Saturday, May 9, 2009

MIA on Gay Marriage

The Washington Post
Friday, May 8, 2009

Believe it or not, often I can see the other side of an argument. I know that tough gun control laws save lives and make our communities safer, for example, but I also see clarity in the Second Amendment. I support affirmative action, but I realize that providing opportunity to some worthy individuals can mean denying opportunity to others. Thinking about some issues involves discerning among subtly graded shades of gray.

On some issues, though, I really don't see anything but black and white. Among them is the "question" of granting full equal rights to gay and lesbian Americans, which really isn't a question at all. It's a long-overdue imperative, one that the nation is finally beginning to acknowledge.

Before his inauguration, President Obama called himself a "fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans." Now, with the same-sex marriage issue percolating in state after state and with the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy ripe for repeal, it's time for Obama to put some of his political capital where his rhetoric is.

On Wednesday, Maine became the fifth state to legalize gay marriage; similar legislation in New Hampshire has been sent to the governor. Politicians in Washington who want to avoid what they see as a dangerous controversy have a convenient escape: They can say that the marriage issue should be left to the states and that the question of whether a legal gay marriage in one state should be recognized everywhere has already been addressed by Congress and ultimately will be settled by the courts.

But that's a dodge, not a stance. It certainly can't be confused with leadership.

Favoring "civil unions" that accord all the rights and benefits of marriage -- but that withhold the word marriage, and with it, I guess, society's approval -- amounts to another dodge. I'm concerned here with the way the law sees the relationship, not the way any particular church or religious leader sees it; that's for worshipers, clergy and the Almighty to work out. Marriage is not just a sacrament but also a contract, and the contractual aspect is a matter of statute, not scripture.

Obama took the "civil unions" route during last year's campaign and has stuck with it. While I see the political calculation -- that was basically the position of all the major Democratic candidates -- I never understood the logic. If semantics are the only difference between a civil union and a marriage, why go to the trouble of drawing a distinction? If there are genuine differences that the law should recognize, what are they?

It seems to me that equality means equality, and either you're for it or you're not. I believe gay marriage should be legal, and it's hard for me to imagine how any "fierce advocate of equality" could think otherwise.

Obama sensibly advocates the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He should press the case by publicly reminding opponents of letting gays serve openly in the military that their arguments -- it would hurt morale, damage cohesion and readiness, discourage reenlistment -- are often the same, almost word for word, as the arguments made 60 years ago against racial integration in the armed forces. It was bigotry then, and it's bigotry now.

Obama should also make the obvious case that forcibly discharging capable, fully trained servicemen and servicewomen for being gay, at a time when our overstretched military is fighting two big wars, can only be described as insane.

What the president shouldn't do is stay away from the marriage debate on the grounds that it's not a matter for the federal government. For one thing, he's on record as favoring repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- a law that blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages and relieved states of any obligation to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

Does Obama's stance in favor of repeal mean that he believes the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages? Does he also believe that, say, the state of Alabama should recognize a gay marriage performed in Iowa? If so, what is the practical difference between this position and just saying in plain language that gay marriages ought to be legal and recognized in all 50 states?

I'm not being unrealistic. I know that public acceptance of homosexuality in this country is still far from universal. But attitudes have changed dramatically -- more than enough for a popular, progressive president to speak loudly and clearly about a matter of fundamental human and civil rights.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Is the Republican Conservative Party dead?

Among Crapaud's favorite quirky commentors are twin brothers J.F.P.D. Malin and J.E.P.D Malin who reside in south Louisiana and have been jointly writing sharp criticism and commentary for several years in local newspapers.

With the collapse of more than six trillion dollars of wealth in this society, the criminal business enterprise of the so-called "Conservative" Republican party has lost favor with the American people.

It took this dramatic loss of wealth to awake the American people to the fraud of the last forty years. The question we should ask is, Why did it take so long?

The Republican party was built on ignorance of science, hatred of women, gays and Blacks, and religious dupery (Baptist & Roman Catholic, essentially). It became the party of fools, outlaws and common criminals (who love guns and shooting human beings). It was fed by nasty corporate commercial interests; essentially, the oil & gas industry. Naturally, it is the new form of the KKK.

