Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Is Their Plan?

Talking about whether the Republicans are going to shut down the federal government again, Frank Rich has one of the most concise, comprehensive, and clear paragraphs you will ever see.
That’s not to say there is no fiscal mission in the right’s agenda, both nationally and locally — only that the mission has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The real goal is to reward the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations, and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks. The bankrupt moral equation codified in the Bush era — that tax cuts tilted to the highest bracket were a higher priority even than paying for two wars — is now a given. The once-bedrock American values of shared sacrifice and equal economic opportunity have been overrun. Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down?

Complaining in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces detained about 300 people, including prominent journalists, artists and lawyers who took part in nationwide demonstrations Friday, in what some of them described as an operation to intimidate Baghdad intellectuals who hold sway over popular opinion.


Just before they were freed, however, [Iraqi journalist] Hadi was held in a room where about 300 people sat on the floor. They had black hoods over their heads. Many were groaning, their shirts bloodied. Some wore suits and ties. An elderly man had passed out. Hadi recognized a friend, a TV broadcaster, among them.

"This government is sending a message to us - to everybody," Hadi said Saturday, his forehead bruised, his left leg swollen. After Iraq's Day of Rage, a Crackdown on Intellectuals

Hey wait a minute, why are they protesting in Iraq? I thought we just spent a trillion dollars giving them freedom. What in the world could they have to complain about?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pro-Marriage Bill Passes in MD Senate, Heads to the House

Just in, from The Post:
The Maryland Senate narrowly approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages after a day of emotional and often personal debate laced with references to religion and civil rights.

The 25 to 21 vote sent the bill to the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social issues. But supporters acknowledged Thursday that they still were a couple of votes shy of the majority needed for House passage. Maryland Senate approves bill on gay marriage, but House passage not ensured

There's a long discussion there, lots of quotes. Let's see how it goes. House hearings are tomorrow. The Nutty Ones are gearing up to make a spectacle of it; in the Senate hearings they were very successful at alienating members and turning the vote in favor of equality. Here's hoping they do the same tomorrow.

Here's How the Md. Senate voted on same-sex marriage

The Other Good News: Marriage Equality Progresses in Maryland

Marriage equality is almost sure to pass the final vote in the Maryland state Senate today. The bill will then be sent to the House of Delegates, where it will almost surely pass easily. The governor will sign it.

The Washington Post:
The Maryland Senate advanced legislation Wednesday allowing same-sex marriages on a preliminary vote of 25 to 22, all but ensuring passage of the measure in that chamber.

The action, which cleared the way for a final Senate vote Thursday, followed several hours of debate on amendments designed to make exceptions for people whose religious beliefs are at odds with the notion of same-sex couples marrying.

Measures were defeated that sought to allow religiously affiliated adoption agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples, to allow clerks of courts to refuse to conduct marriages based on religious objections and to exempt public school teachers from teaching materials that "promote" gay unions.

A couple of other proposed amendments were added to the bill, including one that makes clear that religious organizations do not have to promote same-sex marriages through educational programs, counseling, retreats or summer camps. A similar provision is in the District's law allowing gay couples to marry.

Senators on both sides of the bill predicted its passage Thursday, which would send the legislation to the House of Delegates - traditionally the more liberal chamber on social policy. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said he would sign the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, an opponent of the bill, acknowledged after debate ended Wednesday that its passage was all but certain and said there were no plans for a filibuster - perhaps the only remaining hurdle in the Senate.

"It definitely will pass," said Jacobs (R-Harford). "We all know the outcome of this." Gay marriage wins initial approval in Maryland Senate

A lot of people have been fighting hard for this, for a long time. It's difficult to get politicians to associate themselves with controversial legislation, but at this point in history I think everybody understands the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama Won't Defend DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) went into law in 1996, supported by large majorities in both House and Senate, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton as Americans closed their eyes to the strange new idea that gay and lesbian couples might want to marry. The law said that states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, and further stated that in any federal policies regarding marriage "the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

DOMA is simply anti-gay bigotry encoded in law. It's hard to imagine that we have come so far in fifteen years, but public opinion turned a major corner during those years, and this law is simply an embarrassment to our country at this point.

Today our President did something Presidential. He announced that DOMA is unconstitutional and the administration is not going to defend it any more.

The AP is as good a source as anybody.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama ordered his administration on Wednesday to stop defending the constitutionality of a federal law that bans recognition of gay marriage, a policy reversal that could have major implications for the rights and benefits of gay couples and reignite an emotional debate for the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama still is "grappling" with his personal views on whether gays should be allowed to marry but has long opposed the federal law as unnecessary and unfair, said spokesman Jay Carney.

First word of the change came not from the White House but from the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Obama had concluded the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was legally indefensible.

The decision was immediately welcomed by gay rights organizations and vilified by those on the other side. Some Democrats in Congress praised the decision, while it drew criticism from some Republicans and the office of their leader, House Speaker John Boehner, all surely a preview of coming political debate over the latest development in the long-running national conversation about gay rights.

The outcome of that debate could have enormous impact because federal laws and regulations confer more than a thousand rights or benefits on those who are married, most involving taxpayer money — Social Security survivors' benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees and immigration rights.

"Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA," Holder said in a statement explaining the decision.

As well, the social landscape has changed. Government drops defense of anti-gay-marriage law

As required by law, the White House sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner explaining the decision (note, transcript taken from OCR, probably has errors in it, even after extensive editing):
February 23, 2011
The Honorable John A. Boehner, Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
Re: Defense of Marriage Act

Dear Mr. Speaker:

After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), 1 U.S.C. § 7, 1 as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 530D, I am writing to advise you of the Executive Branch's determination and to inform you of the steps the Department will take in two pending DOMA cases to implement that determination.

While the Department has previously defended DOMA against legal challenges involving legally married same-sex couples, recent lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 have caused the President and the Department to conduct a new examination of the defense of this provision. In particular, in November 2011, plaintiffs filed two new lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in jurisdictions without precedent on whether sexual-orientation classifications are subject to rational basis review or whether they must satisfy some form of heightened scrutiny. Windsor v. United States, No. l:1O-cv-8435 (S.D.N.Y.); Pedersen v. OPM, No. 3:10-cv-1750 (D. Conn.). Previously, the Administration has defended Section 3 in jurisdictions where circuit courts have already held that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to rational basis review, and it has advanced arguments to defend DOMA Section 3 under the binding standard that has applied in those cases.[2]

These new lawsuits, by contrast, will require the Department to take an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without binding precedent on the issue. As described more fully below, the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

Standard of Review
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appropriate level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation. It has, however, rendered a number of decisions that set forth the criteria that should inform this and any other judgment as to whether heightened scrutiny applies: (1) whether the group in question has suffered a history of discrimination; (2) whether individuals "exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group"; (3) whether the group is a minority or is politically powerless; and (4) whether the characteristics distinguishing the group have little relation to legitimate policy objectives or to an individual's "ability to perform or contribute to society." See Bowen v. Gilliard, 483 U.S. 587,602-03 (1987); City a/Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Crr., 473 U.S. 432, 441-42 (1985).

Each of these factors counsels in favor of being suspicious of classifications based on sexual orientation. First and most importantly, there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today. Indeed, until very recently, states have "demean[ed] the[] existence" of gays and lesbians "by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 578 (2003).[3]

Second, while sexual orientation carries no visible badge, a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable, see Richard A. Posner, Sex and Reason 101 (1992); it is undoubtedly unfair to require sexual orientation to be hidden from view to avoid discrimination, see Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of201O, Pub. L. No. 111321, 124 Stat. 3515 (2010).

Third, the adoption of laws like those at issue in Romer v. Evans, 517 U. S. 620 (1996), and Lawrence, the longstanding ban on gays and lesbians in the military, and the absence of federal protection for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation show the group to have limited political power and "ability to attract the [favorable] attention of the lawmakers." Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 445. And while the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act and pending repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell indicate that the political process is not closed entirely to gay and lesbian people, that is not the standard by which the Court has judged "political powerlessness." Indeed, when the Court ruled that gender-based classifications were subject to heightened scrutiny, women already had won major political victories such as the Nineteenth Amendment (right to vote) and protection under Title VII (employment discrimination).

