I thought Iâ€™d get an early start on my column this week, and hopped onto the gay email list only to find a headline so repulsive that I canâ€™t bear to read the contents. This came my way thanks to newshound Rex Wockner, who attempts to lure us into the story with the off-putting subject line: â€śHomosexuals eat each otherâ€™s poo, says kill the gays bill author.â€ť
Thank you for that, dear Rex. Good thing mealtime is not around the corner.
OK. I read it. The HuffPo article by Ariel Rubin describes a press conference by Ugandaâ€™s most deranged Pentecostal preacher, Martin Ssempa, one of the best friends of the D.C. cabal known as The Family. Anyone who watches Rachel Maddow with any regularity has heard of this political brotherhood comprised of far right lawmakers and ideologues, who among other things have managed to ensnare themselves in various sex scandals of late, thanks to Mark Sanford, John Ensign and others.
At any rate, Ssempa is good friends with these jokers, as is Ugandan head of state Yoweri Museveni, whose wife is also a conservative Christian. At his recent presser, Ssempa treated the crowd to XXX rated fisting scenes, informing them that gay men enjoy a full range of scatological adventures and indeed implying that nothing short of a scene out of Part Two of â€śSALO, 120 Days of Sodomâ€ť will slake their depraved lust.
Ssempa was attempting to bolster support for the famous Ugandan â€śkill the gaysâ€ť bill, which seems to have been somewhat modified, thanks to relentless international pressure. The original legislation would trigger the death penalty for some gay acts, authorize life in prison for run-of-the-mill gayness, and even put gay rights supporters behind bars for speaking out in favor of civil rights or not reporting gay friends and family to the authorities.
At one point, the billâ€™s sponsor, David Bahati, told the press he was willing to relax â€śsome clausesâ€ť in the Anti-Homosexuality law, while President Museveni has distanced himself from the enterprise to some extent. A few weeks ago, we thought that Museveni had privately promised to veto the damned thing, but I havenâ€™t heard that repeated recently.
And keep in mind that the death penalty for homosexuality is already in force in several nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and some others that I canâ€™t recall. I point this out because some of the horrified reactions to the kill the gays bill in Uganda suggest that such barbaric sentencing options are unheard of. Theyâ€™re not.
Iâ€™m writing on Tuesday, and the big gay news floating through cyberspace is that Obama will call for an end to Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell in his State of the Union Speech on Wednesday night. Naturally, I have next to nothing to say about this subject since by the time this column is published, the soothing rhetoric will have already washed over the community, along with an ensuing wave of punditry.
But it is significant, since the topics in a State of the Union are carefully chosen. Iâ€™m encouraged that the President decided to focus on the military ban rather than the insipid Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which is now pending in both houses of Congress. When I say â€śpending,â€ť I mean that the bill has been introduced and heard in some committees or something. I donâ€™t mean that it is about to pass or even scheduled for a vote. ENDA has been kicking around since 1994, and itâ€™s about as useful to 21st century gay rights as a Betamax player.
But you know what? Weâ€™ve been asking for a Betamax since we were 15 years old and now that weâ€™re in our early 30s we might finally get one!
Persistence pays off!
Getting back to Donâ€™t Ask, there seems to be some signs of real effort to fix it on the part of the Administration, although military and congressional leaders are still sending mixed signals. One thing is certain, however. Without the Presidentâ€™s energy, the military ban will be repealed far later than sooner. With his active support, we have some kind of chance to see it end before 2012.
For the record, I just read an email from the GLBT think tank, the Williams Institute, that estimates some 66,000 gay men and women are serving their country from the closet, either in the reserves or on active duty. Thatâ€™s a lot of people.
News Lightening Round
I gather thereâ€™s a civil union bill gaining ground in the Hawaii legislature, where the state senate passed it by a veto-proof 18-7 majority. That bill now goes to the house, and after that it would go to GOP Governor Linda Lingle (who Iâ€™m pretty sure used to date Superman).
Oh, and we are also working on a long-shot bid to pass unions in New Mexicoâ€™s 30-day legislative session, but sources say thatâ€™s a doubtful proposition. Among other things, the gay coupleâ€™s bill in the Land of Enchantment is over 800 pages long. (Paging Franz Kafka.)
And by the way, we still havenâ€™t seen hide nor hair of Lisa Miller and little Isabella, the Christian conservative ex-lesbian mom whoâ€™s been on the lam for a month or more. Isabellaâ€™s other mom, Janet Jenkins, has been awarded custody after Lisa ignored a slew of court orders. The court has given her 30 days to appear with the child or face an arrest warrant.
In Florida, another judge has overruled the stateâ€™s preemptive ban on gay adoptive parents, by giving the green light to lesbian Vanessa Alenier to adopt a relativeâ€™s infant son. This is the third such ruling, and the entire law is under review by a state appellate court.
With the support of her extended family and her partner, Alenier rescued the newborn from Child Services, where he had landed for reasons unclear.
When she applied to adopt, she vowed not to start off her life as a mother by lying about her sexual orientation on the application. In considering the adoption, Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia said Floridaâ€™s unique restriction on gay or lesbian applicants was unconstitutional on its face.
Interestingly (or not) the ACLUâ€™s Florida adoption lawsuit is called â€śGill,â€ť just like the Gay and Lesbian Advocate and Defender suit against the Defense of Marriage Act! Just a small detail to confuse early 22nd century students of gay legal history. As you know, Floridaâ€™s ban has been upheld in federal court. But that was then (2001? 2002?) and this is now (2009? 2010? I get confused.)
Behind Closed Doors
Hereâ€™s a mysterious tidbit! According to Queerty.com, thereâ€™s a secret meeting of GLBT leaders going on near Knoxville, Tennessee at a grassroots incubator called the Highlander Research and Education Center.
The Highlander Center â€śworks with people struggling against oppression, supporting their effort to take collective action to shape their own destiny. It creates educational experiences that empower people to take democratic leadership towards fundamental change.â€ť
Hmmmm. I think Iâ€™d like it better at this point if our leaders were getting together at the â€śAl Capone Research and Education Centerâ€ť where facilitators â€śwork with people struggling to cut through gauzy time-wasting strategies and learn to threaten, cajole and break kneecaps in order to shape their own destiny.â€ť I think the Al Capone Center is located somewhere near Camden, New Jersey.
Oh, Iâ€™m just kidding. Iâ€™m sure the sessions at the Highland Center will prove of great value to our courageous civil rights movement when all is said and done.