Equality Illinois goes to the State Fair
August 9th, 2012
There is nothing so quintessentially all-American than the State Fair. Moms and Pops with kiddies in tow are treated to award winning sheep and cantaloupes, midway carnival rides, and food booths full of kettle corn, Belgian waffles, and deep fried artery-clogging delight.
And this year, along with listening to the sweet sounds of the Steve Miller Band or Blue Oyster Cult, watching the Twilight Parade, and betting on your favorite pony in the horse races, you can also stop by the Equality Illinois/Lambda Legal booth and pick up an “I Do” sticker to show your support for marriage equality.
Which is, in my opinion, brilliant! We are as American as Junior Beef and Heifer Showmanship. As mainstream as 500 pounds of unsalted butter sculpted into the shape of a life size cow. As part of the social fabric as the Illinois Fire Museum and Services Tent.
It’s about time that we start recognizing that fact. Sure we belong on the stage on Broadway and in room-decorating competition reality shows. But we also belong in the Illinois State Fair proudly showing off our ribbon winning pumpkins. Or our tiara wearing, pig directing, prowess.
Cook county: “my bad”
June 14th, 2012
In a scenario reminiscent of the Proposition 8 trial in California, the lawsuit against the state of Illinois is having difficulty finding opposition.
The official defendant of the state’s discriminatory policy is David Orr, the Cook County Clerk. But Orr has filed a brief saying, basically, “yep, my bad, it’s discrimination all right”. The Illinois Attorney General intends on filing a brief indicating that it is
his her belief that banning gay marriage is a violation of the constitution and the Governor is booking his seat on the Equality Train, as well.
So who will defend discrimination?
It may be the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based Catholic legal group created to defend abortion protesters (not to be confused with the very truly evil Thomas More Law Center). As best I can tell the TMSociety does nothing but defend the crazy people who try and shove aborted-fetus placards in your face and they are likely to find themselves completely unprepared for the challenge.
Lawsuits Planned To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In Illinois
May 30th, 2012
As I said earlier in today’s Agenda, Lambda Legal and the ACLU will be filing separate lawsuits today in a bid to legalize marriage equality in Illinois. According to The Chicago Tribune:
The gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois each plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the clerk of Cook County, claiming that not issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution.
…A total of 25 couples from across the state are plaintiffs in the two lawsuits. Each couple tried to get a marriage license from the Cook County clerk’s office in May and was denied based on the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which prohibits marriage “between 2 individuals of the same sex” and states: “A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State.”
Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office issued a statement from the clerk, who is out of the country: “The time is long past due for the state of Illinois to allow county clerks to issue marriage license to couples who want to make their commitment. I hope these lawsuits are the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.”
Illinois has been providing civil unions for almost a year. The lawsuit is being filed on the basis that civil unions, rather than being equal to marriage, is actually reinforcing discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. According to The Chicago Sun-Times:
Illinois’ constitution, more than other states’ constitutions, spells out rights that advocates for same-sex couples see as guaranteeing a right for people of any gender to marry, despite laws the Legislature passed in 1996 prohibiting same-sex marriage.
…The ACLU case will argue that the right to privacy in Illinois’ Constitution protects against a ban on gay marriage. California’s constitution had a similar right to privacy cited by that state’s high court in upholding a right to same-sex marriage. That law is under review in federal appellate court.
Lambda also argues that Illinois’ ban on “special legislation” that benefits one group over another prohibits a ban on same-sex marriage.
Romney Wins It, Chicago Style
March 21st, 2012
One of the most consistent trends in the GOP primaries has been Romney’s strength in urban areas. That matters in Illinois, where Chicago and its greater suburbs (the Illinois portion, at least) make up almost 9 million of Illinois’ 12.8 million statewide. This wasn’t an Illinois primary so much as it was a Chicago primary. In addition, there are another 1.5 million urban-and-suburbanites in Peoria, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, and the the eastern metro area of St. Louis. With those kind of demographics, should come as no surprise that Romney did very well. Santorum dominated the rural areas, but when that is less than a fifth of the state’s population, that’s not much to draw on. This chart and map from CNN tells the story:
The exit polls also tell a story. First of all, 98% of the GOP electorate is white?
