Sunday, September 30, 2012

LA TIMES: Prop 36 Leads, Prop 34 Lags

The Los Angeles Times has released polling on the two criminal justice-related ballot measures on the 2012 ballot in California which demonstrates that Proposition 34 is unlikely to pass while Proposition 36 is very likely to do so. Prop. 34 is a measure to abolish the death penalty in California and convert all death sentences to life-in-prison-without-parole while Prop. 36 while reform the 1994 three-strikes ballot measure to mandate that the third strike must be a serious or violent felony.

In a poll conducted of registered voters from September 17-23, 2012 with a margin of error of ±2.9 percentage points, the results show that 51% are likely to vote No on Prop. 34 while 38% are likely to vote yes with 11% saying they "don't know" how they'll vote. On Proposition 36, an astonishing 66% say that they will vote Yes while only 20% say they will vote No with 14% saying they "don't know."
The poll results come as voters ponder a pair of ballot measures that, if approved, would make dramatic changes to the state's criminal justice system.
Support for an initiative that aims to replace capital punishment with life in prison without parole is trailing 38% to 51%, the poll found. But that gap narrows to a statistical dead heat when voters learn that Proposition 34 also requires convicted killers to work while in prison, directs their earnings to their victims and earmarks $100 million for police to solve murders and rapes.
Despite voters' ambivalence over capital punishment, a ballot measure seeking to amend the three-strikes law is attracting strong support from a broad cross section, including conservatives. Proposition 36 takes aim at what critics of three strikes call its unfairest feature by changing the law so that offenders whose third strikes were relatively minor, such as shoplifting or drug possession, could no longer be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Last week I reported on the results from a Field Poll which showed that the No votes on Proposition 34 was a plurality (45%) but that the difference was within the margin of error, with 42% saying they wanted to vote Yes to abolish the death penalty.

It will be interesting to see if either one of Prop. 34 or 36 actually passes on election day. I know I will be voting yes on both measures and I hope everyone I know does as well!

Brown Signs Bill Banning Ex-Gay Therapy for Minors

As the window for taking action on pending legislation passed by the California legislature ends at midnight today, Governor Jerry Brown signed State Senator Ted Lieu's SB 1172 into law late last night. The new law is the first of its kind in the country; it bans the practice of "reparative therapy" to change the sexual orientation of people under 18 in the state of California.

San Francisco Chronicle reports:
Under the new law, which will take effect Jan. 1, no mental health provider will be able to provide therapy that seeks "to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex."

Mental health professionals who violate the law, which applies to therapy for patients younger than 18, will be subject to discipline by whatever group licenses them.

The therapy often starts from the premise that a person's childhood and parental upbringing has somehow left that person deficient and thus has led him or her to same-sex attractions. Practitioners often are religious, and gay rights groups have derisively characterized the therapy as an attempt to "pray away the gay."
Joe.My.God summarizes the reaction to the news that the ex-gay therapy ban has become law from various LGBT advocacy groups. No doubt the heterosexual supremacist groups and anti-gay theocracy promoters will be reacting with dismay and horror. Oh happy day!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

DHS Puts Deportation Relief Policy For Same-Sex Couples In Writing

Finally! After more than a year of requests from various stakeholders, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued written guidelines making it clear that same-sex families are to be afforded protections from deportation (or "removal") proceedings when a foreign-born member of a binational couple is out of legal immigration status. The decision was made by Janet Napolitano, as the head of DHS, which is the Cabinet Department which includes the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Same-sex couples were believed to be included under the Obama Administration's announced policy of using prosecutorial discretion to only go through with removal proceeding for only certain classes undocumented immigrants (likes ones who had criminal records or no cognizable ties to United States citizens or legal permanent residents), but this latest action clarified that same-sex couples are explicitly to be granted recognition on the basis of the relationship between the foreign national and the American.

