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The Post-Game Show » Hackery

Archive for the ‘Hackery’ Category

Two Boys, One Cup

Monday, December 13th, 2010

vanityfair-soccer

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said that gay football fans attending the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 “should refrain from any sexual activities” in the country, because same-sex sexual activity in Qatar is punishable by up to five years in prison. Judging by the reports on Sky News, Blatter found this very amusing.

It’s disappointing that the World Cup should go to a country where gay sex is still illegal, but international sporting events have been to much dirtier places than Qatar - most famously the Olympics in Berlin 1936. The idealist in me says that these plum events should be withheld from countries that refuse to meet basic standards in respect to civil rights, but sports have never been quite that sporting.

I assumed that this wasn’t the first time gay sex has been illegal in a host country, given that the tournament is eighty years old, so I cross-referenced two Wikipedia lists to see when this happened before - LGBT rights by country and FIFA World Cup hosts.

The next two hosts, Brazil and Russia, are in the clear. The same goes for the last several hosts, South Africa, Germany, South Korea, Japan and France. The last host country where gay sex was illegal was actually the United States of America in 1994. Sodomy was still illegal in fully half the 50 states in 1994; four of the tournament’s nine stadia were in states where gay sex was illegal. Why should FIFA take a moral position on this now, when the leader of the free world only deigned to join the 20th century in the 21st century?

Going back beyond 1994, we find that Colombia and West Germany both legalised gay sex five years before they hosted the World Cup, and Spain did so three years before it hosted. The last country to fail this test was… England, in 1966. England and Wales legalised sodomy in 1967. (Scotland and Northern Ireland followed in 1981 and 1982.) And with that realisation,  any moral superiority I might have felt over the Yanks is diminished.

Chile failed the test in 1962, and didn’t legalise gay sex until 1999. The first host, Uruguay, failed in 1930, but legalised gay sex in 1934. So Qatar joins an ignominious list with four others; Uruguay, Chile, England and the USA. Qatar still has twelve years to get off this list, but I’m not optimistic. Qatar is one of about eighty countries that still has laws against gay sex, and it’s a Muslim country, so within its region it’s still well in the majority. It was one of the first Arab countries to give women the vote, and it only did that in 1999.

I won’t pretend that the legality of gay sex was ever a consideration in giving the World Cup to Qatar. I only wish that it had been. I suppose I can take some solace that a journalist asked the question at all. That’s a sign of how things have changed since Uruguay in 1930. Maybe one day gay rights will be the sort of issue that determines a country’s right to sit at the big boy table. It will help a great deal when countries like the US and the UK can boast that they offer full equality.

Mr Right: Conservatives Go Gay

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

An entertainingly graceless bitch-fight is playing out in a little corner of the American right that you probably don’t pay much attention to. It began when gay conservative group GOProud announced that Ann Coulter was headlining their ‘HomoCon‘ event. GOProud chair Christopher Barron boasted of the event, “The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests. Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left.”

ann-coulter

Ann Coulter, you may remember, was what we had to rile against before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck eclipsed her relevance. Sadly for Coulter, her involvement with this event led to her being dropped by another, WorldNetDaily’s Taking America Back National Conference. (How far back they plan to take America is not clear, as American history does not have a Middle Ages.) WorldNetDaily was aghast at Coulter’s participation in HomoCon, accusing her of “legitimizing” sodomy and same-sex marriage.

There is an exquisite irony in these conservatives boycotting Coulter for her involvement in an event that advertises itself as an alternative to left-wing boycotts and protests. GOProud is getting a first hand taste of the hate and intolerance that the left is fighting against when protestors like Dan Choi chain themselves to the White House fence - a protest that GOProud’s Barron sneered at.

Still, GOProud are consistent in their do-nothing attitude to gay rights. Earlier this year they held an event at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Proposition 8 supporter Doug Manchester, thus stepping across the picket line at an ongoing boycott of that hotel. GOProud believe in letting other people do the ‘no fun’ stuff like trying to advance their rights, while they get drunk lining the pockets of the bigot who wants to take their rights away.

The contretemps between GOProud and WorldNetDaily is noteworthy for a few other reasons. Coulter’s response to WorldNetDaily was to say that she “speak[s] to a lot of groups and do[es] not endorse them” - in other words, she’s not necessarily on GOProud’s side, but she will take their money. She also called out WorldNetDaily for their absurd birtherism - the site has been nicknamed WingNutDaily - which gives us an idea of how far out on the fringe these people are. Even on the right, only the nuttiest of nuts are ready to attack the conservative gays in this way.

The American  right’s views on homosexuality are shifting just as the American electorate’s views are shifting. Several high profile conservatives have come out in favour of gay marriage, including Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Bill O’Reilly. Even freshly minted pseudo-televangelist Glenn Beck concedes that opposing gay marriage is not a fight worth having. One of the two lawyers that tore down Proposition 8 was George W Bush’s former solicitor general, Ted Olson, who brilliantly framed the conservative case for gay marriage. Even the judge who overturned Prop 8 was a conservative, nominated by Reagan and the elder Bush.

The arguments against gay marriage, gay rights, and even homosexuality in general, are grounded in religion and ignorance, not in politics. Gay rights fit perfectly with the small government/personal liberty philosophies of the right. This week Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain, became the latest conservative to argue in support of gay marriage, suggesting that marriage promotes social stability. In his view, gay marriage is a family value.

