WATCH: With the help of advertising, gays are (finally) the new normal

Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 10.19.48 AMI had an ex-mother-in-law with whom I often sowed family discord by challenging on her ideas about relationships. She claimed to be gay-friendly and supportive of her son (my ex), but I knew it wasn’t in her heart. One time, when the ex and I met her and her husband for lunch in Orlando, Fla., she noted that they had been at Disney World earlier, on what happened to be Gay Day. (That was the reason my ex and I were there; you’d think she’d have known that.) She clucked her tongue that, while “I have no problem with gay people,” she thought it was “inappropriate” how gays at the park “throw their sexuality in your face. I don’t like public displays of affection in any context!” she whined.

“Oh?” I said. “You’re holding your husband’s hand as we speak. And when we saw you in the parking lot, you gave your son a big hug and kiss. Clearly, you don’t mind public displays of affection; you just don’t like seeing the kinds that offend you. That makes you a hypocrite.”

It was a pretty quiet lunch after that.

What infuriates me about that kind of casual bigotry is how it presumes gay people should stay in the closet; that heterosexuality can be public, but not homosexuality; that it is something to be embarrassed by. “Do you believe his son brought his boyfriend to the funeral and they held hands during the service!?” I heard a woman say once after a funeral. It never occurred to this bigot that the son needed his boyfriend’s support, that he had lost his father and needed comfort; it also never occurred to the person that the entire family might actually be supportive of the gay son and like the boyfriend. The speaker was offended on behalf of the family, never thinking that — perhaps — not everyone was as virulent a homophobe as she was.

This is what the right is really contending with now: Not that openness will lead to recruitment, but that it will make it more difficult to demonize people who are different. If your kids know gay people who are cool, and seem well adjusted, it makes teaching them bigotry all that more difficult.

And finally the mainstream media is catching on.

Of course, locally, our own Todd and Cooper Smith-Koch became celebs when their print ad with their children for JCPenney went viral, causing claims of “pandering” to gays. There have been many ads in recent years that include gays, though sometimes comically.

But a new TV spot from Kohl’s department store — it’s below — does exactly what my ex-mother-in-law, and the woman at the funeral, couldn’t do: Imagine gay people (of different races, even!) as part of a happy, comfortable family dynamic.

The imagery is subtle. A matriarch is beginning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner as the family members start to arrive — daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids; maybe a divorced daughter; then a strapping young man in the company of an African-America man; eventually, an older black couple shows up. Everyone’s helping out — cooking, cleaning, setting the table. There’s laughter and hugs … including an apparently affectionate toast with the gay couple, both sets of parents looking on, smiling.

Just a typical American family.

And that’s what the right, and bigots, can’t stand. The idea that real America families are diverse is anathema to them. They operate in a universe where everyone conforms to a fake ideal. And that fake ideal was largely spread to them through the osmosis of advertising, which seeks to recreate a world that consumers can see themselves as a part of. That used to be a segregated world; I remember how McDonald’s commercials would often have black people, or white people … but almost always in separate spots. The black ads even had a more “urban” version of the jingle. Everyone likes McDonald’s!” the message was … just so long as they stick to their own. Now, though, advertisers want more eyes, more dollars, more inclusiveness. Hence the Kohl’s ad.

This is becoming the new normal. It’s especially heartening that it arrives around the holidays, when family, togetherness and love are at the top of people’s minds. (The spot is even called “Celebrate Togetherness.”) Of course, it’s something the gay media has tried (successfully, I think) to illustrate for decades. We appreciate everyone catching up. Now go out and buy shit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Carson says Constitution protects ‘everybody regardless of their sexual orientation’

Current GOP frontrunner says in debate that even though he opposes marriage equality he is not a homophobe

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

bencarson

Dr. Ben Carson

The Republican presidential field’s current frontrunner Ben Carson said Wednesday night, Oct. 28, he is not a homophobe and believes “our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Carson made the remark in response to a question from a CNBC debate questioner Wednesday night, during the third Republican presidential debate.

CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla noted that the national warehouse chain Costco has been identified as one of the most gay friendly employers in the country. Carson had served on the Costco board of directors for more than 16 years when he stepped down in May of this year, when he announced his campaign for president.

Quintanilla asked Carson whether his being on the Costco board ran counter to his views on homosexuality.

“Well, obviously, you don’t understand my views on homosexuality,” said Carson. “I believe our Constitution protects everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And there is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.

