The Swaggart Legacy:

I’ve long suspected much of the paranoia coming from our opponents is projection: they worry if we gain popular support we’ll start treating them the way they treated us for years decades centuries millennia.  How bad can this paranoia get? Here’s Donnie Swaggart speaking on a Christian channel:

All of this is to shut the Bible up. They want the Bible gone. And I’m going to make a statement: These people that are trying to do this in Houston, the only difference between them and ISIS, those thugs in Iraq, is those here cannot chop our heads off. That’s the only difference. The heart is the same. The heart is the same. If they could silence us that way to intimidate others, that’s exactly what they would do.

To complete the circle, let’s visit with the man who raised Donnie, his father, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, speaking to his congregation almost exactly 10 years earlier:

I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m going to be blunt and plain — if one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.

Cue applause.

Watch the video. It’s chilling. Swaggart did apologize later…kinda.

It’s a humorous statement that doesn’t mean anything. You can’t lie to God — it’s ridiculous. If it’s an insult, I certainly didn’t think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology.

You have to wonder what does count as an insult in the privacy of Jimmy Swaggart’s home, the home where Donnie grew up.

Of course, for this to be true projection, Donnie would have to feel about us the way he’s accusing us of feeling about him. I haven’t found any direct indication that he does. But saying gays want to murder Christians is a good way of getting his followers to that point.

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A Prediction

A hundred years from now, Christians will proudly recall how they fought for LGBT rights at the beginning of the 21st Century, and if anyone reminds them of Christian opposition to our equality, they will reply, “But that was a FALSE Christianity!” So it happened with slavery, so it will happen with gays.

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I'm getting married today

Today, at 5pm, at the beautiful Los Angeles Arboretum, I’m marrying Will, the love of my life and partner of six and a half years.

I was 46 when I met Will, and resigned to being single forever. But on On April 3, 2008, Will saw me at a country-western bar called Oil Can Harry’s and asked me to two-step. At the end of the night, I gave him my number. Will promised to call the next day, and in a complete break from standard L.A. protocol, did exactly that. We had civil, slightly stilted first date until the subject of Battlestar Galactica came up, which was about to begin a new season. My memory can be a sieve, but Will remembers every damn thing, so we geeked out in excitement as he reminded me where the last season left off, and our chemistry erupted.

I was jaded, though. I had unconsciously decided first dates never go anywhere, so I didn’t follow up. In another gutsy break from protocol, Will called me on Thursday: We had a great time, why didn’t you call? I could have decided he was crazy (and I would have been a little bit right). but instead I asked him out. We spent every weekend together after that. I didn’t know it at the time, but two months later, on the same day I told him I didn’t want to see anyone else, our puppy was born. Another two months after that I told Will I wanted a dog and would he like to come along, and that’s when we rescued an eight-week old pup we named Lucas. It might sound strange, but four months into a relationship is a crucial time for deciding whether to go forward, and Lucas gave us something to focus on that wasn’t just about us. It also gave us a chance to see each other in a new light as we cared for and worried over and loved the hell out of that dog.

In November, Prop 8 passed and I became suddenly political. We carried signs at the in-your-face rallies. In December, though, I somehow got roped into organizing a peaceful, candlelit vigil for marriage equality. Will wanted to help, but he was a full-time student with a full-time job. I didn’t want to burden him so I asked for one thing: the name of the LGBT liaison at the Los Angeles Police Department. Will is Will, so I ended up getting three pages of notes from exhaustive interviews with police staff. At the moment, this confirmed bachelor learned the real difference between a boyfriend and a partner.

In the years that followed, we survived a full kitchen remodel, bicycled from San Francisco to Los Angeles three times for charity, and welcomed into our home Chloe, the other best dog ever. Then on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality in the state of California. That night, one of us (I won’t say who!) emphatically said, You’re going to marry me, and the other replied, Yes I am.

I want to thank all of you for making that happen. We’ve seen a lot of controversy lately among the heavy hitters over who deserves credit for our tidal wave of victory, but I know the answer: You do. I’ve put in thousands of hours toward the cause, and I like to think I’ve had an effect, but it’s likely events would have proceed just the same way without me. And it might have proceeded just the same way without you, too. But it wouldn’t have happened at all without us. If each of us had thought, I’m just one person, what contribution can I make — and many did think exactly that — then none of this would be happening. The chorus of equality might have been able to lose any one voice and still sing on, but our music soared because of the people who did show up. And who kept showing up.

