As Politico highlighted, Equality Matters and the Human Rights Campaign have spoken out against a Justice Department brief defending the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA):
Gay groups criticize Justice Department brief
President Obama seemed to have mended his difficult relationship with the gay rights movement by getting the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" done, but this evening brings another flare-up.
Gay groups are furious with a Justice Department brief defending -- though in quite narrow terms -- the Defense of Marriage Act, which candidate Obama, unlike even his Democratic rivals, had pledged to repeal in full.
"DOMA is supported by rationales that constitute a sufficient rational basis for the law. For example, as explained below, it is supported by an interest in maintaining the status quo and uniformity on the federal level and preserving room for the development of policy in the states," says the government's brief (.pdf) in two cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. The brief focuses solely on the virtues of keeping the federal law while states experiment, and not the underlying question of marriage.
The half-heartedness of that defense didn't offer much solace to activists who -- despite the Justice Department's traditional role defending federal laws -- are demanding that Obama return to the full support for same-sex marriage that he advocated in the 1990s.
"There are some improvements in tone in the brief, but the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens," said Equality Matters chief Richard Socarides in an e-mail. "And that is unacceptable."
"The administration claims that it has a duty to defend the laws that are on the books. We simply do not agree. At the very least, the Justice Department can and should acknowledge that the law is unconstitutional," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in an e-mail to the group's members, signaling that even the relatively conciliatory group will take a more confrontational tone on marriage. "All families deserve the recognition and respect of their government. It's time for President Obama to state his support for full, equal marriage. And we want your help in telling him that it's time."
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Even among the ranks of extreme right-wing radio hosts, American Family Association director Bryan Fischer's hate-filled rhetoric stands out.
Who could forget the time he argued the US should "restrict Muslim immigration" and "send them back home"? That was after he'd argued that a devout Muslim can not be a "good American" and that Muslims should be barred from the military. And what about the time he suggested that a plane crash in Montana killing 14 people occured because a doctor who performs abortions was on board, saying that "If you do not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you"?
And then there was the time Fischer wrote this:
Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it's time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.
It was that last comment from Fischer, among others, that lead the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to list The American Family Association (AFA) as a "hate group." The SPLC added that they did not list anti-gay groups like the American Family Association simply for "[v]iewing homosexuality as unbibilical" but instead for "propagation of known falsehoods ... and repeated, groundless name-calling." Fischer certainly qualifies on both counts.
In light of Fischer's history of outrageous rhetoric and penchant for pushing known falsehoods, I wonder what former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was thinking when decided to appear on Fischer's AFA radio show to promote his new book and announce his desire to reinstate "Don't Ask , Don't Tell" -- a policy that 77 percent of Americans and 70 percent of white evangelicals supported repealing:
(h/t Right Wing Watch)
The corruption of the Conservative Political Action Conference, an important American political institution, is widespread.
Thanks to WND's reporting, we now see that it transcends the participation of the homosexual activist organization GOProud
Let me try to frame what is happening inside the conservative movement in a way that might sharpen our focus.
Let's pretend that some free-market-loving adulterers got together and formed an organization called "Swing Right." This group says it supports a strong U.S. defense, but that the military should have no rules against promiscuous sex inside the ranks. The group says it supports free enterprise, but that tax policy should be revamped to create equity for those in the "swinging" lifestyle. The group says it supports limited government, but it approves of the intervention of federal judges in state referenda in which citizens approve of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. The group also calls for special protections of the "swinging" community that will ensure adulterers will not be fired by their bosses because of their behavior and applauds hate-crimes laws to punish those who don't approve of their lifestyle.
Would it be appropriate for conservatives, who are supposed to be about conserving the vital institutions of self-government, to validate such a group's claims being part of the movement?
Immediately, some will suggest my analogy here is outrageous and ridiculous. Yet it is a near-perfect parallel to what CPAC and others in the conservative movement have done in their eagerness to build a bigger tent, to show how open-minded they are, to bring in more money and, perhaps, to make them more comfortable in their own spiritual void.
Equating gays and adulterers is a longstanding conservative slur. But considering the source, it could be mistaken for a sign of progress: Just last week, the folks at WND were equating gays and Nazis.