“They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe marriage is one man and one woman that that you are a homophobe,” he continued. “This is one of the myths that the left perpetuates on our society. This is how they frighten people and get people to shut up. That’s what the PC culture is all about. And it’s destroying this nation. The fact of the matter is we the American people are not each other’s enemies. It’s those people who are trying to divide us that are the enemies.”

Rich Tafel, a longtime Republican gay activist and former head of the national Log Cabin Republican group, said he thinks Carson’s response “might mark the end of the culture war against gays in politics.”

“Given the opportunity to distance himself from Costco or corporations that have been champions for gay rights, he mumbled that he believed that marriage is between a man and women, but then went onto an impassioned defense of gay people deserving freedom and that he’s not a homophobe,” said Tafel. “When you consider he’s probably the most far right candidate on social issues who early in the campaign made a comment about gay being a choice (prison as proof) he’s come a long way.

Essentially,” Tafel said, “it marks the moment where in a race for everyone to get to the far right, gay issues aren’t the ones you grab onto (unlike the 1990s). Also, the fact that he shares the lead with Trump who has gone out of his way to be gay supportive despite running a populist campaign. Bottom line, we win!”

The question to Carson was the only question of the evening that touched on any LGBT-specific issue. The rest of the prime-time debate and an earlier debate with low-polling candidates were focused on a wide range of issues and on exploring the viability of certain candidates and their comments against each other.

Carson has in recent days begun polling in first place in at least some polls asking how Republican primary votes nationwide are leaning. A CBS/New York Times poll taken Oct. 21-25 found 26 percent of 575 Republican primary voters support Carson, 22 percent support Donald Trump, and single-digits support the other 13 GOP candidates still hoping to win the nomination.

At the beginning of October, Trump was in the lead with 27 percent, followed by Carson with 21.

Over the years, Carson has made a number of statements that question his commitment to fairness for the gay community. He has equated marriage for same-sex couples with bestiality, said prison proves sexual orientation is a choice, and said he believes allowing same-sex couples to marry is equivalent to tossing the “word of God … into the garbage.”

In his closing remarks, Carson reiterated this theme of rejecting “political correctness,” a buzzword Carson uses to refer to criticisms of candidates who oppose equal protection for LGBT people and other minorities.

© 2015 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash

Today from San Francisco: What happens next in LGBT civil rights?

Shafer

Scott Shader

Hi there. It’s me again, checking in from the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association conference in San Francisco. I just wanted to share a little bit of what was talked about in today’s morning plenary session, titled: Life After Marriage: What’s Next.

Scott Shafer, host of “The California Report” on KQED Public Radio, moderated the discussion that included as panelists National Center for Lesbian Rights ExecutiveDirector Kate Kendall, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrrera and Isa Noyola, program manager with the Transgender Law Center.

Unfortunately, the plenary — scheduled to be an hour and 15 minutes long — got off to a late start and so lasted less than an hour. That meant that a lot of relevant topics were left undiscussed. The fact that the first several minutes were taken up talking about a marriage equality issue — Kim Davis in Rowen County, Ky. — also cut short the time spent on what comes next.

But the discussion that did take place on where we, as an LGBT rights movement, go from here was informative, to say the least.

Noyola

Isa Noyola

The most important discussion, I think, centered on the T in our LGBT community: The LGB parts of our community cannot get so flush with excitement and satisfaction over winning the marriage equality battle — not counting, of course, holdouts like Kim Davis and the inevitable rash of “religious freedom” bills we are likely to see in state legislatures and probably Congress, too — cannot just walk away and leave our transgender brothers and sisters in the dust of our success.

Noyola began her remarks by reading the names of the 18 trans women murdered so far this year in the U.S., helping drive home her point that while society may be changing when it comes to sexual orientation, the inequalities and injustices are still strong, violent and deadly when it comes to issues of gender identity.

Reading those names, Noyola said, :helps me ground myself and brings us to the heart of the situation our trans communities are facing. … The trans communities have had to swallow a bitter pill for years around our rights and our place in [LGBT] communities.”

Noyola, Kendall andHerrera all warned that trans people remain the most marginalized and endangered segment of our LGBT communities as a whole. And something I read in the “Street Sheet” newspaper, a publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, served to underscore even more strongly that transgender people are lagging far behind the rest of the community in terms of rights and protections.

Kendall

Kate Kendall

According to the newspaper, which based some of its article on results of a recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people are homeless at a higher right, especially trans women of color, and trans people are about 4 times more likely to have a household income below $10,000 annually. And a separte study showed that one in five California transgender people experienced homelessness after identifying as transgender.

