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Posts for July, 2012

Sally Ride’s Legacy

A commentary

Jim Burroway

July 24th, 2012

I first learned about the death of pioneering astronaut Sally Ride from this CNN report. When she flew aboard a Space Shuttle Challenger flight in 1983, she became the first American woman in space. She took another trip aboard the Challenger a year later. She was scheduled for a third mission, but it was cancelled after the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in 1986. She served on the accident review crew for that flight, and served again in the investigation of the 2003 Columbia accident.

All of that was covered in the CNN report, as with all of the other obituaries. But there was one line which, at the moment of her death, has overshadowed all of her accomplishments in life. It was this:

Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister and other family members.

Look around the blogs and tell me what you see. What are they talking about? Her accomplishments? Or the fact of her partner? Andrew Sullivan, for example, reacted:

I’m not so understanding. We can judge this decision in the context of Ride’s life. Her achievements as a woman and as a scientist and as an astronaut and as a brilliant, principled investigator of NASA’s screw-ups will always stand, and vastly outshine any flaws. But the truth remains: she had a chance to expand people’s horizons and young lesbians’ hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.

She was the absent heroine.

An absent heroine? Really?

When she took her first flight in 1983, I was a year away from graduating with an Engineering degree. There was exactly one woman in my sixty-some member class. The male-female ratio in many of the hard sciences was typically greater than the straight-nonstraight ratio in the general population. Even within my graduating class, gays outnumbered women. I’m still not sure that has changed much since then. Ride most certainly expanded people’s horizons in ways that I think, sadly thirty years later, many still fail to see.

I don’t know what it says about us that we expect — demand, really — that anyone who gains any kind of achievement, fame, or notoriety, they must accede to our demands and come out of the closet — which we define not in terms of acknowledging their relationships to their friends, familes, neighbors, coworkers and others who are important to them, but to reporters, bloggers and PR specialists who are important to us.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to those who do come out publicly and with great fanfare. I appreciate their value as role models. But isn’t it one of the goals that we are striving to achieve that everyone can live their own lives as publicly — and as privately — as they wish, for whatever reason they may wish it? Isn’t our fight a fight for self-determination and against the interference of busybodies who would presume to tell us how we should live based on what they think we should do?

I’m not going to second-guess her any more than I’ve second-guessed anyone else’s decision in how much they want to disclose about themselves, as long as they don’t act in a way that is hypocritical or in conflict with those in similar situations who choose differently. It’s why I was never all that agitated over Anderson Cooper’s decision until recently not to discuss his personal life for so many years. Sally Ride was a hero in the way that she chose — and fought — to be a hero, and there are many women and young girls today who are rightfully grateful for it. I can live with that.

Obama’s Big Gay Journey

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2012

Andrew Sullivan’s Newsweek cover story about President Barack Obama’s historic announcement last week that he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry is now online.

The cover and Sullivan’s op-ed bestows the title “The First Gay President” on Obama. This, of course, is in reference to the phrase coined by writer Toni Morrison who bestowed the title, “The First Black President” on President Bill Clinton during the impeachment proceedings in 1998. Despite Morrison being an African-American herself, I’ve always had qualms about the title. But now that Andrew Sullivan, gay himself, has bestowed the honor of “The First Gay President” on the real First Black President, I’m doubly pained. I’d rather wait until, you know, we actually get a real gay President. Someday.

But let’s not allow us to be distracted from the truly historic occasion. For the first time in American history, a sitting President supports the rights of gay Americans to marry the person they love. As Sullivan put it, “To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity—and the humanity of all gay Americans—was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview.” Sullivan then gets to the heart of why he thinks Obama deserves the title “The First Gay President” when he argues that Obama’s own personal odyssey is familiar to everyone in the LGBT community:

Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times.

I have always sensed that he intuitively understands gays and our predicament—because it so mirrors his own. And he knows how the love and sacrifice of marriage can heal, integrate, and rebuild a soul. The point of the gay-rights movement, after all, is not about helping people be gay. It is about creating the space for people to be themselves. This has been Obama’s life’s work. And he just enlarged the space in this world for so many others, trapped in different cages of identity, yearning to be released and returned to the families they love and the dignity they deserve.

