No More Dog Whistles: Introducing the Obama LGBT Scorecoard:
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
January 22nd, 2009
We’ve had eight years of listening for dog whistles. We learned quickly that whenever President Bush or members of Congress spoke, we had to dissect every utterance, split every infinitive, and scoop every dangling participle to try to discern the secret message that was being sent to the base. For all of his assaults on English, President Bush was particularly adept at speaking that unique language which only his base could understand without raising the ire of moderates.
Along the way, we learned that the Dred Scott decision somehow related to abortion and that God prefers commas over periods. We analyzed every message, the way the CIA dissects audio tapes from Osama bin Ladin in case there might be a secret message for a far-flung branch of Al Qaida — which, coincidentally, just happens to be Arabic for “the base.”
And I think that affected to how we approached statements from erstwhile allies as well. Was that a flinch we saw when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came up? Why won’t she come straight out against “DOMA”? Why can’t he come out more forcefully against Prop 8? Every statement became a possible clue, and every omission appeared to boom louder than words.
This continued after the election. I was certainly part of it. Why Rick Warren? Why not Gene Robinson? And why was Gene Robinson’s invocation omitted from the broadcast? Why didn’t Obama give us a shout-out in his Inaugural address?
Well, we can stop listening for dog whistles. We can stop jumping up and down in excitement whenever he mentions gays, and we can stop pouting when he doesn’t. Because when the WhiteHouse.gov web site switched hands at 12:01 Tuesday afternoon, a very important document appeared: an LGBT civil rights agenda.
I said then that it looks like a very good scorecard on which we can judge the Obama administration. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I’ve concluded that no gay rights organization could have created a better scorecard in their wildest dreams.
That’s why I decided to condense it into a simple checklist form. And here it is: Barack Obama’s LGBT Civil Rights Scorecard. It’s the one he himself signed up to. And it’s one that I intend to refer to often over the next four years.
I doubt there will be immediate action on any of these items. After all, I can see how a crashing economy and a war in Iraq might be something of a distraction, to say the least. With people losing their jobs, homes, and health care, there’s a lot that needs to be done.
But I have to admit that I labor under the possibly mistaken impression that our elected representatives can walk and chew gum. They should be able to squeeze in a few of these promises in due course amongst the other things that need to be done. But even I know that we can’t sit back and assume that all of those wonderful politicians who made so many swell promises will actually get right on all those promises they made. I mean, c’mon — they’re politicians.
Besides when we’re talking about civil rights, the door has never opened because someone pulled the door open from the inside. It’s always been opened by a strong push from that outside.
That’s where we come in. They signed up for an impressive checklist. But it’s up to us to hold them to it.
Florida Adoption Ban Ruled Unconstitutional
November 25th, 2008
Miami-Date Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman has declared Florida’s gay adoption ban unconstitutional, saying, “It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent.” This ruling grants Frank Gill, a gay foster father in North Miami, the go-ahead to adopt two foster children he has been raising since 2004. The two children are ages 4 and 8, making Frank virtually the only parent the younger child has ever known.
Lawyers for the state of Florida immediately said they would appeal the ruling. During the hearings, attorneys for the state brought in so-called “experts” George Rekers and Walter Schumm, both of whom are closely associated with Paul Cameron. Rekers used his own particular brand of junk science to support the state’s position that gays should be barred from adopting, adding that he believed the ban should extend to Native Americans for the same reasons.
I’m very interested in obtaining a copy of Judge Lederman’s ruling. Her evaluation of the state’s “experts” could be very entertaining.
Update: More quotes from Judge Lederman’s ruling via the Associated Press:
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and their prospective gay parents, rejecting the state’s arguments that there is “a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children.” She also noted that gay people are allowed to be foster parents in Florida.
…”There is no ‘morality’ interest with regard to one group of individuals permitted to form the visage of a family in one context but prohibited in another,” Lederman wrote in a 53-page decision. “There is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting.”