I remember canvassing door-to-door for the right to marriage, and I interviewed one woman who seemed solidly against us. The conversation seemed pointless, until I closed it with the question we’re supposed to ask no matter what: “This may come up again on the ballot. Could we count on your vote?”

“Maybe.”

That stunned me.  “Really?  Why is that?”

“Because I see people fighting for it and I see how important it is to you.”

That was you. Even if you were just one in a crowd chanting a slogan. Even if all you did was share your story at work or bring your partner to an office party. Even if you just stood fast and said, That’s not cool, when someone made a stupid joke about gays.

That was you. So thank you. And please, wish us the best on this most important day of our lives.

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That's Entertainment!

Court decisions on marriage can be inspiring, lovely, even wry, but they’re rarely laugh-out-loud funny. The 7th Circuit’s decision on Indiana and Wisconsin is an exception.

In the bit I’m about to quote, the court takes on the “responsible procreation argument” that the other side so often puts forth — that the purpose of marriage is to encourage responsible procreation, and because only straight couples can accidentally procreate, only straight couples need the bond of marriage to keep them together and set up a home for the kids. Gay couples, who only have kids on purpose, don’t need any such prodding.

Yes, the argument is that ridiculous, but the 7th Circuit demolishes it thus:

Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.

I see no way of improving on that.

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Louisiana Logic

I’m having some trouble with Judge Feldman’s decision upholding Louisiana’s ban on marriage equality. I’m not a lawyer, though, so perhaps others can correct me.

For instance, in explaining why heightened scrutiny applied in the Loving case but not here, Feldman writes:

Heightened scrutiny was warranted in Loving because the Fourteenth Amendment expressly condemns racial discrimination as a constitutional evil; in short, the Constitution specifically bans differentiation based on race.

But here’s the first section of that amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It does not “expressly” mention race. Nor does the rest of the amendment.

Feldman then dismisses the argument that the ban discriminates based on gender:

Even ignoring the obvious difference between this case and Loving, no analogy can defeat the plain reality that Louisiana’s laws apply evenhandedly to both genders–whether between two men or two women.

He seems to be saying that because the law applies to both genders equally, it does not discriminate based on gender. The odd thing, though, is that in Loving, defenders of the interracial marriage ban tried the same tactic, saying that the ban did not discriminate because it applied to all races — but the Supreme Court expressly rejected that reasoning:

…we find the racial classifications in these statutes repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment, even assuming an even-handed state purpose to protect the “integrity” of all races. 

So you can’t use Loving to say it’s okay to discriminate “even-handedly.” (It’s striking that Feldman and the Supreme Court both used that phrase.) Further, it’s reasonable to think a gender-based classification of people and their rights would also be repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment. (And remember, Feldman is addressing gender discrimination in this bit, not orientation-based discrimination.)

Now that Feldman has used this flawed (to my mind) reasoning to justify rational-basis scrutiny of Louisiana’s ban (the easiest level of scrutiny for a law to pass), he looks for that rational basis and finds it in this:

Defendants rejoin that the laws serve a central state interest of linking children to an intact family formed by their biological parents. Of even more consequence, in this Court’s judgment, defendants assert a legitimate state interest in safeguarding that fundamental social change, in this instance, is better cultivated through democratic consensus. This Court agrees.

Louisiana’s laws and Constitution are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents. Louisiana’s regime pays respect to the democratic process; to vigorous debate. To predictable controversy, of course.

A couple problems here. First, about that societal interest in ensuring that fundamental social change be cultivated via the ballot or legislature instead of the courts: this is an invitation never to find any law unconstitutional, no matter how great an affront to the Constitution it may be. Feldman hedges his way out of this with the qualifier, “in this case.” But why, in this case? He never explains. The closest he comes is in his comments about linking children to their biological parents. But this is inadequate. Such a policy goal explains why the state permits biological parents to marry. It explains not at all why other marriages should be banned. This is a huge hole in Feldman’s reasoning, and I suspect there really is nothing that could fill it.

There’s quite a bit more in the decision, but this seems to be the core of it. Feldman settles on rational-basis scrutiny by using flawed reasoning and flat-out mistakes about what the Fourteenth Amendment says, and then fails in his attempt to find that rational basis.  To my untrained eye, this decision looks easy to challenge on appeal. Any lawyers out there care to comment?