Kerry Eleveld's most recent cover story for The Advocate details Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's efforts to elevate "the dialogue on LGBT rights around the globe." Eleveld is leaving The Advocate to become editor of Equality Matters, Media Matters' new war room for gay equality.
"Gay rights are human rights." With that declaration -- and the team she has assembled at the State Department--Hillary Rodham Clinton has elevated the dialogue on LGBT rights around the globe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveled before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 State Department employees celebrating gay pride at the agency's Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C. last summer. "Gee, let's do this every week!" she said. This, it seemed, was to be more of a reunion of old acquaintances than a perfunctory speech on diversity.
At first, Clinton glanced down--to the lectern and her prepared remarks. But her focus on the written page melted away as she looked up and rolled on with the speech, channeling the myriad mental notes she had made over the years.
Displaying an uncanny depth of understanding for the challenges that many LGBT youth experience, Clinton spoke of tragedies that would only come to national attention months later after a spate of heart-wrenching teen suicides dominated headlines for weeks. She called on the staff members before her to help create a safe space for gays and lesbians everywhere, "Particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who, still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life."
Men and women around the world were being "harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love," she said.
[Clinton's chief of staff and counselor Cheryl] Mills is striking and quick-witted but doesn't seem enamored of either Washington protocol or hierarchy. She's not here for prestige -- she's here to champion the cause of Clinton, who she believes is a model public servant. "If you are a student of who she has been, even from her beginning days coming out of law school, [you know that Clinton] starts from a frame of, 'What maximizes each person's opportunity to live up to their God-given potential?' " Mills says.
That sentiment has served as the foundation for Clinton's work at the State Department. And the bond between Clinton and Mills--their laser-like focus, their common passion for advancing the cause of justice--has yielded what is arguably the Obama administration's most progressive and productive agency on LGBT equality, one that has overhauled discriminatory personnel policies while championing gay rights internationally.
Optimizing conditions for LGBT employees and their families was a crucial step forward. Of the nearly 2 million federal workers in the United States, the State Department's gay employees have perhaps the most at stake when it comes to domestic-partner benefits. Not only does working abroad make for a demanding career, but relocating one's partner and family also creates added stress for the department's roughly 13,000 Foreign Service members. The spouses of heterosexual employees based overseas have long been considered when it comes to expense allowances, housing, emergency evacuations, passport and employment assistance, and other benefits. But prior to Clinton's tenure, same-sex partners received none of these benefits. As Mills notes, "There were a number of things here that looked very obvious as inhibiting the opportunity to get the very best out of people."
The State Department also aggressively revised passport regulations for transgender citizens, who were previously required to provide proof of sex-reassignment surgery in order to change their gender marker. Now trans people only need to provide certification that they are under a physician's care for gender transition. At the time the new policy was announced last June, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, marveled at the expeditious change. "It came faster than I thought," she said.
By the time a Uganda bill surfaced in the fall of 2009 that would make homosexuality--already illegal in the nation--punishable by death or life in prison, the Obama administration had already joined more than 60 other nations in supporting the U.N. General Assembly's statement on human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Nonetheless, the "kill the gays" bill put the State Department's diplomacy surrounding LGBT rights to the test.
Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to several African countries, says Mills showed immediate interest in the bill, asking him what the U.S. embassy in Uganda was doing in response. "She also asked me to take advantage of any meetings with high-level officials to raise this matter," says Carson, who was scheduled to visit Uganda on a couple occasions to consult with President Yoweri Museveni on issues surrounding his country's involvement with peacekeeping forces in Somalia.
As those conversations concluded, Carson used the opportunity to urge Museveni to stymie the antigay bill being advanced by parliament member David Bahati. "I told him that we felt it was a violation of human rights and that this kind of legislation would have a negative impact on Uganda's image," he recalls.
Carson implored Museveni several more times, both in person and by phone, as did Secretary Clinton herself. By design, these discussions were done outside the media spotlight: The State Department didn't want to inflame an already bad situation and further endanger Uganda's gays and lesbians. "It was not until there was a greater public debate in the Uganda newspapers and we were questioned more directly here in Washington by gay and lesbian groups that we felt that it was appropriate to respond more openly outside of diplomatic channels about what we had done," Carson says. By that time, Museveni had already acknowledged to the media that he'd had discussions about the bill with U.S. diplomats--a key step, Carson notes, to avoid shaming and potentially damaging relations with a foreign government at a critical time.