Immigration Equality sent out a press release celebrating the good news:
For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012

Contact:  Steve Ralls
(202) 347-7007 /
Immigration Equality Praises Obama Administration for New, Written Guidance Providing Discretionary Relief to Lesbian & Gay Immigrant Families
Extension of Prosecutorial Discretion Follows Calls for Relief from Congressional Leaders
Washington, DC –Immigration Equality today praised the Obama Administration, and specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for new, written guidance that will extend discretionary relief to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants with U.S. citizen spouses and partners. The new written directive, which was announced in response to a Congressional letter spearheaded by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), marks one of the very first times LGBT families have been recognized within federal immigration policies. The guidelines, which are expected to be distributed soon to field offices across the country, will instruct officers and field agents to recognize LGBT families for purposes of relief as defined by a June 2011 memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Until now, LGBT families and their lawyers had nothing to rely on but an oral promise that prosecutorial discretion would include all families. Today, DHS has responded to Congress and made that promise real. The Administration’s written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases.”
In the June 2011 memo from Director Morton, the Department of Homeland Security spelled out factors ICE officers should consider when deciding which immigration cases are classified as “low priority” for removal. Those guidelines included family ties to a U.S. citizen. DHS stated verbally in August of last year that it intended for the “family” guidelines to be LGBT-inclusive, but it had not previously distributed written guidance codifying that intent to field offices.  In a letter yesterday to the 84 Members of Congress who demanded written guidelines, the Administration said it intends to do so.
“In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase ‘family relationships,’ I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ includes long-term, same-sex partners,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote.
“The new guidelines will put in writing a commitment the Administration has expressed over the past year,” said Tiven. “Now, the courts and Congress should act to make relief permanent, and provide access to green cards for all LGBT families.”
# # #
Immigration Equality is a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals.
As I've mentioned before on stories involving LGBT immigration rights, I have been on the board of directors of Immigration Equality since 2008. Regardless, this is a big story and a huge win for people in binational same-sex relationships who do not have to live in fear of being separated from their loved ones by the actions of the United States government, as long as the policy is in place.

Saturday Politics: Romney and Ryan Kissing!?

Hat/tip to TowleRoad

Friday, September 28, 2012

Edith Windsor DOMA Challenge Heard in 2nd Circuit

Edith Windsor, 81, is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in which oral arguments were heard before a 3-judge panel of 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week challenging the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of marriage Act (DOMA). Windsor was married to Thea Spyer in Canada and the two resided in New York state, which recognized same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other jurisdictions even before the state enacted legislation legalizing the performance and solemnization of same-sex marriages in the state in July 2011.

The case of Windsor v. United States is one of several federal lawsuits which have been successful at the District Court level and are rapidly descending on the United States Supreme Court. On Wednesday of this week Paul Clement, representing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the United States House of Representatives defended the stature while Roberta Kaplan, representing the American Civil Liberties Union and Windsor argued that the statute is unconstitutional before 3 judges (1 appointed by President G.H.W. Bush, 1 appointed by President Bill Clinton and 1 appointed by President Barack Obama). Openly gay Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery argued for the government that the position of the United States is that DOMA fails constitutional muster under a heightened level of judicial scrutiny.

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade did a masterful job summarizing the arguments presented before the judges:
Questions from judges hit on several topics, although the questioning from didn’t reveal much in terms of what how they’d rule in the case. Many inquiries were posed about the extent to which gays and lesbians enjoy political power within the U.S. government. Opponents of DOMA have argued the anti-gay law is unconstitutional because gays and lesbians lack political power, but BLAG contends the LGBT community has significant influence.
Asked by Jacobs about whether the test of political power is whether gays and lesbians have any power at all or whether power is diminished, Clement replied, “I think it’s the former, and I don’t think it’s not a overwhelmingly difficult test. … It’s a matter of whether you get the attention of lawmakers.”
Clement pointed to a friend-of-the-court brief signed by 145 House Democrats filed in the case on behalf of plaintiffs as evidence that the LGBT community has influence over the political process as he asserted the LGBT community should look to the legislative process to repeal DOMA, saying “This is an issue that could be left to the Democratic process.”
But Kaplan said the 30 marriage amendments that passed in state throughout the country are evidence that gay and lesbians are politically powerless, even though she emphasized these amendments have no bearing on the case at hand against DOMA.
The degree of scrutiny under which laws related to sexual orientation should face before the courts also came up the during the hearing. Judges asked whether they should overturn DOMA on the basis that such laws should be subjected to strict scrutiny, or more intermediate level of heightened scrutiny or be examined under a rational basis review. The level of scrutiny they apply could have implications on court cases related to sexual orientation.
In the event the court decided to rule against DOMA, Clement said the court asked the court not to apply heightened scrutiny, noting it would be the first appellate court to do so because the First Circuit Court of Appeals when struck down DOMA in May under rational basis review.
Kaplan said she was arguing for the higher level of review called strict scrutiny as opposed to the more intermediate heightened scrutiny because “being gay or lesbian is closer to being African-American than being a woman.” Laws related to gender have been subjected to heightened scrutiny, but laws related to race have been subjected to strict scrutiny.
But Delery didn’t articulate the same view, saying he was arguing against DOMA on the basis that it violated heightened scrutiny. While he acknowledged arguments could be made that DOMA fails rational basis, he wouldn’t commit to saying that should be struck down under that standard.
Clement basically relied on two rather old cases to defend his position, starting with 1972's Baker v Nelson, a case in which two men filed to strike down Minnesota's statutory ban on same-sex marriages a full 30 years before any court ruled definitely in favor of marriage equality. He also brought up an even more ancient (and controversial case), 1885's Murphy v Ramsey which involved the regulation of polygamy in the then Utah Territory and that relies upon one of the most reviled cases in Supreme Court jurisprudence, Dred Scott, as a source of its legal authority. Dred Scott is the 1857 case where slaves were declared to not be citizens of the United States and was one of the flames which fueled the conflagration that became the Civil War.