This is the gay experience: the discovery in adulthood of a community not like your own home and the struggle to belong in both places, without displacement, without alienation. It is easier today than ever. But it is never truly without emotional scar tissue. Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay. And in Obama’s marriage to a professional, determined, charismatic black woman, he created a kind of family he never had before, without ever leaving his real family behind. He did the hard work of integration and managed to create a space in America for people who did not have the space to be themselves before. And then as president, he constitutionally represented us all.

Did Grenell Jump or Was He Pushed?

This post has been updated with more information from the New York Times and Talking Points Memo

Jim Burroway

May 3rd, 2012

Or did he just simply let go?

On April 19 when Gov. Mitt Romney named Richard Grenell, a longtime GOP communications strategist as his national security and foreign policy spokesman, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan hailed the announcement as “a real outreach to gay Republicans” while Karen Ocamb said is marks “the day Romney pivots to appeal to mainstream voters for the general election.”

But if that was a pivot, it ended Tuesday when Grenell resigned from the campaign. His very brief announcement hinted at why he left such a high-profile post in a national presidential campaign: “My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.”

What “hyper-partisan” discussions was he referring to? At first, some speculated that it may have been related to the initial criticisms from pundits and bloggers over provocative Twitter posts that he made about Rachel Maddow’s appearance, Newt Gingrich’s wife Calista’s appearance, Hillary Clinton’s appearance, Michele Obama’s accent, and other snarky tweets. But it quickly seemed unlikely that those criticisms led to Grenell’s sudden departure. Most of them came from left-of-center and beyond, which Republicans tend to wear as a badge of honor (as many Democrats do with criticism from the right). And besides, by April 22 when Grenell deleted some 800 tweets and took his personal web site offline, those criticisms were already loosing traction. The world quickly moved on to the next outrage.

Well, most of the world anyway. One key component of the restive GOP base didn’t. SPLC-certified hate-artist Bryan Fischer of American Family Association called Grenell’s appointment “a deliberate poke in the eye” to Christian conservatives, and mounted a campaign for Grenell’s removal with a six-point list of demands for Gov. Romney. Family “Research” Council warned that Grenell’s support for same-sex marriage would have him lobbying “for foreign policy more in line with the current administration than the last Republican one.” National Review’s Matthew Franck wrote that Grenell supported marriage equality “with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment.” He even suggested that Grenell’s gayness would cause him to turn traitor to the Republican cause and switch teams if Obama were to come out for same-sex marriage.

Those criticisms apparently spooked and paralyzed the Romney campaign. Andrew Sullivan did some “actual reporting from yours truly” and got to the bottom of Grenell’s resignation:

It seems clear from sources close to Grenell and reporters on the foreign policy beat that his turning point came last week. He’d been part of organizing a conference call to respond to Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech, now known best for the “big stick” remark. So some reporters were puzzled as to why Grenell, a week into his job as Romney’s national security spokesman, was not introduced by name as part of the Romney team at the beginning of the call, and his voice completely absent from the conversation. Some even called and questioned him afterwards as to why he was absent. He wasn’t absent. He was simply muzzled. For a job where you are supposed to maintain good relations with reporters, being silenced on a key conference call on your area of expertise is pretty damaging. Especially when you helped set it up.

Sources close to Grenell say that he was specifically told by those high up in the Romney campaign to stay silent on the call, even while he was on it. And this was not the only time he had been instructed to shut up. Their response to the far right fooferaw was simply to go silent, to keep Grenell off-stage and mute, and to wait till the storm passed. But the storm was not likely to pass if no one in the Romney camp was prepared to back Grenell up. Hence his dilemma. The obvious solution was simply to get Grenell out there doling out the neocon red meat — which would have immediately changed the subject and helped dispel base skepticism. Instead the terrified Romneyites shut him up without any actual plan for when he might subsequently be able to do his job. To my mind, it’s a mark of his integrity that he decided to quit rather than be put in this absurd situation. And it’s a mark of Romney’s fundamental weakness within his own party that he could not back his spokesman against the Bryan Fischers and Matthew Francks.

This confirms what the Washington Post learned shortly after Grenell’s resignation, when Jennifer Rubin wrote: “The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job.” She later reported that many members of the campaign privately reached out to Grenell over the weekend to try to persuade him from resigning, but they were unsuccessful. She then reiterated the root of the problem: “Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.”

