Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Baby Steps On 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Considering that we are the only major Western nation that doesn't allow gays to openly serve in the military, the incremental posturing towards finally ending the bigotry known as "don't ask, don't tell" is getting to be intolerable.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced how the policy was becoming less restrictive.

For one thing, hearsay would no longer be permitted. What's truly incredible was that, up until this announcement, it was.

Additionally, now a senior officer has to approve of the ouster.

Considering how backwards America is on social issues, I do realize that this is reason enough to cause us to genuflect at the altar of America's military industrial complex and beat our breasts while thanking them for the crumbs.

Ah, the crumbs, indeed.

While the leadership of certain glbt advocacy groups, like HRC, continue to behave as expected (wow, Mr. Solmonese, how perceptive to have a comedienne, Kathy Griffin, serve as the HRC poster girl for ending DADT....are you kidding me?), there has been some good press calling for an end to this inanity.
(note: I slightly edited the above paragraph to single out Solmonese, specifically, not HRC as a whole. There are many in HRC, and similar groups, who work their tails off for the glbt vommunity. I do not doubt their sincerity, integrity, or commitment, for a moment. However, I do not think that leaders like Solmonese are reflective of those that do much of the legwork. Sometimes those in power lose sight of the message, in their pursuit of access.)

For now, let me just single out a piece in today's Oregonian.

In her op-ed, Elizabeth Hovde, who bills her column as "political writings from The Oregonian's columnist just right of center," writes:

Forgive gay and lesbian members of the military if they aren’t having a celebratory drink this weekend to toast new Pentagon rules that make it more difficult to kick them out of their jobs. The changes basically amount to a decree that snitching on a gay soldier won’t be enough to get the gay soldier booted. How kind.

Congress was able to pass health care reform, but 1993’s misguided “don’t ask, don’t tell” law stands.
Hovde adds:

There is nothing common sensical or decent about telling gay and lesbian service members, “Continue to keep your mouths shut, but we’re going to decrease the chances that you get caught.” This simply continues the insult of telling people who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the rest of us that their service is only welcome if they agree to keep secrets, limit the information they give about the people they share their lives with and so on. (Can you imagine telling a straight soldier he shouldn’t mention his wife in a conversation?)
She ends her piece with:

Let’s stop tweaking a bizarre law, repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” now and work out the discomfort that doing so might bring some other members of the military.
And that is it, in a nutshell. Unlike soldiers in the rest of the world, our military leaders believe that American troops are just not grounded enough to be able to cope with sharing living quarters and showers.

Can't believe that's the issue here?

It is so much the issue that Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway (above) did the execrable. In an interview with, this lightweight actually said if DADT were lifted he would not force straight marines to bunk with gays.

Can anyone imagine a military officer making similar comments during the period when the military was being desegregated?

Sort of makes one want to vomit up stars and stripes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

British Op-Ed Gets It Right On Gay Prom Flap

You didn't need to read a blog focused on glbt issues to follow what was going on with Constance McMillen (above).

McMillen, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, sought to bring her girlfriend, a sophomore at the same school, to her senior prom.

In a nutshell....she asked the school in advance...the school said no, the prom was for same-sex couples only...the ACLU was brought in and a lawsuit began...the school cancelled the prom and urged parents to hold a private affair, which they are doing. McMillen and her date are not welcome at the private party.

Ellen DeGeneres stepped in and, to her credit, donated $30,000 to McMillen's scholarship fund.

A relatively quick search of the internet will reveal just how much anti-gay hatred remains in America.

What I wanted to focus on here is the way that such backwards attitudes are perceivd in other Western countries.

Elle Gray has written a terrific piece in Great Britain's Guardian titled, "School proms uphold straight privilege."

It should be noted that Gray is a black woman, who knows her Mississippi history. She writes:

The region in which this story is unfolding adds another contextual layer. According to an ACLU attorney, student complaints against "anti-gay" prom policies are especially prevalent in the US South, home of "more conservative" attitudes towards sexuality. In Mississippi, just last autumn, another school refused to publish a yearbook picture of a lesbian student in a tuxedo. The South is also home to conservative attitudes towards race; McMillen's situation is akin to that of other Mississippi students who find themselves confronting segregated proms well into the 21st century.

