Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mariah Carey Has Her Twins (Boy And Girl)!

Mariah Carey, 41, and Nick Cannon, 30, welcomed their twin babies, a boy and a girl, on Saturday April 30.
Carey's representative, Cindi Berger, confirmed the births to The Associated Press. The singing superstar gave birth Saturday at 12:07 p.m. EDT at an undisclosed hospital in Los Angeles. Berger says the baby girl was born first, weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces, and was 18 inches long; her brother was next, at 5 pounds 6 ounces, and was 19 inches.
The two will celebrate their third wedding anniversary on Sunday May 1st.

Djokovic Reaches 5 Consecutive Final; 26-0 For 2011

How long can he keep it up? World #2 Novak Djokovic reached the final of his home town tournament in Serbia with a walk over Janko Tipsarevic on Saturday. Djokovic has now reached 5 consecutive finals (winning 4) and has not lost on tour since the ATP World Tour finals in December 2010. HIs 26-0 start to 2011 is the best beginning of a season since Ivan Lendl's 25-0 in the 1980s.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rhode Island Trying Civil Unions "Compromise" Over Marriage Equality

Rhode Island has long been on the list of states marriage equality activists think will  likely be the next to enact marriage equality (which includes Maryland, Minnesota and New York). However, in Maryland marriage equality legislation recently died, and in Minnesota the 2010 election gave Republicans control of the legislature, which they are using to try to put a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality on the 2012 ballot.

This week, openly gay (and multiracial)  Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox announced that he would try to pass a civil unions bill because he felt that marriage equality legislation could not pass both houses of the legislature.

Both Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Freedom To Marry (predictably) sent out press releases denouncing the move.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island:
The Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) board of directors issued a statement expressing staunch opposition to civil unions now being supported by Speaker Gordon Fox and restated their support for full marriage equality for same-sex couples in Rhode Island.
“Civil unions are unacceptable because they marginalize gay and lesbian couples in very significant ways. The General Assembly will essentially be legalizing a two-class system that subjects thousands of Rhode Island same-sex couples to discrimination. We cannot support legislation that establishes a second class of citizens in Rhode Island,” said Martha Holt, chair of MERI’s board of directors.
Freedom To Marry:
“Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox has made a serious miscalculation.  With support for the freedom to marry topping 60 percent—higher than in any other state in the country—and with a strongly supportive governor, the Rhode Island House should send a marriage bill—and nothing less—to the Senate now.  Couples who are doing the work of marriage in their day-to-day lives, who have made a commitment in life, deserve to have an equal commitment under the law.  That legal commitment is called marriage.  Freedom to Marry is prepared to join with Speaker Fox, advocates on the ground, and a super-majority of Rhode Islanders to make the strongest case to the Senate. 
“Civil union is a separate and unequal half-step that has proven to be terribly inadequate in practice.  That’s why every New England state that started with civil union—Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont—has moved to marriage.  It is also why the official New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission found that “the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.
Although I am a strong supporter of marriage equality, I disagree with MERI and Freedom To Marry here and support Gordon Fox's actions. I believe it is better to enact legislatively what you can right now to protect same-sex couples and their families, while at the same time acknowledging that you are interested in passing marriage equality in the future. Just recently, Hawaii and Illinois have done exactly that earlier this year, with Colorado coming one vote short of joining them in enacting civil unions. In Maryland, marriage equality advocates refused to support a civil unions bill and were rewarded with passage of a bill in one legislative house and bitter recriminations. New York is also only going for marriage equality. Interestingly, in New York and Maryland if you are married someplace else those states will recognize those unions under state law, so maybe the pressure is off for same-sex couples who really need the protections of marriage.

Rhode Island should be an interesting place next week. Both heterosexual supremacists and marriage equality activists will be opposed to civil unions legislations. Presumably, Governor Lincoln Chafee will sign it into law if it reaches his desk, just like he said he would a marriage equality bill.

The Providence Journal reports about the reaction to Speaker Fox's action:
Fox, in an emotional appeal to gay marriage advocates protesting outside his State House office, said his decision to support civil-union legislation was a sign of the strong opposition in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate for gay marriage, and did not mean that he was stepping away from his drive for full-fledged marriage rights.