It will be interesting to see how long the Second Circuit takes to release their decision and whether they will be influenced by (or will influence) the decision by the United States Supreme Court to take other pending DOMA-related cases pending on appeal before the other United States Courts of Appeals.

Celebrity Friday: Nate Silver's Book On Forecasting

Nate Silver is well-known for his use of mathematics and statistics to make predictions and forecast events, primarily in politics and in sports. He is only 35 years old now but he has a popular blog which was bought and incorporated into the New York Times following his rise to prominence fueled by his accurate predictions in the 2008 presidential race. In 2009 he was named by Time magazine as one of the Top 100 most influential people in the world. He also apparently spends a lot of his time making predictions about baseball, using a system similar to the one presented in the popular movie Moneyball.

But his latest claim to fame (besides being today's Celebrity Friday) is his new book, which is titled The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail But Some Don't. The book is getting pretty decent reviews, such as this one from Professor Roger Pielke, a University of Colorado environmental studies professor:
Silver’s book is at its best when he writes about the things he knows best. That is to say, when he is writing about sports, political predictions and poker, Silver’s book is original and insightful. However, when he writes about weather, climate, earthquakes, the stock market and terrorism, the book doesn’t quite reach this high standard, and sometimes the discussion of these complex topics seems a bit cursory or hurried, which is decidedly contrary to Silver’s approach to analysis for which he has become well known.
I'm just happy to see a popular book which discusses mathematics without fear.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Marriage Equality Leads 51%-43% in Maryland

Finally there is a new poll out of Maryland about the pending referendum on marriage equality called Question 6. In May 2012, a poll showed a 57%-37% lead for supporters of marriage equality and in July 2012 (the last known public poll before this new one) showed a lead of 54%-40%.

The new poll from Gonzalez Research shows 50.9% in support of Question 6, 42.8% against Question 6 and 6.3% are undecided with a margin of error ±3.5 percentage points. This indicates that there may not be a majority of support for marriage equality in Maryland. A Yes vote is always more difficult to get in a ballot measure fight and neither opponents or proponents have begun advertising on Question 6 yet.

That being said, there is some good news in the internals of the poll, which indicate that support of African American voters for marriage equality has increased from 33% in January to 44% now.

However, the Maryland marriage equality campaign is starting to raise concerns among LGBT activists for its reluctance to discuss how much money it has raised to date and what it plans are for airing television ads before the election.

BOOK REVIEW: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

British science fiction author Alastair Reynolds quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read his Revelation Space books. I went on to read all of his other published novels, so when I discovered that he was releasing the first book in a new trilogy called Poseidon's Children this summer I was very excited. The name of the book is  Blue Remembered Earth and it was released on June 26, 2012 but for some reason I was able to get it delivered to my house from on June 5!

The evocative title is meant to refer to the central idea of the series, which is about humanity venturing out into space, leaving Earth behind as a memory of an ever increasingly distant and fading blue marble. The main protagonist of the story is George Akinya, who is a diffident, rebellious and somewhat spoiled member of the Akinya family. The Akinya name is known world(s)-wide due to the megacorporation Akinya Space created and nurtured by George's grandmother Eunice, who was one of the early pioneers in the commercialization of space.

