So what if being gay IS a choice?

Despite some activists’ outrage over actress Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments, it doesn’t really matter how we became LGBT

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

After four decades of watching people struggle to keep up with the politically correct standard of the day in discussing LGBT life, I’m beginning to think it’s time for everyone to relax a little.

I reached that decision this week when I read about activists getting in an uproar over Cynthia Nixon, an actress who starred in Sex and the City, telling the New York Times Magazine she preferred being gay to straight because she had lived both types of lives. Her remarks created a furor among those who demand we frame all of our speech in a way they think best advances the LGBT rights movement. A few days later Nixon softened her stance in a Daily Beast interview by saying she was a bisexual by no choice of her own, presumably in an effort to quell the controversy.

Frankly, Nixon’s first remarks in the New York Times Magazine article made sense to me, and so did her later remarks about believing she never made a conscious decision to be a bisexual. It’s just that I regretted she felt compelled to revise what she had said earlier to appease her critics. I got what she meant the first time without her follow-up explanation, and I imagine most other enlightened people did as well.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who gave birth to two children with a male partner, probably did make a choice to live a gay life when she became sexually involved with a woman. If someone is attracted to both the opposite and the same sex, there probably does come a point when the individual might need to make a choice in terms of permanent or semi-permanent partnership.
Certainly Nixon ought to be the best judge of what happened in her own life, so what’s wrong with her telling the truth as she sees it?

Nixon noted correctly that many LGBT activists shudder every time they hear the word “choice,” “preference” or “lifestyle” because they fear it supports conservative religious arguments that homosexuality is a perversion practiced by degenerates who get their kicks out of being wicked. As the theory goes, that gives credence to the evangelists’ claims that bisexuality, homosexuality and gender variance can be cured by the administration of a good dose of Bible verse in quantities sufficient enough to scare the holy bejesus out of the sinner.

As we all know, that doesn’t work. Actually, even most straight people realize that won’t work because most of them have also suffered the wrath of the evangelical community in condemnation of some aspect of their lives, such as the urge to masturbate or engage in sexual activity before marriage. In reality, the only ones who truly believe a pack of Bible thumpers can transform a person’s sexual orientation are people who are lying about it, have been brainwashed into believing it or are just too ignorant to understand scientific research.

Decades of scientific evidence make it clear that every aspect of a person’s physical and mental makeup — which certainly includes sexual orientation — comes about as a result of heritable genes and the impact of sex hormones on the brain and other body parts of the developing fetus.

In his 2011 book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, neuroscientist Simon LeVay outlines decades of scientific studies that all point to the same conclusion: In essence, people are what nature made them.

LeVay, who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has pointed this out in various articles and books he has authored over the years. The results of a scientific study LeVay published in Science in 1991 showing marked differences in the brain structures of gay and straight men is credited with helping spur the two-decade wave of scientific research aimed at determining a biological basis for sexual orientation.

What the body of scientific evidence does for most reasonable people is confirm what common sense had already told them. There’s just no way certain people with obvious mental and physical characteristics could have been anything other than what they became — namely gay, lesbian or transgender.

With others in the LGBT community it’s a little trickier because they display either few or none of the obvious characteristics identifying them as anything other than straight. Environment might have played some role in their development, but again the scientific evidence points to biological factors. What’s more the individuals usually report experiencing feelings since their earliest recollections that set them apart from heterosexual people.

Still, the unpredictability of humans makes it impossible to categorize all people. Some members of the community undoubtedly did feel an attraction to the LGBT lifestyle and chose to embrace it for that reason. The very size and the diversity of the world’s LGBT community is so staggering that if we come across some people who are merely practicing free will, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

That’s why I liked Nixon’s earlier remarks that it didn’t matter how people came to be a part of the LGBT community. As she said, it doesn’t matter how each and every person got here, and words will never sway the opinions of bigots and opportunists. It will require life experiences — such as coming to realize they have a child or grandchild who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — to hopefully educate them about the realities of life.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades for the mainstream and alternative media. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Mayor’s misstep on marriage pledge shows how far we’ve come

Laura Miller, who became LGBT icon, opposed gay unions during 1st campaign 10 years ago

David-Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The signing of a pledge in support of same-sex marriage by some 80 mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent meeting in Washington, D.C, represents a powerful, almost astounding stride in the LGBT community’s march to equality.

Only one big-city mayor created a controversy by refusing to sign the pledge, and that unfortunately was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who probably regrets the decision now.

