Lost in the ENDA news is the remarkable national demonstration for same-sex marriage called Seven Straight Nights, led by our heterosexual marriage allies from the Atticus Circle and by Soulforce. The overnight vigils began last Sunday and continue through the 13th in over 30 cities around the country. From Ames, Iowa, to Greenville, South Carolina, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Salem, Massachusetts, participants will spend a white night calling attention to the discrimination facing gay couples and showing the country that the fight is not exclusively being waged by same-sex couples.
Seven Straight Nights is an example of increasing activism by heterosexuals, many of whom became involved in the marriage battles after watching their states vote discrimination into their constitutions by depressing majorities.
Here in Austin, Texus, where I call home, Atticus Circle founder Anne Wynne was appalled at the 2004 results, when 11 states amended their constitutions with anti-gay language. âWhen I saw the margins these propositions passed by, I thought âwhere were the people who think like my husband and me?ââ In Arizona, the only state to defeat an anti-marriage initiative, Susan Hurley and her husband âwent from the kind of people who make phone calls and write letters, to being the people standing on the street corners with signs in our hands.â
Elsewhere, Seven Straight Night vigils are being run by church leaders and local figures, including the First Lady of Wisconsin, Jessica Doyle, who will stay up all night October 10 with supporters in Madison.
But perhaps the most significant straight ally is this yearâs winner of PFLAGâs Straight for Equality Award, none other than syndicated advice columnist Dear Abby, otherwise known as Jeanne Phillips. Phillips, who took over her motherâs column five years ago, has always been gay friendly, telling bigots to get over themselves, and encouraging anguished pre-teens to face life and the future with pride and optimism. Speaking to the Associated Press this week, Phillips said that anything less than marriage equality amounts to second class status. âI believe if two people want to commit to each other, God Bless âem,â said Phillips. âThat is the highest form of commitment for heavenâs sake.â
âIf gay Americans are not allowed to get married and have all the benefits that American citizens are entitled to by the Bill of Rights,â she added, âthey should get one hell of a tax break.â An interesting proposal, nâest-ce pas? Would you trade marriage rights for an income tax exemption?
Materialistic bastard! I shouldnât have asked.
Boys Boys Boys!
You know readers, Iâve let you down. I donât know how it happened, but last week I managed to miss the latest Republican sexcapade, an attempted toilet tryst by a Louisiana politician who was running for the state senate. I say âwas,â because the day before his sordid past was about to be splashed all over the front pages of the Oct. 4 Times-Picayune, St Bernard Parish council chairman Joey DiFatta dropped out of the race, explaining that he had had a few chest pains and âmight haveâ had a mild heart attack.Â The New Orleans newspaper reported that DiFatta has been picked up twice in the last ten years for bathroom bad behavior. In a 2000 episode, he tapped a deputyâs foot in the next stall, and when the undercover cop tapped back, DiFatta reached under and touched the manâs leg, telling him: âI want to play with you.â
Meanwhile, Iâve got an even better conservative scandal on my list, specifically the saga of corruption at that bastion of Christian rectitude, Oral Roberts University. According to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former Oral Roberts professors, the university president Richard Roberts has paid for a lavish lifestyle with university and ministry funds. Billed to the institution as an âevangelical function of the president,â was a $30,000 private jet vacation to Orlando for Robertsâ high school daughter and friends. Robertsâ wife Lindsay received a red Mercedes convertible, a white Lexus SUV, and thousands of dollars in clothing. The family home was remodeled 11 times in 14 years, at the ministryâs expense.
But it gets better! Mrs. Roberts allegedly ran up $800 a month cell phone bills, sending hundreds of text messages in the early hours of the morning âto underage males who had been provided phones at university expense.â University and ministry staff were on call to do the kidsâ homework or other personal tasks, and a longtime maintenance employee was fired to make room for one of Lindsayâs boy toys.