[Update: The New York Times this morning has more. During that foreign policy conference call:

It turned out he was at home in Los Angeles, listening in, but stone silent and seething. A few minutes earlier, a senior Romney aide had delivered an unexpected directive, according to several people involved in the call.

“Ric,” said Alex Wong, a policy aide, “the campaign has requested that you not speak on this call.” Mr. Wong added, “It’s best to lay low for now.”

For Mr. Grenell, the message was clear: he had become radioactive.

After interviewing more than a dozen aids and advisers, The Times describes the episode as “halting attempts by the campaign to manage its relationship with the most conservative quarter of the Republican Party.”

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.”]

This leaves many wondering if there is any room for gay Republicans in visible positions. GOPRoud’s Jimmy LaSilva said, “This was an opportunity to send an important message that Mitt Romney wants everybody to get behind him and to support his campaign. They let that opportunity pass.” [Update: Go Proud’s Christopher Barron added, “It doesn’t bode well for the Romney campaign going forward if they couldn’t stand up to the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.” Fred Karger, who ran against Romney as an openly gay candidate told TPM,

“It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me. It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”]

Sullivan was more direct:

So if all gay Republicans who support marriage equality are banned even from speaking on other topics entirely (like Iran or Afghanistan, where Grenell is a fire-breather), who’s left? The answer, I’m afraid, is no one. Grenell was prepared to stay silent on gay issues entirely and do his job. But that wasn’t enough. Romney’s anti-gay agenda is therefore deeper and more extreme than Bush’s.

Meanwhile, AFA’s Bryan Fischer is declaring Grenell’s resignation a huge win. With continued silence from the Romney camp, this leaves likes of Fischer to operate as the de-facto gatekeepers of acceptable members of the Romney campaign — and perhaps even of a Romney administration.

Paul Unendorsed

Jim Burroway

December 27th, 2011

Image of one of the Ron Paul's newsletters equating "Sodomy = Death." Note the following paragraph talking about Ron Paul's former membership in the Episcopal Church, written in the first person. (Click to see the entire page as a PDF from The New Republic.)

Not all Paulistas are putting their hands to their ears and shouting lalalalalalalala as loudly as possible over the incendiary racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic newsletters that went out under his name and with his active promotion for most of a decade. Andrew Sullivan endorsed Rep. Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination because of his economic libertarianism and his refusal to support unnecessary foreign wars. Sullivan knew about those newsletters at the time, having read about them when they first came to light in 2008. But now Sullivan said that he sat down and re-read those newsletters again and decided that their existence makes Paul ineligible for the Presidency:

It seems to me that even though I don’t believe these old screeds reflect Paul’s own beliefs, his new level of prominence demands a new level of accountability, even on issues this old. If Paul did not write these newsletters, then he has an obligation to say if he knew who did, or conduct an investigation. He has had years to do this, and hasn’t. And here’s what you’ve persuaded me of in the last few days: a person who has that kind of bigotry directly printed under his name without a clear empirical explanation of why he is innocent cannot be an honorable president of the United States. The hatred of groups of people in those letters – however gussied up by shards of legitimate arguments – is too deep and vile to be attached to a leader of the entire country. It is far too divisive. The appearance of things matters; and until Paul explains why this appears so horrible, he cannot shrug off the burden of proof.

…the words and sentiments in those newsletters cannot attach themselves – even by mere appearance – to a potential president of this country. I see that now. Maybe my admiration for Paul’s courage and his extraordinary resistance to the authoritarianism and intolerance in his own party blinded me to this. But you can’t be both the solution and the problem. And so, until Paul fully explains this incident, in the kind of way Michael Tomasky recommends, I have to say there is an alternative, as I described at length in the endorsement: Jon Huntsman. He’s what my super-ego tells me is the right choice. My id remains with Ron. But I write with the rational part of my brain, or at least I try to.

Santorum Doubles Down on DADT, With No Apology Or Thanks To American Soldier

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum followed up his criticism last night of gays serving openly in the military. In last night’s GOP presidential debate, in which an American soldier currently stationed in Iraq was booed by members of the audience, Santorum called the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” an exercise in “social experimentation.” Today, he appeared on Fox News’  morning program Fox and Friends, in which he falsely claimed that other nations’ militaries which allow gay people to serve openly are mostly non-volunteer forces.