Those more conservative attitudes are rooted in a southern fascination with its past, a mythical "Old South" in which people who were not straight, white, and propertied had no social place. Many southerners have held tenaciously to this view, mounting resistance to challenges to the status quo. High schools in the South are often places in which these battles are fought on a small scale. After a court order forced my rural high school to desegregate in 1970, it would eventually hold off-campus proms. However, "tradition" meant that students did not intermingle across the colour line and quickly left to gather for their own separate (in terms of race) functions.
She adds:

The school district's response to McMillen's request indicated their intent to fall back on old southern practices: "It is our hope," they wrote, "that private citizens will organise an event for juniors and seniors." The prom cancellation is reminiscent of tactics from at least a half-century ago: rather than integrate public pools, parks, and schools, southern municipalities often closed them. Sometimes, in lieu of closure, they turned over such accommodations to private enterprises. In defiance of school integration orders, they opened private schools and segregation academies. Such acts allowed them to continue de facto segregation long after de jure segregation was outlawed.
The entire excellent column can be accessed here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monserrate Goes Down

Hiram Monserrate, disgraced former New York State Senator, lost his bid to win his seat back in a special election yesterday.

Monserrate, pictured above (discussing the size of his genitalia, one might speculate), one of 8 Democrats who helped to defeat gay marriage legislation in New York, had been expelled by the State Senate after receiving a msdemeanor assault conviction, in the beating up of his girlfriend.

However, in his effort to win back his seat, Monserrate had aligned himself with pious, homophobic clerics who had no problem endorsing Monserrate....after all, the Bible does say that women need to be subservient to men....or wind up needing stitches (apparently).

Happily, this bigot was only able to find 27% of the electorate stupid enough to vote for him, in a 3-way race.

Democrat Jose Peralta won, with over 65% of the vote, while the GOP candidate, Robert Beltrani, had barely over 7%.

Does this help glbt fortunes in the Empire State?  Yes.

Perralta is a former State Assemblyman who voted in favor of gay marriage on 3 separate occasions.

Reflecting on his defeat, the day after his loss, Monserrate told the New York Times;

“A lot of this reaction is based on just ignorance, on not knowing the facts, not dealing really with the issues...There’s a lot of emotional hysteria out there.”
If anyone knows how to hysterically display one's emotions, it is the convicted abuser Hiram Monserrate. Those who voted for him have no shame.

1 down....7 enemies to go.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hiram Monserrate: Sleazeball Gay-Basher Extraordinaire

Back in December, disgraced New York State Senator, Hiram Monserrate, was one of 8 Democrats who defeated the gay-marriage bill in the Empire State. Last month, this political low-life was expelled from the Senate.

However, like bacteria that continually adapts, he is back. Yes, he is seeking to elected again!

How is he trying to win? By courting the homophobe vote.

According to The Gothamist:

Hiram Monserrate has found one constituency that will stand behind him as he tries to fight his way back into the state Senate—people who don't like gays. Thanks to his vote against the same-sex marriage bill, the former Queens legislator has won the support of Corona Rev. Ricardo Reyes. "I have seen a generation sunk down by the gay community," Reyes told the Queens Village Times. "If we vote for a gay marriage situation ... we are sending our children to practice something against the Bible."
Obviously, this preacher likes men who abuse the way Monserrate brutally beat his girlfriend...because the Bible tells us that women should be subservient to men. Or else!

Recently, the New Yorker ran a blog post titled, "Is Hiram Monserrate Just Running Against Gay People Now?"

I am not a big fan of glbt advocacy groups in New York, so I am surprised that they are actually taking Monserrate on.

According to the New York Times:

...the political action committee, called Fight Back New York, is prepared to raise and spend in the high six figures range in the State Senate races this year, according to people involved with the committee.

Financing and organization will come, in part, from some of the most politically sophisticated and financially powerful gay rights advocates in the country. Tim Gill, a philanthropist and former software developer who has backed many gay rights initiatives nationwide, is a major player, along with some of his top associates and donors to his causes.
“Politicians who deny gays and lesbians basic equality should be thrown out of office, starting with convicted criminal Hiram Monserrate,” said Bill Smith, an adviser to the committee and deputy executive director of the Gill Action Fund, Mr. Gill’s political organization, which is based in Denver.

