And they’re off!

The horse race for the Republican presidential nomination is officially under way with the Iowa caucuses. Who will pull up lame, and who will win it down the home stretch?

Mitt.Romney.color.2

Republican hopeful Mitt Romney

Watching the press coverage of the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucus was like watching a horse race: Announcers breathlessly telling viewers the latest results; charts and graphics that looked more like the screens of a sports-book in Las Vegas than political coverage.

In reality, Iowa chooses only about 1 percent of the total delegates to the national conventions. So focusing so much attention on this process is more about the hoopla than the impact.

What Iowa does do is weed out the also-rans and focus attention of a few frontrunners. And unlike a horse race, the winners in Iowa are less important than the losers.

Already Michelle Bachmann has dropped from the field and I expect John Huntsman to soon do the same. Texas Gov. Rick Perry probably should have dropped out, but he insists on plugging on despite his dismal showing in Iowa.

That leaves four contenders for the Republican nomination in the field — and none of them are even remotely LGBT friendly. In fact, Rick Santorum’s strong finish in Iowa will almost guarantee a tougher line of anti-LGBT rhetoric from the remaining candidates. Each one will be trying to out-conservative the other and the “family values” canard will rank high in their strategy.

Santorum, pushing his socially conservative views, managed to bubble up through other candidates like Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry and strike a note with evangelical voters. According to some polls it is because of his “strong moral character,” code for being anti-LGBT and anti-choice. But the truth is, those two issues are not enough to carry him to the White House. And I suspect the GOP knows that.

A lot of Santorum’s success was due to his very effective ground campaign in Iowa. He spent a lot of time in the state and focused on his key constituency — and that falls outside the mainstream GOP profile.

Habaerman.Hardy.NEW

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul surprised everyone with his third place finish in Iowa. Personally, I hope he decides to run on a third party ticket. He might split so many votes away from the Republicans that President Obama will have a clear path to re-election.

And then there is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The biggest problem for the GOP is that Romney is just so, well, Mitt Romney. It seems that everyone wants someone with more charisma and momentum than Mitt, but they just can’t figure out who that might be.

For now, it looks like Romney will be strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina. His organization is well funded and has a great infrastructure in the remaining states, whereas Santorum will have to scramble to keep up.

I suspect Romney’s biggest challenge will be Newt Gingrich, the man who came in fourth in Iowa. While he most likely doesn’t have the staying power to win the nomination, Gingrich does have a grudge — and that can go a long way.

The Romney campaign and Ron Paul heaped negative ads on former House Speaker Gingrich, and it really showed at the caucuses. Now the question is whether Newt and his super-PAC money will fire back with equal vehemence.

Of course, we all know the Super-PACs do not coordinate with the campaigns (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), so that remains a mystery.

So, what does all this mean for LGBT Americans? Well in my opinion, it’s probably a good thing.

As the GOP candidates try to “out-socially-conservative” each other, their real feelings about LGBT rights will become clear. There are no friends among this group of candidates, and considering how much LGBT Americans have gained in the past few years, I seriously doubt much of our votes or money will go to anyone as far to the right as this field of contenders looks.

As this horse race comes down to the wire in November, the real question is: Can the Obama campaign do enough to remind LGBT citizens why they should support his re-election? Will President Obama’s opinions finally evolve to the point where he can actively support issues like marriage equality? Will LGBT voters be willing to risk losing the gains of the past four years, like the repeal of DADT?
Personally, I think the smart money will bet on President Obama in the home stretch.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Feedback • 12.16.11

An Open Letter to Rick Perry

Dear Gov. Perry,

Your antics since you announced your bid for the Republican presidential nomination have already almost pushed me over the edge. You have long-since made me regret having voted for you the first go-round (before seeing the light). There have been multiple times that I have been embarrassed by you in much the same way that residents of Alaska must have been embarrassed by their then-governor Sarah Palin.

But the video commercial you released last week crossed the line. I am not only embarrassed that you are our state’s top elected official, I am ashamed of — and for — you.

It’s so apparent that you are making a completely unveiled attempt to pander to religious conservatives with this babble about “Obama’s religious war.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Yes, there are people across the nation — and unfortunately, many of them here in the South — who will identify with your narrow-minded and hateful ideologies. But you, Mr. Governor, do not represent all Texans and certainly could in no way ever assume a position where you lead on behalf of an entire nation.

Your comments are hateful and full of fear. They are misinformed with respect to the ideals our country were shaped by and founded upon. And they place you absolutely on the wrong side of history — the same whitewashed tomb of people who opposed women’s rights, civil rights for people of all races and rights for the handicapped.

