After a bit of a meltdown last week, which I blame at least partially on the election and the news that another one Britney Spears’ marriages crashed and burned, plus the fact that she’s been married twice (but the first one was a drunken joke and only lasted 55 hours, so it doesn’t really count) in the same time that I’ve been all-but-legally married to the same (whom I didn’t steal from a girlfriend pregnant with his second child). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing more to make a mockery of marriage than she is, but damn Brit keeps raising the bar.
Yeah, I know there was an election and all that, but I’m just going to say up front that out of everything I’ve seen and heard this week, it’s a 12 minute film by a gay teenager that’s given me more hope than anything else. Go see “We Belong” over at CurrentTV and then vote for it. I only wish I’d had a video camera when I was in high school. And a parent who stood with me and stood up for me. I might have avoided years of therapy, if nothing else.
Gays Win in Record Numbers
OK. The other really bright spot in this election was the news that 67 gay and lesbian candidates were elected to Federal, state, and local offices this year. Not only is that the highest number in any election season, but it’s also 67 office holders who won’t end up being outed.
GOP Factions Point Fingers
I guess there’s also room for relief that it’s Republicans pointing at each other and saying “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” with some blaming the right wing, instead of Democrats engaged in the same thing but pointing the finger at gays (as was the case to some degree after 2004).
Dobson on 2006
Read between the lines of Dobson’s argument, particularly where Spector’s and Armey’s quotes are concerned, and can see hints of the same movement suggested by the Democratic victory. By moving closer to the center — which apparently means easing up on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage — the two parties broaden their appeal and their chances of regaining or maintaining power. But are we better off if both parties steer clear of LGBT issues?
There may be a cloud or two hovering over the defeat of Arizona’s anti-gay marriage amendment, one of the brights spots for LGBT issuse in this election. For one thing, the votes are still being counted. Jim Burroway [DK] offers a sobering analysis of just what factored into the presumed defeat of the amendment, and whether it can be replicated.
WI Amendment Costs GOP the Hosue
And Kos himself notes that the Wisconsin anti-gay amendment actually ended up costing the GOP control of the legislature in that state, even though it passed. Because it energized young voters, as well as conservative Democrats, who voted for the amendment but against Republican candidates. I suppose the one bright spot in getting anti-gay Dems to the polls is that at least it’s likely to signal the of same-sex marriage amendments as a GOTV tool for the GOP. Oh, yeah, and that whole control of Congress thing too, I guess.
About Those Conservative Democrats
How conservative are they really? How progressive are they? What makes this list of progressive issues by which candidates are measured? It’s at least worth noting what does and doesn’t make the list of criteria. The abortion issue makes the cut, but what’s missing? No questions on marriage or even civil rights for gay & lesbian Americans? Not even a mention?
About Those Gay Republican
He can be downright schizo in his positions sometimes, but when someone as liberal as I am agrees with Andrew Sullivan, chances are he’s onto something. And I think that’s the case as he expounds a bit on the dilemma of closeted gay Republicans, and calls the “Mary Cheney/Mark Foley option” out for what it is: cowardice.
The Next Bill Clinton
Election 2006 is barely behind us and already there’s at least one hat in the ring for the White House in 2008. I tend to agree with Kip about Tom Vilsack. He sounds kinda like another Bill Clinton. I admit, I fell for Clinton in 1992. And I fell hard. I can’t say that I was all that much better off at the end of the affair, though. I’m older and wiser now, and having been burned once, I don’t think I’d commit to Vilsack until after the primaries, and probably not with a lot of enthusiasm then.
Run Russ Run
Idealist that I am, I’m definitely more likely to throw my support behind Sen. Russ Feingold, who at least had the cajones to support same-sex marriage and stand up for our families in the Senate. At least in the primaries. Of course, given the Democrats current bent towards centrism, and it’s apparent payoff in this election, there isn’t a chance in hell of Feingold getting the nomination. But if nothing else I can start out with a candidate I can really support. Right?
