Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rhode Island Rough Road

As it had become increasingly obvious that Rhode Island's equality politics had turned rancid I've avoided mentioning it. Sure enough, the dread of many of us happened yesterday. Peering over at same-sex marriage, only a few short steps away, nerve and will failed. Gay-friendly and openly gay pols had failure of will and nerve. They voted 21 to 16 for a severely mangled civil-union bill, one that pleases no one.

Let us touch on a few of Rhody's distinctions.
  • Its first white settler was Rev. William Blackstone, who had been the first in what is now Boston. He got away from the growing intolerance on the Shawmut peninsula.
  • Then Roger Williams brought his crowd for similar and expanded purposes of freedom.
  • It was the site of the continent's first Jewish temple and was an open home for religious liberty.
  • It still exempts orthodox Jewish groups from its more restrictive marriage regulations.
  • It recognized same-sex marriages solemnized in Massachusetts when other states refuse comity.
  • It allows and even encourages businesses and non-profits to offer homosexual couples full benefits.
Meanwhile, progressive marriage-equality actions were doubly crushed. The RC Bishop there is virulently anti-gay and definitely anti-SSM. Moreover, the arch-conservative governor and top legislative leaders in both houses quashed any effort to vote on or even debate equality. Even as the voters were polling strong and stronger in favor of SSM, they did not believe in democracy any more than they did in LGBT rights.

When everyone except the unelected bishop, Thomas Tobin, was voted out or hit their term limits, RI was the obvious next state for full equality. Almost like a sign from a compassionate and liberty loving deity, openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox led the short march toward SSM.

Then his heart failed. He inexplicably began speaking of civil union. Then worse, in the name of efficacy, he went with the Corvese amendment that allowed broad exemptions, watering even weak civil unions into transparency. Imagine a legal union where one member cannot make medical decisions for the other in even the most loosely religiously affiliated hospital!

Well, that's what the RI legislature passed and the governor says he'll sign. It's a disgrace and atavism.

Of course, there is now a clear path to SSM there, but along a long trail that will require lots of work, time, money and general waste. They'll have to restart and go the way of Connecticut in converting a shack into a mansion. That could well be what the anti-gay sorts intended all along and got with Fox' passive help. If they can't stop marriage equality, they can make the good guys labor mightily for it — punishment they figure the homosexuals deserve.

I do believe that RI will get there. This is not the way station any equality minded folk envisioned..

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

O for Specious Lies

The ever risible Jeff Jacoby is worth a skim today. This reiteration of the anti-marriage equality stance is his clearest. Those who care for civil rights should check in to see how inane and illogical those talking points remain.

Keys include:
  • Expanding civil marriage to include homosexual couples would qualify as redefining marriage.
  • Marriage's purpose is for procreation.
  • Every child wants, deserves and will only thrive with a pair of heterosexual parents.
  • There's no comparison between anti-SSM laws and anti-miscegenation ones.
I've seen him do this live, as live as he gets anyway, at an anti-SSM panel downtown. There the entire panel devolved into the inevitable pseudo-logic of it's only common sense. Yet, my observation is that anyone who is falling back on that is really saying there's no logical support, you're just supposed to except assertions and grunt approval — the I-got-nothing argument.


The anti-gay gangs have had too long a run with redefining marriage as a catchphrase. As our mildly befuddled POTUS shows, it is all too easy to conflate any single church or sect's rituals with state controlled civil marriage.

Various religious groups and their clerics and pols are the ones who define marriage by their particular texts and creeds. Those widely diverge and have no legal or logical stance in public policy and civil law.

The facts included and shall continue to that if your church says marriage is between one man and one woman over 18, that's that religious ritual. It's not important if your state says kids can marry at 15 or 16, or that homosexual couples can marry. No one has or can change your religious institution's practices and policies. There absolutely is no redefinition going on here.

Of course those with even the most rudimentary knowledge of various Christian bibles, the Koran or history snort at the phrase traditional marriage. That institution has traditionally meant polygamy, concubines, women as property, and unions for political and real estate purposes.

At what point would the Jacobys like to create and freeze (a.k.a. redefine) marriage to suit their purposes?.


I am embarrassed for the anti-SSM/anti-gay crowd when they glibly assert that marriage is for, solely for making babies. How awful that is for the many millions of American couples who:
  • Are physically incapable of reproduction.
  • Use artificial insemination to compensate for one of them.
  • Expand their family through adoption or as foster parents.
  • Choose not to have children.
  • Are of an age when reproducing is long in the past.
Many socially conservative, religious sorts fit such categories. The anti-SSM position should preclude each and all of them from marrying. If not, there's no basis for this as any prohibition on gay marriage.