Then there’s former RNC chair Ken Mehlman, a loathsome hypocrite who helped devise the party’s anti-gay strategy while keeping his own homosexuality under wraps. He can never make amends for his atrocious behaviour, but he is now another high profile advocate for equality. Then again, Mehlman claims that gays should have voted Republican in support of the right’s anti-Jihadist stance, so there may be depths to his ignorance yet to be tapped.

None of these conservatives are running for public office, of course, so they can safely move to the left of Barack Obama on gay issues. We’re still waiting for a conservative heavyweight to face the electorate on a marriage equality platform. Even so, same-sex marriage might never again be the wedge issue that it was in the 2000 election. No wonder the wingnuts at WorldNetDaily are so upset.

While gay rights may ultimately fit the conservative narrative, it seems that even right-wingers can’t quite stop themselves thinking of civil rights as a left-wing issue. Look at the inadvertant revelation in their odious HomoCon flyer, in which they refer to Ann Coulter as “the right wing Judy Garland”. The implication is that Judy Garland belongs to the left. Garland was a lifelong Democrat, yes, but she was not a political figure; she was and is the definitive gay icon. Giving her up to the left is a tacit admission that gay culture and gay rights are firmly established as the province of the left. By invoking Ann Coulter as their icon, GOProud have knocked over their queen.

Some Thoughts on the Proposition 8 Ruling

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Today’s Proposition 8 verdict is truly momentous. In ruling that the 2008 ballot proposition was unconstitutional, Judge Vaughn Walker did not end the fight for marriage equality in the US, but he took a huge step towards that inevitability.

Ezra Waldman at Towleroad offers some excellent analysis, highlighting Judge Walker’s admirable attention to detail. Walker’s ruling lays out the evidence with such clarity that the appeals court would break its back trying to reach a different conclusion.

The major talking point in opposition to the ruling have been as follows: First, the courts should not overturn the will of the voters. Second, the judge is gay, and therefore biased.

In keeping with all the arguments put forth by the pro-Prop 8 side, both points are nonsense. It is the duty of the law to protect the weak against the powerful, and the minority against the majority, and in this case the ruling establishes that Proposition 8 should never have been put to the vote in the first place. Courts are meant to overturn the will of the people, when the expressed will of the people is to remove rights and freedoms from an unprotected minority.

(While we’re on the subject of the majority vote, I note that some are hailing this ruling as a victory for California, by California. It isn’t. It’s a victory for the anti-Prop 8 defendants, their lawyers and their experts. California still bears the black mark of the Prop 8 vote. While Prop 8 passed by only 52% to 48%, that was with turnout of just under 80%. Almost two-thirds of all Californians who were eligible to vote were happy to see gays stripped of their rights in their state. You can’t spin that; you have to own it.)

As to the suggestion that Walker should have recused himself because of his homosexuality, this is an impossible argument for the bigots to win. First of all, it’s central to the ‘protect marriage’ argument that gay people are not losing anything by being denied the right to marry the person they love. If the bigots then contend that Judge Walker stands to gain something personally or financially by overturning Prop 8, that shows that they know their argument is bunk.

It’s also the Prop 8 advocates’ contention that gay marriage undermines straight marriage, on which basis a straight judge would also have a personal prejudice. Then there’s the question of whether religious judges should recuse themselves. What happens if/when this case reaches the Supreme Court? Do the six Catholic justices all recuse themselves? I’m perfectly happy for this case to be decided by Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. (Then again, maybe they won’t let Kagan play either.)

Obviously, from where I’m sitting, I can’t find fault in Walker’s ruling, and nor would I want to. If he’s potentially biased, I’m proudly so. Still, I think even an objective reading of the case in support of Proposition 8 would conclude that it offered nothing of substance. What few experts they were able to call were not able to offer any evidence in support of their cause, and in many cases their arguments helped their opponents. Any verdict other than the one delivered would have looked highly questionable.

7 Reasons A Tory Government Might Not Be The End of The World

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It’s election day in the UK, and while we may well be heading for a hung parliament with the outside possibility of a Lib/Lab pact, I’m girding myself for the horrible possibility of a Tory victory. Is it the end of the world? Almost certainly!

But it might not be. I’m clinging to a few scant scraps of comfort in the event of a Cameron government. Such as…

1. What It Feels Like For A Girl
Most forecast models agree that a Tory majority looks unlikely. The rich white Eton boys have never been part of a minority before - this could be an exciting experience for them! The important point about this is that a minority government doesn’t have much of a mandate. Even if the Tories win, they may not be able to pursue an aggressive agenda. Then again, they may, if the opposition is wet enough. Ask a Canadian.

2. Brown Out
Frankly, I suspect it’s all over for Gordon whatever the outcome, because a Lib/Lab coalition might depend on his ouster, even if that does mean a second successive unelected prime minister. (Actually, a 76th successive unelected prime minister, because we don’t directly elect prime ministers, but you get the point.) If Dave wins, I take consolation that we will never speak of Gordon Brown again. He was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad prime minister. (But I’d still rather ten more years of him than a single week of David Cameron.)

3. Cleggmania
My biggest worry about a Tory government is that we may lose our best shot in years at electoral reform and the introduction of proportional representation in the UK. First-past-the-post politics has for too long condemned the country to rule by minority interests, and reform is necessary. The Lib Dems got a lot of attention in this election thanks to Nick Clegg’s strong performance in the leaders’ debates, and the party may score their best performance since their formation. Clegg’s star could rise higher as a Tory opponent than it might in a Lib/Lab coalition. The Liberals are on the landscape now, and they’ll have more to kick against in a Tory nation.