Speaking of marriage, dsgood [DK] notes that Mexico City has taken the step of recognizing same-sex unions. If this keeps up, we’ll have marriage to the north of us, marriage to the south of us, and not much to speak of in between.
South Africa Steps Forward
And in South Africa, the former bastion of apartheid where discrimination was a matter of national policy, a Civil Unions bill is making its way to parliament and is expected to pass. I guess its inevitable, since SA’s post-apartheid constitution was the first to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. One wonders if the U.S. will actually be the last developed country in the world to embrace equality under the law for all of its citizens. My guess? If not the last, among the last.
Nowhere Left to Run
Meanwhile, back home, OblivionsPuppet [DK], a conservative diarist, point to 19 state amendments barring recognition of same-sex marriage and 43 state statues defining marriage as a man-woman thing as evidence that Americans have decided they don’t want same-sex marriage right now. But it’s also perhap a sign that Republicans have rode the issue as far as it can take them. Question is, do they have anything else? (Of course, the other question is what if the majority is wrong, but I forge that the majority can’t be wrong because it’s the majority and what the majority wants is always right, and what the majority want is what it and the rest of us should always get. I’ll take note of that, and remember it for the inevitable moment when the tables and the will of the majority swing in the other direction, against the wingnuts. And I’ll try to come up with a compassionate way of saying “Suck it.”)
Unpopular Civil Rights
No sooner do I find agreement with Sullivan than do I part ways with him again. Both he and Crain decry the Massachusetts Constitution Convention manuver that left the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment “dead in the water”, and agree that civil rights should not (“in some aspects”) be up for a vote, but that in this case an exception must be made. However, can we easily close that gate once it’s opened? If a civil right must be put to a majority vote “just in this one case,” how do we argue that no other civil rights can be put to the same vote? Say, for example, the much disputed right to privacy? Or is it just unpopular civil rights that must be put to a public vote?
I tend to agree wit Kip. Putting civil rights to a majority vote is not democratic legitimacy. “Asking the majority whether it would like to tyrannize a minority is precisely the opposite of democratic legitimacy. Indeed, it is arguably the very definition of democratic illegitimacy.” And, fundies, when it’s your civil rights that are being put to a majority vote that’s unlikely to go your way, to borrow a line from Cher (a font of wisdom for at least some gay men), don’t come crying to me. Because you’re the one’s who wanted it so that there no one has any inalienable rights. So, and I say this with all due compassion, suck on it.
Popular vs. Right
No surprise, then, that I also agree with Michael at Gay Orbit. The citizens voted for the legislators, thus had a voice in the proceedings. And if they decide the don’t like the outcome, they can unelect those reprsentatives. But if the only purpose of legislative bodies is to rubberstamp whatever the majority wants, we might as well do away with floor debate and shut down C-SPAN, since all that’s needed is a public poll. And if that’s the case, what exactly do we require the legislatures for at all?
Belts and Suspenders
I’ve been visiting Chris Crain’s blog more often lately, and not just to see his smiling visage on the sidebar, but because I usually end up asking myself interesting questions after visiting there. Could it be that, with so many states having passed amendments, the Repubilcans and the religious right have rode that horse as far as it can carry them? Is gay marriage their bridge to nowhere? And as more states establish marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, more people grow used to the idea, and younger voters who tend to support equality flex more electoral muscle, is it possible that the gay marriage horse has been carrying them backwards this whole time? Chris Crain suggests that since so many states have passed amendments and statutes (belts and suspenders) gay marriage will hardly catch anyone with their pants down now.
Crain & the Conservative Dems
Crain echos the sentiment that Dems owe their 2006 victories largely to conservative or centrist Dems who are conservative on social issues, and then suggests that Dems might want to back off controversial social issues like same-sex marriage. And gays need to lay off and focus on less constroversial issues like employment discrimination and hate crimes.