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A few of my favorite things

Maybe it’s just because I’m on Vicodin (details below, not for the squeamish), but it’s delicious to listen to the 7th Circuit judges ask Indiana’s attorney general why he wants the adopted children of same-sex couples to be worse off than the adopted children of opposite-sex couples.

Actually, deliciousness is in effect during the whole grilling (and by grilling, I mean holding the AG’s arguments so close to the flame they end up with burn marks!). It comes both from hearing the AG stumble over his words, and also the constant incredulity in the voices of the judges.  The brutality starts almost immediately. One of my is when a judge asks the AG for evidence to support a silly argument. The AG says it’s “self-evident” and the judge replies:

Self-ev — I regard it as absurd. You say it’s self-evident. [laughter in the courtroom]

Definitely worth a listen.

About the Vicodin: I had emergency (in-patient) surgery yesterday to fix a retinal detachment. First the doctor plunged a cryogenic probe into my eyeball to freeze the retina back in position by creating scar tissue. Then he pushed a syringe into my eye to inject a gas bubble that applies pressure to hold the retina in place and force out unwanted fluid.

Hence the Vicodin.

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Privilege, Michael Brown, and Harvey Milk

I posted this on Facebook the other day, and the reaction was pretty strong, so I figured I’d share it here.

I’m such a white guy, an all-American-looking white guy whom old ladies trust on sight. No cop has ever pulled me over for random questioning on the street. No customs agent has ever asked me to open my bag. I know when a traffic cop pulls me over I can feign helpless incompetence and stand a good shot at nothing harsher than a fix-it ticket. In fact, I once showed up in court because I had a “failure to appear” and I told the judge in my middle-American, educated accent that I simply hadn’t understood what I was supposed to do, and he rolled his eyes and sent me home with no penalty, leaving him free to deal with the people in the room who were not white.

This is privilege. It’s nothing I’ve earned. It’s not even something I can counteract. But I can recognize that some unarmed people are shot in cold blood just because they don’t share my privilege. And I can believe what they tell me about their experience and their lives.

About 120 comments later, after a bunch of arguments about privilege, I got what was intended to be praise from someone dear to me. He wrote:

I may not be able to articulate my thoughts as well as others on this post, but I thought I would chime in.

I would like to make a comparison with my soon to be brother in law and the shooting incident.

Lead by example. This is what I mean.

I admire Rob for being a strong advocate to the gay and lesbian community. He makes posts to start a discussion on gay and lesbian rights. These discussions begin to shed a light on how the community feels and are being treated. What he would like to see change. In a peaceful way.

When the proposition for gay marriage didn’t pass the community didn’t riot and loot. They didn’t hold cities hostage. They put on more parades . They stepped up there presence in the community. As the society began to feel less threatened more people began to open their hearts and minds.

What’s happening in Missouri is not helping the cause for racism. It’s closing off the minds of society and creating more stereotypes. Rosa Parks did more for equality by sitting on a bus then the rioters. 

Racism stems for hate of ones self. If you don’t love and accept who you are you tend to lash out at others to make yourself feel better. Love yourself and you will have learned to love others.

Lead by example and others will look up and admire you. Like my brother in law Rob

It’s true that I’m a peace-maker and consensus-seeker at heart (blame it on being the youngest child in family where my older siblings fought hard with my dad), but I had to tell him this, in a series of wine-assisted comments:

I have to take issue with what you’re saying and offer a different perspective. Yes, it’s true that after Prop 8 Will and I and others organized a peaceful candle-lit march in protest, with great coverage from all four local networks, and that was great.

But before that, we participated in shutting down [the intersection at] hollywood and highland. We (and all the protesters) were polite to the police (a recurring theme through all the Prop 8 protests was the repeated thank yous called to police) but Will and I have fantastic memories of that civil disobedience.

But go back earlier and you have Dan White, who killed both the straight mayor of San Francisco and a gay city supervisor. Because he killed a fag, he had legal defense funds set up in his name and he ultimately was acquitted. The gays rioted — and why not! Once your society has announced your life has no value, then what do you have to gain from maintaining that civil order?

I think the same thing is happening in Ferguson. No, it’s not a strategically good move — or maybe it is, if it wakes people up. Personally, I’m not likely to go around setting cars on fire in any circumstance, but if you cast a group out of society, as has happened in my lifetime to both gays and blacks, you shouldn’t be surprised when they react with no regard for the laws of that society.

Drops mic. (and then sneaks off stage when no one claps).

That’s all.

