The Floodgates Are Open
Right: Deval Patrick
It seems that same-sex marriage has already become so blasé that the incremental removal of barriers no longer calls for front-page headlines. Americans met the news of another breakthrough for gay marriage -- Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s signing of a bill revoking a law that had barred out-of-state same-sex couples from getting married -- with a yawn. Then they rolled over and went to sleep when L.A. police chief William Bratton declared that Lindsay Lohan had “gone gay."
Yep, it’s just another Week in Gay.
Though the Massachusetts story got good coverage nationally, with major papers such as The Boston Globe and The New York Times and wire services picking it up, the response seemed less urgent than May's coverage of California’s breakthrough court decision and New York governor David Paterson’s subsequent order that state agencies must recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. (As expected, there’s a footnote to Paterson’s actions: According to The New York Sun, the state supreme court is considering whether it will hear a case brought by the Arizona-based Christian group the Alliance Defense Fund, which is suing Paterson based on the dictionary definition of the word marriage and claiming that Paterson’s order was an illegal breach of separation of power.)
The Massachusetts bill that Patrick signed revokes a 1913 law originally intended to keep interracial couples from marrying, a law then-governor Mitt Romney defiantly revived in 2004 after same-sex marriage was made legal in the state.
In a Fox News story, Governor Patrick noted wryly: "In five years now, … the sky has not fallen, the earth has not opened to swallow us all up, and more to the point, thousands and thousands of good people -- contributing members of our society -- are able to make free decisions about their personal future, and we ought to seek to affirm that every chance we can."
More proof that the personal is political: Gay couples tying the knot are using their nuptials as a way to get the word out about the upcoming California ballot initiative in November. An AP wire story notes that couples are using inventive ploys such as putting “Vote No on 8” on cake toppers, or accepting donations toward the No on 8 campaign in lieu of gifts.
Which may be needed, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that California gay marriage opponents have thus far raised more funds than gay rights organizers.
“Proponents of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage, raised about $3.7 million from January 1 through June 30, according to state filings," the article stated. "In contrast, gay rights activists who oppose the measure raised about $2.5 million through June 30.”
However, according to a story by Julie Bolcer for Advocate.com, published the same day as the WSJ article, gay rights groups had raised $4.1 million compared to the proponents' $3.7 million -- a figure confirmed with the secretary of state. This puts opponents of the measure squarely in the lead in fund-raising, and -- as only 41% of Californians said they are planning to vote for the initiative, according to a July Field poll -- in popular opinion as well.
Right: Ronson and Lohan
The story in question, “What If You Only Thought You Were Gay?” addresses subjects who lived for a time as gay men and then realized they preferred the ladies. The article explores how each man profiled suddenly realized at some point after embracing his gay life that he is actually straight -- and not because of any right-wing conversion tactics or Catholic guilt either. Unfortunately, the article fails to explore a simple idea: that these are bisexual men whose preferences have shifted over time. This doesn’t automatically make them straight -- or gay -- and it doesn’t necessarily indicate a fundamental change in sexual orientation.
In "Celesbian" news, there was a brief uproar over an August 1 quip from Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton in the Los Angeles Times. His quote was in regard to a call for paparazzi-control laws he deems unnecessary. "If you notice, since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving, Paris is out of town and not bothering anybody anymore, thank God, and evidently Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don't seem to have much of an issue," Bratton, who has a lesbian sister and is a supporter of gay rights, told a reporter for KNBC-TV Channel 4.
This story was gobbled up, with outlets as diverse as the BBC, the Huffington Post, E! online, and The Miami Herald picking it up.
After the Bratton quote, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a gossipy story, saying, “Reportedly, Lohan believes that times have changed enough that it doesn't really matter if an actor or actress is gay or bisexual 'as much as it did even 10 years ago … except maybe in the Deep South.' The actress believes the bulk of the public -- especially younger fans -- don't care one way or another about a star's sexual orientation.''
She might be right: Her comment on Bratton’s quote was not a denial but a gentle scolding. The BBC was among many news outlets and blogs to run her quasi-rebuttal. "Police chiefs shouldn't get involved in everyone else's business when it comes to their personal life. It's inappropriate," Lohan said.