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Q: I don’t know if he had the same idea with you about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I do know that you disagree with President Obama, which by the way got rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” just a couple of days ago. Let’s listen to what you said last night:

Santorum, during the debate: …Any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military and the fact that they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege in removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”  I think tries to inject social policy into the military and the military’s job is to do one thing and that is to defend our country. [Applause] … What we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now, and that’s tragic. …

Q: So you would go back to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if you become President?

Santorum: Absolutely. We haven’t even begun to see what the consequences of going to ‘DADT’ are going to be. The men and women who sign up for the military are now going to be placed in very difficult and uncomfortable personal situations, in very close quarter situations. Look, this is a volunteer military. In the other militaries where this has been tried by and large, have not been voluntary militaries. You’ve been required to serve. This is not, and so we’ve got to recruit people who would want to do this and now you’re going to put them in a very odd and uncomfortable environment. A lot of people, I believe are going to leave. I think a lot of folks aren’t going to join who otherwise would have joined, and that’s going to hurt our ratings, it’s going to hurt our ability to defend this country, and we shouldn’t be playing social experimentation. As I said last night, there is no role for playing sexual experimentation games in the United States military. This is about securing our country.

In fact, most of the militaries around the world which allow gays to serve openly are all volunteer forces, including Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.

No mention was made about the booing of an active-duty American soldier by the debate audience. It is also the only time I can recall when an active-duty American servicemember appeared in a GOP debate who was not thanked for his service to our country. Andrew Sullivan reacts:

But somehow the fact that these indignities were heaped on a man risking his life to serve this country, a man ballsy enough to make that video, a man in the uniform of the United States … well, it tells me a couple of things. It tells me that these Republicans don’t actually deep down care for the troops, if that means gay troops. Their constant posturing military patriotism has its limits.

The shocking silence on the stage – the fact that no one challenged this outrage – also tells me that this kind of slur is not regarded as a big deal. When it came to it, even Santorum couldn’t sanction firing all those servicemembers who are now proudly out. But that’s because he was forced to focus not on his own Thomist abstractions, but on an actual person. Throughout Republican debates, gays are discussed as if we are never in the audience, never actually part of the society, never fully part of families, never worthy of even a scintilla of respect. When you boo a servicemember solely because he’s gay, you are saying he is beneath contempt, that nothing he does or has done can counterweigh the vileness of his sexual orientation.

Can you even begin to imagine the hissy fit we would be hearing right now if any American active-duty soldier currently stationed in Iraq had been booed at a Democratic debate?

Maggie Gallagher’s gays

Timothy Kincaid

March 4th, 2010

In Maggie Gallagher’s recent debate with Andrew Sullivan at the Cato Institute over whether there is a place for gay people in conservatism and conservative politics, the following exchange took place:

Sullivan: Can you name a single gay person who agrees with you?

Gallagher: Yes… I told you, I have them. They work for me.

Sullivan: Name them.

Gallager: Well no, I’m not going to name them. Because I’m not going to out them.

Sullivan: Why not? Earlier you said you don’t want to out an openly gay person?

Gallagher: As being anti-gay marriage, I’ll let them do it. I’m not outing them as being gay, I’m outing them as being on my side.

Not very many, but I do know them…

She goes on for a while giving illustrations of secret confessions of support and emails.

But setting aside Maggie’s flustered blunder and momentary honesty (she never admits to being “anti gay marriage”, only in favor of retaining blah blah blah), the important point that Andrew identified is that even considering the large number of conservative gay men and women, and even considering that our community is very diverse in age, culture, attitudes, religion, and perspective, no one is willing to publicly support Maggie Gallagher and her campaign against their rights.

So who, then, are these hand full of gay people who are secretly “anti-gay marriage”, in Maggie’s words. And why is it so important that she “know them.”

I’ll answer the second part first.

I believe that Maggie thinks of herself as a good person. She doesn’t want to acknowledge that she is engaging in deliberately hurtful, unjust, and discriminatory behavior. She doesn’t want to think of her motivations as being based in bias, animus, and religious supremacy.

Behind all of her “don’t call us haters” mantra is a real fear that she, truly, might be acting out of less than admirable instincts. She doesn’t want to even consider that possiblity, so it is the one thing that she finds most objectionable.

So it is extremely important that Maggie know people who can confirm to her that she isn’t hurting them. If I read her correctly, in order that she not see herself as being homophobic, she needs to believe that some gays – the ones who truly value the country and not their own selfish interests – agree with her. So, like every politician who doesn’t want to be seen as evil, she now “has gay friends”.

