Friday, 24 September 2010

Florida Court Confirms: Gay Adoption Ban Unconstitutional

Florida remains the only US state with a constitutional ban on gay adoption - a ban which is starting to meet substantial political resistance. The political support for the ban is becoming irrelevant, as a series of court decisions have confirmed: anti-gay discrimination is unconstitutional. Two California judges in recent months have found that bans on gay marriage and gay military service are discriminatory and so unconstitutional. This ruling from Florida confirms the pattern: discrimination is not acceptable.
Frank Martin Gill & Partner: Approved Gay Parents
The context for this decision is that four separate lower courts have already approved adoption by suitable gay parents in specific cases, and ruled in each case that the ban is unconstitutional. The present case is the first of the four to have reached the appeals process, in the Miami-Dade Appeals District. If the state appeals the present ruling, the case will reach the state Supreme Court - which is likely to find, as an ever-increasing sequence of courts have done, that discrimination is simply contrary to the American constitution.
This is from Just News:

An appeals court in Miami-Dade County has ruled that Florida's ban on gay adoption unconstitutional.
The Third District Court of Appeal in west Miami-Dade issued the unanimous 3-0 opinion Wednesday morning.
The ruling stems from a case involving a North Miami gay man, Frank Martin Gill, and his partner, who sued to adopt two boys whom they took in as foster children in 2004.
Last year, a trial court judge sided with Gill and his partner, saying the law was unconstitutional. The state challenged the ruling, but now the appeals court has sided with the lower court's decision, saying the law was unconstitutional.
If the state challenges the ruling, the case could end up before the state Supreme Court.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Second Poll Confirms: US Majority Support Gay Marriage.

When a CNN poll last month showed for the first time that a majority of Americans supported gay marriage, I was a little cautious. A single poll can always be an aberration, the wording was unusual, and the small tiny (in a split sample, just 250 - half of a sample of 500). However, a new poll with more conventional wording and a more robust sample has produced an almost identical result: 52% support full marriage equality (and 46%
 against, with only 2% "don't know").

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What Constitutes a “Family”? Empirical Study Finds A Wider View

Religious conservatives are regularly referring to the “traditional family” as a foundation for their beliefs, but there is no such thing. The conservative interpretation of the so-called traditional family is  a relatively modern invention, created to fit the conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. In earlier times, and other parts of the world. family structures varied enormously from  this particular model.

Family history, like all other history, is constantly changing to fit new circumstances, so it should be no surprise that conceptions of family in the twenty first century are continuing to evolve, to fit a world that is no longer what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these changes are obvious, but like so much that is familiar, can easily be “hidden in plain sight.” A new study by sociologist  Brian Powell brings this into plain view. (His study is specifically of American views, but with the emergence of a shared world culture, many of his findings will also have relevance across a much wider geographic region.)

The central finding is that people no longer define “family” as mom pop and kids, but also include   same-sex couples with children (Children seem to be central: childless couples, gay or straight, are not seen as “families”, but just as couples). However, there is an increasing movement towards acceptance. An important finding, familiar from previous studies on the subject, is that people who know gay people (more accurately, who recognize that people they know are gay), are more supportive than those who are not aware that family members or acquaintances are gay. This simply reinforces the necessity for the wider political struggle, that wherever possible, gay men and lesbians should come out openly, in as many contexts as possible. Coming out personally will improve acceptance in our circles of friends and family. Politicians and other public figures who come out   do so indirectly for the wider community.

I particularly liked an argument on gay adoption that I have been using regularly: framing arguments in terms of the “the best interests of the child” can work to our advantage, not those opposed to gay adoption. (In adoption considerations, the best interests of the child require placement with the best parents available. Sometimes, they will be gay).  Indeed, the claim made (but not elaborated on in the reports I have seen), is that the interests of children may well be a more effective argument than others in making the case for more general equality of same-sex couples.

A majority of Americans now say their definition of family includes same-sex couples with children, as well as married gay and lesbian couples.
At the same time, most Americans do not consider unmarried cohabiting couples, either heterosexual or same-sex, to be a family — unless they have children.
The findings — part of a survey conducted this year as well as in 2003 and 2006 by Brian Powell, a sociology professor at Indiana University, Bloomington — are reported in a new book, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family,” to be published on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation. Since the surveys began, the proportion of people who reported having a gay friend or relative rose 10 percentage points, said Professor Powell, the book’s lead author.
“This is not because more people are gay now than in 2003,” he said. “This indicates a more open social environment in which individuals now feel more comfortable discussing and acknowledging sexuality. Ironically with all the antigay initiatives, all of a sudden people were saying the word ‘gay’ out loud. Just the discussion about it made people more comfortable.”
The book concludes that framing the equality of same-sex couples in terms of “the best interests of the child” might prove to be a more successful political argument than others.

The Real Mama Grizzlies: Lesbian Moms?