Crain’s Changed His Tune
Crain’s current stance is markedly different from his position three years ago, when he felt marriage should be a top priority for LGBT organizations. Of course that’s after numerous victories and defeats in the courts and at the ballot box. So I guess it means that marriage is now the right fight at the wrong time. Or is it the wrong fight at the wrong time?
Most Mass Voters Oppose Ban
Even though most Massachusetts voters oppose an anti-gay marriage amendment — perhaps because, thanks to the courts, they’ve seen gay marriage and the world hasn’t ended — doesn’t mean that civil rights should be put to a majority vote. Unless you want argue, as opposed to the above, that only popular civil rights should be put to a majority vote. It would be interesting, though, to hear the other side argue that even though the majority supports same-sex marriage, that doesn’t make it right. And we could take bets on how long it takes them to run back to the courts or the Congress to undo the will of the majority in Massachusetts. ‘Cause you don’t think they’d let that “democratic outcome” stand, do you?
MA Incumbents Support Marriage, Keep Jobs
As if to illustrate the previous point mem from sommerville [DK] points out that Massachusetts voters returned to office every single incumbent who voted against the anti-gay marriage amendment. Not only is supporting marriage equailty good for keeping your job in the Massachusetts legislature, but voters gave three of the most vocal opponents of marriage equality their walking papers in this election, and replaced them with marriage proponents. Maybe that’s the reason for the hysteria re: the courts, Once people live with gay marriage for a while, it doesn’t scare them so much anymore.
Belief vs. Practice
Queerty poses an interesting question in a post about a dispute between the University of Missouri and a social work student: should religion be simply a spiritual practice or should people attempt to extend their religious beliefs to social — and thus potentially divisive — practices? My answer is always that I could care less what people believe about my family. What I am concerned about is how my family is treated. But I’m inclined to agree with the commenter who asks “Why do we have to respect other people’s opinions when they are wrong?” Isn’t that what helped get us into this mess in the first place? To put it another way, when the president says “our rights come from God” shouldn’t someone stand up an ask “How is that any different from saying our rights comes from Zeus?|
Discriminate and Be Dissed
Should we respect business owners whose stated policy is ‘we don’t do business with homosexuals?” Like the landscapers in Houston? (Do they even know what kind of business they’re turning way, given how some gay men live for gardening and landscaping?) Should we spread the news about them when we come across them, or leave them to their discriminatory business? Should they be outed as a matter of “truth in advertising”? Or should bigotry and discrimination get a pass, so long as it’s dressed in religious robes?
Jesus Camp Decamps
Exposure, it seems is the worst thing that can happen so some of these people, but when an individual or an entire group becomes powerful, the quickly learn that not all shades of limelight are flattering. Case in point, the director of the camp featured in “Jesus Camp” has decided to decamp, for at last a few years, after coming under fire for brainwashing the children, getting loads of negative email, and even a visit from vandal. A few year is plenty of time for a sequel, but you gotta wonder what possessed them to let the cameras into the camp in the first place. Did they think things would look as normal to most peopl eas it did to them?
So, why do people do backbends to protect these people that Sullivan has just called “cowardly” and previously called “sad and pathetic,” if they are neither fighting to change their party from the inside or leaving the party, but instead supporting it’s anti-gay platform and policies with their work? If Ken Mehlman is indeed a gay man who’s used is position at the RNC to encourage state parties to get anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in their states, is there a reason why we shouldn’t know that? Given the consequences of these amendments on gay families in the states that pass them, why does Mehlman deserve to have his privacy protected or respected in this regard?
If Karl Rove is a married, closeted gay man who’s used his position in the Bush administration to make the Federal Marriage Amendment part of the administration’s strategy (and even the nuttiest of wingnuts are at least beginning to entertain the idea), why shouldn’t that be exposed? Given the consequences for gay families across the country, why should that be protected information?