"I am the Speaker of the House and I am an openly gay man. This is very emotional for me,” he said. “But as speaker, I understand counting votes and what I can deliver for all of us. And I believe I am delivering rights to us today and it’s not killing the cause.”
Protester Wendy Becker, of Providence, begged him to put gay marriage to a vote, saying: “We need to let people do the right thing.”
Fox replied: “I understand that. This is the right thing for now. We’ll keep working.”
His move won support from both Governor Chafee, a strong advocate of same-sex marriage, and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, an opponent, but it was lambasted by the lead sponsor of the abandoned same-sex marriage bill, the protesters outside Fox’s State House office, and a phalanx of advocacy groups, including Marriage Equality Rhode Island.
As a same-sex marriage advocate, Chafee said he “had hoped that legislation enacting it would have reached my desk this year,” but he respects Fox’s political assessment and believes “passage of civil-union legislation would be a step forward for our state and I would sign such a bill if and when it reaches my desk.”
Paiva Weed reiterated her own support for civil unions, and said she believes this approach has “broad support” in the Senate.
I also support Speaker Fox's actions.

Celebrity Friday: Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin

Julianne Moore is one of my favorite actresses, and should have won an Oscar for her work in Far From Heaven years ago. According to the Hollywood Reporter, she is going to be starring as Sarah Palin a.k.a. "Moose Mess" in the upcoming HBO film, Game Change, based on the 2010 best-seller Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime on the 2008 presidential race by John Heileman and Mark Halperin. She looks amazing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

WATCH: Trailer for Final Harry Potter film

Looks like the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 will be ending with a  bang, not a whimper. Part 1 was a bit slow (see MadProfessah review). Part 2 looks like it will be more closely following the book, which was pretty amazing.

BOOK REVIEW: Broken Angels by Richard Morgan

Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels have a stellar reputation among hard core science fiction fans. I have previously enjoyed reading Morgan's first book in the series, the exciting Altered Carbon, which introduces the Takeshi Kovacs character to the world.

In the second book Broken Angels, Morgan puts Kovacs in another compelling and very dangerous situation, while still maintaining the character's unlikeability. The themes of the first book, explicit sexuality, corporate greed, capitalist malfeasance, dangerous technological advances, and dehumanizing violence, all return in even greater amounts in the sequel.

Altered Carbon made Richard Morgan seem like the second coming of Dashiell Hammett with Takeshi Kovacs a 24th century Sam Spade, like a cross between Blade Runner and The Maltese Falcon. I am chosing movies to relate Morgan's book to on purpose. Although Broken Angels is very different from Altered Carbon, it is also so vividly written that the story has substantial cinematic potential. It really seems like it is only a matter of when, not if, we will see major motion pictures based on the works of Richard K. Morgan.

The story this time begins with Kovacs as a mercenary fighting in a civil war on a planet called Sanction IV, as part of a unit called Carrera's Wedge which is helping a company called the Mandrake Corporation achieve its goals during a bloody, planet-wide, military conflict. One of the basic tenets of Broken Angels is that war is commerce conducted by other means (and vice versa!)

Kovacs leaves his unit when he meets Jan Schneider, who says he needs help for a scheme to smuggle an ancient Martian treasure off-world. In order to make their score they need to break out an archaeologist named Tanya Wardani, which Kovacs does and then enlists a mid-level executive named Matthias Hand at the Mandrake Corporation to finance the logistics of the retrieval operation, which of course have to occur dead smack in the middle of the war zone.

The story turns into a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and (the first exploration-heavy hour of) Alien. Again, as in the first book, the most important draw is Kovacs, with his near-superhuman reflexes and situational loyalty. Kovacs find and trains an elite team of experienced warriors to go on the expedition with him, but he's really the only one we care about is Kovacs. Kovacs protests (too much) that he only cares about his survival as well but his actions belie this expressed belief. Morgan's action scenes are another highlight of the book, especially when told from Kovacs perspective and internal monologue.

Broken Angels is a memorable entry into the genre of hard-core, hard-bitten military science fiction by another talented British writer. Fans of Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds (which includes yours truly) will be thrilled to discover another author who possesses similar adeptness at creating rich, believable future worlds peopled with intelligent characters fighting battles against powerful (and sometimes alien) forces.

Title: Broken Angels.
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Length: 384 pages.
Publisher: Del Rey.
Published: March 2, 2004.