Sarah Palin, With Bear

Sarah Palin's understanding of wildlife appears to be no better than her tenuous grasp of social history.  Mrs Palin has been very much in the news over her enthusiastic promotion of a band of crazies  thoughtful, conservative candidates who agree with her own views on education and "traditional family values".   The women in this band she likes to describe as "mamma grizzlies", most recntly Christina O'Donnell in Delaware.
The problem with the conservative view of the "traditional" family and its values is that has little relation to history, and is in fact a relatively modern invention. The problem with her adoption of mamma grizzlies as her model is that they too scarcely embody the "family values" she claims to support.  Real life mamma grizzlies do not live or mate in the nuclear families she so admires. Rather, they mate in promiscuous, polygamous groups, then raise their young as single mothers - or in collaboration with other females, as family units headed by two women.  The closest human counterparts to real-life "mamma grizzlies" are lesbian couples, with kids - not exactly Christian O'Donnell.
Consequently, many grizzly mammas raise their young as single parents - unless (as many do) they team up with another female for co-operative parenting.
The two mothers become inseparable companions, travelling and feeding together throughout the summer and fall seasons as they share in the parenting of their cubs.. ....... A bonded pair jointly defends their food, and the two females also protect one another and their offspring (including protecting them from attack by grizzly males). The cubs regard both females as their parents, following and responding to either mother equally; bonded females occasionally also nurse each other's cubs. If one female dies, her companion usually adopts her cubs and rears them as her own.
Sexual activity is not always exclusively for procreation and not always between opposite-sex partners; the partners in procreation are usually opposite-sex (not always - some lizards reproduce from female pairs), but the parties in biological parenting and child-rearing are not always the same; and there are instances where same-sex parents have clear advantages over the alternatives, especially where the alternative is not "one mom and one pop", but a single mother, as in the case of the Grizzlies.

There are thousands of animal species that are known to have homosexual relationships, some even more frequently than heterosexual relationships (for example bighorn rams, female bonobo chimps and male giraffe). Many other animal species, especially birds, form same-sex parenting couples, by adoption or surrogacy. In human societies, there are likewise numerous examples where standard practices include same-sex relationships in addition to opposite sex-marriage - and the evidence from research is that just as in the animal kingdom, same-sex couples are at least as capable of good parenting, and sometimes even better, than opposite - sex couples.

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Bagemihl, BruceBiological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)

Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization

Naphy, William GBorn to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)

Roughgarden, JoanEvolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Monday, 20 September 2010

Giovanni Bosco

Giovanni was born to an impoverished rural family in Castelnuovo, Piedmont. Patronage from clerics allowed him to be ordained priest in 1841. He devoted himself to improve the life and education of the many homeless peasant teenage boys in and around Turin, hundred of whom were attracted to the city by the Industrial Revolution.
In 1864 he founded the Salesian Fathers religious order. At Bosco's death the Salesian "oratoires" numbered about 250. He was beatified in 1924, and declared a Saint of the Catholic church in 1934.
Bosco is one of the many homosexuals who found in the Catholic church a family and a "mission". Quite surely he was a paedophile who, possibly, succeeded in sublimating his attraction to young boys into a socially useful undertaking.
(From  Aldrich & Wetherspoon, "Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to WWII"
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Yet Another Court Victory for Gay Marriage, Family Equality:

In barely a week, there have been four important court judgements in three American countries that represent important victories for gay marriage and family equality. Immediately after the celebrated judgement in California striking down Proposition 8, the Mexican court ruled that the legal provision for gay marriage in Mexico City was fully constitutional. Yesterday, that same court ruled that marriages in Mexico City must be recognized, and the associated benefits granted, right across all Mexican states. Also yesterday, the court in Costa Rica ruled that a proposed national referendum on civil unions, may not go ahead. There may well be another important advance coming within days: the Mexican court is due to pass judgement on a matter concerning gay adoptions, possibly as soon as tomorrow.
Superficially, the Costa Rican decision may appear the least significant of all three decisions, but I disagree. Although it concerns only civil unions, not full marriage, and the population numbers affected are relatively low, this decision was explicitly based on a fundamentally important matter of principle: the rights of a minority cannot be decided by a majority vote.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="269" caption="A Rainbow Future for Costa Rica"][/caption]
The Constitutional Court's 5-2 decision released Tuesday says such a referendum would put a minority at a disadvantage in a largely Roman Catholic country. It also says gay civil unions is a legislative issue and not an electoral one. The court says it considers homosexuals a group that is at a disadvantage and the target for discrimination, requiring government authorities to protect their rights.
It is still too early to say what is the future for gay marriage in Costa Rica. There may be no progress in the short term, or the legislature may feel emboldened by the progress in Argentina, coupled with this decision, to move ahead.
Whatever the Costa Rican politicians decide for now, one thing is clear: across Latin America, the momentum is now on the side of family equality. Sooner rather than later, same sex marriage and gay adoption will spread right across the continent - and the Catholic church will be no more able to prevent it than they were in Argentina. Then, faced with a fait accompli, the bishops in the region with more Catholics than any other, will have to work with the reality all around them.
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Saturday, 18 September 2010

What Irish Catholics Believe

This is getting monotonous, but it must be stated again. What Catholics believe and practice on matters of sexual ethics, as a matter of empirical fact, is simply not what the (nominally) celibate bishops in their ivory towers would like us to believe, or falsely proclaim as “Catholic” belief, when it is in fact no more than Vatican doctrine.
The latest evidence, in a long line of similar research, comes from Ireland. This makes it all the more notable, given that country’s long reputation until recently as a “priest-ridden country”, where the dictates of the clergy meant that even contraception was forbidden by law, and people would journey across the island to Belfast just to buy condoms.
In a marked turnaround, the Irish people do not simply tolerate pre-marital sex, they believe it is desirable for young couples to spend time living together before committing to marriage. The bishops, on the other hand, maintain that all sex outside of marriage and not “ordered to procreation” is sinful, and presumably support their American colleagues’ pronouncement that cohabitation before marriage, like homosexuality, is gravely disordered.
The Irish politicians have come a long way in standing up to moral bullying by the church officials, notably over the investigations into clerical sexual abuse, but have some way yet to go. They have succeeded in passing civil partnership legislation, which will come into effect early;next year, but lag well behind their voters. Fully two thirds would support full marriage equality.
From the Irish Times:

Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds

JUST OVER two-thirds of people (67 per cent) believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes social poll.
It is one of a series of findings in a poll on “sex, sin and society” that indicates Irish people have adopted a more liberal attitude towards personal relationships and sexual behaviour.
In addition showing strong support for gay marriage, a significant majority (60 per cent) also believe civil partnerships for gay couples will not undermine the institution of marriage. A large majority (91 per cent) also say they would not think less of a person if they revealed they were gay or lesbian.
These numbers are consistently high across most age groups, as well as in urban and rural areas.
People are divided, however, on whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. Some 46 per cent support such a move, while more than a third (38 per cent) are opposed. Younger people, urban dwellers and women are more likely to be supportive of the idea.
The findings also indicate there is a growing consensus that living together before marriage is likely to result in a more stable marriage. A majority (57 per cent) believe cohabitation is a positive development. This view is reflected consistently across most age groups.
Even higher numbers (79 per cent) do not regard sex before marriage as immoral. When broken down by religion, most Catholics – again, 79 per cent – did not see anything wrong with the practice.
Just 15 per cent, mostly older people or those living in rural areas, see it as immoral.
There are also significant differences across the generations in attitudes towards issues such as celibacy and virginity. In total, just under half (48 per cent) of people admire those who choose to be celibate for moral or religious reasons.
A majority of older people (62 per cent) aged 65 or more are much more likely to admire celibacy, while this falls to well under half among younger and middle-aged people.
Even among Catholics, respondents are just as divided. While 51 per cent of Catholics admire celibacy, the remainder either do not (33 per cent), or say they do not know (16 per cent).
Not all the poll findings point to increasingly liberal attitudes, however. The average age most people feel teenagers should begin to have sex at is 18 years, above the current age of consent which is 17.
Survey reveals more relaxed attitude to sex
Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds
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Primary Elections Advance Marriage Equality

In Tuesday’s primary elections (just as in earlier primaries), some clear advances were recorded towards LGBT equality – notably in New York and Maryland, but also elsewhere. Why does this matter to me? I am not a New Yorker, or even American, but a South African now living in Europe.  These successes area important to the queer community everywhere, as part of a much broader pattern that will transform our political landscapes everywhere – the advancing global acceptance of a new understanding of family. This is a theme I will be expanding on for a broader post later today, but first I need to present the evidence – which I do by starting with the primaries in New York and Maryland

Friday, 17 September 2010

Australian military embraces transgender soldiers

Australia has had gay men and lesbians in the military since 1992, and has recognised their families for spousal benefits since 2008. Now it is going a step further, and will also accept transgender people in the armed forces.
The head of the Australian Defence Force has announced that transgender people will no longer be barred from serving in the nation's military.
The move comes 18 years after the ADF repealed its ban on gay and lesbian service members, and two years after it started recognising same-sex relationships for family entitlements.

The chief of the ADF, Air Chief MarshallAngus Houston, has instructed his commanders to “manage ADF transgender personnel with fairness, respect and dignity … and existing medical review provisions; and ensure all personnel are not subject to unacceptable behavior.”
Canada, Israel, Czech Republic, Spain and Thailand are amongst nations which are inclusive of transgenders. is making enquiries of the NZ Defence Force regarding its policies in this area.
How much longer before the US catches up?
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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Out in Politics: What About the Partners?

Out in Asia: Gay Equality, Nepal

Progress towards queer equality has been remarkable in recent decades, with gay marriage or civil unions now achieving legal recognition in a rapidly increasing number of countries, and protection from discrimination and hate crimes being written into many statute books. Few countries though, have seen a turnaround quite as dramatic as that in Nepal, which has gone from persecution to imminent constitutional protection in just ten years.

First Gay Pride in Nepal, 2010

Gay marriage has been promised, and legal provision for it will shortly be built into the new constitution which is currently being drafted – but even ahead of the legal formalities, same-sex marriages are being conducted. Much of the credit for the remarkable transformation should go to the Blue Diamond gay  rights group, as Thai Indian reports:

Gay rights movement celebrates decade in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) The only country in South Asia to recognise same sex marriages, Nepal Sunday celebrates a decade of the gay rights movement pioneered by a single group amid widespread persecution.
The Blue Diamond Society (BDS), Nepal’s first gay rights organisation founded in 2001 by the country’s first openly homosexual MP Sunil Babu Pant, has been at the forefront of the sexual minorities’ right movement with such innovative campaigns as a tourism agency promising gay weddings and honeymoons in the lap of Mt Everest and an annual gay pride march in the capital.
On Sunday it celebrates its 10th birthday by holding, for the first time in the entire South Asia, the Mr Lesbian pageant as another remarkable way of spreading awareness about the diversity among the sexual minorities.
“People have this perception of homosexuals as effeminate men wearing women’s clothes,” says Pant, the recipient of several international gay rights awards. “We thought it is time to educate society about the diversity in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
Every year, Nepal hosts dozens of beauty pageants for women and now, there is a growing number of contests for men as well. About three years ago, BDS started the Miss Pink contest for transgenders - men who say they are women trapped in a male body - and the winner goes to the final leg of the contest in Thailand to represent Nepal.
“But there are also transgenders who were born female but consider themselves male,” says Pant.
“Male” transgenders started hitting the headlines from 2007 after a trainer in the Nepal Army, Bhakti Shah, was dismissed along with another woman recruit, for an alleged lesbian relationship.
BDS is helping Shah to fight her dismissal in court and get reinstated.
Like the Nepal Army, their arch foe, the opposition Maoist party has also been homophobic. Its People’s Liberation Army dismissed a combatant - now calling herself Manish - for the same reason.
This year, Ramina Hussain, a traffic constable, was suspended after her partner’s family brought a charge of kidnapping in a bid to separate the couple.
However, after intervention by BDS and the media, Hussain has been reinstated.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Soho Masses (and Me) on National Television.