[Correction: Dan White was not acquitted, but was convicted of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder, and served five years for killing two men.]

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Stupid Transphobic Dickhead, er, Douche, er, Person

My genetics gave me terrible vision. I’ve never met anyone with correctible vision worse than mine. Over the years, I’ve had three surgeries involving scalpels slicing into my eyes, and four surgeries with lasers burning flesh off the surface of my eyes.

Does that make you cringe? I don’t blame you. But at least now I don’t have to poke rigid plastic lenses onto my eyeballs, lenses I could only wear for a few hours at a time, with the only alternative being glasses that made me literally unrecognizable to people back in the days before fancy polymers made coke bottle lenses obsolete.

Even that milder, eye-poking option may have made you scrunch your eyes shut in irrational self-protection. I don’t blame you. I’m not offended. I realize that your visceral response — while quite natural — is not a moral revelation of condemnation against my situation.

By the way, I’m an XY person. I have a penis, and I’ll protect it. If a dozen tennis balls were launched at me simultaneously, I’d cover my eyes with one hand and my flesh-and-blood balls with the other. As just as you might have scrunched up when reading about my eyes, I’d fold inward and cross my legs when hearing about a woman having her balls cut off.

Yes, a woman having her balls cut off.

An ass named Gavin McInnes has published a long, disgusting rant called “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural.” I won’t link to it. Google it if you like. I call it disgusting because it does nothing but play into the same squeamishness you may have felt when I talked about scalpels cutting in to my eyes. His reasoning argument rant goes mostly like this. He says (sarcastically):

In fact, the only thing more normal than castrating yourself and taking tons of hormones to grow tits is chopping them off.

He’s squeamish, fine. His moral failing, though, is that he raises that squeamishness to level of moral truth. He writes:

By pretending this is all perfectly sane, you are enabling these poor bastards to mutilate themselves.

And in case that wasn’t dickish enough – I mean, douchey enough — God, even our most basic insults revolve around genitalia! And in case that wasn’t repugnant enough (odd that genitalia stand in as synonyms for repugnance, isn’t it?), he even jokes:

And ladies, if you’re a butch lesbian, you’re a lady with a lot of testosterone. Put a dick on a belt and fuck your girlfriend. You don’t need to turn your vagina inside out. You’re not a man. You don’t even know what Turf Builder is.

Not only is the joke lame — really? fertilizer is your symbol of manhood? you might want to take a Freudian look at your own sexuality — but it’s built on ignorance. Being a strong, powerful lesbian does not mean you identify as a man. Wanting to lie back and get reamed doesn’t mean I identify as a woman.

But this person, this Gavin McInnes, has set himself up as a little god. His clenched up little reactions have the force of moral law. But you know what, Gavin? It is perfectly natural for an XY person who identifies as male to clench up when he thinks about a knife cutting up his dick. But that’s not transphobia. Transphobia is when you take your personalized genital clenchiness and turn it into a Great Commandment for the rest of the world. That’s not natural. That’s not brave. That’s not ballsy. That’s just narrow-minded megalomania.

Damn, I don’t know why this pisses me off so much. It just does.

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Time to Invest in Target?

The National Organization for Marriage might just turn into my personal investment guru.

See, NOM is twirling itself around in boycott frenzy these day. It launched one against JP Morgan Chase on July 16, and another against Target on August 7. It’s hard to know whether these boycotts will hurt the companies — oh, who am I kidding? NOM’s been issuing boycotts for a while now and the results are impressive.

Here are the victims of those boycotts, and the dates they began.

Brian Brown recently claimed the Starbucks boycott led “many countries” (which ones? who can say?) to keep Starbucks from entering their markets. That’s a scary message to shareholders, so let’s take on that perspective. Suppose you were an investor who kept hearing about these boycotts, an investor who decided on September 10, 2012, to split $10,000 among these three companies that NOM so bravely took on. Brian Brown, I’m sure, would think you a fool. And how foolish would you have to be?

So foolish that your $10,000 investment in the boycotted companies would now be worth about $19,411, a return of more than 94%.

That’s how foolish you would be.

But, you know, it’s been a great year for stocks in general. What would your return have been if you’d invested in the Dow-Jones index?

24%.

In case you were wondering, 24 is less than 94. But there are other stock indices. What about NASDAP? 38%. Standard & Poors? 34%. And you might have heard that real estate is bouncing back, but returns in that market are still less than any of the ones I’ve listed here.