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LA TIMES Editorial Eviscerates ProtectMarriage Argument

Dismissing an argument that even heterosexual supremacists should have been ashamed to make in their increasingly desperate attempts to not lose the Perry vs. Brown lawsuit, today's Los Angeles Times op-ed titled "Prop. 8: Who's fit to judge?" eviscerated the motion to vacate filed by Protect Marriage attorney Charles Cooper on Monday:
Married judges rule on divorce cases all the time. So do single judges. And divorced ones. Their rulings aren't challenged on the grounds of their marital status; that would obviously be ridiculous.

Yet ProtectMarriage, the group that sponsored Proposition 8, is challenging last year's ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that declared the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The group's lawyers argue that because Walker has a longtime male partner, he was unfit to render a decision on Proposition 8. If one day he should want to marry, the argument goes, he might benefit from his own decision, assuming it survives the scrutiny of higher courts.

This claim is absurd on many levels, especially when you remember that ProtectMarriage's case against same-sex marriage is that it threatens the institution of heterosexual marriage. In fact, the group says, that damage gives it the legal status to challenge the initiative, because any married heterosexual is allegedly harmed by same-sex unions. But if that's the case, then by the group's own logic, married heterosexual judges would also be forced to recuse themselves; the integrity of their own marriages could be damaged by the matter before them.

According to this line of argument, former Chief Justice Ronald M. George, a married heterosexual, would not have been able to preside over the California Supreme Court case in which same-sex couples sued to overturn an earlier ban on same-sex marriage. George wrote the majority opinion setting out the reasons why the ban violated the state Constitution.

So then, perhaps, only an unmarried judge who has sworn never to wed could hear cases about same-sex marriage. Or any marriage at all. An African American judge could never hear a race-discrimination case. And no female judge could decide a lawsuit on gender discrimination. Or a male one either.

The guidelines for judicial recusal can be unclear at times, but generally the bar is a high one. The rules call for judges to disqualify themselves when their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, but they are not supposed to back away from cases because of who they are — their ethnicity, gender, marital status, affluence, political leanings or, yes, sexual orientation. It's another matter if they are directly and materially affected, or if they have previously displayed a deep-seated bias on the issue at hand. A judge who drives a gas guzzler can still hear a lawsuit against an oil company, but not if his or her spouse works for the oil company.

Had Walker been one of the activists fighting Proposition 8, or if he had repeatedly sought a marriage license and been rejected, ProtectMarriage would have valid claims of conflict of interest. The group's assertion that a gay judge in a relationship is less able than a heterosexual married judge to render a fair decision on a sexual-orientation case says more about the pervasiveness of discrimination against homosexuals than it does about Walker's fitness to hear the matter.

White House Releases Barack Obama's Birth Certificate

I'm not sure why they decided to do it today, instead of 1 year from now, but the White House has finally released the President's long-form birth certificate, confirming what all non-racist (and non-Republican) Americans have known for years, that Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961 in Hawaii.

UPDATED 07/30/2018 Added new non-broken link to a scan of the birth certifcate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Openly Gay Politician Elected in Japan

Taiga Ishikawa, 36, has become the first openly gay person elected to public office in Japan.

Acording to Agence France Press:

"I hope my election victory will help our fellows nationwide to have hope for tomorrow, as many of them cannot accept themselves, feel lonely and isolated and even commit suicide," he told AFP.
Ishikawa, 36, won a seat in a Tokyo ward assembly in local elections on Sunday. Prior to his victory, no openly homosexual politician had won office in Japan.
Ishikawa disclosed that he is gay in his autobiographical "Boku No Kareshi Wa Doko Ni Iru" (Where Is My Boyfriend?)," published in 2002.
"Many readers of my book told me that they are isolated and the situation I wrote about in the book is so similar to theirs. So I started to host events that offer opportunities to have links with friends," Ishikawa said.
He founded the non-profit organisation "Peer Friends", which hosts events in Japanese cities to provide young gay men with opportunities to meet other gays.
Since February 2010, he has served as a private secretary to Mizuho Fukushima, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, a small opposition group.
It still amazes me that we are recognizing historic firsts in the LGBT community in 2011.

Hat/tip to TowleRoad.