How tough that must be for adoptive parents who hear their preachers and politician rant on about marriage being for reproduction. Their opening their hearts, arms and homes to children who would otherwise bounce among foster parents or be institutionalized seems to be unworthy to some.

Likewise, those who need INF, surrogate moms and such are denigrated for what is both a physical and moral failing to some.

This must be like being in the pews of an anti-LGBT preacher's church, where the homily or sermon is often about the damnable life and pending perdition of people like you.

Mom and Dad

That two, straight parent configuration too is as quaint and unsupportable as claiming everyone should have a two-car garage. On the scientific side, research weighs heavily against the superiority of the 1950s ideal nuclear family.

It is very sad that physical, sexual and emotional abuse occurs all too frequently in the mom-and-dad home. Economically, having two parents tends to mean the children have more resources, but here's no evidence that the parents need be heterosexual for kids to flourish. In fact, the many dozens of studies suggest there is neutral to slightly positive outcomes for homosexual parents.

This mom-and-dad position also falls in the it's-only-common-sense pattern. Not only is that not so as proven by those who study families, each of us likely has common-sense experience otherwise. While there surely are bad gay parents — alcohol or other drug dependency, child beaters and so forth — I have never know any. Yet, the vignettes and horror stories of friends from childhood on are often of how dysfunctional their two-straight-parent families were.

The fantasized ideal here falls far, far short.

Civil Rights

Perhaps most insidious among the false positions on SSM is that this is not a civil rights issue, specifically that there is no comparison with former state and U.S. laws prohibiting interracial marriages. I call B.S. on that, as we all should.

Back when blacks and white, Chinese and whites and others were not allowed to wed, it was the damned same. The bigots used Old Testament passages (like Ham after the great flood) to justify slavery as well as miscegenation laws. They claimed mixed-race couples would produce genetically inferior offspring that would burden society. They said such unions had always been unacceptable and that their God has ordained it so.

Blah, blah, blah. It's the same prattle and speciousness.

Sorry, kiddies, the evidence continues to pile up overwhelmingly that homosexuality in an immutable trait. Slightly expanding our civil-marriage laws to permit men to marry men and women to marry women benefits many and hurts none.

Further, those who want to augment civil marriage with a ritual particular to their own religion see no change. From colonial days, this nation has differentiated between marriage and ritual. That remains and will continue.

Reading such a clear set of bankrupt postulates can only be good for the equality minded. It should inspire the equality-minded to be prepared when any of these arguments is in the air.

We should also not that this columnist has dropped the usual corollary and catchphrase of lifestyle. There are those in the anti-gay crowd who would still have it that homosexuality is a choice and whim, therefore unworthy of legal protection. As the evidence heaps on otherwise, they seem to be backing off this indefensible argument.

The anti-SSM stool sits on fewer and fewer legs all the time. Those that remain are the rhetorical equivalent of balsa. They don't stand up to logic or truth..

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Monday, June 27, 2011

John Wesley's Ghost and Gay Marriage

Das Glob kind of got it on Methodism and gays. The Sunday Boston paper twisted the big issue of the largest U.S. Protestant denomination (8 million) and same-sex marriage into its usual provincial mold.

The New England clergy (exactly like the national and beyond) have growing numbers supporting SSM. The whole org stills speaks and votes just like they were Roman Catholics:
  • We love everybody, including those gay folk.
  • Homosexual practice is icky, immoral and an affront to God and Methodism.
  • Out homos should not expect to be ordained.
  • Marriage is only for one man-one woman.
The Globe could use a religion reporter or two again. It is truly missing news and analysis here. It's also not serving the large number of Roman Catholic readers by not putting this in newsy perspective.

Methodist Swamp

Like the most common UUs, I was raised as a Methodist. I glibly say I got better. In personal reality, it was not easy coming to realize I could not accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior and that the Apostle's Creed that epitomizes Methodism is politically based craziness.
...was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead....
Right, pull the other one.

Regardless, I have written on this before, as in this piece on Methodist anti-war campaigns and publication during the Vietnam War era. Going back into the 18th Century, Methodism founder John Wesley was a delightful troublemaker and social activist. He somehow managed to stay in the Anglican Church while being a leading abolitionist and founding a whole different sect in America based on itinerant preachers seeding small-group ministries on Jesus' apostolic model.

Now Methodism is a swamp. The social conservatives that dominated since the United Methodist Church came into being (another political action, like the King James translation of the Bible) have tried to return the body into the 17th Century. Countervailing forces of slowly increasing strength try to stay within the denomination as Wesley and his brother Charles did while pushing for social reason and justice.

