At last, our long trek through the wilderness is coming to an end. On Thursday, Nov. 17, the California Supreme Court will issue a decision on the technicality that has stalled the Prop 8 lawsuit for nearly a year.
In August of 2009, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8, the law that rolled back marriage rights for Californiaâ€™s same-sex couples, was unconstitutional. Perhaps you remember our excitement at the time. Or perhaps the moment has receded into the misty haze of bygone days.
After Judge Walkerâ€™s ruling, the lawsuit advanced to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But there was a hitch. Since the State of California had refused to defend Prop 8 from the start, Judge Walker had allowed the initiativeâ€™s proponents to fight for their marriage ban in court.
But having lost, did these proponents have the legal standing to appeal their defeat under federal law? The Ninth Circuit wasnâ€™t sure.
For that matter, the Ninth Circuit wasnâ€™t sure if proponents had any standing under state law, which might shed some light on their standing under federal law. Hmmm. What to do? How about sending the whole question of standing under state law over to the California Supreme Court for an analysis? Indeed, thatâ€™s what the Ninth Circuit did, and now, after many months, it seems the California court is about to answer.
The good news is that whatever the outcome, the ball now returns to the Ninth Circuitâ€™s court, where the real action takes place. The bad news is that the question of standing under federal law could, in theory, consume a great deal more time. It could even go up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back down to the Ninth Circuit before we even reach the main issue of whether Prop 8 is constitutional.
Indeed, if standing is denied, we many never reach that issue through the mechanism of this particular lawsuit. We could simply see Judge Walkerâ€™s ruling finally take effect, ending marriage discrimination (again) in the Golden State.
Who Moved My Truffle
I suppose we should all raise a glass to the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act last Thursday. The bill, which repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, passed the committee by a 10-8 party line vote, but short of a miracle it will go no further.
Still, itâ€™s preferable to make some progress on the national legislative level than none. Iâ€™ll bet dollars to dimes that DOMA will be declared unconstitutional by the courts before Congress ever takes a stand in our favor. But at least the issue is on the side burner over there.
Speaking of DOMA and the courts, there have been a ton of friend of the court briefs flying around our various lawsuits. I havenâ€™t read any of them, but it seems as if Iâ€™m in good company. According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court justices donâ€™t read amicus briefs either, leaving the unwieldy task to their law clerks. As Justice Scalia put it, the clerks can always recommend a brief if it contains â€śa hidden truffle.â€ť
Iâ€™m not a Scalia fan, but youâ€™ve got to admit that the man can handle a metaphor.
RIP Barbara Grier
Lesbian publisher Barbara Grier died of cancer the other day at 78. Baby boomer lesbians owe a debt to the founder of Naiad Press, who delivered romantic fiction that didnâ€™t end with suicide or heartbreak.
Back in the day, in addition to regular discrimination, gay men and women endured pervasive cultural damage to the psyche delivered through the tragic gay characters in film and print. Strangely, it was some small comfort to read The Well of Loneliness or watch Boys in the Band, just for a glimpse of gay life midway through the book or movie. Then came the inevitable denouement. It came when the â€śheroineâ€ť came to her senses and ran off with the farmhand. Or when the â€śheroâ€ť turned on his friends in disgust and went back to his wife.
Or maybe when the gay person just committed suicide.
Let me be clear. Every fictional account ended this way, bar none. And we all watched and read this stuff anyway! Because it was all there was. And something was better than nothing. Weird, when you think about it.
Grier helped put an end to this sad, sick depiction of homosexuality. I donâ€™t remember any particular titles, save one. She had a real best seller in Lesbian Nuns, Breaking Silence, which I suspect became a must read for many in the straight community as well. I mean, who doesnâ€™t love the idea of lesbian nuns? The book, based on true accounts, was condemned by the Catholic Church and according to Grierâ€™s obituary, sold several hundred thousand copies.
I was just dutifully reading about Catholic bishops and their argument that religious exemptions need to be attached to gay rights laws, when my concentration lapsed and I caught a glimpse of a headline reading: â€śVodka soaked tampons are everywhere!â€ť
Iâ€™m ashamed to say that I immediately stopped reading about the bishops and clicked onto the revelatory link. Theyâ€™re everywhere? Who knew? Kids these days!
Apparently, a super tampon can soak up a whole shot of vodka, which one can then â€śenjoy,â€ť if thatâ€™s the right word for it, without risking the scent of alcohol on oneâ€™s breath. Thereâ€™s a guysâ€™ version of this unusual delivery system called â€śbutt chugging.â€ť Hmmmm. The news story indicated that urban legend researchers have been checking to see if this is a real phenomenon, and the results are â€śinconclusive.â€ť But a CBS report out of Arizona, which said it had â€śjaws dropping throughout our newsroom,â€ť quoted some school and medical officials confirming the trend.
The â€śdangerâ€ť is that you can overdose on alcohol without knowing it in this fashion, but come on, youâ€™d have to have a dozen tampons, right? So surely youâ€™d know that you might get caught. And teenagers are wily, if I recall my own high school days.