But who are these mythical gay friends that we never ever seem to meet?

Well, we do now have an answer in part. From none other than the National Organization for Marriage, of whom Maggie is the voice and face.

This comes from the amicus brief that NOM filed to support Proposition 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger:

benkofnes

Even at least a few gay people oppose gay marriage (see, e.g., “Gays Defend Marriage,” at http://www.gaysdefendmarriage.com), and we welcome their participation as fellow citizens in our shared mission.

Oh, yes, I kid you not. Maggie’s “gays that agree with her” are epitomized by David Benkof. Yes, a celibate convert to Orthodox Judaism who spent a brief period trying to convince the world that he was just an ordinary gay guy who was concerned about marriage. Yep, the same one who is “gay” or “bisexual” or “not gay” or anything else he thinks will be convincing at the moment.

Yes, Maggie’s gays – or at least the one she presents – are sad, sad creatures indeed.

(hat tip to reader Mel, with whom I incorrectly argued about whether this exchange took place)

And Then There Were Ten

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2009

We now have ten people who have cancelled their appearance at next week’s Democratic fundraiser over the Obama administration’s brief defending DOMA. The latest ones are:

Stampp Corbin, San Diego City Commissioner and former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council during the presidential campaign:

Mr. President, your DOMA mistake awakened a sleeping giant. He is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore. You better get LGBT affirming legislation moving quickly or the coffers of the LGBT community will be slammed shut on the fingers of your administration and the DNC. You and the DNC may find themselves asking about our donations “if not now, when” as we have been asking about our rights for the last few months.

That’s simply the way I see it.

Also National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Rea Carey and Corey Johnson (I missed that one earlier).

They join Utah businessman Bruce Bastion, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, and HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse in boycotting the fundraiser.

Andrew Sullivan is cheering them on. But, he says, our anger should not stop with Obama:

We need to swamp Pelosi with phone-calls.

We need to target Reid for his inaction. We have to pressure Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin not to excuse the disdain that the Obama administration is showing toward gay equality, and their cynical use of our votes, money and passion to enforce real and potent discrimination against us and our families. And we have to refuse to attend White House signing ceremonies like yesterday’s farce. Really: until they are serious, we should not be coopted and placated with pathetic sops. I am not a Clintonite. I worked my ass off to get this man to power. On many issues, I support him and will continue to do so.

But I am a proud, self-respecting gay man with HIV. And I am not going to take this crap for much longer on civil rights. Fight back. Act Up.

More Reactions to Obama Administration’s Defense of DOMA

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2009

People are justifiably furious over the Obama administration’s DOJ brief filed with the Supreme Court defending DOMA. Here’s Pam Spaulding:

This is a President who said he is a “fierce advocate” for our rights. This doesn’t look much like an advocate, it looks more like an enemy pulling the pin on the grenade and tossing it at us. While this may not be the perfect test case for DOMA, the Obama administration, in its defense of the Act, has filed a brief that is a roadmap for every fundnut anti-gay argument against the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Andrew Sullivan:

There’s a completely decent reason to keep DOMA in place for the time being, especially in the federal courts right now – where bad precedents could wound us in the future. But to file an actual brief re-stating some of the worst and most denigrating arguments against gay civil equality is just bizarre. They could have argued for a narrow ruling or kept the “reasonable” arguments to a minimum. What they did – without any heads up to any of their gay supporters and allies – is unconscionable. Citing incest precedents? Calling gay couples free-loaders? Arguing that our civil rights are not impinged because we can marry someone of the opposite sex? Who on earth decided that that was a great idea?

…I’m baffled by this, I really am. The content of this brief is a massive political error from an administration that is making it impossible for its gay supporters to stay supportive. What’s next? A Clintonian political ad boasting of these arguments?

John Aravosis, when he’s not mad at others for not pushing the incest meme. Sorry, John. I love you and admire your work, but we disagree on that point. But not on this:

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case overturning Virginia’s ban on inter-racial marriages. The Obama people, working for the product of an inter-racial marriage, sure have an eye for irony.