The lawsuit itself contends that the professors were wrongfully fired after complaining publicly that Roberts was illegally involving the school and its resources in a local election, a violation of Oral Roberts Universityâs nonprofit status. The professors say up to 50 students were dispatched to work on the mayoral campaign of one of Robertsâ friends in Tulsa. In the course of the dispute over the campaign, the professors compiled a report of the various goings on in the Roberts menage, and turned it over to the Board of Regents, after which they were fired. The report, written in part by Robertsâ sister-in-law and leaked to the professors, turned up as part of the court filings this week.
Richard Roberts is the son of 89-year-old Oral Roberts, and the scion of an evangelical empire with annual revenues in the $76 million range.
Shaken and Stirred
I just couldnât let that story go without Google Imaging Lindsay Roberts, whose sappy Christian homemaker look barely disguises the trashy tramp who (allegedly!) lives inside her annoying exterior. âRichard and I,â she simpers on her âmake your day countâ home page, âhave put together four messages on CD, titled Itâs Time For a Miracle, that I believe can be a help to you as you face the difficult times in your life with a holy expectation of Godâs miraculous power. I want to encourage you to plant a seed of your faith in this ministry and believe that God can use that seed to meet the needs youâre facing, as He multiplies it back to you good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, according to Luke 6.â
Mmmmmm Hmmmmm! Praise God. Â
Elsewhere, Lindsay tells us that âThe Lordâ recently gave her a message on seven things (âI call them 7 Ups,â she chirps) that include âpray up, show up, hush up, speak up, cheer up, look up,â and (my own personal favorite) âhook up with Jesus.â Oh sorry. Is it Wednesday already? Make that âhook up with Tony from the engineering school.â
State News and More Sex!
Moving along, thereâs good news out of Oregon, where the effort to stage a repeal vote on two gay rights measures enacted this session has fallen short by a handful of signatures. Oregonians will be protected against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination starting Jan. 1. And same-sex couples will partake in all the rights and responsibilities of marriage under the stateâs new domestic partner registry that takes effect the same day. Had the petitioners succeeded, both those laws would have beenÂ put on hold pending a vote in November 2008.
Ohmygod! I just flipped to an item on my list called âS Dak Lege,â which I assumed had something to do with, I donât know, state politics in South Dakota? But luckily for us, itâs another same-sex political scandal, this one involving a Democratic state senator who was accused of fondling an 18-year-old page in a motel room last year!
I donât know how we missed this one, which triggered hearings and a public reprimand for Dan Sutton last January. The accusation by Austin Wiese was never proven and no criminal charges were filed, although the 37-year-old Sutton admitted that he had indeed shared a bed with his youthful aide.
Now, Wiese has filed suit against his former boss, seeking $250,000 for mental anguish, shame, indignity and several other expensive side effects of the encounter.
The other piece of state news I have to report comes out of Arkansas, where the usual suspects are going to mount a petition drive to ban unmarried sexual partners (Hey! Thatâs us!) from adopting or becoming foster parents. Arkansas once had an administrative policy banning foster parenting, but the policy was struck on the grounds that the state agency that promulgated said policy overstepped its authority. Notably, the state courts never said the policy itself was unconstitutional, only that the ban in question should have been initiated by the legislature in order to pass muster. After the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the lower court last year, conservative lawmakers tried to pass anti-gay parenting measures, but failed. Ergo, they are now trying another strategy, a doomed one we hope.
Lesbian Soldierâs Death Suspicious
Finally, and I admit that I am skipping a couple of arcane legal news stories this week, mystery surrounds the gunshot death of lesbian Army National Guard soldier Ciara Dunkin in Afghanistan.
According to the Associated Press, the 30-year-old payroll clerk was found dead three miles inside the perimeter of what the AP called âa highly secure baseâ with a gunshot wound to the head. Her sister told the Quincy, Massachusetts Patriot Ledger that when Ciara was home on leave last month, she hinted that she had stumbled upon some improprieties. âShe was in the finance unit,â said Fiona Canavan, âand she said âI discovered some things I donât like and I made some enemies because of it.â Canavan said that Ciara warned her to investigate if anything happened to her.
The family said suicide is out of the question, telling the press that Ciara left a cheerful Happy Birthday message on her brotherâs voicemail on the day she died.
Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, along with Congressman William Delahunt, are pushing for an inquiry. q