E.J. Graff

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...

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...

Pacifiers and Pink Slips

AP Images/Joel Ryan
Would you lose your job if, for a few months, you had to run to the bathroom more often than your coworkers? Or your doctor told you to carry a water bottle and drink as often as possible? Or if you were told you couldn’t lift more than twenty pounds for a few months? Probably not, if you’re a white-collar worker. And probably not, if you’re a blue- or pink-collar worker—a janitor, factory worker, health aide, retail clerk—who’s strained your back or has some other condition covered as a temporary disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act’s Amendments Act (ADAAA, or “AD triple A,” as the insiders say it) of 2008. But yes, you might well lose your job for that if you’re pregnant. Pregnancy doesn’t qualify as a disability. So if you’re a pregnant low-wage worker, your boss could very well tell you that if you can’t follow the workplace’s standard rules—about bathroom breaks, water bottles, standing all day, or carrying trash bags weighing up to 30 pounds—you have to stay home...

I Would Desire That You Pay the Ladies

AP Images/Susan Walsh
AP Images/Susan Walsh Fifty years ago today, in 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. The idea was simple: Men and women doing the same work should earn the same pay. Straightforward enough, right? Change the law, change the world, be home by lunchtime. Well, maybe not by lunchtime . After all, back then the law still accepted the idea that men and women were born for different jobs. Newspapers like The Washington Post still had separate classified ad sections for “men’s” jobs and “women’s” jobs. Female law school graduates had trouble even getting interviews. The pre-1963 world being what it was–sexist, in a word—you’d figure activists might well have estimated that the culture would need at least a decade to catch up and treat women fairly on the job. “When I first came to the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, which is now the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), in 1974, it was very fashionable to walk around with those big buttons that had “59¢” with the...

A Brief History of Dumb Things Men Have Said

AP Photo/Richard Drew “We’re watching society dissolve around us, Juan, what do you think?” “Something is going terribly wrong in American society and it’s hurting our children.” “This is a catastrophic issue.” You may have heard these outcries last week, if (heaven forfend) you were watching Fox News or, more likely, reading any of the ladyblogs that snickered about the hysteria coming from the four-dude panel convened by Lou Dobbs. The apocalyptic finding about which they were opining? Here’s the New York Times report on it: "Four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census and polling data released Wednesday." Women supporting their own children?! Say it ain’t so! Each male talking head was reacting to a slightly different bogeyman. Juan Williams was reacting to the fact that many such families are headed by single mothers when he said it's "...

The Gay Recruiting Myth Dies a Quiet Death

Flickr/CT Senate Democrats
Flickr/CT Senate Democrats U nless you live in Connecticut or read the right-leaning press, you probably haven’t heard this story. Two men in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a couple who adopted nine children and lived in a fabulous remote Victorian, are accused of abusing at least two (and maybe more ) of their boys. Let me get this on the record: If true, this is nothing less than horrifying. I’ve written enough, here and elsewhere , against the sexual abuse of children that I hope I can leave that reaction as is, for now. Instead, I want to write my relief that—for the most part—this has not been used to indict gay men at large. In fact, I first heard about this story from a social conservative who got in touch to ask what I thought—and who wanted to be careful not to say anything, publicly, that could be accused of being “homophobic.” (I put it in quotes because I don’t use that word.) That’s an enormous advance. As recently as a decade ago, the fundamental libel against lesbians and...

A Few Words about Angelina Jolie's Breasts

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Angelina Jolie—a woman with some of the world’s most famous breasts—has explained in a thoughtful New York Times op-ed this week why she's had them prophylactically removed and replaced. Jolie’s mother died young, after a decade living with ovarian cancer; when Jolie herself got genetically tested, she learned that she had a BRCA1 genetic mutation that gave her an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer. To protect her children from losing their mother too young, she opted for surgery, which she describes in some detail. That unexpected mash-up—glamorous Hollywood superstar, global ambassador for celebrity humanitarianism, and the sober Gray Lady, the brainstem of the establishment—has sent the issue viral. And so we have discovered that Angelina Jolie’s breasts are a Rorschach test. Women have written about their own experiences with breast cancer or its specter , and have been variously grateful to or angry at her for announcing her course of action, or hating or loving the way...

Free to Work, Free to Marry

AP Photo/Jim Mone
AP Photo/Jim Mone Thousands filled the Minnesota State Capitol as they waited for word that the Senate had passed the gay marriage bill yesterday. L ast month, Rhode Island came over into the marriage equality column. Last week, it was Delaware . Yesterday, it was Minnesota. There’s progress expected in New Jersey, Illinois, and at the Supreme Court. Pick your favorite cliché or metaphor about winning—being on a hot streak, passing the tipping point, bending the arc of history—and feel free to apply. And yet few Americans are aware that in 29 states, you can still be fired for putting a same-sex partner’s picture on your desk, or rejected for a job because the hiring manager doesn’t like homos. That’s right—it’s perfectly legal in most of the country to fire, refuse to hire, demote, or otherwise discriminate against someone for being gay. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has...

Who's the Next John Kerry?

