The arch-conservative lawmaker who pops up in the gay bar, the cruising park or the airport bathroom stall has become a familiar stereotype over the years, hasn’t he? And it’s always a “he” of course, because us gals are too sophisticated for casual sex with strangers, let alone hypocritical double lives. (Girlz rule!)
Anyway, while I usually revel in the humiliation that descends on the poor man once the sordid shenanigans are revealed for all to see, I also generally understand why a person raised in a pervasively anti-gay environment might hide his sexual orientation, might be shamed into the closet, might even try to carry on a heterosexual life, and might eventually fail to pull off the charade.
But you know what? That attitude is so 20th century.
There is no excuse for it now, and I have zero sympathy for men like Roy Ashburn, the Bakersfield Republican state rep caught driving home from a gay bar with a .14 percent alcohol count and a (presumed) trick in his passenger seat.
His anti-gay voting record and his unwavering support for traditional values is despicable under the circumstances. He is an immigrant basher who reportedly was picked up after spending the evening at the Sacramento bar, Faces, on Latino night. The blog Boyculture reports that the passenger in his car was a 29-year-old Latino tourist.
He claims that his hard right record merely reflects the desires of his constituents, and that his sexual orientation is irrelevant, a jaw dropping rationale for the blatant lie that is his life and work.
At 55, he has lived his entire adult life in the post-Stonewall years, when any gay person with an ounce of courage or self respect has managed to exit the closet, or at least tried to maintain some integrity in the balance between their private and public lives. But not this joker. Yes, he’s a hypocrite. But he is also a profoundly immature man whose cowardice has irreparably damaged his life.
By the way, there’s a Facebook club called “1,000,000 gay men and allies against Roy Ashburn ever having sex again” dedicated to a permanent cock block against the loathsome politician.
Let’s now turn to Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY), who resigned this week after a male staff member accused him of sexual harassment. Massa appears to be another married closet case, who lives in a DC apartment with a collection of “bachelor” aides, and who has admitted to Glen Beck that he indulged in a tickle fight on his 50th birthday with the guys, four of whom jumped on top of him in, um, a climactic finale.
As for the harassment charge, that accusation stemmed from a little politically incorrect repartee during a drunken wedding reception. According to Massa, he approached a table of male staffers, and one of them suggested that Massa should go after one of the bridesmaids. “What I should be doing is f***ing you!” joked the whimsical lawmaker. Massa then gave the man a friendly hair tousle and left the table. What could be more innocent?
Massa has an excellent gay rights record, so who the hell knows what’s going on with him? Is he gay? And if so, does he realize it? It’s not as if I lack imagination, but I cannot conjure up any explanation for Massa’s homoerotic behavior other than the most obvious.
I mean, come on! When was the last time you propositioned someone that you had absolutely no interest in “just for fun!” The company Christmas party perhaps?
“Hey Ann. Great party, huh? Oooh. Check out Linda! She’s got half her shirt open!”
“What I should be doing is f&^ing you, Tim!”
“What did you just say?”
“Oh nothing! Just kidding around! Hah!”
SCOTUS Takes on Fred Phelps
Moving on, you may have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court will review the First Amendment question of whether Fred Phelps and company can protest the funerals of American soldiers, as well as the related question of whether a family can sue the man and his clan for damages.
I know, I know. It is difficult or nearly impossible to side with the deranged Kansas “preacher” who makes your run-of-the-mill homophobe look like Harvey Milk. Second, who among us thinks it’s a civilized idea to conduct hostile demonstrations near the graves of dead heroes while their grieving families stand by?
And yet, we must support Phelps. (Bay Times constitutional analysts believe.)
As long as a demonstration purports to confront national issues, like the country’s position on gay rights, the government may not interfere based on the content of the demonstration. Phelps was legally required to keep his sign waving family members at a certain distance from the funeral. But it was a public event, and he had the right to make his protest.
But what of the emotional damage he may cause?
In this particular case, the father of a dead Maryland soldier won a multi-million dollar court judgment after suing Phelps for deliberate infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and defamation. The award and the ruling was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which held that an individual cannot bring a personal injury suit against someone who is exercising their right to free political speech.
You can’t incite people to riot or treason, or yell fire in a crowded theatre. But as for political speech, even bizarre odious speech is protected. In fact, bizarre odious speech is exactly the type we must protect since no one is going to suppress our right to demonstrate in support of kittens or spring flowers, now are they?
The interesting question will be not whether Phelps has the right to protest, but rather whether the family has the right to sue. After all, Phelps was not targeting the family directly, but making a statement about all dead soldiers. (In case you’re wondering, his theory is that U.S. casualties are God’s way of punishing the country for its tolerance of homosexuality.) But if this family is allowed to sue, then surely you or I could sue Phelps for emotional distress if we stumbled across one of his “God Hates Fags” displays. The end result would be an indirect constitutional assault, since Phelps could no longer exercise his free speech rights without fear of constant civil litigation.
