We already knew that several government agencies had investigated or somehow mucked around in the gay rights movement under the guise of fighting terrorism. I think it was NBC that first described a Department of Defense agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, which in turn, operated a kind of makeshift terrorism watch group called TALON, short for Threat and Local Observation Notice.
Although TALON was supposed to be looking for strange men signing up for pilot training and things like that, it appeared to veer off into a hunt for generic Enemies of the State, including student protesters who objected to military recruitment on campus due to the military‚Äôs discrimination against gays. With this in mind, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed several Freedom of Information Act requests asking for all documents relating to domestic surveillance of gay campus organizations.
When the government dragged its feet, the SLDN filed suit. I‚Äôm not sure where that suit stands, but the other day the Feds coughed up several reports that will make your jaw drop.
The three reports cover campus demos at UC Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and NYU. In each case, the ‚Äúsource‚ÄĚ was someone who forwarded a quasi-public e-mail announcing a protest. The reports inexplicably included the longitude and latitude of the college in question and labeled the ‚ÄúIncident Type‚ÄĚ as ‚ÄúSpecific Threats.‚ÄĚ
The astonishing part was the written analysis of each case, in particular the description of a February 2005 event at NYU where students objected to the arrival of JAG recruiters at the law school and arranged to protest a symposium that the military lawyers were planning to attend. ‚ÄúIn addition, we‚Äôre having a protest that day,‚ÄĚ wrote the student activists in a completely innocuous e-mail. ‚ÄúThe details have yet to be worked out as the protest may involve OUTlaws from other schools participating in the symposium.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe term OUTlaws is not defined in the posting,‚ÄĚ warned the analyst. ‚ÄúThe [blacked out] is concerned this is a security issue. Specifically the term OUTlaws is a backhanded way of saying that it‚Äôs all right to commit possible violence and serve as vigilantes during the symposium. Therefore it is possible that physical harm or vandalism could occur at this event.‚ÄĚ
What? Are these people out of their fucking minds?
‚ÄúThe term NYU appears to be New York University, and NYC is New York City,‚ÄĚ the intelligence expert went on to reveal. Then, after managing to ascertain the address of the NYU law school, the agent delivered an update:
‚ÄúPer a US Army Counterintelligence Agent and based on additional research from the original source, the term ‚ÄúOUTlaws‚ÄĚ may refer to members of the gay community that are now ‚Äėout‚Äô in the open that are studying in the law schools.‚ÄĚ Give this person a gold star! ‚ÄúHowever, per the original source there is almost nothing about the term ‚ÄúOUTlaws‚ÄĚ available with conventional Internet search engines. It is not clear if this is an organized group or if it is a term for gay law students. However, the source believes there is still a potential for confrontation at NYU.‚ÄĚ
OK. Give us back the star. Forget about unconstitutional domestic spying, the chilling of First Amendment rights, and the implicit attack on the GLBT community by our own government. There‚Äôs something even more important at stake. These bumbling idiots are the men and women who are entrusted to save us from another 9/11!
Where are the classic Cold War intelligence agents, their trench coats pulled up at the collar, a cigarette cupped inside their hands as they wait for their contact in a back alley in Prague? Where‚Äôs the man with nerves of steel and a tiny camera, copying documents even as the enemy walks down the hall before escaping down the fire escape? Where‚Äôs the brave woman with the microfilm hidden on her hair clip, flirting with the guards who would kill her in minute if they only knew?
But no! Instead of heroes in the War on Terror, we‚Äôve got a bunch of bet hedgers (‚ÄúNYU appears to be New York University‚ÄĚ) who can‚Äôt conduct a simple Internet search. (Hey, fellas. Google ‚Äúoutlaw gay law students‚ÄĚ for a long list of GLBT law student organizations.) Imbeciles.
Men In Black
So, the Equality Riders from Soulforce are continuing their visits to right-wing campuses, this week stopping off at Brigham Young for a dozen or so arrests and another round of heartwarming discussions with eager students. It seems as if a lot of these students are quite anxious to have a dialogue with the Soulforcers, which makes one wonder what the hell they‚Äôre doing at Brigham Young, Liberty or Baylor. Kids! NYU and Berkeley are taking applications.
The group was observed by ‚Äúsecurity officers wearing dark suits and ear pieces,‚ÄĚ who were ‚Äúmilling around in groups of twos or threes‚ÄĚ watching closely, Soulforce said. What is it with all these people? They put the ‚Äúphobe‚ÄĚ in homophobia.
The news is on the thin side this week. On Tuesday, the ACLU met Attorney General Mike Cox in a Michigan appellate courtroom to argue their side of a major lawsuit challenging the scope of the state‚Äôs anti-marriage amendment. Cox has issued a non-binding opinion insisting that the 2004 amendment prohibits state employers from offering domestic partner benefits. The ACLU, a lower court and the (cute) governor disagree.
There‚Äôs also a pretty big story out of Oregon, where the highly successful activists at Basic Rights Oregon are adopting a new strategy based on a 1997 appellate court opinion that everyone‚Äôs forgotten about. The Tanner decision was big news at the time, so much so that I remember the gist of it without having to slow myself down with actual research.