On the SSM issue, the most recent vote confirmed the church's homophobia (which they defineas a body by clery vote), but only by 501 to 417 in 2008 at its General Conference. The tenets and strictures in the Book of Discipline keep the duplicitous love-the-sinner/hate-the-sin so popular with fundies, including Roman Catholics.

Sharing a Blanket

Here is a key point that the Globe needs to learn — to much of the theological world, Methodists and Roman Catholics sleep under the same blanket. While it is easy, almost reflexive for the even more creedal and dogmatic RCs to believe they are off of a different, higher plane, among Protestants, Methodists are on the next cloud, just without a Pope.

There's a spectrum from extremist outlier Catholic sects to RCs to Anglicans to Episcopalians to (ta da) Methodists. I grew up with all of that. Particularly in the deep South, the same-as comparison is common. Methodists have bishops instead of elders or presbyters who run the show. They are Apostle's Creed sorts. They even (when I was in the church, Sunday School, youth fellowship and choir) used such trappings as incense on high holy days. We were the next thing to Catholicism after Episcopalians and heard about it.

In the fruit and nut bowl of irony though, Anglicans and Episcopalians held true to the social action and compassion teachings of Jesus. Most obviously, this includes for most of their churches, far more than allowing their clergy to marry. Women can be ordained, as can open homosexuals. They can even become bishops and other church leaders.

Methodists permit married clergy and women ministers, but homosexuals are, to coin a Latinism, clericus non grata. The effect has not been as devastating as in the suicidal RC Church. Yet, it has been strongly felt in lack of membership growth and retention. Both churches lose out on great preachers and counselors. Both drive away substantial numbers of members who are gay or have social consciences. ...just plain dumb.

Big C, Little c

The Globe could also pick up on the big C/little c Catholic/catholic aspect. Originally, the RC Church was to be, as the title states, universal, for everyone. It gave that up long ago in political deals, becoming yet another cult that promises only eternal damnation to anyone who doesn't dance to their frequently changing tune.

As an added irony to us in New England, the home of the Universalists, the RCs did better with their hell and pseudo-univeralism than the Universalists did with their everyone-can-be-saved message and quasi-catholicism. The fact seems to be that more people like it binary. Follow my script and go to heaven is great for the simpleminded, literal sorts, of which there remain many.

So when it all settles, what the Methodists do should be meaningful in Rome and throughout the RC world. They too confront the nasty modern world where Jesus' teachings cannot be reduced to the latest Pope's whim. Here we have real people, men and women, singles and couples, facing limits, secular punishments, illogic, inequality, persecution, and even arbitrary judgments by their churches.

Fundies are wont to say, "Like it or lump it. Conform and yield or leave." That is not an answer. Rather, it is an abrogation of Christian duty as well as reason and compassion.

Sweet Spot

Episcopal and Anglican churches are in a sweet spot. They follow the lead of pinkos like UUs and the UCC and such in ordaining women and homosexuals, separating atavistic, Leviticus and 1940s ideas of marriage from current and all other periods. They see that one person's religious ritual does not mandate civil marriage for all Americans, that the narrowest view is not all that the world will see.

Roman Catholic pols are not there and either are Methodist ones. Both suffer as a result, which will only continue until they get their acts together.

By the bye, consider how the Vatican and the United Methodist Church overlap. Methodists like to have it all ways too. For a few examples, consider the sections of the Book of Discipline, the regularly updated polity and politics doc that defines the church.

Section 139 goes for the catholic angle of inclusiveness for all. Defined as "openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world; therefore, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination." Attending worship service (and donating, I assume) "shall be open to all persons."

However, Section 304.3 excludes homosexuals from the ministry. "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Likewise, section 341.6 states simply, "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

As with RCs, homosexuals are good enough to fill the collection plates and may sit in the pews, but nothing else. Here's were Anglicans and Episcopalians have joined liberal religions like UUs in buying into the New Testament, a.k.a. being Christians.

Creeping Christian practice seems to be slowly inundating the parched anti-gay ground of Methodism. The roughly 1,000 clergy meets quadrennially in General Conference. The next one is in 2012. They vote on such matters as exclusion of homosexuals from ministry and policy on SSM. The last vote was not quite 55% against SSM. That is certain to narrow or even reverse as more states legalize marriage equality.

We are such a socially conservative nation. I suppose that should be an endearing foible, if only it did not hurt, harm and hinder so many of us, including homosexuals. We take a long time to come to the right place.