Not everyone is as blasé as Angelenos are when it comes to sexual orientation. In Kansas, lesbian Inga Taylor lost a bid for a seat in the 84th district when an ally of her opponent began sending e-mail messages to prospective voters that made an issue of Taylor's sexual orientation.
The short story: Taylor, an African-American lesbian, was defeated by opponent Gail Finney, despite the latter’s funding deficit, after a supporter of Finney launched an attack campaign that publicly criticized Taylor for her financial ties to the Washington, D.C.–based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
Finney supporter Peggy Elliot circulated an e-mail that mused, “Taylor considers it an honor that if elected, she will be the 1st openly gay African American Legislator in the United States…Who would she be representing? Those that fund her from the East Coast or 84th District? Is this what we want to be known for in Kansas? In Wichita?"
In the wire story that papers picked up, Victory Fund president Chuck Wolfe called the ploy “divisive, gutter politics at its worst.”
In another case of bias, USA Today reported on the Justice Department's revelation on Monday that Monica Goodling, a key aide to former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, “rejected a prosecutor for a job, in part, because Goodling suspected she was a lesbian. Another job applicant got a positive review because of his views on "god, guns, and gays."
The USA Today editorial ended by admonishing the agency, “It's now up to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Gonzales's successor, not only to fix the problems internally but also to restore public confidence in the nation's premier law enforcement agency. … A strong statement by Mukasey, and better yet, by the president, would go a long way toward making clear such actions won't be tolerated.”
With the worldwide Anglican Communion threatened by potential schism over warring views on gay bishops, the 2008 Lambeth Conference made international news, with stories hitting TheWashington Post, London's The Guardian, and IrishTimes.com.
According to The Washington Post, the once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops and archbishops “was dominated by disputes concerning V. Gene Robinson," the openly gay noncelibate priest who was consecrated in 2003 as the bishop of New Hampshire by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. body of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the senior bishop of the Anglican Communion, wants the U.S. Episcopal Church to cease consecrating any further gay bishops but also said, according to another report in The Guardian, that gay relationships can “reflect the love of God.”
More than 200 bishops (out of 880) boycotted the conference because North American bishops who support homosexuality were invited. Robinson himself wasn’t in attendance.
Presidential politics watchers gained a bit more insight into Barack Obama's nuanced stance on gay rights via a New York Times piece about the exams Obama gave his students while teaching law at the University of Chicago -- and a Washington Post editorial dissecting that piece.
Writes the Post’s Ruth Marcus:
“To read Obama's exams is to get a glimpse of the supple intelligence he would bring to the presidency and to be impressed by his lawyerly capacity -- perhaps even compulsion -- to see the other side's argument and mine the weaknesses of his own case… But it is also a reminder of Obama's essential elusiveness, and how little we understand about how the candidate himself would resolve these thorny problems.”
One of his exams features a question describing the state of Nirvana, where a gay couple wants a child. The question posed: Do “Nirvana's laws prohibiting gays from paying surrogate mothers or adopting children violate the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process?”
The editorial notes that the question “involves the same issues that the California Supreme Court addressed in overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.”
Obama, who has come out as being personally against gay marriage but in favor of civil unions, gave answers that refer to "some persuasive arguments that homosexuality should be covered by the equal protection clause. How does that square with his opposition to same-sex marriage? Are civil unions a separate-but-equal substitute?” asks Marcus
The paper’s verdict on his approach? “Evenhanded in a way that is simultaneously impressive and maddening.”
Funny headline for a not funny situation:
The New York Postran an article about drag queens being thrown out of Rockefeller Center. Leave it to the Post to tart up the story with typical panache. The headline, “Dragged Out of Rock Ctr,” is good, but the lead is even better: “That’s no way to treat a lady.” Oh, yes, they did.
The story’s more serious, though. Twelve drag queens who were visiting for the Colombian Independence Day celebration are filing discrimination suits against the center with the state Division of Human Rights. They were told they couldn’t take pictures, even though others around them were doing so.
Oh, no, they didn’t.