His decision not to sign the pledge — even though he later claimed he personally supports marriage equality — set off a bone-jolting controversy in Dallas as LGBT activists reacted to the news.

Rawlings cancelled a planned appearance at a neighborhood meeting because of activists’ plans to demonstrate against him, and all of the city’s newspapers and television stations began covering the story. The Dallas Morning News, which is infamous for its conservative takes on many progressive measures, praised Rawlings for resisting pressure to sign the pledge.

As a result of Rawlings thwarting activists’ plans to confront him at the neighborhood meeting, GetEQUAL scheduled a “Sign the Pledge” rally at City Hall.

There was a time when LGBT activists would have given the mayor a pass on the marriage equality issue, but that has long since passed. In declining to sign the pledge, Rawlings used the excuse that he was practicing a policy of avoiding social issues unrelated to city government.

That excuse had previously worked for former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller when she chose not to address the issue of marriage equality. At the same time, she managed to achieve something close to sainthood in the eyes of Dallas’ LGBT community because of her support of a nondiscrimination ordinance addressing sexual orientation and gender identity passed in 2002.

When Miller first campaigned for mayor she and all of her opponents declared in a candidate’s forum that they opposed same-sex marriage, but they all declared support for the nondiscrimination ordinance. That apparently was enough at the time to gain the trust and support of LGBT activists, especially after it was learned she had a gay uncle and a lesbian stepsister she loved and supported.

Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007, later gave more support to the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality by speaking out against Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. She also began supporting marriage equality during her speeches at Dallas’ glittering Black Tie Dinner.

Today, Miller says that she “supports gay marriage 100 percent,” and she adds that “it will be legal nationwide sooner than later. Young people today don’t give it a second thought and support it fully.”

As the mother of two daughters and one son, Miller knows her stuff. She declined to comment on Rawlings’ decision not to sign the pledge, but it’s a pretty good bet that if Miller were in his shoes today she would have signed that pledge — policy or no policy.

Rawlings made a terrible error in judgment when he refused to sign the pledge along with the mayors of other big cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston, San Diego, Portland, Denver and the list goes on and on. What’s worse, Texas mayors from Austin, Houston and San Antonio signed the pledge.

If Rawlings had simply signed the pledge, it likely would have been reported by the Dallas media, there would have been a few stones thrown at him by conservative conscientious objectors and then it would have been forgotten. But now, it will continue to rage as a full-scale controversy for an undetermined amount of time.

At this point it seems like the best course of action for Rawlings to take would be to just sign the pledge, seeing as how he is already on record as supporting marriage equality. That action might stir up resentment among conservative constituents, but at least it would put Rawlings on the winning side of the debate.

The fact of the matter is that marriage equality will indeed one day be the law of the land, no matter how much that irks those who would prevent it if they could.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

UPDATED: Rawlings won’t attend neighborhood meeting due to threat of LGBT protest

Daniel Cates

The fallout continues over Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed today that the mayor may cancel a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Kiest Park on Tuesday night, after LGBT activists threatened to stage a demonstration at the event.

Last week, Rawlings angered many in the LGBT community when he said that although he “personally” supports same-sex marriage, he won’t sign the pledge because his policy is to avoid social issues that don’t directly impact city government.

Dallas is the largest city in the nation whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge unveiled by the national group Freedom to Marry during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It doesn’t need to be a demonstration, it needs to be conversation,” Blackmon said. “He’s willing and he’s open to sit down and talk about it, but he doesn’t want it to be done in an atmosphere that’s not constructive.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said Blackmon contacted him this morning and offered a meeting with Rawlings if the group called off the demonstration.

Cates said he’s interested in meeting with the mayor, but when he refused to cancel the demonstration, Blackmon rescinded her offer.

“Preconditions are not acceptable,” Cates said. “We’ll meet him at Starbucks at midnight if that’s what it takes, but we’re not going to cancel a demonstration in order to have a meeting. [The LGBT] community is pretty outraged by this, and I think they have a right to express that. We’ll call off the demonstration if he signs the pledge.”

Blackmon said when it became clear that Cates wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rawlings signing the pledge, she decided it would be better to pursue a meeting with other LGBT leaders. “The mayor is not going to sign the pledge,” she said.

Blackmon added that it was still “up in the air” whether the mayor would cancel the Kiest Park meeting.

