Six out of the first seven news stories on āGoogle gayā this morning concern the end of Donāt Ask Donāt Tell. The other one, which naturally stands out by virtue of its original content, concerns basketball star Rudy Gay, who has been injured since the end of last season.
Good news. Heās back!
After seven months of re-hab for a dislocated shoulder, the Memphis Grizzlies forward was cleared for the court on Monday. Gay played in some special tournament on Tuesday, and looked pretty good, sports writers say. Iām not going back to the article to fill in the blanks.
Oh, donāt get your knickers in a twist. Of course weāll discuss the end of the military ban. That said, the demise of Donāt Ask Donāt Tell is not ānews,ā per se. The news surrounding our inevitable arrival at the Sept. 20 deadline involves the happiness of gay soldiers, the relief of their families, and the overarching theme of how America can inflict injustice and then change its collective mind in the space of two decades.
For the record, the notion that ending Donāt Ask was a political victory is wrong. This law met its demise thanks to one thing, and one thing only: the pro-gay 2010 federal court ruling by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips that lit a fire under the seats of lawmakers and military leaders alike. The repeal bill that languished throughout the first two years of Obamaās presidency suddenly came alive and burned through the Democratic majority lame duck Congress in the nick of time.
And speaking of Judge Phillips decision, one underreported side of this story is the fate of this ongoing federal lawsuit that is now pending a ruling at the U.S, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Although the administration has asked the court to drop the challenge to Donāt Ask in view of the lawās repeal, our side has insisted that the legal process continue to a conclusion, hoping for a federal constitutional precedent in our favor.
Not only would such a precedent improve our legal position in future gay rights cases, it could also support civil claims against the government by former gay servicemembers.
Moreover, nothing in the repeal of Donāt Ask prevents another Congress from reinstituting a ban, and nothing in the repeal prevents another president from issuing an antigay executive order concerning gays in the military in the future. Itās not likely, but as long as the possibility of such a reversal exists, thereās an argument to be made for the court to continue its deliberations.
Finally, donāt forget that nothing prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the military. True, we can no longer be discharged for being gay. But in theory, we could be harassed or singled out for some kind of disfavor under current law. Cheer, by all means, for the end of Donāt Ask Donāt Tell. Just make it a happy kind of cheer rather than a crazy ecstatic top-of-your-lungs kind of cheer.
Backwards Christian Soldiers
Moving on, I was struck by this quote in a Chicago Tribune story by a man named Mark Wathen: āIām a white male in my early 40s and Iād never experienced discrimination in my life. When I came up against this, I was like āWoah, this is not the sixties.āā
So what happened to knock Mark off the complacency perch so familiar to men of his race in this country? Turns out he and his civil union partner, Todd, decided to have a ceremony not long after Illinois signed its union bill into law last summer. But two of the wedding locations he and Todd contacted informed him that they would not host same-sex celebrations on religious grounds.
The Wathens are now planning to sue, and will file complaints against both businesses next week. At issue is the increasingly familiar idea that a constitutional right to religious freedom should translate into a right to ignore anti-discrimination laws.
Indeed, back in the day, a belief in slavery and white supremacy was once a tenet of Christian faith. But that did not allow Americans to ignore civil rights laws based on the ācurse of Ham,ā nor can homophobia take cover under the idea that gay bias is a mandate of Christianity. Itās not.
Yes, lawmakers have often carved out civil rights exceptions for churches and religious operations. But Ye Olde Country Inn is not a church. Itās a business, and it has to follow the law. If not, every store or restaurant in the nation could refuse service to blacks or gays based on an expansive notion of religious freedom.
Fighting For Marriage on Both Sides of the Ball
Hey. Iām listening to President Obama address the UN, and he just said something nice about us. Actually, Iām not ālisteningā but rather āhearingā his familiar monotone in the background. My ears perked up at āgays and lesbiansā but I didnāt catch the context.
Anyway, thanks Mr. President.
I got a fund raising call the other day from activists in Maine, who are collecting petitions for a marriage equality ballot measure. I must say that itās nice to be on the offense once in a while. I gave them a few bucks at the expense of both my wallet and my journalistic integrity. But you know what? When it comes to supporting generic gay activists who are fighting for generic gay rights goals, I can live with the ethical conflict. If the Maine activists get in trouble for election hanky panky, Iāll be happy to cover the story. Meanwhile, at least Iām transparent.
Speaking of going on offense, look for lawmakers in Washington, New Jersey and Maryland to get into the marriage equality fight this year or next. Iām sure there will be others, or may be others already that I canāt think of right this moment.
