Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for March, 2013

Hillary Clinton endorses marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 18th, 2013

ABC News:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her support for gay marriage Monday, putting her in line with other potential Democratic presidential candidates on a social issue that is rapidly gaining public approval.

Clinton made the announcement in an online video released Monday morning by the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. She says in the six-minute video that gays and lesbians are “full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship.”

“That includes marriage,” she says, adding that she backs gay marriage both “personally and as a matter of policy and law.”

Hillary Approves

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2012

From the Facebook page of the instantly popular Tumblr Texts from Hillary, Secretary of State Clinton’s favorite new web site.

Secretary Clinton: “Gay Rights Are Human Rights, and Human Rights Are Gay Rights”

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivering a Human Rights Day address in Geneva.

The US State Department has just released a transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s remarks in Geneva in advance of Human Rights Day. She dedicates the bulk of the speech to “one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today,” namely LGBT people, which she called “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time”:

In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.

Clinton asserts the argument that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights” simply because gay people are human beings. She went on to state what should be obvious, but all too often isn’t: killing gay people because they are gay is a violation of human rights. She also directly addressed the false charge in some parts of the world that homosexuality is strictly a Western phenomenon. She addressed the conflict with religious or cultural beliefs, but reminded the audience that “with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. … no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.” It’s an amazing speech, representing the first-ever push for gay rights abroad by the U.S. government. It deserves to be read in its entirety.

Click here to read the transcript of Secretary Clinton’s speech.

US Pushes Hard on LGBT Rights Around the World

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

The Obama administration has issued a flurry of documents and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a groundbreaking speech on the need for protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world. It began this morning with the White House memorandum directing American international agencies to take action in countries where LGBT abuses are taking place. That was followed by fact sheets from the White House and the State Department outlining the new policies as well as past accomplishments. Of particular interest is the State Department’s description of its engagement in Uganda over concerns about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

Alongside Ugandan civil society’s strong and sustained outreach to parliamentarians and the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and advocacy of other governments, U.S. Government advocacy against Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill established a precedent for the United States, the international donor community and civil society to collaborate to counter efforts to criminalize same-sex conduct. [Emphasis mine]

While activities in Uganda are mentioned, Africa was not alone in receiving the State Department’s attention over the past few years. Also mentioned are Jamaica, Slovakia, Indonesia, Guinea, Serbia, and India. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton gave what has been described as a groundbreaking speech in Geneva in advance of Human Rights Day this Saturday. I wasn’t able to see the speech and hope to have the transcript as soon as possible. (Update: It’s here, and it’s a doozy.)

It remains to be seen how the actions today will be reported in the popular media and what the response will be in countries which stand to be affected by today’s announcements. But past events does give us a clue as to how today’s developments are likely to be received in world capitals where LGBT persecution is either official policy or the social norm. Russia had earlier denounced American diplomatic protests over a proposed bill in St. Petersburg which would prohibit LGBT advocacy in public, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak followed that with a suggestion that the St. Petersburg proposal could be made a federal law. In Africa, following comments from British Prime Minister David Cameron warning that countries which prosecute LGBT people could see their foreign aid cut (a warning that was later modified to say that the aid would be redirected to NGO’s instead), African leaders, including those who oppose LGBT oppression, warned that the statement could backfire on efforts to head off legislation which would severely increase penalties against LGBT people. African LGBT advocates also warn that if changes in foreign funding force cutbacks in governmental services, the local LGBT communities would feel the brunt of the blame, making the work of LGBT advocacy much more difficult in countries where the prevailing belief is that homosexuality is a Western import.

None of that is to say that these pronouncements from the US and IK aren’t unwarranted or improper. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as they say in Africa, when elephants fight, the grass suffers. Since Cameron’s announcement in October, there has been a measurable uptick on African newspaper articles mentioning homosexuality popping up through November and December in my Google Alerts for the continent, and those articles are rarely positive. The Ugandan Parliament revived the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the end of October, and the Nigerian Senate greatly increased the penalties in a bill which makes same-sex unions a felony in November.

Now to be clear, neither action was a response to Britain’s announcement; both events almost certainly have occurred anyway. But if anyone had been inclined to speak out against those two bills before, the current politics now makes that all but impossible. No African politician has ever lost influence by standing up to “meddling” by foreign and (especially) colonial powers. And no politician anywhere in the world — east, west, north or south — has survived the taint of being accused of colluding with foreign governments, no  matter how manifestly untrue, unjust, or an irrelevant distraction those accusations may be.

In the short term, these announcements are likely to exacerbate the situation. That is just a simple fact of life, but pointing that out isn’t to say that this is not a good change in direction. It is merely to say that we will need to be forewarned and prepared for the inevitable reaction which will come of it. Fasten your seat belts.

