Gender & Sexuality

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...

Four Lessons Learned from This Year's Stuffed Supreme Court Docket

flickr/quinn.anya
(AP Photo/J. David Ake) A momentous Supreme Court term concluded on Wednesday with historic decisions on same-sex marriage. But while the previous term will be forever defined by the Court's narrow upholding of the Affordable Care Act, the 2012-3 term had an unusual number of important decisions for a contemporary court. There are several important lessons to take from the term as a whole: On Civil Rights and Liberties: One Step Up, Two Steps Back. As Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith observed (among many others) in their book The Unsteady March , progress on civil rights isn't a linear progression in which things start off terribly and keep getting better. Progress achieved in one generation can be substantially rolled back in the next; civil rights often advance for some groups while backsliding for others. (World War II catalyzed substantial civil rights advances for African-Americans; Americans of Japanese origin and suspected political radicals, conversely, saw substantial...

A Queer History

Flickr/MKTP
*/ I ’ve been writing about marriage since 1993—two decades now. I expected these decisions, like everyone else. And yet I was still grinning like a fool when, with one fist, the Supreme Court smashed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—the 1996 law that banned the federal government from recognizing my marriage in Massachusetts—and with the other hand waved away the Proposition 8 case like a gnat. In practice, that means same-sex couples will soon marry again in California, the most populous state in the nation. And it means I am married not just in Massachusetts, but also in the United States (although not necessarily in Virginia, Texas, or any other state that bans same-sex marriage) for such exciting purposes as filing federal taxes, Social Security claims, immigration, and insurance. And yes, we’ll immediately be seeing a couple hundred more dollars in my prosecutor wife’s paycheck every month, as Massachusetts informed us by the day’s end, since the feds won’t be taxing my...

Rick Perry Attacks Wendy Davis in the Worst Way Possible

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry on the trail at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in South Carolina Wednesday. Texas Governor Rick Perry is speaking to the National Right to Life Convention, and given the events of the last few days, it’s no surprise he’s commenting on Wendy Davis and her filibuster of harsh anti-abortion restrictions. (You can read Abby Rapoport on Davis's filibuster here .) In criticizing Davis, Perry had a choice. He could dispute the state senator on the substance of her opposition, or he could attack her motives and her experiences. To no one’s shock, Perry—who occupies the far-right of the Republican Party—chose the latter. Jay Root, a reporter for the Texas Tribune , tweets one of Perry’s statements: . @GovernorPerry says @WendyDavisTexas was a "teenage mother herself" and it's unfortunate "she hasn't learned from her own example." — Jay Root (@byjayroot) June 27, 2013 The full quote is here: In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into...

Why the Prop. 8 Decision Should Make Liberals Uneasy

San Francisco City Hall after Prop. 8 was struck down. (Flickr/CHUCKage)
It's been pointed out many times that both the liberals and the conservatives on the Supreme Court often seem to reason backwards, starting with the outcome they'd prefer to see, then coming up with a rationale to justify that outcome. For instance, as I noted yesterday, Antonin Scalia was happy to overturn a law passed and overwhelmingly reauthorized by Congress (the Voting Rights Act) because he didn't like the law, then in a decision issued the very next day, thundered against the Court's majority for having the temerity to overturn a law passed by Congress (the Defense of Marriage Act), because that happened to be a law he did like. Fortunately, the sweeping majesty of our jurisprudential history provides an endless supply of rationales a justice can use to support whatever decision he or she would like to make. But sometimes, a good outcome can produce a dangerous precedent. And that may be just what happened in the Proposition 8 case the Court decided yesterday. In the case, the...

The Wendy Davis Rebellion in Texas

AP Images/Eric Gay
AP Images/Eric Gay A rowdy crowd of women making demands as loudly as they can—and winning? That sort of thing doesn’t happen in Texas. Except that now, apparently, it does. Beginning on Tuesday morning and stretching into the wee hours of Wednesday, Democrat Wendy Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, became a national pro-choice hero as thousands of Texans flooded the state capitol to cheer her effort to stop a draconian anti-abortion bill. Governor Rick Perry had added abortion restrictions to the agenda halfway through a special session of the legislature originally intended to pass new redistricting maps. Before the session ended at midnight on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers hoped to rush through what would have been one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion laws. For 11 hours, Davis filibustered a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and shut down all but five of the state’s abortion clinics. It was high drama: If Davis could hold out till midnight, she’d...