Okay. Delving deeper, Santorum continues to hold the blue-collar vote, winning among those who have no college education. Unfortunately for hom, they were only 16% of the GOP electorate. He also pulled in the votes from those earning less than $30,000 (only 10% of the GOP electorate). And he wins among those who are “very conservative” and who identify as white born-again Evangelicals, and again he lost among Catholics, including those who attend Mass weekly. And in heavily urban Illinois, all of those factors add up to a convincing win for Romney.
So it’s Romney’s night to celebrate, right? Well, okay, but he still needs to worry that his support is weak. Of the 42% of GOP voters who “have reservations” about their candidate, 54% of them ended up supporting Romney anyway. Another dark cloud: Voters in this exit poll were asked whether they prefer their candidate ultimately wins or the primary ends soon. Of the 66% who want their candidate to win no matter how long it takes, it was very nearly an easy split between Romney and Santorum, with a slight tilt to Romney. But of the 31% who just want it over now, 54% were Romney voters. In other words, those who want this over aren’t getting their wish.
Illinois marriage bill introduced
February 8th, 2012
Three legislators have introduced a bill in the Illinois House to enact marriage equality. This bill, which comes a year after the state enacted Civil Unions, may not have been presented with the expectation of passage, but as a means to introduce the notion and begin conversation.
Priorities and perspectives in Illinois
November 16th, 2011
The American Family Association has, unintentionally, the most revelatory article on the final cessation of the foster care program of the Catholic Charities of Illinois. Although the Catholic Church had appealed the state’s decision to allow gay couples to be foster parents, time has run out so they are dropping their appeal.
And so they are ceasing their 90 year old program. Because, unlike 90 years ago, the current Catholic Church is unwilling to fund a foster care program out of their own pocket.
But it is two statements within the article that caught my attention:
Now the state will only be dealing with organizations that are willing to hand children over to homosexuals.
There is something about that which is so bald, so unfiltered, that I caught my breath. The implications are astonishing.
This isn’t about “the best environment for children” or “denying a mom or dad” or any of the other catch phrases. Rather, there is a broadly shared assumption that gay people not only would be harmful to children, just by their being gay, but also that there is some nefarious element involved.
To Charlie Butts and Bob Kellogg, the authors of this article, being homosexual is cause not to have access to children. By default. And, like Catholic Charities, they would never “hand children over” to someone like you or me.
One of my themes in writing here, indeed one of BTB’s underlying themes, is to provide a more nuanced perspective on the views, goals, fears, and concerns of those who oppose our political equality. We don’t often use language such as “bigot” or “hater” here. Not only is it not particularly effective, it often isn’t an accurate portrayal of the motivations, thoughts or intent of those being called bigot and hater.
But there is something about that sentence – presented alone as its own paragraph – that is so full of contempt, so full of animus, that I have a hard time finding any motivation that isn’t based in hatred.
But then at the end of the article I read the words of a Catholic man, words which bring me hope and faith. I also found an irony, a sadness, and a recognition that while his church may have their own priorities, he needn’t follow their lead. Oh, I’m sure that AFA didn’t see it – and, indeed, he may not have seen it – but Gary Huelsmann could not have said it better.
Meanwhile, an organization once known as Catholic Social Services of South Illinois has severed its ties with the diocese in order to comply with the state law. Gary Huelsmann, executive director of the agency, recently told LifeSiteNews that it “boiled down to the Catholic Church needing to stay true to its core beliefs and the agency needing to take care for all of the abused, neglected children.”
Rahm Emanual Calls Marriage “Very Important”
July 1st, 2011
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama, was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about marriage equality. Emanuel discussed Illinois’ civil unions, which just went into effect, say that his state may go further towards marriage equality soon. “I would hope that the state would move in that direction…Tremendous progress has been made across the country on a value statement and I think that’s very important.” Emanuel refused to comment on whether Obama’s “evolving” position is important or not, but instead emphasized the progress that has been made for LGBT equality under his administration.