Sec Clinton Issues Statement on Kato’s Murder

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2011

From the State Department:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Statement
Jan. 27, 2011

We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Ugandan human rights defender David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his home near Kampala yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and colleagues. We urge Ugandan authorities to quickly and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous act.

David Kato tirelessly devoted himself to improving the lives of others. As an advocate for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, he worked to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. His efforts resulted in groundbreaking recognition for Uganda’s LGBT community, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission’s October 2010 statement on the unconstitutionality of Uganda’s draft “anti-homosexuality bill” and the Ugandan High Court’s January 3 ruling safeguarding all Ugandans’ right to privacy and the preservation of human dignity. His tragic death underscores how critical it is that both the government and the people of Uganda, along with the international community, speak out against the discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda’s LGBT community, and work together to ensure that all individuals are accorded the same rights and dignity to which each and every person is entitled.

Everywhere I travel on behalf of our country, I make it a point to meet with young people and activists — people like David — who are trying to build a better, stronger future for their societies. I let them know that America stands with them, and that their ideas and commitment are indispensible to achieving the progress we all seek.

This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us — and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.

Our ambassadors and diplomats around the world will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights policy, and to stand with those who, with their courage, make the world a more just place where every person can live up to his or her God-given potential. We honor David’s legacy by continuing the important work to which he devoted his life.

Hillary Clinton Denounces Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become perhaps the administration’s most outspoken and consistent critic of attempts to criminalize homosexuality. Yesterday in a speech at Georgetown University, Secretary Clinton singled out Uganda for its latest efforts to legislate LGBT people out of existence.

Calling for accountability doesn’t start or stop at naming offenders. Our goal is to encourage—even demand—that governments must also take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in government institutions; by building strong, independent courts and competent and disciplined police and law enforcement. And once rights are established, governments should be expected to resist the temptation to restrict freedom of expression when criticism arises, and be vigilant in preventing law from becoming an instrument of oppression, as bills like the one under consideration in Uganda to criminalize homosexuality would do.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

State Department to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon announce that the State Department will provide domestic partner benefits for same-sec couples, a move which will have particularly important ramifications for gay diplomats posted overseas:

Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad. In addition, gay diplomats’ families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, the message says.

The previous policy, which barred recognition of same-sex couples, left partners of gay diplomats vulnerable to the visa policies of host countries. It also meant that, in some postings, they may well have had to take their lives into their own hands as previous policies denied them access to competent medical care and emergency evacuations.

One former ambassador to Romania under the Bush administration, Michael Guest, used the opportunity of his retirement in 2007 to publicly protest the restrictions. Guest had been sworn in as ambassador by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who publicly recognized Guest’s partner, Alex Nevarez.

Political Party Condescends to Gays

This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and is not necessarily those of the other contributors of Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2008

A lawsuit has revealed some rather discouraging details about the relationship between the Republican Party and the gay community. The Peter Pace controversy highlights the ways in which the Party was condescending and dismissive of gay Americans.

In March 2007, Major General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about the continued relevance of the anti-gay Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy which discriminates against gay service members.

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Gen Pace told the Chicago Tribune.

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” he said.

This sort of statement was met with shock. Some, such as Carl Levin the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a strong rebuke:

“I strongly disagree with the chairman’s views that homosexuality is immoral.”

However, this was not the universal response. Both leading presidential candidates for the Republican nomination were less forceful, one ignored questions while the other said that it was up to “others to conclude” whether homosexuality is immoral. Both positions were later repackaged – as a result of public outrage – but the initial response was a total lack of concern.

This dismissal of the blatant insult was also shared at the Party level.

A series of emails released as part of a lawsuit, and analyzed by the Washington Blade, demonstrates a willingness to condescend to gay constituents. The Republican Party sought the weakest response possible and contemplated releasing the response solely to the gay press while seeking to keep it quiet from the mainstream press. They didn’t want to offend their religious voters by suggesting that gay people might not be inherently immoral.

OH WAIT, I MISTYPED

It was not the Republican Party that was condescending. It was the Democratic Party.

The ranking member of the Armed Services Committee that condemned Pace’s statements was Republican John Warner from Virginia.

The Presidential candidate who ignored the question was Barack Obama. The one who said it was up to others to conclude whether homosexuality was immoral was Hillary Clinton.

And it was the Democrat Party that sought a weak response provided solely to gay press.

As the Blade reports

LaVera e-mailed Karen Finney, DNC’s director of communications: “Brian [Bond] is concerned that we might take hits if we don’t comment on it — not so much on the merits of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ but on Pace’s language about immorality, etc. Personally, I’m concerned that we’ll create too many problems if [DNC Chair Howard] Dean condemns the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during a time of war. I think it’s better to do a statement from a DNC spokesperson saying Pace’s rhetoric isn’t constructive.”