Blue Remembered Earth is set roughly 150 years in the future from "now" and in a plausibly recognizable future. The earth has been dramatically impacted by climate change and the global balance of power (something also posited even more extensively in Tobias Buckell's Arctic Rising which I reviewed recently) has shifted so that Africa and Asia are the dominant continents, not North America or Europe. In fact, the language that most of the characters speak is Swahili, and the Akinya home is in Kenya relatively near Nairobi but in sight of the peak of Kilimanjaro.

George is a biologist whose life work involves studying African elephants, trying to completely understand the complex familial and societal structures that these intelligent and powerful animals  develop. It's implied but never explicitly stated that George likes "his elephants" more than he does "his family," which primarily consists of his sister Sunday (who is even more rebellious than George and has also rejected the trappings of the Akinya name and wealth to become an artist in a separatist colony/commune on the Moon) and his itinerant mother and father (who never really make much of an impression in the book due to their travels in the far reaches of the solar system). Other family members which do play prominent roles in the story of the book are George's cousins, the twins Hector and Lucas who are the members of George's generation of Akinyas who have stepped up and are running the family business.

At Eunice's funeral, Hector and Lucas ask George to go to the Moon to check out a safe-deposit bank mentioned in her will which they are worried may include something incriminating from Eunice's past which may reflect badly on her and by extension Akinya Space which they shepherd. Since, it will give him a chance to see his sister Sunday who is his closes ally in the family and result in a hefty financial donation to support his elephant research, George agrees and the wheels of the plot are set in motion which place George and Sunday in the crosshairs of multiple centers of power on Earth and eventually leads to Sunday going to Mars and George going one of Jupiter's moons as they discover the paradigm-altering secrets left to them by their grandmother.

One of the most interesting features of all of Reynolds books is his attention to detail in his "world-building" and the settings for his novels. Here he is focused on technological and sociological developments which could come to pass, which he seamlessly incorporates into the book. One which I appreciated was his matter-of-fact inclusion of two minor (but pivotal) male characters into the book who are married to each other and absolutely none of the primary characters comment on their relationship as if it is out of the ordinary, because presumably in 2162 marriage equality is a long-settled fait accompli. This is a nice touch, and one that should not go uncommented on because LGBT fans of science fiction have long been annoyed by creative works which describe all sorts of speculative changes which occur in the future but don't deal with sexual orientation at all. (Jack McDevitt is a recent example of science fiction books I have been reading who fails this test completely, as of course do the Star Trek television series).

Other technological advances that Reynolds introduces into Blue Remembered Earth are the fact that most humans have "augs," which are basically a neural interface to what the Internet/world wide web has become that allows people to do a number of things like instantaneously translate languages, communicate electronically, and remotely operate golems at vast distances. This last ability is called "chinging" and it means that one can be in Paris, but looking through the auditory and visual interfaces of a golem in a bar on Mars and have a reasonable conversation with someone there. Thus this reduces the needs for physical travel at the same time travel between the planets has become available to the elites of humanity.

Generally, Reynolds is optimistic about the future but one aspect which I found troubling was his idea that in the future a world-wide computer network will have complete panoptical visual access to all of humanity and will use this power benevolently to prevent and prohibit any kind of physical violence between individuals (on pain of incarceration and, it is implied, death and/or personality modification for offenders).

Blue Remembered Earth is not Reynolds at his best, but even Reynolds at, say 75%, is still far more interesting than probably 90% of the speculative fiction that is published in a year, which makes his latest work something any fan of the genre should not hesitate in reading, after having read his brilliant works set in the Revelation Space universe.

Title:  Blue Remembered Earth.
Author: Alastair Reynolds.
Length: 512 pages.
Publisher: Ace Hardcover.
Published: June 5, 2012.

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.66/4.0).


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Field Poll: CA Death Penalty Repeal Initiative Close

The Field Poll is the most trusted name in California polling. They are currently polling the 11 pending ballot measures which will be decided on election day and releasing the results periodically. Proposition 34 is one that I am following closely, since it would abolish the abhorrent and wasteful practice of the state of California executing its citizens, replacing the death penalty with a less expensive and more humane Life Without Parole system.