Trans people have a harder time finding jobs because of anti-trans bias. They are targeted more often for violence. And they are an easy target for politicians pandering to right-wing conservatives who want somebody to blame for whatever is bothering them at the moment.

As a result, so called “bathroom bills” have become all the rage. We saw more than a few of them in Texas during the last legislative session, and now opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance are breaking out the “men in the women’s restrooms” boogey-man to try and defeat HERO at the polls in November.

Even here in oh-so-liberal California, the threat of a bathroom bill is raising its ugly head.

The key to victory, Kendall said, is education, and, all three panelists agreed, not leaving our transgender brothers and sisters behind. We as LGB people have got to fight as hard for the rights of transgender people as we fought for marriage equality.

Herrera

Dennis Herrera

The other main “what’s next” topic was the revamped version of the old “Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Now known as The Equality Act, this piece of legislation would ban anti-LGBT discrimination not just in employment, but also in public accommodations, housing, credit and other areas.

Kendall said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents California’s 12th District in Congress, recently told supports of the Equality Act that the bill’s chances in the Republican-dominated Congress, as it stands now, are slim. But just introducing and pushing the measure now will help build the framework necessary to get protections enacted at the state level in the more than 30 states where anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal (including Texas).

Kendall stressed that the Equality Act definitely does include protections based on gender identity and gender expression, unlike ENDA, which at times in its history has been notorious for excluding transgender protections.

There are other issues that will be moving to the frontburner now that marriage equality is the law of the land. Things like LGBT families, adoption, immigration, LGBT prisoners, and more. But perhaps the best place to start is with the Equality Act and definitely by remembering to never leave the T behind.

—  Tammye Nash

Congrats to Craig Lynch and Phillip Hearne!

Craig and PhillipThis has been quite a weekend for Craig Lynch, co-founder of Uptown Players. In addition to opening the company’s new show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, on Friday night, Lynch married his partner of 15 years, Phillip Hearne, on a small ceremony Sunday at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. Lynch and Hearne were among the first to head down to the courthouse on June 26 to obtain a license; they had 90 days to wed, and took care of it in plenty of time. Congrats to you both!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chef at Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson allegedly refuses to cater same-sex wedding

Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn Richardson

Daren Merchant and Rick O’Connor were planning to hold their wedding for Jan. 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson.

Planning stopped, however, after the chef at the hotel allegedly compared them to Caitlin Jenner (not sure why that’s an insult, but it was meant that way) and said that he wouldn’t cook for a gay couple. The story was reported on Fox 4.

Shortly after the incident, Merchant received a damage control letter from Hilton’s regional corporate office, but he said he’s received nothing from the hotel since.

“As of now the plans are on hold,” Merchant said. “This took the wind out of our sails, especially after more than two decades of wanting this so badly and never thinking it would happen in our lifetime.”

Dallas Voice has been trying to get through to Merchant and O’Connor’s contact at the hotel.

“I do really think that they were hoping this would just fade away,” Merchant said. “All I wanted was an answer but never got it. Believe me, it’s mind blowing how much outpouring of supports we have gotten.”

Since that conversation, Merchant has received a call from the president of Texas Hotel And Lodging Association on behalf of the hotel to work out a resolution. Merchant said the proposed resolution sounds reasonable and the couple will discuss it over the weekend.

More on the story next week, hopefully with a happy ending.

—  David Taffet

Kentucky county clerk loses in 6th Circuit

Davis.Kim

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

The Rowan County, Ky. county clerk who stopped issuing all marriage licenses so that she didn’t have to issue licenses to same-sex couples has lost the latest round of her battle in court.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied County Clerk Kim Davis a stay that would have allowed her to continue not issuing licenses in her office. Davis refused to issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples and refused to let anyone in her office issue them. After a lower court ruled against her, she stopped issuing all marriage licenses.

Davis claimed religious objections to same-sex marriage. She said she wasn’t inconveniencing anyone because they could just go to another county and get a marriage license.

In its decision the court wrote:

“It cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court. There is thus little or no likelihood that the Clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal.”

Davis has until the end of the month to begin issuing marriage licenses before she faces contempt of court.

—  David Taffet

Vertigo12 salon wants you to look nice for your wedding pic. And it’s free

Nolan Matthew, supercool straight guy

Nolan Matthew is one of those guys who you think is gay because he’s the most awesomely cool guy ever, and then when you find out he’s straight, still wish he was gay, because he’s so damned handsome. Alas, we must be satisfied merely to label him an ally.

