Good morning, dear readers. I will be on vacation next week, so be prepared for exciting GLBT news to break while I am not around. It always happens. Meanwhile, I would be remiss were I not to wish you all a very merry Pride weekend! As an assimilationist at heart, I should in theory be looking forward to the day when the Pride Parade is obsolete, a silly remnant of a discriminatory past, no more meaningful than a Renaissance Festival.
But I donâ€™t feel that way. I suspect (and hope) there will always be a GLBT community, even after our civil rights are long granted. Not the self- important activists and not the libertines. But the off-beat, wild and crazy krew that glides easily from the boardroom to the courtroom, from the bonfire on the beach to the Champagne breakfast at dawn. Ageless, race-less and always forgiving of those that trespass against us.
We are Pride!
Now, moving on to the news, I am completely perplexed by the situation in Illinois, where no one seems willing to defend the stateâ€™s straight-only marriage law!
Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed coordinated state lawsuits a few weeks ago, both combining to represent something like 25 same-sex couples. It felt like a blast from the past, since our gay legal allies have been spending most of their time in federal court for the last several years.
Yet, here they were back in state court, presenting the kind of freedom-to -marry case that won us marriage rights in states like Massachusetts and Iowa.
First, we read that the Governor was on our side. Then we heard that the Attorney General agreed. Then we learned that the Cook County Clerk, the official defendant in the cases, was also a supporter of marriage equality. Nonetheless, I assumed that the Clerk, David Orr, would be obliged to defend the Illinois marriage statute, just because.
But that was wrong. Last Thursday, Mr. Orr and his legal colleague, Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez, both announced their opposition to the antigay marriage law and refused to rise to its defense. Now what? Unlike the situation in California, there are no initiative proponents to take up Satanâ€™s banner here. The law under attack was passed ages ago by lawmakers who also donâ€™t seem inclined to fight.
According to the Chicago Sun Times and others, lawyers at the far right Thomas More Society are hard at work drafting motions to intervene on the antigay side. No judge wants a case to win by default. At the same time, itâ€™s hard to see why a bunch of conservative hacks have standing to take part in a challenge to state law just because theyâ€™ve got their knickers in a twist and nobody else has the stomach for it.
Weâ€™ll see. Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll learn a lot more about Illinois state procedures while weâ€™re at it. Donâ€™t worry; weâ€™ll just fly right over the boring details.
Mr. Hollandeâ€™s Opus
Youâ€™ll be happy to know that the socialists won a controlling majority in the French parliament, which sets the stage for passage of a marriage equality bill. I gather a law has already been drafted in anticipation of left wing victory, so itâ€™s easy sledding from here.
Ah, remember how excited we were when the Netherlands broke ground with their marriage equality law back in the day? Now, the whole thing is vieux chapeau indeed. At least in the Euro-zone.
Iâ€™ve been reading good things about Maine, not that I trust a poll of 500 people conducted in June with a five-point hit-or-miss margin. That said, marriage equality is winning by 55 to 36, with an undecided group at 9 percent.
The poll asked a convoluted question that included some gratuitous lingo about protecting religious freedom. Thatâ€™s annoying, because no church is ever forced to conduct ceremonies that lie outside its tradition. But weâ€™re also getting tired of having to bow and scrape before so-called religious expression, which is little more than an excuse for bigotry.
Plus, the language that is now approved for Maineâ€™s November marriage vote doesnâ€™t even mention religious exemptions. Instead, it asks voters: â€śDo you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?â€ť This sounds straight-forward enough, so to speak. But of course we do better when we soothe everyoneâ€™s baseless fears by adding nonsensical religious exclusions.
Put all of this together, and who knows where Maineâ€™s voters stand? Personally, I havenâ€™t forgotten the breathless optimism in the run up to Question 9, a 2009 marriage repeal that we lost quite handily after everyone said we had a great chance to win.
Three years is, however, a long time in the modern fight for marriage. And the passage of time alone is worth several percentage points of the vote. By the way, while I was reading about Maine I noticed that someone caught a 27-pound lobster off Rockland. Theyâ€™re going to put him back in the ocean.
The lobster was named â€śRocky,â€ť and I am wondering just why Rocky was returned to Neptuneâ€™s arms. Heâ€™s just going to wind up back in the trap like a bad penny. If not, heâ€™ll die alone on the ocean floor and eventually get picked over by little fish and crabs. Why canâ€™t someone eat him? If I were a lobster, thatâ€™s how Iâ€™d like to go out. Poached and sprinkled with a little lemon. Hot butter on the side and a cold bottle of Bandol Rose on ice. Oh, Rocky. What if?
Dale Dale! Heâ€™s Our Man!
So, speaking of polls, there was also a positive poll out of Washington, where, as you well know, we will soon be defending our marriage equality law against repeal. This poll was based on over 1,000 citizens, but I still approach it with wariness. Just consider the headlines on Google:
â€śSame sex marriage in substantial lead: poll,â€ť said one.
â€śPPP Survey: Narrow majority of Washington voters support same-sex marriage,â€ť said another.
So which is it? A â€śsubstantial leadâ€ť or a â€śnarrow majority.â€ť Turns out itâ€™s both. A â€śnarrow majorityâ€ť of 51 percent believe same-sex marriage should be legal. On the other hand, â€śsubstantiallyâ€ť fewer people, 42 percent, think the reverse. The other seven percent cannot take a stand for whatever reason.