The latest Field Poll says that 45% of likely voters oppose Proposition 34 with 42% supporting it. (The margin of error in the poll is ±4.3 points.) This is not a good sign, since the conventional wisdom is that ballot measures typically need to be polling well over 50% in order more than a month before voting happens in order to survive the general bias of voters to reject propositions, especially in the face of an expensive television ad campaign aimed at raising doubts. But Proposition 34 may have a different fate than convention wisdom would indicate because 1) proponents have a huge cash advantage (possibly as high as 10:1) and 2) Most Californians have a pretty fixed view of their opinion about the death penalty and are unlikely to be swayed by a television ad campaign on this matter. In fact, Field goes on to explain in their polling memo on Proposition 34 that it is only very recently that there were pluralities in California that supported life without parole over the death penalty since only recently did people understand how expensive financially the implementation of the death penalty is. It typically takes 25 years from the time a convicted criminal is sentenced to death row that an execution occurs in California. This is due to the fact that every single Capital case must go through the California Supreme Court at some point (and of course there's also the federal court system to consider as well).

By looking at the internals of the polling memo, one good sign is that a majority of Democrats (50%-37%) and Independents (54%-33%) support the measure. (Of course nearly two-thirds of Republicans oppose ending the death penalty since even though Republicans generally hate government, they still think it should have the power to execute its citizens. Go figure!) Since together Democrats and Independents will be a significant majority of the electorate as Republicans are fast becoming an irrelevant party in the state,  Proposition 34  still has a reasonable chance of passing. It's also a pretty good sign that the undecided vote is pretty evenly distributed among the parties.

I'll be giving periodic updates on the state of Proposition 34 as the election gets closer. That and Proposition 36 (which would reform our state's infamous "three-strikes and you're out" law) are two very important measures to rein in the prison-industrial complex in California.

Maine Marriage Equality Ad Features Firefighters

The new television ad from Mainers United for Marriage features a bunch of Maine firefighters (mostly straight guys) talking about their brotherhood and camaraderie on the job and about how this closeness is not impacted by the fact that one of their members is gay.

I'm not a straight person, so the ad is not aimed at convincing me, but I found the ad singularly uncompelling because there seems to be a logical disconnect between what a group of firefighters do and what state public policy should be towards all people who want civil marriage licenses. But, then again, for straight people, maybe it's about modelling for them that there is no reason to fear or hate gay people and thus the law should treat their relationships equally. But since the ad is not really about marriage, but really social comfort with homosexuality at a visceral level, it doesn't work for me.

What do you think?

Godless Wednesday: Blasphemy Day is Sun Sep 30

September 30th is International Blasphemy Day, a project of the Campaign for Free Expression which is trying to bring attention to the "victimless crime" of committing blasphemy and the movement in multiple countries to expand blasphemy laws.

The Secular Coalition for America has an informative factsheet on blasphemy. For example, it lists the following countries as those whose have laws against blasphemy:

Notable Countries that Criminalize Blasphemy 
  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
Note that some of these countries on this list are known to be quite progressive in other ways. For example, I have shown the Netherland and Denmark in fuchsia because they have enacted marriage equality. But, they also believe in punishment for defaming a religion?

Happily, blasphemy laws do not exist in the United States, because they are a clear violation of First Amendment protections, as the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1952's Burstyn v. Wilson (343 U.S. 495).

However, blasphemy laws are getting support from some unlikely quarters. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said recently that there should be limitation on free speech which is used to "to provoke or humiliate." This appears to be clearly a complete misunderstanding of what free speech is about. The government should not be in the business of regulating what people can say to each other which can cause feelings of anger or shame. Besides, there is a difference between speech that targets a particular person and speech that targets a religion or religious idea. The latter is what blasphemy laws are attempting to regulate.

Amanda Knieff puts it well when she says:

The right to blaspheme is where the rights of free speech and religious freedom intersect. In order to have a truly democratic and open society, all citizens must be able to speak openly and honestly about all things—even another’s religion, lack of religion, beliefs, gods, and sacred books—and be able to take the name of supernatural entities in vain: Holy Zeus!

Amen to that!

Hat/tip to Friendly Atheist blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

USSC LGBT Decisions Not Happening Today

The United States Supreme Court has not decided whether to grant certiorari in any of the numerous LGBT-related cases pending before the High Court today. The next time we could hear whether the court will decide whether it will decide the merits of these cases is next Monday at 9:30am.

