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I just watched the documentary, Gay USA. It was filmed in June 1977 with camera crews at the gay parades in San Diego, LA, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. Though it seems like there’s a fairly heavy emphasis on the San Francisco event.

I was in high school at the time this was filmed and knew very little about gay people, other than what was presented in mainstream media, which at the time was heavily focused on Anita Bryant and her anti-gay crusade. It’s a shame that there was no means in place for me to be exposed to things like this film, because it surely would have helped me figure things out quite a bit sooner about myself.

Once you get past the multitude of hairy shirtless guys in jeans – hey man, it was the seventies – there is quite a bit of interesting material. (Well, actually the hairy shirtless guys are interesting too. It takes me back!) While the vast majority of America was anti-gay at the time, there were still straight allies in attendance. A lot of the things said back then by participants are still true today, such as it being not so easy to be gay in Kansas. Some of the most interesting interview bits come in the last half of the film, so it’s worth watching all the way through.

I watched the movie through my Amazon Prime membership for free, but I’d imagine it can also be found on Netflicks and other online movie outlets. Check it out.

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A new report is out from Third Way, a center-left think tank. Third Way was evidently responsible for some of the research the successful marriage equality campaigns relied on for the ballot measures last month. The organization conducted a post-election poll in Washington State to determine what all went into the success, and to collect information to aid future campaigns moving forward. For the stat geeks out there, it’s interesting reading.

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A new article from The Atlantic provides an in-depth look at the four-state victory in November for marriage equality, going back to earlier roots and discussing behind the scenes decision making and strategizing. It goes into quite a bit of detail about things I summarized in a recent post here.

The end of the piece discusses what comes next, and cautions those who might be too eager in attempting to build on the recent successes without first laying the critical groundwork. The article is well worth reading if you have the time and interest.

One paragraph from early in the article nicely summarizes part of why I feel marriage equality is so important, despite the fact I have no interest in getting married myself:

To Wolfson, the fight for marriage was about making gays full participants in American life and fully human in the eyes of their fellow citizens. “This was something that would transform non-gay people’s understanding of who gay people are,” he told me. “It would help people understand gay people as fully rounded human beings, with the hopes and dreams and human aspirations we all have.” Other gay-rights struggles were mainly about convincing people to overlook sexual orientation, in employment or medical care or military service. Marriage is about what makes gay people who they are: their relationships with others of the same sex. In ratifying marriage for gays and lesbians, society would be ratifying the core of their identity — their love for one another.

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The United States Supreme Court issued an order earlier today granting certiorari in two important same-sex marriage cases. The scheduling order will come later, but it’s expected that oral arguments will take place in March 2013. Decisions are usually published in June, regardless of when the cases are argued, and for these cases it will likely be the end of June when we get the decisions.

In the California Proposition 8 case (HOLLINGSWORTH, DENNIS, ET AL. V. PERRY, KRISTIN M., ET AL.), the Ninth Circuit Court decision ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional is being appealed. (Prop 8 amended the California state constitution to ban same-sex marriage after it had already been legal in the state. There are currently 18,000 married same-sex couples in California.) In addition to the question presented by the petition, the Court has asked for briefing and arguments on the question as to whether the petitioners have standing to appeal.

The petitioners in this case are the Proposition 8 proponents, the organization which put the amendment on the state ballot and campaigned for its success. The state itself declined to defend the case, so the backers of the initiative stepped in to defend it. Their standing (right to defend in federal court) has been at question throughout the process.

At each previous step they were granted standing, but the foundation for that is shaky. The Supreme Court apparently feels that it’s an important separate question they want to address, along with the merits of the case itself.

The Windsor case (UNITED STATES V. WINDSOR, EDITH S., ET AL.) concerns DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. It is one of only two DOMA cases on appeal to the Supreme Court that has gotten as far as being ruled on by a federal circuit court. The others petitioning for cert have only made it through the federal district court level and are currently still on appeal at circuit courts.

While the deliberations on which cases to grant cert to are not made public, it’s likely that Windsor was chosen over the Gill v. OPM case because Justice Kagan had indicated her intention to recuse herself from the Gill case. The Windsor case allows the full court to hear and decide the case.

Like in the Prop 8 case, the Court increased the complexity of what is being argued by adding two questions it wants addressed in briefing and argument. One is whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the case, and the other is whether BLAG (the House Republicans who are defending the case) have standing to do so.

The first of those two questions is the more interesting one, and the one less easily understood. Why wouldn’t the Supreme Court have jurisdiction? The question arises because the Department of Justice is the petitioner, even though the circuit court ruled in the DOJ’s favor and struck down DOMA. It’s unusual for the winner to appeal a decision.

