My e-mail this week has several copies of an article in USA Today headlined: âDrives to ban gay adoption heat up in 16 states.â The first sentence announces that anti-adoption efforts âare emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage.â
Actually, no. There has been some talk of putting forward anti-parenting measures, but as far as I know there has been tepid interest, and nothing is âheating up.â A proposal in Ohio is now on its death bed, and other parenting bans have been raised and killed for several years. The article doesnât list the 16 states, but Focus on the Family seems to believe that they are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.
Based on what? Just as an example, this week the West Virginia House of Delegates voted down a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, so I canât imagine that any of those lawmakers are seriously contemplating a prohibition on gay adoption. I donât have the time or inclination to research every one of these states, but letâs Google a few of them with âadoptionâ and âgay.â
Dateline last September: âA bid by a Kansas lawmaker to ban gays from adopting children has been blocked by the chair of a legislative committee and the issue is likely dead for the foreseeable future.â I find no information about any pending bill in Arizona. Alabama had an adoption bill filed in the legislature last spring, but thereâs no evidence that it advanced. Some far right lawmaker in Oregon floated an adoption ban last year, but that fell flat, and there was also a flurry of bills in Tennessee, all of which died if I recall correctly.
I donât want to downplay the threat of right wing attacks on the GLBT community, specifically on parents. But I canât stand it when a newspaper takes a complicated and ambiguous subject and turns it into a black and white statement of fact.
Itâs actually quite a gray area, in part because assaults on gay foster and adoptive parents are far less popular among mainstream voters than are the efforts to âprotect marriage.â Second, conservatives have to worry that piling on the anti-gay politics could backfire and actually generate support for gay couples and parents. Finally, the war on marriage is far from over, so thereâs no reason to drum up a new, and less promising, call to arms.
And on that note, letâs take issue with the whole concept of a âsecond frontâ in the culture wars. The second front is not a change of subject, it is a new wave of anti-marriage ballot measures. Idaho has just become the sixth state on the list of those with a 2006 vote on same-sex marriage. The state senate passed a measure during my last deadline at roughly the point where I blithely announced there was ânothing earth shatteringâ going on in the state legislatures, and whatever they were up to could wait until this week for review.
Plus, Idaho was on my list of safe states because the legislature had killed marriage amendments two years in a row. So much for my credentials as a sharp reporter. Oh, and I also had listed West Virginia as a state that would âprobablyâ advance an amendment to the voters this year, but happily I was wrong again. Mind you, just because I have my own mild imperfections does not mean I canât condemn the glaring faults of other reporters, like the ones at USA Today.
Meanwhile, everyone still expects Wisconsin to pop out a ballot measure this year, but it looks as if legislation might stall in Minnesota and will probably die in the New Hampshire house in a few weeks. I wonât get into the petition gathering states, because I can sense youâre tired of the subject.
Did Shooter Have a Couple of Shots?
By the way, my favorite inside Washington news source, Capitol Hill Blue, writes that Secret Service agents say that Cheney (or âShooterâ as Maureen Dowd has dubbed him) was clearly inebriated during the unfortunate hunt. Iâm still sticking to my theory that he was having a tryst with Pam or Katharine. No, I donât have any evidence. This isnât the New York Times. I donât need no stinking evidence! Plus, both explanations quail tail, donât they?
No Free Pass for Hillary
Speaking of the New York Times, the formerly-Gray Lady reports that Alan Van Capelle, head of the Empire State Pride Agenda, has sent a memo to his board announcing that he will refuse to cooperate with any gay group raising money for Hillary Clinton. Clintonâs opposition to same-sex marriage deserves a reaction from the community, he reportedly wrote. And supporting her âwill send a message to other elected officials that you can be working against us during this critical time and not suffer a negative pushback from the gay community.
âWe have become a community that throws money at politicians, and we demand nothing in return,â he went on. âAnd thatâs what we get: nothing. Itâs the wrong message to send.â
Do you agree? Me too. According to the Times, Van Capelle said heâll personally vote for Clintonâs reelection, he just does not want to see her receive the financial and emotional backing of the stateâs leading GLBT organization. Clinton, like many of her Democratic ilk, has a vague position in favor of civil unions but remains disingenuously opposed to marriage equality.
Another Appellate Court Loss in NY
You know what? Thatâs a position that will be more and more difficult to maintain in states like New York, New Jersey, Washington and California, where marriage equality may arrive sooner rather than later. The Empire Stateâs highest court has just begun its review of an appellate court decision against marriage rights for gay couples. That case is on track for oral arguments in spring, and a decision later this year.
The situation was complicated last week by a separate New York appellate court ruling in a different set of same-sex marriage cases. That ruling unfortunately also went against us, but itâs not yet clear if the appeal will be combined with the first case. I canât imagine that New Yorkâs highest court, the Court of Appeals, will be hearing two identical cases, so weâll see.