The UK's rule-book Catholics who so visibly oppose London's gay Masses have been vocal in their fervent hope and prayer that Pope Benedict's impending visit will bring order to a wayward flock, and bring "unity" (by which they appear to mean whipping everybody else into conformity with their own, very narrow, understanding of Catholicism.) They will be disappointed. Already it is abundantly clear that our Masses will not be stopped, and may well come out of the Papal visit stronger than ever.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Alexander the Great * 356 + 323 BC

When the film version of Alexander's life was released a few years ago, it was notable that his homosexual love life was largely edited out. Apologists excused this by claiming that his he was "not really gay", as he was married. Of course he was: in the classical world, marriage and sex (for men)did not co-incide as they are assumed to do today. Men from leadership and priviliged classes were expected to marry and produce heirs who would inherit their name and property. Sexual and emotional satisfaction, however, they might seek elsewhere.  Alexander’s own father, Philip, was killed by a slighted male lover, Pausanius. In the classical world, marriage and male lovers were often complementary to each other, not necessarily in conflict.
Alexander, one of the greatest military leaders in all history, was indeed married - but also undoubtedly had passionate, intimate relationships with two men, Hephaestion and the eunuch slave, Bagoas. With Bagoas at least, the relationship was definitely sexual, although the evidence is less clear for Hephaestion.
Nevertheless, the intensity and passion of Alexander’s love for Hephaestion is undeniable, as was obvious to all contemporary observers.
One of them, Hephaestion, was clearly his lover. Alexander, like many ancient Greeks, cultivated an ideal of heroic friendship that did not exclude sexual expression. He carried with him on his conquests a copy of the Iliad, and sought to emulate its heroes. When he first crossed into Asia and reached Troy, he sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles while Hephaestion did the same on that of Patroclus.
So close did Alexander feel to Hephaestion that when the captured women of the Persian King's household mistakenly threw themselves at Hephaestion's feet rather than at his own, he found no offense in this and excused them by saying that his friend was another Alexander. Finally, his grief at the death of Hephaestion, one year before his own, was also--in its intensity and public display--to parallel that of the Homeric lovers.
The homosexual aspect of Alexander's life was so public that it could not be obfuscated, even at times of extremehomophobia. Alexander was a model for other homosexual or bisexual soldier-kings, such as Julius Caesar, Hadrian, and Frederick the Great. His devotion to his lover serves as a counterpoint to the sexual follies and frenzies of other homosexual historical figures such as Nero or Elagabalus. 
Yet his undoubted sexual activities with men were no barrier to extraordinary military success, as this extract from the BBC makes clear:
Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, single-handedly changed the nature of the ancient world in little more than a decade.
Alexander was born in the northern Greek kingdom of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. Philip was assassinated in 336 BC and Alexander inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom. He quickly dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.
Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC. The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became 'great king' of Persia at the age of 25.
Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.
Somebody should tell the guys at the Pentagon.

See also:
Matt and Andrej Komaysky LGBT biographies
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Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Party of Proud Homosexuals?

The UK Conservative party is a mass of contradictions on LGBT issues, as I pointed out in several posts during our general election campaign. Is this because they are in fact a party of closeted gay men (and fewer lesbians) struggling to come out with dignity?

During the election, party officials made a great show of the number of "openly" gay or lesbian candidates. After the election, there reports that 2o or more had been elected - but rather fewer have been identified. (If that figure is correct, and if - let us say- there are ten more in the other parties - that would make a total of roughly 5% of all MP's, a quite astonishing level - and includes several government ministers and shadow ministers.) However, there may not be as many as 2o after all: Kevin Maguire in the New Statesman says there are 11. The official party website, LGBTory, names only 10. (Perhaps the others are  out only in private?) Number 11 on the list was added last week -  Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate in Surrey, who announced that he was leaving his wife to "come to terms with his homosexuality"

11th openly gay Tory MP since his diminutive colleague Alan "Dinky" Duncan in 2002 made public what everyone in Westminster had known for years. The statement by Blunt, an Old Wellingtonian, reminded me of a good line by Alan Johnson - under Cameron, the Tories have gone from a party of proud public school boys and closet gays to a party of proud homosexuals and closet public school boys.

-Kevin Maguire, New Statesman

This dignified self-disclosure was admirable, and contrasts starkly with some of the more lurid outings of the past: in 1958,  Conservative  MP  Ian Harvey resigned after being found in the bushes in St. James's Park with a  Coldstream Guardsman and arrested. (At the time, self-outing was not an option, as "sodomy" was still a serious criminal offence.) A further contrast was with the official party line that the party has become more LGBT-friendly than its rivals, and a public show by the constituency party that it remains "supportive" of their MP, and the private reactions in the constituency:

Tony Collinson, the former association chairman, who was on the selection panel when Mr Blunt was first chosen for the seat in 1997, said he would never have been picked if the truth had been known at the time.

"One of the reasons [he was selected] was because he had a nice, compact, family unit. He made quite a bit of it," said Mr Collinson, who gave up the chairmanship six years ago. "I'm a little disappointed with the news because I don't think he would necessarily have been chosen had he come out then."

-Daily Telegraph

One report I read at the time suggested that there was more gay scandal lurking in the wings about another Tory MP, of such seniority that it would have the Reigate party spluttering into their G & T's. So it proved.

Marriage Equality Inching Closer in Maryland, New York?

Just as “gay marriage” is receding as an electoral issue on the US right, it is becoming an issue on the left. Two stated where this of current importance are New York and Maryland.