READ: Prop 8 Supporters' Motion To Vacate Due To Gay Judge

Prop 8 Supporters'' Motion to Vacate Judgment

Monday, April 25, 2011

CANADA: Progressives Now In 2nd, Polls Say

Canada is in the midst of their "snap elections: with voters going to the polls on Monday May 2. The current government is run by the Conservative party, with the Liberals being the official opposition. Previously, the Liberals held power in Canada for over a decade, losing power in 2006, with Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister at the head of a minority government.

But,  now, a week before the next countrywide election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is outpolling the Liberal party and could potentially form a government in coalition with the Green Party. Conventional wisdom has been that "NDP could never win" so most non-Conservatives outside of Quebec have generally been forced to vote for the Liberal party while holding their nose. This is a similar situation to what happens in the United kingdom with the three parties being the Conservatives (Tories), Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In last year's elections the Conservatives and LDP formed a Coalition government to replace more than a decade of Labour-led British governments. This was the first time in generations the perennial third party LDP had a meaningful role in government. Now it looks like that story may be repeating in Canada.

MadProfessah spent some time in Canada earlier this year and am something of a Canada-phile. I'll be looking at their election results next week with great interest!

Heterosexual Supremacists File Motion Over Prop 8 Judge's Sexuality

Charles Cooper, lead counsel for "Protect Marriage" (sic)
 in the Propositiopn 8 federal lawsuit 
Charles Cooper, the virulent heterosexual supremacist who has been arguing against marriage equality for nearly two decade, filed a motion late on Monday with the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals to vacate Judge Vaughn Walker's historic decision striking down Proposition 8 on federal constitutional grounds because Walker revealed recently that he has been in a same-sex relationship with a man for 10 years.

Of course, this is a ridiculously bigoted motion. The implication is that an open;y gay judge can not fairly judge a case involving gay rights, a Black or Latino jurist could not judge a civil rights case fairly and female judges could not make decisions about abortion rights!

Lambda Legal  released a press release in response:
"Proponents of Proposition 8 certainly are getting desperate."

(San Francisco, April 25, 2011) — In reaction to today's filing of a motion
to vacate last year's historic decision by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn
Walker declaring California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, Jon Davidson,
Legal Director for Lambda Legal, issued the following statement.

"Proponents of Proposition 8 certainly are getting desperate.  This reeks
of a hail-Mary attempt to assail Judge Walker's character because they are
unable to rebut the extremely well-reasoned ruling he issued last year.
It's becoming a sadly typical move of the right:  don't like the ruling;
attack the referee."

To say that Judge Walker's should have disclosed his ten-year relationship
with another man or that it made him unfit to rule on Proposition 8 is like
saying that a married heterosexual judge deciding an issue in a divorce
proceeding has to disclose if he or she is having marital problems and
might someday be affected by legal rulings in the case.  Or that any judge
who professes any religious faith is unable to rule on any question of
religious liberty or, at a minimum, must disclose what his faith teaches.
Much like a suggestion that a female judge could not preside over a case
involving sexual harassment or an African American judge could not preside
over a case involving race discrimination, Proposition 8's supporters
improperly are suggesting that a judge will rule in favor of any litigant
with whom he shares a personal characteristic.

Judges hold a special and respected place in our society. Every day, they
are called upon to administer justice – in routine contract or traffic
court disputes, gut-wrenching child custody decisions, complex criminal
proceedings, and, as in this case, disputes about the basic human rights
that our Constitution is designed to protect. There may be judges who
betray their responsibilities and act with bias, but such a grave
accusation must be supported by evidence. Simply disagreeing with a
decision is not evidence that it was the result of bias. And assuming that
being in a same-sex relationship renders some judges unable to interpret
the law and do the job they have sworn to do insults both judges and
America's system of justice."
American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization promoting the lawsuit, also has a response to Cooper's ridiculous motion:
“This motion is yet another in a string of desperate and absurd motions by Prop 8 Proponents who refuse to accept the fact that the freedom to marry is a constitutional right.  They’re attempting to keep secret the video of the public trial and they’re attacking the judge because they disagree with his decision.  Clearly, the Proponents are grasping at straws because they have no legal case.”
National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney Shannon Minter also responded:
"This is a desperate and ill-advised move that underscores their inability to defend Prop 8 on the merits. This is not likely to win them any points with the courts, who understandably do not appreciate having the integrity of judges called into question based on such outrageous grounds. This is part and parcel of the underhanded way the Prop 8 campaign itself was run-based on lies, insinuations, and unsupported innuendo."