…Lederman rejected all the state’s arguments soundly. “It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent,” the judge wrote. “A child in need of love, safety and stability does not first consider the sexual orientation of his parent. The exclusion causes some children to be deprived of a permanent placement with a family that is best suited to their needs.”
Update: It looks like Judge Lederman ruled based on what was best for these particular children. From the Orlando Sentinel:
“These children are thriving. These words we don’t often hear within these walls. That’s uncontroverted,” said Circuit Judge Cindy S. Lederman. “They’re a good family. They’re a family in every way except in the eyes of the law. These children have a right to permanancy,” the judge said. “The only real permanancy is adoption in the home where they are thriving. … There is no rational basis to preclude homosexuals from adopting.”
Anti-Gay “Expert” Would Consider Banning Adoptions By Native Americans
November 23rd, 2008
Two anti-gay activists closely associated with Paul Cameron have inserted themselves into the center of Florida’s gay adoption controversy.
Florida is the only state in the nation which explicitly bans adoption by gay parents. That law is now being challenged. The Miami Herald has obtained a transcript from an adoption trial which was closed the public. The trial ran on Oct. 1-6, and centered on a gay foster father’s petition to adopt the two small boys he has been raising since 2004. The trial featured testimony from a half-dozen expert witnesses in psychology, epidemiology, sociology and family studies.
The state of Florida, which is supporting the ban, relied on two so-called “expert witnesses” who are closely associated with discredited “researcher” Paul Cameron. George A. Rekers, is a retired professor from the University of South Carolina, who taught neuropsychiatry and behavioral science. Walter R. Schumm, is an assistant professor of family studies at Kansas State University.
The lives of gay people can also be stressful to children, Rekers testified. The children may experience teasing and bullying from other children who don’t approve of their parents’ orientation. And children with gay parents are likely to suffer from repeated separations because gay people are more likely to have multiple failed relationships.
Rekers said he would, in fact, favor banning anyone from adopting who had more than 18 “sex partners” during a lifetime. “I think that would be a very good social policy,” he said in a deposition.
He said he would also consider banning Native Americans from adopting because research shows that they are also at much higher risk of mental illness and substance abuse. “They would tend to hang around each other,” Rekers testified. “So the children would be around a lot of other Native Americans who are … doing the same sorts of things.”
Rekers relies extensively on Cameron’s research, citing as many as nine separate Cameron articles in one 2005 paper. Rekers and Cameron together launched Cameron’s online “Journal,” the Empirical Journal of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior, in 2007. The EJSSB is purportedly an open-access peer-reviewed journal, but, in fact, it is nothing more than a dressed-up web site. Since its inception in 2007, the only articles “published” to date are three papers by Paul Cameron and one book review by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, another close Cameron collaborator.
Rekers support of racism to exclude an entire class of prospective parents from adopting is most extraordinary. Of course, it’s no more shocking than Cameron’s own apologia for how the Nazi’s “dealt with” homosexuality at Dachau and Sachsenhausen.
Schumm is considerably more circumspect in how he uses Cameron’s research, but he did publish a 2000 article in Psychological Reports, Paul Cameron’s favorite publication outlet, defending Cameron’s research methods against Dr. Gregory Herek’s criticisms. Schumm is also listed as a member of Cameron’s “Editorial and Scientific Review Board” for the EJSSB.
In the trial, Schumm used data from his recent Psychological Reports article to claim that about 19 percent of children raised by gay parents are likely to become gay, compared with 4 percent of children with straight parents. Testifying for Frank Gill, the gay foster father, Susan D. Cochran, a professor of epidemiology and statistics at UCLA, accused Schumm of cooking his data.
”This is taught in first-year statistics,” Cochran testified. “I was surprised he would do that.”
James Esseks, one of Gill’s attorneys, criticized Rekers for relying on Paul Cameron’s work, citing his being dropped from the American Psychological Association in 1983 after he declined to cooperate with an ethics investigation on charges he had distorted research by others scientists on gay people.