It’s Pride Week…
June 26th, 2011
New Yorkers were celebrating the passage of marriage equality on Friday night, on the eve of that city’s massive Pride celebration commemorating a raid on a gay bar on Christopher Street in 1969. Local police got in on the fun by staging a modern day raid on a gay bar on West 28th Street:
An unannounced inspection that several agencies carried out at a gay bar in Manhattan on Friday night occurred at nearly the same time that patrons were celebrating the passage of legislation in Albany legalizing same-sex marriage.
…“I was on the roof deck, smoking a cigar and having drinks with friends, and all of a sudden, the police showed up and started shining flashlights in everyone’s face and offending everyone,” said Thomas J. Shevlin, a financial markets researcher and the treasurer of the Stonewall Democratic Club.
…Along with flashlights being shined in people’s faces, lights were turned off and patrons were forced to empty their pockets “without probable cause,” Mr. Shevlin said.
And then there’s this in Chicago:
In what could be a hate crime, dozens of tires on floats headed for Chicago’s Pride Parade were cut with knifes just hours before the Parade Sunday.
Chuck Huser, owner of long-time Pride float provider Associated Attractions at 4834 S. Halsted on Chicago’s South Side, said the floats were fine when he left 8 p.m. Saturday night, but when he returned 5 a.m. Sunday to start preparation for drivers to depart, he found two tires punctured each on more than 30 floats.
“This is catastrophic,” he told Windy City Times at 8 a.m. June 26. “This has never happened before, and we have been doing this since 1989.”
And finally, some truly tragic news of a fatal accident that led to the cancellation of Anchorage’s Pride parade:
A convertible carrying the grand marshal in Saturday’s gay PrideFest parade struck and killed a man just as the event began in downtown Anchorage, police said. Police late Saturday identified the victim as 50-year-old James L. Crump of Anchorage. Crump worked as a registered nurse for the city’s Health and Human Services department and was walking in the annual parade, police said.
…”It’s a pure accident,” Frank said. “(The driver) just panicked and kept hitting the accelerator and it kept jumping forward.”
Chicago Cubs: It Gets Better
June 20th, 2011
It’s worth noting that Cubs’ co-owner Laura Ricketts is an out Lesbian. Your Chicago Cubs are now the second major league baseball team (and, I believe, the second major league sports team overall) to produce a video. San Francisco Giants released theirs three weeks ago. Boston Red Sox have also announced that they will release a video soon.
Chicago Cubs To Produce “It Gets Better” Video
June 3rd, 2011
The Chicago Cubs will produce an “It Gets Better” video, which takes a stand against anti-gay bullying and homophobia. The project has been in the works for more than a week and is set to be filmed after the team returns to Wrigley Field from its current 10-game road trip.
…”The Cubs applaud the Giants for their stand against anti-LGBT bullying. Bullying of anyone for any reason is unacceptable,” said Laura Ricketts, Cubs owner and board member. “We are proud to join the Giants in taking a stand against bullying and encourage other professional sports organizations to do the same.”
Wrigly Field is located just a few blocks away from Chicago’s Boys Town neighborhood, and has been a financial supporter of many LGBT organizations and charities in the Chicago area. In 2010, Laura Ricketts, an openly gay member of the Ricketts family who owns the Cubs, and retired shortstop and first baseman Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks rode on the team’s float in Chicago’s Pride Parade. The Cubs will host “OUT at Wrigly” on July 17 when the Cubs take on the Florida Marlins. Maybe the Marlins can have a video out by then.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Giants released their video for “It Gets Better,” the anti-bullying campaign begun by Dan Savage and Terry Miller. A Boston Red Sox fan, twelve-year-old Sam Maden, has launched a campaign to get his favorite team to make a video as well.
June 1st, 2011
Our congratulations to all Illinoisans. To same-sex couples for expanded rights. To gay people for a step up in recognition of your worth as a fellow citizen. And to all other residents for your inclusion in the still-small number of states that have expressed their willingness to place humanity ahead of tradition, animus, or exclusion.
