—from ordinary citizens to the highest offices in the country. In a brief window of time, you saw heroic opposition to barbaric attacks on the welfare state in North Carolina and reproductive freedom in Texas, President Obama's climate change speech , and eloquent defenses of equality by...

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Gay Equality 1, Civil Rights 0 – join us in wondering how to celebrate this Fourth of July. (Hint: not by seeing Johnny Depp’s new movie, that’s for sure.)

AP Photo/The Omaha World-Herald, Brynn Anderson
AP Photo C all it coincidence, but my bedside reading for the past couple of weeks has been the new two-volume boxed set of the Library of America’s Reporting Civil Rights . Awe-inducing and frequently thrilling, this monumental anthology of on-the-scene coverage of the fight for black equality features contributions by scores of writers, some rightly renowned—James Baldwin, Garry Wills, et. al.—and some unjustly obscure. Part One deals with the years 1941-1963; Part Two tackles the pressure-cooker decade that followed King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Each volume also includes a sheaf of photographs, primarily of the writers themselves at the time. They’re often evocative ones, even if the era’s great photojournalism—no less worthy of commemoration—gets short shrift as a result. Anyway, I won’t pretend I’ve made much more than a dent in the set’s almost 2,000 pages. But that’s not the point, since Reporting Civil Rights could easily keep my idle hours occupied until Christmas. (Not...

A Fiercely Anti-Choice Ohio GOP Redefines "Pregnancy" to Mean "Not-Pregnancy"

Wikipedia
Last night , Ohio Governor John Kasich took a little time from his weekend to sign a new $65 billion budget for the state. There are many moving parts to the law, including a $2.5 billion tax cut which—like most Republican tax cuts—is meant to help the rich at the expense of everyone else. But of those parts, the most relevant for discussion—given last week’s fiasco in the Texas Senate—are the new restrictions on all reproductive services. In addition to slashing tax burdens on the wealthiest Ohioans, the budget measure signed yesterday would allocate federal funds away from Planned Parenthood—which uses them to provide contraception and other health services, not abortion—to crisis pregnancy centers, which claim to offer support, counseling and a full range of options for women who think they may be pregnant. In reality, they are overtly anti-abortion. “[A]ccording to personal accounts compiled by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL),” notes the...

The Religious Right's Terms of Surrender

Rachel Ensign/Twitter
Rachel Ensign/Twitter (@RachelEnsignWSJ) L ast week's Supreme Court rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and denying standing to California's Proposition 8 supporters have brought out the usual clown show of conservative religious leaders proclaiming the end of days. It's the standard stuff from the activist right: Here comes pedophilia, incest, polygamy, and bestiality. Christian florists will be dragged to jail for refusing to cater a same-sex wedding. School children will now be forced to simulate lesbian sex with their Barbies. Stirred to action by the decision, the Christian right has vowed to resist the spread of same-sex marriage nationwide, using civil disobedience if necessary. There's even talk of reviving the Federal Marriage Amendment , which would amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. But conservative intellectuals aren't expressing the same bravado as their activist counterparts. Like the 73 percent of Republicans...

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