At issue, from the DOJ’s point of view, is the fact that the executive branch of the federal government is still responsible for enforcing a law that it deems to be unconstitutional until it is struck down by the Supreme Court. The decision by the Second Circuit that DOMA is unconstitutional applies only to the states within the second circuit, so the DOJ is seeking a final high court opinion to settle the matter of constitutionality and enforcement once and for all.

Apparently the Supreme Court believes this point of jurisdiction under these circumstances is an important one to decide, in addition to the merits of the case itself.

The Court’s order can be read here.

Details about these cases and several others can be found at prop8trialtracker.com.

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Yesterday the state of Washington started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. King County made a big production of it, opening the clerk’s office at 12:01 am on December 6th, and holding a little ceremony. (Video: news coverage, outside the courthouse, a short piece, full ceremony.) Weddings will not start taking place until this Sunday, because Washington has a three day waiting period.

After all votes were counted, Referendum 74 was approved 54-46 statewide. Washington has 39 counties and the referendum was only approved in 10 of them. Only one county in the very conservative eastern half of the state (where WSU is located) approved the referendum.

Those bare numbers are only part of the story. The most interesting numbers are from the counties where the referendum failed. Adams County, a rural area with a low population, had the lowest approval rate at only 28 percent, which looks rather daunting. But only 3 counties had an approval rate of under 30%. In 14 counties where the referendum failed, is was still approved by over 40% of voters.

These numbers are promising, not only for the eventual general acceptance of married same-sex couples as they become a common part of our communities in this state, but also for the nation as a whole. Washington is a deeply divided state between liberal and conservative halves. Yet even in most of the conservative bastions there exists a significant base of support for equality on which to build.

Marriage equality would not be possible without the efforts made by our straight allies. Minorities, by the fact of being minorities, are only able to accomplish a certain amount on our own. Technically the US Constitution grants all citizens equal rights, but the truth is that most minorities have had to fight to obtain equality.

As minorities we have to bring our issues to the attention of the majority, demanding the respect and equal treatment we are due. At a certain point we usually have to depend on the fairness of the majority to recognize our plight and join us in the fight to make equality a reality. So I want to thank all the fair-minded straight people of Washington State who made this a reality by staffing phone banks, donating money, and voting. Dan Savage said it pretty well here.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), is the primary organizer against marriage equality. Going into the November 2012 elections they said they would be victorious, continuing their substantial winning streak at the ballot box, because the majority of Americans still believe marriage is only between one man and one woman. But they lost in a clean sweep of all four states.

NOM now claims that they expected to lose because the four states are deep blue states, and because their opponents were better funded. There is truth in both of those reasons, but you have to look deeper than that.

Why were they underfunded and understaffed compared to equality proponents? It’s because their cause is no longer a popular one. There are more people and companies supporting equality than there are those against it enough to cough up hard-earned dollars or their precious time to campaign. NOM is not yet willing to concede this point, but it’s there for anyone to see. In 2009 five donations made up 75% of their funding, and in 2010 only two donors accounted for two-thirds of their funding. They are not a grassroots organization.

More importantly though, marriage equality supporters have learned the necessary lessons from past losses. They were aggressive this time in controlling the conversation and in quickly responding to the lies told in ads by the anti-equality groups.

The central message changed from one of gay people demanding equal rights, which is more cold and abstract, to one of average citizens, including people of faith, talking about family, love, and commitment, which is a warm message people respond to positively on a gut level. The anti-equality people only trotted out the same old bigotry and lies they’ve depended on in the past, and that doesn’t play as well as it did ten years ago.

Just as importantly, it was the questions being asked on the ballots. Social science and polling has long demonstrated that how a question is asked, or which question is asked, will to a great extent affect the answers received.

Much earlier in the year marriage equality advocates suffered a big loss in North Carolina, where voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning all recognition of same-sex relationships, including marriage. It passed by 61%. Some of that large margin was due to voter confusion about what the amendment actually did, but a lot of it was due to the question being asked: should marriage between one man and one woman be the only domestic legal union recognized by the state.

There is a highly crucial distinction between voting about the definition of marriage, and voting about the rights of fellow citizens. There are a significant number of people in this country who occupy a middle ground on this issue. They believe on a personal level that marriage is only an institution between men and women, yet at the same time they’re fair-minded and believe that others should be allowed to enjoy full rights as citizens.

These middle ground people often vote according to which question they are asked. If asked: should marriage be defined only as a union between one man and one woman, they’ll often vote yes. It’s what they believe. But if asked instead: should same-sex couples be allowed to marry, many of them will vote yes on that, especially if the language includes explicit protection for religious freedom. It sounds like a semantics issue, but it’s much more than that. How a question is asked taps into people’s deeply held beliefs about what is right and what is fair.

In all three states where marriage equality was approved in November, the language used on the ballot was directly responsible for helping to insure success. Straight voters were not asked about the definition of marriage, they were asked if their fellow citizens should have the same rights they already enjoy.