I support you, Catholic Charities…
May 6th, 2011
Now that the state of Illinois is offering civil union recognition to same-sex couples, the Catholic Church has disseminating fears that they will no longer be able to offer foster care or adoption services. They have vowed to be defiant.
And to the Catholic Church in Illinois, I say:
I support you.
I totally agree that if Catholic girls wish to give their children up for adoption and want them to go to Catholic families and be raised in the Catholic faith, then Catholic organizations should be able to facilitate such adoptions. With Catholic dollars.
After all, that is the very meaning of Catholic charity. Catholics sacrificing and contributing for the betterment of others. Bringing Catholic funds to help those in need.
Oh… wait, what’s that? Oh you actually do placement with non-Catholics. Well, that’s even more charitable of you. Peace be with you.
And – sorry, say that again? You disallow unmarried heterosexual couples and all gay couples?
Oh, well I think that is extremely foolish of you and that you are denying a loving family to hard-to-place children. You should really reconsider your values.
But I guess it’s your money. And there are some children being placed that otherwise would not have a family so I’ll defer to your decisions on how best to spend the contributions of your parishioners.
But it’s what? I’m sorry, you mumbled that last part. It’s not what?
Oh, it’s not the money of your parishioners! Oh, so it’s Vatican money? No?
I’m confused. Then who gave you the money to run these programs?
THE STATE??!!?? You mean that the State of Illinois is paying you to run a program that decides foster care and adoption placement based on your own religious criteria? That tax dollars are taken out of the paychecks of gay people and given to you and that you won’t even let them apply?
And the kids AREN’T EVEN CATHOLIC??!!?? They are just kids placed with you by the State????
NO FRIGGEN WAY!!! Why that’s… it’s just… whew whew
Whew… sorry that I got so excited there. I guess I just over-reacted.
Well, there’s the clear and easy solution. The one I’m sure you have already started.
Just pull out your checkbook, Cardinal, and write the state a great big check to pay them back for the fees they’ve given you to administer the state’s foster care and adoption programs. And notify the state that you’ll only be placing kids that are brought to you with the parents’ intention that they be placed according to the teachings of the Church.
And then, praise be to God, you can go back to applying Catholic rules to Catholic kids and everyone is happy.
What do you mean, “NO??”
You don’t intend to repay the State? You don’t intend to only place kids brought to you by their parents for Catholic placement?
Well, F U, Cardinal, you selfish, money-grubbing, pompous bureaucrat.
No, I do NOT support you discriminating against me and my family with MY OWN MONEY.
So kindly take your self-righteous discrimination and shove it.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you may want to consider removing “Charities” from your name. It isn’t charitable if you do it with someone else’s funds.
Civil unions bill signed in Illinois
January 31st, 2011
Governor Pat Quinn has now signed Illinois’ civil unions bill into law:
Moments ago Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act at a signing ceremony in downtown Chicago. His signature represents a long-fought victory toward fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois.
The law becomes effective on June 1st.
Couple recognition, state by state
December 1st, 2010
Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:
Marriage on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:
District of Columbia
Civil Unions – a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:
Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population
Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population
Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships
In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.
Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.
Illinois Senate votes for Civil Unions
December 1st, 2010
The Illinois State Senate has now voted to enact civil unions, by a bipartisan vote of 32 to 24, following yesterday’s vote in the House. After the signature of Governor Pat Quinn – who has been campaigning for the bill – the following will be law in the state:
Section 20. Protections, obligations, and responsibilities. A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.
Granted, this does not carry the prestige of marriage, but to those Illinoisans who are now able to access many rights that they could not access before, I offer my joyous congratulations.
Illinois House approves Civil Unions!!
November 30th, 2010
It appears that they did have the votes in the Illinois House of Representatives, after all, and with
some one to spare. From Progress Illinois,
UPDATE 12 (6:28 p.m.): And there it is! The civil unions bill passes by a 61-52 margin! Two voted present and three did not vote. Now onto the Senate, where it’s expected to be approved quickly.