Florida’s gay adoption ban was declared unconstitutional by a Circuit Court judge last fall in Key West. Since that decision wasn’t appealed to a higher court, it did not have any effect statewide. But the state is now fighting Gill’s attempt to adopt these two boys, which means that whatever the outcome, it will likely be appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal and possibly the Florida Supreme Court. If so, that outcome would go into effect statewide.
About 22,000 Florida children are in state custody, with more than 4,000 of them eligible for adoption. Only two states have more foster children waiting to be adopted.
[Hat tip: Alvin McEwen]
Rosie Wins, Anita Loses
September 9th, 2008
The Miami Herald is reporting that a Florida judge has found the state’s ban on adoption by gay persons to be unconstitutional:
A Monroe Circuit Court judge has ruled Florida’s 31-year-old gay adoption ban ”unconstitutional” in an order that allows an openly gay Key West foster parent to adopt a teenage boy he has raised since 2001.
Declaring the adoption to be in the boy’s ”best interest,” Circuit Judge David J. Audlin Jr. said the Florida law forbidding gay people from adopting children is contrary to the state Constitution because it singles out a group for punishment.
Based on previous decisions, the decision may not withstand appeal.
Study: Stepfathers Make Slightly Better Parents than Married Biological Fathers
August 9th, 2008
Oh dear. Another chink in the far-right’s armor:
Mothers reported that stepfathers were more engaged, more cooperative and shared more responsibility than their biological counterparts did, according to the study, published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.
One important caveat however:
Lawrence Berger, the study’s lead author, cautioned that the findings applied only to “fragile families,” defined as low-income urban families prone to non-marital births.
That last point has some possibly very important implications for adoption by same-sex parent, since they are much more likely to adopt older, more difficult-to-place children and other children with special needs.
Just Leave Out the Icky Part
October 31st, 2007
But what if this was a family movie and one of the characters was gay? Oh, you’d just remove that icky part, of course. Does it matter if the story is semi-autobiographical and based on a the difficulties of being a gay father to an adopted son with serious abandonment issues? Nah, just make him straight. It’s much cuddlier.
From Vue Weekly:
Really, how can you not love a little boy orphan who truly believes he’s from Mars and travels inside of an Amazon.com cardboard box with the warning “FRAGILE: Handle with care” on it? David Gordon (John Cusack) certainly can’t. In fact, this celestial orphan named Dennis (Bobby Coleman) might be the perfect match for science fiction writer David.
That is the sole premise of Martian Child, based on the award-winning novelette by, and about, sci-fi author David Gerrold and his experiences as a single adoptive dad. The only major difference is this family film leaves out the part where David is gay, and instead makes him a widower with an attractive “friend,” Harlee, played by Amanda Peet.
Awww. How sweet.
Maybe he and his father can go to a Save Marriage rally in the movie as well. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
Reviewer Omar Mouallem, who has no problem with this minor revision, tells us
But like the orphan in the box, it’s not humanly possible to dislike Martian Child. Not even a little.
Oh, I don’t know about that, Omar. I haven’t even seen it and already I dislike it more than a little.
You see, Omar, I’m not all that fond of when heterosexuals take the contributions and sacrifices that gay men and women make – often times because of the humanity and compassion that comes from being made to feel like an outsider – and pretend that the very attributes that taught this person compassion are icky and nasty and to be hidden.
Failing to Convince, Seeking to Coerce
October 31st, 2007
Why do some people put such effort into “defeating the homosexual agenda”? Regular ol’ people seldom really care what you do in private. They can’t even seem to get all incensed about whether you marry the person you love and they tend to think you shouldn’t be fired from your job or banned from the military. But why do some folks care a WHOLE LOT about those issues?
Often when you scratch below the surface, the motivation becomes evident. Sometimes it’s a hidden sex life. Sometimes it’s some grief that the individual had with a gay person. But quite often it turns out that the anti-gay activist has a gay child.
I believe that their motivation to pass anti-gay legislation or other forms of discrimination is born out of their sense of frustration. Unable to convince or persuade their child not to be gay, they seek to use the power of the government to control the life of their child.
