Like many of my fellow GLBT news researchers, I have long followed the career of NBA basketball star Rudy Gay. Mixed in between the random stories that pop up on our daily Google searches, we learn of Rudyâ€™s triumphs and failures, we nod our heads at his $82 million contract with the mediocre Memphis Grizzlies, we applaud his high scoring games and give him a mental â€śthatâ€™s OKâ€ť when the Grizzlies lose. After all, of all the pro hoopsters, it can be argued that he has the closest connection to our community, um, namewise.
his is all to explain why Iâ€™m leading this report on marriage in Maryland with the unrelated news that Rudy is out this week with a sprained toe. Get better soon, Rudy, and go Memphis!
By virtue of the same phenomenon, we are also keeping an eye on journeyman golfer Brian Gay, and although Brian is not in the news as often as Rudy, I am pleased to report that he is 19th on the PGA tour money list at the moment. Keep it up, Brian! Our civil rights movement is rooting for you.
In our main story, the head of the Maryland Senate says he thinks we have a 60 to 70 percent chance of passing the marriage equality bill in his chamber, perhaps as early as next week.
Currently, 20 state senators have come out in favor of the bill, which was the subject of seven hours of testimony before the senate judiciary committee on Tuesday. There are six others who remain undecided, and one of the opponents just switched to undecided this morning after yesterdayâ€™s hearing, bringing the undecideds to seven. We need 24 yes votes to pass, and something like 28 to avoid a filibuster. That should be possible since several of the opponents say they will nonetheless vote to bring the bill to the floor.
The Maryland House of Delegates is thought to have the votes to pass marriage equality if it makes it through the state senate, and Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley has pledged to sign it, although he prefers civil unions in principle.
If the marriage bill becomes law, conservatives are expected to race around collecting roughly 56,000 valid signatures within 40 days of Oâ€™Malleyâ€™s signature for a 2012 ballot measure that would repeal equality. Although voters may not initiate amendments to the state constitution in Maryland, they do have the ability to petition for the repeal of a statute.
I offer no opinion on whether or not such a petition drive would be successful. As for a public vote, recent polls indicate that a small plurality of citizens support marriage equality. But small margins have a tendency to evaporate at the ballot box. That said, November of 2012 is a long way away. Public opinion is moving inexorably towards us at a rate of one to two points a year, thanks to demographics. And since same-sex marriage from outside Maryland is already recognized by law in the She Crab Soup State under the Attorney Generalâ€™s interpretation, the vote will simply be about whether to allow legal marriage contracts to originate in the state.
Blacksmith State Debates Marriage
Elsewhere, we have the usual mix of good news and bad news, although the good things have a better chance of coming to fruition than their nefarious counterparts.
Rhode Islanders are considering marriage equality, and the house judiciary committee is holding a hearing on the subject this afternoon. With openly gay Democrat Gordon Fox running the House and marriage friendly Independent Lincoln Chafee in the governorâ€™s mansion, there is now at least some possibility that marriage could become law in the Teeny Tiny State, where a marriage bill is also pending in the senate.
Rhode Island lawmakers will also debate an antigay marriage amendment, although I havenâ€™t encountered any reports to indicate that this idea has traction. Letâ€™s hope that my impression is accurate and not simply a reflection of my limited attention to Rhode Island politics. But hey. If thereâ€™s a decent chance that Rhode Island could pass marriage equality, it stands to reason that thereâ€™s little chance of the exact opposite result, right?
There are quite a few other things happening, including something bad under discussion in Utah, a committee vote against our communal interests in Indiana and a mixed bag coming out of Iowa. I had actually planned to devote a significant chunk of time and space to these subjects, but Iâ€™ve just returned to my column after a break and my frame of mind has been dislodged from its legislative angle.
Do you care? I promise to cover all the developments in detail in some future issue, and you wonâ€™t miss a thing! Oh, thank you readers.
Hereâ€™s something. Did you know that Lincoln Chafee worked for seven years in his youth as a â€śprofessional farrier?â€ť I had to look him up twice. First to find out whether he had one or two â€śfâ€ť s in his name, and second to verify that he formally switched from Republican to Independent. In the course of this detail work, I discovered his surprising early mĂ©tier, something you might understand in a westernerâ€™s resume, but not what I would expect from a New Englander.
Worst Super Bowl Ad
And speaking of stereotypes, do you think that the Pepsi super bowl ad exaggerated negative impressions of Black women? I do. Iâ€™m talking about the one where the wife behaves like a harridan, physically snatching junk food away from her miserable puppy of a husband. She then finds him sneaking a Pepsi Max on a park bench and he slumps with guilt, erroneously believing that the delicious soda must be on his wifeâ€™s list of impermissible products. Turns out the diet drink is fine with her, and she even has her own can of Pepsi Max.