Finally, there is a growing acknowledgment that sexual orientation "bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society." Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 686 (1973) (plurality). Recent evolutions in legislation (including the pending repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell), in community practices and attitudes, in case law (including the Supreme Court's holdings in Lawrence and Romer), and in social science regarding sexual orientation all make clear that sexual orientation is not a characteristic that generally bears on legitimate policy objectives. See, e.g., Statement by the President on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of2010 ("It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.")

To be sure, there is substantial circuit court authority applying rational basis review to sexual-orientation classifications. We have carefully examined each of those decisions. Many of them reason only that if consensual same-sex sodomy may be criminalized under Bowers v. Hardwick, then it follows that no heightened review is appropriate a line of reasoning that does not survive the overruling of Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas, 538 U.S. 558 (2003).[4] Others rely on claims regarding "procreational responsibility" that the Department has disavowed already in litigation as unreasonable, or claims regarding the immutability of sexual orientation that we do not believe can be reconciled with more recent social science understandings.[5] And none engages in an examination of all the factors that the Supreme Court has identified as relevant to a decision about the appropriate level of scrutiny. Finally, many of the more recent decisions have relied on the fact that the Supreme Court has not recognized that gays and lesbians constitute a suspect class or the fact that the Court has applied rational basis review in its most recent decisions addressing classifications based on sexual orientation, Lawrence and Romer.[6] But neither of those decisions reached, let alone resolved, the level of scrutiny issue because in both the Court concluded that the laws could not even survive the more deferential rational basis standard.

Application to Section 3 of DOMA
In reviewing a legislative classification under heightened scrutiny, the government must establish that the classification is "substantially related to an important government objective." Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456,461 (1988). Under heightened scrutiny, "a tenable justification must describe actual state purposes, not rationalizations for actions in fact differently grounded." United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515,535-36 (1996). "The justification must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation." Id. at 533.

In other words, under heightened scrutiny, the United States cannot defend Section 3 by advancing hypothetical rationales, independent of the legislative record, as it has done in circuits where precedent mandates application of rational basis review. Instead, the United States can defend Section 3 only by invoking Congress' actual justifications for the law.

Moreover, the legislative record underlying DOMA's passage contains discussion and debate that undermines any defense under heightened scrutiny. The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships -precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.7 See Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 448 ("mere negative attitudes, or fear" are not permissible bases for discriminatory treatment); see also Romer, 517 U.S. at 635 (rejecting rationale that law was supported by "the liberties of landlords or employers who have personal or religious objections to homosexuality"); Palmore v. Sidotti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984) ("Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.").

Application to Second Circuit Cases
After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in Windsor and Pedersen, now pending in the Southern District of New York and the District of Connecticut. I concur in this determination.

Notwithstanding this determination, the President has informed me that Section 3 will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch. To that end, the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive's obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law's constitutionality. This course of action respects the actions of the prior Congress that enacted DOMA, and it recognizes the judiciary as the final arbiter of the constitutional claims raised.

As you know, the Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense, a practice that accords the respect appropriately due to a coequal branch of government. However, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because the Department does not consider every plausible argument to be a "reasonable" one. "[D]ifferent cases can raise very different issues with respect to statutes of doubtful constitutional validity," and thus there are "a variety of factors that bear on whether the Department will defend the constitutionality of a statute." Letter to Hon. Orrin G. Hatch from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois at 7 (Mar. 22, 1996). This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute "in cases in which it is manifest that the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional," as is the case here. Seth P. Waxman, Defending Congress, 79 N.C. L.Rev. 1073, 1083 (2001).

In light of the foregoing, I will instruct the Department's lawyers to immediately inform the district courts in Windsor and Pedersen of the Executive Branch's view that heightened scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review and that, consistent with that standard, Section 3 of DOMA may not be constitutionally applied to same-sex couples whose marriages are legally recognized under state law. If asked by the district courts in the Second Circuit for the position of the United States in the event those courts determine that the applicable standard is rational basis, the Department will state that, consistent with the position it has taken in prior cases, a reasonable argument for Section 3's constitutionality may be proffered under that permissive standard. Our attorneys will also notify the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in those cases. We will remain parties to the case and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.

Furthermore, pursuant to the President's instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

A motion to dismiss in the Windsor and Pedersen cases would be due on March 11,2011. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely yours,
Eric H. Holder, Jr.

1] DOMA Section 3 states: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

[2] See, e.g., Dragovich v. Us. Department ofthe Treasury, 2011 WL 175502 (N .D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2011); Gill v. Office ofPersonnel Management, 699 F. Supp. 2d 374 (D. Mass. 2010); Smelt v. County of Orange, 374 F. Supp. 2d 861, 880 (C.D. Cal.,2005); Wilson v. Ake, 354 F.Supp.2d 1298, 1308 (M.D. Fla. 2005); In re Kandu, 315 B.R. 123, 145 (Bkrtcy. W.D. Wash. 2004); In re Levenson, 587 F.3d 925,931 (9th CiT. E.D.R. Plan Administrative Ruling 2009).

[3] While significant, that history of discrimination is different in some respects from the discrimination that burdened African-Americans and women. See Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, 216 (1995)(classifications based on race "must be viewed in light of the historical fact that the central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to eliminate racial discrimination emanating from official sources in the States," and "[t]his strong policy renders racial classifications 'constitutionally suspect."'); United States v, Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 531 (1996) (observing that '''our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination'" and pointing out the denial of the right to vote to women until 1920). In the case of sexual orientation, some of the discrimination has been based on the incorrect belief that sexual orientation is a behavioral characteristic that can be changed or subject to moral approbation. Cf Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 441 (heightened scrutiny may be warranted for characteristics "beyond the individual's control" and that "very likely reflect outmoded notions of the relative capabilities of' the group at issue); Boy Scouts of America v, Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000) (Stevens, J., dissenting) ("Unfavorable opinions about homosexuals 'have ancient roots. '" (quoting Bowers, 478 U.S. at 192».

[4] See Equality Foundation v, City o/Cincinnati, 54 F.3d 261, 266-67 & n. 2. (6th Cir. 1995); Steffan v. Perry, 41 F.3d 677, 685 (D.C. Cir. 1994); Woodward v. United States, 871 F.2d 1068, 1076 (Fed. Cir. 1989); Ben-Shalom v. Marsh, 881 F.2d 454, 464 (7th Cir. 1989); Padula v, Webster, 822 F.2d 97, 103 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

[5] See. e.g., Lofton v. Secretary o/the Dep't o/Children & Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 818 (lith Cir. 2004) (discussing child-rearing rationale); High Tech Gays v. Defense Indust. Sec. Clearance Office, 895 F.2d 563, 571 (9th Cir. 1990) (discussing immutability). As noted, this Administration has already disavowed in litigation the argument that DOMA serves a governmental interest in "responsible procreation and child-rearing." H.R. Rep. No. 104-664, at 13. As the Department has explained in numerous filings, since the enactment of DOMA, many leading medical, psychological, and social welfare organizations have concluded, based on numerous studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.

[6] See Cook v. Gates, 528 F.3d 42, 61 (1st Cir. 2008); Citizens for Equal Prot. v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859, 866 (8th Cir. 2006); Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 532 (5th Cir. 2004); Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 732 (4th Cir. 2002); Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. v. City of Cincinnati, 128 F.3d 289, 292-94 (6th Cir. 1997).

[7] See. e.g., H.R. Rep. at 15-16 (judgment [opposing same-sex marriage] entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality"); id. at 16 (same-sex marriage "legitimates a public union, a legal status that most people ... feel ought to be illegitimate" and "put[s] a stamp of approval ... on a union that many people ... think is immoral"); id. at 15 ("Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality"); id. (reasons behind heterosexual marriage-procreation and child-rearing-are "in accord with nature and hence have a moral component"); id. at 31 (favorably citing the holding in Bowers that an "anti-sodomy law served the rational purpose of expressing the presumed belief ... that homosexual sodomy is immoral and unacceptable"); id. at 17 n.56 (favorably citing statement in dissenting opinion in Romer that "[t]his Court has no business ... pronouncing that 'animosity' toward homosexuality is evil").