Everything kids do is possibly dangerous, which is why these early years comprise a crucible of teaching moments which we look back on with a mixture of fondness and astonishment at our own idiocy. Why should this generation be any different?
It may not have occurred to us to soak tampons in alcohol, but we did take fistfuls of caffeine pills for a speedy thrill, and I remember when Nanette Navarre sprained her arm and wound up with a prescription for some mega painkillers that we all shared. Then there was the time my friends and I went through my parentsâ€™ medicine cabinet and just tried a few items at random to see what happened. For your information, gout remedies and estrogen supplements have no effect in small quantities. Hell, it was worth a try.
Mainly, we just drank and smoked stuff and chewed pine needles to disguise our breath. Old fashioned, perhaps. More fun than butt chugging for sure.
Bad Lesbians, No Cake
Where were we? The Catholic bishops? Letâ€™s all pause for a group sigh. My plan was to launch another essay on the perils of religious exemptions to civil rights laws. For example, youâ€™ll be pleased to know that the Michigan lawmakers have dropped the egregious loophole that they tore out of a proposed bullying law. The loophole would have allowed harassers to drive truckloads of bigotry through the concept of protecting kids, simply by announcing that their conduct was based on a sincere (religious) belief that the victim was, um, a sinful pervert. Please.
Then, I also had an antigay bakery out of Iowa where the owner refused to make a wedding cake for two women based on her â€śChristianâ€ť beliefs. You know the story. This particular do-gooder insisted that she was not against gay people and loved everyone. Nonetheless, her faith demanded that she refuse to do business with a lesbian couple. Huh? How can you say that with a straight face?
Good news, if youâ€™ll excuse the expression. I just deleted several paragraphs about the false connection between faith and gay bias because I think weâ€™ve discussed this ad nauseum.
From Sea to Shining Sea
Letâ€™s see what else. It looks as if state lawmakers in Washington plan to go for a marriage equality bill in 2012. It may or may not have the votes to pass the state senate, but theyâ€™re giving it a shot.
I already told you that activists in Maine are putting a marriage equality measure on the 2012 ballot. And things are looking up in Maryland, where the conventional wisdom says that our side bungled the unsuccessful attempt to pass marriage equality earlier this year. The head of Equality Maryland resigned under a cloud at the time, but theyâ€™ve just installed a new director, veteran state activist Carrie Evans, who says â€śthe stars are alignedâ€ť for a marriage bill to pass next year.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the umbrella group fighting for same-sex couples, announced it has hired Democratic Party activist Travis Tazelaar to oversee the field operations for the upcoming effort.
While weâ€™re at it, Basic Oregon has determined that they lack the support and resources to fight for marriage at the ballot box, so the Duck State will stay out of the limelight next year.
Why name a sports team after a non-violent water fowl? And why a â€śduckâ€ť in particular, which conjures up a cowardly effort to avoid injury?
Before we discuss the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, I have a friend, who shall go unnamed, to thank for news that sex with animals can double your chances of getting penis cancer.
The story was illustrated with a close up of a very sweet looking cow, which made me feel bad. Poor cow. If not headed for rape, then probably off to the slaughterhouse. Itâ€™s a good thing for most of us that we can compartmentalize our love for steaks and donâ€™t have to confront the adorable animals who give their lives for a nice rare bone-in ribeye.
But I digress. Reading closely, I noted that the â€śstudy,â€ť published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, was based on a survey of 118 men with penis cancer and 374 healthy ones. So exactly how many of these men actually had sex with an animal? One? Three?
Guys? Play it safe, OK?
Shaun Donovan, the aforementioned HUD Secretary, delivered a great speech at the National Center for Transgender Equality dinner confirming the administrationâ€™s commitment to trans rights, in addition to LGBT rights in general.
Donovan highlighted new proposed regulations that would make sure transpeople and transgender couples will be eligible for public housing voucher programs without having to jump through hoops. One woman, Donovan said, tried to add her transman partner to her housing voucher only to be flatly denied. The housing authority told her to apply instead to a neighborhood organization, because they accept everyone, â€śeven Martians.â€ť
Thereâ€™s some good news as well in Massachusetts, where a trans rights bill is one small step away from becoming law. The bill has one more pro-forma vote in the legislature, and Governor Deval Patrick has pledged to sign it.
And in North Carolina, a transwoman has won a lengthy fight with her insurance company, with the help of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Lina Kok, 47, was denied salary compensation for a short medical leave based on the notion that her facial reconstruction surgery was a cosmetic procedure. After several appeals, the company finally acknowledged that the surgery was indeed a crucial part of her medical transition.
Finally, I was about to indulge in a little Bachmann bashing to end this column, but I have run out of space and canâ€™t tell you about how Marcus Bachmann (Micheleâ€™s hubby) called up a gay activist to threaten him about an unpaid bill at the familyâ€™s Christian counseling clinic.
Check out the Truth Wins Out website for the details. Me? Iâ€™m going to fix myself a gin and tonic tampon.
Annâ€™s column appears every week at sfbaytimes.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org