4. Winner Takes It All
Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, reportedly suggested that the winner of this election will be rendered unelectable for a generation because of the severity of the deficit cuts that they would need to introduce. So, good luck with that, David.

5. A Timely Reminder
The Tories are awful, awful people. Some people seem to have forgotten that, which is why they’re on course to get the biggest share of the vote. The Tories don’t like you. They don’t care about you. They will try to ruin your life. They will shut down women’s shelters and homeless shelters and youth clubs. They will hinder minority rights and keep brilliant foreigners out of the country because they talk funny. They will take a hacksaw to the NHS, and they will turn the BBC into a pirate radio station. They will remove safeguards on everything from banks to trains just to turn an extra buck. They will guarantee that struggling families have to struggle more, and that people on the fringes of society are pushed further to the fringe, because they are only interested in the preservation of wealth among the wealthy and the conservation of stifling and fantastical Victorian values. They are monstrously awful. Putting them back in power will remind us of that pretty quickly.

6. Thatcher Versus Twitter
Social media like Twitter are making it easier for people to disseminate information while circumventing the Murdoch-controlled mainstream press. We’ve seen what effect that can have already in the way that The Sun has failed to dominate the message in this election. It’s much harder now for conservatives to get away with selfish abuses that they claim are in the public interest when the public has a voice and a means to mobilise. Thatcher never had to deal with Twitter. The Tories have never had to worry about the Internet. The game has changed. You won’t get away with it this time, right wing politics!

7. Britons Will Learn A New Word
That word is ‘prorogation’. It hasn’t happened in the UK for a while, but it’s probably going to happen again soon. Ask a Canadian.

All of which is to try to put a good light on a terrible turn of events. A Tory government will be a disaster for women and all minorities, for the unemployed and the disadvantaged, for children, schools, and young people, for the homeless, for the BBC, for the NHS, for the world, and for you. Be afraid. Be fucking terrified.

What’s Wrong With America’s Military?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Gay men and women serve openly in the Canadian military. They serve openly in the British military. They serve openly in the Australian military, the Israeli military, the Brazilian military, the Spanish military, the South African military - they serve openly in thirty-one countries around the world. (Thirty-two if you count Russia, where only ‘well adjusted’ homosexuals are allowed to serve, but one hopes that the heterosexual recruits are also ‘well adjusted’.) In all of these countries, from Lithuania to Argentina, the military personnel are disciplined enough to conduct themselves with utmost professionalism.

So what’s wrong with the US military? Why is it so inferior? The US spends more than any other country on its armed forces. It boasts the greatest military strength in the world. It prides itself on being the best in the world. So why is the US military only the 33rd most disciplined?

This is not my judgement, mind you. This is the judgement of the defenders of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, who don’t think the US can be held to meet the expectation set by those other countries. It’s the judgement of California congressman Duncan D Hunter, a former US marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who told NPR that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would be “bad for the cohesiveness and the unity in the military, especially those that are in close combat”. It’s the judgement of Hunter’s colleague ‘Buck’ McKeon, who wants evidence that repeal “would not degrade wartime military readiness”. It’s the judgement of Senator John McCain, who is concerned about the impact of repeal on the “readiness and effectiveness of the military”. It’s a judgement echoed by Bill Kristol, the conservative columnist and star of City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, who is intitimidated by the “organizational complexity” of repeal.

Estonia dealt with the “organizational complexity” of allowing gays the equal right to get shot at in service to their country. Why isn’t the US up to the task? Where is the rigour? Where is the commitment? What’s wrong with the US military?

Crankypants McCain is so unsure of the abilities of the men and women in the forces that he used to serve in that he’s famously flip-flopped on his commitment to follow the military leadership on the policy. Only four years ago, he said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it”. Now that he faces a more conservative tea-bagger opponent in his upcoming Arizona primary, the senator is no longer persuaded by the opinions of either the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael McMullen, or the retired chairman who originated the policy, Colin Powell, both of whom have said, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy’.

Representative Hunter (who is quite the pretty young thing) told Wolf Blitzer that the difference between the US and other countries - countries that the US serves and fights alongside - is that “their military is much smaller than ours, it’s much more specialized”. The US military is too big for cohesion, readiness, effectiveness. That’s why they keep shooting their own allies.

Wolf pointed out that Israel faces some quite significant military challenges of its own. “[B]ut the Israelis have mandatory service,” said Hunter. “So in Israel, it doesn’t matter if you’d like it or not.” So in Israel they have to tolerate gays in the military, and that means… that the problem… just goes away.

To be fair to Rep Hunter, what he’s really saying is that recruits will be scared away if they know there are gays in the military. This didn’t happen in any of these other countries, but maybe Rep Hunter believes that Americans are less patriotic than people in other countries? Maybe Rep Hunter thinks that America isn’t a very good country, and its citizens aren’t proud of it the way that, say, Norwegians are proud of their country? (I think it’s Norway.) Maybe Americans know that their military isn’t very good, so they’re looking for any excuse not to be part of it?

US forces already serve alongside allies that allow gays to serve openly, of course, and Rep Hunter was in Afghanistan with NATO, so he may already have served alongside gay soldiers, but he claims otherwise. “I didn’t run into any open homosexual men or women with … the Brits, Canadians, Germans, French, the other people that I served with over there.” How would he know? Don’t Americans think that all Continentals are a little bit gay? And that Canadian practically means ‘gay American’? But, as I said, Duncan D Hunter is rather pretty, with quite the loveliest blue eyes, and anyway he was in the Marines, so, he’d know.