Chris Geidner at Law Dork:

Even if one argues, as I often have, that a government lawyer — from the Department of Justice to state attorneys general — must defend even those laws with which one disagrees*, such a lawyer needn’t overstate his or her case. The government lawyer defending a statute with which she disagrees needn’t add gratuitous demeaning statements into the legal brief she files.

Unlike the Obama Administration’s brief filed in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell case turned away by the Supreme Court this week, last night’s filing in Smelt v. United States goes too far.  It’s offensive, it’s dismissive, it’s demeaning and — most importantly — it’s unnecessary.  Even if one accepts that DOJ should have filed a brief opposing this case (and the facts do suggest some legitimate questions about standing), the gratuitous language used throughout the filing goes much further than was necessary to make its case.

…Perhaps the simplest way to express my anger at this filing is to reprint what is easily the most disingenuous line of the brief, at p. 32:

DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits.

Another lawyer, Dale Carpenter at the Volokh Conspiracy:

More bluntly put, the Obama DOJ is saying that DOMA doesn’t discriminate against gays and lesbians because they are free to marry people of the opposite sex. No “homosexual” is denied marriage so homosexuals qua homosexuals suffer no hardship. Gay man? Marry a woman, says the DOJ. Lesbian? There’s a nice boy across the street. It’s identical in form to the defense of Texas’s Homosexual Conduct law in Lawrence v. Texas: a law banning only gay sex doesn’t discriminate against gays because it equally forbids homosexuals and heterosexuals to have homosexual sex and because it equally allows homosexuals and heterosexuals to have heterosexual sex. This sort of formalism has incited howls of laughter over the years when made by religious conservatives. Now it’s the official constitutional position of the Obama administration.

…My point here is not to claim that the DOJ’s arguments are anti-gay, homophobic, or even wrong. Much of the brief seems right to me, or at least entirely defensible, as a matter of constitutional law. My point is only to note how much continuity there is in this instance, as in others, between the Bush and Obama administrations. In short, there’s little in this brief that could not have been endorsed by the Bush DOJ. A couple of rhetorical flourishes here and there might have been different. Perhaps a turn of phrase. But, minus some references to procreation and slippery slopes, the substance is there.

Obama says he opposes DOMA as a policy matter and wants to repeal it. Nothing in the DOJ brief prevents him from acting on that belief. He is, he says, a “fierce advocate” for gay and lesbian Americans. When does that part start?

David Link at Independent Gay Forum:

It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, approving of congressional comparisons between same-sex marriages and loving relationships between siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money.  There are some respectable arguments in this motion, and this kind of disrespect is offensive.

Chris Crain:

The people in the Justice Department writing this brief made so many discredited and ridiculous arguments for DOMA, I hope these were really intended to help the court see the fallacy of DOMA to persuade the court to strike it down. Otherwise my only other conclusion is that the Obama White House has thrown us overboard.

Dan Savage:

Barack Obama’s record on gay rights so far: disturbing, unsound, false, discriminatory, damaging, nonsensical. Before today you could argue that the Obama administration was too busy with the economy and the war and health care to focus on making good on his campaign promises to gays and lesbians, that Obama simply didn’t have the time to take up our issues. But you can’t make that argument anymore. The Obama administration has the time to take up gay rights issues—but only, it seems, to do harm.

I can’t take my vote back. And I’m not sure I would if I could. But I sure as hell would like to have my money back.

And Andy Towle:

Happy Stonewall anniversary everybody!

Andrew Sullivan Talks about Dick Cheney and Barack Obama

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2009

Sullivan is particularly irritated (rightfully so) with the Obama administration’s foot-dragging on removing the HIV travel ban, which Congress approved last fall and former Pres. Bush signed into law. But Obama continues to enforce the last legacy of Jesse Helms.

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“The Fierce Urgency Of Whenever”

Jim Burroway

May 13th, 2009

Andrew Sullivan taps into the impatience that many of us are feeling surrounding the Obama administration’s delay and prevarication on LGBT issues:

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

Two weeks ago, the Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese emerged from a White House meeting with a blank check allowing the administration to delay away. He announced that he was pleased with the meeting. “They have a vision,” he said. “They have a plan.” So I guess there’s no need for the HRC to risk its White House access to apply any pressure.

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the White House takes its cues from LGBT advocates. That may explain why White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave the longest series of non-answers yesterday to some rather simple questions from ABC New’s Jack Tapper on LGBT issues that we’ve seen in a long time. No pressure? No problem.