In Maryland, two recent news reports suggest the signs are promising for a successful attempt at gay marriage  legislation next year. Governor O’Malley appears to have read the tea leaves which show steadily increasing public support for marriage equality. He has stated that if re-elected, even though he would personally prefer to see civil unions, he will sign a gay marriage bill if the legislature presents one.  In a tough year for Democrats, he is not exactly a shoo-in for re-election, but the authoritative Cook Political Report says the race is “leaning” that way. So, the next question is, will the legislature play ball?

Hovernor O’Malley – Gay Ally?

Here too the signs are promising. Attempts at marriage legislation have regularly been launched, and as regularly have stalled.  The prospects for next year though, may be brighter. There are more out LGBT candidates than ever before standing for election, and several have an excellent chance of electoral success. It is entirely possible that the new state legislature could have a stronger caucus of LGBT and gay –friendly legislators. Their success could also send a message to those previously neutral or mildly opposed. Expect a strong push for either full marriage equality, or for civil unions as a compromise, in Maryland next year.

Meanwhile in New York, where the legislative paralysis in the state senate last year was largely precipitated by the fierce opposition of some Democrat senators to the proposals for gay marriage, the backlash has been fierce. Several initiatives to “take back New York” have seen strong primary challenges against the Democrat senators who opposed equality, and especially against two of the ringleaders, Senators Espada and Ruben Diaz Snr, in SD’s 32 and 33.  The outcome of next week’s primaries should be watched closely. If at least one of these, and some other opponents, are booted out, expect a dramatic shift in the political mood, and a much more realistic legislative attempt to achieve marriage equality next year. If both survive, equality will not come to NY state by legislative means for a long while yet.  

Friday, 10 September 2010

Situational heterosexuality

"‘Situational heterosexuality’ is a term I’ve used for several years when people have asked how I could have been married for so many years and yet be gay. This term has also helped people gain a clearer understanding of what really happens when someone who is homosexual marries someone of the opposite sex and claims change. Confusion about what really happens in these situations still exists and often wrongly reinforces the ‘homosexuality is a choice’ and ‘homosexuals can change’ concept.

"How often have you heard someone say something like this ‘They couldn’t be gay, they’re married’. When someone says that to me, I just remain silent for a while with a smile on my face (having been a gay man in a heterosexual marriage) and wait for what I’m actually thinking to sink into the consciousness of the person who made the naive statement."

- Former "ex-gay" evangelical minister Anthony Venn-Brown, quotation found at Joe My God.

Brown, is described by Wikipedia as one of Australia's leading LGBT activists.   I do not (yet) have any supporting evidence whether this is a valid claim, or some clever self- promotion. Whatever his merits as a speaker and LGBT “ambassador” (the term he prefers to “activist”), it is clear from his own testimony that he is at the very least yet another evangelical preacher who has seen the errors in “traditional” teaching on sexuality, and is now promoting full LGBT inclusion in church.

In 2004 he published his autobiography, A Life of Unlearning - Coming out of the church, One Man's Struggle. The book detailed his struggle to reconcile his homosexuality with his Christian beliefs. It won the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association Literary award in 2004. The revised edition, A Life of Unlearning: a journey to find the truth was published in 2007.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Gay Adoption Passes Final Hurdle in NSW

After the original narrow passage in the lower house of the New South Wales Parliament, it's been somewhat of a to and fro struggle, but the bill has now finally passed. New South Wales has joined ACT (Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia) in providing for adoption by same sex couples.

Typically, the difficulties concerned attempts to deal with religious objections. The original bill passed in the lower house only after an amendment to provide for some exemptions for religious bodies. In the Upper House, a conflicting amendment was passed to narrow the scope of those amendments, requiring that the bill return to the Lower House - then back to the upper house again.
A BILL giving same-sex couples the right to adopt has been passed by the NSW parliament, after the Legislative Council voted in support of a last-minute amendment to the legislation.
The bill passed its final hurdle in the upper house just after 6.30pm (AEST) today, after MPs backed the lower house amendment.
The amendment, made by Planning Minister Frank Sartor, frees up adoption agencies to act on the wishes of parents regarding where their children are adopted. It was made to temper changes made in the upper house on Wednesday night, which narrowed an exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Act for faith-based adoption agencies. MPs have been allowed a conscience vote on the historic legislation, leading to heated debate in both houses of the NSW parliament. NSW is now the third state or territory to allow same-sex adoption, after the ACT and Western Australia.

Phone Operator blocking LGBT Sites

Pink News reported last week that mobile phone operator T-mobile was blocking access to LGBT websites for customers under 18. This was based on complaints from customers, who complained that they were unable to access sites for gay venues, bars, travel companies – or even cultural or news services such as Pink News itself.



This is totally offensive and discriminatory. It is reasonable to block access to adult services, including sexually explicit content or bar advertising to under –18’s: but does the service equally block other bar advertising? To block gay news or cultural services purely because they are gay is to make the common but entirely incorrect assumption that “gay” is necessarily sexually obsessed. At about this time last year, Amazon books made a similar assumption in its screening out of all LGBT titles as “adult” – and suffered a powerful backlash.

The company initially took some time to respond to the complaints, but they have now provided a response to Pink News, stating that they are investigating, but “would never” exclude content solely because it is gay-related, but  only if it contravenes adult guidelines.

"T-Mobile is currently investigating this issue. To be clear, we would never actively block material based on sexual orientation. It’s possible that the sites were blocked because they contain advertising or other content that falls outside of the Content Lock system which helps prevent children from accessing 18-rated material. This is done in accordance with a voluntary code that mobile operators agreed to in 2004."

The provider's Content Lock system, is automatically set on phones to filter out 'offensive' material. Users must confirm they are over 18 to remove the restrictions. Information on how adults can remove Content Lock can be found on the operator's website.