"We do not need to do something publicly when we can achieve the same goals and objectives privately," Carson says.
For Secretary Clinton, operating in the shadows while enabling LGBT groups on the ground to exert their influence was really the best option. "Sometimes, what we might consider an appropriate political or social action on behalf of people who are under threat would not be helpful in certain cultures," she says.
As she works to redefine the U.S. role on international gay and lesbian rights, part of Clinton's job has been to make sure a cultural shift permeates all levels of the State Department and the furthest reaches of its bureaucracies, including U.S. embassies, where change can sometimes come at a slow pace.
Not everything where LGBT rights are concerned has gone perfectly at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. A U.N. vote last November removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution condemning executions on a variety of discriminatory grounds. Advocates said administration officials should have seen the vote coming and disrupted the group of African countries that banded together to push it through. But the setback was quickly erased by a successful December vote that reversed the ruling.
HIV/AIDS activists have railed against the administration's PEPFAR funding levels, which in 2010 fell far short of Obama's promises during the campaign to provide at least $50 billion by 2013--which would have necessitated an increase of about $1 billion each year. But a new plan of providing $63 billion over six years for a broader global health initiative in which 70% of the funding is dedicated to HIV/AIDS now appears to have set the administration on course to reach Obama's campaign pledge by 2014, albeit a year late.
And an internal effort to designate a specific person as an LGBT policy adviser failed based on disagreements about such a position's overall efficacy.
But here's what has become objectively clear: It's not necessary to have such an adviser when people like Clinton and Mills are thoroughly conversant on the issue-- constantly leaning into it rather than away and empowering those below them to help change the culture.
In a January 7 Washington Post op-ed, author and Evergreen State family history professor Stephanie Coontz argued: "Gay marriage isn't revolutionary. It's just the next step in marriage's evolution." In her piece, Coontz discusses the revolution in marriage that has already taken place, and argues that same-sex marriage is the next logical step:
Opponents of same-sex marriage worry that allowing two men or two women to wed would radically transform a time-honored institution. But they're way too late on that front. Marriage has already been radically transformed - in a way that makes gay marriage not only inevitable, as Vice President Biden described it in an interview late last year, but also quite logical.
We are near the end of a two-stage revolution in the social understanding and legal definition of marriage. This revolution has overturned the most traditional functions of the institution: to reinforce differences in wealth and power and to establish distinct and unequal roles for men and women under the law.
As evidence to support her hypothesis, Coontz puts current support for same-sex marriage into historical context:
Although well-financed campaigns against same-sex marriage still generate victories on Election Day, hard-core opposition has steadily eroded. In October, the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time in its 15 years of polling, less than half the public opposed same-sex marriage. That poll also found that 42 percent actively supported it - still less than a majority, but a new high. Two other national polls have found that a small majority of Americans endorse same-sex marriage.
Support for same-sex marriage is already higher than support for interracial marriage was in 1970, three years after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. And since young adults ages 18 to 29 are the group most supportive of same-sex marriage, it is largely a matter of when, rather than if, a majority of Americans will endorse this extension of marriage rights.
Opponents of gay marriage argue that this trend will lead to the destruction of traditional marriage. But, for better and for worse, traditional marriage has already been destroyed, and the process began long before anyone even dreamed of legalizing same-sex marriage. People now decide for themselves who and when - and whether - to marry. When they do wed, they decide for themselves whether to have children and how to divide household tasks. If they cannot agree, they are free to leave the marriage.
If gay marriage is legally recognized in this country, it will have little impact on the institution of marriage. In fact, the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage - an indication that it's not just the president's views that are "evolving" - is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the profound revolutions in marriage that have already taken place.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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GLAAD is calling on CNN to "Keep Away From the Anti-Gay Industry," asking supporters to sign a petition to get the network to stop hosting extreme anti-gay activists that spread false and incendiary claims to provide "balance" in discussions that impact the LGBT community. The GLAAD petition highlighted a recent December 21 John King segment which prompted their action:
During that John King segment on the pending repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and its implementation, King featured openly gay former service member Alex Nicholson, alongside [Peter] Sprigg, who is a "senior fellow for policy studies" at the Family Research Council.