Cates, who’s also launched an online petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge, said if and when the Kiest Park neighborhood meeting is canceled, he’ll call off the demonstration. However, he said GetEQUAL will look for other opportunities to demonstrate, possibly outside City Hall.

“We are determined to escalate this if they continue to refuse to cooperate,” Cates said.

UPDATE: Blackmon confirmed this afternoon that Mayor Rawlings will not attend the Kiest Park community meeting.

She said residents who plan to attend the “Meet the Mayor” meeting want to talk about things like potholes and loose dogs, and it would be unfair to subject them to an LGBT demonstration.

“He just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis,” Blackmon said.

She added that City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and Councilman Scott Griggs still plan to attend the Kiest Park meeting. She also said the mayor is reaching out to other LGBT community leaders to set up a meeting with them. However, she said it’s doubtful that the meeting with LGBT community leaders will be open to the media.

—  John Wright

TDOR: ‘Everyone deserves to be mourned’

Services planned this weekend in Dallas and Fort Worth to remember, honor the more than 200 trans people murdered worldwide in the last year

Marcal-Tye

Marcal Camero Tye

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Marcal Camero Tye, 25, was a friendly, outgoing young woman who got along well with most people in the small town of Forrest City, Ark., where she lived — despite the fact that she was openly transgender in such a conservative atmosphere.

But sometime after leaving a party at a friend’s house on the evening of March 7, somebody murdered Marcal Tye.

Investigators say that Tye, whose body was found early in the morning of March 8 on a rural road outside Forrest City, was shot in the head and then run over by a car, her body apparently getting caught in the vehicle’s undercarriage and dragged for some distance.

St. Frances County Sheriff Bobby May has insisted that the killing was just “a regular murder” and not a hate crime. But those who knew Tye and LGBT activists who have been following the crime believe Tye was killed because she was transgender.

Marcal Tye is just one of the 22 trans people murdered over the last 12 months who will be remembered by name during Transgender Day of Remembrance services on Sunday at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas. And she is just one of 221 trans people murdered worldwide in the last year, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project.

Transgender Day of Remembrance began in November 1999 when trans activists and their allies gathered in San Francisco for a candlelight vigil to remember Rita Hester, a trans woman who had been stabbed to death a year earlier in her apartment in Allston, Mass., just outside of Boston.

Her murder has never been solved.

“There had been a candlelight vigil the year before in December, right after she was killed, there in Boston. But a year later, people felt the need to do something to bring attention to her murder and to the murders of other trans people,” explained Erin Roberts, one of the organizers of this year’s TDOR service.

“Just six weeks before Rita Hester was murdered, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, and that made headlines around the world. Everybody was talking about his murder, talking about doing something about hate crimes. But when Rita Hester was killed, very few people paid any attention. It seemed like nobody really paid attention when a trans person was murdered,” Robert said.

“And it’s not that we have any problem with all the publicity around Matthew Shepard’s murder. It was a horrible thing, and it deserved that attention,” Roberts continued. “But there was just such a stark contrast in the way the two murders were treated, especially in the press. People wanted to do something to bring attention to the fact that trans people are murdered every day in horrible, brutal ways.”

Also on the list of those killed in the past 12 months are six trans women who were killed in a 60-day period in the Honduras, beginning last November. The most recent additions to the list of 22 are 19-year-old Shelley Hilliard, who was killed then decapitated, dismembered and burned on Oct. 23 in Detroit; and Jessica Rollon, 32, who was strangled to death in Bergamo, Italy on Oct. 30.

Roberts pointed out that when transgender people are killed, the murders are often characterized by extreme violence and “overkill.” They aren’t just shot, they are shot and beaten. They aren’t just stabbed, they are stabbed over and over and over.

“And as long as trans people continue to be dehumanized, it will continue to happen,” Roberts said. “We are real people, with real emotions. We feel love and pain and joy and sorrow, just like anyone else. But people don’t see us that way. They see us as ‘other,’ and something besides regular human beings.”

Roberts said this week that “one of the last things I did as a boy” was to attend TDOR services last year in Dallas. And after transitioning earlier this year, she said, she got involved in helping organize this year’s service. And she will do it again next year, too.

“As long as we continue to be killed and brutalized, we will continue to have Transgender Day of Remembrance events,” Roberts said. “Because everyone deserves to be mourned.”

TDOR services in Dallas will be held Sunday, Nov. 20, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. The evening will include a performance by the singing group Mosaic and speeches by Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas, Roberts, Oliver Blumer and Rosemarie Odom.

