Do you remember that Pentagon troop survey that is supposed to inform the commission looking into how to end Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell? Well, apparently thereâ€™s a confidential online feature designed to allow gay service members to participate in the discussion. The problem is that anyone with a pin number can log on to the secret survey multiple times from the same computer, and service members can get multiple pin numbers.
Gay acti-blogger John Aravosis, who is not an active duty soldier, managed to take the survey three times, and even allowed a â€śkidâ€ť to take it (much like my mother let me fill in and return many of the forms and surveys that came to our house when I was a child). When Aravosis called the Defense Department to inquire about the porous safeguards, he was told that this online dialogue is not part of the main troop survey, but is an additional outreach particularly geared towards gay soldiers who may not want to use their official computers to respond.
Well whatever. You would think that a $4 million government inquiry would employ more sophisticated technology and one wonders how or if the main questionnaires are protected against fraud. As for the online survey, as Aravosis notes, the results are useless from the start under the circumstances.
The survey, said ARavosisâ€™s source at the Pentagon, is not meant to be a â€śreferendum,â€ť in which case one again wonders why troops are asked how theyâ€™d feel showering with gay brothers or sisters in arms or whether they think any of their current buddies might be gay or lesbian. Who cares? Who designed this program and what will be done with the results?
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit against Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell continues in Southern California and we are still waiting for the U.S. Senate to vote on the amendment to the defense budget that gives President Obama the power to end Donâ€™t Ask unilaterally.
Iâ€™ve been assuming that Donâ€™t Ask will be history by the time the lawsuit reaches the higher courts. But in the unlikely event that Obama does not end the military ban next year, the Ninth Circuit has already shown that it will no longer accept vague references to â€śnational securityâ€ť or â€śtroop moraleâ€ť in judging whether the ban is constitutional. A couple of years ago, a Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the U.S. must prove that the ban serves an â€śimportantâ€ť government purpose that cannot be accomplished without the intrusion into private lives. Interestingly, Obamaâ€™s justice department chose not to appeal that decision, which now sets the standard for any challenge to Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell in the western states.
Protests Wonâ€™t Win a Vote on ENDA
Speaking of legislative action, a group of protesters blocked traffic on the Vegas Strip, and eight people were arrested on Monday, in a vain attempt to get Harry Reid to schedule a vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
I applaud the showmanship, but it is clear that ENDA is going nowhere before the midterm elections, period. Congress takes a break in mid-August, and after that they all go into final campaign mode. ENDA has not been scheduled for hearings or votes as far as I know, and even Nancy Pelosi has said that the military ban repeal must be passed first.
All this year we were told that the bill to protect LGBT workers from discrimination would be taken up â€śafter health care,â€ť â€śsoon,â€ť â€świthin a few weeks,â€ť or â€śby the end of the year.â€ť Well, weâ€™re not hearing those optimistic predictions these days, and as I told you last week, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier told the press recently that ENDA would â€śfor sureâ€ť pass â€świthin the next five years.â€ť
Pop the Champagne!
Look, letâ€™s just drop the whole goddamn subject. I hate the bill anyway. As loyal readers are well aware, I think we should add sexual orientation to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and put LGBT workers under the umbrella of the same law that protects everyone else in this country - a law, by the way, that has been strengthened and refined by nearly half a century of court precedent. Why settle for a weak stand-alone statute, filled with loopholes, that was first introduced in the early 1990s, at a time when we had no other legislative options? It canâ€™t be that much harder to revise Title VII than it would be to pass ENDA, particularly with a five-year time horizon.
Letâ€™s pop the Champagne anyway. To drown our sorrows.
There Oughtta Be a Law!
You know, of course, that Argentina passed its marriage equality law just after our last column went to press. So yay!
I should also mention that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has rejected the effort by marriage opponents to allow the residents of the nationâ€™s capital to vote on a marriage repeal.
Marriage was legalized in Washington last March, and city law forbids ballot measures that undermine human rights. Anti-marriage conservatives have been flailing away at that law ever since, and they may still take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In last weekâ€™s ruling, the Districtâ€™s highest court split 5-4 over the question of whether the city has the constitutional right to limit the subject matter of ballot initiatives.
Oh, and speaking of the Supreme Court, were you aware that Fred Phelpsâ€™s civil liberties case is on the justicesâ€™ schedule this year? I think I knew that but conveniently forgot about it.
The case stems from one of those funeral protests, where Fred and company carried on, holding signs saying things like: â€śGod loves dead soldiers.â€ť The father of a dead soldier sued Phelps and his â€śchurch,â€ť won at a lower court, but lost on appeal. Most civil libertarians back Phelps, including our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union, based on the sensible notion that freedom of speech means very little if it doesnâ€™t apply to controversial and even hateful speech. I agree. Anyway, the Court received some written briefs on the case this week.
What A Dog Needs, What a Dog Wants
So my phoneâ€™s touch screen has stopped working, turning an essential piece of personal technology into a junky slab of plastic from one day to the next. Itâ€™s just over a year old - too old to be replaced under warranty, too young for a new rebate deal. Iâ€™m telling you this because I am bothered by it, and my underlying irritation may be bubbling up to the surface of this column.
I certainly donâ€™t feel breezy and amusing.
Do you think popcorn is bad for pugs? Iâ€™ll look it up for the expansion of our general knowledge.