Foleygate Blogger Blabs
Speaking of outing, Lane Hudson — the blogger who published Foley’s emails on his anonymous blog — gave an exclusive interview this week. From what he says, it sounds like no one at HRC or in the Democratic party new nothing about his blog. I can buy that. But that Hudson didn’t have political motives doesn’t quite fly with me. But even if he did, I’m not likely to complain, given the outcome.
The Suffering of Mike Jones
Since Dems are reaching out to white evangelicals, and managed to get a third of their votes this time around, I started reading Jim Wallis’ “God’s Politics” blog, after finishing his book of the same name, if only to understand what drives this high priority constituency for Dems. I have to admit, I was surprised to read this post by Tony Campolo, looking at the Haggard scandal from the point of view of Mike Jones, the male escort who outed evangelist Ted Haggard, and talking about what Jones and other gays & lesbians may have suffered because of evangelical politics. Most astounding? He actually referred to to gay & lesbian Christians as “good people.” In some quarters, the idea that one can be gay and be a good person, and that the former doesn’t preclude the latter, is earthshaking. And heresy.
Hooker with the Heart of Gold
Here’s a question that’s more interesting than whether or not Haggard’s hypocrisy should have been exposed. (Duh? Can you give me a reason why not?) Is Mike Jones the latest model of the hooker with a heart of gold? Did he do us a favor in exposing Haggard?
Fellow Ho Not Feelin’ Mike Jones
Interestingly enough, at least one of Mike Jones’ fellow escorts thinks Jones should have kept Haggard’s secret, and broke the “escorts’ code” by outing the hypocritical reverend. The killer quote? “Does haggard deserve this media hailstorm? Possibly. did he deserve to be outed by this hooker with a heart of lead? No, he didn’t.” Of course, if said hooker was the only guy with whom Haggard was getting his homo rocks off, and the “code” was never broken, he’d still be having his cake (cock) and eating it too. So, maybe it’s a good thing that Mike Jones thinks there are at least a few things more important than the 20 on the dresser. Again, why should anyone keep secrets for these people?
An Ex-Homo History of Faliure
Of course, there’s a whole history of failure behind the “ex-gay ministries,” which reveals they’ve never really worked that well for many of their participants. And now, as I noted before, many of them are giving up on the notion of changing anyone’s sexual orientation, opting instead for encouraging gays to lead “chaste lives.” So they’ve got nothing better to offer than either a life lived without love and companionship, or a heterosexual marriage that fits about as well as a round hole does a square peg. And both come with a lifelong (and losing) struggle against your natural orientation as a bonus.
And here I sit at home with my family, in a happy, healthy, committed monogamous relationship, raising a beautiful kid, and somewhere these folks are wondernig why folks like me aren’t queued up outside their doors, begging to be let in.
Practicing What You Preach
Upstream Review [DK] breaks down what Haggards real immorality is all about, and how many young men in evangelical settings are set up for the same kind of ordeal Haggard is gonig through. But you can also read it as applying to a lot of closeted gays in D.C. who quietly do the work of a party and politicians who go out of their way to scapegoat gays and lesbians, and promote legislation that hurts us and our families. As pathetic as they are, and as sympathetic as I may be to their plight, at some point the do face a choice: stop. If they don’t, then I can’t say I feel all that bad for them when the consequences come home to roost as they did with Haggard.
What’s Your Damage, Haggard?
Religious Institute [DK] breaks down what ought to be the essential question in the Haggard matter, which is basically a shorter version of Tony Campolo. Of course, for the Haggard story to work out differently his church would’ve had to offer a life affirming way to accept his sexuality in the context of his beliefs. And before clearing that hurdle they’d have to believe that it’s possible to view his sexuality in a life affirming context in the first place. And that means giving up the idea that families like mine are destroying theirs, somewhere between taking out the garbage, paying the bills, driving to swimming lessons/soccer practice/piano lessons, etc.