The 9th Circuit announced there will be hearing in San Francisco on July 11 in San Francisco before District Court judge James Ware.

UPDATE 04/27/2011: The hearing on Cooper's motion has been expedited to June 13.

Hat./tip to LGBTPOV

Clement Quits Law Firm After It Exits DOMA Defense

It's been a big news morning today. First, responding to online pressure from Human Rights Campaign and, Paul Clement's law firm of King & Spalding announced that they had filed a motion to remove the firm from representing the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representative in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court.

The firm's statement:

Today the firm filed a motion to withdraw from its engagement to represent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives on the constitutional issues regarding Section III of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last week we worked diligently through the process required for withdrawal.
In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate. Ultimately I am responsible for any mistakes that occurred and apologize for the challenges this may have created.
In response to his firm's decision to refuse to sign on to a legal defense which per force requires them to argue that discrimination against same-sex couples is constitutional, Paul Clement (who was reportedly paid $5 million a year by King & Spalding) resigned from the firm and joined another:

"I resign out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do," Clement wrote to King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays. "I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides. But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it." 
Clement said he will join Bancroft PLLC, a small Washington-based firm that is home to former Bush Justice Department official Viet Dinh.
The full text of Clement's resignation letter is also available. This is probably good news for the likelihood of DOMA not surviving judicial review since Clement will be forced to defend the discriminatory law without drawing upon the resources of a huge law firm like King & Spalding.

It should be noted that the pressure to get Clement's former law firm does not violate the principle that all defendants have a right to legal representation, like the Los Angeles Times editorial board foolishly claimed. DOMA is not a person, it does not have any Miranda rights; this is not a criminal case, it is a civil case. The contract that BLAG had signed with King & Spalding prohibited all members of the firm from expressing opposition to DOMA or advocating for the repeal of the law.

Eye Candy: Nico Bennett

Nico Bennett is a cute 19-year-old model from Tampa, Florida (according to Tres Fab Sweetie). He's also today's Eye Candy. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nadal Beats Ferrer (Again) To Win 6th Barcelona Title

World #1 Rafael Nadal beat fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2 6-4 in their second consecutive final to win his 6th Barcelona Open clay-court title, becoming the first player to win more than one title more than 6 times. (Last week, Nadal won his 7th consecutive Monte Carlo title.)

It was Nadal's 45th career ATP Tour title. He has not lost on clay since May 31 2009 at Roland Garros.

WATCH: Transgender Victim Of Violent Attack Speaks

Apparently, a white transgender woman was physically attacked by two black female teenagers in a Baltimore-area McDonald's restaurant on Saturday. Joe.My.God has posted cell-phone video of the actual attack, which shows McDonald's employees simply watching and laughing (one of whom has since been fired).

The Baltimore Sun has posted the video above with the victim, Chrissy Lee Polis, and has more details about the incident:
County police confirmed that the attack occurred April 18 in the 6300 block of Kenwood Ave. Police said the 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile, while charges were pending against an 18-year-old woman. Reached Saturday, police officials said the investigation was continuing.

The police report does not provide a motive but quotes one of the suspects saying that the fight was "over using a bathroom."

Polis suffered cuts to her mouth and face, and said she had a seizure. She also acknowledged that she was intoxicated at the time of the assault.

On Saturday she said she continued to suffer from painful bruises.

Polis, who said she had a sex-change operation to become a woman, said this isn't the first time that she's been picked on physically because of her sexual identity. She said she's been subjected to beatings and even sexual assaults.

She said seeing herself all over the Internet and all over the news has been "like walking out of the closet all over again." Polis is concerned that the public attention could trigger more violence — and worries it could hurt her chances of getting a job. "I want to cry, but I need to hold my head up," she said.

Her twin brother, Matty Polis, who also lives in Baltimore, said it's been painful to watch her have to endure these sorts of attacks.

"My sister has gotten this her entire life," Matty Polis said. "Being the way she is, she's always had a hard time."
It's interesting that this incident would happen just a few weeks after the Maryland legislature punted on improving protections for transgender residents, although the legislation being considered would not have included public accommodations protections. Maryland does have a hate-crimes law inclusive of gender identity.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nadal Wins 500th; Faces Ferrer in Barcelona Final

Rafael Nadal won his 500th ATP tour match on Saturday, setting up another showdown again with his countryman and good friend David Ferrer in the finals of the clay court tournament in Barcelona, Spain. Last week, Nadal beat Ferrer to win his record 7th consecutive title in Monaco. Nadal has won 28 straight matches in Barcelona as well, having won 5 consecutive titles here from 2005 through 2009 (and missing last year's event due to injury). He beat Ferrer in the 2008 and 2009 finals.