The most important of the pending cases involves the appeal from heterosexual supremacists to resuscitate Proposition 8, a purported amendment to California's state constitution to ban any future same-sex marriages which has been rejected by every federal court that has considered it so far. The case is now called Hollingsworth v Perry, although when it was Perry v Brown both the federal district court and federal appellate court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The next set of cases are the myriad DOMA cases from the 1st, 2nd and 9th circuits where  the forces for equality have won at the lower level and Paul Clement, representing the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, is attempting to defend the discriminatory status quo of enforcing heterosexual privilege by the federal government.

Stay tuned for more information next week!

6 Weeks Until Election: Obama 328, Romney 191

There are 42 days (6 weeks) until election day. In this week's TPM Election Scoreboard the Obama-Biden campaign leads the Romney-Ryan campaign with 328 electoral votes to 191. Last week, the margin was 274 for the Democratic and 206 for Republican ticket. Of course, it takes 270 electoral votes to be elected president.

The primary explanation for the change  of 54 electoral votes for the Blue Team is the movement of Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Florida (29) and Virginia (13) from Undecided (Yellow) to leans Democrat (Light Blue) totaling 58 electoral votes with New Hampshire's 4 electoral votes moving from leans Democratic to Undecided. North Carolina's 15 electoral votes moved from Leans Republican to Undecided, thus reducing the Red team's total by 15 from 206 back down to 191.

The total of only 19 electoral votes being undecided (New Hampshire and North Carolina) is the smallest number in the 6 weeks I have been monitoring the electoral vote projections since early August.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Queer Quote: Paul Ryan Says DADT Is "Past Us"

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is on the Republican presidential ticket and is well-known as someone who is generally opposed to any kind of equal rights for LGBT people. However, this past weekend when he was in Miami, Florida he was asked about what should be done about the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"  (DADT) policy which excluded openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the United States Armed Forces.

To the surprise of many, Ryan (who voted against the legislation to repeal DADT in the U.S. House in December 2010) appeared not to be eager to revisit the policy and bash gay people. In fact, he ade this statement which qualifies as today's Queer Quote :
"Now that it's done, we should not reverse it. I think that would be a step in the wrong direction because people have already disclosed themselves. I talked to a lot of good friends of mine who are combat leaders in the theater and they just didn't think the timing of this was right to do this when our troops were in the middle of harm's way in combat. I think this issue is past us. It's done. And, I think we need to move on."
If even the homophobic candidate for the Vice-Presidency is not interested in reversing DADT repeal, then last week's 1-year anniversary of DADT's absence will not be the last.

Minnesota Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Leads

A ballot measure to enact a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota is narrowly leading 49%-47% according to a new poll released by the Minnesota Star-Tribune today. The margin of error of the poll is ±3.5 percentage points, which demonstrates that the fight is very very close, with both results basically equally likely.

What's more interesting to me than the top line numbers are the internals of the poll:

If the election were held today, would you vote:
  • "YES", in favor of the amendment
  • "NO", against the amendment
Metro Suburbs59%37%4%
Southwest Minnesota55%42%3%
Northwest Minnesota48%47%5%
The first question to ask is "what the heck is going on in the suburbs of Minneapolis?" They support the amendment 59% to 37%? It's also interesting to note that men and women are diametrically opposite positions on the amendment, which would imply that the campaign needs to work harder to explain to women that same-sex marriage will have absolutely no impact on their lives and really the point of the amendment is to send an anti-gay message to people in and out of the state. There also seems to be some more work done to convince Democrats that they should  be more strongly opposed to the amendment, since Republicans seem more energized in favor (zero percent undecided Republicans, really?!). Also, the campaign should target Independents, because typically they align more with Democrats than Republicans on social issues.

The problem is that the conventional wisdom is that the race is this close in say a month, then the forces of bigotry will win, because most undecided voters (and even some voters loath to appear bigoted to the pollster asking the question who may have lied and said they oppose the amendment) will go into the booth and vote to defend their heterosexual privilege by voting yes on the constitutional amendment.

Of course, Minnesota already has a statute declaring same-sex marriage illegal, so the only practical impact of passing the amendment will be to force marriage equality supporters to have to go to the ballot sometime in the future to repeal the amendment, unless a court declares that public referendums on the fundamental right to marry of minorities violates the United States constitution (which I believe).

