Whatâs going on in New Jersey? For the last several weeks, all weâve heard is that the state senate in Trenton lacked the votes to win a marriage debate. Hence, the story went, the bill to legalize marriage in the Garden State would not be brought to the floor.
Then, this week, New Jerseyâs marriage equality bill edged out of the senate judiciary committee on a 7-6 vote and suddenly it was scheduled for a full senate vote on Thursday! Did this mean that gay allies had found the necessary 21 votes in the 40-member senate? It wasnât clear.
As we go to press on Wednesday comes word that the Thursday vote is off. Instead, the bill will be heard in the assembly judiciary committee, where itâs been stalled. And after that, who knows? A vote in the assembly? A vote in the senate? Both? All we know is that something has to pass the state legislature before incoming governor Chris Christie takes office on January 19. Christie has pledged to veto any marriage bill, while lame duck Jon Corzine will sign it, so our window is closing. Ahhhhhhh!
Oh, and Garden State native Bruce Springsteen came out for marriage, so maybe that will help our cause. (Sing with me! You canât start a fire. You canât start a fire without a sparkâŠ.)
High Court Takes Case of Anti-Gay Campus Group
Aside from developments in Trenton, the most interesting news to hit the presses this week comes out of the U.S. Supreme Court, where on Monday the justices announced they would hear the case of the Christian Legal Society (CLS), a group that was denied official status on campus by the University of Californiaâs Hastings College of Law because it did not adhere to Hastingsâ non-discrimination policies.
For some reason, this petition has been lingering before the Court for months, not being accepted, but not being rejected either. Not sure what to make of that, but in any event, the justices finally took a position and decided to take up this complicated question.
Think about it for a second. This is a national organization of Christian lawyers, law students and judges that only accepts members who believe in Jesus and reject sex outside of specifically heterosexual marriage. Gay people cannot join unless they are ârepentant,â which I suppose means that they donât want to be gay and are trying to turn straight. Whatever. The bottom line is that only prim devout heterosexuals need apply.
Hastings, like many public universities, requires its official student groups to practice non-discrimination, so in light of the Legal Societyâs anti-gay policy, the law school denied it recognition. Indeed, this is the only group that has ever been given the thumbs down at Hastings. It means that the CLS canât get free meeting space, communications, or travel funds, but other than that they can still get together and do whatever it is they do. The organization sued Hastings in federal court, and lost, both at the trial level and at the Ninth Circuit.
On the other hand, this same organization ran into the same problem a few years back in Illinois, where the Seventh Circuit ruled in their favor. So we have a conflict in the federal appellate courts, which often tempts the Supreme Court to step in and settle the matter.
So, is Hastings violating the CLSâs right to freedom of expressive association and/or freedom of speech? Or is Hastings simply enforcing a neutral anti-discrimination law? The easiest way for me to answer the question is to imagine a campus group with a religious view that excludes Blacks. Would their right to expressive association trump the schoolâs right to outlaw racial discrimination? No.
Further, the Christian religion does not forcibly include anti-gay prejudice. For these jokers, itâs apparently a tenet of their faith. But thatâs their particular interpretation of Christianity. Itâs not a religious imperative any more than the âChristian Church of White Powerâ view that Blacks are unworthy of membership would be considered constitutionally protected religious freedom.
And this brings us to the core debate that has arisen over recent years; namely, the idea that gay rights laws or the right to marriage infringes on âreligious freedomâ by forcing anti-gay churches and Christian groups to keep their biases out of the public arena. Look, you can still hold your White Power assemblies in the basement, or write your blog about how gays are going to Hell. But you canât turn Blacks or gays out of your restaurant, out of your giant apartment complex, or out of your publicly funded university campus club. Anti-gay discrimination is no different from sexism or racism, and it shouldnât get a religious pass simply because society has more sympathy for the practice.
I just read that Purina did a hidden camera study of cats to find out what they did all day. Curious? Turns out the felines spent 5 percent of their time playing with toys, 6 percent of their time sleeping, 12 percent of their time playing with other household pets, and 21 percent of their time looking out the window.
I think thatâs kind of interesting, but hereâs my question: What the hell do they do for the other 66 percent of the time? These are small animals stuck in the house with limited options. They donât read, cook, watch TV, pay bills, clean the house, take baths or go online. The only other thing they might do is sit on the couch wide awake, or maybe day dreaming. That seems unlikely. I have half a mind to dig up the raw data.
Well, further research tells us that 8 percent of the average catâs day was spent climbing on things, and another 4 percent was spent âeating or looking atâ food. Iâm still stumped on the other 50 percent. Turns out that the full report is available on the Friskies website blog, but this part of the site is down at present. How frustrating!
And now, a day later when I should be reading legal briefs or talking to activists in New Jersey, I have instead devoted another half hour to the intriguing mystery of the Cat Left To Its Own Devices. In the end, I had to download the latest issue of the âScratchington Post,â to arrive at the answers.