AP Photo/Harry Hamburg
Yesterday Massachusetts held a primary for the June special election to fill new Secretary of State John Kerry's senate seat. Roughly four people turned out to vote in my district, with a total of 153 voters statewide. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. There were four people in my polling place when I went in to vote, at 5:30 pm—a time when, were it a presidential election, the line would be down the block. As I write this, The Boston Globe is reporting an estimated 10 percent turnout. My guess is that that the number of people who were aware of the fact that the primary was yesterday, compared to the number of Massachusetts residents aware of the first names of both marathon bombers, was roughly 1:100. We’ve had a rough few weeks here in Boston, as I know you’ve heard. While the rest of the country has—rightly—moved on to the next public event, we’re going to be stuck on this one for some time. But even were this the most neutral of times, a special-election primary is a pretty sleepy...

Equality's Nor'easter

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Steven Senne Rhode Island state senator Donna Nesselbush, a Democrat from Pawtucket, reacts seconds after the state senate passed a same-sex marriage bill. A t this point, it’s almost a yawn: The last and most Catholic New England state, tiny Rhode Island, population just over one million, passed marriage equality last week. Just nine years after Massachusetts set off moral panic nationwide and triggered the final wave of state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, all of New England has now followed the Bay State’s lead. Rhode Island has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states since 2010; nowhere were you more than an hour’s drive from a state where you could marry—the Ocean State is bordered by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, all equal-marriage states. What does it mean that the most socially tolerant region in the country—New England, which, had it not fostered the American revolution, could easily fit in as a Canadian province—has...

The Scouts Ask: Gay or Nay?

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Last week, the Boy Scout leadership did something very smart: It announced its policy change on gays in Scouts during an overwhelming news week, when almost no one would pay attention. Now let’s give it the ridicule it deserves. The Scouts say they will propose to the voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s national council—nearly 1,500 of them who will meet in Texas the week of May 20—that the organization allow openly gay Scouts. But that openness will last only until a Boy Scout is 21. Openly gay adults will still be banned as Scout leaders. Various different ideologies could underlie this “compromise.” One is the blood libel that has long been levied against gay folks: that because we can’t “reproduce naturally,” we recruit by luring children into our ranks via molestation or temptation, and that allowing us near children is like inviting drug dealers to hang out on school playgrounds. Another is the idea that we are faultily gendered: that gay men are insufficiently manly,...

Don't Leave the House

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
At 5:30 a.m., we awakened to the ping of texts from friends around the country asking if we were okay. That’s how we learned that the Arsenal Mall in Watertown—the town a mile away where I lived for 20 years and the mall where we do our house and garden and video-game shopping—is crawling with SWAT teams, snipers, FBI, and that our house is on lockdown. I live now in a pretty busy Cambridge neighborhood, with the sound—from one and a half blocks away—of Fresh Pond Parkway’s steady traffic as the usual background hum. The elementary school across the street is usually buzzing with squealing children. But this morning the only sounds were sirens, helicopters, and spring birdsong. How many times is it possible to say this kind of thing just does not happen here? Absolutely nothing happens in Watertown. I know—I lived there for 20 years, and that was one of my major complaints. It’s a quiet little suburb of Boston and Cambridge on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, the location of...

Boston Reels

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Charles Krupa I t was a chilly morning, but the radio reminded us that this was the perfect weather for the Marathon (here in Boston, there’s only one; the rest are mere imitators). Last year we had a fabulous 80-degree day, but the marathoners suffered terribly, with record numbers of them languishing in the heat. So I sent them good, hopeful wishes as I took my dog around the pond, my fingers freezing. We all know the Marathon— the start way out in leafy Hopkinton, one of those absurdly postcard-pretty New England towns; the crowds cheering those who are flagging at Heartbreak Hill, a long and agonizing slope that comes at 20.5 miles into the race, where you can feel the sweat and tears flying off the runners. Everyone has either run it or gone to watch it at least once in their time here. My wife adores Patriots’ Day— which in theory commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord but in practice lets every state employee (like her) off to watch the race; it's a holiday...

Falling Through the Looking Glass

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Flickr/majunznk Protestors make their case before yesterday's DOMA hearing at the Supreme Court. A s I sat in the press gallery off to the side of the Supreme Court yesterday morning, waiting for the justices to file in and begin hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I had that sickly excited feeling that you get when the roller-coaster car is climbing the first hill. The day before was easier for me: I didn’t want the Court to take Perry , the Prop 8 case, to begin with. I was relieved when very quickly we all could hear that the justices had no appetite for a broad ruling. But the DOMA case—and here please let me confess that I’m terribly human—the DOMA case is about my marriage. As regular readers will know, I’m married to my wife in Massachusetts, but because DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, I’m not married in the United States. The justices were going to discuss whether to...

Asked and Answered

Flickr/Ted Eytan
Flickr/Ted Eytan The scene outside the Supreme Court yesterday I t’s a strange thing, living on the cusp of social change—miraculous and dizzying. Ten years ago to the day, on March 26, 2003, I sat in the tiny hallway that functions as the Supreme Court’s press gallery, off to the justices’ right, trying to hear the oral arguments in Lawrence v. Texas, the case in which the Supreme Court—years after the rest of the developed world—knocked down the country’s 13 remaining anti-sodomy laws. Yesterday morning, I sat there again to hear the justices consider the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, written into the state constitution by Proposition 8. I’ve spent my adult life writing about LGBT issues; back in the mid-1990s, I was the first lesbian to write broadly in favor of same-sex marriage, and in 1999 I published a book explaining how same-sex couples fit into marriage’s shifting historical definition. I'm going to ask you—especially if you’re not gay—to...

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