January 17, 2014
December 28, 2013
Benjamin Cosman of PolicyMic.com speculates that we could have marriage equality in all fifty states by the end of 2016. He writes:
The news: An 18th state just joined the ranks of those that allow same-sex marriage in the United States. Just one day after New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize gay marriage, a federal judge made Utah the 18th, ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriages violated constitutional rights. After the weekend, on Monday, December 23rd, the same judge denied a request to place a hold on same-sex weddings.
Ohio, too, came a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage on Monday. A federal judge ruled that state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. While this doesn't overturn Ohio's ban on gay marriage, Judge Timothy Black came out pretty hard against the ban, calling it unconstitutional, which means more challenges to the law are sure to come in the future. Black's ruling gives them strong footing, meaning Ohio could become the 19th state sooner rather than later.
Why this matters: At the most obvious, this matters because there is now one more state that allows gay marriage. With Utah, almost 40% of Americans live in states where same-sex marriage is legalized. The higher that number goes, the bigger a deal it is.
But this most recent ruling is particularly important, I think, because of where it comes. I'll let one of Utah's most recent married couples explain:
"We expected Utah to be the last place we could get married," said Adam Blatter, who rushed with his partner to get a marriage license after the ruling last week.
You see, Utah is among the reddest of red states. According to Gallup, Utah is the fifth most conservative state in the U.S., and the most Republican state (the difference: ideological identification versus party identification). It is by far the most conservative state to legalize gay marriage so far. Granted, the state itself didn't legalize it — there wasn't a measure put to voters — but simply the fact that same-sex couples can legally marry in the most Republican state in the country is a big freaking deal. And a sign of just how far things have come — and where they're going.
The pace is picking up. Of the 18 states to legalize gay marriage, eight have come in 2013. Four of those came in the last two months of the year. Undeniably, the push to legalize same-sex marriage has gained momentum.
With Ohio on the verge — and Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia not far behind — 2014 could see even more states legalize same-sex marriage than 2013, which would push the number of states with gay marriage to nearly half of the union. It seems the U.S. Supreme Court kicked something off with its decision on DOMA that has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
Which is a bit funny, because it goes along with something Justice Antonin Scalia said about same-sex marriage in the U.S. He compared the legalization of gay marriage to dominoes, saying that if one law based on moral grounds is ruled unconstitutional (like gay marriage), then it will be easy to knock down all moral laws (like laws against bestiality and murder). But really, one ruling for gay marriage isn't setting off a domino effect with other moral laws — it's setting off a domino effect with other laws banning gay marriage. The more states that legalize same-sex marriage, the easier it becomes for other states to do the same.
At the end of 2013, we have almost 20 states that allowed gay marriage. At the rate we're going, we might top 30 in 2014. And even more in 2015. Who knows — by 2016, we could have same-sex marriage legalized in every single state. One side clearly has momentum. And it's only going to increase from here.
December 26, 2013
That time of year has arrived for some personal lists and I am not immune from creating them! In fact, I love reviewing the year and measuring our enormous progress as a community.
1. The Supreme Court DOMA Decision
Without question one of the most historical moment in the history of the American LGBT community. Because of this decision, we have seen cases being filed all over America. Even more amazingly the courts are becoming activists in granting LGBT Americans their Constitutional Rights. No were is that more clear then the recent decision legalizing marriage in the state of Utah.
Also this case sealed Edie Windsor as the Rosa Parks in LGBT history and as "Person of the Year'. We could not have asked for a better person to file the DOMA case.
2. The Supreme Court Proposition 8 Decision
Another powerful decision from the United State Supreme Court which granted marriage equality to the largest state in America. Californians flocked to get married. While we wish it could be broader, coupled with the DOMA decision it changed LGBT history.
3. Russian Oppression of Their LGBT Citizens
The persecution of Russian LGBT citizens by both the government and Putin's Punks brought the plight of LGBT citizens around the round to the attention of the media, activists and governments.