Being Gay Isn’t the Problem
Being a closet case and a hypocrite is the problem, says Mustang Bobby, and I agree. The only thing dark and repulsive is Ted Haggard’s infidelity, deceit, and hypocrisy. The only thing more dark and repulsive is the evangelist culture that required all of the above from him in the first place. Don’t get me wrong. Haggard made his choices. It’s just that the culture in which he lived his life didn’t leave him any good choices, if he wanted to stay in its good graces.
And Haggard knows as well as the rest of us do that if he chooses to live his life honestly, as a healthy and happy gay man, he’ll catch hell from the same folks who embraced and elevated him previously for his gay-bashing ways, and required of him a repulsive and dark existence as part of the bargain. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he’ll walk away from it. There’s Stockholm Syndrome to consider, as well as the likelihood that those same people will do everything in their power to take his family away from him.
50 Perent Failure Rate
Reparative therapy apparently has a higher failure rate than fudies like to claim even condoms have. Joe notes that Haggard’s “restoration” stands about a 50 percent chance of failure. (Perhaps more than that if you’re trying to restore something that wasn’t there in the first place, like Haggard’s heterosexuality. As I’ve noted before, the best option the wingnuts can offer is a heterosexual marriage and a lifetime of struggling to repress one’s orientations and remain faithful to a partner you have to actually work at desiring. The idea committed, monogamous same-sex relationship — without the bonus of having to “struggle” to repress one’s orientation, and the Sisyphean task of trying to work desire for a partner who doesn’t match that orientation — never comes to mind. And the other end of the bargain, for the wife, is being married to someone who has to work at desiring you? All of which leads me to ask, what do these people have against happiness anyway? Oh, and if the whole thing fails, it’s all your fault.
A Change Ain’t Gonnna Come
Tony Campolo is on a bit of a roll. First there was his post on the God’s Politics blog. Now there’s a transcript of him on CNN saying if Haggard’s gay he might no be able to change his orientation, and will have to find a way to live with it. And there’s no easy fix for it. Again, I’m just going to toss out the idea that for somenoe like Haggard, assuming he is earnest faith, that a different understanding of it’s relation to his sexuality might open up the possibility of a committed, monogamous relationship with a same-sex partner. That might have save everyone a lot of heartache if it had been possible in the first place. But it probably wouldn’t have built a profitable ministry or rated an invite to White House conference calls.
No Heavenly Help for Haggard
Dan Savage, in one of his usual biting observations, points out that Jesus apparently refuse to change Haggard’s sexual orientation. (The answer to prayers is, after all, sometimes “no.” If it didn’t work for Haggard, how can anyone say with a straight face (pun intended) that you can pray your way out of being a Friend of Dorothy? If Jesus didn’t do it for one of his biggest promoters, either that means Jesus wanted Ted to be queer, or Ted wasn’t doing as good a job representing the bossman as many people believed. Take your pick.
Haggard Says It Doesn’t Help
Even Haggard himself, in his confessional letter, says attempt a “restoration” haven’t worked for him, and he’s been trying his entire adult life. And best the “ex-gay” folks can offer him is more of the same. You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Maybe that’s why Dobson washed his hands. Whatever else he maybe, he not crazy. Not completely, anyway.
Dobson Can’t Deal
Besides, if the “restoration” project is enough to make James Dobson himself throw up his hands and walk away, then perhaps it’s time for Haggard to consider working on a little self acceptance. And a gag reflex. Sorry, probably shouldn’t have included that last bit. But given Haggard’s celebrity evangelist status, wouldn’t be big news if he was “restored” to hetero-dome, or some facsimile thereof? If even Dobson can’t do it, well maybe the not-so-right reverend is beyond repair. Like about 50% of us, according to that one guy.
Honey, You Made Me a Homosexual
I wouldn’t go so far as to blame Haggard’s wife for his down low homo business, as Andrew Sullivan quotes one evangelical minister doing. But to the degree that she was part of the same homo-hating evangelical culture that inevitably spawns men like Haggard, let’s just say I’d shed more tears for her kids than I would for her. After all, promote repression among enough gay men and you inevitably boost your odds of you (or your daughter) marrying one.