This just doesn’t cut it.  Pink News is just one of the news sites which has been blocked, and as the site itself confirms, is totally without the kind of adult content that should legitimately be screened for younger users.

T-mobile must be reminded is that “would never” is simply not the same as “has never”. It may not have been their intention, but it is clear that they are using a Content Lock system which does in practice block content purely on the grounds of orientation, preventing youth access to gay sites which are in no way adult related – yet simultaneously letting through some clearly pornographic heterosexual material.

“Gay” does not equate with sexual licence. Young people of all orientations experience a bewildering time in adolescence, coming to terms with hormonal and physical changes, and learning to deal responsibly with their sexual interests and needs. Young straights have numerous systems in place to help them, from role models in families and popular culture, to formal guidance in schools and churches. Young gay people do not. Without access to good guidance on what it means to be young, gay – and responsible, it is all too easy for them to yield to one of the two extremes of gay youth: self-hatred, depression, and even suicide, or its opposite, a complete rejection of all conventional standards of personal morality – succumbing to the very hedonistic lifestyle that the moralistic censors are presumably trying to prevent.

T-mobile and other phone operators, just like Amazon and other booksellers, should be encouraging, not blocking, access to responsible LGBT sites. Its the best way to safeguard the gay, lesbian and gender queer youth they are claiming to protect. 



Customers of T-Mobile have complained that the mobile phone network bars access to gay websites. T-Mobile, one of the UK's largest mobile phone networks, appears to block gay-related content as unsuitable for under-18s. This includes gay websites which contain no nudity or offensive content. The provider has a system called Content Lock, which is automatically set on phones to filter out 'offensive' material. Users must confirm they are over 18 to remove the restrictions. is among the websites affected, while others include gay travel websites, bar and club listings and gay culture websites. Bryan Manley-Green, who is with T-Mobile, told "This must be in breach of the Equality Act and it must be affecting gay businesses." Mr Manley-Green said that after a lengthy conversation with a T-Mobile customer complaints advisor and assistance from staff at a local store, he was able to access gay websites on his phone. Several other readers contacted us about the problem, including Darcy C-Oshimida, who also could not access gay websites through her T-Mobile phone. She said: "I think this is ridiculous and assumes that anything gay must be inappropriate for children. I believe you are losing a lot of readers this way, and important young readers at that." T-Mobile did not return repeated calls for comment.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The "Impact" of Iowa Marriage Equality - Findings From Evidence.

One important feature of Judge Walker's verdict in the Prop 8 trial was his finding that the case against marriage equality rested on claims, of the "harm" done by same sex marriage and the supposed threat to children is based on no evidence whatsoever. The substantial evidence that does exist on gay parents, and the experience from Manhattan and the Netherlands where marriage is well established, is that there is indeed no demonstrable harm - to between sex marriages, or to the children of same-sex couples.

Now yet another independent survey, this one from  Iowa, shows the same finding. "Iowawatch" is an online news service for The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news service. Their researchers conducted interviews with married couples and professional experts, and examined extensive published urnal articles, marriage statistics, census data, polls and court rulings.

The conclusion? There is no "harm" - at least no more than from the between sense marriages they so closely resemble. These are extracts from an extensive report at Press Citizen:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Defending Real Families.


The fatal flaw in the argument against gay marriage and gay adoption is that since children “need” a mom and a pop (a dubious proposition in itself), then all mixed  -sex couples make better parents than any same-sex couples. This flaw is tragically highlighted in an open letter to Pastor Joshua Beckley, posted by Derrick Matthis  at RENWL.

There is much in this articulate and thoughtful piece to applaud.  The scandalous part is the professional footballer he cites, Antonio Cromartie, who has eight children from  six different mothers – but struggles to even name them all.   On the other hand, Matthis writes movingly though from deep personal experience, describing his own family, in a graphic image, as a “village” – but also rejoices in the successes within his family, which patently means the world to him.

It is obvious that there are some irresponsible gay men who would make appalling parents – just as there are some straight men who fit the same description. There are many superb mixed couples who raise great families – just as my own parents did. And there are gay and lesbian couples who make excellent parents. Matthis does not make clear whether he is himself either partnered, a parent, or aspires to be either – but just consider the immense pride with which he writes of his siblings and their offspring: of one niece, he writes:

My baby sister's little girl. Thuglette, Bad Stuff, Little Monster, BeBe's kid, Rug Rat...the various nicknames I call her when we're together. Her name is Mya. And she is every beat of my heart.

This is a world away from Comartie , who is unable to name his own kids – yet in the argument against family equality, Comartie is presented as the model, and Matthis as inherently unsuitable to be a father (unless he denies his identity and marries a woman).

I can quote only extracts – so cross to the original, and read the full post, too.


From  RENWL  (Restore Equality Now~ West Adams/LA South Marriage Equality And Community Activists):

Open Letter to Pastor Beckley

Senior Pastor Joshua Beckely

Ecclesia Christian Fellowship

1314 Date Street

San Bernardino, CA 92404

Dear Pastor Beckley:

Based on your commitment to the continued and unchanged definition of marriage I thought since this latest effort didn’t quite work out, that perhaps I could interest you in some other very pressing issues that could use the input of a committed man of the cloth in the African American community. In doing a little background research you seem to be a man who cares deeply and takes every opportunity to give back.

You’re a father, a devoted husband, man of the cloth and community leader. We so need many more like you to help shape the direction of the black community . You must be aware of this already.

There’s a specific issue that hit me HARD in recent days. It came to me in the form of video in a news article. I’d like to share it with you. And please do not be concerned. There’s nothing offensive or unsavory about the contents. But it is very saddening. And its effects continue to rip through our community almost completely unchecked.