4. Severe Penalties Being Passed Against LGBT Africans
The horror facing LGBT Africans is among the worse in the world. While not getting the attention of what is happening in Russia, the passage of severe laws against homosexuality is appalling. Uganda has just passed life imprisonment. Africa's largest country Nigeria also has passed outrageous laws against their LGBT citizens.
5. Marriage Equality Passes in More States
Marriage Equality swept the nation this year and we saw Minnesota, Illinois, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and now Utah all become marriage equality states.
6. Pope Francis Shifts From Social Issues
The impact Pope Francis shifting from social issues to economic issues can't be underestimated. His famous "Who am I to judge" statement was the beginning of the end of the persecution of LGBT citizens by the Catholic Church. We all have to pray for a long life for this Pope so his policies have time to take hold in the church and he is able to appoint lots of new Cardinals.
7. Prime Ministers Picked in Belgium and Luxembourg
Prime Minister Bettei with Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri
At one time to have an LGBT mayor was considered historical but now we have two Prime Ministers in Europe who are open. Iceland led the way but now it is simply no big deal.
8. Mayor Races Across The Country
Politically it was the race for Mayors that attracted the LGBT community's attention this year. We were successful in picking up a mayor in Seattle, re-electing one in Houston and being disappointed in New York.
9. President Obama Continued Advocacy and Appointments
The President has been relentless in advocating for freedom and justice for LGBT citizens not just in America but around the world. His appointments continue to amaze although we still are looking for that first LGBT Cabinet member! Nevertheless, appointments of Ambassadors to top tier nations like Australia, Denmark, Spain and the Dominican Republic is a real victory.
10. The Embrace Of The Democratic Party
LGBT Americans have been fully embraced by the Democratic Party especially after the DOMA decision. Only three Democratic United States Senators do not support marriage equality, the entire leadership of the Party is for it and the Democratic ticket in Virginia ran on it and defeated a hard line anti-LGBT ticket! Times have changed!
Runner-Up (Emerging Big Story for 2014): The Emergence Of LGBT Athletics and Allies
All over the sports worlds we have seen athletes come out of the closet. This was the year of Jason Collins and so many others. We still have yet to see an active player in football, basketball and baseball play in a game doing the regular season. Count on 2014 delivering on that milestone!
December 24, 2013
Alan Turing (First In Photograph)
In a stunning correction of an injustice, Queen Elizabeth has pardoned British genius Alan Turing who saved hundreds of thousands of British lives in World War II only to be rewarded with disgrace since he was a homosexual. Turing committed suicide in shame in 1952 after being convicted of 'gross indecency' for having sex with men.
NBC News reports on the pardon.
Queen Elizabeth II granted a rare "mercy pardon" Monday to Alan Turing, the computing and mathematics pioneer whose chemical castration for being gay drove him to suicide almost 60 years ago.
Turing was one of the leading scientific geniuses of the 20th century — the man who cracked the supposedly uncrackable Enigma code used by Nazi Germany in World War II and the man many scholars consider the father of modern computer science.
By the time he was 23, Turing had hypothesized what would become today's computers — the Turing machine, which could emulate any computing device or program. Almost 80 years later, Turing machines are still used in theoretical computation.
In 1950, Turing came up with the famous Turing Test to determine whether a computer can be considered to have attained artificial intelligence.
But Turing was also gay at a time when that was a crime in Britain, and instead of being hailed as one of the crucial figures in defeating the Nazis, he was convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 for having had sex with a man.
"So at this Christmas there is nothing that could possibly be under my tree that will bring a smile bigger to my face than the hundreds of couple lining up with dignity to claim their God given freedom and celebrating this holiday by getting married. "
I came out 38 years ago and it was without question the best decision I ever made in my life. In some sense, the moment I came out is the moment that I started living life as a free man. Never in my wildest imagination 38 years ago did I believe I would live long enough to see many of the milestones that have been reached in the LGBT community long remarkable journey.
However, one that has brought a huge smile to my face is to see the same sex marriages taking place in the staunchly Mormon Utah.