Nicholson's qualifications were clear. As an openly gay, former Army intelligence officer, he gave firsthand accounts of how the policy played out in the day-to-day lives of gay and lesbian service members.Sprigg's qualifications, however, came exclusively from his job at the Family Research Council. There, Sprigg has worked to advance some of the most hurtful, dangerous, and demonstrably false notions about the lives of LGBT people that our country has seen in recent years. And yet, by pairing him with Nicholson in this segment, CNN told its millions of viewers that both of these men should be seen as equally valuable to this discussion.
Is it important for the media to take these groups on? Of course it is. But that's not what CNN and other media organizations are doing when it invites these groups to take part in otherwise reasonable discussions. The media is elevating their hurtful messages and attitudes to the level of rational discourse. The media is saying that people like Alexander Nicholson, who can speak to real-life experience and firsthand facts, need to be "balanced" by people like Peter Sprigg, whose claim to fame is arguing that being gay should be outlawed. If CNN wants to interview a gay person who believes being straight should be outlawed, THEN Peter Sprigg would be an acceptable "balance."
CNN and the rest of the media are doing nothing but exposing their viewers to dangerous anti-gay rhetoric when they invite members of these anti-gay groups onto their programming. Starting in 2011, this needs to stop.
GLAAD is not the first group to highlight CNN's habit of hosting anti-gay groups as a balance to discussions of LGBT issues. Media Matters' Jamison Foser also highlighted Sprigg's appearence on CNN and asked why the network would host Sprigg, in light of is previous comments:
Peter Sprigg wants "gay behavior" outlawed and has said he would "much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society." Sprigg's comments played a role in the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to identify FRC as a "hate group." (Sprigg subsequently apologized for the comment about exporting gays, saying he was guilty of "speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace" -- but he did not retract the substance of the comment.)
Additionally, columnist Dan Savage appeared on the November 23 edition of CNN Newsroom and criticized the network for hosting activists from the Family Research Council (FRC) like Sprigg, noting that Southern Policy Law Center had just named the FRC a "hate group."
In a post on Red State today, CNN contributor Erick Erickson baselessly speculated that Defense Department budget cuts were related to the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and that those cuts would be "detrimental to our national security":
I am not one of those who thinks the Defense budget is sacrosanct and cannot be cut. Even Governor Palin is on record saying we cannot spare the Defense budget from cuts in these times and she, unlike me, has a child in harm's way.
In any event, the Defense Department is out saying it will make cuts to the various branches of the military. Am I the only one who thinks it rather ironic that the two branches in for the biggest cuts are the Army and Marines. They also -- I'm sure it is totally unrelated. totally -- are the two branches of the service that were most vocally opposed to repeal of Don't Ask - Don't Tell.
I guess cutting the Army and Marines will boost diversity. Or something. Good grief.
In fact, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen have publicly supported the budget cuts as necessary, and both men, along with numerous other military officials, have advocated for repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
From the January 6 edition of The Advocate:
Ironically, what many of the president's key advisers had originally tagged as a stumbling block has now become his one pristine win for the progressive base. Tax cuts went to everyone, including the richest segment of our country, in a move that some believe will establish the rates as a permanent fixture that shreds the middle-class fabric of this nation. The opportunity that was health care reform was lost to the lack of a public option. Wall Street reform was a sham in the eyes of many liberals. Key environmental legislation and immigration reform never got off the ground, though the heroic efforts of youth activists put the DREAM Act in play.
In fact, repealing the gay ban marks the one place where Obama didn't compromise the ideals of his progressive base. The question now is whether the lessons of the repeal battle will dawn a new day in the national fight for equality.
Will politicians and especially President Obama and his aides begin to fixate on the upsides of making strides toward equality for all LGBT Americans instead of obsessing about the downsides of battles lost years ago? In history we are taught that nations often prosecute the last war they were in rather than fighting the battle that's unfolding before their very eyes. But great leaders -- those who change the course of history -- are willing to turn away from the tangibles of the past to keep their eyes trained on the potential of an amorphous but illimitable future.
