Thanks to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for taking the steady flow of good news out of the state legislatures this year and translating it into a concrete statement of facts. The 2007 sessions have been the â€śmost productive in the history of the GLBT movement.â€ť
For the first time ever, over half the American population lives in areas that outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (52 percent). More strikingly, over a third (37 percent) live in areas that ban trans bias, up from five percent in just seven years.Â
Finally, we now have equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in no less than seven states. That covers about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
The key advances this year include several laws, either signed or to be signed shortly, include trans-inclusive civil rights laws passed in Iowa, Oregon, and for the Colorado workplace. Vermont has passed a trans-rights bill to accompany its standing law against gay bias.
Full civil unions were passed in New Jersey (under court order) and New Hampshire. Another full marriage rights bill was passed under a different name in Oregon. Speaking of that, I was struck this week by the many articles on New Hampshireâ€™s civil union bill, compared to relatively few articles on Oregonâ€™s new domestic partner law. Both measures passed in the first week in May, and both offer all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples under another name.
But it seems as if â€ścivil unionâ€ť now carries an implication all its own and sounds better than â€śdomestic partner.â€ť Likewise, California, which calls its same-sex marriage version domestic partnership, is sometimes left off the list of states that recognize gay couples by lazy reporters who donâ€™t realize that California partners are on par with those in Vermont.
Personally, I think we should have a confusing array of maybe a dozen different names for same-sex couples. Not only will this hamper the opposition, but it will hasten the day when a majority in this country just sighs and admits that separate categories of gay marriages make no sense.
Meanwhile, speaking of confusing, Washington also passed a domestic partner law, but that status provides only some, but not all, of the rights of marriage so it doesnâ€™t count as an equal marriage rights state.
Ice State Kills Bad Bill
That entire discussion of state legislative news doesnâ€™t even include all the bad ideas that got nowhere, such as the attempt to send Alaskans a constitutional measure to ban domestic partner insurance. That idea lost a house vote by failing to win the necessary two-thirds majority the other day. The damn thing got a 22-14 majority but still fell short of the 27 votes needed.
Nor does it mention good ideas that made or are making progress short of passage. Thereâ€™s some chance that the New York marriage equality bill just introduced at the hands of Governor Eliot Spitzer might get a floor vote in the assembly before the session ends in mid-June. It wonâ€™t make headway in the GOP-controlled senate, but still. Hitting one chamber would be a feat.
And letâ€™s not even start with California, where the gay rights bills come tumbling out of the gate on a daily basis, it seems, the latest being a measure to make name changing as easy for partners and newlywed men as it is for heterosexual married women. That bill passed the assembly this week and heads to the senate.
Wam Bam Thank You Maâ€™amI donâ€™t know about you, but I am tiring of state legislative news. It may be positive, but itâ€™s not quite as entertaining as, um, the British lesbian sailor who punched out her ex-girlfriend and another woman during a drunken shore leave brawl in Denmark last fall.
I know! Another one! And itâ€™s a quintessential example of the â€ślesbians behaving badlyâ€ť story. It has the four main elements that characterize the genre. First, the protagonist is British or from a former British colony. Second, she is in uniform. Third, the jealous rage is not fatal. And finally, the victim ends up forgiving her ex-lover for the violent incident.
It lacks an element of the absurd, such as a harrowing ride at knifepoint down the M5, or accidentally lighting people on fire in their trailer. But Iâ€™m happy with the story nonetheless. According to Metro.co.uk, Former Steward First Class Chelsea Johnson, 19, had recently broken up with Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic Emma Scott. The breakup had been ugly, the report said, â€śbut after that their relationship had become amicable.â€ť
Well, sort of. The women were on shore leave from the HMS Cornwall (of recent hostage fame) and I gather Emma was off with friends in one bar, while Chelsea was downing nine pints of lager in another. By my calculation, thatâ€™s over a gallon. Not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that! Chelsea caught up with Emma and company at an Australian bar. She followed them out and punched Emma in the face. Petty Officer Kate Wells tried to intervene and got a knuckle sandwich of her own. Woah!
Johnsonâ€™s court martial was Tuesday, although it may be continued since Wells was unable to testify due to problems with her video link from the HMS Cornwall. And no, Iâ€™m not sure whether Emma has forgiven Chelsea for the fisticuffs, but she will. She already forgave her for an unspecified â€śphysical altercationâ€ť after their relationship ended, and Iâ€™m sure Chelsea is really really sorry. It was the lager talking. Or assaulting. Whatever.
Ground Zero Convention Will Adjourn
Oh, I forgot to mention that the Massachusetts constitutional convention is meeting as we go to press on Wednesday, but the senate president is expected to adjourn with no action on the amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That amendment must win 25 percent support from the legislature this year or next year in order to advance to voters in November 2008. Gay advocates need to sway about seven votes in order to kill the amendment, so we want all the time we can get.