Pretend Concessions

Along the way are some embarrassing stops, including NY's recent passage. As noted here and elsewhere, the anti-SSM lawmakers and groups eventually recognized the inevitability of marriage equality from Albany. Their attempted Parthian shot hit nothing. Insisting on meaningless, reduplicative protections for disciminators let them claim they had somehow protected someone from something.

The NYT has a nice wrap-up of the extraneous wording further codifying these religious exemptions...yet again. No, churches and clergy who oppose gay rights/ordination/marriage still don't have to host or perform the weddings. No, they can't be sued for discriminating in ritual or renting the hall. Blah, blah, blah. It's all there already and unnecssary, but the anti-gay types get to claim a victory. Isn't that special?

In reality, our states' and federal laws have always allowed religious institutes to be as narrow, petty and hateful as they want in membership, ritual, and hiring, plus of course, being tax-free. They only have to be careful for non-religious activities like selling nick knacks and such.

The anti-gay types love to site the (ta da) Methodist camp in Ocean Grove, NJ, that lost its tax-exempt status, only for the camp not the church, three years ago for banning homosexual couples from renting the facility for events, like commitment ceremonies. This is exactly where churches run afoul law as well as Jesus' teachings. The camp is a money-making business on the side that is not religious in nature. Thus, it has to adhere to state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination.

Cut me a thin slice of that baloney. You want to be tax free in your side businesses, obey the laws. Be as narrow and bigoted as you like in your church. You're covered there.

So there you have it. The RC Church struggles to have enough priests, while continuing to ban open homosexuals and women from its clergy. The Methodists turn their backs on their roots of social activism and catholic inclusion of all that Wesley gave them. Surely Methodists will get it together long before the Holy See does, but they aren't ready yet.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Threats for Bucks

Ah, before, during and after the NY legislature's debates and vote legalizing marriage equality, the cads and churls were doing their best bullying. That is, anyone who dared speak up for gay couples or keep individual religious beliefs separate from public policy would suffer, suffer, suffer.

The fundy legislators and the local and national anti-gay groups wave the threat of losing your seat most frequently. As a threat, that has been iterated then reiterated so many times, it has lost virtually all power and credibility.

Yet one such bolus of bluster is example-worthy. The ninnies of NOM promise to back up the re-election cleansing with a multi-million-dollar crusade. In a shameless press release, spokes-thug Brian Brown, a.k.a. president of the anti-SSM group, led with, "NOM To GOP Senators: 'We Pledge $2 Million to Reverse Same-Sex Marriage in New York. Politicians who campaign one way, and vote the other, can expect consequences come election time."

The gay-baiters say they'll put the money into a PAC in NY to defeat the group that was their stalwart ally only a few days ago, the NY GOP. The ever vitriolic and vengeful NOM founder Maggie Gallaher (now board chair) stated, "The Republican Party in New York is responsible for passing gay marriage..."

There are two dynamics worth noting here, beyond the obvious about-face by NOM on its bedmates. Behind the obey-or-else paternalism lie:
  • The millions for this quixotic threat come from the deceived and confused donors. Making such threats is actually NOM's best and really only marketing ploy. Their business is using hate to keep money flowing in and funding its officers and staff.
  • The goal of defeating legislators who dared to think for themselves will fail. The lawmaker defeats and judge recalls have been abject failures in MA and everywhere these groups have tried. Our chum over at MassresistanceWatch has various posts on how the pro-SSM lawmakers get reelected and the anti guys and gals have lost.
You'd think that those who write checks to NOM and its ilk would notice how they're being fooled. Likewise, you'd think they'd see that nation is slowly, in fits and starts, moving inexorably to marriage equality. We can surmise that as a group they are not too bright, are in denial or are merely letting emotion rule reason. Cause aside, the effect is the same.

If your job is to use deceit and hate to raise operating funds, you surely don't have much in the way of ethics or compassion — either for gay couples or even for the suckers who give you money that could serve humanity is much better ways.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

NY SSM Impacts

As the sixth state to legalize marriage equality, NY is more than another in a line of freedom lovers. With over 19 million residents, its SSM move is a huge deal.

The anti-gay/anti-SSM folk have long retrenched into pointing to the majority of states with anti-liberty votes banning SSM by law or amendment or both. Truth be told, they have gone as far as they possibly can with that.

Marriage equality is on the way, as many social conservatives regretfully admit. Short of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a ban in any state is unconstitutional or requiring states that do not permit SSM to recognize those valid in other states when the couples move there, the Texas and Virginia sorts will be a long, long time in allowing SSM.