Except, the policy he seeks to defend is based on the presumption that he wouldn’t know. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell does not bar gay men and women from serving. It just bars them from pursuing or engaging in homosexual behaviour while in service - gays have to remain celibate, on duty or off, in uniform or out of it, from the day they sign up until the day they are discharged.

Gays don’t have to not be gay. Plenty of men and women in the US military are gay, and Rep Hunter served right alongside them in Afghanistan, and he didn’t know. And if the ban were lifted, he still probably wouldn’t know. First of all, he probably wasn’t the most observant guy in the corps. Second, whether gay or straight, you can’t go around shagging your fellow soldiers when you’re on duty. There’s a whole other set of rules against that. As strapping as he is, Rep Hunter had no reason to believe he’d know he was serving alongside homos, unless he thinks they all wear floral camo. Or little pink triangles.

Gays and lesbians serve in the US military today. Having them do so with honesty, honour and integrity should not be a threat to operational efficiency. Not in any military organisation of any worth, anyway. So what’s wrong with America’s military? Why isn’t it as good as Peru’s?

duncan_marines2Duncan D Hunter (right). Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Mind If I Do.

Prop 8 On Trial: The Brokeback Defence

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Today was the third day of the Proposition 8 trial, which looks set to be a landmark case in US legal history. At issue is the question of whether Proposition 8, which banned marriage equality for same-sex couples in California, was constitutional.

The California constitution states, “A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws”. The plaintiffs argue that denying gays the right to marry clearly violates the equal protection doctrine. Proposition 8 was discriminatory.

I am not a lawyer, but on the face of it I’d say this seems clear cut. The right to marry one’s partner should apply equally to gays as to straights because the constitution says so. The reason there’s any controversy at all is not because the issue is unclear, but because the majority consensus has always opposed applying the constitution fairly to this traditionally maligned minority. If this were just about what’s right, what’s fair, what’s humane, this would be over already; but it’s not about any of that. It’s about protecting the conservative status quo from erosion by the civil rights movement.

Extraordinarily, the central question of the case today appeared to be, ‘are gays still discriminated against?’ The anti-gay Prop 8 lawyers want to argue that gays are no longer discriminated against, therefore gays in California were stripped of their right to marry for non-discriminatory reasons. They actually cited Brokeback Mountain and Will & Grace as evidence that everything is just A-OK for gays today. They also pointed out that gays no longer get locked up in asylums. That’s the warm embrace of social acceptance right there!

The main Prop 8 lawyer also pointed out that Barack Obama opposes gay marriage. Well, yes. Barack Obama is not our friend. We need to come to terms with the fact that anyone who supports civil unions over marriage equality is an opponent of equal rights. Those who support civil unions are part of our opposition.

My favourite exchange of the day was between the Prop 8 lawyer and Yale historian Professor George Chauncey:

Evil Lawyer: “Isn’t it true that people voted for Prop 8 based upon their sincere moral values?”
Clever Historian: “Many people opposed desegregation and interracial marriage based upon their sincere moral values.”

The strangest part of the proceedings must have been the video testimony of Hak-Shing William Tam of the Traditional Families Coalition. Tam was one of the initial proponents of Prop 8, and he notably tried to remove himself from this trial because he was concerned about the attention it would bring him. As Rachel Maddow remarked on her show earlier this week, “Where is the anti-gay pride?”

Tam distributed literature claiming that San Francisco was ruled by a secret enclave of homosexual activists who saw gay marriage as a step towards their ultimate agenda of legalised prostitution and sex with children. It is extraordinary fringe tin-hattery, and the Prop 8 lawyer ardently objected to the airing of the video because it so clearly demonstrated the irrationality of the hatred directed towards gays.

Today’s proceedings seem encouraging, but there was a heavy cloud on the day, because the US Supreme Court - where this case is surely ultimately headed - ruled 5-4 that the Prop 8 case could not be televised or shown on YouTube because the judge failed to follow the proper procedures.

The Prop 8 side knows that, the more people are exposed to their arguments, the less they will be convinced by their position, so they really didn’t want this trial on YouTube. They are cowards who know their position is absurd and irrational.

This boon of public exposure has been denied us due to a technicality, and the fact that the Supreme Court split along ideological grounds bodes ill for this case’s chances in America’s highest court. The Supreme Court are likely to be as hidebound by their prejudices as every other conservative body in America, however discriminatory those prejudices may be.

The upside, however, is that we’re certain to get some hilarious YouTube reconstructions from the court transcripts.

Danger, Danger; Gay Marriage

Monday, November 9th, 2009

In an opinion piece for the Star Tribune this past weekend, columnist Katherine Kersten posed the question, “How will same-sex marriage harm the institution of marriage — and in the long run, all of us?”

As Ms Kersten rightly points out in her piece, gay marriage won’t make your marriage any weaker, John and Mary. Some opponents of marriage equality have seriously posited that, if we let men marry other men, they’ll all leave their wives, but that speaks to issues that those folks are just going to have to work out in their own lives. Like Ms Kersten, most conservatives concede that gay marriage will not cancel, weaken or destroy any specific straight marriages. (Mrs Haggard, your husband is gay whether he can marry his masseur or not.)