And as for the idea that a woman can make her husband go gay if she just lets herself go? Um. If a guy’s really gay, even the most attractive, in shape woman isn’t going to be able to keep him on one team if he originally signed with the other. I mean, having Halle Berry at home would not keep me from going out and trying to catch Taye Diggs. Okay?
Make a List. Check it Twice
And if they keep insisting on repressed, heterosexually married gay men, I’d suggest some of these churches start slipping the gay husband checklist (via Gawker) into their hymnals and church programs. I might give some women something interesting to do during particularly long sermons. Then again, if you aren’t clued in by the behavior on the list long before you see it in writing, your probably trying real hard not to know.
The New Whores of Babylon
Ann over at Feministing points to an interesting essay that posits gay men as basically the super sluts who are responsible for the “spiritual castration” of Christian men, and thus the destruction of the family. We, my friends, are the new Jezebel. So, uh, Mike, can you cancel any press appearances you might have planned? They’re on to us.
Safe Harbor Denied
But, as the Chicago Times op-ed Dana links to says, “What same-sex marriage offers … is a safe harbor for those who prefer monogamy to free love. It’s not a rejection of the values of marriage — its’ an affirmation.” So, if you think committed monogamous relationships are a healthy model, and 50 percent of us are beyond repair anyway, why not encourage commitment and monogamy among gays & lesbians? Let us marry each other and we might just leave fine Christian men like Ted Haggard alone.
What’s the worst that could happen, other than a increase in the number of happy, healthy, homosexuals? Unless you have a problem with that…
My theory is that they do have a problem with that. It occurs to me that, when it comes to the Republican party and their evangelical base, Ted Haggard and Mark Foley are the kind of homosexuals they prefer precisely because the Foleys and Haggards of the worldconfirm their not their worst fears about us, but what they hope is true about it. And they hope it’s true because it must be true for their understanding of the world to hold together. It’s almost as if we, or what they have to believe about us, is the cornerstone of their universe.
Take the lie away, and the rest begins to crumble, because you’ve also taken away the easy certainty that for them is also security. How else could they miss the irony of insisting that we’re all “selfish hedonists” seeking to seduce good men (What? No women? No lesbian seductresses? Now that’s telling.) away from their familial responsibilities, etc., while at the same time railing against those of us seeking to embrace the very values they claim to defend: commitment, fidelity, etc.; the exact opposite of the “selfish hedonism” they require of us, to the point that they even interpret our desire to enter into committed relationships and to have families as more of the same.
(Just this week I had someone accuse me of becoming a parent in order to “make a political point.” I can only imagine the accusation had to come from someone who’s never been a parent. Because anyone who’d been a parent, should also know better. But I guess it was selfish of me to become a parent, knowing the discrimination our families still face. So, by that logic, if I really cared about my son, I wouldn’t have adopted him in the first place.)
By continuing to commit to one another, to our families, to our communities, without even meaning to, we snatch away their last real security blanket (the ones related to race, and gender are pretty much threadbare by now) against the uncertainty of the world we all live in. And it’s that same uncertainty, that drives our commitments (because we all need at least one thing we can be certain of) and drives us to seek marital equality (because the one thing we are certain still exists in an uncertain world, where anything can happen).
I wrote a while back that the folks who are howling over the Haggard and Foley scandals really can’t complain about them, because they maintain the conditions that create men like Haggard and Foley; something Tony Campolo suggests above. But I think I got it wrong last time. There’s a method to the madness. They create people like Foley and Haggard, because they need people like Foley and Haggard to confirm what they must believe about the way the world is supposed to work.
They need that easy certainty. And we when come along and insist on not following the script, it disrupts their easy certainty, and thus destroys their roadmap through the world. For that, I can’t blame them. It is easier to be certain, to convince yourself of certainty, than to step out into uncertainty. But that may also be the definition of walking by faith.