I headed to the Haymarket this morning, listening to various NPR and PBS stations for pieces missing in newspaper coverage. I learned that the vote was around 10:30 last night, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing it into law before midnight, to take effect next month. When I returned, I found what I think was the best coverage, as it has been all along in the Albany paper, the Times-Union.

I heard and read a couple of pleasantly startling reports, including:
  • NY Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos went the way of wisdom. He could have bottled up the bill, preventing a vote and pushed the whole issue to next year. Instead, he not only allowed a vote but told his GOP colleagues to vote their consciences.
  • A couple of previously anti-SSM GOP Senators, notably Buffalo's Mark Grisanti, were among the four from their party that voted for SSM. He was the one who addressed the body and said he saw no reason to deny the rights he had in his marriage to others by sexual orientation.
The anti-marraige equality sorts have long played all sides of political games. They demand to have the people vote by legislature or ballot initiative, but only when they are positive they'll win. Otherwise, it is tyranny by Godless bullies. They use every legislative trick they can to prevent legislatures from passing SSM, even in states where the public polls in favor of it. They also often have bought into the threat that if you vote for any gay right, you'll lose your seat (regardless of how false that has proven).

Here instead, Skelos showed both personal honor and a respect for representative democracy.

In NY too Grisanti and a few others show what we have seen in other states whose legislatures approved SSM. They listen and learn from the public and their peer lawmakers. They changed their minds. They admit that their personal religion drummed into them from childhood should not be the basis of public policy, rather in how they live their own lives.

A few other states, notably New Jersey, may well follow suit after NY. The impact of yesterday's vote will reach far temporally and geographically.

NY state has well over half its residents in suburbs, exurbs and small towns and cities. That includes many social conservatives among voters and lawmakers. Yet the undeniable fairness of equality seems obvious to more people in more ways more often.

Those who fear democracy and hate personal freedom will increasingly become outliers. That can't happen soon enough for me.

NY State Joins SSM

Last night's huger than huge victory for marriage equality in New York was as portentous as sudden. Civil rights and LGBT groups throughout the country have seen the future and it is fair.

Clearly I need to absent myself from such moments more often. My wife and I went out to dinner and returned to have a little ice cream and read. I had followed live, online and print coverage of the NY legislature for nearly two weeks. I was sure the other issues would keep this vote either another day or two. There seemed to be a good to excellent likelihood that the majority GOP in the Senate would refuse to, as the anti-gay side is so wont to chant, let the people vote.

Instead, Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos let the same-sex-marriage bill come to the floor and told his members to vote their consciences. Those minds and hearts yielded a 33 to 29 victory for equality. The lower house had already approved the bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo long ago pledged to sign it when passed.

I awoke this morning to the the provincial Boston Globe with a banner head and three quarters of the front filled with yet more overkill tales of an aged feeble local gangster in court. The real news with tucked in the lower right and jumped to the middle of the first section. The NY Times did it right and showed the gravity and joy of such a populous state going for SSM.

More later, but this is great stuff.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Allahu Akbar, My Butt

Let's talk prisons, punishment, rehabilitation, and vindictiveness.

Normally with the 108-year-olds, the story tries to force them to pretend that they know some secret to long life. Instead with Brij Bihari Pandey in Lucknow, India, it's all about, "Gee, where do you expect to go to die?"

Apologies to Muslims: The headline is inapt, as he was a Hindu priest, but the stories quote him as saying, "God is great," on his release.

So what does just the latest news of crime and punishment teach us? The very aged, very sick, very feeble Pandey gets humanitarian garlands from fellow cons...and is lugged like so much naan out of jail by relatives.

Twenty-four years ago, the Hindu monk was one of 16 convicted of killing four to control a religious institution inheritance. That's when he was 84.

Surely vindictive authorities figured he'd die soon and that would be that. Instead, he has become a pain of maintenance. He's been an old, older, oldest convict of increasing infirmity. Bedridden and frequently requiring hospitalization, Pandey inspired the superintendent of the Gorakhpur Jail in Uttar Pradesh to petition for his release. The court OKed that.

The pretense is that this oldest known inmate ever in India was getting a break. It sure looks like the jail officials were looking out for themselves and their budget.

Let us recall the fantasy behind the term penitentiary. That was to be a place for doing penance, for considering and reconsidering your evil deeds and cleansing yourself of them.

Of course instead here as well as in India, that concept has long been turned on its head. Here, we have the greatest percentage of the population in jails and prisons. The throw-away-the-key idea of perpetual and permanent punishment has long replaced the concept of rehabilitation. Likewise, the concept that you can pay a debt to society for a misdeed has become one of heaping on-going restrictions, including records that virtually prevent decent employment.