No, the danger is not to individual marriages, but to the whole institution of marriage. As Ms Kersten tells us, “Marriage is a universal human institution. Across the world and throughout history, it’s been exclusively male-female.”

masswedding

Well, actually, that’s not true. Just as they used to say that there are no gay animals because no-one had bothered to check, so they say there’s no historical record of gay marriage because no-one’s doing their homework. The first recorded incidence of gay marriage goes back to the early days of the Roman Empire, but it almost certainly occurred throughout the ancient world, from China to America. It’s only our modern post-Christian bias that makes us think otherwise.

Just as we now find gay animals everywhere we look for them, so we find evidence of gay marriage wherever the historical record allows us to look, except where it has been outlawed by zealots. The Christian laws of the Theodosian Code of the fourth and fifth centuries AD give us perhaps the earliest known record of someone banning same-sex marriage, which had until that time been legal in the Roman Empire. It was the DOMA of Roma.

Then there’s the small matter of gay marriage having existed in the Netherlands since 2001, Belgium since 2003, Spain and Canada since 2005, South Africa since 2006, and Sweden and Norway since earlier this year. Those are all places in the world, and those are all years in history, so on that basis alone, even discounting more ancient records, I think we can say that marriage has not in fact been “exclusively male-female” across the world and throughout history, unless we’re also discounting recent history, in which case there has never been an internet.

But, Katherine, do please carry on.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts,” she claims. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children. The evidence is overwhelming: Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

50sfamily

And here’s the rub. Actually, there’s quite a lot of rubbing going on here (and she rubs rather furiously), but in this one paragraph, Ms Kersten neatly encapsulates most of the myths of the ‘protect marriage’ argument into a bitesize nugget of bile. Let’s look at them one by one.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts”. I suppose this isn’t a lie so much as an evasion. You’ll note she says, ‘primary purpose’, so she’s cognizant of there being other purposes to marriage. She is perhaps aware that some people get married with no intention of rearing children, and that some people rear children without any intention of getting married. There can be no absolute presumption that all unmarried parents are creating a worse environment for their children than all married parents. (In fact, looked at statistically, the divorce rate for unmarried parents is nil!)

Marriage and childrearing are demonstrably separate concepts, so there is no need for a law to ‘protect’ the false presumption of an indivisible link between them. You might as plausibly argue for a law that says girls should not eat bread crusts because eating crusts puts hairs on your chest.

The advantage of marriage in childrearing comes not from the fact of marriage, but from the rights and benefits that the contract of marriage allows. If our concern is for the children, then those rights and benefits should of course be extended to children being raised by gay couples, so that they are not disadvantaged. Ms Kersten, won’t you please think of the children?

(Incidentally, the children of gay parents are also frequently born of male-female sexual acts, though I see no reason to treat children conceived artificially as second-class citizens.)

Next. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children.” I’m not sure, but I think the argument here is that, without marriage, all men are rapists. How does gay marriage undermine the need to shackle straight men to their wives? It doesn’t. If gays can get married, Ms Kersten, it will not make anyone’s husband more rapey.

king-kong

Sidenote: If marriage is a binding harness, an awful lot of marriages end in escapology.

And then: “Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

Children must have a mother and a father! If a boy is raised by two women, how will he learn to wire a plug? We all know lesbians can’t handle home maintenance! And if a girl is raised by two men, where will she learn to cook? It is established fact that you can’t trust a gay man with a soufflé!

No, I’ve got this backwards. If a boy is raised by two men, how will he learn to wire a plug? True fact: In gay households, all light is provided by candles, because when a fuse goes, gay men run around flapping their arms and squealing until finally fatigue overcomes them and they collapse into a heap of warm male sodomite flesh. In the morning, there is sunlight, and that’s when they go out and buy candles. The fuse is never replaced. Their children will never learn how to change a tyre, whittle a stick, or shoot a caribou, but they will know all the words to Don’t Rain On My Parade, and you will just die when you see what they’ve done to the guest bedroom.

Or, Ms Kersten got it wrong again, because she can hardly think with all those stereotypes swishing around in her head. Boys and girls flourish best when they are loved and supported by their parents, regardless of how many parents they have or what their sexual proclivities are. Fathers and mothers do not slot into pre-set roles, any more than their sons and daughters do. Anyone who tries to impose quota-based parenting models is concerned about tradition to the detriment of the children’s welfare and development.

As for the children’s ability to deal with the opposite sex (or with the same sex - we gays are mostly created from out of straight people’s bodies, you know), I think that can best be supported by parents who don’t impose outmoded sexual hang-ups on their kids.

Straight parenting ain’t all that anyway. Look how many messed up children it’s managed to produce so far! By the ‘one man, one woman’ standard, serial killers Fred and Rose West are exemplary parents. And it’s pure supposition on my part, but I really do think that Adolf Hitler would have turned out better if he’d been raised by Alois and Klaus instead of Alois and Klara.

child-pageantStraight parenting.

Our friend KK isn’t done yet. “Same-sex marriage would not — as advocates claim — merely extend the benefits of marriage to more people,” she says. That’s an interesting bit of perspective. From where she’s sitting, that’s a “merely”. When you don’t have those benefits, that’s not really a “merely”. That merely is sought rather dearly by those feeling queerly. The fact that same-sex marriage would extend additional benefits is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of the whole deal. You’d think so too, if you didn’t have those rights.

But, go on.