These lessons about controlling the message, making the message more accessible to the average person, and insuring that ballot language reflects what is actually being voted on will help pave the way for future success down the road in other states.

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Obama Wins a Second Term!

Yeah, everyone knows by now. I don’t really have anything of worth to add about that. But I will say that I’m giddy with relief. I think changing horses midstream at this point, especially to Mr. Can’t-hold-an-opinion-longer-than-two-weeks-and-forty-seven-percent-of-you-suck Romney, would have been disastrous.

Gains for women!

A record number of women will be representing American citizens in the US Senate. Currently there are 17 women serving, which was also a record. After the new senators are sworn in for the next session, there will be 19 women serving in the Senate. Possibly 20, if Heidi Heitkamp manages to pull out a win in her very close North Dakota race.

Even more exciting, Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay person to be elected to the US Senate.

It’s rather discouraging that after all this time women will make up only 20% of our Senate when we are over 50% of the population. But at least we’re heading in the right direction, even if agonizingly slowly.

Akin and Mourdock lost their races, giving women everywhere reason to breathe a sigh of relief. If the names don’t ring a bell: Akin was the astoundingly ignorant candidate who thinks women have mystical woo-woo reproductive systems that automatically shut down in the case of “legitimate rape”. Mourdock holds the repugnant view that a child conceived via rape is “a gift from God”.

We’re here, we’re queer, we’re gonna get married!

Well, okay, I’m not gonna get married. Not my thing. But lots of my brothers and sisters will be tying the knot.

Maine had an initiative put on the ballot by the people to legalize same-sex marriage. With 75% of the votes tallied, it is passing by 53%.

Maryland and my beloved state of Washington had referendums on the ballot. Our legislatures passed marriage equality laws earlier this year and people who didn’t like that gathered enough signatures to put the laws on the ballot for approval.

With 97% of the votes tallied in Maryland, their referendum is being approved by 52%. Washington is a bit trickier because our elections are done entirely by mail, and any ballot postmarked by the 6th counts. So only 51% of votes have been tallied so far. But the referendum is being approved by 52%, and I’m optimistic that will hold.

The state of Minnesota had a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment would have banned same-sex marriage. With 97% of votes tallied, it has been rejected by 51%. That doesn’t mean gay people will be able to get married in Minnesota yet, because there’s already an existing state law against it. But it does mean that the discrimination will not be enshrined in their state constitution.

This is all very big news. The fact that it’s a clean sweep is rather startling. Especially since polls leading up to the election in Minnesota were not very encouraging. Up until now, marriage measures, whether initiatives, laws, or amendments, have always failed when put up for popular vote. (There’s one exception, but it was turned back later in a followup vote.) Not only has that string of losses been broken, it was broken four times in one day.

But the other more subtle thing that I find interesting, and it’s a portent of real change, is the final vote percentages. Up until now there has been a significant tendency for people to misrepresent how they were going to vote on gay issues when being polled. (Many people would tell pollsters that they supported an issue, when they obviously ended up voting against it.) Also, most of those who stated they were undecided when being polled usually voted against the measure. What this meant was that you needed to add anywhere from 6-10% to the anti-equality poll numbers to get a closer reading on what was likely to actually happen at the ballot box.

A lot of that disappeared this time. It was still somewhat evident, but now falling more within the margin of error. The polls did a fairly good job of predicting the outcomes, or even in the case of Minnesota, underestimating support in the final days. This is a good sign for the future.

Reefer Madness!

Washington and Colorado have become the first two states to legalize marijuana. Not just decriminalize it, and not just allow medical marijuana, but legalize pot for personal recreational use for adults age 21 and over. It will be regulated by the state in a manner very similar to alcohol. (Colorado did it by amending their state constitution.)

The ballot measures passed by substantial percentages in both states, and not only in traditionally liberal areas either. It will be interesting to see how the federal government reacts. I have a feeling this issue will be heading for the Supreme Court eventually.

Passage in two of the three* states voting on the issue is a sign people understand that prohibition not only doesn’t work, but ends up costing us as a society. Both financially, and in the loss of people to the criminal system who don’t belong there.

* Oregon also had legalization on the ballot and I’m surprised at the results. They rejected the measure by the same percentage that it’s passing in Washington. Yet it usually seems like Oregon is on the forefront of these sorts of things. I haven’t looked into it at all, but it’s possible that there were problems with the specific law that people rejected, rather than the idea itself.

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve been following several court cases dealing with same-sex marriage over the last couple years. Aside from the Proposition 8 case from California, there are several DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) challenges making their way through the courts.

At least one of them will likely be taken up by the Supreme Court in its next session. (The session starts in November and runs through June.) My prediction is that this time next year DOMA will be dead, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

There are several interesting aspects of these cases, primarily centering around equal treatment under the law and level of scrutiny due gay and lesbian American citizens. But there is another aspect that should be of interest to a broader range people. That topic is federalism.