The bill passes with bipartisan support (my quick count includes six Republicans voting for civil unions). The bill needed 60 votes to pass.
Today is definitely a day worth celebrating.
Illinois civil unions vote could come today
November 30th, 2010
Rumors and reports suggest that the Illinois legislature could vote on a civil unions bill as early as today. The real battle will be in the House, where vote count is uncertain.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee advanced the bill in that chamber.
A push to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples in Illinois cleared a small hurdle today at the Capitol.
An Illinois Senate committee advanced the measure 6-2 along party lines.
Marriage update – around the states
November 29th, 2010
The 2010 election has changed the dynamic in a few states and presents both opportunities and challenges for supporters of marriage equality. Here are how I see the current landscape:
Hawaii – Neil Abercrombie, the newly elected governor of Hawaii, is a strong advocate for civil unions. Earlier this year the legislature overwhelmingly approved a civil unions bill and such a bill is likely to be presented again.
Illinois – it is expected that the state legislature will vote this week on a civil unions bill during a lame-duck session. There is adequate support in the Senate, but the House vote is uncertain. Should it pass, Governor Pat Quinn, a strong supporter who was just reelected, will sign the bill. This bill seems to be taking on the impression of a Catholic v. Protestant fight, with NOM and the Catholic Bishop serving as the public face in opposition to civil unions, while a great many Protestants ministers have endorsed the bill.
Minnesota – Mark Dayton holds a lead in the governor’s election over anti-gay Tom Emmer, but the election will not be determined until a recount is completed. Republicans took control of both houses of legislature, so no pro-equality bills are expected; but if Dayton is confirmed there also will be no anti-equality bills either.
The one concern might be that Republicans could try and put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that bans both marriage and civil unions. While that may seem like a great idea to anti-gay activists, Emmer ran a homophobic campaign designed to appeal to those who oppose marriage equality and it does not appear to have been successful. I think it likely that an anti-marriage amendment would pass, but anti-civil unions may be too much, and it is becoming increasingly more risky for anti-gays to make such assumptions. Additionally, attitudes can change dramatically in the next two years.
Meanwhile, three couples are suing the state claiming that laws restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitution. Today, a judge rejected the request of the Minnesota Family Counsel to intervene:
“The Council’s alleged injuries would occur solely due to its sincerely-held belief that principles rooted in its interpretations of religious texts are best for the well-being of children and families, and that marriage only between one man and one woman accords with these principles,” wrote Minnesota Fourth District Court Judge Mary S. DuFrense (PDF). “The Court certainly understands that the Council feels strongly about the social issue of same-sex marriage. Strong feelings, however, do not establish a legal interest in a lawsuit.”
Iowa – after three Supreme Court Justices were denied confirmation, anti-gay activists were celebrating. But as the Senate majority leader has committed to blocking any changes to the Iowa constitution, it is unlikely that marriage will be reversed.
New Hampshire – NOM is crowing that anti-marriage activists have taken over both houses. However, my analysis suggests that any reversal of marriage equality is unlikely. While Republicans took a veto-proof majority, a significant number have already voted against any repeal of the law.
Maine – Republican Paul LePage was elected governor, effectively eliminating any forward movement on marriage equality. However LePage supports the current domestic partnership laws so things will remain status quo for a while.
New York – this one is a big question mark. Incoming Governor Cuomo has promised to get marriage legalized. And after the last vote, state legislators have discovered that “things as they are” may well be the most dangerous position to hold; gay activists refused to play the “any Democrat is better than a Republican” game and set their sites on defeating anti-marriage votes.
Going by last year’s vote count, the current best case scenario is that we are three votes shy of what we need (there are still some undecided elections). However, this time our side is taking to the airwaves to drum up public support, and polls show that New Yorkers support marriage equality. What was a party-line vote last year may well be viewed this year in terms of tolerance and New York values and there may be an entirely different dynamic.