The Atlantic has a good review of the "10 takeaways" from this decision. Also a good discussion at the New York Times. It's a little complicated, but a giant step in the right direction. It moves public policy along in a positive direction, and it is absolutely refreshing to see the President make a bold statement after these years of inconsistency on the topic.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lady Gaga Helps Target Be More Thoughtful

I kind of don't get the whole Madonna -- Mickey-Mouse-Club pop music thing, the synthesizers, auto-tune for singers who can't sing, the whole dance-routine, matching-onstage-uniforms business. I don't even know why some singers smile when they sing, it looks silly to me, are they musicians or actors? I don't really get Lady Gaga, but it doesn't matter, I'm not a kid, I don't have to be cool any more.

On the other hand, when I first saw her on Saturday Night Live a couple of years ago, in that crazy outfit with the anti-gravity hoops, and she sat at the piano and sang, I thought she sounded good -- she plays well, sings well, has good stage presence, the songs seemed good, there's just an awful lot of ... crap ... involved. At any rate, Lady Gaga made an impassioned speech at the 2009 National Equality March march, and has been a consistently powerful advocate of LGBT rights. Her latest hit, which entered the charts at Number One, "Born This Way," is a kind of anthem and call for pride no matter who you love. In fact, "Born This Way" has been stuck in my head ever since she performed it on the Grammies. Not a bad tune.

You might remember that the Target corporation has made some ugly choices in recent years, investing in some anti-gay artists and organizations. They have given a lot of money to rightwing causes. Target knows where the money is, in this day and age Lady Gaga is a ridiculously huge star, and it would be better for the company and the star to make a deal than to pose as bad guys in relation to her. Sounds like a train wreck coming, right?

Billboard has it:
Gaga spoke to the issue for the first time in this interview, telling Billboard that she wasn't comfortable with the Target partnership when it first came up as a possibility, and that she met with "the entire executive staff" at Target, along with her manager Troy Carter.

"That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I've ever had in a business meeting," Gaga says. "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past...our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those groups."

The reality may be a bit more complicated than that, however. Target VP of communications Dustee Jenkins spoke with Billboard at length -- the full interview transcript is available at -- expressing Target's excitement to be working with Lady Gaga and portraying the controversial donations as more of a lack of procedural oversight than anything else. Lady Gaga Talks Target Deal for 'Born This Way'

Lady Gaga released an exclusive version of her new CD at Target and let Target customers download the "Born This Way" single for free, initially alarming LGBT fans who make up a large and important part of her audience (she says she is bisexual). But this is really pretty good.
Jenkins says to that end, Target has created a new "policy committee" to review such matters. The committee doesn't include [Target CEO Gregg] Steinhafel and has yet to have its first quarterly meeting, but Jenkins directed Billboard to a page on Target's corporate site that had "in the last week or two" posted new guidelines for Target's political contributions.

To be clear, Target is not all bad news for the LGBT community. Jenkins noted a recent interview with Target director of enterprise strategy Daniel Duty, an openly gay employee who spoke to about what a great employer Target was for gay professionals. And Jenkins also mentioned that Target had already earmarked "almost a half-million dollars" to spend on various organizations within the LGBT community, name-checking Out and Equal Workplace, as well as local Minnesota groups such as Twin Cities Pride and Project 515.

Without a doubt, those dollars will be cherished and put to good use by those organizations. But in the world of corporate cause spending, it's worth contextualizing that figure. Jenkins says Target spends $3 million per week on community causes, which means its spend on LGBT issues represents roughly less than 2% of that budget.

Here's the question -- is it too much to expect a corporation to have a conscience? It's a serious question, given their new power to give secret political contributions. Is there any chance in the world that a gigantic corporation like Target would make business decisions based on what's right, rather than what will engorge the dividends for stockholders?

Billboard sounds skeptical.

On the other hand ...
Jenkins says Target is now committed to being more "thoughtful" -- she used the word 11 times in a half-hour interview -- about the issue of political donations. But when asked directly, she couldn't guarantee that Target wouldn't end up making future donations to candidates with anti-gay voting records. "No," Jenkins says, "but what I can say is that we're going to use our policy committee to ensure that we're being more thoughtful."

They may well want to be, as Gaga will undoubtedly hear from her beloved fans if that thoughtfulness doesn't present itself. She repeatedly mentions her love for her fans and her desire to "assault" the senses of mainstream America with a pro-LGBT sensibility. "It's so important to me, please, to clear up any misconceptions or concerns," she says of the Target relationship. "Whatever you can do to assure my fans and the gay community that I have their back, please do."

There are two levels here. Target can present the appearance of siding with the LGBT community, packaging certain things in ways that allow that demographic to shop without feeling they are subsidizing their own execution. And it looks like they have that down, there is a "policy committee" that will probably do nothing, and you will be seeing Lady Gaga's face on Target ads, I'm sure. The second level though has to do with where the money goes. Though they have earmarked a certain budget for LGBT groups, Target executives don't promise they will stop supporting rightwing politicians. How will it affect the chain's profits to play both sides of the fence? I imagine they support the conservative politicians in exchange for tax breaks if they get elected, and the company simply can't afford not to invest in something as directly profitable as that. It is possible though that Target's support in the public eye of Lady Gaga and the broader LGBT community will help swing the tide of public opinion in a positive way, so that politicians find that gay-hating costs them votes.

I've got to see this as a positive thing. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but I think Lady Gaga has done a good thing here, nudging Target's PR trajectory into a new and better direction.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Speak Up for Planned Parenthood or Lose It

When we were young and poor, Planned Parenthood was the place women could go for birth control pills, PAP smears, checkups, at an affordable price. It was a life-saver for all of us in our college days, Planned Parenthood meant there was a whole world of things we didn't have to worry about. A bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese ( five for a dollar) on top of the old spool table, and you had it made. It never occurred to me that there was anything sinister about the organization.

Then a few years ago I heard a woman talking about PP as if all they did was abortions. I never thought about it, but that would be part of the service they provide, helping women maintain control of their own reproduction, planning being a parent. The woman who mentioned it was rabidly anti-abortion and so I took her words to mean that the anti-choice organizations were badmouthing Planned Parenthood in a systematic way, making this uniquely positive pro-woman organization into something evil.

Last month Planned Parenthood was struck by an embarrassingly poor hoax, and the organization made the mistake of backing down when they should have held their ground. A fake pimp and prostitute went into an office and asked about services for their underage illegal immigrant hookers, and the Planned Parenthood clinic manager talked to them and tried to get them to come back. She then reported them to her supervisors, who reported them to the FBI. Planned Parenthood leadership however was embarrassed and fired the woman, as if underage foreign sex slaves do not need help or deserve to see a doctor. It was pure cowardly politics, giving in to the bullies, and as expected it has backfired on them.

Now the House of Representatives has voted to take their funding away. The Republican majority has declared war on women and this is one of the many ways they are going to send women back to the kitchen and keep them pregnant.

There was a lovely campaign on Twitter, women tweeted their thanks to Planned Parenthood. Millions of women have benefited from the array of services Planned Parenthood provides, and this was their chance to say thank you. Someone named Jeanne Brooks has compiled some of the thank-yous on a site called "Storify." (I actually have a Storify account but haven't figured out how to make it worthwhile...) You can follow her clippings HERE.