Now, substitute someone we like for Fred Phelps, let’s say the Gay Rights Liberation Front that protests in front of an evangelical church, holding signs that say “God Hates Conservative Christians.” It’s not very nice, but they certainly have the right to demonstrate. Nor should they be held liable for hurting the feelings of an individual churchgoer. Controversial speech is by definition a slap in the face to someone, and even frivolous civil suits can and would chill the practice.
Speaking of frivolous suits, I just read that Lindsay Lohan is suing E-Trade for $100,000,000 - that’s one hundred million dollars - because she believes that one of the commercials featuring the adorable talking baby is directed at her. Specifically, we’re talking about the one where the baby explains to his girlfriend that he couldn’t call her last night because he was busy trading online. The baby girlfriend then asks whether “that milkaholic Lindsay” was over, and the baby says no. Baby Lindsay then pokes her head into the picture and says “Milkawhat?”
Dude, you are so nailed!
Anyway, Lohan somehow believes that everyone who sees this ad immediately thinks about her and her drug problems. Interesting. I’ve seen that ad a dozen times and not once have I thought of Lindsay Lohan. What an incredible narcissist! And a hundred million dollars? Are you kidding me?
By the way, while we’re on TV ads, I have been very hard on AT&T lately because I hate their smarmy spokesman. But now, I take it all back. I just read that AT&T gave $100,000 to Equality California, and I love the company now. The fact that they drop every third call and can’t produce a commercial spot to save their lives is beside the point. They support us! Yay AT&T!
Florida Lawmaker Steps in It
I’m not sure what to make of the bill in the Florida legislature that would increase a tax break that now goes to support family friendly movie making in the Penis-Shaped State. I gather the tax incentive is 2 percent, and has only been sought by eight films, of which six were awarded the break. Even the film “Confessions of a Shopaholic” did not qualify based on a scene where violence erupts as the heroine fights over sale merchandise.
Now, a lawmaker wants to expand the tax break to five percent. It’s not as if this tax break hasn’t already existed. And it’s pretty clear that the special rate cut has always been reserved for the most G rated films. So what’s the big deal?
Well, Rep. Stephen Precourt made the mistake of defining the tax credit as applying to movies that do not include “nontraditional family values.” Now, it suddenly sounds like Florida is hostile to gay movies, doesn’t it? But hello? Gay movies could never have qualified for the original two percent rebate to begin with, so I don’t see what the fuss is all about.
Fine, I certainly think that Florida lawmakers and Rep. Precourt in particular, are conservative idiots trying to promote a hazy 1950s view of America at the expense of tourism and the state’s future film industry profits. But as I said, the policy is not new. And it’s less “anti-gay” than it is “pro-five-year-old movie goer.”
The interesting thing about this story is the media reaction, which has traveled quickly throughout the Internet and into the pages of the New York Times. The use of the ill-defined expression “nontraditional family values” has painted Mr. Precourt as a fanatic attempting to employ the power of the state purse to discriminate against gay cinema, which is not wholly inaccurate even if the discrimination also extends to innocuous chick flicks.
But even though I think it’s a tempest in a teapot, I’m still pleased to see the growling pack of media watchdogs bare their teeth, just as I am pleased when my pugs yip at the mailman. It reminds me that they’re alert and ready to protect me from the serial killers who may or may not be prowling the neighborhood.
No Virginia, There is No Santa
Finally, what the hell is going on in Virginia? You remember that the new governor, Bob Whatshisface, deleted “sexual orientation” from the list of categories protected against discrimination in the state workforce. In doing so, he revised an executive order by his predecessor, Tim Kaine, and took a giant step backwards in the Hate State.
Now, the new Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has taken it upon himself to send a letter to the state’s public universities, informing them that they do not have the authority to institute anti-discrimination policies that cover GLBT staff. Kookcinelli maintains that only the legislature can set standards for state employees, and he seems to believe that anti-discrimination rules will lead inexorably to domestic partner benefits, marriage recognition and the like.
If you must know, the governor’s name is McDonnell.
According to the Washington Post, most of Virginia’s largest schools have put gay rights policies in place, and they are now considering what to do with Cuccinelli’s instructions. I’d guess that the question of university autonomy could wind up in court.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting that the gay media likes to believe that the pro-gay opinion of Maryland’s attorney general on marriage recognition should now become de facto state law. But I am certain that none of us thinks Mr. Cuccinelli’s views should be worth the paper they’re printed on. Just as courts will no doubt have a voice in Virginia law, there’s no doubt that courts will eventually determine the extent of Maryland’s marriage recognition policy down the road as well.
And finally, while we’re on the subject of attorney generals, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to review the recent panel ruling in favor of two gay dads in New York.
The dads are trying to get a revised birth certificate for their Louisiana-born infant son, and they’re getting the cold shoulder from officials in the Jazz State. Even though three appellate judges told state bureaucrats to issue the paper work without further dilly dallying, it seems Caldwell has not given up his principled effort to make life difficult for a gay family two thousand miles away. On the positive side, we will likely get another good ruling out of the Fifth Circuit, and who knows? Maybe this will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.