Assuming that at 84, Monk Pandey was part of a murder conspiracy really, how realistic and just was a life sentence without parole then? Was the octogenarian a Hindu godfather needing to die in prison? Was 10 or 20 or 24 years adequate? As he became increasingly ill and feeble, should that have changed anything...or should the jailer find some humanitarianism just when he figured the old man was about to die? Is society helped by continuing to incarcerate a prisoner at 90 or 100 or 108? Does anyone in charge in the justice and penal systems have compassion?

On the face of it, Pandey's release is just another case of bureaucrats moving their garbage from their place to someone else's. If the barely alive monk is typical of Hindus in believing in reincarnation, what's his next life? If he's truly a villain as the courts and jails might have it, it may be as dung beetle. If he truly has been cleansed and suffered unfairly, it may be as someone grand indeed. If his belief is right and he achieved enough internally, he might even escape the cycle.

He deserves a break. We might meditate on his case and consider what we on the outside get from such punishments.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

UN Vote At Least Tries

In a ¾-hearted effort, the United Nations pretty much supported LGBT folk. At this point, marriage is a very quiet whisper in the background of the resolution it passed by 23-19.

Likewise, our lukewarm-on-civil-rights President Barack Obama issued his bland support message.

Well, the UN vote really is something. It says flat out that discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation is a big problem, that we need to work together to stop it. It sets up a commission to gather data worldwide and report by the end of December. The inference, of course, is that member states will chop or whittle away at the offenses and crimes and bad laws.

Our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recapped the resolution as, "Today's landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal. People cannot be excluded from protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity." Obama's statement similarly included, "This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights -- and entitled to the same protections -- as all human beings."

So there you have it, good intentions finally wafted and lofted internationally. Domestically, Obama and Clinton pay lip service to LGBT rights but don't pledge to trash the DOMA, demand comity nationwide over marriages, or anything at all beyond supporting stopping crazy violence.

Yet, many biggies, totalitarian and fundamentalist types and oppose even such a tepid scrubbing of the obvious. Those opposed or abstaining included:
  • Against - Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Moldova, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Uganda
  • Looking at ceiling - China, Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan and Zambia
So the resolution calls for such as "...promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in fair and equal manner." It does specify or directly hint at marriage equality. Instead, in a first-things-first, carefully worded take, it wants to ID and stop violence based on hate and fear of sexual orientation.

Such moves are, as we used to say, way cool, yet not good enough or moral enough or civil-rights oriented enough. This is a decent start, long overdue.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Red (Purple?) Herring

Drawing away just a bit, I think it may be a good sign that the silly conservatives in the NY Senate are falling back on ye olde for-God's-sake (literally)-shield-churches approach to same-sex marriage. In a detailed piece in today's NYT, they are pulling the wheezing disingenuous crap anti-gay groups have used for far too many years.

Wherever SSM is legal, clerics and their churches will be forced, forced I say (think Foghorn Leghorn's cartoon bluster) to perform the weddings. They might even have to be nice to or touch those homosexuals. Moreover, they certainly would face ruinous lawsuits if they denied the weddings or any other conceivable accommodation to those sodomites and dykes (feel free to insert other reactionary slurs).

The hate groups here and elsewhere have long and very publicly proven such perils to their satisfaction. They find single cases in countries with laws very different from ours and without out Constitution protections. Confronted with undeniable proof that we already protect churches in the extreme, the response invariably is along the lines of, "It'll happen. Just wait and see."

We as a nation and in our states have so many years of letting churches and their internal pols get free rides, it's absurd to contend otherwise. As long as activities are even vaguely related to their stated religious purposes, churches pay no taxes, discriminate against any and all, and more or less disgrace what looks to the rest of us like obvious religious commands.

Hiding your fear and hatred behind hypothetical and impossible dangers is dishonest and dishonorable in the extreme.

More cynically, as in D.C. this tack is rawly, really about power. If the Senators can claim they forced artificial concessions, they get two advantages. First, they can claim they cowed the lefties and Dems (insert chest thumping sounds). Moreover, come campaign time, it's a tale of how they were outgunned and outnumbered, but they fought hard and at least saved churches and clerics from horrors (no matter how imaginary).

As a child, I was a devote little Christian. I got better but had already internalized the best messages from both Testaments. I personally find the deceit here reprehensible.

The good part is that with no substance to the winger arguments, they fall back on lies for pure political purposes. They seem limited now to extracting BS concessions.