“It would gut marriage of its fundamental meaning and transform it from an institution centered on children and the mother/father nuclear family to one centered on adults. Marriage would become an artificial institution, bestowing state approval on any adult relationship based on affection and interdependence.”

I hate to have to go here, but; Ms Kersten, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Marriage is an artificial institution bestowing state approval on adult relationships based on affection and interdependence. That’s why marriages need to be validated by state officials.

Ms Kersten’s ‘fundamental’ definition of marriage is not the legal definition of marriage, and as such it should not be used to dictate the law on marriage. We do not decide property laws by reading the inside of a Monopoly box.

Ms Kersten continues; “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose, why restrict it to two people? Two lesbians and the sperm donor for their child, polygamists, bisexuals: All will want society to recognize and respect their relationships.”

Quite apart from the fact that she hasn’t grasped how bisexuality works (have the traditional marriage side really not worked out that their gay-proofed holy institution has already been infiltrated by the bisexuals?), and that she seems a little shaky on lesbianism as well (I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I think most lesbians would rather not have to see a sperm donor at breakfast every morning), this panicky paragraph shows Ms Kersten’s misapprehension in a nutshell. “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose”? If reproduction was ever fundamental to the institution of marriage, it isn’t now. She’s locking the stable door after the groom has bolted.

“And why should marriage be open only to people with a sexual relationship?” she adds. “That discriminates against two female friends who want to share the burdens of rearing their kids, or a disabled brother and sister who live together.”

Yes. Why should it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could allow those people in those situations to choose to enjoy certain legal benefits with each other? That Ms Kersten thinks we should respond to this suggestion with spluttering outrage shows us the sickly pallor of her soul. These ultra-liberal marriage laws she posits would allow people to help each other in difficult situations. We must nip this in the bud at once!

On she goes.

“It’s ironic that in other realms of life, Americans are very aware of the risks of tampering excessively with nature.”

dogwedding

Here we learn that Ms Kersten thinks that marriage grows on trees. Marriage is the vegetable lamb of Tartary, and it blossom with little three-tier cakes that imbue the eater with fidelity, parenting skills, and the ability to change a fuse. The problem, it seems, is that Ms Kersten genuinely believes that marriage and reproduction are interchangeable concepts. She must think all rabbits are Mormons.

Ms Kersten ends with a flourish. “We understand little about how marriage has undergirded the order and prosperity we take for granted. We tamper with marriage at our peril.”

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, except that I think it was lifted from a 1953 issue of Tales From The Crypt, and she’s put in the word ‘marriage’ where it used to say ‘the jewelled death mask of Chandragupta’.

Still, if marriage is so important in preventing the coming apocalypse, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have more of them? Even if the gay ones only count for, say, half a normal marriage, that’s still a net gain, isn’t it?

Here’s my counter-argument in favour of gay marriage. Marriage is a legal institution that confers special benefits that everyone is entitled to, and couples should be free to share those benefits as they see fit. Whether or not they intend to raise children is no-one’s business. Their religious beliefs are no-one’s business. Their sexual attitudes are no-one’s business. None of these things are a qualifying bar to marriage; they should not be treated as such, especially not for an isolated minority.

Ms Kersten; Ms Gallagher; Bishop Malone; President Obama;  There is no single model for marriage. If you insist that there is, and if you allow the people to vote out anyone who does not fit that model, then you are not protecting the institution of marriage; you are destroying it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this call to suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Maine Issue

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

I’m told that Maine has a reputation for proud independence. They don’t let outsiders tell them how to think or what to do.

Obviously that reputation is now in tatters, and the proudly independent people of Maine stand exposed as the biggest bitches in the US. In a rare turnabout, the legislature must now be ashamed of their electorate. In April and May of this year, the Maine House and Senate showed their grit and independence when they made Maine the first state in the US to introduce gay marriage through legislative process.

This week, the electorate voted to undo that laudable work, because they were bullied into it by two well-known political pressure groups from outside the state - one in Utah, the other in Rome. Interesting fact: the Mormons and the Catholics still enjoy historic tax exemptions from back when they used to be religious organisations.

The Mormons make their donations through a shell organisation, the National Organisation for Marriage, which, in direct contravention of the law, likes to hide its lists of donors, but we all know it’s those Latter Day shits. The Catholic Church is a hate group that doesn’t care who knows it; they made their $550,000 donation in their own name.

The pro-equality side ran ad campaigns showing how real Maine families would be affected by this law. They presented the people of Maine with stories from their own neighbours, families and friends. The anti-equality side took the same lying, fear-mongering ads from their Prop 8 campaign, and scratched out the word ‘California’ and wrote in ‘Maine’. And the people of Maine fell for it like the easily punked dumb hicks they are.

I know we’re supposed to note that almost 50% of people in Maine voted to preserve equal marriage rights in the state, and we shouldn’t be angry at the whole state, but I’m sick of hearing that. Marriage equality failed, which means the whole state failed. If you live in Maine and you support marriage equality, you did not do enough. That’s a fact. The same goes for California. The same goes for the other 29 states that have voted on and voted down marriage equality.

The point that always needs to be repeated regarding Maine and California is this: the majority voted to strip the rights of a minority. That’s the sort of evil that only the truly sanctimonious could ever get behind. The law ought to protect minorities from such outrageous bullying - and that’s a fact that other minorities might do well to remember, including the Mormons and the Catholics. The biggest threat to their reigious freedom is not gay marriage; it’s the precedent set by overturning it.