In short, weāre in fighting form on the marriage front, where we also have a few defensive challenges ahead. As you may recall, Minnesota has put an antigay constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot, and North Carolina just put one on the primary ballot next May. Damn fools.
Iowa Marriage In Jeopardy
But the development that really struck me this week came out of Iowa, where one vote in the state senate has thus far saved us from possibly seeing our existing right to marry be stripped away in a public repeal.
Thanks to the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court, Hawkeye gays and lesbians have had the right to marry since 2009. A Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor helped protect that right up until 2010, when Republicans took over the governorās mansion, the house and came within a vote of taking over the state senate. For good measure, voters also ousted three of the seven high court justices who voted in our favor, the only court members up for voter review last November.
Now, Republican Governor Terry Branstad has slyly appointed a Democratic state senator to some utility board or something, opening up a seat in a contested district that could go either way in next Novemberās special election.
Note to Senator Dandekar? Did you really have to take that job?
District 18, in suburban Cedar Rapids, is roughly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents and could easily turn into an antigay seat just a few short weeks from now. (Iām thinking One Iowa could use a few bucks from us as well.) A defeat in District 18 could lead directly to a Prop 8-style marriage amendment that would leave current marriages intact while rolling back the right to marry for gays and lesbians in the future.
On the flip side, I think federal courts have a hard time watching a majority remove constitutional rights from an unpopular minority, particularly rights that were granted on constitutional grounds by the courts themselves. Indeed, one of the issues in the federal fight over Prop 8 is not simply whether gays and lesbians deserve marriage equality. Itās exactly this question of whether voters can circumvent the courts by amending constitutional rights after the fact to target a specific group.
And while weāre on the subject of Prop 8, you probably read that U.S. District Court Judge James Ware (who succeeded Judge Vaughn Walker) recently ruled that the digital recording of the Prop 8 trial can go public effective September 30. The Prop 8 side will appeal his decision, so you may have to wait longer for the video.
If the video record isnāt dramatic enough for you, thereās a Broadway play on the trial, called ā8,ā that hit the stage for a one night reading on Monday. The play is based on trial transcripts, and apparently is pretty good.
Letās see what else we can discuss. Have you read about the male bisexual deep sea squids who canāt tell the difference between boy squids and the girl squids thanks to lack of visibility and a certain, shall we say, androgynous squid physiology?
Scientists sent some equipment down there to watch these creatures, for whatever reason, and they managed to identify some females and some males using their high fallutinā scientific techniques. To their surprise, they noticed sperm deposits on both the males and the females, suggesting that the promiscuous male squids couldnāt care less about picking a mate and were more than happy to spray their sperm deposits on whoever was at tentacle, shall we say.
Thereās also a pro-gay ruling out of a state court in Alaska that has something to do with partner rights. But Iām not in the mood for Alaska. Itās so cold and far away.
By the way, why are hurricanes called ātyphoonsā in the Pacific? Is there a meteorological difference between the two phenomena? I just went over to look that up for our joint edification, but I forgot what I was looking for and wound up reading about some columnist associated with Fox News, who compared Chaz Bono to someone who decides he or she is really an animal of some sort, not a human, and asks a doctor to attach a tail and fur. I. Kid. You. Not. Apparently Fox anchor Megyn Kelly repudiated Dr. Keith Ablow in an on-air spot, but still.
Oh, and for all Baby Boomers out there: thereās nothing that makes us feel older than the sight of Ron Howard doing a television interview. What happened to little Opie? Yes, we all know that some time has gone by, Whatās it been? Twenty years now? Ron has not aged well; thatās all Iām gonna say.
I also should tell you about the two gay women who died when the grandstand blew over in Indiana a few weeks ago. Their partners are now trying to sue the authorities for negligence and wrongful death. But unlike the husbands and wives who lost spouses, these partners are not considered legally entitled to file suit. Yet another inequity of marriage discrimination, an infuriating sideshow to the heartbreak these women are suffering.
Finally, thereās a nasty bill to ban domestic partner benefits for Michiganās unmarried public employees. That one passed the house the other day on a party line vote and now heads to the state senate. The situation is complicated by competing provisions that give power over employment policy to the stateās universities and the Michigan Civil Service Commission.
Frankly, I havenāt examined these nuances and Iām hoping that the bill will die in the state senate so that I wonāt have to delve into the tedious ins and outs of the Mitten Stateās internal regulations. But I also must point out that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently overturned a very similar attempt by the state of Arizona to cut such benefits in order to āsave money.ā Cost cutting is also the rationale for the Michigan move, even though savings are negligible.
Can you believe those squid? You know what they used to say. What happens at the bottom of the sea stays at the bottom of the sea. Guess those nosy scientists took care of that.
- Write to Ann Rostow at email@example.com.