In the protracted e-mail exchange obtained by the Blade, LaVera and Daughtry advocate for sending a statement only to reporters working for gay press and keeping any mention of it off the DNC web site. They also oppose sending the statement to mainstream news wires. That way, the DNC can have it both ways — placating the gays with a toothless statement while ensuring that any faintly pro-gay statements don’t gain traction or visibility in mainstream media. The DNC leadership wouldn’t want to go out on a limb and actually stand up for the dignity of gay service members who had just been called “immoral,” because that might offend one of those religious voters that Dean and Daughtry are so desperate to please.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to suggest that the Republican Party as a whole is better on gay issues than the Democratic Party. That is clearly not the case.

However, I believe that we have, as a community, been willing to accept crumbs and scraps while paying for tenderloin. The gay community has been disproportionately generous with our money, our time, and our loyalty. And we receive so little in return. We would have seen the actions above if taken by Republicans as evidence of animus while we make excuses for Democrats who talk nicey-nice to our faces while treating us like the ugly red-headed stepchild of which they are ashamed.

I recognize the importance of political pragmatism. We gain nothing by supporting fringe candidates or by ignoring that some progress is better than none.

But I think that it is time for us to be upfront. It is time for us to tell our candidates, “I may be voting for you, but you stink on my issues.” It’s time to stop pretending that second-class is worthy of praise. We need to tell candidates, be they Republican or Democrat, that anything less than equality is discrimination, condescension, and morally bankrupt.

It’s now time for candidates of all stripes to come to realize that partial bigotry is bigotry, that partial inequality is inequality. They may get our vote, but they do not deserve our respect.

Tuesday was Super Duper for Gay Americans

An Opinion

Timothy Kincaid

February 6th, 2008

At the conclusion of “America’s Primary”, the presidential primaries remain exciting. Senators Clinton and Obama are very close in delegate count and no one can know for certain whom will bear the Democrat banner.

Senator McCain is significantly ahead in delegate count and barring some unexpected event is likely to be the nominee. While there is still some life in the Republican primary and peculiar things do happen in politics, at the moment we will assume that McCain will be running against either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.

But what does that mean to gay Americans?

Quite a bit, actually. Below I will explore where the candidates stand on a few issues that are of particular importance to our community.

Marriage

None of the three support marriage equality. Yet none of the three candidates are in favor of a constitutional amendment barring states from instituting or recognizing marriage between gay couples.

Interestingly, John McCain may have the most invested in opposing such an amendment. Citing his federalist ideals, McCain argued passionately on the floor of the Senate against the passage of the amendment.

However, this does not mean that McCain is in favor of gay marriage. Although he has expressed in the past that he is in favor of some recognition of gay couples, he campaigned for a constitutional amendment banning both marriage and any other form of recognition in his own state. It lost.

But in any case, with McCain as the Republican nominee, this election cycle is unlikely to have banning gay marriage as any central theme.

It is uncertain to what extent any candidate would champion rights for gay couples.

Both Senators Clinton and Obama have expressed approval of overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), or at least that portion of it that defines federal recognition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Senator McCain is very much in favor of that part of DOMA that releases states from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. Senator Clinton also seems to favor keeping that restriction in place. From a pragmatic point of view, I too want this upheld for some time as I think that without it a federal marriage ban would have much more support.

There is some question as to whether McCain could support the federal recognition of marriage as defined by the various states (overturning that half of DOMA), especially those which do so by means of positive legislative action. His federalist philosophy may well override his personal affinity to an opposite sex definition of marriage if the appropriate argument was presented.

Ultimately, the decision to overturn DOMA is up to Congress. And while a vote for Clinton or Obama could be argued to be a mandate to overturn the bill, a McCain election would probably not be construed to be a mandate to keep it in place.

The most significant impact that the new President will have on the lives of gay persons in relationships will be on appointments to Department heads. On that level, it is likely that gay couples will fare better overall under Democrats than Republicans. However, it is also likely that McCain’s appointments will be far more centrist and moderate than those of some other Republicans.

ENDA

Both Clinton and Obama back non-discrimination in housing and employment.

It appears that McCain does not favor ENDA. It is unknown whether his opposition rises to the level of a veto should Congress pass the legislation.

DADT

Both Clinton and Obama have expressed interest in overturning DADT.

McCain has hedged his bets a bit. He claims that senior military officers claim that the policy is working. This leaves him open to change in policy should “senior military officers” tell him that the policy is no longer a necessity.

Judicial Nominees

This is a subject that is raised as being of paramount importance for the advancement of any faction’s social agenda. But it is also the least easy to predict.

Conservative Republicans have nominated judges for the bench, and even the Supreme Court that have championed causes that conservatives find abhorrent. And Democrats have appointed judges whose decisions were decidedly conservative.