So here is what I say to you, oh woefully out-of-touch public servant to the people of Texas:

I’ve been a Christian my entire life and I believe in essentially the same creator, center of the Universe, life-giver, omniscient, all-loving being you claim to believe in — the very same Essence that millions of human beings believe in across the world. And although I no longer occupy a pew within a specific religious body, I respect your right to do so.

So go ahead on into your house of worship and occupy your pew. Worship the way you want to worship, say what you want to say, follow whatever rules they ascribe, judge those within your body, and exclude whomever you want to exclude. I will not judge you.

I would appreciate it, however, if you would behave in kind and refrain from bringing your hateful judgment to me or to any of my fellow human beings and their families.

Keep it there, inside your religion; it is not welcome in my house, my state, my nation.

Remember, the lines drawn between church and state are there for a reason. Our country was founded on the pursuit of liberty and the desire for religious freedom — not on narrow-minded ideologies that discriminate against a minority. These people did not want to come to the New World to impose their religion on others but rather to worship the God they wanted to worship. Period, end of story.

Though it’s true that many of our founding fathers were chauvinists and slave owners, I believe many of them had a seed of foresight to believe that the statement “all men are created equally” applied (or would apply) to both genders, all races and eventually all sexual orientations.

Our respectable President Barack Obama — who leads in a way you apparently will never be able — did not start a religious war. Prayer in school has been an issue of contention since I was a child. And gays serving in the military have nothing to do with an attack on your religion.

What a foolish comparison; high school students come up with more reasonable — and creative — theses than that.

“Gays in the military” no more impedes your right to worship than women being allowed to vote or allowing a black man to drink from the same water fountain as someone of your race did. Yet religious people somehow once supported such absurd and un-Godly beliefs as those, too.

People who dare breathe such views today are frowned upon, eschewed and pitied. At least generally, they have the sense to keep those thoughts to themselves.

You, sir, are not the only one who wears the name “Christian.” I know many such people who are heterosexual and accept their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. And I know many homosexual Christians who sit in pews and worship Jehovah and obey the two greatest commandments: loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving their neighbors as they love themselves.

(You would be a wise student to note that it does not say “love only your heterosexual neighbors.” Are you, Mr. Perry, doing that?)

It seems to me that every time you open your mouth and say something hateful, you diminish the very witness of the Christ you claim to follow. Your unkind words belie any love that your namesake should evoke.
We don’t need you to save us, nor do we need your judgments or your pronouncement of some ridiculous war made up to get yourself attention within a small group of narrow-minded, religious people like yourself. We are not trying to destroy your religion or asking for admission into your religious sects; further, we are not asking your leaders to perform our marriages.

We demand, however, that you respect us and our families. The United States of America is not just the home of Republican, Christian heterosexuals; it is our home too and at home, we are created equally — every last one of us.

Please, sir, do not attempt to force your religious beliefs on my humanity. As a homosexual, I am no less deserving of rights than any heterosexual. You are my governor, not my judge.

Fear-mongering public servants like you will become relics that students of government and politics will study as examples of narrow-mindedness and shameful behavior. When they study the great women and men of politics, you will be absent from among them; I rather think you will be in the category of those rued and pitied — George Wallace will keep you company there.

Rick Perry, you should be ashamed of your ridiculous video. You should immediately apologize and reconsider whether running for the office of president of the United States is something you’re cut out for.
By your words and your actions — embarrassing gaffes and soundbites nothwithstanding — you continue to prove you are not the man for the job.

Respectfully,
Todd Whitley, Granbury

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Occupy Christmas!

That one-percenter Scrooge actually has a heart at DTC; a panto aims for the ‘Dick’

Theatre-Britain---Dick-Whittington---Publicity-Photo-2

VERMIN AND PEARLS | A rat queen (Kate Rutledge) terrorizes a cross-dressing Dick Whittington (Jad B. Sexton) in the latest panto from Theatre Britain.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Having seen A Christmas Carol at the Dallas Theater Center about a dozen times now, which plays for a full month every December, the thing I can never quite wrap my mind around is how, during the other 11 months of the year, folks don’t see crotchety ol’ Ebenezer in themselves — at least, the ones running for the Republican presidential nomination. Scrooge is a right scourge (c’mon, don’t tell me that never occurred to you?) of the poor. In the opening moments, he rejects the idea of giving money to charity.