According to Dr. Jon, popcorn is fine in moderation, as long as it is not covered with butter and salt. â€śNutritionally,â€ť he adds, â€śthere is nothing in popcorn that a dog needs.â€ť
A contrary opinion is proffered by Abbygirl, who warns, â€śA friend of mine said there dog died of popcorn! This is very serious! Do not ever give your dog popcorn! The kernel shellâ€™s cut there intestines open!â€ť (Sic sic sic.)
After further review, including a long trek through wiki.answers dot com, I have concluded that Dr. Jon is correct. I also encountered the following question that has â€śyet to be answeredâ€ť under the dog health rubric on wiki answers:
â€śDo dogs miss their owners before they die?â€ť
Iâ€™m tempted to click on â€śAnswer it!â€ť and say â€śNo,â€ť but Iâ€™m hesitant to join the mysterious community of people who answer these questions. Just between us, dear readers, thatâ€™s my best determination.
As for the question of whether dogs miss their owners after they (the owners) die, someone has already replied: â€śIf they had a close relationship, the dog may be depressed. But if the owner and the dog did not have a very close bond, the dog may just be sad for a little while and then forget about it.â€ť
I couldnâ€™t have said it better myself. Thank heavens for this remarkable website.
While weâ€™re on the subject of the type of websites that are updated by regular people, this morning I was alerted to the fact that Austin, Texas, is the seventh gay friendliest city in the country according to Richard Florida and his colleague, Gary Gates. Florida and Gates discovered the well-known (non-causal) link between gay density and economic vitality in urban centers, and Florida introduced the concept of the â€ścreative classâ€ť of knowledge-driven workers.
Anyway, I googled something like â€śgay friendly citiesâ€ť in order to find the recent list, and clicked on something called Indyposted. There, I read that LA was number one, followed by Washington and Boston or something like that, with San Francisco nowhere on the list, let alone Austin!
â€śIndypostedâ€ť bills itself as â€śquick news for busy people,â€ť and seems to allow anyone and his brother to put up some â€śquick news,â€ť presumably for people too busy to care whether the stuff is accurate or not. When I clicked on the original publishers of the story at Daily Beast, I got the real list (led by San Francisco, of course), and also saw a line in the text that said something like â€śamong the top twenty were LA, Washington, Boston etc..â€ť So the idiot who posted the news just mindlessly picked up the middle of the original article without looking at the actual list or wondering why the Bay Area missed the top 20.
For the record, Northern California also had the second most gay-friendly area, Santa Rosa and Petaluma, as well as the sixth, around Sacramento.
Portland, Maine (3), Boston (4), Seattle (5), Portland, Oregon (8), San Diego (9) and Springfield, Massachusetts rounded out the top ten.
Update! Indyposted added â€śin no particular orderâ€ť onto its list, and stuck San Francisco on the top by way of correction. And they left out Austin!
I indy-posted two disgusted comments on their shoddy performance.
Show Them The Money
I canâ€™t forget to mention that Constance McMillen, of high school prom fame, has settled her lawsuit with her Mississippi school district for $35,000 plus legal fees. According to the ACLU, who I hope put in many many billable hours on this case, the Itawamba district also became the first school district in Mississippi to institute a ban on sexual orientation discrimination and harassment.
Iâ€™m sure you remember that the school cancelled its prom rather than let Constance attend in her tux with a girlfriend. After a court order, they allowed Constance to go to the prom, but parents arranged another prom for everyone except Constance and a couple of special-ed kids. Constance was subsequently so badgered by her classmates that she transferred for her senior year.
Let the Games Games Begin!
Finally, thereâ€™s something amiss with the Gay Games again. Iâ€™m not a big Games fan, because Iâ€™d rather watch the best athletes in the world than watch only the best gay athletes in the world. So I never paid close attention to the big dust up that led our community to organize two gay sports events, the Outgames and the Gay Games. Hell, Iâ€™m not even completely sure which group is the original one, but I think itâ€™s the Gay Games.
Anyway, Gay Games are supposed to be held in Cleveland in 2014. This week, thereâ€™s been a rift between the Gay Games organizers and the local group that won the bid to be the host city. That group, Cleveland Synergy or Synergistic Cleveland or something like that, has in turn been cut off by the City of Cleveland, which has frozen funds until the partners get their act together.
No one is discussing the problem, so itâ€™s a mystery. But wasnâ€™t it just this sort of conflict that led the Montreal local group to sever ties with the Gay Games and create the Outgames a few years back? Itâ€™s all very confusing, and I just hope that Cleveland Synergy doesnâ€™t develop yet another expensive international gay sports fest in order to bitch slap the people at the Gay Games.
By the way, in the course of â€śresearchingâ€ť this gay games development, whatever it may be, I read a long article about the process involved in selecting Cleveland over Boston and Washington. The article was in a Boston paper, but it sounded like the selection process was flawed and that Cleveland was picked for political reasons. Boston and Washington were reportedly considered too gay friendly for the event, which is supposed to change hearts and minds and bring visibility to the community or something.
Ergo Cleveland, even though Boston may have had a better set of proposals.
(At least, thatâ€™s what the Boston paper said.)
Well, Iâ€™m sure there will be much more to say on the matter over the months and years that separate us from this momentous occasion, and I, for one, can hardly wait to see how the cookie will crumble.