Senate President Therese Murray, who supports gay marriage, said the legislature is too busy working on the budget to be distracted by amendments at this point. But she has pledged to allow a vote on the matter before the end of the 2007-2008 session.
CEOs Behaving Badly
And without further ado, letâ€™s move on to gossip. Specifically the juicy details of the former CEO of British Petroleum, Lord Browne of Madingley, and his 25-year-old rent boy, Jeff Chevalier of Canada. According to a tell-all account in the Sunday Mail, Lord Browne, 59, lived high off the hog, hosting intimate dinners with $5,000 bottles of wine, flying the world in a private jet, hobnobbing with the Prince and Princess of Kent, attending operas in Salzburg, lying by the pool at the best hotel in Venice, seeing the latest museum exhibits on private after hours tours, and having Tony Blair over to his house for dinner for four.
Business was always mixed with pleasure and vice versa, so much so that poor Jeff couldnâ€™t really enjoy himself after awhile. Take the pool at the Cipriani in Venice. The pool was fine, but the people were so irritating. Like gnats!
â€śLade McAlpine, David Furnish and Elton John, U.S. Congressmen and Senators, the heads of corporations, Jude Law and Sienna Miller and countless other notables would approach usâ€”or on rare occasions we would approach themâ€”and these pool afternoons would turn into business meetings, albeit on a casual basis,,â€ť Chevalier said.
â€śThere was no enjoyment in sitting by the Cipriani pool in the company of John because of the constant intrusions.â€ť
For four years, Chevalier dutifully attended every party and every opening.Â He was â€śmade comfortableâ€ť in all Browneâ€™s homes, he recalls. â€śWhen I broke a rock crystal wine glass that had cost over 2,000 sterling I was not made to feel bad about it.â€ť
But eventually, it was all too much. Jeff couldnâ€™t remember peopleâ€™s names even though he had met them many times. â€śLord and Lady so and so, billionaire and his wife, the PM and Anji, CEO of Vodafone or whatever companyâ€¦ it soon became too numerous for me to remember.â€ť The young escort developed social phobia and begged to be excused from dinners and functions. But Browne insisted he attend. â€śUltimately,â€ť Chevalier says, â€śI experienced panic attacks from the thought of not knowing to whom I was speaking. John could not understand why his world was so difficult for me.â€ť
The two broke up acrimoniously last year, at which point Chevalier began plans for an expose. In an effort to stop publication, Browne went to court, where he lied to the judge about how he and Chevalier met. Browne said they met in a park, in fact Browne hired Chevalier from an escort service. The perjury, along with the looming media attention from Chevalierâ€™s revelations, led Browne to resign his BP post on May 1.
Whatâ€™s In A Name?
So there you have it! Meanwhile, werenâ€™t we going to get the list of names from the DC Madam? What happened to that? According to the Associated Press, one of the people in her little black book was described as â€śthe head of a conservative think tank.â€ť
Wait. Iâ€™m reading that the Madam is going to auction off five one-hour taped interviews this week with bids estimated to start at $5,000. Perhaps sheâ€™s keeping her powder dry until then.
Before I go, I have to pass on a completely irrelevant item discovered in the Dallas Morning News the other day by my adored girlfriend, who was reading the Hints from Heloise column. In this particular issue, Kathy M from Simi Valley found herself with a dilemma concerning her old bank statements and other papers that might be used to steal her identity. Kathy was careful to shred these documents, but her shredder was â€śan older modelâ€ť that only shredded into strips. I think the newer ones produce a more confetti like end product.
Kathy was concerned. â€śI became suspicious of throwing those strips in the trash, envisioning some opportunistic crook taping the strips back together and stealing our identity.â€ť Her â€śhintâ€ť to all the other Heloise readers who might find themselves in a similar predicament was to put the strips in a paper bag and pour used cat litter on top. â€śAfter all,â€ť Kathy concluded proudly, â€śno one would go through cat waste!â€ť
Canâ€™t you see the â€śopportunistic crook?â€ť Heâ€™s wearing one of those black bandit masks and carrying a thiefâ€™s bag. Methodically, he checks the trash cans on Kathyâ€™s street. Heâ€™s already canvassed blocks in the neighborhood, looking for, well, looking for an â€śopportunity.â€ť And here it is! Carelessly shredded bank statements, which with a little time and effort, can be taped back into place to reveal their secrets!
After a laborious day spent meticulously repositioning the bits of sliced paper, itâ€™s done! The crook has acquired Kathyâ€™s bank account number. Now, all he needs is her social security number, birth date, birthplace, and motherâ€™s maiden name, and her identity will be his! Yes, it will take time. But with patience, he will wait it out.
Eventually, Kathyâ€™s trash will fulfil its promise and the M family funds will be siphoned away.Â
Not! Hah! The cat litter trick did its magic and the crook was thwarted! The only problem is that not all of us have cats. Perhaps it would be worth the investment.
Heloise, for the record, called Kathyâ€™s scenario â€śhighly unlikely.â€ť But, she went on, â€śif it makes you feel better, why not?â€ť