Rhode Island – Former-Republican Lincoln Chafee, who ran as an Independent, beat both the Democrat and the Republican candidates to take governor of the tiny state. And one of his first actions was to inform NOM that their opinion on marriage was not of any value to him. Rhode Islanders support marriage equality, and with Chafee’s backing there is a good chance that RI will be the next marriage state.
Maryland – another contender for next marriage state, Maryland did not suffer party reversal. A plurality of voter support marriage equality, and gay State Sen. Richard Madaleno is guardedly optimistic that marriage will be voted in, perhaps as early as January.
His optimism stems from a number of developments on Election Day 2010, some of which ran absolutely counter to national trends. In the Maryland Senate, Democrats actually expanded their majority to a 35-12 advantage over Republicans. And some Democrats who lost their seats did so in primary fights with more progressive challengers, many of whom vowed to be even stronger champions for marriage equality.
And, of course, all of the above could be impacted by Perry v. Schwarzenegger should the courts find that marriage laws which restrict gay people from participation are contrary to the Due Process or Equal Protections clauses of the 14th Amendement.
Prop 8 Rallies Planned
August 4th, 2010
As Timothy mentioned yesterday afternoon, we received word that a decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is expected this afternoon between 1:00 and 3:00 pm (PDT). Already, Prop 8 supporters have already filed a request for stay of judgment pending appeal, in case Judge Walker strikes down Prop 8. If granted, this would prevent any marriages taking until the Court of Appeals hears the case.
Meanwhile, a large number of rallies are planned in California and across the U.S., forty so far and counting. Rex Wockner is keeping up to date with the latest additions.
The ethics and etiquette of outing
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
June 1st, 2010
I have not been a fan of outing.
Most of us have, at some point, lived in the closet. And we know the trauma and upheaval that can come from a public acknowledgment (or disclosure) of one’s sexual orientation in a world that does not treat gay people equally. Choosing to publicly identify as gay is to choose to be subjected to disapproval and animus by some and to be treated as an oddity or eccentric by others.
And because every person’s circumstance, family dynamic, social network, and financial situation are different, I generally favor allowing each person to decide on their own when is best for them to take the step towards honesty and disclosure.
On the other hand, the closet is debilitating and oppressive. Virtually everyone who has left the closet, whether voluntarily or though embarrassing scandal, agrees that life is much better in the light. The constant worry about who knows and what might happen should you be discovered is a heavy burden, and when it is lifted you feel free.
Take, for example, CA Sen. Roy Ashburn who sort of outed himself by means of a DUI on the way home from a gay bar (with the help of others who blogged about the event). Held hostage to fear, Ashburn’s closet life was limiting and his new found freedom was exhilarating.
“I would not have been speaking on a measure dealing with sexual orientation ever prior to the events that have transpired in my life over the last three months,” Ashburn told his colleagues. “However, I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation and the rights of individuals. And so I am doing something that is quite different and foreign to me, and it’s highly emotional.”
And things have improved over the years. Support is available, and with each passing year the cost of being honest is lower.
There is no question that leaving the closet is the right decision, almost without exception. But less certain is who is entitled to pick the timing and the circumstances under which the closet door comes down.
One argument for outing is that it is appropriate when a politician or person in a position of power is using their authority in ways that actively harm the community. And there is a certain amount of logic to that criterion; the purpose is not to punish, but rather to stop the harm.
But the problem is in how we define “harm”.
For some, being registered as a Republican would be adequate cause for outing in as humiliating a way as possible. But this is based more in a desire to punish them for the “sin of being Republican” than it is in any real effort to protect the community.
For others, a voting pattern that is not 100% in alignment with the stated position of our various organizations deems one to be an enemy. But I find this to be a bit too much like extortion for my taste. And, frankly, I find many of the bills that our community organizations support to be ridiculous partisan posturing which has little actual value or meaning. Is someone “anti-gay” or doing harm to our community if they think that a Harvey Milk Day is a pointless waste of scarce resources?
And beyond questions about the definition of harm is the inherent assumption within the concept of outing that being gay is something that is shameful or shock-worthy. Outings that are designed so as to deliver maximum damage to the party being outed rely on the ill will of the public and not only validate homophobia but encourage it.