The case involved staff at the Oregon Health and Sciences University (Science and Health, whatever) who argued that by tying employment benefits to marriage, the state was discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and denying equal protection to the plaintiffs (or due process or something).
The court agreed in a decision that was heralded around the country as a landmark opinion, and then‚Ä¶ nothing. Well, not much. The state university system had to offer domestic partner benefits, but as Basic Rights Oregon notes, the implications of Tanner are much broader than a passel of partner perks. Under the ruling, the state of Oregon may not make laws or policies contingent upon marriage, and then deny the protections or benefits of those laws to same-sex couples just because they‚Äôre not married. It‚Äôs similar to the situation in Alaska, where the high court recently ruled that the state can‚Äôt ban gay marriage with one hand and then offer all kinds of goodies to married couples on the other.
As such, BRO has just filed a suit on behalf of two women who want both their names on their son‚Äôs birth certificate. Although state law would automatically give parental status to the married male partner of a new mother, regardless of whether he was the biological father, the powers that be sent these women a birth certificate with only one name listed and the other parent‚Äôs area left blank. This is the first of a series of lawsuits meant to enforce the Tanner decision nine years after the fact.
In Your Easter Bonnet. And? What else?
You‚Äôve probably read about the Egg Roll. It‚Äôs been on my list for weeks, but I‚Äôve skipped it because it‚Äôs too‚Ä¶ what? I can‚Äôt put my finger on it. It‚Äôs too sweet. All these same-sex families are planning to go roll eggs with Laura on the White House lawn and show the country that we‚Äôre here, queer, and we also have adorable children who love to cavort.
I guess I just prefer the sordid world of state politics, the cutthroat moves of the courtroom, the passion of activists up in arms. Give me the outrage, the hatreds, the turmoil, the war on Christians. I have no time for cuddly kids, all dressed in pastels, their chubby fingers stained with chocolate bunny. That said, you go gay families! Roll on. If there are any egg-based competitions, kick some ass.
Marry Me Bill
You know of course, that Fristy is planning to engineer another election year Senate vote on the federal anti-marriage amendment. According to an article in The Hill, the bad guys will probably pick up four new votes this time around, but they will nonetheless remain well short of either the 60 votes they need to force a floor vote, not to mention the 67 votes they would require to pass the amendment. The Hill estimates the amendment will win 52 ayes this summer, after racking up 48 in 2004. The change is due mostly to the election of four GOP Senators who took seats held by Democrats in the last election, damn them.
By the way, I just read the latest report from the Republican Policy Committee on why the federal amendment is necessary. Like its predecessor, written several years ago, the report is actually quite encouraging from our point of view. It concludes that ‚Äúany effort to reserve [the question of marriage policy] to the states‚ÄĒeither by conscious design or through lack of leadership‚ÄĒwill guarantee the imposition of same-sex marriage by the nation‚Äôs courts.‚ÄĚ (Yay!)
The 16-pager also provides a clear explanation of why the federal Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to prevent the eventual spread of equal marriage laws around the country. And it posits that by the time a marriage case arrives at the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices will be bound by court precedents and find themselves ‚Äúunder enormous pressure to craft a national solution‚ÄĚ that will legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country.
Hope so. Now we just have to make sure the federal marriage amendment stays bottled up until we can elect a Democratic majority in 2006 and a Democratic administration in 2008.
Meanwhile, new polls in New York and Rhode Island are looking good. Same-sex marriage is favored by a 53-38 margin in a survey commissioned by Empire State Pride Agenda, up from 47-46 two years ago. In Rhode Island, where a bill to legalize same-sex marriage is stuck in a legislative committee, a poll by Marriage Equality Rhode Island showed support at 45-39, with over two thirds of people under the age of 40 in favor of marriage rights.
No Go LOGO
In church advertising news, the United Church of Christ has come out with a new TV spot that shows unacceptable parishioners, like gays or Arabs, being thrown out of their seats at the push of an ejector button. The commercial is similar to UCC‚Äôs bouncer ads where burly guys at the church door refused admission to African Americans, lesbians or other unsavory would-be worshipers. The tag line indicates that everyone is welcome at the United Church of Christ.
That ad caused a stir and was rejected by a number of outlets on the grounds that it was ‚Äúpolitical.‚ÄĚ But the new one has already been blackballed by none other than LOGO, the gay oriented cable network run by MTV and owned by Viacom. Why, you ask? Again because, as MTV announced, ‚Äúour guidelines state we will not accept religious advertisements that may be deemed as disparaging to another religion.‚ÄĚ
Oh, please! The ad is disparaging intolerance, not ‚Äúanother religion.‚ÄĚ I don‚Äôt know about you, but LOGO is off my viewing list, replaced by a channel called ‚Äúhere! TV.‚ÄĚ ‚Äúhere! TV‚ÄĚ is another GLBT network that stepped up to the plate and immediately offered to run the UCC ad for free as a public service. It seems you have to pay to get that network, but it‚Äôs available on a large number of satellite and cable systems.
And while we‚Äôre flexing our financial muscles, we are all advised to buy Fords (which are under attack from the religious right) and turn our collective back on BMW (which does not offer partner benefits). BMW also owns Rolls Royce and the company that makes Mini Coopers. Yes, I know they‚Äôre precious little buggies but you can‚Äôt get one until their parent company gets with the program. Sorry.