We remember when the Republican Party was honorable and dignified, and highly intellectual. It was not ideologically driven. The party cannot redeem itself. It should die. A new party based on the newer constitutional needs of the 21st century should take its place.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From Crooks&Liars

Max Baucus 'Cares Deeply' About Your Views on Health Care

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You know, it really is interesting, how thoroughly they've scoured almost every public hearing on health-care reform from anyone testifying in favor of single-payer - the only solution that makes economic sense under our dire economic circumstances. I wonder why?

They must really be scared.

Health care activists disrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, standing up one after the other as Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) tried to restore order.

As soon as police escorted one protester out of the room, another would stand up, criticizing the committee for convening a panel of 15 experts and excluding witnesses who support creating a Medicare system for all Americans. About eight were led out of the hearing.

“We need more police,” Baucus said.

The mini-protest was organized by Healthcare Now, Physicians for a National Health Program and Single Payer Action, all of whom support a single-payer, government-run health care system.

“Single-payer needs to be on the table,” one of the protesters yelled. “This is political theater.”

Baucus eventually restored order to the hearing, asking those who remained in the audience not to cause further disruptions.

“I want you to know I care deeply about your views,” Baucus said.

Uh huh.

From the Physicians for A National Health Program website:

The press seated comfortably at the press table first looked amused and then puzzled by the procession of protest in the chamber. The C-SPAN cameras fixed on both the Committee’s table at the front of the room and the witness table directly across from them could have easily picked up the protests but the network chose to keep their cameras fixed only on Chairman Baucus — though the protestors’ words could be heard in the audience. Only two reporters of the 20 or so assembled were curious enough or industrious enough to rise and exit the room to see the arrests being carried out in the hallway.

While neither the Finance Committee or the press allowed their proceedings to be disrupted for very long, the air in the room and the atmosphere had changed — the giddy and gleeful assembly of industry lobbyists who had been chattering in rapt anticipation of the coming of their carefully chosen witnesses could not deny that some brave and patriotic fellow citizens had just been hauled out for arrest for nothing more than demanding that a point of view held by a majority of patients, nurses, physicians and other health-care providers be included in the national discussion.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

GOP to tap conservative Southerner to lead fight on Obama's Supreme Court nomination

From the Chicago Tribune:

Republicans are set to name conservative Sen.
Jeff Sessions of Alabama as their point man on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, signaling that they won't shy away from a protracted fight despite risks of being cast as obstructionist.

Sessions' ascension as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee comes more than 20 years after the panel rejected him for his own federal judgeship during the Reagan administration over concerns that he was hostile toward civil rights and was racially insensitive.

In an oddity that epitomizes the typically political Washington, Sessions would replace Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate who was one of just two Republicans in 1986 to oppose Sessions as a U.S. district court judge. Specter left the GOP last week to become a Democrat, creating the vacancy atop the committee just as Justice David Souter announced his retirement.

The choice of Sessions has excited conservatives who see him as a sharp lawyer with well-established legal views after a career as a prosecutor and Alabama attorney general.

From Crapaud: The choice of Sessions has excited conservatives gay folks who see him as a doppelganger for gay icon Leslie Jordan. Plus, the irony of the on-going and self-evident racism of this dweeb is delicious!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy Birthday May 5th

Del Martin (1921-2008)

Copied from glbtq

Two courageous women who became lovers during one of the most socially conservative eras in American history, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were among the founders of a lesbian liberation movement that developed and enlarged the very definition of lesbianism.

In their early influential book, Lesbian/Woman (1972), Lyon and Martin challenged any view of lesbians that focused only on sexuality by defining a lesbian as "as a woman whose primary erotic, psychological, emotional and social interest is in a member of her own sex, even though that interest might not be overtly expressed." This concept not only opened the door for women who had never been sexual with women to see themselves as lesbians, but it also laid the foundation for a woman-identified subculture that became the basis for the lesbian movement of the 1970s. Martin and Lyon also became role models for lesbian couples by staying in a committed relationship for over fifty years.

Early Lives

Martin was born in San Francisco on May 5, 1921; Lyon in Tulsa, Oklahoma on November 10, 1924, but raised and educated in San Francisco. They both pursued journalism majors in college, Martin at San Francisco State College, Lyon at University of California, Berkeley.

When Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon met in Seattle in 1949, where they worked for a publishing company, Martin, who had been briefly married, was a 29-year-old lesbian mother, and Lyon was 25 and straight. In 1952, they became lovers, and in 1953, they moved to San Francisco, where they remained in the same house for the next fifty years.