The committee will start going after Mr. Monserrate, who was convicted of assaulting his female companion in a confrontation that left her requiring more than 20 stitches, by mailing fliers this week to voters in his district. The flier shows still frames of a surveillance video that shows him dragging his companion, Karla Giraldo, through the hallway of his apartment building in Jackson Heights, Queens. He was acquitted of a felony assault charge by a judge, who convicted him of misdemeanor assault.
If this convicted abuser, and virulent homophobe, wins, it tells us more about the voters in his his district than we probably need to know.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Virginia Attorney General Tells Universities To Allow Anti-Gay Discrimination

It was bad enough that the new Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, rescinded anti-discrimination protections against gays who worked in state government, as one of his first official acts.

Now, pouring fuel on the fire, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (pictured) has issued a letter to the state's colleges and universites, putting them on notice that they cannot have their own policies protecting gays from discrimination.

I realize that America is the most backwards of Western nations on social issues, but Virginia seems to be setting entirely new standards for bigotry and hatred to thrive.

Please reward the anti-gay stance of this regressive state with a boycott on travel there.

The Courts Have Already Derailed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

As I have previously written, while I feel that the primary argument for lifting the ban on allowing gays to openly serve in the military is the global model (essentially, all of our Western allies allow it, without incident), there is also a legal precedent.

While it has gotten very little mention in the press, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-year old ruling, has already redefined the flawed policy, putting the onus on the government to prove their theory on the alleged destruction of unit cohesion.

From an AP story posted on Saturday:

The 2008 ruling, while largely overlooked, would force the military to apply a much higher threshold in determining whether a service member should be dismissed for being gay.
The government declined to appeal the ruling by the three-judge panel, which leaves it standing as law in the nine states covered by the court. That means gay military members at bases in the West technically have greater protections than their colleagues across the world.
......At issue is a ruling in the case of an Air Force major from Washington state (U.S. Air Force Reservist Maj. Margaret Witt, pictured above) who was dismissed from the military after she was found to have been in a lesbian relationship.
The court ruled that for a gay service member's discharge to be constitutional, the military must demonstrate that the firing promotes cohesion or discipline in the unit.
Considering that, in the military of our allies, allowing gays to serve openly has been a non-factor, this ruling forces the government to prove the lie that they have been pushing for over 15 years.

And they can't.

To get a clearer picture of the impact on this ruling, and how it is now effecting decisions currently being made, regarding DADT, click here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Paradox Of Gay Marriage In D.C.

One would think that minority groups who have faced serious oppression would be allies in the fight for glbt civil rights.

Unfortunately, it has been the perception that blacks are more opposed to gay marriage than the overall population, by a significant margin. This has been supported by various polling (for example, 70% vs. 49% in California, in exit polling done for the 2008 election).

It does not help that 2 of the hotbeds for global homophobia happen to be Africa and the Caribbean.

It's not as if we didn't have powerful friends from the African-American civil rights movement. Coretta Scott King was a very vocal supporter of gay rights.

However, as we have seen in New York, with Democrats like Shirley Huntley, sometimes those that are most eager to repress the rights of the glbt community are people of color. As somebody who has visited many of the online forums, I personally have seen many passionate arguments from African-Americans that dripped rage that gays even perceive this as a civil rights if our pain could not possibly compare to their experience.

Much of the hatred directed at gays comes from the black churches, who do not see the perversity of justifying bigotry with the Bible, when that was what was used to justify keeping blacks enslaved, and second-class citizens.

So, why is D.C., where the majority of the populace is black, about to embrace gay marriage, when states like New York and New Jersey, have been unable to counter homophobia?

I didn't bring up Maine, because if D.C. left it to a popular vote, it would probably go down to defeat.

However, legislators in the 2 states I mentioned couldn't get it done, but the local officals in D.C did.

There is a great AP story on this, which suggests it was all about the approach taken and the way the message was targeted. The essence is that it is very important to take the initiative and pro-actively court the African-American community to help us in our fight.

Rather than summarize it, I suggest reading it in its entirety (it is not a lengthy article).

You can access it here.