Indeed, cats spend another six percent of their time looking at TV, books or other media. Hmmmm. They spend some time sitting in the bathtub or sink, and the rest of their day is spent hanging out in various rooms in the house, particularly in the kitchen and bedroom. Another big chunk of time (6.3 percent) is devoted to âhiding under the table.â So there you have it. Itâs not a bad life, really. Introspective little creatures.
I wonder what it would be like to go through one 10-hour period following the cat paradigm. Iâd have to cut way back on my âeating or looking at foodâ habits. And the hour or so lying under the table would be tedious. But I think I could handle it. Maybe Iâll try it and report back to you. Do you think they look out the window so much because theyâre waiting for their owners to come home?
Our New Gay Bishop
Letâs go back to our news slate, shall we? I think itâs time.
The diocese of the Episcopal Church in Los Angeles has elected a lesbian bishop, who would be the second openly gay prelate in the United States if she is confirmed by whoever confirms these things (a bunch of other Church mucky mucks, I think). No sooner was Mary Glasspool named to the post, than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a statement of disapproval, warning the Americans that rocking the boat in this manner could cause the Anglican ship to sink.
But look. Itâs been six years since the Episcopalians shook up the Anglican Communion by appointing an openly gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire. The conservative churches in Africa and South America are never going to forgive us for Bishop Robinson, so we might as well add Bishop Glasspool to the mix. And of course, the weirdest recent development in the soap opera that is the Anglican Communion was last monthâs offer by the Pope to carve out a place for disenchanted Anglicans in the Catholic Church as, I donât know, kind of shadow members who wouldnât have to believe everything the Catholics believe.
How exactly would that work? I confess I havenât paid a great deal of attention to the schismatic goings on, but I think somehow everyone will survive. As far as I can tell the Episcopalians will hang on to the beautiful cathedrals and parish lands, while the new American Anglicans will set themselves up in the empty Linens âN Things at the local strip mall and listen to video sermons from Uganda, or maybe Rome. Enjoy!
Tickle Me Richard
Speaking of Uganda, Rachel Maddow is tearing it up this week, featuring long segments every night on the proposed Ugandan legislation that punishes âaggravatedâ homosexuality with the death penalty.
The law, which looks like it will pass, also incarcerates those who know about a gay tryst but fail to report it to authorities within 24 hours. Promoting homosexuality gets you prison time, and actually being gay could get you life behind bars. Maddow has been connecting the dots between various American anti-gay zealots and the Ugandan lawmakers who are pushing this bill.
Last night, she featured Richard Cohen, author of Coming Out Straight, a proponent of the notion that gay men suffer from not being loved by their fathers and school chums. Cohen, we learned earlier, employs a cuddling technique to help gay men get over their unwanted orientation, pulling his clients into a warm embrace on the couch and running his hands down their backs as they bury their heads on his shoulder. The self-taught therapist told Rachel that he personally loves homosexuals and does not approve of Ugandaâs proposed death penalty at all!
Cohen may not approve of Ugandan activists, but Ugandan activists approve of Cohen, quoting his various books and hailing his transformation from gay to married father of three.
I noticed that Cohenâs Coming Out Straight book was co-authored by none other than Dr. Laura Schlessinger, our nemesis from back in the day when she called us âbiological errorsâ and tried to launch a TV show. And this brings me to a confession. I am a Dr. Laura fan.
I started listening to Dr. Laura when I lived in San Francisco and she was making headlines in the gay press for her venomous anti-gay comments, which of course I did not appreciate. But I became addicted to her show, mainly because I loved it when she told some whining housewife to get a grip or simply move on and stop obsessing about some minor injustice, perceived insult or other narcissistic complaint.
Anyway, Iâve continued to listen to Dr. Laura off and on, and lately I noticed that she is no longer homophobic. She has completely changed, and no one has really commented on this transformation. The best example I just found online was a discussion she had with Larry King last April, when she called committed gay relationships âa beautiful and healthy thing.â Laura stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, but she told Larry:
âIâm very big on human beings finding love, attachment and commitment and being faithful to it, because thereâs more to benefit when there is real true commitment and faithfulness to it. I still believeâŠthat marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. So not calling it marriage works for me. But that two people would have that sort of commitment to me is very healthy and very positive thing in their lives and society as a whole.â
She also has good advice, including good advice for gay callers.
I see I have run out of space, and it occurs to me to go up and edit the segment on cats. But no. I will adhere to my âmoving finger having writ, moves onâ philosophy of never revisiting the earlier portions of my column.
However, before I go, I must urge you to watch this Saturday for the mayoral runoff election in Houston, where openly lesbian Annise Parker is fighting for the right to lead the nationâs fourth largest city and make history in the process.