Here are some of the thank-yous she accumulated.
Thanks for saving taxpayers $4 for every $1 you spend on contraception for those who want it. #thanksPPFA
# For helping an estimated 800,000 women a year avoid abortion, a painful costly surgery. #thanksPPFA
Family planning is not a luxury item. #thanksppfa #prochoice
#thanksppfa for making sure my cervical cancer was treated before it became full blown.
#thanksppfa for helping me and my college girlfriend get tested for STDs way back when #negativebtw
I like #thanksppfa meme. Are boys allowed to participate? Because we also benefit from women having access to contraception.
@badler Not just from women having access to it - PP got my husband a low cost vasectomy. & don't forget all those free condoms! #thanksppfa
For providing me with cervical & breast cancer screening when I didn't have access to health care after college, #thanksPPFA
PPFA gave me BC when I was an uninsured freelancer and allowed @dfreelon and me to avoid having kids until we can support them #thanksppfa
#thanksppfa for risking your own safety every day to provide sexual health care to those who need it most
Planned parenthood helped me help get 2 HS friends safe abortions. And helped me navigate a surprise pregnancy: Milo, now 2.5. #thanksppfa
#thanksPPFA for being a trusted source of information, care, counsel, and service for hundreds of my students, young and old.
In college, I went to Planned Parenthood for confidential HIV testing w/my now-husband. #thanksPPFA
#thanksPPFA for serving all people who come in, even if they're outside the next day protesting against you, or vote against funding you.
Many #transfolk of all varieties rely on #PlannedParenthood for ALL their sexual & gender health care. Alternative is NO care. #thanksppfa
For offering me the HPV vaccine when I was without healthcare after college, #thanksPPFA
#thanksppfa for giving early prenatal care my clients who chose to continue their pregnancies and had to wait for Medicaid to kick in.
Just said #thanksPPFA with a (tiny) donation, because if the Republicans won't send my tax $ to them, I'll just do it myself, dammit.
@billhofing @annfriedman @chrislhayes @joanwalsh In college, PP was my only option 4 GYN care. #thanksppfa
It is absolutely necesary to have a place like PP where you can walk in, pay $35, see Nurse Pract immediately and get BC prescri #thanksppfa
#thanksPPFA for providing good sex ed, including info on abstinence, contraception, STI prevention, healthy relationships, queer sexuality.
#thanksppfa for taking care of my sister when she desperately needed it. #love
#thanksppfa for educating millions of young (and old!) women and men about their bodies and reproductive health #thanksppfa #thanksppfa
#thanksppfa for being there just in case
Planned Parenthood provides cheap, safe healthcare. I've been there for myself and w/ friends. Don't believe the lies: #thanksPPFA
I was youngin w/ a girlfriend alone 4 hrs on walk home...I'd stp & grab handfuls of condoms from PP & was nevr asked a question #thanksppfa
#thanksppfa for providing many friends in my life a central place for women's health
I often used Planned Parenthood even after I got insurance, because the experiences were always so positive #thanksppfa
In the late '70s & early '80s, young women rarely had health coverage. We depended on Planned Parenthood for privacy & respect. #thanksPPFA
@annie5050 I can't imagine how anyone navigates those early years w/o it, even now! #thanksPPFA
I'd like to thank Planned Parenthood for providing contraceptives to my ex-gf, if they hadn't I would have been a gay dad. #thanksppfa 1/2
And thanks to my high school for teaching me that Planned Parenthood existed #thanksppfa 2/2
In the dark ages, before plan b was over the counter, planned parenthood was there for me for a few oh crap moments. #thanksppfa
#thanksPPFA for the contraception and the morning after pill! have you gone to Planned Parenthood? if so #thanksPPFA!

Planned Parenthood has been a national treasure and an incredible benefit to women in our country. I have the feeling that nearly all the women who read this blog have had some experience with the organization, it keeps a low profile and simply offers to help those who need it.

If you don't speak up and demand support for Planned Parenthood, this organization that has shaped the values of generations by giving women control over their own lives is going to go the way of ACORN.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fishback and Sprigg on Fox 5

Maryland is getting closer to passing a marriage equality bill in the state Senate, the bill passed in committee yesterday and should be headed to a vote on the floor. Yesterday Fox 5 News interviewed David Fishback and Peter Sprigg on the subject. David is well known to us as a friend of TTF, an officer in DC Metro PFLAG, former chair of the citizens advisory committee that recommended a new sex-ed curriculum -- which got us involved in the public debate in the first place. Peter is also well known to us as an officer in the hate group Family Research Council, a leader of Montgomery County's Citizens for Responsible Whatever, spokesperson for PFOX, and he currently advises the Montgomery County Public Schools on development of their sex-ed curriculum as a member of the citizens advisory committee.

Check it out (sorry, I couldn't get rid of the commercial at the start -- and it's like twice as loud as the show itself):

Gay and Lesbian Couples Monitor Same Sex Marriage Vote in Maryland Legislature:

Lately Peter Sprigg has been focusing on the argument he presents here:
I think we have to look past the individual stories of particular couples and so forth and ask ourselves a question, why is marriage a public institution in the first place? Why does a government get involved in this most personal relationship? And I think the answer to that is because of its role in bringing together men and women for the reproduction of the human race, and to keep together a mother and father to raise to maturity the children produced by their union. This public purpose of responsible procreation is central to the meaning of marriage and it's a purpose that simply is not served by same-sex relationships.

Doesn't he wish we could "look past the individual stories of particular couples and so forth"! Abstract concepts are so much easier to argue about, and it gets so difficult when real people go and fall in love and dream of establishing a home and family together.

Okay, he wants to talk about marriage in the abstract -- he gives one justification for marriage, and then continues as if that were the only justification. Marriage is for having kids and raising them. Okay, it does serve that purpose sometimes. That's the way we do it at my house, you can't argue that married people don't raise kids.

The heterosexual couple across the street from me do not have children. They are are very active in the community, they are always working on their house and their garden, making it all nicer, they walk their dog and play frisbee with it, when tree branches fell during the recent snowstorm the husband came out with me and helped pull them out of the road. It has never occurred to me that there was something weird or suspicious or fake about their marriage. It does not appear that "responsible procreation" is a big part of their marriage. So what?

On the other hand, I personally know of several gay couples who have adopted children and are raising them in a house full of love. Nope, didn't procreate, shame on them.

Marriage serves many functions. It provides an institution that supports intimate soul-sharing and love between pairs of individuals. It provides a secure environment for sexual expression. A dyad is a more stable economic unit than a single person, the pair can share the tasks of managing a home and bringing in money. The security of a stable pairwise relationship allows the individuals to develop as individuals, they can find careers and hobbies and avocations and develop interests, working from a base of love and security. Not so much in our culture, but traditionally marriage is an important way to cement alliances between families, clans, tribes. Marriage serves to produce an endless stream of material for the comedy industry. I mean, come on, you can't take one part of marriage and say "that's what it's for,"

Peter launched into one of his famous "the research shows that" speeches. Luckily, the announcer, Laura Evans, had her notes in front of her.

Peter said:
We certainly feel that the social science research is clear, that the ideal family form for children is to be raised by their own biological mother and father, who are committed to one another in a lifetime marriage.

Evans comes back:
Peter, there have actually been three decades of research on this matter, the American Psychological Association has found that there is no scientific evidence that parental effectiveness is related to sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay parents are as likely, they say, as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. What do you say to those studies, twenty-five years worth of studies?

Peter responds by criticizing the scholarship of the research.
Well, those studies, the studies that have focused specifically on gay parenting, have suffered from severe methodological difficulties, very small sample sizes, convenience sampling where they're not a truly random sample, and by not being compared with actual married biological mothers and fathers, in comparing them with for example single parents instead, so I think that we can draw very few firm conclusions from that body of research, and we should be looking instead to the much broader and much larger and much more reliable body of research on family structure in general.

Peter Sprigg is trained as an actor and a Baptist minister. As someone who has struggled through the literature on both experimental research and survey methods, and a nearly-twenty-year member of the American Psychological Association, I am somewhat alarmed to think that Peter Sprigg is able to get the public's ear to criticize decades of research that has passed through a brutally skeptical peer review process, as if he knew what he was talking about.

It is also perhaps interesting, in an odd way, that the people who published the main paper critical of the research on same-sex parenting, the paper that Peter is certainly quoting, are neighbors and friends of mine. Bob passed away a year or so ago, but I have known them for years, Bob and I have had many discussions of research and statistical techniques, they brought over cookies when our dog was hit by a car. They were contractors who work for conservative think tanks, and this particular report went through a lot of studies concluding that same-sex couples were perfectly competent parents, and found the weaknesses in each one.

The fact is, many published studies have found that children raised by same-sex couples do as well as children in opposite-sex homes. Each of these studies was scrutinized by scholars, filtered through a rigorous editorial process, and was determined to meet the research standards of the scientific journal. Every study in every field has a weakness, but focusing on the weaknesses of each study does not seriously undermine the fact that all of them found the same thing: gay people can be good parents.

Trust me, if one peer-reviewed study had found that gay parents were bad at raising children, Peter would have mentioned it, it would be part of his anti-gay stump speech.

David Fishback was great on this show. As he states in the interview, he is the father of two gay sons, and he is obviously delighted at the prospect that his sons may be able to marry someday in the state of Maryland. At this point there isn't much need to make a case for it, David wasn't asked to prove why gay people should marry, it is common understanding now that the time has come to shed the embarrassing ignorance that has typified our society and move forward to something that is objectively reasonable and morally benevolent. I am always awed to watch David Fishback talk, he thinks in pull paragraphs and lays out his argument in a clear, well-organized way. I think Fox viewers yesterday could easily see who has right on their side and who is twisting the facts to perpetuate stereotypes and discrimination.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Which Vote Will They Regret?