Saturday Politics: Hahn and Bowen Battle Over CA-36

LA. City Councilperson Janice Hahn ((left) and CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen
are competing for a rare open Congressional seat
Open congressional seats  in California are like "blue moons": they don't come around that often. The last open seat was CA-33 when Diane Watson retired and was replaced by former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. With the retirement of U.S. Representative Jane Harman, who was a hawk and a Blue Dog, progressives are salivating over the prospect of getting a true liberal to replace her in the 36th Congressional District which Barack Obama carried by over 30 points.

The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner notes:
The likely result of the May 17 primary fight, which features 11 total candidates including 2010 primary loser Marcy Winograd, is a July 12 runoff. Under California’s new primary system, if no candidate gets 50 percent in the primary, the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a runoff.
“I think its clear there’ll be a runoff,” said Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic consultant who is advising Hahn’s campaign.

Bowen holds statewide office and represented most of this district in the 1990s as a state legislator. Yet to hear her campaign tell it, she’s the outsider against Hahn.
The argument: Hahn has more endorsements and more money while Bowen has more grassroots support. A majority of her donors gave $200 or less. Democracy for America, a leading liberal organization, endorsed her after polling their members in the district. Her campaign is also quick to point out that Hahn has taken contributions from lobbyists.
As secretary of state, Bowen has been behind a number of initiatives that appeal to liberals, including work on ballot security. She has a long history of advocacy on environmental issues. She’s positioned herself as the anti-war candidate, trying to take some of the space occupied by Winograd, who ran against Harman in 2010 and took 41 percent.
The only poll of the race I have seen is an internal poll released by the Bowen campaign indicating a tie between Hahn and Bowen with 20 percent of the vote each, and Winograd back at 6 percent and openly gay Republican Mike Gin at 8 percent.

MadProfessah doesn't really know either of these candidates well, but I have been unimpressed with Hahn in the past when she ran (and lost) against Gavin Newsom for  Lieutenant Governor last year while Bowen has been endorsed by LGBT super-ally U.S. Representative Judy Chu (CA-32). Hahn has been endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and enemy-of-true-progressives everywhere U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Friday, April 22, 2011

DRAMA! EQMD Head Fired After Major Legislative Setbacks

Morgan Meneses-Sheets
The executive director of Equality Maryland, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, who lead the organization while it suffered two defeats this year at enacting gender identity non-discrimination and full marriage equality has been abruptly fired by the board of directors, it was revealed on Friday.