A couple of other notes on Maine:

First of all; in the same election that stripped gay people of their marriage rights in the state, a measure was passed that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine. That’s a progressive cause if ever there was one. Why weren’t Maine’s progressives standing behind gay marriage in the same numbers? Where were you when we needed you, dope heads?

Second; the gay rights movement needs leadership. Groups like HRC and GLAAD enjoy their White House dinner invites too much to push for an aggressive agenda. They spectacularly failed to get President Obama to weigh on on Maine. Under their watch, Obama has proven to be anything but the fierce advocate he promised he would be for gay rights. Under their watch, it looks like marriage equality won’t even be put back on the California ballot in 2010, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will get pushed back into Obama’s second term, should he ever get one.

Stronger voices come from bloggers like Pam Spaulding and David Mixner. This week, while arguing for civil disobedience and a closed chequebook for any politican who does not support full equality, Mixner referred to the disparity in rights for gay Americans as “gay apartheid”.

The word ‘apartheid’ entered into the political lexicon because of the policy of racial segregation in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century. Since then it has been used to refer to numerous other incidences of political segregation, including the treatment of Algerians in France, the treatment of the poor in Brazil, and the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. It’s a good term. It’s powerful. It’s the sort of language we need to be using to make our case with rhetorical force.

And as soon as Mixner used it, people started arguing that ‘apartheid’ as a term should be held in reserve, in the same way that we protect the term ‘Holocaust’. (The gays did have a holocaust, of course; we call it ‘the Holocaust’.)

I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we firewall the term ‘apartheid’ before. Even Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, drew parallel between homophobia and South Africa’s Apartheid in an article five years ago. As far as I’m concerned,’apartheid’ is established political shorthand for any system of political segregation. But now the gays have used it - in a way that casts the USA in a very poor light that it well deserves - and suddenly it’s off limits.

Now it seems we need to calibrate the depth of gay suffering against black suffering in South Africa from 1948-1994, and if the social and economic disparity of marriage inequality laws in America are not found to be up to snuff (and they won’t be) gays can’t use the term. And this is a view being expressed by progressives! Maybe they’re the same ones who cherish medical marijuana but don’t give two toots about marriage rights?

Incidentally, do you know what happened if you were gay in South Africa during the Apartheid era? Homosexuality was illegal, so you went to prison. More gruesome than that; in a country where every white male over 16 was forced into military service, they didn’t have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; they subjected suspected homosexuals to electric shock therapy, chemical castration and forced sexual reassignment surgery. As far as I can find, there has never been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for this. And do you know what name we all used to describe that system of political oppression?

Oh, you big silly. Why would we have a name for something no-one ever talks about? We didn’t boycott or sanction South Africa because of their treatment of homosexuals! Mistreating homosexuals was normal.

And in the US, it still is - whereas South Africa passed same-sex marriage laws back in 2006.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this callto suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

A President, Like Any Other

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Barack Obama has never impressed on the subject of gay rights. He made a few encouraging promises, and it was refreshing to hear him mention gays and lesbians in his speeches, but despite claiming that he is a “fierce advocate” for gay rights, he has no record of substance, and on the campaign trail he made it clear that he supported civil unions rather than same-sex marriage - a separate-but-equal position that was shared by the opposition ticket. I think the widely held hope was that this was just politics; Obama was being cautious on the campaign trail, but he would show more social liberalism in office.

Then came the inauguration, and Obamas’ choice of Reverend Rick Warren - who had then only recently compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality - to lead the inaugural prayer. For many of us that choice rang alarm bells - how could the hope-and-change candidate be so tone deaf as to choose a bigot to represent him as the nation’s pastor? - but it was Obama’s first day on the job, and to ring that alarm bell too loudly was to be off-message. The gays would not be allowed to ruin this historic moment for everyone else.

The alarm bell should have sounded louder.

In January, press secretary Robert Gibbs gave a one-word answer to the question of whether Obama would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT); “Yes”. A couple of months later that seemed to become ‘maybe’ when the language on the White House website went from ‘repeal’ to ‘change’. In fact, Obama could have issued an executive order suspending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as soon as he entered office, putting all investigations on hold until the law could be repealed. He did not do so, even at a time when polls show two-thirds of conservatives, and a majority of churchgoers, now support gays serving in the military. That was the second alarm bell.

Here’s the third. On Friday, the US Department of Justice filed a brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in response to a case challenging the act’s constitutionality. DOMA states that, “No state … needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state”, and, “The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states”.

There is some debate about whether or not the Department of Justice was obliged to defend DOMA at all, let alone insist that it was constitutional. Certainly, the last four presidents have all filed briefs in opposition to existing laws, in line with their policy platforms. Perhaps Obama doesn’t want to govern that way, and is determined to uphold existing laws until they can be overturned through the proper channels. Certainly that’s his official position on why he hasn’t ended DADT. In contrast to his predecessor, he’s apparently working to limit the executive power of the president.

But even if Obama felt that the DoJ had to defend DOMA, the language of the brief is erroneous, disingenuous, and gratuitously offensive. It echoes Michael Steele’s disgraceful notion that withholding rights is good because it saves the government money, even though gay Americans pay the same taxes as everyone else. It implies that limiting marriage rights to heterosexual couples is necessary to protect ‘traditional’ marriage.