The husband then notices a sexy blond jogger, and smiles when she sits down on his bench. In fury, the crazy wife throws her Pepsi at him, he ducks, and the blond is knocked to the ground by the force of the can hitting her in the head. The couple runs off in a panic, with the wife apologizing to the blond as they make their escape.
The whole episode taps into societyâ€™s characterization of Black women as mean controlling matriarchs who pussy whip their husbands into submission assuming they have a husband to begin with. Thereâ€™s a milder corollary for wives in general, and TV commercials are full of scenes where men hide and connive like little boys to avoid getting in trouble for making a mess, ignoring their chores, eating the wrong thing, going out with their male friends, looking at other women and violating a whole list of imperatives from their demanding spouses.
I think what put the Pepsi ad over the top was the fact that the husband was physically fit to begin with, implying that his wife was not simply concerned about his health, but sociopathic. In one scene she even caught him eating something fattening in the bathtub fully clothed, grabbed it out of his hand and gave him what looked like a bar of soap but could have been a slice of a radish or something.
And is it my imagination, or was this ad perhaps unconsciously designed to resonate with the backlash against Michele Obamaâ€™s nutrition policies, and by extension ridicule the First Lady along with every other Black woman in America?
The problem is that ironically, itâ€™s a sexist trope. An overpowering man who berates his wife for eating junk food or spilling the ketchup would bewilder rather than amuse the television audience. The convention is compounded for Black women and men, and the stock image of the ball-breaker African American woman reinforces the double standard. Just think as well of that State Farm car insurance ad where the Black guy backs into another car and his girlfriend rips him to shreds for it. Who would deliberately attack someone they care about under such circumstances? No one! Or certainly no one that any average viewer would like.
Ten Million Bucks Allocated For Marriage Ads
So Freedom to Marry is holding a conference call in a few minutes, but Iâ€™m going to skip it because they already announced the big news: to wit, a $10 million public education campaign over the next three years. The group will launch the program with a sweet little ad that I saw on their website, to be aired on CNN.
So, good for them. Ten million is a lot of money, and public education is a worthy activity. That said, I donâ€™t feel like going through the whole call-in process when I can just read the press releases.
Prop 8 Case on the Snail Track
Meanwhile, in case youâ€™re wondering, nothing seems to be happening with our marriage lawsuits at the moment. We are still waiting for the California Supreme Court to decide whether or not to consider the question of whether Prop 8 people would have standing under state law to represent their positions in court. A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel has made it clear that they believe the question of whether the Prop 8 people have standing under federal law depends to a large extent on the state law interpretation, so theyâ€™ve asked the California justices to weigh in on this less-than-scintillating matter.
And so far, a month or so later, the California High Court has yet to tell the Ninth Circuit what it plans to do. If the justices agree to look at the issue, at this rate weâ€™ll be waiting around for half the year for their actual views on the subject. Only then will the Ninth Circuit (perhaps) continue their deliberations on the underlying question of whether Prop 8 is constitutional. And for all we know theyâ€™ll drop the case completely if they decide the marriage opponents lack standing. So much for the â€śfast trackâ€ť that once defined the pace of this high profile litigation.
Over in the First Circuit, the twin challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act continue on schedule, with our sideâ€™s briefs due March 1, followed by another set of arguments from the Obama administration.
And we are waiting with interest for a ruling on the question of whether the Defense of Marriage Act forbids the Ninth Circuit from offering spousal benefits to a lesbian staff attorney. That case was argued quite a while ago, and with my luck, a dramatic ruling will be issued shortly after I file this column, making me look like Iâ€™m not on top of things. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.
These are not the only federal cases of interest to our attentive community, but they are the ones at the front of the pack.
And to be completely accurate, we canâ€™t forget the federal case against Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell, which is still active, even though Congress has set the lawâ€™s repeal in motion. As long as DADT is still on the books, the Ninth Circuit will continue to treat the federal lawsuit against the law as a live conflict.
As you know, the ban on openly gay military service wonâ€™t be officially dead until after the government certifies that its repeal will have no impact on military readiness. Once thatâ€™s done, in a few months I guess, President Obama will have to do something else - make a proclamation or sign something or order something. I forget the exact procedure.
I am assuming that the repeal rigmarole will reach its conclusion before the lawsuit ends, making the litigation moot. Then again, allowing gay soldiers to serve does not necessarily end sexual orientation discrimination in the military, so perhaps some constitutional issue will remain in play even after the law is gone.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.