For the entire history of the United States, domestic law has been the domain of the states, including regulating what constitutes a legal marriage and who can legally marry. The federal government has always accepted state definitions, allowing for differences from state to state. It didn’t matter that there was a lack of uniformity, if a marriage was legal in the state, it was legal for federal purposes.

In the case of DOMA, the federal government took the unprecedented action of overriding state authority.  Under DOMA, a same-sex couple can be legally married in the eyes of their state, but they become unmarried in the eyes of the federal government. The two spouses are considered legal strangers. Aside from the messy and precarious legal situations this engenders for individual couples, this constitutes a federal challenge to state sovereignty.

This is important to our nation as a whole, because if the US Congress is allowed to intrude in this area that is normally off limits, there is nothing stopping them from intruding elsewhere in the future. So putting aside equality considerations, it would be dangerous for the Supreme Court to allow DOMA to stand for this reason alone.

What is ironic and confounding is that maintaining state sovereignty is normally an issue of great importance to conservatives. Yet it’s mostly conservatives who are throwing away one of their key values in favor of their desire to impose their version of morality on the nation.

Three states (New York, Vermont, and Connecticut) have filed an amicus brief in the Windsor case that very nicely lays out the federalism concern. It’s excellent reading for anyone even the least interested in the topic, and quite educational. I highly recommend giving it a look.

If you’re interested in following the court cases and other equality issues,  I recommend bookmarking prop8trialtracker.com. They post frequent updates, and it’s convenient to get all the important information in one spot on the web.

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In the interests of fairness, since I had mentioned the inquiry in my previous update, I thought I should post this. The University of Texas has completed their initial inquiry and determined there is no reason to conduct a formal investigation.

It’s important to point out that they were not looking into the study itself, but whether or not Mark Regnerus had engaged in misconduct.

So the University has cleared him of misconduct (probably rightly so), but that still leaves all the questions raised by a couple hundred social scientists regarding poor methodology and inappropriate conclusions on the table.

The University’s public statement can be read here.

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It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my previous posts about the Mark Regnerus NFSS paper (here and here), or other criticisms by experts around the web, that the paper published by Regnerus in Social Science Research, a peer-review journal, is indeed bullshit. But it is Darren E. Sherkat, a member of the journal’s editorial board, who is saying it this time.

Sherkat was assigned to conduct an internal audit of the study and its peer-review process. The audit results will be published in the November issue of the journal. The audit found that there are significant and disqualifying problems with the study, that the peer-review process failed to identify them, and that there were conflicts of interest among the reviewers.

Sherkat concluded that the Regnerus paper never should have been published, and in an interview bluntly summed it up by saying, “It’s bullshit.”

The audit finds that the peer-review process failed due to both ideology and inattention. In other words, some people failed the process due to having an ideological agenda. Others were simply busy and skimmed, not catching the study’s methodology problems.

In my original post I was apparently incorrect that Regnerus was only making guesses about whether any respondents had lived with a stable same-sex couple their entire lives. According to this article by Tom Bartlett, which is where I read about the audit, Regnerus does know.

The study reported that there were 236 respondents raised by gay parents. According to Bartlett, of those, only two were children raised by a lesbian couple for their entire childhood. (None by gay male couples.)

I hope everyone is grasping the enormity of this. A study purporting to accurately depict child-rearing outcomes by lesbian and gay parents had only two respondents that actually fit into that category.

In addition to the internal audit by Social Science Research, The University of Texas is conducting a scientific misconduct investigation to determine if the study lacks scientific integrity and if Regnerus engaged in improper behavior in regards to study funding and others connected with the study.

Lastly, to highlight my concern about the bullshit study being used improperly in court cases, yesterday I read the court’s summary judgement in a Hawaii case where the Regnerus NFSS study was used to “prove” that parenting by married opposite-sex couples is superior to parenting by gay and lesbian couples.

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I’m really behind on my reviewing! (And doing Book Bits!)

I just finished reading Two on the Aisle by Robbi McCoy, so wrote my review tonight while I was still thinking about it. It has been added to the Romance page in my Lezzie Books section, or you can go directly to the review by clicking here.

There have been a few other books that I’ve intended to review over the last few months, but kept procrastinating. Which then makes it difficult to write a decent review, since my impressions are no longer fresh. For two of them, I’ve added their titles to their respective Lezzie Books category pages and included links to my brief Book Bits comments.

Both of these books are highly recommended. They are: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson and Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. They are both mentioned in my April 2012 Book Bits post.

Also mentioned in that Book Bits post (and also highly recommended) is Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, which has been added to my Miscellaneous category page. (I guess April was a good queer reading month for me!)

To find other lesbian and bi book reviews and recommendations click on the Lezzie Books tab at the top of this page.

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