While the courts will still have to render their opinions, a record number of marriage licenses were issued in Salt Lake City for one day. Over 300 couples applied for and received marriage licenses. Such mobs storming city halls to obtain marriage licenses hasn't been seen since the Great Valentines Day Revolution that took place in San Francisco in 2004 when 6,000 people waited in line for freedom.
The images are remarkable, moving and tear inducing. You can see some of them here.
Five counties shut down city hall to avoid granting such licenses which was in clear violation of the court order. In fact, it reminded me of city halls shutting down in the 1960's so they wouldn't have to register African-American voters. Jim Crow in some ways is alive and well in some counties in Utah.
Even the Mormon Church issued a statement, while opposing the decision, was somewhat tepid. Maybe they know that the proverbial fat lady has sung.
So at this Christmas there is nothing that could possibly be under my tree that will bring a smile bigger to my face than the hundreds of couple lining up with dignity to claim their God given freedom and celebrating this holiday by getting married.
Thank you Santa!
December 18, 2013
President Obama yesterday sent a powerful message to President Putin and the Russian people about their violence and brutality directed toward LGBT Russian citizens. Obama in selecting the 'official delegation' to the Russian Olympics clearly made his feelings known about this issue.
Not only did the President make clear that neither the President or Vice President would not be attending Putin's party but he appointed two openly LGBT athletes to be part of the delegation. Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano will represent the United States and be very visible in Sochi. Can't wait to see what kind of actions the two of them will take in Sochi since they are protected by the United States government.
President Obama now joins a long list of heads of state who are refusing to attend the Olympics in protest of the Russian treatment its LGBT citizens. We can only hope the trend continues and the Russians have only 'D-List' guests to its big party.
Now if we can only convince NBC News and Sports to begin covering this story. Surely Matt Lauer and the Today Show will have King and Boitano on in the next week. Right?
Posted at 05:56 AM in Foreign Policy, International LGBT Rights, International Olympic Committee, International Relations, LGBT, LGBT Athletes, LGBT History, LGBT Russians, LGBT Sports, President Barack Obama, President Putin, Russia, Russian Gays, Russian Olympics, Sochi Olympic Games | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 12, 2013
While continuing to make progress in America, the international news for LGBT citizens continues to be disturbing. Two major 'high court' decisions this week made second class citizens of LGBT people in both India and Australia. Both should serve as a reminder to LGBT Americans that we are one court decision away from our rights being taken away.
In India, the high court actually made gay sex illegal. This wasn't just a marriage equality decision but a ruling by the highest court in India that its LGBT citizens are illegal and are breaking the law when they make love. Literally millions of Indian citizens were impacted by this ruling and the nation basically set up a system of apartheid for our community. The decision could not be more disturbing or dangerous.
Knowing personally Australians you keep thinking that the nation is progressive just because of their outgoing, fun-loving nature. Well, the high court in Australia overturned marriage equality in the land of Oz. Those couples that had been married in areas where it was legal saw their marriages thrown out by the court. In just one swift decision, the marriages were ruled invalid.
The message for LGBT Americans is loud and clear.
First, for those of you who think we are out of danger here in America, think again. Our job is not done. We are still facing a sharply divided Supreme Court that could turn on us with just one vote switching. Second, our oppressors are committed to seeing our rights taken away and have not stopped. Clearly we have had impressive victories but we are still vulnerable and have a long way to go.
Second, the situation internationally continues to get worse. The Sochi Olympics is a good place to focus the plight of Russian LGBT citizens but in many nations the situation is much worse. Even in Australia and India they took our rights away in a blink of an eye.
Celebrate our victories here at home but don't let your guard down or our enemies will seize that moment and LGBT Americans will end up fighting to regain lost ground. As for our brothers and sisters in India, they must know we are with them in the struggle and Americans will not rest until all LGBT global citizens are safe.
December 09, 2013
Towleroad.com has released (what I hope will be an annual list) of the 'most powerful coming outs' of the year 2013. The year has been a very busy year and the list contains 53 names of people who came out as a member of the LGBT community. Some of the choices and their rank will suprise you! The list is fascinating and you will find yourself saying, "Oh yea, I forgot they came out".