And what an ally he is. Matthew opened a cool-ass hair salon Downtown last year across from CBD Provisions, one that was a funky and fun as his staff. But a dispute with the landlord caused him to move out in search of new digs. It took a while, but he finally opened Vertigo12 Hair Lounge, a salon on the 12th floor of the building at 211 N. Ervay St. It has awesome views and a great vibe (wanna complimentary beer while you wait? Help yourself!). And it’s terrific in even another way.

Matthew has a deal going on right now, in celebration of marriage equality: If you come in with a marriage license dated from June 26, 2015 forward, you can get a free haircut. Gratis. I mean, you wanna get married to your husbear and look like a heavy metal bandmate from the 1980s and need a flattop for the ceremony? Done. It’s like his wedding gift to those who tie the knot.

And because he’s that guy, the offer doesn’t apply only to gay couples. Straight, bi, whatever — you have a license, you wanna cut, Nolan’s your man. (Or maybe you’ll get fellow stylist Krystal Summers to take her shears to your tresses.) The only catch is, you have until Aug. 31 to take advantage of the offer. So don’t dawdle! Get that license and look good as a result.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lawsuit filed against Mississippi adoption ban

Kaplan.Roberta

Attorney Robbie Kaplan

Mississippi is the last state that has a ban on same-sex couples adopting.

Attorney Robbie Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in her fight against the Defense of Marriage Act and represented Mississippi couples in their fight against their state’s marriage ban, filed the lawsuit.

“We like to finish what we started,” Kaplan tweeted.

On its website, the Campaign for Southern Equality wrote:

The case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of four same-sex couples: Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, who are seeking to adopt a child; Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, also seeking to adopt; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith, parents to a young daughter; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, who have a 15-year-old son. Two organizations — the Campaign for Southern Equality and Family Equality Council — join the case as plaintiffs representing the LGBT families across Mississippi.

—  David Taffet

To Paxton, ‘immediately’ means … well, maybe soon

Neel Lane

Attorney Neel Lane

When U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia issued his order that interim Commissioner of the Texas State Department of Health Services Kirk Cole issue an amended death certificate for James Stone-Hoskins to his husband John Stone-Hoskins, he used the word “immediately.”

“It is further ORDERED [Garcia’s emphasis, not mine] that Defendant Kirk Cole …immediately [my emphasis, not his] issue an amended death certificate for James H. Stone-Hoskins to state that John Allen Stone-Hoskins is the surviving spouse of James, and in doing so, fully recognize their legal out-of-state marriage.”

Neel Lane, attorney for Stone-Hoskins, answered a question via email to Dallas Voice. I asked whether the amended death certificate has been issued.

“We have been discussing, but nothing final yet,” Lane wrote, almost 24 hours after Judge Garcia wrote “immediately.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but when a federal judge says “immediately,” I’m thinking he means today. He means pull out the damn death certificate that’s already sitting on your desk and add “John Allen Stone-Hoskins” to the line that’s currently blank. Then send it FedEx because it absolutely, positively needs to get there before you’re sent to jail.

Cole and Attorney Ken Paxton have until Monday to send any written pleadings and responses to the court and must appear on Wednesday to defend themselves against contempt of court charges.

Seems to me by not issuing, they’re thumbing their noses at judge and begging to be held in contempt.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Death certificate lawsuit charges Ken Paxton with contempt of court

James Stone

James Stone died in February 2015

Neel Lane, attorney for the Texas marriage equality lawsuit, said he filed a lawsuit today in federal court in San Antonio charging Kirk Cole,  commissioner of the Department of State Health Services and Attorney General Ken Paxton with contempt of court and asking for a change on his client’s husband’s death certificate.

James Stone died in February. The death certificate lists his husband as “significant other” and Texas refuses to amend the certificate. The head of the DSHS, under instruction from Paxton, said the state will make no changed.

Lane charges that the ruling made by Judge Orlando Garcia in February 2014 and upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals applies. In his ruling, Garcia ordered the state to stop enforcing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and to offer all the same benefits of marriage to legally married same-sex couples. The order was stayed and the stay not lifted until after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.

Lane’s position is that Garcia’s ruling is in effect from February 2014 so same-sex couples’ rights should at least date from there. The Obergefell decision allows couples who were married to file amended taxes that go back three years. Other rights may date back farther.

—  David Taffet