This week one more anti-gay activist is revealed to be the parent of an openly-gay child. This time it is the virulently homophobic Amy Contrada.
We’ve discussed Amy before. She’s the voice of opposition to The Laramie Project that recently was embarrassed when her daughter starred in the play (though she was quick to point out that this daughter is adopted). To Amy’s chagrin, rather than being grateful and submitting to Amy’s every demand, the Claudia Contrada is exerting her right to be herself. This week Claudia gave an interview to Queer Today:
I am a lesbian, which my mom still does not get. She just says that I am confused. I realized in around eighth grade, but I was in denial for quite some time because I was scared due to my mother constantly saying that homosexuality is wrong. How can it ever be wrong to love though? That’s what I’d like to know.
We know full well how difficult it can be living in a home that does not approve of your orientation. We wish Claudia strength.
Further, we wish Amy the courage to let go and allow Claudia to become the woman she’s intended to be. We wish Amy the wisdom to see that her efforts to control the lives of total strangers is based in her inability to control those closest to her and that such efforts are not only futile but also selfish and cruel.
What’s Best for the Children
September 29th, 2007
Anti-gays often justify bigotry with the claim, “I want what’s best for the Children”. This is generally played as some trump card intended to show that they are moral and superior and concerned about the interests of those who are weak and vulnerable and that gay people are selfish and hedonistic. This supercilious remark is trotted out for all sorts of nastiness from opposing family protections, banning adoptions, and censoring literature.
Naturally, much of the results of such bigotry serves to do just the opposite. It often causes hardships in the lives of real living breathing children – about whom anti-gay demonstrate little care.
One such instance is reported in the Utah Daily Herald. Utah has a law that requires those who adopt or are foster parents to either be married or to live alone. Oh, and gay couples cannot marry. It’s for the children, you know.
[Michael Valez and Michael Oberg] were surprised three weeks ago when the children’s birth mother [Valdez’ niece] asked them to take care of her children while she dealt with drug-related criminal matters. It was no small task, but they wanted to help, said Oberg. The kids are aged 11, 6 and 2 years, and 10 months. The children’s fathers aren’t able to take them, at least not now.
So the kids went to stay with their uncles and a cousin where they were known and loved and, though it was difficult, they could be together. But the state wants to take the children away from their uncle and put them in the foster system where they will most likely be broken up. At present a judge is allowing Valdez to retain custody of the kids, but it is against the wishes of the DCSF lawyer.
And those who support Utah’s anti-gay law that seeks to take these young children away from family members, break them up, and give them to strangers no doubt justify their callousness as being Best For The Children.
CNN Poll on Homosexuality
June 27th, 2007
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll released today revealed the following attitudes Americans have about homosexuality:
Can gay people reorient: 56% say no; 45% say yes
What “causes” homosexuality: 42% say upbringing; 39% birth; 10% both; 3% neither
Let gay people serve openly in the military: 79% say yes; 18% say no
Recognize gay couples: 24% marriage; 27% civil unions; 43% neither
Allow gay couples to adopt: 57% say yes; 40% say no
Arkansas Family Council to Propose Adoption Ban
June 13th, 2007
The Arkansas Family Council, the group responsible for Arkansas’ constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, has announced that they will push for a ballot measure to ban adoption and foster parenting by gay people or unmarried couples. If the measure’s name and ballot title are approved by the state Attorney General, the Family Council would then have until July 7th to collect the required signatures to get the proposal on the November 2008 general election ballot.
The group hasn’t decided yet whether to make the proposal an initiative, which could be overturned by a three-fourth’s vote of the state legislature, or a constitutional amendment, which can only be overturned by another ballot proposal.
The Arkansas Family Council is an official state policy council for Focus on the Family.
Two Real Fathers
September 14th, 2006
Here is something making the rounds from Dutch television, via YouTube.
For all the real fathers out there, and their kids.
Why Marriage Is Important To Children
July 6th, 2006
Pawelski, James G.; Perrin, Ellen C.; Foy, Jane M., et al. “Effects of marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership laws on the health and well-being of children.”Pediatrics 118, no. 1 (July 2006): 349-364. Free full text available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/1/349.