Click here to see the entire list but here are just three profiles from the powerful list of 53 names.
7. Ted Chalfen
We now live in a world where a high school student's graduation speech can have an effect on thousands of people thanks to social media and Ted Chalfen, a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, made a viral splash back in May when he stood at the podium and said:
“I’m going to skip all of the clichés I want to rattle off right now, and get right to the point…I’m gay. Many, if not most, of the students here today know this, and most of them don’t really care. That is exactly the reason why I decided I had to give this speech.”
13. Clive Davis
Music industry icon Clive Davis roared out of the closet in February with a new memoir, The Soundtrack of My Life, in which he declared himself bisexual and said he's currently involved with a man.
Said Davis: "After my second marriage failed, I met a man who was also grounded in music. Having only had loving relationships and sexual intimacy with women, I opened myself up to the possibility that I could have that with a male, and found that I could....Bisexuality is misunderstood; the adage is that you're either straight or gay or lying, but that's not my experience. To call me anything other than bisexual would be inaccurate."
22. Anton Krasovsky
Well-known Russian TV personality Anton Krasovsky came out in January during a live broadcast and was fired from his job.
Said Krasovsky: "I’m gay, and I’m just the same person as you, my dear audience, as President Putin, as Prime Minister Medvedev and the deputies of our Duma."
Krasovsky's act of courage made international headlines and drew attention to the country's oppressive anti-LGBT laws, and he was interviewed on CNN and by MSNBC's Thomas Roberts in November.
The Sunday New York Times in an article by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz tackles the always difficult question of how many gay men exist in America While the research is just for gay men one could assume that it would apply to the entire LGBT community. The really interesting result of the study is that half of gay men appear to be still in the closet.
Here is an excerpt from the article and you can read the entire article by clicking here.
Using surveys, social networks, pornographic searches and dating sites, I recently studied evidence on the number of gay men. The data used in this analysis is available in highly aggregated form only and can be downloaded from publicly accessible sites. While none of these data sources are ideal, they combine to tell a consistent story.
At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.
There are three sources that can give us estimates of the openly gay population broken down by state: the census, which asks about same-sex households; Gallup, which has fairly large-sample surveys for every state; and Facebook, which asks members what gender they are interested in. While these data sources all measure different degrees of openness, one result is strikingly similar: All three suggest that the openly gay population is dramatically higher in more tolerant states, defined using an estimate by Nate Silver of support for same-sex marriage. On Facebook, for example, about 1 percent of men in Mississippi who list a gender preference say that they are interested in men; in California, more than 3 percent do.
Are there really so many fewer gay men living in less tolerant states? There is no evidence that gay men would be less likely to be born in these states. Have many of them moved to more tolerant areas? Some have, but Facebook data show that mobility can explain only a small fraction of the difference in the totally out population. I searched gay and straight men by state of birth and state of current residence. (This information is available only for a subset of Facebook users.) Some gay men do move out of less tolerant states, but this effect is small. I estimate that the openly gay population would be about 0.1 percentage points higher in the least tolerant states if everyone stayed in place.
The percent of male high school students who identify themselves as gay on Facebook is also much lower in less tolerant areas. Because high school students are less mobile than adults, this suggests that a gay exodus from these areas is not a large factor.
We can approach the question of whether intolerant areas actually have fewer gay men another way, too, by estimating the percent of searches for pornography that are looking for depictions of gay men. These would include searches for such terms as “gay porn” or “Rocket Tube,” a popular gay pornographic site. I used anonymous, aggregate data from Google. The advantage of this data source, of course, is that most men are making these searches in private. (Women search, too, but in much smaller numbers.)
While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else.
Since less tolerant states have similar percentages of gay men but far fewer openly gay men, there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness. My preliminary research indicates that for every 20 percentage points of support for gay marriage about one-and-a-half times as many men from that state will identify openly as gay on Facebook.
In a perfectly tolerant world, my model estimates that about 5 percent of men in the United States would say they were interested in men. Note that this matches nicely with the evidence from pornographic search data.