Daughters of Bilitis

In 1955, seeking a social life with other lesbians, they and a group of friends formed an organization called the Daughters of Bilitis, named after a book of lesbian love poetry: Songs of Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs. The name was deliberately chosen to be recognizable by the cognoscenti, but obscure to others.

In 1956, DOB issued a twelve-page, mimeographed newsletter called The Ladder, edited by Lyon. An accommodationist organization, soon to be closely associated with the Mattachine Society, a predominantly male homophile group, DOB became the first national lesbian society; and The Ladder, the first overtly lesbian journal, achieved national circulation. Because of the conservative climate of the 1950s, membership in DOB was secret, and Lyons used a pseudonym for her work on the first few issues of The Ladder.

By the early 1960s, DOB had spawned chapters throughout the country, in such cities as Chicago, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angles, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. In the early 1960s, subscriptions to The Ladder reached about 500 copies, though it was read by considerably more women, as copies were passed along to people who were too frightened to subscribe.

Although Lyon and Martin devoted a great deal of their resources to the organization, younger, more radical feminists came to the fore and, in a bitter power struggle, attempted to make DOB more militant. By 1970, Lyon and Martin had been displaced as the leaders of the organization, which soon disbanded.

Lesbian Activists

Lyon and Martin, meanwhile, had become very active in San Francisco politics and in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which had been formed in the mid-1960s to help end police harassment of gay bars. A particularly egregious raid of a New Year's Ball on January 1, 1965, led religious leaders in San Francisco to condemn the police action. Subsequently, the CRH endorsed homosexual law reform and other measures designed to improve the lives of homosexuals in San Francisco.

In 1970, Martin wrote a widely distributed article in the Advocate entitled "Goodbye, My Alienated Brothers," in which she rebuked the male chauvinism of the homophile movement. Although at the time Lyon and Martin flirted with lesbian separatism, they subsequently became leaders in helping improve the relations between the sexes in the glbtq movement.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lyon and Martin also worked to address the lesbophobia of the women's movement. Although there were prominent lesbians in the National Organization for Women, many leaders, including especially Betty Friedan, one of the organization's founding mothers, were perceived as homophobic. In 1971, at the NOW's national conference in Los Angeles, the organization finally passed a resolution affirming that the oppression of lesbians is a feminist concern.

In 1972, Lyon and Martin helped form the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club to help lesbians get elected to public office. Both women subsequently served in a number of capacities on city commissions and task forces.

Writing and Other Activities

In 1972, Lyon and Martin published their most significant book, Lesbian/Woman, which remains a crucial account of American lesbian life in the twentieth century, ranging in its concerns from questions of sexuality to questions of psychological health. For the 1991, twentieth-anniversary edition, Lyon and Martin added an update that gives a sense of the growth of lesbian influence in American life during the twentieth century.

Their 1973 book, Lesbian Love and Liberation, defends individual choice and freedom in sexual matters.

Along with writing and speaking about lesbian and gay issues, Martin also became a pioneer in the campaign to publicize and stop domestic violence. In 1976, she published one of the earliest books on the subject, Battered Wives, which blamed battering on the inequalities in the institution of marriage and a pervasive cultural misogyny.

Lyon, who in 1976 earned a doctorate in education, with a specialty in human sexuality, at the University of California, Berkeley, became director of the National Sex Forum and a nationally known expert on sexuality.

In 1979, Lyon-Martin Health Services, an affordable women's health clinic, named in honor of the two women, opened in San Francisco.

In the years since the gay and lesbian movement began, Lyon and Martin became significant figures both as educators and as politically-savvy advocates. In 1995, they helped form Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, and both served as delegates to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging.

In 2002, the year of the couple's fiftieth anniversary, filmmaker Joan E. Biren released a documentary about their lives titled No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Marriage Equality

On February 12, 2004, Lyon and Martin were married by San Francisco City Assessor Mabel Teng, following Mayor Gavin Newsom's directive to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Following the ceremony, Martin remarked, "Phyllis and I demonstrated our commitment to one another more than half a century ago. Today San Francisco has demonstrated its commitment to us through equality and fairness."

That marriage was soon nullified by the Supreme Court of California, on the grounds that Mayor Newsom lacked the authority to issue marriage licenses. Lyon and Martin then joined in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the California laws that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples. After a victory at the district court level and a loss at the apellate level, the lawsuit was finally considered by the Supreme Court of California.