Great coverage by the Baltimore Sun.
Two more state senators — Edward J. Kasemeyer of Howard County and Katherine Klausmeier of Baltimore County — announced this week that they will support same-sex marriage legislation, and Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County said last week that he had switched from opposing the measure to supporting it. That brings the total of announced supporters of the bill up to 23, just one shy of the 24 necessary for passage.

Many steps are still needed before marriage equality is a reality in Maryland, but the development is nonetheless remarkable and a testament to how quickly public attitudes about gay marriage are changing. One of the major reasons for that has been the courage of thousands of gay Marylanders to defy social stigma and live openly as they are, an act that has forced lawmakers and society as a whole to acknowledge that they are normal, upstanding citizens, just the same as anyone else, and deserve all the same rights and privileges.

Senator Klausmeier, for example, has said that she grew up with a traditional religious background but that as she has become friends with more and more gay people, her views changed. Senator Brochin, who had previously backed civil unions but not same-sex marriage, was actually swayed by the testimony before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week. Confronted with the contrast between the alarmist rhetoric of same-sex marriage opponents and the reality of healthy, stable families asking for nothing more than equal rights, he changed his mind.

Gay rights advocates also appear wise to have set their sights on true marriage equality rather than the half-measure of civil unions. Sen. Allan Kittleman, so far the only Republican supporting the bill, initially pushed civil union legislation but found no support for it among either the proponents or opponents of gay marriage; it was too much for one side and not enough for the other. Forced, then, to choose between perpetuating a system in which a group is treated by state law as second-class citizens or taking a stand for civil rights, he chose the latter. Gay marriage on the brink in Maryland

Really, it seems that the best thing that could have happened was for The Nutty Ones to go to Annapolis and testify in the legislative hearing. I speak from my own experience when I say that it is possible to live without realizing the intensity of hatred that exists out there, you might think that LGBT advocates are exaggerating when they tell how they are harassed and the degree to which those who hate them will distort the truth, but once you see it firsthand you will never forget it.

It appears that several legislators, at least, were awakened with a shock when speakers from our county's Citizens for Responsible Government, the National Organization for Marriage and other groups streamed into their hall to spew disrespect and untruth.

There's more:
That leaves four senators who remain undecided or who have not said how they will vote: John Astle of Anne Arundel County; Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City; and Ulysses Currie and James Rosapepe of Prince George’s County. All four are Democrats. Much of the attention has focused on Ms. Conway, who earlier told The Sun’s Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz that she would not vote for the bill if it looked like it was going to fail but that if there were 23 votes on the board, she would “pray really hard” and make her decision. That, essentially, is the position we find ourselves in now. But she is hardly the only one of the remaining four holdouts who may vote for the legislation in the end; Mr. Rosapepe, for example, represents a district that includes liberal College Park.

In an ideal world, calculations about the next election would play no role in a vote affirming basic civil rights. But there is no doubt that such considerations are a part of the senators’ thinking. The trouble is, it’s hard to know what the immediate electoral consequences of this vote will be. The most recent public polling puts support for gay marriage at just over a majority in this state, but that may not be the case in the moderate to conservative districts most of the swing senators represent. But it is worth noting that Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, an outspoken proponent of legalizing same-sex marriage, has suffered no political consequences for his stance whatsoever. He didn’t generate opposition in either the primary or general elections last year. This legislation may look controversial now, as civil rights bills did in the 1960s. Within a few years, it won’t.

As the remaining senators decide what to do, they need to take a much longer view than one centered on the next election. During rallies and hearings this year — and in the everyday presence of Sen. Rich Madaleno, his partner and their children — they have seen that gay families are just as loving, caring and deserving as any other. The question before them is whether the state should recognize that fact or continue to deny it. The undecided senators need to ask themselves, when they look back many years from now, which vote will they regret?

South Dakota Considering Legalizing Murder of Doctors

For years we have noted here the reluctance of journalists to use the word "terrorism" when discussing attacks on abortion providers. You leave a bomb outside the door, covered with nails that will kill or maim any random person within a hundred yards, and you are an "abortion clinic bomber," not a terrorist. It is a subtle bit of ideology.

The South Dakota legislature is considering a bill that is ideologically as subtle as a twelve-pound hammer. They are talking out there about making it legal to murder doctors who perform abortions. Mother Jones has the story.
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one. South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

It is curious that abortion, of all things, is the topic that ignites the fury of the violent right. What is so dangerous about a woman deciding for herself how to manage her own pregnancy? In a world with real injustice, terrible crimes, economic imbalance and deadly greed, unjustifiable wars and the erosion of citizens' rights, these people concern themselves with criminalizing something that an estimated forty percent of American women have chosen to do.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Strange Times at CPAC: PFOX Was There

PFOX was at CPAC. Less acronymously, anti-gay group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays had a booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in DC this past week. They wrote about it on their blog.
It was a hectic but successful three days for the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) exhibit booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington D.C. We answered numerous questions from attendees and handed out factual [sic] materials about homosexuality and defense of the natural family.

Members of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, steadily sent their members to our PFOX exhibit booth, so we had the chance to speak with them at length about self-determination, changing one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, and ex-gay rights. GOProud heard about change from the mouths of ex-gays, who related their personal stories and handed them our Can Sexual Orientation Change brochures.

The representatives of GOProud, which also hosted an exhibit booth at CPAC, informed us that they oppose gay marriage because marriage is special and should only be between a man and a woman. GOProud representatives also said they believe in ex-gay rights and equal access for former homosexuals. We gave them our Tolerance for the Ex-Gay Community brochure.

We also encountered more homosexual-identified attendees than we ever have at previous CPAC conferences. Some were nice, some were nasty, but we welcomed them all with our information and smiles. We had good, informative discussions.

We also met many tea party activists at CPAC who were interested in what we had to say. Incidentally, our PFOX exhibit was located across from the exhibit booth of the Libertarian Party. PFOX's Exhibit Booth at CPAC

Maybe some of our commenters can explain why gay Republicans would support a group that exists to talk gay people into pretending to be straight. The phrase "self-loathing" has become a bit of a cliche, but I am frankly having trouble wrapping my head around this "gay Republican" idea. If they don't like gay people and believe that sexual orientation is a choice, then why don't they just ... turn straight? Straight Republicans I can understand. So far "gay Republican" only sounds like an oxymoron to me.

BTW, one thing to say in favor of the Tea Party is that they seem to have mostly avoided the hate-the-gays rhetoric. In fact, there have been numerous defections by Republican teabaggers who vote against restrictions on marriage on the grounds that they believe that government should not be involved in citizens' private personal decisions. As much as I worry about their tendency to oversimplify the economics of running a country, some of them do seem to stick to their principles on the issue of marriage equality. It seems to me that all Americans who cherish liberty should agree that individuals have the right to choose who they will marry, and not the government.

Oh, and this is just weird.
PFOX’s exhibit booth displayed our Certificate of Appreciation from the Government of the District of Columbia. The Certificate was issued over a year ago to PFOX’s executive director in recognition of her outstanding contributions. PFOX was instrumental in achieving equal rights for ex-gays under the D.C. Human Rights Act with our landmark legal case. In light of the new mayor’s commitment to “One City,” PFOX’s civil rights achievement is more important than ever. Like the D.C. mayor, we believe in one city, one people, without division of race, class, or sexual orientation.

PFOX did not achieve equal rights for ex-gays under the D.C. Human Rights Act with any landmark legal case. They lost the case. But more importantly, the mayor of DC gave them an award but then a few days later the mayor's office said it was a "staff-level error."
“We apologize for the error as it runs contrary to the mayor’s vision of a more open and inclusive city,” [Fenty spokeswoman Mafara] Hobson said. “The mayor is proud of his ardent support of the LGBT community.” Fenty apologizes for PFOX award

Apparently the mayor did not officially cancel or rescind the award. PFOX is not ashamed to display this "mistake" of an award and to claim it as genuine, even though the mayor of the city apologized for it. This is emblematic of their level of honesty and standing in the community.