Fact is, in NY and NH and elsewhere the anti-LGBT minions try to derail SSM legislation with subterfuge, they taint their alleged beliefs. I'd much rather hear that they hate and fear homosexuals than some jive about protecting already protected churches. Shame on them.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Living At-Large in Boston

We hit our cycle over at Left Ahead on at-large Boston City Council candidates. I suspect we'll be able to hit each of the four incumbents and former member and president Michael Flaherty before the November election.

There weren't enough qualified candidates with the signatures to force a preliminary in September. So, this will be a high-intensity race from the start with no touchstone before the final. At LA, we did not get the two other qualified candidates, at least yet. Sean Ryan says he needs to find a day and time. Will Dorcena has not responded to requests.

Unless something truly boffo occurs, the top four finishers should be among the five we have done. Links to posts on their podcasts, replete with players are in the following table.

Flaherty5/17 –
Connolly5/24 –
Arroyo6/7 –
Murphy6/9 –
Pressley6/14 –

I'll do some analysis as the campaigns unfold. So far, the candidates sites are:

We don't have a lot of good material there yet. So far, no one is campaigning against anyone else. While clearly Flaherty would have to knock off one of the incumbents to regain an at-large seat, he says he'll build himself up rather than knocking down anyone.

By various stereotypes and political clichés, each of these five might be vulnerable.

  • Pressley — She is the first to point out that she finished fourth to get her first term. Yet she can and does point to a lot of accomplishments in less than a year an one half.
  • Murphy — He finished in the top two, is body president, is well known, has served since 1997, and is the Council's financial expert. Pundits have said he doesn't have a natural constituency by neighborhood (as Flaherty does in Southie). He's well connected and has been a strong fund raiser.
  • Flaherty — Some see him as a loser because he came up short two years ago trying to unseat Mayor Tom Menino. Also, such a palace revolt should preclude him from the Mayor's considerable campaign influence. On the other hand, he was popular in office, a great fund raiser, and has a lot of loyal union, business and political types who like him.
  • Connolly — He was the other top finisher in the last race. He's the education guy (head of that committee) and beloved by the huge voting block of families with kids. He comes from heavy-voting WR. City Hall scuttlebutt is that his exposing the expired food fed to kids angered and embarrassed Menino. Here's another candidate who would have to do without overt help from the Mayor.
  • Arroyo — This other first-termer has several niches for shelter, youth, unions and housing among them. He is the only Latino on Council as well. Like Pressley, he's young and good looking and those traits don't hurt. He has a strong following and his own set of accomplishments.

I certainly play the safe money here. The top four finishers should be among these five.

Meanwhile, I'll keep tabs, check the websites and public statements, and go to any forum or debate I can. These appearances should be the best political theater of the year.

Keep in mind that we don't have Presidential, Congressional or Mayoral races to drive out voters. This is what we watchers and blowhards like, retail politics. Those who get the contributions and votes will be the candidates who work the hardest, come across personally, as well as on stage and camera, best, and put phone, car and walking minions together.

To be continued...

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Too Close Clotheslines

In this era of home-owners associations and other not-in-your-own-backyard types, it has come to this. A MA legislator sponsored a bill to ensure people can dry their laundry on clotheslines.

Third-term Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) filed S01014. That would let common areas in condos have their own rules, but forbid cities and towns from banning, clotheslines and racks and or other solar clothes-drying device on private property.

For us boomers and older, the responses are 1) of course, and 2) wow, it has come to this? Moreover, when we are all allegedly savvy to energy waste, using sun and wind instead of gas and electricity to try laundry is most.

While privileged types like the Herald's Michele McPhee write, "And we don't want to look at them," to me, clotheslines are about as organic and honest as you get. Growing up with them, I only had one problem and in my teens. My grandmother dried trousers of all types, including my blue jeans, on frames, one per leg. That put a firm crease front and back. Oh no!

I'd wash and dry my own. She never understood that, but unlike her daughter, my mother, she also ironed all underpants and even permanent press sheets. Mable was a laundry factory herself.

Another childhood clothesline memory involved a neighbor older than my grandmother. When I was 8, we moved to Danville, Virginia, next to Mrs. Kidd, whose property abutted that of the YWCA. There, hanging clothes scandalized her, and she complained to little effect to the Y.

Even though the side porches of the Y were visible only to Mrs. Kidd and not from the street, she told us all how dreadful and shameful it was that the young women would "display their unmentionables for everyone to see."

The Widow Kidd was not concerned with property values or class issues. She simply found underwear visible in public, even without a body, lewd.