I wonder how many times I can use the words appellate or appeal in one item. Not that I have much choice in the matter unless I want to lumber out of the vocabulary gate with âcourt of intermediate review.â
The latest bad a-court decision took a familiar path to injustice. There are a couple of questions any court must consider before jumping in to the meat of the two main arguments in favor of marriage equality. First, does the denial of marriage to same-sex couples amount to the denial of a âfundamental rightâ under constitutional law? Second, should the gay couples being treated differently than their straight peers be considered a âsuspect class?â
Basically, if you say yes to either question, you must wind up on the side of same-sex couples. Say no to both, and you can then ride the lowest standard of judicial review all the way to an anti-gay decision. The lowest standard of review gives the benefit of the doubt to a legislature, and accepts almost any excuse on behalf of a compromised statute.
For example, addressing the weak rationales offered by the state of New York for limiting marriage to cross sex couples, the court acknowledged:
Certainly the logic of each of these grounds is neither flawless nor finely tailored; however it need not be. âWhere rationality is the test,ââ quoted the court, â[a state] âdoes not violate the Equal Protection Claude merely because the classification made by its laws are imperfect.ââ
In other words, New Yorkâs attorneys can insist that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples improves the reading scores of third graders throughout the state and cuts crime to boot. Thatâs (almost) good enough to pass the rational basis test.
Moving on, the Associated Press reports (and I quote) that: âA man accused of fatally beating his roommate with a sledgehammer and a claw hammer because there was no toilet paper in their home has been arrested.â According to the wire service, 58-year-old Kenneth Matthews was beaten so severely that he had to be identified by his fingerprints. Killer roommate Franklin Paul Crow, 56, explained that the two of them were fighting over the status of lavatory supplies when Matthews pulled out a rifle. Crow, naturally, had no choice but to beat him into an unidentifiable pulp of flesh.
Thereâs no word on whether these intemperate characters were more than roommates. Oh, wait. I just checked out a photo of Crow on the Internet, and I assure youâbased on a lifetime of gaydar analysisâthat he is heterosexual. The two men lived in a Florida mobile home, and Crow looks, well, he looks like the sort of man who would bash your face in with a hammer if you brought home the store brand rather than Charminâ. Let alone if you left the tissue off the list entirely.
Are you wondering why we diverged off the subject of same-sex marriage into a subhuman world of mindless violence? I just felt like we deserved some fun, thatâs all.
Beating the System
Hereâs an interesting item. Apparently some British lawyers are more than willing to help non-residents scam the authorities by pretending to be gay in order to get immigration papers. Undercover reporters from the Sunday Times approached a dozen law firms with questions about whether they could sign up for civil partnerships with foreign family members or friends. Lawyers in six of the firms said it would be just dandy, noting that thereâs no requirement for civil partners to, um, be actual partners.
âIt shouldnât be a problem,â said one south London solicitor. âYou just say youâre girlfriends. As for what goes on behind closed doors, [that] has got nothing to do with anybody.â
Civil partnerships were recently launched as an alternative to marriage for gay and lesbian couples in the UK. Among other benefits, they allow you to sponsor your foreign partner for residency, and compared to marriage, they are easier to obtain and dissolve. Considering the number of fake marriages arranged for the purpose of getting residency, itâs not surprising that civil partnerships would quickly evolve into a similar device. And itâs just another example of the pitfalls of setting up parallel marriage lite institutions.Â
The phenomenon does lend itself to a good screenplay, kind of a gay version of Green Card with Gerard Depardieu and Hugh Grant. I see Gerard and Hugh as a classic odd couple, with Hugh as the prissy one and Gerard as the big slob. Of course, theyâre both straight as an arrow, but when the inspector comes to call, the two of them must suddenly turn on the romance. Everythingâs fine until Hugh comes home one day to discover that Gerard has forgotten to buy toilet paper. In a shockingly unexpected scene, Hugh pulls out a straight razor and slits his own throat.
That scene is out of another movie I just saw, which I wonât name in case you havenât seen it. For those of you who have indeed seen the throat-cutting movie, will you answer a question for me? What the hell happened in the end? Did it make any sense to you? E-mail me please.
X Marks the Spot
Do you remember Laurel Hester, the dying police officer who fought successfully for pension benefits in Ocean County, New Jersey? She died. Hardly a surprise under the circumstances, but still sad.
And before we go, thereâs a new gay gene study involving women with one or more gay sons. I read all about the research, but I canât seem to lay my hands on the article right now. No matter! I remember it all and will explain the complex science in âlaymanâs termsâ so that all you non-geneticists will understand.
It seems that womenâs cells have two X chromosomes, and menâs have one X and a Y. Women donât need the extra X, so they toss it away, in the cellular trash can, if you will. Most women pick one or the other X chromosome to toss away at random. Letâs say the X chromosomes are all called Andy and Mike. Half of the womenâs cells will throw away Andy, and the other half will throw away Mike.
But in many mothers of gay sons, all the cells throw away Andy. Or, conversely, they all throw away Mike. Whatever. They throw away the same chromosome in all their cells, which is usually ânot done,â in scientific parlance. Curious, nâest-ce pas? The researchers warned that the study sample was small, and that it remains to be discovered why the chromosome casting anomaly was not seen in all mothers of gay sons.
I promise to let you know the instant I hear anything further on this matter.
E-mail Ann Rostow at email@example.com