The Board of Directors of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) commissioned a study last year on the challenges same-sex couples and their children face as a result of a public policy that excludes them from civil marriage and (in most states) second-parent adoption rights. That study appears in this month’s edition of the journal Pediatrics. It has also been made available for free to the general public via the journal’s web site. This report is highly readable, and provides an excellent rundown on all the reasons why marriage and civil unions are crucially important to the children of gays and lesbians.
Pediatricians have a very rich professional perspective on the importance of marriage in the family, and specifically, the special issues facing gays and lesbians. The authors note:
Because many pediatricians are fortunate to care for 2 or more generations of a family, we are likely to encounter and remain involved with our patients, regardless of sexual orientation, as they mature and mark the milestones of establishing a committed partnership with another adult, deciding to raise a family, and entrusting the health and well-being of their own children to us.
Data from the 2000 census shows that the highest concentration of same-sex couples raising children is found in the South, where 36% of lesbian couples and 24% of gay couples are raising children. The second highest percentage is in the Midwest. These regions represent the bedrock of what we often consider to be “family values,” where the data clearly shows gays and lesbians are living examples of those values despite the obstacles.
The State of the Union
The report begins with an excellent overview of the state of marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership laws across all fifty states and the District of Columbia, including descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the various definitions of civil union and domestic partnership that exists in many localities. Also included is a overview of the famous list of 1,136 federal provisions identified by the Government Accountability Office related to the rights, protections, benefits and obligations related to marriage.
The authors also note the obstacles to adoption and foster parenting placed against gays and lesbians. Coparent or second-parent adoptions are recognized only in nine states (California, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont; and the District of Columbia). Most children raised in same-sex households were originally born into a heterosexual relationship, before one or both parents came out of the closet. This means that later, when that parent enters into a relationship with a same-sex partner, that parent is the only one recognized as the child’s legal parent. The partner often has no parental rights available whatsoever.
When coupled with barriers to marriage rights, this situation places very serious and sometimes dangerous barriers between the non-biological parent and the child. For example:
- That parent cannot consent to medical care or authorize emergency medical treatment for the child. This can be crucial if the legal parent isn’t available.
- That parent cannot necessarily rely on visitation rights while the child is in the hospital.
- That parent cannot exercise the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for the child.
- That parent is not legally recognized as a parental authority in the child’s school.
- That parent may not be able to continue to care for the child, or even assert visitation rights if the partnership is dissolved or the child’s biological or adoptive parent dies.
- That parent cannot accompany the child while traveling abroad without special authorization from the child’s legal parent.
- The child is not eligible for that parent’s Social Security survivorship benefit in the event of that parent’s death.
These are just a few of the many barriers that stand between parents and children in same-sex families. Others include ongoing acts of discrimination and hate crimes which serve to cast a pall on the atmosphere surrounding the child as he or she grows up in the world.
The article concludes with a rundown on the usual studies on the psychological well-being of the children of gay and lesbian parents, and summarizes the position statements of several organizations. Overall, it is an excellent, easy-to-read source for information on the the importance of marriage for the well-being of children.
The authors conclude:
Gays and lesbian people have been raising children for may years and will continue to do so in the future; the issue is whether these children will be raised by parents who have the rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage. …
Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.
Conservatives Are Right: Marriage Protects Children
Opponents to marriage equality for gays and lesbians often invoke the positive, supportive role marriage plays in families and children. The Heritage Foundation produced The Positive Effects of MArriage: A Book of Charts, which demonstrates the many ways in which marriage benefits are crucial to children’s well-being. So all of this begs the question: If marriage provides so many vital protections for children, how can conservatives continue to deny these very protections for the children of gay and lesbian couples? Are these children somehow less deserving?
Social conservatives are correct when they say that marriage protects children. It is time we offered all children that measure of protection.
Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Foster Parenting for Gays and Lesbians
June 30th, 2006
This is an important red-state development. In a 7-0 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s policy against allowing gays and lesbians to become foster parents, saying:
There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual.
The court further noted that the Child Welfare Agency Review Board, which established the policy, was motivated “not to promote the health, safety and welfare of foster children but rather [was] based upon the board’s views of morality and its bias against homosexuals.”
Among the many charges that were raised in lower court arguments by supporters of the ban were of supposedly higher rates of pedophilia among homosexuals. But the lower court judge was able to see through that smokescreen and rejected the “expert” testimony of Dr. George Rekers, who is famous for misrepresenting social science research of child sexual abuse to try to draw a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. Hopefully, this decision will become another nail in that coffin.
You can learn more about the supposed link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse in our report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?
Update: Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee wants the legislature to re-impose the ban. With gubernatorial elections looming in the fall, you can count on a long hot Ozark summer.
Paul Cameron Strikes Again
This time he recruited Cambridge University Press for his efforts.
April 15th, 2006
The May 2006 edition of the Journal of Biosocial Science includes an article by Paul Cameron, entitled “Children of homosexuals and transsexuals more apt to be homosexual.” It should come as no surprise to those who have been following his career that this article carries all of his traditional hallmarks: a hostile premise, a weak methodology, deliberate mischaracterization of the works of others, unproven conclusions, and a flagrant bias throughout. What’s very disturbing is that Cambridge University Press has been made complicit in the cause of anti-gay extremism.
I learned last January that that JBS had accepted his article for publication in a forthcoming issue. So I wrote to the editors, explaining the many problems with Dr. Cameron’s history anti-gay extremism. After all, they’re British, and most of them are anthropologists — maybe they don’t know about his history. I even sent electronic copies of recent articles about him from the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal so they wouldn’t have to take my word for it. I contacted other authors whose work was misused in Dr. Cameron’s article, and some of them wrote to the editors as well. My only response came from Caroline Gallimore, associate editor, on January 16, 2006:
Thank you for comments on the forthcoming article by Paul Cameron. These are being considered by the Editor and we will get back to you soon.
I guess perhaps I was a bit naïve. I had hoped that at the end of the day, reason and sanity would prevail among these learned academics. But that single, two-sentence e-mail turned out to be the last (and only) response I received from them.
It is unconscionable that the editors went forward with this article. Nevertheless, Dr. Cameron has now had his say; it’s time for a rebuttal. You can read my point-by-point analysis in Paul Cameron Conquers Cambridge.
She Didn’t Really Say That, Did She?
April 3rd, 2006
We also have seen evidence that homosexual couples prey on young males and have, in some instances, adopted them in order to have unfretted [sic] access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse.
— Tenn. State Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville)
Rep. Maggart made these comments in an e-mail to Sara Dykstra, a master’s student in special education at Vanderbilt University. Ms. Dykstra had written to members of the Tennessee House Committee on Children and Family Affairs after hearing about legislation the committee was considering which would ban gay couples from foster parenting and adoption.
The Tennessee legislature is busy considering at least six different bills which would affect gay and lesbian parents in such areas as adoption, foster parenting, visitation rights, and custody. And it appears that such preoccupation invites a lot of misinformation and bigotry into the process.
Wherever anti-gay extremists gather, you can safely bet your paycheck that someone will soon level the charge that gays are obsessed with molesting children. Unfortunately, this charge isn’t unusual where unpopular minorities are concerned. Some observers have compared this to the “blood libel” that had historically been leveled against Jews (the myth that Jews kidnap Christian babies for blood sacrifices). But Rep. Maggart takes this particular libel against gays and lesbians to a whole new level of depravity.
Extensive research on child sexual abuse has shown, time and time again, that this charge simply is not true. And the outrageous thing about it, many of the anti-gay “experts” know full well it’s not true — they’ve read these studies themselves. But they deliberately distort these findings in their so-called “research” to keep their libel fresh with the “Authority of Science.” You can learn more about how they do this — and what the experts really have to say about child sexual abuse — in Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?