You may be aware of NY Jets player Antonio Cromartie. A week or so ago he he was asked about his family, specifically to name all of his children on camera. In the video, Cromartie is seen discussing being a father and when finally asked to name all EIGHT of his children—this is eight children from six different mothers spanned across several states. Cromartie could barely name all of his children.

A sportswriter called this one of the most shameful moments in NFL history. I beg to differ. I find it one of the most shameful recent moments in black American history. The fact that an issue hasn’t previously been made of this gives you an idea of how poorly the idea of the “Family” unit is regarded to a lot of people.

My baby sister, 22 years old. Workin' on that hair last Thanksgiving morning. She is also a single mother raising a child among the village called my family.

…….children born out of wedlock in the United States tend to have poorer health and educational outcomes than those born to married women, but that may be because unmarried mothers tend to share those problems.

Pastor Beckley I’m almost certain that you’re well aware of all of the above and please forgive me if I’m being redundant by reintroducing these statistics and facts to you. But the whole point behind my sharing this with you is that there is an obvious breakdown in terms of the family unit in the black community. The problem is so paramount that I have to be honest, when I see our black church leaders making themselves so visible in matters such as same-sex marriage, I sincerely wonder with deep frustration and sometimes a sense of hopelessness if their priorities are in tandem with the realities impacting the greater black community of this nation.

Pastor Beckley, I write this letter to you not to discourage you from your beliefs or your commitment to your beliefs. I write this letter to you asking you to re-examine all the wonderful truly abundant possibilities for the black community if we decided to focus on our community in a way that serves to strengthen it in every imaginable capacity.

That focus would be on the black family.

And what are the factors that lend to destroying the black family—TODAY. RIGHT NOW. Those things that are serving RIGHT NOW to deteriorate our families: joblessness, poverty, poor education, fatherlessness, high incarceration of our young men—HIV/AIDS infection exploding through the roof in our women and same gender loving men and no prevention funding from the government or state—-so many issues on the menu right now.

Can’t we all work together? Can’t we work to build an inclusive world for our children, all God’s children, to receive the love and nurturing all of them so righteously deserve, today? Can’t we work to create a unified vision as black people that serves to empower all of us?

Family means everything to me. I love my family so much—my siblings, nieces and nephews, my mother, my belated father, that deceased grandmother who worked in the cotton fields of Texas as a child—couldn’t go to school cause she had to help put food on the table. I miss that old lady. I miss her love for the Lord and her strength, and her vast all encompassing love for her children and grandchildren. Most of all I miss her abundant and bottomless love for me. When I told her at 19 years of age that I was gay, she told me, “you are my child. I will love you no matter what.”

I believe that was the day that I finally decided to believe in God, to truly accept God. Before that day I couldn’t. God seemed to belong to someone else. I was afraid and ashamed of who and what I was, the feelings I had. There was no place in God’s heart for me. But finally one day I broke down. And through tears told my NaNa everything. I did this because I trusted her and loved her so much. Throughout all my childhood she never made me feel bad about being me. I knew she wouldn’t turn her back on me if I told her my truth. So I shared with her the things I felt and my fear and shame. And then she said what she said. It was like a great weight was lifted from me. The way I saw it, if Nana loved me no matter what, then God had to feel the same.

And that’s because I learned everything I knew about about God through her. NaNa’s love was unquestionably God’s love as far as I was concerned. Nobody loves the way she did, live with such abundance, gratitude for life and not be a true child of the Lord. Now I’m not the churchy type. I’m not gonna lie. And yes Pastor Beckley, I do believe in the Lord. And his merciful love for all his children.


Again I hope this letter finds you well, Pastor Beckley. I look forward to receiving your thoughts.


Derrick Mathis


Friday, 3 September 2010

Oz State Premier Stands Up To Cardinal Pell, Secures Gay Adoption for NSW.

Breaking news today is that the New South Wales state assembly has narrowly approved a bill to put LGBT and heterosexual couples on an equal footing for adoption procedures. There are still a few hurdles to clear before this becomes final, but (as far as I can tell), with this one, the biggest has now been cleared. This is big news for queer Catholics. The formidable Cardinal Pell made clear his strong opposition - but the equally strong support of the Catholic NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, appears to have been decisive in providing just enough resistance.
Kristina Kenneally, Catholic and Advocate for Adoption Equality

Perhaps it was the full-fledged backing given to the Bill by New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, which took the wind out of the sails of opponents. "In forming my position on this Bill, I have considered my experiences as a mother, my responsibilities as a parliamentarian and my conscience as a Christian and member of the Catholic faith," she told lawmakers. Instead of proving divisive, it served to unite New South Wales's main political outfits with Opposition Liberal Party leader Barry O'Farrell also voting in its favor.

Hadrian (76-138)

Hadrian was an accomplished military ruler, but owes his fame more to his success as a wise and civilized leader and administrator, who helped to stabilize the Roman Empire - and for his renowned devotion to his lover, Antinous. After his young lover drowned in the Nile in 130, the Emperor was publicly overcome with grief, and declared the young man to be a god, and founded an Egytpian  city,  Antinoopolis, in his honour.  The new cult was happily taken up bright across the empire, with and at least 2000 bronze and marble busts and statues made to honour him. In Greece at alone, thirty one cities minted coins with his portrait.