So, good work, NOM. Ever thought about launching a boycott against me? Who knows — I might get a raise out of it.

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Ryan Anderson on Anti-Gay Discrimination: The Contradictions Continue

I had a long, intense twitter exchange with Ryan Anderson! I have to thank Michelangelo Signorile — he started the conversation and I jumped in. I used it as a chance to ask Ryan about his views on religious freedom, racial discrimination, and anti-gay discrimination — a contradictory mess that he and his colleagues have failed to sort into a coherent argument.

Let me recap their dilemma and the resulting incoherence. They oppose discrimination laws protecting gays, but they can’t appear anti-gay, because policy motivated by animus is vulnerable to a court challenge. Instead they speak of “religious freedom” and the principle that no one should have to serve a customer in violation of their beliefs. However, they don’t apply this principle when it comes to race; that would make them pariahs to the mainstream public. They explain this away by saying racism is wrong, but this leaves them open to the charge that they only want to protect the religious freedom of those they agree with, a position they fiercely reject.

It’s a logical swamp.

In our twitter exchange Ryan tried a different justification: that religious liberty is not an absolute right, but must be weighed against other measures of the common good. He directed me to his statement:

Legislators should enact commonsense religious liberty protections that would prevent the imposition of substantial burdens on sincere religious beliefs unless the government proves that imposing such a burden is necessary to advance a compelling government interest (and does so by the least intrusive or restrictive means).

Such religious liberty protections would not justify blanket discrimination, as some wrongly claim. For example, one does not hear of any sincere religious beliefs that would lead a pharmacist to refuse to dispense antibiotics to any patients. Furthermore, it has long been recognized that the government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public health by combating communicable diseases.

That’s reasonable. But it presents Ryan with a couple problems. First, it contradicts what he wrote elsewhere:

Indeed, a regime of free association, free contracts, free speech, and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage…

Private actors should be free to make reasonable judgments and distinctions — including reasonable moral judgments and distinctions — in their economic activities. Not every florist need provide wedding arrangements for every ceremony. Not every photographer need capture every first kiss.

There’s nothing in that piece about balancing religious freedom against the common good. I do understand that free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage is more bumper-sticker-catchy than: free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage, except for when it shouldn’t, and sometimes it shouldn’t, though sometimes it should, and it, well, it — it depends on a bunch of factors that I won’t go into now.

Except that Ryan isn’t writing for bumper stickers. He’s making a lengthy argument, one that doesn’t align with his other writings.

A second problem is that he merely begs the question, Why does the “common good” override religious liberty when it comes to discrimination based on race but not when based on sexual orientation?

That’s a tricky question. You can’t answer, Because gays are bad! — that lands you in the animus trap, with your law overturned in the court. Instead, Ryan sent me to this:

Today’s debates about religious liberty and marriage are profoundly different [from debates about interracial marriage]. First, as argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is a reasonable position; bans on interracial marriage were not. Second, as also argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is witnessed to repeatedly in the Bible; prohibitions on interracial marriage were not.

But these two points are irrelevant, of course, even according to Ryan’s own standards. As he wrote in this piece:

The right to religious freedom is for everyone, not just for those with the “right” beliefs.

So it doesn’t matter whether your racist religious views are reasonable or Biblically sound, because religious freedom is also for the wrong. It’s for everyone.

But things really go awry with his next point:

Third, to be argued below, while interracial marriage bans were clearly part of a wider system of oppression, beliefs about marriage as the union of male and female are not.

But it’s not “argued below.” Or rather, he does argue the point about interracial marriage bans, but never establishes the part about same-sex marriage. Probably because he can’t — probably because it isn’t true.

Our history of blacklisting, imprisonment, official exclusion from federal employment, and lobotomization obviously indicate a history of oppression. Granted, excluding same-sex couples from marriage was not originally a tool of that system; it was the result. Gays were seen as such sick and twisted perverts that few thought about giving us marriage rights. Still, it was part of that system, and it did indeed become a tool of oppression with DOMA and the various state constitutional amendments designed to “protect” marriage from those who don’t deserve it and to express moral disapproval of us deviants.

Frankly, it’s astonishing that Ryan attempts this argument — and that he doesn’t even make a token effort to justify it.

So now we’re back where we started. Ryan still hasn’t explained why religious liberty requires that bakers be free to turn away same-sex couples but not interracial couples, even if their religion condemns them. His reasoning is still an incoherent mess. All he’s done is add yet another layer of contradiction.

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