This year CPAC accepted the presence of a gay conservative group, GOProud, even though it meant that the far-right Family Blah Blah groups would boycott the conference. It may be that Republicans realize that dehumanizing LGBT Americans is not consistent with a conservative political philosophy and are making honest changes to be more inclusive. It could also mean that party leaders believe they can adjust their slogans to be more appealing to LGBT voters and straight allies who care about fair treatment and equal rights for all. The presence of PFOX at the conference suggests that conservatives have not really adopted an inclusive perspective, that they allowed some gay attendees but are hoping they will read the PFOX materials and stop being so embarrassingly gay.

I saw something last week that has haunted me. Here's President Reagan's spokesman Larry Speakes fielding a press conference in 1982.
Reporter: “Does the President have any reaction to the announcement -- the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta--that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?”

Speakes: “What’s AIDS?”

Reporter: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (There is laughter from Speakes) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the president is aware of it?”

Speakes: “I don’t have it. Do you?” (Laughs)

Reporter: No, I don't.

Speakes: You didn't answer my question.

Reporter: Well, I just wondered, does the President --

Speakes: How do you know? (Laughter)

Reporter: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke? White House Press Conference, 1982

The AIDS epidemic appeared on Reagan's watch and the great hero of modern conservatism remained absolutely silent about it. He did nothing, said nothing, pretended it didn't exist even after his friend Rock Hudson died of AIDS. It was, after all, a disease that seemed to affect only gay people.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Coulter: Gays Should Be Republicans

I am trying to imagine how this would work.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter brought today's audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington to its feet in applause after urging the Republican party to include gays - perhaps getting the last word on the place gays have in the conservative movement after a tussle that pitted social conservatives against libertarians at this year's conference.

"The left is trying to co-opt gays," she said. "They should be on our side."

The fight over the Republican party's acceptance of gay conservatives and gay rights came to a head at CPAC, after organizers invited the gay conservative group GOProud to be an official participant. Some social conservative groups protested the convention as a result, but gay conservatives and their allies this week declared victory, observing that they were well-received at the event. Ann Coulter: "The Left is Trying to Co-Opt Gays"

The Republican Party is a bizarre mashup of groups that have almost nothing in common, I think of the party as being made of sheep and shepherds, where the sheep far outnumber the smarter shepherds. You have on one side, how to put this delicately, rich people. I mean, really, can you believe the fight in Congress recently over taxing the super-rich? The GOP is their playground. Since the rich make up a tiny-and-shrinking percentage of the voters, they need to cultivate their flocks of, how to put this delicately, suckers. Their emotions are easily tweaked by evocation of The Frightening Other -- any outgroup will be enthusiastically hated, whether it is Muslims, gays, welfare mothers, Planned Parenthood, the Threat O' the Day keeps the sheep in a tight group, no one dares stray.

Gay people have been a kind of perfect outgroup for conservatives. The decades-long LGBT campaign to overcome stereotypes and acquire a voice in the national dialog is easily painted as a conspiracy, an "agenda," and it can be hard for straight people to empathize or understand how it is that anyone could find a member of their own sex attractive. So the issue is easily painted as a moral choice, and the obvious conclusion is that gay people are evil.

Is it possible to have a political party that promotes privilege for the rich, bank-breakingly heavy investment in the military, and elimination of programs that help the poor, the sick, minorities, and women, and is also inclusive of gays? The task for Republicans is to devise a public visage that gay people can accept without feeling overwhelmed by the cognitive dissonance resulting from embracing an ideological that strives to crush them. For instance, a gay person who holds the belief, "I am a respectable and decent person," is going to find his belief is inconsistent with everything that social conservatives in the Republican Party espouse.

So how would this work? I think it will work only for gay Republicans who do not have the belief, "I am a respectable and decent person." I think GOProud's Matt Hissey made the point perfectly well when he told Metro Weekly: "I don't really like gay people. Gay people frustrate me, the stereotypical gay people, it frustrates me." Asked for an example, he said, "Like someone who puts on a total act. Like I understand some guys are feminine which is fine, but some guys are really like at some point they're normal, straight-acting, whatever, and the next minute they're jumping up and down, they're having -- it just frustrates me."

It looks like it might be possible for the Republican Party to attract and include gay people who see other gay people in terms of negative stereotypes and count themselves as exceptions. I'm guessing that the liberal view that accepts and welcomes differences among people will always be more appealing to the majority of LGBT people. I'm just not seeing them joining the GOP flock quite yet.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Revolution in Egypt Succeeds

The people of Egypt are an inspiration to all of us. They aspired to freedom and democracy, and they risked their lives to get it.
Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday and handed over power to the military -- three decades of his iron-clad rule ended by an 18-day revolution.

In a somber one-minute announcement on state television, Vice President Omar Suleiman said Mubarak had resigned and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will "run the affairs of the country."

Tens of thousands of emotional Egyptians exploded in deafening cheers on the streets of Cairo, electric with excitement. It was a moment they had anticipated throughout long days of relentless demonstrations -- sometimes violent -- that demanded Mubarak's departure.

It was also a moment that many had thought unimaginable in the Arab world's powerhouse nation.

"Egypt is free!" and "God is Great," they chanted in the honeymoon of the moment. They waved Egyptian flags, honked horns and set off fireworks as they savored a moment that just days ago had seemed unimaginable. Egypt's Mubarak resigns after 30-year rule

Now the test is for us as Americans to learn to respect a free and sovereign country where the people might not especially like us after what we've put them through. The torturing, corrupt dictator Mubarak was a friend to the US and the people are not going to quickly forget what American values mean to them. The Obama administration needs to start right out with an honest, adult show of respect to this young democracy and show support for the right things: freedom, sovereignty, openness.

And of course the citizens of Egyptian need to figure out how to hold an honest election, how to redesign their system so bribery and corruption are not essential to making things work, today was a great breakthrough in world history but getting rid of Mubarak is only the beginning for them. I hope this is a pivotal point in the dynamics of the Middle East and especially in our country's relationship to the Arab countries that have been such a cause of concern for so many years. This is our opportunity to form real alliances, not favors from propped-up dictators but alliances based on our shared humanity.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Opponents Turn Opinion In Favor of Marriage

Had to appreciate this story about the hearings on marriage equality this week. There are several versions of it, we'll stay close to home and go with The Post this time:
Supporters of Maryland's same-sex marriage bill appear close to picking up a vote from an unexpected source: Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County).

Brochin had previously expressed support for civil unions but balked at granting full marriage rights to gay couples.

The day after a seven-hour hearing on the legislation, however, Brochin issued a news release Wednesday announcing he is reconsidering his position and would hold a press conference Thursday morning "to discuss his stance."

Brochin said in the news release that he was moved by testimony at the hearing, particularly that of the bill's opponents, which he called "appalling."

"Witness after witness demonized homosexuals, vilified the gay community and described gays and lesbians as pedophiles," Brochin said.

His news release seems to suggest Brochin will announce his support Thursday for the same-sex marriage bill. In it, Brochin quotes himself saying: "For me, the transition to supporting marriage has not been an easy one, but the uncertainty, fear and second-class status that gays and lesbians have to put up with is far worse and clearly must come to an end." Brochin reconsiders same-sex marriage opposition

Seven hours of this -- can you imagine! I hope our county's Citizens for Responsible Whatever were able to show up and give a lot of talks, they are always good. I have not seen any news reports though quoting Ruth Jacobs talking about anal sex, I did not hear about Peter Sprigg promoting his latest Top Ten list, but after seven hours of this stuff I'm sure the press can't repeat everything that is said.

The Pride in Utah blog is reporting that it was the testimony of NOM's Maggie Gallagher who changed Brochin's mind: "... after listening to testimony from Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization For Marriage (NOM), he’s said that her “demonization” of gay families has convinced him that he should side with marriage equality." Despite its name, the National Organization for Marriage is an organization that is actually against marriage for many Americans, attempting to keep it for heterosexual couples only. Their summer bus tour this past year was a hoot, drawing single-digit crowds in most cities they visited. But they keep on going, it's hard to say what motivates them but apparently Ms. Gallagher's presentation in Annapolis was enough to turn not only stomachs but minds as well.