Eye Candy: David Mcintosh

David McIntosh is a 26-year-old former British Marine Commando who is most well-known in his home country of Great Britain as a competitor on the television show Gladiators. His Model Mayhem page lists him as 6-feet tall and 190 pounds.

Many other blogs have featured pictures of Mcintosh's muscular and inked body, including Gorgeous Sexy Guys, Rod 2.0  and David Dust. He event caught my eye years ago before I knew what his name was, appearing on the blog under the named "Inked" on March 13, 2009.
I'm glad we know his name and basic information, aren't you? It means that you, Gentle Reader, can find more pictures of Mr. McIntosh yourself, if you so desire. You Do desire, don't you?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 EMMYS: The Winners!

Tonight the 2012 Emmy Awards were given out. I only correctly predicted 4 of 10 of the top categories in drama and comedy in my previous analysis of the nominations, although I did get the two biggest awards of the night right, which was the wins for ABC's Modern Family and Showtime's Homeland for Best Comedy Series and Best Drama Series, respectively.

There were two upsets in the Lead Actor and Lead Actress Comedy Series, with Jon Cryer winning instead of openly gay 2-time Emmy-winner Jim Parson and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss winning for the wretched series Veep instead of either Tina Fey or Amy Poehler.

I was very psyched to see the accolades for  Homeland, which I caught on demand last Spring and quickly burned through watching 4 or 5 episodes in one weekend prior to the season finale in May. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are simply amazing in this tautly written and brilliantly acted series which is a remake of an Israeli television series about a returning soldier (Lewis) who a mentally ill intelligence officer (Danes) thinks may have been turned into an enemy weapon.

The second season of Homeland starts next Sunday. Check it out!

Here are the results of the Top 10 Emmy awards in the Drama and Comedy categories.

Outstanding Comedy Series
  • "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
  • "Girls"
  • "The Big Bang Theory"
  • "Modern Family" (WINNER!)
  • "Veep"
  • "30 Rock"
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Zooey Deschanel - "New Girl"
  • Lena Dunham - "Girls"
  • Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
  • Tina Fey - "30 Rock"
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus "Veep" (WINNER!)
  • Melissa McCarthy - "Mike & Molly"
  • Amy Poehler - "Parks and Recreation
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Alec Baldwin - "30 Rock"
  • Louis CK - "Louie"
  • Larry David - "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
  • Jim Parsons - "The Big Bang Theory"
  • Jon Cryer - "Two and a Half Men" (WINNER!)
  • Don Cheadle - "House of Lies"
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Mayim Bialik - "The Big Bang Theory"
  • Julie Bowen - "Modern Family" (WINNER!)
  • Merritt Wever - "Nurse Jackie"
  • Sofia Vergara - "Modern Family"
  • Kristen Wiig - "Saturday Night Live"
  • Kathryn Joosten - "Desperate Housewives"
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Ty Burrell - "Modern Family"
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson - "Modern Family"
  • Ed O'Neil - "Modern Family"
  • Eric Stonestreet - "Modern Family" (WINNER!)
  • Max Greenfield - "New Girl"
  • Bill Hader - "Saturday Night Live"
Outstanding Drama Series
  • "Boardwalk Empire"
  • "Breaking Bad"
  • "Downton Abbey"
  • "Game of Thrones"
  • "Homeland" (WINNER!)
  • "Mad Men"
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
  • Kathy Bates - "Harry's Law"
  • Claire Danes - "Homeland" (WINNER!)
  • Glenn Close - "Damages"
  • Julianna Margulies - "The Good Wife"
  • Michelle Dockery - "Downton Abbey"
  • Elizabeth Moss - "Mad Men"
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
  • Steve Buscemi - "Boardwalk Empire"
  • Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
  • Michael C. Hall - "Dexter"
  • Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"
  • Hugh Bonneville - "Downton Abbey"
  • Damian Lewis - "Homeland" (WINNER!)
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
  • Archie Punjabi - "The Good Wife"
  • Anna Gunn - "Breaking Bad"
  • Maggie Smith - "Downton Abbey" (WINNER!)
  • Joanne Froggatt - "Downton Abbey"
  • Christina Hendricks - "Mad Men"
  • Christine Baranski - "The Good Wife"
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
  • Aaron Paul - "Breaking Bad" (WINNER!)
  • Giancaro Esposito - "Breaking Bad"
  • Brendan Coyle - "Downton Abbey"
  • Jim Carter - "Downton Abbey"
  • Jared Harris - "Mad Men"
  • Peter Dinklage - "Game of Thrones"