Antonin Scalia Is Angry. Again.

Flickr/The Higgs Boson
Ten years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled that laws outlawing sodomy between consenting adults were unconstitutional in the case of Lawrence v. Texas , Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent . "What a massive disruption of the current social order," he practically wailed from the page. He said that the Court had "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," and contrasted the Court with the good people of America, who "do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive." And perhaps most notably, Scalia lamented that under the rationale the Court's majority was using, the government wouldn't be able to prohibit gay people from getting married. To each other! He was right about that, anyway. But...

After Supreme Court Ruling, the Long Walk to the Altar Continues

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite W ell, that's that. After six years of litigation, today the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, and dismissed the Prop. 8 case on procedural grounds. Because California's governor and attorney general declined to defend the law's constitutionality in court, supporters of the measure took up the task; the justices found they did not have the proper "standing" to do so. Practically, the decision finding the measure unconstitutional stands, but it applies only to California. Some gay-rights supporters are breathing a sigh of relief. When the star legal team of Ted Olsen and David Boies first filed their challenge to Prop. 8 in 2008, many in the LGBT legal rights movement feared it was too soon to ask the "big question"—do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry?—and that the Court would issue a broad ruling...

Can We Forgive Alan Chambers?

The leader of the country's largest "ex-gay" organization announces the group is shutting down and that he's sorry. 

AP Photo/Alan Marler
AP Photo/Alan Marler Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International A year ago, I wrote in the pages of the Prospect about the three and a half years I spent in "ex-gay" therapy and about prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer's repudiation of his infamous 2001 study claiming that changing one's sexual orientation was possible. One of the most frequent questions I was asked after the article was published was whether I resented my parents for sending me to therapy. If they can forgive me for putting their parenting on display for the world to judge, I answered, I can forgive them for—among their many good decisions—making a big mistake. Parents deserve some slack for taking on the task of raising a human being, along with its central heartbreak: Despite love and the best intentions, you inevitably end up screwing up your kids in some way. I thought of this yesterday, when Exodus International, the country's largest ex-gay organization, announced it would be shutting its doors. The...

Enough With the Daddy Wars

AP Images/Melissa Moseley
AP Images/Melissa Moseley Last week, in the run-up to Father’s Day, Marc Tracy wrote at The New Republic that we are seeing the beginning of the Daddy Wars . It’s not true. It’s even more a falsehood than the “mommy wars” ever were. But while the title is wrong—and I don’t think it will stick—Tracy did rightly identify a new tenor of discussion that is a very good thing indeed—not just for dads, but for families in general. Tracy pointed to Richard Dorment’s odd screed at Esquire titled “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All,” a reaction to the infamous Anne-Marie Slaughter article in The Atlantic . Dorment complained that he is just as torn up as women are about “work-life” conflict—i.e., having to choose between the job and the family. Dormant’s piece detailed the ways that he, too, misses his kids every minute—but then he went on to crab that men don’t whine about it the way women do, goddammit, because men are men and life is unfair and women have to stop the goddamn whiny whining. And...

Offensive Photo Spreads and Insincere Apologies

An image from a recent Vice magazine photo spread. That's supposed to be Sylvia Plath, getting ready to put her head in the oven.
Throughout its existence, Vice magazine has attempted to cultivate an image of edgy rebelliousness, with provocative covers and journalism that runs less to "Here are stories you need to know about" and more to "Check out this crazy shit that's happening somewhere!" Which is fine, but it has a definitely male perspective, which is one of the reasons people were shocked when the latest issue of the magazine featured a photo spread of models re-enacting the suicides of famous female writers like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. The caption below each photo described their method of suicide, along with credit for the clothes the models were wearing. The most disturbing shot was probably that of a model posing as Iris Chang with a gun pointed at her head, but the most tasteless had to be that of the one portraying Taiwanese author Sanmao, who hanged herself with a pair of stockings. They included a fashion credit for the stockings wrapped around the model's neck. After what one might have...

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