“Isn’t that what the workhouses are for?” he cruelly asks.  Why don’t the poor do us all a favor and die, he rhetorically wonders, “and decrease the surplus population?” It’s the transformation at the end — the transition from starting as Gingrich (or is that Gin-grinch?) and ending up as Obama, all yes-we-can and full of hope — from which the beauty of the story emerges. And he gets there entirely via some ghosts, not with the assistance of Occupy Hyde Park.

The Theater Center has been roasting this chestnut since the Carter administration, but to be honest, there’s almost always something new to enjoy with it. The surprise this year (other than the absence of both Denise Lee and Liz Mikel — the first time in my memory at least one has not be in it) is how the director, Joel Ferrell (returning to the show after taking a break last year), has brought out both the humor and the horror of this most famous of ghost stories.

The play begins as it never has before: With a flashback. We see Jacob Marley (Jonathan Brooks) on his death-bed years earlier, writhing in such agony you can imagine the horrors of wandering through limbo the better part of a decade before he finally manifests in Scrooge’s chambers to warn him to change his ways. That appearance is equally frightening, as is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, looming 10 feet tall, scratching the outline of Ebenezer’s grave on the ground like a fingernail on a blackboard.

But the moments of levity are more buoyant than before as well. Brooks and Steven Walters, as ghoulish and plainly gay businessmen who foppishly snipe at the dead man whose funeral has been long overdue, give a sassy bitchiness to the scene that’s never been there before. Brian Gonzales’ brogued-out Fezziwig has the twinkling airiness of a leprechaun.

The only weakness, if you can even call it that, is Ebenezer himself.

The part this year is played by Kurt Rhoads, who has a long history with the DTC since the 1980s and has certainly seen his share of Carols. He’s a brittle ol’ fussbudget in Act 1, but Act 2 is where the magic really happens — that’s where Scrooge finally develops the Christmas spirit and reminds us all not to be as cynical and hatemongering as the Michele Bachmanns and Rick Perrys and FoxNewses of the world … that, indeed, the one-percenters can be real people, too.

Rhoads gets there, but the transition lacks the warm-n-fuzzies you look forward to every year. Maybe it’s because his makeup is too good: Stringy white hair, a sallow, mottled complexion, angular, hard features. He looks the same before and after — a bit of rouge might have softened and warmed him, giving Scrooge human coloring at least.

Not that it matters much. The point is, in the end, the season has made a better person out of a rich guy. Hey, that’s why we go to the theater: We enjoy the fantasy.

DTCs-ACC-11---David-Ryan-Smith,-Marlhy-Murphy,-Drew-Favors,-Kurt-Rhoads---by-Karen-Almond

GOD BLESS US | The Ghost of Christmas Present (Kevin Ryan Smith, left) shows Scrooge (Kurt Rhoads, right) what his behavior hath wrought in DTC’s ‘Christmas Carol.’ (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

The character of Dick Whittington doesn’t have quite the resonance this side of the pond as Ebenezer S. does, but in England, he’s a staple of history (once lord mayor on London) and the comic stage, with his cat as well known as he. So it was about time Theatre Britain turned Dick Whittington into one of their annual Christmas pantos.

If you haven’t seen a panto, they are difficult to describe without sounding slightly batty. They are children’s theater, but they also have a lot of drag characters. They have broad slapstick comedy and simple plots among the dirtiest fast-paced jokes this side of Judd Apatow. They have sing-alongs and ghosts and lots of corn-dog gimmicks. In short, they are for every taste, even if you don’t know it.

For instance, having a main character called “Dick,” you’re likely to be assaulted with a barrage of, ahem, “dick” jokes: “What’s your name?” “Dick.” “I like you already!” Or: “We have three minutes to find Dick.” “You can’t find dick in three minutes.”

There! That chuckle, that grin you just allowed yourself? That’s panto.

The newest show is a naughty charmer with some of the raciest humor this side of Russell Brand. There’s Dame Overeasy (James Chandler), a guy in a dress all tarted-up, she obviously works in a tart shop (that’s part of the hidden gaggery of a show like this). Dick (played by a woman, Jad B. Sexton) brings along his cat Tom (Jean-Luc Hester, a great pantomimist with feline moves and purrs) to defeat  the rats, led by a queen (Kate Rutledge), who looks like Julie Newmar switching alliances, inviting hisses from the audience.