Collins Becomes 1st Republican UAFA Co-Sponsor

The Uniting All Families Act (UAFA) is important federal legislation (S. 821/H.R. 1537) which, if enacted, would allow LGBT  Americans in same-sex bi-national relationships to sponsor their foreign partner to receive permanent residency in the United States based on the relationship to a United States citizen or permanent resident. The activist group Immigration Equality estimates there are 36,000 same-sex binational couples who currently live in the United States. (As usual, it should be noted that I continue to serve on the board of directors of both Immigration Equality and Immigration Equality Action Fund).

UAFA has slowly been increasing the number of Congressional co-sponsors with 142 in the House and 28 in the Senate the most ever. This week the bill picked up its first Republican co-sponsor in Congress, Susan Collins of Maine. Amazingly, the bill (H.R. 1537) has no Republican co-sponsor in the U.S. House of Representatives, not even Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who has endorsed marriage equality and has co-sponsored the DOMA-repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. I guess there is something about the intersection of LGBT rights and immigration, two issues which the Republican party has identified itself recently in opposition to, that makes it doubly difficult to enact any forward progress in what is now a xenophobic and homophobic party.

Log Cabin Republicans sent out a press release trumpeting Collins' action:

“This legislation would simply update our nation’s immigration laws to treat bi-national couples equally,” Senator Susan Collins said. “More than two dozen countries recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes. This important civil rights legislation would help prevent committed, loving families from being forced to choose between leaving their family or leaving their country.”

“Log Cabin Republicans are grateful to Senator Collins for continuing to be the tip of the spear as a Republican fighting for LGBT families. The Uniting American Families Act is a vital piece of legislation for many in our community who for too long have been forced to choose between their love of country, and the loves of their lives,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “With no ability to sponsor their partners, Americans are being forced abroad, taking their tax base, their talent, and enterprise to the more than 25 countries that offer residency for lesbian and gay partners. The Uniting American Families Act would allow Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for residency, benefiting both these American citizens and the companies which employ them. Log Cabin is proud to support the Uniting American Families Act, and we are committed to continuing our partnership with our allies at Immigration Equality to send Senator Collins the reinforcements she needs to make this bill a reality.”

One should note that this now means that of the 170 Congressional sponsors of the legislation, there is exactly one Republican. This is an indication of the ratio of positive actions towards LGBT equality by Democrats as opposed to positive actions by Republicans, which is precisely part of what Barney Frank was trying to say when he excoriated the Log Cabin Republicans  a few weeks ago.

Of course it is impossible to enact UAFA without Republican support in both the House and Senate since Republicans control one body and have enough members to stop any action in the other. But it is also true that if there were fewer Republicans in Congress, the chances of UAFA becoming law would increase not decrease. So, since Log Cabin Republicans exist to support Republicans, it is really not clear that they are actually increasing the likelihood of future LGBT legislative victories. However, since it is unlikely the Republican party is going to disappear any time soon(or that Democrats will have unfettered control of Congress), it is better that Log Cabin exists and works with Republicans than having them not exist. (So this is where I disagree with Barney Frank).

What do you think (about the existential question regarding gay Republicans)?

Sunday Gossip: Venus Dating 24yo Cuban Model

Last week's gossip involved the news that Serena Williams was dating her 42-year-old coach from France, Patrick Mouratouglou. This week comes word that her sister Venus also has a new man in her life, the 24-year-old Cuban model Elio Pis.

People magazine reports:

The tennis champ, 32, has been dating Cuban model Elio Alberto Pis, 24, for several months, PEOPLE has learned. 

And it's been a love match on and off the court. 

The couple were seen holding hands and sweetly kissing each other while walking through the corridors of Arthur Ashe Stadium. During all of her matches, Pis sat courtside with Williams's friends and family, cheering the two-time U.S. Open winner. Her return was cut short, though. Williams lost to Germany's Angelique Kerber in the second round on Aug. 30, and she was eliminated from the doubles competition with younger sister Serena on Sept. 3. 

Good for you, Venus!


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