SEE REST OF ARTICLE AND GRAPHICS HERE>>>>>>>
December 08, 2013
In his New Yorker column, Richard Socarides captures the spirit and passion of Republican Ken Mehlman's fight for marriage equality. In many states, marriage equality would have not happened without his dedicated work. In the new best selling political book Double Down, they write on how President Obama was moved by Mehlman's arguments and accepted his advice on strategy for advocating marriage equal.
Here is Socarides column:
The news, on the front page of the Times this morning, that dozens of leading Republicans had signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Proposition 8, the California gay-marriage ban, merited the A1 treatment that it received. Despite their party and their own past positions, Jon Huntsman, Meg Whitman, Ken Duberstein, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others said that they supported a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage. This comes two days before the Obama Administration must decide whether it is ready to file a similar brief. In the most high-profile Supreme Court case of the year, with the future of how we view civil rights and treat our fellow-citizens at stake, someone had quietly engineered enough prominent conservatives from the opposition party to sign onto a legal brief supporting full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. That someone was Ken Mehlman, the openly gay former political director of the George W. Bush White House, the campaign manager for Bush’s 2004 reëlection campaign, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
When Ken Mehlman came out of the closet, in August, 2010, announcing his sexual orientation to Marc Ambinder, in an Atlantic article, not everyone was completely surprised. But it did represent something of a turning point. For the first time, the gay and lesbian political community had a real conservative leader among its ranks, and you knew—if you knew anything about Ken Mehlman—that things would be different from then on.
It’s not just that Ken Mehlman is a prominent Republican, which makes him an important asset to—and, now, organizer in—the gay-rights movement; it’s that he is one of the smartest political operatives anywhere in the country right now, and that he understands better than perhaps anyone how moderate and persuadable Republicans think. These are the very people the gay-rights movement is now trying to speak to. As Mehlman told the Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “We are trying to say to the Court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”
The summer of his coming out, I asked Mehlman what he planned to do now that his sexual orientation was public. He told me that while he wanted to be an advocate and work for change and greater acceptance, he thought that he should first spend some time listening and learning. And, for a while, Mehlman kept a fairly low profile. They were many calls for him to apologize directly to the gay community for past misdeeds, some real and others imagined. When he came out he had said, “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” (As an out democratic staffer to President Bill Clinton when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, I understand some of what this might have been like for him.) Later, in May of 2012, after he had done substantial behind-the-scenes work to advance the cause of gay equality, he expanded on that: “At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the [anti-gay] effort… As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”
Mehlman, now an investment banker by day, is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that has organized the challenge to Proposition 8, and which hired the superlawyers Ted Olson and David Boies to spearhead it. He has worked with the other most prominent national organization fighting for gay marriage, the New York-based Freedom to Marry, and has offered his help to pretty much anyone in the effort who wants it. (I have worked with the same organizations.) He was active in the past election on the side of advocates who won in all four states where marriage equality was on the ballot: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. Perhaps he will never be able to fully undo the 2004 effort by Republicans to put anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments through in order to bring out the conservative base vote. But it will not be for lack of trying.
How was Ken Mehlman able to go to all of these people who signed this brief for gay equality and ask them for help? It was because he had worked with and known many of them for decades, and because now they finally knew him. It is often said that the most important political act any gay person can take is to come out of the closet. Telling your family, friends, neighbors, and business associates who you really are makes people aware that anti-gay discrimination is discrimination against someone they know, like, and respect. It’s not easy to come out of the closet at any age. It’s certainly not easy if you’re a teen-ager living in an intolerant community. But it also must have taken courage to come out of the closet as a middle-aged Republican who had been so prominent on the conservative side of the political debate. There were no former Republican Presidents who signed on to the brief, nor any former Republican attorneys general, but one gets the feeling that it won’t be long now.
Richard Socarides is an attorney, political strategist, writer, and long-time gay-rights advocate. He served as White House Special Assistant and Senior Adviser during the Clinton Administration.