The Baltimore Sun listed off state Senators who have stated they will or will not vote for the marriage equality bill, called the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act." Twenty-four votes are needed in the Senate, twenty are committed so far. Brochin will make twenty-one.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Jennie Forehand, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Rob Garagiola, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Lisa Gladden, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Verna Jones, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Delores Kelley, Baltimore County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Nancy King, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Republican
Sen. Richard Madaleno, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Roger Manno, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Karen Montgomery, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Paul Pinsky, Prince George's County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Victor Ramirez, Prince George's County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. James Robey, Howard County Democrat
Sen. Ronald Young, Frederick County Democrat (sponsor)
Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Baltimore County Democrat (sponsor)

Sen. Joanne Benson, Prince George's County Democrat
Sen. David Brinkley, Carroll and Frederick counties Republican
Sen. James Brochin, Baltimore County Democrat
Sen. Richard Colburn, Eastern Shore Republican
Sen. James DeGrange, Anne Arundel County Democrat
Sen. Roy Dyson, Southern Maryland Democrat
Sen. George Edwards, Western Maryland Republican
Sen. Joseph Getty, Baltimore and Carroll counties Republican
Sen. Barry Glassman, Harford County Republican
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford and Cecil counties Republican
Sen. J.B. Jennings, Baltimore and Harford counties Republican
Sen. James Mathias, Eastern Shore Democrat
Sen. Thomas Middleton, Charles County Democrat
Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George's and Calvert counties Democrat
Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Prince George's County Democrat
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, Prince George's County Democrat
Sen. E.J. Pipkin, Eastern Shore Republican
Sen. Edward Reilly, Anne Arundel County Republican
Sen. Christopher Shank, Washington County Republican
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, Anne Arundel County Republican
Sen. Norman Stone, Baltimore County Democrat

No public position
Sen. John Astle, Anne Arundel County Democrat
Sen. James Brochin, Baltimore County Democrat
Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Baltimore Democrat
Sen. Ulysses Currie, Prince George's County Democrat
Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, Baltimore and Howard counties Democrat
Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, Baltimore County Democrat
Sen. James Rosapepe, Prince George's County Democrat

If your Senator needs a little prodding, get on the phone and help them make up their mind. We note with pride that all our Montgomery County Senators are sponsors of the bill.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Woops ... Congressman Closes Briefcase, Goes Home

The Washington Post:
Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) resigned from the House Wednesday evening effective immediately, an announcement that came just hours after a Web site reported that the married congressman had sent a shirtless image of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist. [more below the image]

"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents," Lee said in a statement announcing his resignation. "I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness."

Lee's decision to vacate his Upstate New York seat came after Gawker, a gossip Web site, posted the shirtless image and what it said was correspondence between him and a 34-year-old woman.

The woman, who Gawker described as a 34-year-old government employee from Maryland but did not name, told the gossip site she posted an ad last month on the "Women for Men" forum seeking "financially & emotionally secure" men who don't "look like toads." That same day, she got a response from a person who said his name was Christopher Lee, describing himself as 39-year-old lobbyist, "a very fit fun classy guy. Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft 190lbs blond/blue." In follow-up e-mails he attached photos -- one in a blue polo, the other shirtless.

Lee, who is married and has one child, was elected to the 26th district in 2008 and easily re-elected in 2010. His resignation will trigger a special election in a district Arizona Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won with 52 percent of the vote in 2008. New York Rep. Chris Lee resigns from the House
Several newspapers are describing Lee as "anti-gay," and that is somehow not surprising. If he follows the standard script, there will be some embarrassing stuff with his wife and then he will beg the public for forgiveness, he will want us to overlook his faults and see his essential goodness. There will be no use of the word irony in the news coverage.

Testimony Yesterday on Marriage Equality

The Post reported last night:
Supporters of same-sex marriage came to Annapolis on Tuesday armed with personal stories, emotional pleas for equal treatment and arguments about how allowing gay couples to marry could help Maryland's economy.

Opponents countered with biblical verses, research suggesting that children are better off with both a mother and a father, and warnings that "redefining marriage" could undermine other social institutions.

In all, about 140 witnesses signed up to testify on the highest-profile social issue facing the Maryland General Assembly this year. The committee hearing spanned more than seven hours. Same-sex marriage has good chance of approval, Maryland Senate leader says

A hundred forty people signed up to testify. I don't know what the usual legislative hearing attracts, but that sounds like a lot -- let's hear it for participatory democracy!

Skipping down a little ...
In the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee room, some of the most powerful testimony Tuesday was offered by an openly gay lawmaker, Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who called it "a badge of dishonor" to have to introduce people to his "partner."

"We had a church wedding 10 years ago this year, and in the eyes of our religion, our families, our friends and in my heart, he is my spouse," Madaleno (D-Montgomery) said. "But under Maryland's civil law, he is a legal stranger to me."

I think the key to this is for straight people to recognize the simple fact that gay people are people. They aren't an organization with a conspiratorial plan to take over the world, they are just folks. They fall in love just like everybody else, sometimes they want to marry and start a family and have a home and fight over the remote just like the rest of us.
Although some religious leaders testified in favor of the bill, opponents were bolstered by a parade of clergy members urging lawmakers to maintain Maryland's law, which limits marriage to a man and a woman.

"Your concern should not be pandering to the political move of the day but truthfully working to foster conditions which unequivocally have been proven to be the best environment for children and families," said Derek McCoy, a Beltsville pastor who is president of the Maryland Family Alliance. "Children do better economically, socially and educationally when raised by a mom and a dad."

Of course there is nothing "unequivocal" about any of the research findings on the subject.

Also, I note that there is no great movement from the Christian right urging lawmakers to prohibit divorce.
The same-sex marriage bill is expected to draw very little Republican support in the Maryland legislature - where Democrats hold lopsided majorities in both chambers. But to show some bipartisan support, several Republicans testified in favor of the measure early in Tuesday's proceedings.

Among them was Chrysovalantis P. Kefalas, who served as deputy legal counsel to former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Kefalas said Ehrlich has continued to oppose same-sex marriage. But Kefalas said he considers the legislation to be consistent with Republican principles of freedom and limited government.

The idea that government should decide who you can marry is so obviously opposed to conservative principles that they must just cringe when they have to support this kind of thing. Some conservatives hold positions that support the status quo, keep the currently dominant group in power, and promote norms and beliefs that are held by, basically, white middle-class Christian men. Other conservatives derive their particular policy opinions from a set of principles including a trust in individual liberties and a reduced role for government in citizens' private lives. You can't have both at the same time, but the modern so-called conservative movement has comprised an uncomfortable alliance between those who hold the two types of beliefs.
Kefalas also disclosed that he is gay and long struggled to accept his identify.

"Under present law, I'm considered less of a citizen than many of you," he told the committee.

Man, that's gotta be tough, being a gay Republican.
Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (Howard), the only GOP senator to have announced support for the bill, also testified, appearing on the first panel with Madaleno and Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery), the bill's lead sponsor.

"I don't speak for all Republicans in Maryland, but I speak for a lot of them," said Kittleman, who stepped down last month as Senate minority leader after getting flak for saying he would introduce a bill allowing civil unions.

Last week, Kittleman changed his mind and decided to support the marriage bill.

I suppose its newsworthy to note the dynamics within the Republican Party as the ones who stand up for principles are knocked out of power by the status quo politicians, but really, it doesn't matter what they say and do, Republicans in the Maryland legislature are so far outnumbered that they hardly have any influence except where they can block stuff in committee.

I'm waiting to get to the part where Ruth Jacobs talks about anal sex. Don't tell me it's not in here!
Tuesday's hearing grew combative at several points, particularly during testimony by Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization that seeks to defend "religious freedom."

Nimocks argued that government should keep marriage between a man and a woman as an incentive to foster "responsible procreation."

"Men and women still comprise the two great halves of humanity," Nimocks said. "It matters that a child has a mom and a dad."

At several points in the hearing, proponents argued otherwise. Referring to Madaleno and his children, Garagiola said, "That is a very happy family."

In response to questioning by senators, Nimocks acknowledged that children of some same-sex couples could be better off than children of some heterosexual couples. But he said research has shown that in most cases, the best situation for a child is "a low-conflict marraige" between a man and a woman.

I would appreciate if someone would paste a link to such research into the comments to this post. I have read some findings supporting the idea that children do better by some measures in households with more than one parent, but none that found an effect for opposite-sex parent dyads.
Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, made a similar argument in written testimony.

