The Lion of the Senate has roared his last, and even though we knew he was living his final days, itâ€™s still a shock to lose such a figure. The line between life and death is so stark that an ICU patient in a terminal coma is infinitely more vital than a corpse. Death is unfathomable.
Iâ€™ve been listening to various commentators extolling Kennedyâ€™s achievements and of course no one is bothering to mention that he was our main champion in the Senate, and he backed us at a time when few others cared. But we remember.
Lee Swislow, Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, issued a statement on Kennedyâ€™s death, recalling meeting the Senator just after Massachusetts had opened the door to marriage equality. If you remember, the state had an archaic law on the books that was immediately revived in order to block non-residents from taking advantage of marriage rights.
Kennedyâ€™s first words to Swislow, who he had never met before, were: â€śWeâ€™ve got to get rid of that 1913 law.â€ť
â€śWhat struck me about this conversation was that he needed no promptingâ€ť wrote Swislow. â€śThe Senator knew about the 1913 law and GLADâ€™s work to overturn it because he genuinely cared about our community. His position on marriage equality was driven not by politics but by his sense of what was right. When GLAD advocated for marriage over civil unions, Senator Kennedy understood that true equality means marriage for all.â€ť
Florida Dog Napper Remains At Large
Enough of that. I donâ€™t want to set such a somber tone for the upbeat frivolity that characterizes our weekly musings on GLBT news. And in that spirit, I would like to thank my friend Stephen Rice for some fine reporting on our local gay radio show last night, Outcast on KOOP 91.7 in Austin.
Rice scooped the national press with news of the Wilton Manors, Florida man, Brian Dortort, who was having a drink in a gay bar when a tattooed thug stole his Chihuahua. The four-month old pup, described by the Associated Press as softball sized, was lounging in a â€śspecialty pet bagâ€ť while Dortort, 48, enjoyed a birthday celebration for one of his friends. Dortort carelessly allowed a man to hold the pooch for a minute, and while his attention was distracted, the heartless thief absconded with the animal, who goes by the name of Hudson Hayward Hemingway.
Happily, the suspect has been identified, perhaps on account of his body ink, which displays the name â€śBritney Spearsâ€ť either on his arm or neck. But itâ€™s not clear whether an arrest warrant has been issued, and as of the dateline on the story, Aug. 22, Brian had yet to retrieve his precious pet. When last seen, the dog was sporting pink earrings.
As you might imagine, all of us found the details of this crime extremely disturbing. Rice emphasized Dortortâ€™s strange inability to specify whether the Spears tattoo was on the suspectâ€™s neck or arm, an obvious distinction to most observers. Rice speculated that the miscreant may have had an abnormal physique, one in which the arm and neck appeared as a continuous limb. But I suspect that Dortmanâ€™s emotional panic affected his ability to recall details. At any rate, we all pray for Hudsonâ€™s safe return. Itâ€™s all we can do for now.
I think this is the first week in a long time when I can avoid the topic of marriage in California without being charged with dereliction of duty. Oh, the stories are still there and still brewing. But nothing particularly dramatic happened either in the Olson/Boies case, nor in our fight to repeal Prop 8.
Oh, there was one thing. The offbeat Smelt lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality in federal court as expected. This is the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act that gave rise to the Obama Justice Departmentâ€™s anti-gay brief a while ago, an event that was somewhat mitigated by a better brief issued earlier this month in the same case. But the lawsuit itself was riddled with problems, not the least of which was the fact that the inane lawyer, Richard Gilbert, initially sued the U.S. government in state court in order to try and win attorneyâ€™s fees. Unfortunately for him, it was a fatal flaw, and even though the case was later removed to federal court, it was still thrown out for lack of jurisdiction.
Gilbert has already taken Smelt up through the Ninth Circuit and lost on his clientsâ€™ lack of standing. He refilled in 2008 and has continued to lose, although he insists that he will continue the litigation. The Orange County attorney has no background in civil rights law and seems to have a precarious grasp on federal procedure as well. I read one of his briefs a few years ago and found it incoherent.
He also used to have a Web site that listed his education as â€śHarvard PIL,â€ť which refers to a series of legal workshops that you and I can attend. He actually went to Western State Fullerton, not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that. And his Yellow Page ad boasted the lowest rates in town back when I checked in out in 2005. Anyway, heâ€™s a self-promoter, and we have him to thank for at least one of the few anti-gay marriage opinions published in the federal system. I stumble across citations to this unnecessary precedent every now and again, and although a lower court ruling is relatively harmless, it doesnâ€™t exactly help.
Cheddar Cheese State DP Law Under Attack
With California on the sidelines, we can move to Wisconsin, where a group called the Wisconsin Family Council is trying to get the state supreme court to weigh in on the stateâ€™s new domestic partner law. Wisconsin, like 29 of its sister states, has a constitutional amendment on the books that bans marriage or similar institutions for gay couples. Ergo, reason these sycophants of Satan, the partner law is unconstitutional and must be struck down.