My point, however, is that gay friendly blogs and papers canâ€™t help themselves. They invariably spin the news to our advantage rather than simply reporting the information. Why? Do GLBT reporters think weâ€™re more likely to win if we really, really hope and pray? Do they feel compelled to offer â€śgood newsâ€ť or â€ślook on the bright sideâ€ť? These are supposed to be sources of information, not cheering squads.
In another piece of news on the subject of marriage campaigns, the forces of evil in Minnesota are way behind us in fund raising. Over last year and the first months of 2012, the enemies of freedom and equality have raised about $1.4 million in support of the antigay constitutional amendment on Novemberâ€™s ballot.
Our side, led by handsome law professor and author Dale Carpenter, has raised $4.6 million over the same period. You go, Dale! Dale is the treasurer of Minnesotans United for all Families and the author of Flagrant Conduct, the inside story of Lawrence v Texas, that came out recently to rave reviews.
Six Secrets for A Healthier You!
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard many times that gay marriage campaigns have â€śalwaysâ€ť ended in defeat for same-sex couples. You may also have been reminded in this column that we once won one of those elections, namely, a ballot measure in Arizona back in 2006.
So, itâ€™s not true that weâ€™ve lost 32 out of 32 of those votes. Weâ€™ve lost 32 out of 33, or maybe 31 out of 32. Whatever. This is sort of beside the point, but the minor inaccuracy infuriates me only because itâ€™s not that hard to correct.
Oh, and letâ€™s not forget that Washington voters refused to repeal their domestic partner law in a 53-47 vote in 2009. No, itâ€™s not a vote on â€śmarriage,â€ť but itâ€™s significant nonetheless. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, mainstream media.
At any rate, I was recently attracted to an Associated Press headline that read: â€śFive Reasons Gay Marriage Losing Streak may Be Over.â€ť Was my interest perhaps tied to nearly two decades of professional focus on the subject of marriage equality?
No! I was drawn to the piece because it promised â€śFive Reasons.â€ť I love stories with â€śNine Tipsâ€ť or â€śTen Common Mistakesâ€ť or â€śEight Keys.â€ť Thereâ€™s something comforting in knowing that the author has done what feels like mathematical analysis and produced a handy list to guide you in your weight loss, financial decisions or personal happiness.
The format also implies that these are the best â€śfiveâ€ť or â€śeightâ€ť reasons. And after youâ€™ve digested the top entries in the category, why bother with tip number eleven or reason number seven. Who needs it? Life is tough enough.
I hope Iâ€™m not breaking any confidences when I confess I was briefly involved with a health magazine where the wonderful publisher and I frequently invented numerical lists for the cover headline. At the time I was a self-indulgent chain smoker who started happy hour as soon as the sun was over the yardarm (in the mid-Atlantic). My publisher was equally hedonistic.
But that didnâ€™t stop us from piously suggesting in print that readers â€śskip that fattening dessert and pick an apple instead!â€ť or, â€śnext time, take the stairs instead of the elevator.â€ť
The copy may have been trite, but the headlines would grab you by the collar and pull you in. â€śTen Steps to Perfect Health!â€ť â€śLose Five Pounds with these Five Tricks!â€ť At any rate, this is all to explain why I pulled that AP story onto my desktop. Five reasons! What could they be?
The reasons our losing streak may end are as follows:
Reason one is because the authors think we have a chance of winning in Washington, which (obviously) is a tautology.
Reason two is because Republicans are less opposed to same-sex marriage than they once were, which is basically a manifestation of the general trend in our favor.
Reason three is because polls are moving in our direction, another tautology and a rehash of Reason two.
Reason four is because the authors think we have a good chance of winning in Maine. See the comment on Reason one.
Reason five is the impact of Obamaâ€™s personal statement in support of marriage equality, which could inspire voters in Washington and Maine. Alternatively, the authors hedge, it could antagonize the opposition. Um, whatever.
I donâ€™t know about you, but I was disappointed in the â€śfive reasons.â€ť But would I have bothered to read an article headlined: â€śWashington, Maine voters might support marriage equality in November?â€ť
Donâ€™t think so.
Oops. I forgot to tell you about two more recently filed federal lawsuits! Happily, itâ€™s not too late. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal suit in North Carolina, arguing that the Tobacco stateâ€™s refusal to allow gay parents to adopt their partnerâ€™s children is unconstitutional. If this just sounds like same-old same-old legalese to you, itâ€™s really not.
Increasingly, we are going into states like California, like Nebraska, like North Carolina, and challenging state-based policies under the U.S. Constitution. Itâ€™s a new tactic in several respects. It reminds me of cartoons where the naughty animal is increasingly bombarded by an evolving variety of ammunition until he or she curls up, defeated.
In New York, meanwhile, a married lesbian has filed suit in federal court against a Catholic medical center in Westchester County, claiming that the center is hiding behind the Defense of Marriage Act in an illegal effort to withhold spousal employment benefits. Blue Cross Blue Shield is also named in the suit, which aims to become a class action case.
Had I but space enough, and time, I would expound on the potential of a distracting debate over religious freedom. Lucky for you, I have neither, and I am now officially on vacation!
--A new version of Annâ€™s column is available every week at sfbaytimes.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.