The names of the 20 victims will be read aloud, and flowers will be placed on the podium in memory of each one. There will also be a candlelight vigil.
Blumer and Nell Gaither were co-organizers of the event with Roberts.

Fort Worth TDOR

Agape Metropolitan Community Church of Fort Worth and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church of Arlington are joining forces to hold an interfaith gathering for TDOR on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at Agape MCC, 4615 E. California Parkway in southeast Fort Worth.

The Rev.  Stephen V. Sprinkle from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University will speak on the topic “Unfinished Lessons,” explaining “five lessons that LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims have to teach us, if we will only learn them.”

Tori Van Fleet, a forensics expert with the Fort Worth Police Department who came out as a trans women when she joined the fight to get the city of Fort Worth to add protections for trans people to its nondiscrimination ordinance, will also speak during the service.

Van Fleet said this week, “I am looking forward to the day when the TDOR bells are silent due to there not being any more violence against my transgender brothers and sisters. Until then, we will continue to bring attention to the violence we face due to bigotry, hate, fear and even misinformation, simply for being ourselves and trying to live our lives as best we can.”

Several Brite Divinity student clergy have also been active in planning and will participate in the service through music, media and readings.

………………………

REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS

The 20 trans people who will be remembered by name during Transgender Day of Remembrance services Sunday in Dallas are:

Idania Roberta Sevilla Raudales, 58, Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Nov. 29, 2010; had her throat slit.

Luisa Alvarado Hernández, 23,Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Dec. 22, 2010; was stoned, beaten and burned.

• Lady Óscar Martínez Salgado, 43, Tegucigalpa, Honduras; died Dec. 22, 2010; was burned and stabbed.

• Reana ‘Cheo’ Bustamente, age unknown, Tegucigalpa, Honduras; died Dec. Jan. 2, 2011; was stabbed multiple times in the chest.

• Génesis Briget Makaligton, mid-20s, Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Jan. 7, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Krissy Bates, 45, Minneapolis, Minn.; died Jan. 10, 2011; was stabbed multiple times.

• Fergie Alice Ferg, age unknown, San Pedro Sula, Honduras; died Jan. 18, 2011; was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

• Tyra Trent, 25, Baltimore, Md.; died Feb. 19, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Priscila Brandão, 22, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; died March 2, 2011; was shot in the head.

• Marcal Camero Tye, 25, Forrest City, Ark.; died March 8, 2011; was shot in the head, run over and dragged by a car.

• Shakira Harahap, 28, Taman Lawang, Jakarta, Indonesia; died March 10, 2011; was shot to death.

• Miss Nate Nate (or Née) Eugene Davis, 44, Houston; died June 13, 2011; was shot to death., Washington, D.C.; died July 20, 2011; was shot to death.

• Didem, 26, Findikzade, Istanbul; died July 31, 2011; had her throat slit.

• Camila Guzman, 38, New York City; died Aug. 1, 2011; was stabbed repeatedly in the back and neck.

• Gaby, age unknown, Jalisco, Mexico; died Aug. 6, 2011; was beaten and burned.

• Unidentified male dressed in women’s clothes, estimated age 30; Paris, France; was stabbed to death.

• Gaurav Gopalan, 35, Washington, D.C.; died Sept. 10, 2011; suffered subarachnoid hemorrhage due to blunt-force head trauma.

• Ramazan Çetin, 24, Gaziantep, Turkey; died Oct. 6, 2011; was shot to death by her brother who claimed to be defending the family’s honor.

• Shelley Hilliard, 19, Detroit, Mich.; died Oct.23 but body was not identified until Nov. 10; was killed, decapitated, dismembered and burned.

• Jessica Rollon, 32, Bergamo, Italy; died Oct. 30, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Astrid Carolina López Cruz, 30, Madrid, Spain; died Nov. 4, 2011; was beaten and stabbed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Local LGBT activists to confront Rodriquez for anti-gay flier

Manuel Rondriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

A group of Houston LGBT activists, including representatives from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is urging people to attend tonight’s Houston Independent School Board Meeting to confront HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez for an anti-gay flier he distributed during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Under the header “Vote NO for my opponent” the flier reads in part:

Program manager of Minority male Initiative at HCC
His records [sic] show he spent years advocating for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, transgender rights……….. not Kids.

Endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (HGLBTPC) is the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
54 years [sic] old man with no children
Male partner

The GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement on Saturday, Nov 5, condemning the flier. On Sunday, Nov 6, the Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of Rodriquez over the flier. Rodriquez defended the flier throughout the weekend and Tuesday’s election. “[Fonseca] will be responsible for making policy for HISD, and I as a parent, as a grandfather, as a person who has probably more understanding of what a child’s needs are,” Rodriquez told the Chronicle. “[I] just want to give the voters information so that they can make their own choice.” Rodriquez campaign volunteers distributed the flier at polling locations throughout the day of the election on Tuesday.

Yesterday Rodriquez issued an open letter apologizing for the flier.

… I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all those people.

Earlier this year, I proudly joined my colleagues on the HISD Board of Education in unanimously adopting more stringent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination specifically protect the rights and safety of all students and employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orintation. I voted for this policy because it was the right thing to do and I remain committed to creating a culture in our schools where all people feel welcome and safe…

Rodriquez’s critics feel his apology is insufficient, and that it stops short of addressing their concerns. Mike Pomeroy of the GLBT Political Caucus has created a Facebook event encouraging people to attend tonight’s HISD board meeting. “I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy told the Chronicle. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.” ” We have several signed up to speak,” added Pomeroy, “but also want as many as possible there to stand with us in solidarity against bigotry on the HISD School Board!”

The School Board meets tonight at the Hattie Mae White – Houston ISD Administration Bldg, 4400 West 18th Street from 5-8 pm.

—  admin

Steve Sprinkle honored by Queerty

Steve Sprinkle

Steve Sprinkle has been honored by the website Queerty as one of six LGBT seniors you should know.

Spinkle is on the faculty of Brite Divinity School, located on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. He also preaches at Cathedral of Hope quite often.

He is the author of Unfinished Lives, a book that tells the stories of hate crime victims. He was the victim of  gay-related hate crime himself.

Queerty wrote:

“Today is the last day of LGBT History Month, but instead of pulling out some factoid from the past, we decided to honor some older LGBT activists who not only witnessed gay history — they continue to help make it. Even as a new generation of LGBTs  gets its feet wet in the activist waters, it’s important we celebrate those vital individuals who have been breaking down barriers for decades.”

The others listed in the “6 LGBT Seniors You Should Know” are Don Kilhefner, West Hollywood; Vernita Gray, Chicago; Jay Kallio, New York City; and Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, Davis, Calif.

—  David Taffet

Gay marriage rights group forms in N.C.

FIGHTING EQUALITY | A crowd gathers for a rally in support of a state constitutional amendment recognizing marriage between a man and a woman as the only domestic legal union, on Halifax Mall behind the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 12. LGBT activists in the state have announced a new effort to fight the amendment and existing anti-gay-marriage laws. (Ted Richardson/Associated Press)

‘We Do’ will go beyond fighting anti-gay-marriage amendment to target state law already banning gay marriage

TOM BREEN | Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

RALEIGH, N.C. — A gay rights group launched a campaign Monday, Oct. 3 in Asheville that seeks to go beyond opposition to a May referendum question on constitutionally barring same-sex marriage by targeting current state law that already forbids such unions.

The Campaign for Southern Equality kicked off its “We Do” effort by having three same-sex couples unsuccessfully attempt to obtain marriage licenses from the Buncombe County Register of Deeds. Organizers and participants knew they’d be denied the licenses, since North Carolina state law already forbids same-sex couples from marrying.

The point, they say, is to draw attention to the human consequences of the law and, as with the civil rights movement, create a situation where the federal government intervenes to change state laws.

“What we’re calling for is full federal equality and we’re sending a very consistent message that these laws are on the books right now and they’re immoral,” said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the group, which plans to expand their efforts across North Carolina and the South in 2012.

The Asheville campaign includes plans for over a dozen couples to repeatedly apply for marriage licenses until Oct. 14, accompanied in trips to the register of deeds by politicians, members of the clergy and other supporters.

“We can’t go to our state legislature right now because our legislators are very hostile to LGBT rights,” Beach-Ferrara said.

State courts are similarly unlikely to support their aims, she said, adding, “We don’t have much recourse besides planned actions designed to resist these laws.”