It dredges up the old bigot’s saw that says gays already have the same rights as everyone else - to marry someone of the opposite sex. It argues that homosexuals should not be deemed a minority class deserving of special protection from the courts. It goes so far as to undermine the arguments that helped end restrictions on interracial marriage. Perhaps most damaging of all, it enshrines the view that same-sex marriage cannot be considered a fundamental right. Then, for good measure, it equates same-sex marriage to incest and statutory rape.

This is the Obama position. This is the position of the ‘change’ administration. These are all familiar arguments that we expect to hear from bigots opposed to gay equality, but coming from Barack Obama, this is devastating.

As with DADT, Obama initially pledged that he would repeal DOMA, which he called “abhorrent”, but as with DADT, that pledge disappeared from his website in May. With this brief, Obama has now made the legal landscape of the United States more hostile to gay rights. He is working backwards. Far from being a fierce advocate, Obama now appears to be a threat to gay rights.

There is still time for this to change. There is still time for Obama to keep all of his promises to the gay community. What there is not, any longer, is hope that he will. Now the presumption for anyone who supports gay equality is that Obama is the opposition, and he will have to be fought against rather than worked with. Obama has no empathy for gay rights. It turns out that what he said on the campaign trail was just politics, but he wasn’t hiding his social liberalism; he was masking his social conservatism. On the civil rights issue of our age, Barack Obama is our villain.

Barack Obama Doesn’t Care About Gay People

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Dan Choi is one of my new favourite people. A first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader with the New York National Guard, Choi recently came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show. Choi is a founder and spokesman for Knights Out, an organisation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender US military academy alumni dedicated to fighting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he knew that by coming out on TV - by ‘telling’ - he would risk getting kicked out of the military.

Last week he got the letter telling him this was exactly what was happening. By saying he was gay, he had engaged in ‘homosexual behaviour’ and would be dismissed from service. Dan Choi went back on the Maddow show to say how outraged and offended he was. But of course, he expected it. And I suspect he wanted it. I think Dan Choi is attempting a very deliberate and courageous gambit; he is making himself the public face of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debacle.

Choi is a West Point graduate, an infantry officer, an Iraq veteran and an Arabic linguist. He is proud and keen to serve. He was already out to the men and women he served alongside, to no detriment to ‘unit cohesion’ (the bogus bogeyman that provides the sole justification for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). He’s being drummed out of the military for the weakest, silliest of reasons; because of something he said. Because of something he said about himself.

danchoi

There’s no scandal here. He did not behave in a disgraceful way. He did not do anything inappropriate or sexual while serving. Dan Choi is a dedicated serviceman. He is intelligent, eloquent and informed, and he has skills that are of tremendous value to the US military. He is being forced out of the military because he said, “I am gay”. That places the issue front and centre, with the perfect spokesman at its fore. No-one could look at a man like Dan Choi and seriously believe that the US military is better off without him than it is with him.

I hope that Dan Choi’s case will force the Obama administration to take action. It’s a shame that the Obama administration needs to be forced, but it’s increasingly evident that it does. Barack Obama is not living up to his claim that he is a “fierce advocate” for gay rights. He has done nothing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, nothing about the Defense of Marriage Act, nothing about the Matthew Shepard act; he hasn’t made any attempt to repeal bans on gay adoption or to expand health-care benefits to same-sex couples, and he’s been conspicuously quiet on the advances in marriage equality in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. Obama’s single greatest contribution to the most pressing civil rights issue of his day has been to invite homophobic pastor Rick Warren to lead the nation in prayer at his inauguration.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people. The impression that I get is that his position on gay rights is entirely political, not personal; he talks the talk to stay on-side with his core constituency, but he does not have any empathy for, or interest in, gay rights.

I don’t think he’s homophobic - not at all - but I do think that he’s ignorant, blinkered and tin-eared when it comes to this topic. I suspect that, like a lot of otherwise liberal people, he does not really grasp the extent to which gays still feel maligned and marginalised, and he does not see gay equality as belonging in the same league as racial equality or gender equality - despite that inconvenient word, ‘equality’.

It does not escape my notice that Barack Obama has had a lot on his plate during his first four months in office, and the standard defence offered of Obama’s inaction is that he has two wars and a financial crisis to deal with; gay rights are not - and should not be - a priority.

Nonsense. The Obama administration can do more than one thing at once, and civil rights ought always to be a priority. Civil rights are not something you wait to address when it’s convenient. The world does not wait, and minorities should not be asked to wait. On the contrary; at a time when people are worried about real issues, like keeping their job or keeping their house, they don’t have the luxury to indulge themselves in reactionary fights against things that have no actual bearing on their lives. We are at the flashpoint now. The time to act is now.

It would take a stroke of the pen. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can only be overturned by Congress, but the President can suspend all investigations and prosecutions by executive order while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is reviewed, and that would effectively put an end to it. At a time of war, the president can stop the American military from haemorrhaging people like Dan Choi who want to serve, with a stroke of his pen.

Obama has not made this minimal effort. He has not found the time for it.

Before he left office, George W Bush took steps to lift the ban on people with HIV entering the United States. It was one of the only good things he ever did. In his rush to undo all of Bush’s farewell gestures, Obama undid this one as well. He kept the travel ban in place, and he did it with a stroke of his pen. He found the time for that.

When elected, Barack Obama made a pledge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now the language from the Obama administration is about ‘changing’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not repealing it. The word from his national security adviser, General James Jones, is, “I don’t know” if the administation will overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Not only is Obama doing nothing; he’s backpedalling.

Barack Obama doesn’t care about gay people.

Hopefully people like Lieutenant Dan Choi can make him care.