Much is left to be done. Transgender individuals especially are at risk of chronic unemployment without a means of recourse for wrongful termination. Gay binational couples are still torn apart by the cruelty of a system that fails to view their families as legal entities. And simply put, our nation's laws continue to value the humanity of certain citizens and debase that of others according to the expressions of their love. [The Advocate, 1/6/11]
Eleveld is departing The Advocate to become editor of Equality Matters, Media Matters' new war room for LGBT equality.
From the January 5 broadcast of Talk Radio Networks' Savage Nation:
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At this point, I have to assume that the WoldNetDaily crew all made a New Years resolution to pay more attention to all the voices in their heads, no matter how contradictory and divorced from reality.
Here, WND employs a classic "you know who else was gay? Hitler!" line of argument as part of their ongoing campaign against gays:
You ever see those television commercials for some utterly useless gimmick that ends with "Not sold in any store!" and think to yourself "yeah, that's because they couldn't get any stores to stock their lousy product"? That's how you should think about the phrase "WorldNetDaily Exclusive": Nobody else is willing to peddle this garbage.
Anyway, WND editor Joseph Farah endorses the Gay Nazi Cult theory, and adds in a healthy dose of paranoia for good measure:
This is a deeply disturbing book," said Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, who recently added a new 4th edition of the book to the WND Superstore. Perhaps not until very recently, with the mandating of open homosexuality in the military and the widespread promotion of same-sex marriage, could Americans have been expected to see the relevance of this remarkable work to their own society. We say, 'never again.' But do we mean it? Do we even understand what actually happened? I didn't – until I read this book."
The nonsense about "the mandating of open homosexuality in the military" is just kind of funny for the clumsiness with which it tries to redefine reality: Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal allows gays to serve openly in the military; it doesn't require that all members of the military be gay. But the rest of the paragraph is something else entirely. Farah subtly shifts from the already-absurd contention that the Nazis were a "homosexual, pagan cult" to the suggestion that gays are Nazis, and that we may therefore see a repeat of Nazi Germany in our "own society." There's nothing funny about that; it's just deranged.
Up next, WND continues its assault on CPAC, the annual conference at which far-right lunatics and hustlers peddled their Clinton-is-a-murderer crazytalk in the 1990s and where Ann Coulter goes when she wants to engage in a little gay-bashing in front of an appreciative audience. You'd think CPAC would be WND's kind of party, but it isn't. WND hates CPAC, because although CPAC is the kind of gathering where people laugh along as Ann Coulter calls someone a "faggot," it isn't the kind of gathering where there are bouncers at the door making sure no gays get in. To the crackpots at WorldNetDaily, who consider gays worse than the KKK and the Nazis a gay pagan cult, CPAC's refusal to ban gays from the event means the conference has abandoned conservatism. (Note, however, that WND is cool with Birchers and Birthers attending CPAC. Just no gays, please.)
Anyway, having repeatedly denounced CPAC for being too friendly to gays (i.e., not barring the door against them), WND now peddles the suggestion that CPAC "has come under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is working to bring America under Saudi-style Shariah law."
So, let me get this straight: CPAC has been taken over by gay-friendly advocates of Sharia law? Uh … right.
From ABC News' Topline, accessed January 3:
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Continuing its tradition of anti-gay rhetoric, The Washington Times has responded to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by publishing numerous homophobic editorials and op-eds.
In a December 30 Washington Times editorial, Jeffrey Kuhner wrote that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is "an act of national suicide," claiming that it is "one of the most revolutionary and damaging acts ever done to a core American institution" and that it will "decimate the greatest fighting force on earth, undermining unit cohesion, morale and discipline - the lifeblood of a successful military."
From Kuhner's op-ed:
Moreover, Mr. Obama - again with GOP help - succeeded in getting "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) repealed, enabling homosexuals to serve openly in the military. This is one of the most revolutionary and damaging acts ever done to a core American institution. It will decimate the greatest fighting force on earth, undermining unit cohesion, morale and discipline - the lifeblood of a successful military. It is an act of national suicide.