This week, the conservative attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, announced he would not defend the new statute because he agrees with the Family Council that the law stinks. Wisconsin will hire outside counsel to make the case that domestic partnership, which in this case includes roughly 43 out of 200 marriage rights, is not the equivalent of wedlock. The high court has not decided whether to take direct review of the case, but even if they reject it, the Council will likely pursue us in lower court.
Please note that here is another example of a state attorney general refusing to support a state statute in court. Jerry Brown has declined to defend Prop 8 in the Olson Boies case (as has Governor Schwarzenegger). Both examples undercut Obamaâ€™s insistence that his administration is mandated to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, or any other federal law, against a court challenge. In fact, itâ€™s unusual, but not unprecedented, for the executive branch of government to stay out of the legal fray if their policy convictions conflict with their normal duty to defend.
In that light, keep watching over the next several months to see how Obama and company respond to the federal challenges to DOMA now percolating in Massachusetts. (The U.S. government is not a party to the Olson Boies case.)
So, do you think â€śasexualityâ€ť is a sexual orientation? Newshound Rex Wockner has sent around a link to an SFGate story about AVEN, which stands for Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, and hopes to make people aware that lack of desire is a legitimate orientation and not a personal failing.
Hmmm. I donâ€™t think you can include asexuality in the â€śsexual orientationâ€ť rubric, anymore than you can call atheism a â€śreligion.â€ť But there is a connection. Atheism is a religious stance, and asexuality is a sexual stance. Both attitudes deserve the same respect as their antitheses.
I guess some people might call atheism a â€śreligion,â€ť but weâ€™re not here to argue semantics. I gather from the SFGate article that about one percent of people are asexual, and simply donâ€™t have any particular physical interest in anyone or anything. I say again, hmmmm.
But speaking of sexual orientation, hereâ€™s the bigger story on the subject this week. PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, has been trying to argue that being â€śex-gayâ€ť is a sexual orientation as well, and is therefore a status covered by all those inclusive anti-discrimination laws that include GLBT people.
Actually, if you are â€śex-gay,â€ť your alleged sexual orientation is â€śheterosexual.â€ť â€śEx-gayâ€ť is not a sexual orientation, and for that matter, neither is â€śfucked up,â€ť which would also suit the scenario. But that didnâ€™t stop PFOX from playing the discrimination card after the NEA refused to give them an Expo booth back in 2002.
The Washington D.C. Office of Human Rights ruled against the hapless organization, who then took their case to Superior Court in the nationâ€™s capital. I gather that Judge Maurice Ross issued a decision in June, but for reasons beyond my ken, the story is hitting the headlines this week.
Judge Ross differed with the Office of Human Rights over the question of whether anti-discrimination law only covers those with immutable characteristics. But more importantly, he agreed that the NEA was not â€śdiscriminatingâ€ť when it blacklisted PFOX from its event.
Anyone who recalls the famous Supreme Court case that allowed the Boston St. Patrickâ€™s Day Parade people to ban a gay contingent also recalls that an organization is not obliged to let its arch enemies use its own event as a stage for delivering a message that is antithetical to its goals. The parade organizers could not ban gay individuals, but they were free to prohibit an official parade entry carrying gay rights banners and so forth. Likewise, we are free to keep PFOX from pushing a float down Market Street in June, and the NEA can tell them to go PFOX themselves when Expo time comes around.
In the aftermath of this decision, the PFOX spin machine flipped its switch to â€śon,â€ť and erroneously told the press that Judge Ross had ruled that â€śex-gayâ€ť was a full fledged â€śsexual orientationâ€ť entitled to full protection under anti-discrimination law.
You know, if thatâ€™s going to be their legal strategy, I say let them waste their energy. Ex-gays are certainly unpopular in many sectors of the populace, as are we! But they are not disliked on account of their sexual orientation. They are disliked because they are unpleasant, self-righteous nutcases, an attitude that is not prohibited by any civil rights law that I can summon up.
Way To Go Minneapolis!
The Lutherans gave the green light to ordaining gay men and lesbians in long-term relationships the other day, which was nice. Thank you, Lutherans. â€śLutheranâ€ť is the wrong term because these were, I forget, Evangelical Lutherans of America, or some long name that covers the largest Lutheran body.
The vote, at a Minneapolis convention, led one local pastor to insist that God sent a tornado to the area as punishment. I gather there was indeed a tornado. But it did limited damage, so maybe it was Godâ€™s clumsy way of giving Minneapolis a high five.
And in other end-of-column news, the ACLU spent this morning (Wednesday) arguing against the Florida adoption law before a state appellate court in Miami. Not one but two lower courts have recently ruled that the horrible anti-gay law is unconstitutional, and in this case, the state has appealed the decision. The ACLU is representing Martin Gill, the foster father of two brothers, four and eight, who he and his partner have raised since the younger son was an infant.