Put me in Downing's camp. Forbidding visible clotheslines seems like requiring people to hide their grocery shopping and banning eating at backyard or deck tables. People cook and eat. People dress in and wash...and dry...their clothes.

There can be a soothing beauty in billowing clothes on a line. Plus, a sun dried towel feels ever so much better.

Cross-post: This seems a bit political as well as personal. I'll put it also at Harrumph.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Ever More Friends for Pride

Everybody (with notable exceptions) wants to march in the Pride Parade this weekend. My FB account has so many pols inviting me to march with them I'd get shin splints trying to do it all.

Let us pause to reflect how very cool that is.

I think of TMBG's Older lyrics, including:
TIME! Is marching on.
And time.. is still marching on.
This day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner.
At least in Boston, time has marched on, tides have turned and all those clichés of positive futurism live. LGBT rights and politics are settled in law and fact, waiting only for the feds to wake up and smell the equality. (And Cambridge is willing to help them along.)

Three years ago, the plug nasties at MassResistance ranted about corporations and pols who supported Boston Pride Week and the major parade. As I recall, more than once the duo over there called for boycotting those who sponor Pride and its events.

They didn't seem to notice the obvious — the banks, high-tech firms, food and drink companies, insurance firms, hospitals, stores and on and on are America. You might be left with only Quilted Northern toilet tissue and Coors beer if you boycotted.

The corporate and political sponsors are here and in the Pride Guide. Around here at least, rights, equality, and openness are in place and assumed. The liberties that we prize as Americans are also the laws of the commonwealth.

The haters seem increasingly limited to snapping pix of the most theatrical of the parade marchers and float riders. There's that guy who dresses like a stuffed condom (most be hot, in the temperature sense). The local Dykes on Bikes play into the stereotypes of the anti-gay folk as well. Yet those are honest aspects of LGBT culture and let the haters make of it what they can.

Less scold-worthy will be our Governor, his number two, cabinet members, legislators, our Mayor and on and on. As with the corporation sponsors, Pride supporters has shown steady growth and continuity.

This is all great stuff. While I remain impatient, I'm sure the rest of the country is catching up.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Pol Being Neighborly

As someone without the politician's gene and somewhat shy, I have long admired and envied the extroversion and confidence of many around me. Yet this weekend, I admired the decision of a pol not to campaign when he had a chance.

Steve Murphy came by the reception for one of my sons' wedding Sunday. He came as a neighbor who knows me and not as Boston City Council President seeking reelection to an at-large seat. Under the tent and milling around were numerous Bostonians, potential votes come November. No glad-handing occurred.

He visited from a couple of short blocks away with his girlfriend Bridget. They had already made a day of it campaigning, including the long, slow Dorchester Day parade, but were just there socially. When I asked whether he wanted to meet people, he said he was just there socially. Imagine that.

Coincidentally, one of the guests is a sales type, at least as out there as a politician. As of Sunday, I have solemnized three weddings and his was the first as he married a long-term friend of mine. He had long loved her and when he discovered she had divorced, he literally moved to Boston from the South to make the big sale, of himself to her. It took a few years, but he closed the deal.

He had experience. He was Bill Clinton's original campaign head in the gubernatorial race in Arkansas. He sold Clinton to the voters. He's done other things, like advertising, but all to his mind were sales. While in Boston, he sold me a Volvo when he worked at a dealership, as well. That prompted me to ask how he could deal with such diverse commodities, like politicians and sedans. He grinned and simply said, "Michael, I can sell anything."

That's not my personality. I recognize it and admire it in others, but I can't do it. I'm not always on and making a pitch to someone is tough for me. Now I can add a wrinkle for Steve Murphy, for being able to do it but choosing when to do so.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Two Boston At-Large Incumbents on Left Ahead

Over at Left Ahead, we’re doubling up on shows this week, with Boston City Council At-Large Candidates. Tuesday, June 7th, Felix Arroyo join us and Thursday, June 9th, Steve Murphy comes on.

The shows are at the usual time, 2:30 PM Eastern. If you want to listen live, click in then for:

Felix Arroyo, Tuesday, June 7th, 2:30 PM at


Steve Murphy, Thursday, June 9th, 2:30 PM at

You can go to Left Ahead or to the show URL to hear or download the podcast. They are also available on iTunes. All listens and downloads are free.

Arroyo is completing his first term. Son of a former Councilor, he was a community and union organizer. He has defined his role on Council with particular emphasis on youth — education and beyond.

Murphy is finishing his seventh term and is Council President. Over the years, he has served many roles, but he is known as the financial guy on the body. In professional and governmental experience as well as education, he has been the numbers and business guy.