Which is why I am troubled by Mike Rogers’ outing of Illinois Republican congressman Mark Kirk.
Many Washington insiders, including Rogers, have known for years about Kirk’s same-sex attraction. Republican party insiders in Illinois have no illusions about Kirk, either.
In fact, in a blatant appeal to homophobia, a primary opponent tried to out Mark Kirk just this past December. This effort that resulted in the obligatory (and vague) denial by the candidate and condemnation of the bigot by the party structure.
And like a number of politicians across the nation, both Democratic and Republican, Kirk has kept his closet intact by having a relatively supportive record on gay issues. Rogers notes this as his reason for not outing Kirk earlier.
Until now, Mark Kirk elected not to play the typical Washington game. Instead of supporting his party’s dismal record on gay rights, Kirk received Human Rights Campaign ratings of 67% in 2002, 88% in 2004, 76% in 2006 and 85% in 2008. That’s more impressive than a lot of Democrats.
Rogers knows that in the long run a usually-supportive Republican can be even more effective than a reliable Democrat because he can provide the oh-so-necessary bipartisan vote. And Kirk, a military reservist who recently served in Afghanistan and is on the record as supporting DADT, has not changed his position.
But Mike Rogers has decided that today is the right time to reveal Kirk’s same-sex attraction. Here is the reason he gives:
Now, for the first time in his congressional career, Mark Kirk really had the chance to stand up and do what is right with the power of a vote. When I heard that five GOPers voted to lift the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ban I instinctively though Kirk would be one of them. What a disappointment when he wasn’t.
Rogers would have us believe that this vote was the impetus, the motivation, the single action that compelled Mike to act. And I might find that vote to be an adequate reason, if I believed him.
But I don’t.
You see, the timing is just a bit too convenient. Although he has been running slightly ahead of his Democratic opponent for US Senate, Alexi Giannoulias and Kirk now appear to be very close in the polls. This may have been just too opportune of a moment for Rogers to pass.
Had Mike Rogers made an appointment with Kirk, expressed his intention in reporting the claims of his witnesses, allowed Kirk to respond or plan his own revelation, I might doubt my instinct. Had Rogers waited until after November, had the vote gone the other way, had it not been bipartisan, any of these might lend him credibility.
But the gotcha nature of the report negates any possibility that Rogers was simply seeking to reduce harm to our community. No, his primary goal was to embarrass, humiliate, and damage Mark Kirk.
And if my suspicions needed confirmation, Rogers adds another element. He references another potential scandal/criticism of Kirk, one that has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. This piling on makes it apparent to me that Rogers’ outing of Kirk is based less on his disappointment with Kirk’s vote and more on his desire to influence the outcome of the election.
No doubt many readers will find the advancement of a Democratic candidate to be an absolutely acceptable reason to out Mark Kirk. They may believe that we are in battle and that anything that lowers the chances of a Republican majority in the Senate is fair game. Some may argue that anything which hurts any Republican candidate at any time is a tool to be employed without question.
I do not.
Because while it is possible that Rogers has hurt Mark Kirk, it is absolutely certain that he has also hurt the gay community.
Because by introducing Kirk’s sexual orientation into the senate race, Rogers is reinforcing homophobia. By giving anti-gay voters a “reason” to vote against Kirk, he is validating bigotry.
And Rogers has now justified the actions of Kirk’s bigoted primary opponent. He’s confirmed that appealing to homophobia is a valid tactic to be used in politics and sexual orientation is a weapon to be wielded against those who are gay.
Mark Kirk was not one of the five Republicans who voted to include the compromise amendment in the Defense Authorization Bill. Those were Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Charles Djou (HI), Judy Biggert (IL), Joseph Cao (LA), and Ron Paul (TX).
But he was among the five Republicans who joined them to vote for the Defense Authorization Bill which included the repeal. Those were Charlie Dent (PA), Mike Castle (DE), Mark Kirk (IL), Mary Bono Mack (CA), and Dave Reichert (WA).
Ron Paul voted for the amendment but not for the bill.