Ironically, many of the decisions decried as the actions of “liberal activist judges” were made by conservative judges taking positions that were strictly constructed rather than simply parroting the platitudes of their political friends. It is my personal opinion that those judges who are most exact in their interpretation of law will eventually be those judges that establish equality for gay persons – and on such terms that their decisions will be difficult to fault. Equality under the law is, at its heart, a conservative ideal.

We can assume that to some extent Democrats will appoint judges that are somewhat more approachable on gay issues than will a Republican. But McCain is no usual Republican when it comes to judicial appointments.

In 2005, Senator McCain was part of the “gang of 14”, a group of moderate Senators of both parties that stood in the way of filibuster efforts to force controversial and highly partisan judges through approval. While McCain has promised to appoint “strict constructionist judges”, it is unlikely that he would make appointments based on partisan ideals or conservative ideology that did not have bipartisan respect. An adamantly anti-gay judge is unlikely to make McCain’s list.

Overall Comfort and Access

The candidate with the most comfort and ease with gay people, Rudy Giuliani, has been eliminated from the running. But all of the remaining credible candidates have demonstrated that they are more-or-less approachable to our community.

Hillary Clinton will probably continue in the vein of her husband and her Senate career. She will probably not be closely aligned to our community and will likely place us lower in priority if she needs to broker a deal, but she has been known to have some gay friends – at least in the past. She is likely to give access to gay groups and perhaps appoint a gay liaison.

Barack Obama is more difficult to measure. His religious community has a strong social justice history and is officially favorable to gay equality. But his campaign has shown insensitivity to the community by pushing forward some within the black community that have a history of homophobia and support for the ex-gay movement. However, he has strong gay support and has spoken out against homophobia. It is likely that Obama will provide access to gay groups.

John McCain is a social conservative, but this seems to be tempered by a federalist streak. Further, I have watched McCain for many years and have yet to see an overtly hostile attitude towards gay people. I recall many years ago when Lon Mabon’s anti-gay group, the Oregon Citizen Alliance, invited him to speak, McCain came and gave them a little lecture about being tolerant of others with whom they disagree.

Some have expressed alarm over robo-calls made by McCain’s campaign that discussed “special rights”, but the candidate did pull the calls immediately upon being informed of their content. It’s difficult to know to what extent McCain approved the calls, but the content seemed inconsistent with his history.

The jury is still out on McCain, but I don’t anticipate anti-gay activism to be a part of his campaign or his administration. Further, as the more homophobic elements of the Republican Party have been openly attacking him, McCain may not feel that he owes anything to them if elected. I am cautiously optimistic that McCain would give access and a fair hearing on gay issues.

Conclusion

Gay people should be encouraged with the current state of the elections.

While true gay champions such as Kucinich or Gravel have been eliminated as possible nominees, the two remaining Democrat candidates support gay equality, if to a somewhat lesser degree. While I personally don’t see much conviction in their support, we can be sure that gay people will not be treated with hostility by either administration.

Further, gay people should be overjoyed that Huckabee’s theocratic campaign has been all-but-eliminated from any chance of winning. A Huckabee administration would prioritize anti-gay discrimination as part of a Kingdom of God in America agenda.

In the upcoming national election I anticipate that the differences between the two candidates (whomever they turn out to be) on gay issues will have little resonance or impact on the election. We will not have to spend the rest of the year hearing about how marriage needs to be “protected”. Nor will we hear about “San Francisco Values” or an “attack on the family”.

And I anticipate that the next President, regardless of party, will not be overtly hostile to gay people or gay couples and may indeed be open to arguments about equality under the law.

Alan Chambers On Hillary Clinton

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2007

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, began by saying, “I have been described as an ultra conservative and a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. I am a Republican, a conservative Christian and the head of an international pro-family organization.” With all that, he’s not happy with the political discourse in the current presidential campaign:

Ironically, when I made an appointment with Senator Hillary Clinton’s office last year senior level staffers were assigned to that meeting. When I walked in, presumably as a member of the enemy camp, I was warmly welcomed, greeted and treated the entire time. I am sure her staff hated my position on the issues I was discussing with them, but they were consummate professionals and treated me with the utmost respect. I have been in hundreds of offices on the Hill and not all Republican ones treat me like they did. Whatever the reason for their demeanor, I appreciated and believed it genuine.

Regardless of her accomplishments and my opinion of her politics, however, I must unequivocally denounce the names she is being called by fellow Republicans, especially those who are followers of Christ.  ….I was very disappointed when Senator McCain failed to stand up for a fellow Senator, Presidential rival and woman last month when one of his supporters asked, “How do we beat the bitch?”

It’s a well-crafted statement. And we should all be able to agree on his closing remarks: “If you don’t like Hillary, don’t vote for her.  But, for goodness sake, have some respect.” I’ll second that. And I would like to point out that you can substitute any name, Democratic or Republican, for “Hillary” and it should still hold true.