The pop culture references — from Titanic to Beyonce to a trio of Disney-esque gangster rats (the best of whom, Chris Sykes, looks like he actually grew up in a sewer — and I mean that in the best possible way) who seem to have stepped out of a lost reel of Ratatouille — are plentiful for the adults, the physical humor over-the-top kid-friendly. It makes for good, not-so-clean family fun.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry, Romney and gays in the Boy Scouts

The Boston Globe reports today on what is said to be the “bitter personal feud” between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination. The Globe claims the spate between Perry and Romney dates back to 2002, when Romney refused to allow members of Perry’s beloved Boy Scouts to serve as official volunteers at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

In his 2008 book On My Honor, Perry suggested that Romney’s decision to bar the Scouts from serving as official volunteers was based on the fact that the organization doesn’t allow gay troop masters. But Romney has insisted that he barred the Scouts from serving as volunteers simply because they didn’t meet the minimum age requirement of 18. From The Globe:

Perry used the incident to cast Romney as a New England moderate, someone willing to cave under pressure, and as a political opportunist.

“Whether pressure from gay rights groups caused Olympic organizers to resist volunteer assistance from the scouts, we know that Romney, as a political candidate in the politically liberals [sic] state of Massachusetts, has parted ways with the scouts on its policies over the involvement of gay individuals in scout activities,’’ Perry wrote in his book. “He once said during a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994, ‘I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.’ ’’

Romney, though, cast the decision as a pragmatic one. He told reporters in 2000 that the Boy Scouts were not being excluded for any reason other than that they didn’t meet the age restrictions. He also said the scouts were given a list of possible volunteer opportunities, most of which involved activities before the Olympics began or were behind the scenes.

“We’re very pleased to have Scouts help out,’’ Romney told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City in 2000.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Gov. Perry’s full announcement speech


Watch live video from texastribune2 on Justin.tv

Via The Texas Tribune, above is video of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s full speech today in South Carolina announcing that he’s seeking the Republican nomination for president. God help us.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Texas Gov. Rick Perry to confirm he’s running for president on Saturday in S.C.

Rick Perry
Precisely one week after hosting a prayer rally funded by an anti-gay hate group, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Politico has the scoop:

Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll–and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire– will send shockwaves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gays celebrate in Hawaii; Atlanta Eagle cops were drunk; Rick Santorum

Kristin Bacon gets a kiss on the cheek from partner Siobhan Ni Dhonacha after the Hawaii Senate voted to approve the Civil Unions bill.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Lawmakers in Hawaii, one of the earliest battlegrounds for same-sex marriage two decades ago, on Wednesday gave final approval to a civil unions bill that will make the Aloha State the seventh in the nation to grant gay and lesbian couples rights equivalent to marriage. And just before the civil unions vote, the state Senate confirmed the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court, the same body whose 1993 ruling almost legalized same-sex marriage and led to passage of the nation’s first constitutional amendment banning the practice. It’s only 5 a.m. in Hawaii, so we imagine the gays are still partying as we write this.

2. Speaking of partying, undercover officers who raided the Atlanta Eagle in September 2009 were drunk with more than just power and anti-gay hate — they’d also been downing shots of Jagermeister. Wait, did anyone ever check those Rainbow Lounge receipts?

3. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination, is struggling with name recognition in key primary states. Which is somewhat strange because we recognize his name just fine: He’s the “frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”

—  John Wright

Gov. Rick Perry won’t join anti-gay boycott of CPAC — in fact, he’ll be a keynote speaker

Gov. Rick Perry

As we’ve mentioned before, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has apparently opted not to join the growing anti-gay boycott of this year’s “Republican Woodstock” — the annual Conservative Political Action Conference next week.

In fact, according to the Dallas Morning News, Perry has landed a keynote speaking slot at CPAC, where he may be rubbing elbows with people like Lt. Dan Choi. (Note that the first and only comment below the DMN post is this: “Why no mention of the speakers not coming to CPAC this year because of the presence of Gay Republicans?”)

Lawmakers boycotting CPAC this year over the inclusion of the gay Republican group GOProud include Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. And the boycott is being led by some of Perry’s favorite groups — such as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

Alas, it appears politics and ego will always trump conviction and loyalty for Perry, who may have his sights set on the White House in 2012. But again, why no backlash from the right-wingers in Texas who’ve been so supportive of Perry?

Anyhow, we’re hoping Perry seeks the Republican presidential nomination next year. If nothing else, a national campaign will undoubtedly mean a much closer look at those pesky gay rumors.

UPDATE: Perry will make it to CPAC, but he won’t make it to the Super Bowl in his own state. Plus, he wasn’t around for Texas’ cold weather emergency this week. He’s in Southern California. What a douche.

—  John Wright