"Erasing from law the uniqueness of the relationship between men and women and the distinction of that relationship from any other relationship would deny to future generations a recognition of our natural origin that lies at the very core of who we are as human beings," Russell said.

Earlier in the hearing, Ryan Spiegel, a member of the Gaithersburg City Council, offered a different perspective, arguing that Maryland hotels and cake makers would be among the beneficiaries of legalizing same-sex marraige [sic]. He called the legislation "the right thing to do from an economic standpoint."

You can never tell with these things, of course, there is some precedent for politicians to back down from controversial issues and this one could fizzle just like it always has before, but the talk this year does seem more optimistic. In fact it is quite likely that the state of Maryland will take the progressive step of extending marriage law to same sex couples. The most we can do here is to keep the discussion alive, to bring out rational points pro and con and discuss their merits, try to keep The Nutty Ones from hijacking the debate, and let cool heads in Annapolis vote on the legislation when the time comes. We've elected leaders who we think will represent us well, now it's in their hands.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Marriage Equality Hearings Today

I just love it when people forward me email from The Nutty Ones. They are trying to rally the troops to go to Annapolis today to lobby to "save marriage."

The dream of marriage is currently nothing more than a dream for Maryland gay and lesbian couples. You can fall in love, start a family, buy a home, but you will be denied the hundreds of legal benefits that are extended to married couples.

For some reason, some people are scared to death of the idea that somebody would marry someone of their same sex.

Yesterday's email blast comes nominally from a group called "Maryland 4 Marriage," which is a weird name since their aim is to make sure that some people who want to can't marry. The group's domain registration shows them to be registered by the National Organization for Marriage, a nutty-as-a-fruitcake rightwing group that has embarrassed itself repeatedly but keeps coming back with dumber and dumber arguments against marriage equality.

In reality, the return address on the email is Ruth Jacobs, president of the Citizens for Responsible Government in our county. Dr. Jacobs' contribution to protecting marriage is to remain single herself. This is the same group who opposed sex-ed in Montgomery County, the same group who fought so hard to keep discrimination against transgender people legal. Now, predictably, they don't want gay people to marry.

The email is trying to get their people to go to Annapolis to attend the hearing and talk to legislators. If you are one of them you are supposed to wear red white and blue, and they will have stickers for you.

What is actually the problem with marriage for same-sex couples? There isn't much to this email but they do explain:
Because these Maryland bills would remove "a man and a woman" from marriage, generational ties will be lost and Marriage law will have to be rewritten. Senate Bill 116 and HB55/175 would force Marylanders to say "Goodbye, MOM and DAD" & "Hello, Parent One and Parent Two." Children will suffer as this would legalize the exclusion of one or the other of their biologic parents.

The first link goes to a Post article noting that passport forms will now say "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" instead of Mother and Father. You know how it goes, today it's passport forms, tomorrow the Obama administration will make it illegal for children to call their parents "Mom," "Dad," Ma," "Pop," Mama," Daddy..." an entire agency will be formed to list all the names that children cannot call their parents. Sorry, people, it was good to change the form because there are a lot of couples where both are male or both are female, it doesn't make sense to make them define themselves as mothers and fathers if that isn't what they are. It's common sense and it doesn't hurt you any.

The second link is to a Baltimore Sun editorial by Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg, who is a member of Citizens for Responsible Whatever. Sprigg argues that marriage exists for procreation and keeping a family together to raise children. He is also opposed to same-sex couples adopting, in case you wondered. If you were to ask a hundred people to answer the question, "What is marriage for?" you would get a hundred answers, even if you asked a hundred experts.

I can't help but point attention to the phrase "legalize the exclusion of one or the other of their biologic parents." What does that mean? People divorce, people put kids up for adoption, parents die, parents travel and work long hours sometimes, there are all kinds of ways that biological parents are excluded from a child's life. The phrase is nonsense, these are some words that make the average Citizen for Responsible Whatever gasp with indignation but the phrase does not mean a thing. I'm sorry but I find these kinds of statements comical.

Hey, if you care about this, get in your car and get over there. Hearings are today, Tuesday, February 8th. The Citizens for Responsible Whatever did us a favor, they included direction for how to get there.
Spread the word! Forward this email to friends!

Directions for Attending the Hearing on Tuesday, February 8, 2011!

The hearing will start at 1:00 pm and be held in Room 2 in the East Wing of the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis. Your presence is very important. Please try to make it out for all or part of the hearing. Come beforehand to save seats and lobby your representatives and the senate committee.

For parking, go to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and take the shuttle. Directions to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium : Take Route 50 to Exit 24B, Rowe Blvd. Follow Rowe Blvd. to a right turn at the second stop light onto Taylor Avenue and follow the signs to a right turn into the Blue Parking Lot.

There you go.

"Protect Marriage" Guy to Testify Tomorrow

Amanda Hess has a story at TBD about Robert Broadus, the man who is leading the fight against marriage equality in Maryland. He's going to testify in the Maryland state Senate tomorrow.
The man leading the charge against same-sex marriage in Maryland wants you to know that his opposition to gays comes from a place of tolerance. "I'm not a person who hates other people," says Broadus, head of the newly-formed Protect Marriage Maryland, a group bent on preventing the passage of gay marriage in the state. "I've known plenty of gay people. I've hung out with gay people. I've been hit on by gay people," Broadus says. "I don’t turn around and punch them. In school, if I saw the gay kid getting picked on, I stood up for the gay kid and tried to stop it."

"The problem," Broadus explains, "is that they have gained so much power at this point in time."

Broadus' objection to gays begins when "they start wanting to stomp on the religious rights of other people," when "they want to tell me that everything in my Bible is false," he says. Broadus, a lifetime area resident and former Congressional candidate from Maryland, describes himself as "just a very concerned citizen" who worries that gay marriage in Maryland could intrude on his (tolerant) views of homosexuality. "I'm a person of faith. I was raised going to church every Sunday, listening to sermons, preachers, and learning from my family," Broadus says. "Homosexuality was not the norm. Gay was not what a respectable person would grow up to be." Protect Marriage Maryland tolerates gays, as long as they don't have "too much power"

I suppose there is some little irony in a black guy saying "some of my best friends are gay" as proof that he's not prejudiced or anything. Maybe his generation (he's in his thirties) just hasn't been exposed to some of the cliches.

There is also irony in the fact that the writer doesn't even have to say anything about this man's sad comments. Simply repeating his statements in print frames the irony in an obvious way. If you claimed to agree with him, your agreement would be taken as satire, like if you quoted the political philosophy of Beavis and Butthead. Like, gay people are so powerful now, they're just about running things, ya know? And they're always stomping on everybody else's religious rights, y'know, going around being gay and everything as if there was nothing wrong with it.
Tomorrow, Broadus plans to air those views at a state Senate hearing on the gay marriage bill, where he will question the litigation's commitment to "religious freedom." "Being a Catholic and dealing with the Catholic church, we're concerned about religious liberties," Broadus says. "The law is written in such a way that a priest won’t have to perform gay marriages. But of course, the priest is not the only person involved in marriage. There are plenty of people involved in the marriage industry who are against gay marriage: Chauffeurs, caterers, florists, lawyers, photographers. All these people will be completely unprotected."

Since joining the anti-gay-marriage fight, Broadus says that his tolerance of gays has been tested. He points to the comments on a YouTube video he recorded last month as confirmation that gay rights in Maryland constitute a concerted attack people like him. "They're saying that I'm just eating fried chicken and waiting for my welfare check," Broadus says. "The hatred they have, and they're asking me for tolerance? It's like, wow. It’s like the whole world’s been turned upside down."

This guy Broadus is a piece of work. Oliver Willis had a blog post in 2009 entitled Robert Broadus Is Whats Wrong With America that explains who Broadus is in, let's say, undiluted terms.

The address given for Protect Marriage Maryland on their web site is Broadus' (a single father of two, how's that for protecting marriage!) house in Clinton.

There is something wrong when a handful of losers like Broadus can prevent real people from fulfilling their lives' dreams of marrying and having a family. I think this is the year that Maryland will turn the corner on marriage equality and pass a good, solid bill giving full equal rights to same-sex couples. If Robert Broadus testifies conspicuously and answers a lot of questions about his beliefs this goal will only be attained faster.