Bust of Hadrian’s beloved, Antinous
In total contradiction to some modern stereotypes, there is no sense in which Hadrian could be considered in any way wimpish or effeminate:
Hadrian was a brave, resourceful soldier and an intrepid hunter of bears, boars, and lions. He bore cold and bad weather with stolid endurance. He was bearded and dressed simply. He allowed no ornaments on his sword belt or jewels on the clasp.
His sexual taste, like that of Trajan, a cousin of his father and his predecessor as emperor, was predominantly for teenage boys, though ill-wishers accused him also of affairs with grown men (adultorum amor) and of adulteries with married women. He had no children. He often said that had he been a private citizen he would have sent away his ill-tempered wife Sabina.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Insight from History into Orientation

The evidence from history, anthropology and the animal kingdom seems clear - it is not "homosexuality" that is unnatural, but exclusive heterosexuality. The trouble lies in that little qualifier "exclusive": if we apply it impartially, then the corollary also holds. Exclusive homosexuality is also "unnatural" - at least in the purely statistical sense, of being rare.

When we speak glibly of the acronym LGBT, we tend to think of the first two, and (sometimes) of the "G" - and overlook almost entirely the "B". This is odd, as the evidence, from human societies across history and from Kinsey's research, is that most people fit naturally along a scale of bisexuality, with relatively few people "naturally" places at either extreme. Yet in the modern (Western) world, the assumption too commonly is the reverse- that either we are "straight", or we are gay or lesbian.  Why should this be? The interpretation I that has been making sense to me, is that the medicalisation of "homosexuality" in the twentieth century led those who are are primarily heterosexual, developing a positive aversion to admitting (let alone expressing) any degree of same sex attraction at all. In reaction and as self- defence, those who are primarily "homosexual" then began to embrace the evidence, from science and from personal experience, that their same-sex attraction is inborn, not a mere lifestyle choice - and in embracing this, embrace also a gay "identity". Yet in earlier centuries, most people would have been puzzled by the very idea of a fixed, exclusive sexual "orientation".

This is a theme I have been wanting to explore and write about for some time, but do not yet have sufficient knowledge to present a reliable exposition. The following passage, which I came across in a review of the play "Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party ", provides a useful description of the historical facts - if not yet the historical explanation for the anomaly:

American culture has always had deep divisions regarding any open display of sexuality. For many right-wingers, the concept of gay equality sticks in the craw because it means admitting that gay people have a right to exist openly. Christians and Jews can find Biblical arguments against homosexuality, but they can't find any in the Constitution. A historical disparity is involved: Homosexual practices, found throughout nature, have probably been part of human life since it first evolved, but homosexuality, as we understand it, has existed for barely more than a century. Oscar Wilde, a married man with two children, who saw his attraction to younger men in part as continuing an ancient Platonic tradition of ideal love, probably did not think of himself as a homosexual—not, at least, until after his imprisonment. He may never even have heard the word, which only came into use in later decades. (And "gay," in Wilde's time, merely meant "loose" or "promiscuous.")

Homosexual identity, often viewed today as a central and absolute character trait, was seen through most of history as a quirk affecting very few. Men—like Lincoln and Joshua Speed—embraced each other, and slept together for warmth; men took sexual advantage of slaves they owned, boys they mentored, servants they employed; prisoners, soldiers, and sailors, apart from women, engaged in clandestine mutual pleasuring. But most of them assumed that, when conditions altered, they would engage with women and presumably produce children. Few, no matter which role they played in the act, would have assumed an exclusively homosexual preference; a great many might have been startled to know that people who thought themselves exclusively homosexual even existed.

Today life's different. Gay is an identity, and a highly politicized, assertive one at that—an inevitable reaction to the millennia during which homosexual acts were stigmatized, outlawed, and persecuted, often violently. Every concern that gays might confront, from coming out to one's parents to becoming parents, has taken on an absolutist mentality, apparently subscribed to by both its adherents and those who wish they would disappear. The secondary cultural traits through which gays in the clandestine era once signaled their shared interest have become a kind of instant public shorthand. Quarterbacks who enjoy showtunes are instantly suspect; 10-year-olds with a gift for classical music conceal their interest for fear of being bullied at school. Future generations may come to regard our time's extreme emphasis on sexual identity as nearly equal in absurdity to the frantic hostility and repugnance that kept same-sex attraction clandestine in preceding centuries.

- Full review at Village Voice

The Turning (Conservative) Tide for Family Equality

One of the tragedies of the struggle for marriage equality has been the way the rightwing opposition has been able to portray this as a contest between the supporters of "marriage", and those bent on destroying the institution. This is clearly not so - the advocates for marriage and family equality are not wanting to destroy it, but to enlarge and strengthen it by bringing more couples and families under its legal protections. The opponents, on the other hand, who have insisted on a narrow and rigid, relatively modern interpretation which they insist on terming "traditional" marriage in total contradiction of all historical evidence, who who have re-interpreted and distorted it - and largely destroyed it themselves, with high rates of divorce and teen pregnancy. (Both of these rates are highest in the states most strongly opposed to marriage and family equality.)

Times, however, are changing. For some time, there have been signs that opposition to gay marriage is no longer the magic GOP vote winner that it once was. Earlier this year, the NOM poured big money into Republican Iowa primary races in support of state level candidates who promised to overturn last year's court judgement in favour of marriage - and they lost heavily. (In the same primaries, tea party candidates who steered clear of the marriage issue did well). More recently, in the wake of Judge Walker's judgement overturning the Prop 8 win against marriage, it was notable how Republican politicians were carefully avoiding notable comment.

The stance of the tea party is instructive, as it highlights one of the reasons conservative voices are now starting to speak up in favour of same sex marriage (or, more accurately, against laws to prevent it.) This is the libertarian belief that good government is limited government - and one of the areas where government should be just about entirely absent, is in the privacy of our bedrooms and families, especially at a time when there are urgent matters of jobs and the economy requiring attention. This was explicitly the argument used by Glen Beck last month, when he said