In a historic 4-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Ronald George, on May 15, 2008, the Supreme Court of California ruled in favor of marriage equality, declaring it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry.

In a tribute to Lyon and Martin, Mayor Newsom arranged for the couple to receive the first marriage license to be issued to a same-sex couple after the Court's decision became final. He then married them in a private ceremony at City Hall soon after 5:00 p.m. on June 16, 2008, followed by a reception for family, friends, and members of the news media.


The couple's selection to be the first same-sex couple to be married in California as a result of the state Supreme Court's decision was altogether appropriate. As Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, remarked, Lyon and Martin have played a pivotal role in the struggle for glbtq equality.

"At a time when being openly gay cost you everything you cared about, they were [openly gay]. And they took risks and spoke out from the 1950s on in a way that I certainly do not believe I would have nor would most of us."

Allowing the couple to be the first to marry, Kendell said, "is the absolute least we can do to acknowledge how critical their legacy is to the lives of all of us."

Martin and Lyon occupy a particularly important position as founding mothers of the modern glbtq movement, having participated in the movement's evolution from the timid first steps of the homophile organizations to the heady days of the gay and lesbian liberation to the achievement of more mainstream political clout.

Sadly, only three months following her wedding, Del Martin died on August 27, 2008 in San Francisco. She was survived by Lyon, a daughter, a granddaughter, and a grandson, as well as by legions of admirers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

h.t to Crooks&Liars

How Do You Tell
Sick People To Stay Home

When They Can't Afford It?

This would be a good time to re-introduce legislation requiring paid sick time for most employees:

Early this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that anyone with flu symptoms stay home from work or school.

President Obama reiterated that advice at his press conference on Wednesday night. “If you are sick, stay home,” he said. “If your child is sick, keep them out of school.”

“I know it sounds trivial,” the president said, after asking families to start taking other “very sensible precautions” like washing hands and covering up during coughs. “But it makes a huge difference.”

The president’s admonition to the sick to stay home didn’t sound trivial to Silvia Del Valle, a 42-year-old restaurant worker in Miami.

It sounded impossible.

When I spoke to her Thursday morning, Del Valle was sick in bed with a cough and a fever. Was she planning to go to work, I asked her, Obama’s press conference still fresh in my mind.

“Yes,” she said. “I need to go. Because if I don’t go, I lose my job.”

Del Valle’s not alone. Nearly half of all private sector workers in our country – more than 59 million people – have no paid sick time at all. The problem is particularly acute among women, low-wage workers – more than three-quarters of whom have no paid sick days – and part-timers.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

INTEGRITY: Senator Robt Byrd's Still Got It

Our Obligation to Investigate

Calling on the President not to abjure principle for expedience and to allow the full airing of the torture policies of the Bush era, Senator Byrd wrote an eloquent plea this week in the Huffington Post. Herewith an excerpt.

The rule of law is not just a lofty concept to which we should aspire only when convenient. It is a fundamental principal [sic] upon which our Republic was founded, and it is the foundation of our free society. I understand the desire to look forward and to forge a new path on high ground instead of on the low road of the past eight years. But to use the need to move on as a reason not to investigate basic human rights violations is unacceptable. Excusing individuals at the highest levels of government from adhering to the rule of law, whether in wartime or not, is a dangerous precedent, for it undercuts the principle of accountability which permeates representative democracy.

Sadly, the world will discover more and more about the acts committed at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and elsewhere around the world. There is no avoiding that eventuality. It is our choice as a nation whether to pursue the path of truth ourselves, or leave the details of the abuse to be painfully revealed by others. Releasing the OLC memos was a courageous and admirable first step. But we must not stop there.

Whether it is through an independent investigation, a "Truth Commission," a Congressional investigation, or a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, action must be taken. As long as those who condoned and approved these despicable acts are permitted to escape the consequences, we allow our moral standing in the world to be severely compromised. September 11 did not suddenly legalize torture, nor did it exonerate those who authorized such a heinous deviation from the rule of law. How we address these abuses will shape the image of the United States for decades. In order to truly clear our good name and put the past behind us, the United States must strive to be sure that this dark period of sick and secretive torture schemes receives the scrutiny it deserves.

Read the whole piece HERE.