Beach-Ferrara said the campaign has been in the planning stages since long before the current debate over a constitutional amendment, but the debate provides a charged backdrop for the “We Do” efforts. Last month, the General Assembly voted to put a question on the May primary ballot that would prohibit same-sex marriage in the North Carolina Constitution, which would make it the last such state in the Southeast to adopt such a provision. Those on both sides of the question are preparing for a hard-fought campaign in the run-up to the vote.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, supports the referendum question and called the “We Do” campaign “a strategic mistake” on the part of those who support gay marriage.

Fitzgerald thinks the effort might help secure the amendment’s passage by convincing undecided voters that the possibility of same-sex marriage in North Carolina is real despite current state law prohibiting it.

“I think it makes our case why we need an amendment,” she said. “When people see that, they’re going to be concerned and they’re going to take it as a sign of aggression on the part of people who advocate for same-sex marriage.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Prop 8 case back before Calif. Supreme Court; Baldwin announces Senate bid

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin at the Black Tie Dinner in Dallas last year.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on whether sponsors of Proposition 8 have standing to defend the same-sex marriage ban in court. The state Supreme Court’s ruling, due within 90 days, will help determine whether a federal court takes up the sponsors’ appeal of a decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.

2. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., formally announced today that she’s running for U.S. Senate. If she wins, Baldwin will become the first openly LGBT person to serve in the Senate. “The fact is, I’ve been honest about my sexual orientation my entire adult life,” Baldwin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And integrity is important in public service. But what voters are looking for is somebody who understands them, is fighting for them and won’t give up. The election is not going to be about me, it’s about the voters.”

3. LGBT activists glitter-bombed an anti-gay group from a chair lift at the Minnesota State Fair this weekend. The anti-gay group, Minnesota for Marriage, reportedly was given preferential treatment to distribute literature at the fair over a pro-equality group, Minnesotans United for All Families. Watch the glitter-bombing below.

—  John Wright

Orientation or illness?

Despite one reader’s insistence that pedophilia is a sexual orientation — like being L,G or B — most in the community think otherwise

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

T­he very mention of the word pedophilia — defined as the abnormal sexual desire in an adult for children — can spark an emotional and angry response in many people.

I discovered that when I posted a question on Facebook recently seeking comments on what an anonymous reader had previously suggested to me about pedophilia.

The reader advised me that pedophiles comprise a minority group, and that pedophilia is actually a form of sexual orientation, like being gay or lesbian.

The reader reached out to me because I had described the LGBT community as the last minority group that is still considered a politically correct target for discrimination in some quarters. The reader claimed that pedophiles are similarly discriminated against in much harsher ways, and suggested that LGBT activists also engage in the discrimination against pedophiles because they are higher in the pecking order than pedophiles.

In response to a comment I made about his initial complaint, the reader wrote, “You are confusing sexual orientation with criminal activities. There is abundant evidence that most child molesters are not pedophiles (not primarily attracted to prepubescent children), and that most pedophiles are not molesters. I would hope that the people in your community [the LGBT community] would be able to understand the difference.”

Well, I not only did not understand the difference, I was bewildered, to put it mildly.

I asked the reader to send me an email giving me more explanation about his argument, but I never received a response.

So my next step was typical for me when I don’t quite know what to say: I started doing a little research on the Internet.

What I found first was an essay, “The Pattern of Sexual Politics: Feminism, Homosexuality and Pedophilia,” by Professor Harri Mirkin, published in 1999 in an academic journal.

The essay made headlines in 2002, while Mirkin was chairman of the political science department at the University of Missouri’s Kansas City campus, according to a New York Times story.

The essay gained widespread attention because of the sexual abuse scandal that enveloped the Roman Catholic Church. In the essay, Mirkin compared the “moral panic” over pedophilia to the outrage that erupted when the feminist and gay rights movements took hold.

Reaction to Mirkin’s essay, even though it was a few years old, apparently was equally hostile and panic-stricken.

From there I moved on to an essay written for the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, written in 1989, by Joan A. Nelson, who is listed today as an American Board of Sexology certified sex therapist practicing in San Rafael, Calif. The essay, “Intergenerational Sexual Contact,” gave me a more clinical name for what I was researching and defined it as “any behavior between a minor and someone at least five years older that is perceived by either participant or by society as sexually stimulating or intended to be sexually stimulating.”

It examined both the “adult participants” and the “child participants” in great detail. In one passage it noted, “In the face of age-old taboos and horrors of child abuse, it is hard for educators, research designers and other shapers of social policy to be nonjudgmental about intergenerational sex.”