Metro Weekly's Yusef Najafi has the complete statement from Meneses-Sheets:
It is with a heavy heart that I share that today will be my last day as the Executive Director of Equality Maryland. While it is not my choice to leave, it is my choice to make my voice heard as I exit. 
I've spent the last eighteen months at the helm of EQMD and this time has held some of the most rewarding moments of my career, but it has also been extremely difficult. In particular the past few months have been tough to bear. Not because of the hard work which I welcome and felt honored to be part of, but because of the forces within the organization and external politics that created additional and unnecessary obstacles to our forward movement and success. 
As I move on, I will not focus on the negative or destructive forces that created this untenable situation, instead I will look back at the many proud moments along the way. 
During my first months, Equality Maryland lead the successful efforts to protect the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s policy providing transgender Marylanders the opportunity to update their driver’s license to appropriately reflect their gender. This policy undeniably makes a difference in people’s lives. When you go to a grocery store and pay with a check or buy a glass of wine, you are asked for identification, and to have it match how you present yourself to the world protects you against discrimination and violence. I am proud of this success. 
I am proud that we have built a strong grassroots network throughout the state. I am proud that we identified new supporters, had more young people involved and created a diverse, thriving volunteer program. I am proud of our efforts during the 2010 elections, in particular our work to protect pro-equality Delegate Kris Valderrama and to oust Senator Alex Mooney who had a 0% voting record on LGBT issues. 
I am also extremely proud that together with the staff, our volunteers, our partners and many passionate and dedicated legislative allies that this year we got further than ever before in the goals to amend our state’s anti-discrimination laws to include protections on the basis of gender identity and to enacting full marriage equality. These are what many people call the “civil rights causes of our day” and it has been a privilege to be part of the movement to realize these incredibly important goals. 
I know that many in our community, myself included, were disappointed that we did not get to the finish line, but having done this work for many years I know that progress can take time. We created a strong foundation for future efforts. I look forward to celebrating continued success in Maryland’s fight for equality. 
Looking back, there are things that I could do differently, but lessons I learned I will always have with me. Know that I worked hard and I did my best with the tremendous staff alongside me. Together, we were able to move the organization further legislatively than ever before. 
I am sad that I will not be part of the team advancing critical protections for jobs, housing, credit and public accommodations for transgender Marylanders. I am disappointed that I was not provided the opportunity to continue to build and enhance the efforts to end the exclusion of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples from marriage. 
As a Marylander, as a lesbian, as a parent, as someone with many loved ones who are transgender, and as someone who believes in social justice I sincerely hope that Equality Maryland will succeed in their future endeavors to ensure that our state lives up to the promise of equality for all of its citizens. This will require significant changes, but it is possible. I hope that those who worked hard with my team will continue to be part of these endeavors so that we may also see a better future. 
I am excited to spend more time with my family as I have given up many precious hours with them to wage this battle. I am also excited for the opportunities that lay ahead for me.
I thank those who stood by my side. I am grateful to have met and worked with so many incredible people, many who I will continue to count as friends as I take the next steps in my journey.
I'm sure this will make some trans advocates happy, who were displeased that Equality Maryland agreed to move forward with HB 235, a bill that did not include public accommodations protections, but would have banned discrimination statewide on the basis of gender identity in education, housing and credit.

Celebrity Friday: Kobe Bryant Tapes PSA On Tolerance

Last week, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by NBA Commissioner David Stern for saying the words "f***ing f***ot" to a referee during a game.

This week, Kobe and some of his team mates have released a PSA which will air at Lakers home games during the playoffs in which the players call for tolerance of  "people [who] are different," regardless of race, ethnicity, political belief or sexual orientation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Here's The 2012 Presidential Electoral Vote Map

Hat/tip PoliticalWire 

WATCH: Obama Responds To Gay Marriage Question

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Gay marriage. 
THE PRESIDENT: Our work is not finished. (Applause.) It is going to take -- it is going to take more than a couple of years. It is going to take more than one term for us to finish everything that we need to do. (Applause.) And I am reminded -- I’m reminded almost every night, when I read letters from people from all across the country talk about what it’s like to send out 16 resumes and not get a response back; a child writing saying their parents are about to lose their home -- Mr. President, is there something you can do to help.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nate Silver Declares Marriage Equality Opponents In Minority

Good news! Polling guru Nate Silver has crunched the latest poll numbers (which I posted about yesterday) and has announced that he is confident that opposition to marriage equality is no longer a majority position. that fact is reflected in the graphic displayed above. It's still a bit too soon to say whether support for marriage equality is a majority or even plurality position thanks to the margin of error in the polls but the trend lines are VERY clear.

Nate ends his post at The New York Times with a cautionary note to Republicans:

But Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012. 
Past trends, of course, are no guarantee of future ones, and it’s always possible that the momentum toward increasing support for gay marriage could flatten out or even reverse itself. 
But this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend.
It should be interesting to see how heterosexual supremacists who are opposed to marriage equality, especially Republican presidential contenders, deal with these poll results, especially since the first two primary states, New Hampshire and Iowa, both have legalized marriage equality.

Question 1 Documentary Shows Homophobe Expressing Regret

There's a new documentary about the 2009 electoral fight to repeal a marriage equality bill in Maine called Question 1. You can watch the trailer above. One of the highlights is the admission, on camera, by one of the heads of the Yes on 1 campaign, Marc Mutty, admitting his side had engaged in hyperbole and expressing regret for the tactics used during the heated campaign.


One of the problems that I have: I know what we need to do and what we need to do is slam people over the head, not only with a two-by-four, but a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it. ... Unfortunately, I think it's a lousy approach, but it's the only thing we've got and it's the only way. That's the way campaigns work. And we use a lot of hyberbole, and I think that's always dangerous. You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage)!' Well, that's not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn't, you know? ... Let's look back at our ads and see what we say. And I think we use hyperbole to a point where, you know, it's like 'Gee-ee-eez!'

Hat/tip to Freedom To Marry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

POLL: CNN Shows Marriage Equality Support 51%-47%

CNN becomes the latest national polling outfit to show majority support for marriage equality. In a poll taken between April 9-10, 2011 51% of respondents agreed that "marriages between gay and lesbian couples should be recognized by the law as valid with the same rights as traditional marriages" while 47% disagreed. The margin of error is 3.5 points, so although the top line is heartening, I would not bet a  40+ million dollar ballot measure campaign on such numbers. It should be noted that the 51-47 advantage is an under-estimate for marriage equality  since the demographic most strongly in support of marriage equality, those under 34 are absent from the poll!

CNN also released the details of the internals of the poll, which show that women support equality 57-40 while men oppose the concept 45-54. Why do you think men are so homophobic? Perhaps they realize that gender-neutral marriages indicate the end of patriarchy?
Interestingly, in the same poll, the legalization of marijuana is opposed by Americans, 56% to 41%.

MAP: Which States STILL Criminalize Sodomy?

Actually, the headline should read "Which states still try to criminalize sodomy?" since even though these states have laws on the books which criminalize same-sex activity they are flagrantly unconstitutional thanks to the United States Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas.

Hat/tip to Mother Jones.

Bush Superlawyer Paul Clement Signs On To Defend DOMA

Paul Clement was U.S. Solicitor General from 2004-2008
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has decided on former Bush Administration Solicitor General Paul Clement to represent the Congress' interest in defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. Clement is a well-known Supreme Court advocate (he succeeded Perry v. Brown Republican superlawyer Ted Olson in the Solicitor General position) and is rumored to make over 5 million dollars a year at  the law firm of King & Spalding and charge as much as $1,000 per hour. Clement has reportedly argued more than 50 cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Clement's defense will not be cheap, as DOMA has been declared unconstitutional in two cases before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice has decided that the statute is unconstitutional and there are around 12 jurisdictions in which DOMA is being challenged in court.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  sent a letter to Boehner in response to the current Speaker's actions, reproduced below:
April 18, 2011

The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House 
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515 

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Thank you for your response earlier today to my letter of March 11, 2011 concerning litigation relating to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  My letter had requested that you provide me with the cost to the House and to taxpayers resulting from the decision of the Republican members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to hire outside counsel to represent the House in support of the DOMA.  You note that President Obama and Attorney General Holder have determined that DOMA is unconstitutional, a conclusion I share, and have declined to engage in further judicial proceedings in defense of the law.  As you may know, presidents have acted similarly in the past on at least 50 instances since 1979.  

Unfortunately, your letter did not respond to the central question in my March 11th letter: the cost to taxpayers of hiring outside legal counsel.  Again, I am requesting that you disclose the cost of hiring outside counsel for the 12 cases where DOMA is being challenged.  

Press reports indicate that the House, at your direction, will intervene today in the Windsor case, which is in a federal court in New York.  Ms. Edie Windsor spent more than 40 years with her partner, Ms. Thea Spyer, and they were married in 2007.  When Ms. Spyer passed away Ms. Windsor was unable to claim the federal estate marital tax benefit because of DOMA and the federal government imposed estate taxes of more than $360,000 on the money left to her.  This case is a prime example of the injustice perpetuated by DOMA on millions of American families.  

According to reports, a contract engaging Paul D. Clement to serve as the outside counsel reportedly was forwarded to the Committee on House Administration, although not to the Democratic members or staff of the Committee.  Mr. Clement, a former Solicitor General of the United States, is a partner in the Washington firm King & Spalding where he is in charge of the national appellate practice.  I would like to know when the contract with Mr. Clement was signed, and why a copy was not provided to Democrats on the Committee.

The House of Representatives need not enter into this lengthy and costly litigation.  Contrary to the assertion in your letter, a BLAG determination against House involvement in the litigation – which was the position of Democratic Whip Hoyer and me – would not have allowed the constitutionality of the law to “have been determined by a unilateral action of the President.”  As you know, only the courts can determine the constitutionality of a statute passed by the Congress.  

Thank you again, and I look forward to working together with you on behalf of our country.

best regards,

Democratic Leader
Love her!


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