It goes on to say that scientists should basically approach this type of sexual activity clinically to avoid misleading results. One of the more surprising points made in the essay was that the child participants appeared to sometimes be “indifferent” to the experience rather than traumatized.

Advocates of legalizing sexual relationships between adults and pubescent minors apparently argue that it is usually consensual, it has occurred throughout history and that it causes no harm to the younger partners.

I searched to see if there were any groups actively promoting the interests of people who think they should have the right to engage in sexual activity, but all I found was the North American Man/Boy Love Association. To the best of my knowledge that group and its interests have been condemned by most LGBT activists, law enforcement agencies and mental health professionals, and its small membership has disappeared underground.

I became aware of some advocacy for lowering the age-of-consent laws for sexual activity, but I don’t think those are particularly relevant to the issue of so-called intergenerational sex. Most of what I’ve read concerning that issue appears to be related to teenagers who become involved in consensual sexual relationships with others relatively close to their age.

Finally, armed with this new body of knowledge, I went to Facebook to do my unofficial survey. I asked for input from my friends — and boy howdy, did I get it.

My Facebook friends represent a pretty good cross-section of straight and gay people, conservatives and liberals and people all ages and backgrounds, many of whom are part of our community in some way.

Most appeared to be outraged by the very idea of even considering pedophilia to be a sexual orientation.

One commentator noted that LGBT activists should have had the foresight long ago to “rail against” any classification of our community in terms of sexual orientation, sexual preference or any other sexual terms. In our community, we are building relationships, raising families and doing all of the other things in which our heterosexual counterparts engage.

She asked why we should always be classified in sexual terms, rather than for who we are and what we accomplish?

So I would say in conclusion that I learned a lesson. And to the anonymous reader who thought that our community should be better able to understand pedophilia and be more sympathetic, I’d have to say, “Sorry, but we don’t get it.”

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Oetken sidesteps questions on brief in sodomy case

Paul Oetken

Gay court nominee says arguments in brief he wrote for Lawrence v. Texas expressed his client’s views, not necessarily his

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

When openly gay federal district court nominee Paul Oetken went before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in March, Sen. Charles Grassley was the only Republican who showed up.

 

He introduced Oetken, who was born in his home state of Iowa, but had no questions.

But not all questioning takes place in front of cameras. Some takes place on paper, and that’s where Grassley grilled Oetken over his positions on gay-related issues, and Oetken responded in a way that might make some LGBT activists cringe.

“Do you personally believe that government classifications based on sexual orientation deserve a heightened level of scrutiny?” asked Grassley, in one of 17 questions to Oetken.
Grassley’s question concerned a brief Oetken wrote for the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association and submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning laws prohibiting same-sex sexual relations.

The case was Lawrence v. Texas and, in 2003, a majority of the Supreme Court did overturn such laws. Oetken’s brief argued that the courts should use the strictest form of scrutiny when examining laws that treat gay people differently.

In responding to Grassley, Oetken put some distance between himself and the brief, saying, “I have not expressed a personal view on this subject. The arguments in the amicus brief that I co-authored in Lawrence v. Texas were arguments made on behalf of clients.”

“Although I believed that there was a good faith basis in Supreme Court precedent for making those arguments [in the brief], they do not necessarily reflect how I would approach these issues as a district judge,” wrote Oetken.

Oetken also put some distance between his brief and the Supreme Court’s decision, noting that, “The Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas did not decide that case under the Equal Protection Clause, but rather under the Due Process Clause, and it therefore did not decide the issues addressed in my amicus brief in that case.”

Oetken also said, “If confirmed as a district judge, I would apply the applicable precedents of the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions also submitted written questions about Oetken’s brief in Lawrence. Sessions noted that Oetken had argued that the issue of physician-assisted suicide should be decided by each state legislature.

He quoted Oetken saying, the issue of physician-assisted suicide “should stay where it belongs, in the legislatures” because the states’ “varied approaches to the issue may, over time, aid in forming a national consensus, making it possible for Congress to resolve it through national legislation.”

But Sessions was interested in how Oetken could argue, in 2002, to leave the suicide issue to the states and then argue, in 2003, “that Texas’ anti-sodomy law was something that warranted federal intervention. …”

Oetken, again, noted that the Lawrence brief included “arguments made on behalf of clients.”

His argument to leave the suicide issue to the states, he said, was appropriate given that there was no federal legislation addressing it.

Oetken’s nomination was reported out of committee on April 7 and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright